NCAA Football

5-Star OT Chuma Edoga Commits to USC: Meet the Next Jake Matthews

The number four offensive tackle of the 2015 class, Chuma Edoga , has committed to the USC Trojans. This is a huge get for Steve Sarkisian, who continues to show his recruiting expertise by landing this top Georgia native...

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10 Recruits Who Could Join 5-Star DE Shameik Blackshear at South Carolina

Shameik Blackshear is a 5-star defensive end who committed to South Carolina before his junior season. At 6'5" and 240 pounds, Blackshear is a dynamic speed-rusher off the edge who chases quarterbacks with quickness and athleticism.

Blackshear is definitely the type of player a recruiting class can be built around, which is what South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier should do with his 2015 haul.

Several other top-tier talents remain high on South Carolina's board, and Spurrier's recruiting pitch will surely include the chance to play with Blackshear. A talented pair of defensive tackles could join the 5-star defensive end, while a familiar face could also get a second chance.

All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports. Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

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Penn State Recruiting: Breaking Down the Top 2015 Target at Each Position

Penn State football coach James Franklin and his staff are off to a terrific start, as far as the 2015 recruiting class is concerned.

According to 247Sports, the Nittany Lions have a top five class, and they've sat at the top of the list for a brief period this spring. 

Of the 12 recruits currently committed to Penn State, nine are rated as 4-star prospects, according to the 247Sports Composite ratings. 

That being said, it's April and none of the players currently committed can sign their letters of intent until next February. For anyone who has followed recruiting closely in the past, those nine months can be an eternity.

Here's a look at the top players from each position that Penn State is targeting, whether they're currently committed or not.

 

All star ratings reference the 247Sports Composite ratings.

 

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Alabama Football: What QB Blake Sims Must Do to Improve

The Alabama Crimson Tide are still without a starting quarterback, waiting on Jacob Coker to enroll this summer before kicking off the final round of competition entering fall camp. For Blake Sims, one of the three players with a realistic shot at the job, the summer has to be about slowing the game down and using every opportunity to show how his unique skills should put him over the top.

In the spring game, which saw Sims go 13-for-30 with two interceptions, the Tide put the governor on the quarterback's ability to create space and opportunity. As T.J. Yeldon noted after the game, the Tide utilized only 10 percent of the offense during the game. That meant no designed runs, not many run-pass options and very few sprint outs that would allow the 6'0" senior to show off his skills.

For Sims, who was ahead of redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman for most of spring, summer will be about getting better at some of the traditional elements of the quarterback job. Most notably, slowing the game down so that he can make the right decisions. The skills are there for the senior, however, his indecision led to mistakes and as the quarterback of the machine in Tuscaloosa, mistakes get people sent to the bench.

That means summer has to be spent growing his confidence and turning the in-play thought process into instincts. Pre-snap reads and post-snap assessments have to led to definitive decisions for Sims. No double-clutching. No eyeballing receivers to wait for them to come open.

And, of course, no holding the ball waiting to create a coverage sack.

The last element will be changed as Sims gets closer to game action. His ability to move, both in and out of the pocket, are an asset hidden from view during the limited spring game. As Alabama pushes through summer and into fall, Sims' unique skills have to show head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin that the senior is the best option.

Beating out Jacob Coker is not going to be easy for Sims. As he showed in the spring game, when the bullets were almost live he balked in the spotlight. To stay in the running and push for the job he has to slow down the game and trust the decisions that he makes after the snap. That means throwing before his receivers come open. 

It isn't an easy skill to master and Saturday's spring game showed Sims has a long way to go. However, the door for the Alabama quarterback job is still wide open and Sims has time to prove he belongs under center. If he can improve his decision-making and show that his athleticism is an asset, he has a shot to win that job.

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Georgia Football Recruiting: Breaking Down the Top 2015 Target at Each Position

With spring practice now complete and the regular season still several months away, the Georgia Bulldogs coaching staff is spending time narrowing in on targets for the 2015 signing class.  Already, head coach Mark Richt has made headlines with a rather unique recruiting tactic—hand-drawn portraits of potential signees.

Georgia fans can use this preview to get a clearer picture of who the Dawgs are targeting for next year's signing class. 

Here are Georgia's top targets at each position as defined by each prospect's position ranking within the 247Sports Composite.

Unless otherwise, all stats, ratings and rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Nebraska Football: 5 Things Standing in the Way of a Big Ten Championship

It's no secret that Nebraska fans want to win the Big Ten championship. After having only made it to the big game once in its three-year existence, fans (and players) are getting antsy.

With new East and West divisions, the path to Indianapolis is very doable for the Huskers. Can the team make it there?

It will be filled with some challenges that could get in the way. But can head coach Bo Pelini overcome those obstacles?

Here are five things standing in the way of a Big Ten title for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

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Best Fits for Top Uncommitted ATH Recruits in Class of 2015

The 2015 recruiting class is in the midst of a commitment-filled timeframe that features several of the nation's premier players pledging to programs during the final stretch of their junior years. With so many top targets flying off the board, it's imperative for teams to maintain positive momentum with uncommitted prospects.

There are still many undecided difference-makers who fall under the "athlete" category—versatile players who have college scouts split on their ideal position. Here, we'll rank the top 10 available athletes while projecting where they will end up on signing day.

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New-Look Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Paves Way for Atlanta to Host National Title

ATLANTA — It's a new era for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, as the Atlanta-based postseason matchup that has traditionally featured the ACC and SEC will transition into the group of six bowls in the College Football Playoff rotation following the 2014 season and host its first national semifinal following the 2016 season.

With that comes a facelift of sorts.

The new era has brought the bowl back to the future. It was announced on Monday that the Chick-fil-A Bowl has brought back its old moniker and will be known as the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl starting in 2014.

"This not only represents the beginning of our new era in the College Football Playoff, but a reconnection to our history and tradition by bringing the peach back into our name," Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl president Gary Stokan said. "Chick-fil-A's agreement with ESPN and the Bowl allows us to continue a 17-year relationship regarded as one of the most successful in the industry."

The best could be yet to come.

The elevation to the group of six CFP bowls, along with the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Cotton, has not only solidified the event as one of the top-tier postseason bowls in the country, but the city of Atlanta as the capital of the college football world.

The success of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which boasts 17 straight sellouts, coupled with the creation of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game (or games) over Labor Day weekend and the move of the College Football Hall of Fame—which is scheduled to open this summer—to the city, has transformed Atlanta to a destination location for college football fans. 

What's the next step?

A national title game, of course.

North Texas, Phoenix and Tampa are slated to host the first three national title games following the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons, respectively. But when the next rounds of proposals are due, which should be sometime next January, expect Atlanta to be vying for that game following the 2017 season.

Not coincidentally, that will be the year that the new Atlanta Falcons stadium opens just south of the Georgia Dome.

"We're going to go after, bid for and successfully win the national championship game," Stokan said. "We are going to bring it to Atlanta hopefully in January of 2018 when we're in the new stadium."

While the College Football Playoff expects to receive bids from several cities, the momentum the city of Atlanta has been generating over the last decade in the college football world is hard to ignore.

"Anytime you can continue the string that Atlanta's currently on of bringing major events to the marketplace—the Final Four got such rave reviews—and everything they've done with college football then what the team has done here, it gives us confidence that they're going to put together a formidable bid," College Football Playoff COO Michael Kelly said. "Combined with the Atlanta Falcons and the new stadium, it will make it very attractive."

Despite the momentum, there will be challengers lining up to win the bid when it's released.

"We had eight cities that competed for this last rotation," Kelly said. "We expect Atlanta and somebody else to come on board. It'll be a fierce competition, but you have to like the assets that Atlanta is putting forward."

Bringing back the "Peach" moniker just in time for its inclusion into the College Football Playoff semifinal rotation isn't a coincidence.

"We did make it a condition, as part of them coming into the playoff rotation, was to have some consistency and that all of our bowls have a base moniker," Kelly said.

Stokan's goal when he started with the bowl in 1998 was to get the bowl into the BCS. While technically that didn't happen, he did get it into "BCS 2.0" in the College Football Playoff. That momentum will likely carry it to the next logical goal.

"Atlanta's just on a roll right now," Kelly said.

A roll that seems to be headed straight for a title game.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand.


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How Notre Dame Would Fare If Irish Played Alabama's 2014 Schedule

Before they met in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game, Alabama and Notre Dame were contrasted for the strength of their respective schedules.

The Irish, it was said, were 12-0 by virtue of not having played anyone, and Alabama would crush them because it was battle-tested by the SEC. Its most recent win, on a neutral field against Georgia, was more impressive than any the Irish had accrued all year and was a de facto national title game unto itself.

Of course things are actually more complicated than that. However, the game played out in a way that justified the story, with Alabama winning 42-14: a margin that was deceptively small (despite being so large). Because of that game, Notre Dame and Alabama's schedules will forever be enticing to compare with one another, so why not give it a shot before 2014?

There is something ironic about the two seasons after Alabama won that game and created this storyline. In each case, it has actually been granted a favorable schedule—at least when compared with the rest of the SEC.

Which is to say: Notre Dame's schedule might be harder than the Tide's this coming season. Even after losing Rose Bowl champion Michigan State from its usual cast of opponents, ND still plays five of the 13 best teams from last year's F/+ ratings at Football Outsiders.

Alabama, by comparison, plays just one.

The Irish would survive with relative ease—just as Alabama should—against West Virginia then crush Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss, which would put them at 3-0 before a home game with Florida.

The Gators are, along with Notre Dame, one of my favorite bounceback candidates in 2014, and especially with the presence of former UF safety Cody Riggs in the Irish secondary, that game would be a heck of a lot of fun to watch. It would also likely feature two 3-0 teams (Florida starts with Idaho, Eastern Michigan and Kentucky), making it an early keystone moment in the season.

It remains to be seen how Kurt Roper, who took command of the Florida offense after thriving at Duke last season, will affect the regular-season tempo of the Gators. If he can get Jeff Driskel in a rhythm out of the shotgun, as he did in their spring game, there's a chance that unit can be deceptively decent.

Notre Dame would be a small, home-field favorite, but I think this is where it would meet its first defeat.

The next four games are tricky and would likely define much of the Irish's season. A home date with Texas A&M is sandwiched between true road games at Ole Miss, Arkansas and Tennessee. 

Even with the new FieldTurf at Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish should be able to win at home against a fast but soft Texas A&M team—especially if it starts true freshman Kyle Allen at quarterback. Allen is talented, sure, but the enormity of the stage at such a hallowed field might prove to be too much for a player so young (not unlike Christian Hackenberg at Ohio State in 2013).

The Irish would probably fall at either Ole Miss or Tennessee, though it's hard to say which. It would need to escape this stretch of the schedule 3-1 to remain competitive in the conference, which is exactly what I'll predict they would do.

For posterity, let's say it loses on the road against a good Ole Miss team and wins a nail-biter in Knoxville over the still-one-year-away Volunteers.

After a second open date, the following game at LSU might get ugly. So much has changed between then and now, but the image of JaMarcus Russell shredding Notre Dame in the 2007 Sugar Bowl is etched in my mind indelibly. And that was on a (technically, but not really) neutral field instead of at Tiger Stadium.

A close home win over Mississippi State (which should be plucky next year) and a blowout over Western Carolina would then lead Notre Dame into the faux-Iron Bowl against Auburn with a record of 8-3 and, potentially, a chance to win the SEC West with some sort of tiebreaker over the Tigers (depending on how they fare elsewhere).

However, in this case, the new fast track at Notre Dame Stadium would come back to bite the Irish severely. Perhaps I am overplaying the importance of the FieldTurf—I do not think, in the long term, it is really that big of a deal—but Auburn is a team created to play on such a surface. For reference, look at its offensive output against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game last season:

My prediction for Notre Dame would thus be an 8-4 record, which is nothing to scoff at in the big, bad SEC. Even though I'm on the record saying Alabama will fare (much) better, calling for 8-4 is not intended as an insult—merely a recognition of certain weaknesses.

Notre Dame loses Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix from the front line of last year's defense. Sheldon Day has had his moments, but even with the new blitzing scheme of defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, such an untried defensive line would find it difficult against the blocking of teams like Auburn and LSU.

Oddly enough, though I do think Notre Dame's schedule includes more good teams than Alabama's, I wouldn't be surprised to see it exceed this projection (8-4) in real life. Other than Florida State and Stanford, no team it plays jumps out as particularly strong along the line. It matches up fairly well.

What it doesn't match up well with is SEC competition.

I don't think it's fair to merely point at a game like the 2013 national title game and say it's conclusive proof of Notre Dame's shortcomings against the SEC—football is a little more complicated than that—but I think it's just as wrong to ignore those results altogether.

When you think about it that way, predicting the Irish to go 8-4 against Alabama's schedule is actually putting it kindly.

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Texas Football: Grading the Longhorns' Post-Spring Depth Chart

The Texas Orange-White Scrimmage is now in the books, leaving us with a post-spring depth chart that fans should be comfortable with as the team gears up for the summer.

For the most part, the Longhorns close spring football on a positive note across most positions. The receivers, defensive line and linebackers are all good to go for next season thanks to returning depth and reliable starters. Those spots are set for the foreseeable future.

Quarterback and running back are hurt the most by the absence of top players. David Ash missed the spring game and will be out until the fall, making Tyrone Swoopes the only true quarterback on the roster until Jerrod Heard arrives in June. The same goes for the running backs, who are awaiting the returns of Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron, as well as the enrollment of Donald Catalon.

Though the offensive line is dealing with an injured starter of its own, starting-caliber talent and quality depth are beginning to emerge. This group struggled in Saturday's spring game, but the foundation has been laid for Joe Wickline to work his magic.

All told, the only positions that graded out poorly and have the least positive outlook are tight end and the secondary. And the latter still has Quandre Diggs.

 

N.B. Starters will be represented in bold lettering, with backups being listed in descending order. Players that were injured, suspended and/or did not play in the spring game were not included on this list.

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Notre Dame Football Recruiting: Breaking Down Top 2015 Target at Each Position

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — After cruising through the spring season, now’s a perfect time to flip our attention toward some Notre Dame football recruiting talk.

We’ll focus here on the class of 2015. It’s still very early in the process, but things are picking up around the country (see Alabama’s weekend).

With that in mind, let’s take a look at Notre Dame’s top target at each position in the class of 2015.

Now, we’ll add a layer of realism to this; otherwise, you could just look at your favorite go-to recruiting service and its rankings and pick the top player at each position. The players who follow are definitely top targets, but, in most cases, we’ll try to restrict the names to those who reportedly have at least some interest in Notre Dame or who Notre Dame is reportedly targeting seriously.

And, where applicable, we’ll throw in a few other names to keep an eye on too.

On we go.

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Texas Football: Top Performers from the Longhorns Spring Game

The Texas Longhorns' first spring of the Charlie Strong era has officially come to an end. The spring game showed a lot of positive steps for the team in addition to some concerns.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Strong said. "I wish I had 15 more days, but I don't have them. Now we have to get the guys through the summer and into fall camp. Once we get there, we need to go to work and have to put a product together that is consistent, because it's all about consistency."

The Longhorns were not always consistent, but a handful of players did shine on Saturday. Here's a look at the top performers from the Orange-White Scrimmage.

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Why Jeremy Hill Is the Most Talented Running Back in 2014 Draft Class

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the running back class for the 2014 NFL draft. It is an interesting and somewhat polarizing group, but a less discussed name is actually the best of the bunch.

LSU's Jeremy Hill is the clear-cut most talented back in the entire class. The true sophomore has some major red flags, but that does not take away from his natural ability.

Guys like Tre Mason and Carlos Hyde get a ton of hype and others like Lache Seastrunk, Charles Sims and Bishop Sankey are also mentioned as favorites.

But Hill seems to get overlooked too often, and it's clear after watching his tape that he's the most well-rounded and talented runner this class has to offer.

Let's take a look at what makes Hill so good.

 

Measurables

From a physicality standpoint, there is no more impressive back than Hill. He stands a bit over 6'0" tall and weighs 233 pounds.

He carries that weight very well, and is well-proportioned throughout his body. He's bulky and powerful without ever looking sluggish or soft.

Hill ran a little on the slower side at the combine with a 4.66 40-yard dash and 1.56 10-yard split, but combine numbers can be deceiving and his game is not about straight-line speed.

 

Statistics

In his two seasons at LSU, Hill was very productive.

He had 142 carries as a freshman and averaged an impressive 5.3 yards per carry to give him 755 yards on the year.

Hill also had 12 touchdowns that season, meaning he scored once out of every 11.83 carries. He also had four games over 100 yards, including 124 against Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

As a sophomore, Hill saw his workload increase and stepped up to the challenge. Despite having 203 carries, he averaged an SEC record 6.9 yards per carry. 

That gave him 1,401 yards on the year, to go along with 16 touchdowns. He also pulled in 18 catches for 181 yards.

 

Power

There's a lot of power coming from Hill's strong frame, but it takes more than just raw strength to be a powerful runner.

Hill has an edge about him, a competitiveness and nastiness that is evident throughout each and every game. It is what allows him to pick up some extra yards and occasionally push the pile for a first down or a score.

He's got the ability to bounce off people, and will also use stiff arms or lower his helmet and drive a defender backward.

There are also plays where he just seems impossible to bring down, like this one against Florida (starts at 4:47).

Hill also has functional power, which means that he isn't just hard to bring down when he plants himself in the ground, but can also run through tackles and keep his momentum forward.

This takes explosiveness, balance and determination, and Hill has all three of those qualities in spades, which gives him the ability to pull off runs like these.

Hill stays up after the initial contact, works his way through the hole and then gets out of there already in full stride.

That type of balance and power is huge for running backs in the NFL, and Hill has proven himself in this category throughout the past two years. 

 

Athleticism

Hill has a lot of strength, which is not all that surprising considering his impressive frame and powerful lower body. 

But what will surprise people is how athletic Hill is and how light he can be on his feet.

He has outrageously strong legs and a solid core that allows him to be both powerful and quick in small spaces. His athleticism is impressive for a guy who weighs 233 pounds.

For such a big guy, Hill is surprisingly agile and explosive. A lot of that comes from his excellent balance and determination.

Check out this play (starts at 2:53) and you'll instantly see what I'm talking about.

His pass-catching ability is solid, showing soft hands and the ability to adjust and bring in catches coming out of the backfield.

But then on that play Hill shows how he can turn upfield and get on his horse, going for a (largely successful) hurdle over a defender who is not bent over that much.

Catching passes is not the only way to show off athleticism, however. Check out this run against Alabama's vaunted defense as a freshman.

His vision and quickness in tight spaces is solid, and his ability to turn and get some yards laterally is impressive as well.

He shows the ability to make guys miss and has some jukes in the open field. Guys also have to be wary of his trucking ability, as Hill can use that to his advantage.

If a running back can keep defenders off balance, he wins. Hill does this consistently. 

 

Speed

Hill is not a burner. He's not going to run away from faster defensive backs and some linebackers may track him down.

But anyone who thinks he does not have enough speed to make big runs or break out in the open field have not watched enough tape.

One of the bigger negatives about Hill does not really have anything to do with him: It's that LSU had a big, talented offensive line that opened some holes and made some runs "easy" for Hill.

But those holes also allowed Hill to prove that he's not a slow, short-yardage back. There are multiple occasions where he attacks a hole and explodes through it, and sometimes ends up outrunning everyone once he gets into space.

These two plays (first video start at 4:32 and second video at 0:33) show that Hill is capable of being a real game-breaker. 

Don't underestimate Hill's acceleration and speed in the open field. He has more than enough of it to be a legit threat and every-down back in the NFL.

 

Verdict

There is obviously a lot to like about Hill as a player. He's big, powerful, explosive, durable and gritty, which is everything a feature back needs to be.

But the red flags are prominent. Hill took the fall semester off after high school, which is why he can enter the draft as a true sophomore.

He has two arrests on his record, one for sexual assault and one for allegedly punching a man outside a bar. Hill has been proactive, writing a letter to all 32 teams about his arrests, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, but that doesn't change the facts.

Hill will be rightly looked at as a risk because of his past. He's a top-50 talent who won't be taken that high because of the character concerns.

But I would still probably take him in the second round, although I'd expect that he goes in the 80 to 100 (late third to early fourth round) range. Hill could end up being one of the biggest steals in the draft if he keeps everything in check as an NFL player.

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LSU Football: 5 Things Standing in the Way of an SEC Championship

LSU tackle football can not come soon enough for Tigers fans. The season opener for Les Miles' squad against Wisconsin will be one of college football's most heavily anticipated opening week games.

The Badgers may not be a conference opponent, but BCS implications will certainly be on the line. No matter the outcome, it will help make Tigers battle-tested for SEC slate.

LSU has not been to the SEC Championship Game since 2011. Miles knows the road back to Atlanta will be arduous but achievable.

Here are five things that could keep the Tigers from hoisting the conference championship trophy in the Georgia Dome.  

 

*Stats and rankings via 247Sports, LSU Sports Information and cfbstats.com. 

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How Mark Helfrich Can Solve Defensive Issues Before the Start of the Season

If defense does indeed win championships, the tone Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich's staff sets now will define the Ducks' 2014 title pursuit.

Oregon built its strategy of overwhelming opponents on the offensive end in part on the contributions of its defense. The Ducks are at their best when a stifling defensive effort sets the table for their quick-strike offense.

With just five losses in the last three seasons, they have been at their best routinely.

However, late-season losses at Stanford and Arizona exposed deficiencies in Oregon's defense—specifically on the line. Solving the issues that vexed the Ducks is a process extending well beyond game day.

Following the Stanford loss on November 7, 2013, former defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti told reporters blame for the Cardinal offensive line's dominance rested on the coaching staff:

I hate to say that they dominated the line of scrimmage because I don’t want to sell my guys short. That’s the only reason I hate saying that. They dominated me because my guys are awesome and warriors and they fought to the end...But they didn’t dominate my guys.They won the game, they won the line of scrimmage. 

Aliotti left on a high note and turns over a defense still in good shape to new coordinator Don Pellum. 

A 30-7 rout of Texas in the December 2013 Alamo Bowl set the right precedent for the Ducks defense in 2014. It was quintessential Oregon at its best, thriving off turnovers. Both interceptions of Longhorns quarterback Case McCoy went for touchdowns, including the game-sealing return by linebacker Derrick Malone. 

Though the Alamo Bowl was notable for Oregon's defense outscoring the Texas offense, the underlining development was the Ducks' inspired play up front.

Texas was limited to 180 rushing yards, including just 55 in the second half.

"Made some schematic adjustments coming into it to combat their bigger bodies with one of our slightly smaller bodies than them," Helfrich said in his postgame press conference following the Alamo Bowl.

Defensive lineman Taylor Hart was vital to that effort, overpowering and outworking bigger Texas offensive linemen to make a game-high 11 tackles. Hart is gone for the NFL, and filling his void is among the program's primary offseason challenges.

But as the line comes together, it will have plenty of support behind it.

Oregon's linebacker corps will be the defensive foundation, particularly in the early weeks of the 2014 slate. Despite losing outside linebacker Boseko Lokombo, this is the team's most experienced defensive unit and certainly its deepest.

Malone and Tony Washington were breakout stars in 2013, each leading the Ducks in various statistical categories: Malone in tackles with 105, Washington in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (12).

Rodney Hardrick is also coming off a solid 2013 and a cast of candidates are making their case for prominent roles during spring practices.

Washington touted the performance of Christian French and Tyrell Robinson to ESPN.com's Chantel Jennings.

Rahim Cassell, Tyson Coleman and Joe Walker should all see expanded roles, and Oshay Dunmore is an intriguing talent.

The many capable linebackers should help take some of the pressure off the oft-criticized line. The 2014 linebacker corps is reminiscent of the Ducks' standout 2012 unit. That group gave Oregon a fearsome look up front, both containing the run and blitzing from a 46 base.

Football Study Hall broke down how the formation overwhelmed Kansas State in Oregon's 2013 Fiesta Bowl romp, and opposing offenses can anticipate a similar look next fall.

Washington told Jennings that the defense's collective mindset is more aggressive this offseason than in years past.

"You can just tell the defense is different: different mindset, different attitude," he said. "Guys are attacking more."

Pellum said at his introductory press conference in January that the principles of Aliotti's hybrid 3-4 would remain intact. Rather than dramatic change, the new coordinator promised tweaks.

Instilling a more aggressive philosophy may be the No. 1 tweak this coaching staff can emphasize between now and kickoff of the 2014 campaign.

By bringing the fight to the offense at the point of attack—and not vice versa, as was the case in last year's losses—Oregon's defense can take the next necessary step toward returning to the pinnacle of the Pac-12.

 

Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com

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How Mark Helfrich Can Solve Defensive Issues Before the Start of the Season

If defense does indeed win championships, the tone Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich 's staff sets now will define the Ducks' 2014 title pursuit...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

With Maty Mauk, Mizzou Will Challenge Auburn for Best QB in the SEC

Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk has only started four games, but you'd think he was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year if spring games meant anything—which, obviously, they don't. 

Still, Mauk has a lot of hype heading into the 2014 season thanks to an eye-opening performance in Saturday's Black and Gold Game. The redshirt sophomore, already announced by head coach Gary Pinkel as the starter for this year, completed 64 percent of his passes for 446 yards. Additionally, he ran for a three-yard touchdown. 

Stats can be misleading in spring, especially if they're against second-string defenses, but Mauk's leadership and grasp on the offense have coaches excited about his potential. 

"I'm way more comfortable with him calling plays, where his eyes are at, where his reads are at and him understanding what's happening on the field," offensive coordinator Josh Henson said via David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune. "He's worked hard at it. He studies the game. I think it's showing in his improved efficiency."

Mauk is more of a risk-taker than former starter James Franklin. Though he only threw two interceptions last year, he completed just 51 percent of his passes trying to make plays happen when they weren't always there. That's not going to be sustainable for an entire season. 

However, big plays are borne out of taking risks. Mauk has shown that he can make big plays with his arm and his feet, extending plays and drives. Anyone watching the Tigers' Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State would probably agree that Mauk deserved more playing time for that reason alone. 

Either way, his upside, not necessarily playing experience, puts Missouri near the top of the SEC at the quarterback spot for 2014. The biggest question for Mauk, and the Tigers in general, is how the passing game will fare with the loss of receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who was dismissed from the team following an alleged domestic incident. 

The current seat at the throne belongs to Auburn's Nick Marshall. That's the reward for leading the team to a BCS Championship appearance in his first year as a starter and accounting for more than 3,000 individual yards. Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated elaborates: 

However, it seems all but certain that Marshall, barring injury, will be one of the premier players in the SEC. That would've sounded implausible two years ago, when the Pineview, Ga., product -- who began his career as a defensive back at Georgia -- was one of three players dismissed from the Bulldogs following a dorm-room theft of a teammate. In the frenzy to figure out his next stop, Marshall said he had only a few days to decide whether to pursue an opportunity at cornerback or quarterback. Ultimately, he wanted to return to his native position.

Because of turnover at places like Alabama (A.J. McCarron), Georgia (Aaron Murray), LSU (Zach Mettenberger) and Texas A&M (Johnny Manziel), the top of the SEC quarterback list is thinner than it was a year ago.

There's no doubt Mauk can challenge Marshall to be the best quarterback in the SEC, even though his experience is lacking behind guys like Ole Miss' Bo Wallace. The Tigers, quietly, also have a solid quarterback situation behind Mauk. Redshirt junior Corbin Berkstresser had four starts of his own in 2012 when Franklin was sidelined with a shoulder injury. 

Recently, the Tigers got a commitment from Drew Lock, a 4-star pro-style prospect, according 247Sports Composite rankings. Should Lock honor his verbal and sign with Mizzou in 2015, the program could have one of the best quarterback situations in the SEC for years. 

That's all based on potential, of course, but it's hard not to be excited if you're a Missouri fan, especially considering the vibe a year ago coming off a 5-7 season. 

Having a good quarterback situation alone won't win a conference or national title, but it's a start. The confidence shown in Mauk is a big reason why the Tigers are an early favorite, along with South Carolina, to return to the SEC championship game next year.

 

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

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Attendance at Georgia Tech's Spring Game Was Really Bad

Georgia Tech football held its spring game on Friday night. Just by taking one look at the above photo, you can tell they had some trouble filling the seats. 

While the official number is unclear at this time, some have speculated that 117 fans attended the game. 

A Georgia Tech spokesman said the actual number was closer to 2,000: 

Bad weather may have played a factor in the embarrassing attendance, as the temperature was in the 40s and there was heavy rain: 

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson called the weather conditions "miserable" and "as bad as I can remember." 

For comparison, Alabama, Penn State and Auburn all drew over 70,000 fans at its spring games. 

[Twitter, h/t Reddit

 

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Will Michigan or Florida's Revamped Offense Be Better in 2014?

What happens when you combine losing football, nationally recognized programs and coaches on the hot seat? At Florida and Michigan it means throwing up a coaching Hail Mary and changing course offensively. 

Both Will Muschamp (Florida) and Brady Hoke (Michigan) saw significant pressure following disappointing 2013 seasons, and as the saying goes—desperate times call for desperate measures. 

It led to offensive coordinators being fired and hot names being hired as replacements at both schools.

Florida replaced Brent Pease with Kurt Roper from Duke, while Michigan replaced Hoke's longtime friend Al Borges with Alabama's Doug Nussmeier. 

There's no doubt both hires are meant to quickly turn around the biggest trouble spot at each school, but will one be more successful than the other in that task?

If spring was any indication, one school may have an easier time of making a big jump than the other.

At Florida, Roper will have Jeff Driskel returning at quarterback, which is a great place to start from for a new coach who happens to be one of the more flexible coordinators in the country. It's a point Muschamp made sure to hit when he hired Roper. 

"I'm excited to have Coach Roper join our staff," Muschamp said, via the school's athletic website. "He has a diverse, up-tempo background on offense and does a good job of adapting to what the players do best. The most important thing though is he has always remained balanced."

Part of Florida's decline offensively last season could be directly pointed at losing Driskel after just three games. He had completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 477 yards and two touchdowns in those three games. 

Driskel is a good starting point for a coordinator like Roper, who has coached three NFL quarterbacks in his days as a quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator. 

Speaking of coaching quarterbacks, Doug Nussmeier is no slouch in that category either. He's coached players like Keith Price (Washington), Jake Locker (Washington), Drew Stanton (Michigan State) and A.J. McCarron (Alabama). 

It was that quarterback reputation that was highlighted by head coach Brady Hoke in announcing the hiring of Nussmeier in January, according to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com:

Doug is a highly respected offensive coordinator and has earned a reputation as being a great mentor to quarterbacks, specifically, where he's coached Pro Bowlers, top NFL draft choices and Heisman Trophy finalists. Doug has been successful at every coaching stop with his balanced and explosive offenses, and he brings national championship experience.

Nussmeier is in a different situation than Roper, as there is a heated three-way battle for the starting quarterback spot—one that won't be decided until well in to the fall. 

Outside of the quarterback spot, there are even more similarities between the two programs. Both programs are looking for multiple replacements along the offensive line and both are looking to find wide receivers who can make plays this fall.

The difference between the two comes in what we've seen this spring from all three areas. 

The most worrisome area for Michigan coming in to the spring was the offensive line. It was a unit that couldn't get things going downhill (a pretty big requirement in the pro-style offense) last year, leading to a rushing game that averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. 

Nussmeier recognizes what Michigan's offensive line needs to become to solve that problem at the very least.

"We want to play physical and be a balanced team," he said, via Brian Bennett of ESPN.com. "And that all starts with what you’re doing up front in the trenches and on the line of scrimmage."

As great as that is, after spring ball it appears Nussmeier may have a lot more work in molding those recruited players in to a capable offense though.

The offensive line showed little to no improvement from a season ago in the spring game, struggling to open holes for the running backs and allowing the quarterbacks time to go through progressions and get in a rhythm.

It's led Michigan to do something it very rarely does—recruit a transfer player. According to Baumgardner, Hoke and Nussmeier are seriously considering bringing in former Alabama center Chad Lindsay.

Lindsay may be help to a very young offensive line, but it is also a group that had a ton of experience last season and appears to have grown very little from it so far.

That's the challenge facing Nussmeier, and it's an important one. If the offensive line can't turn the corner it's doubtful the rest of the offense can either.

Roper had no such issues this spring with his offensive line, which is full of upperclassmen with plenty of experience. 

The challenge that group faces is not so much one of experience, but rather making sure it can handle the uptempo style the Gators will play under Roper.

That kind of conditioning happens only with time, something everyone recognized this spring. 

“We want to be ready to go when the defense is not ready to go, and at the tempo we’re going, they’re not going to be able to do that,” Garcia said, via the Gators athletic website. “That’s going to give us an edge and it’s something we’re going to pride ourselves on this year.”

Despite the roster differences that may favor a quicker turnaround for Florida under Roper, there is one big advantage for Nussmeier at Michigan. 

He isn't looking to completely reinvent the way the Wolverines play offense. Instead, Nussmeier will look to further Michigan's transformation to a true pro-style offense once and for all. 

Nussmeier should have more of the players who fit his thinking than having to mold his thinking to the players he’s surrounded with, and that can be to his advantage over time.

However, we can only judge by what we've seen and heard through 15 practices this spring, and by all indications Roper's offense is far and away ahead of where Michigan is. 

Roper's offense looked far more in sync during the respective spring games, even if Driskell completed just 56.2 percent of his passes in front of the public.

According to Jeff Barlis of ESPN.com, Florida's offense racked up over 400 yards, 36 points and had 69 plays between the first- and second-team units in just one half of football. 

No fewer than 20 receivers caught balls in the spring game, and Florida also averaged 4.6 yards per carry on a day that was more focused on the pass game.

The confidence and efficiency with which the Gators ran the offense was in stark contrast to what Michigan put on display for the public a few weeks ago.

Just listen to how Driskel summed up spring ball, telling Barlis that confidence is the key to what is happening within Roper's offense. 

"It felt like we were really efficient," Driskel said, via Barlis. "We moved the ball really well. We only turned it over one time and we only had one penalty on offense. I think when you’re not beating yourself up, you can really, really gain momentum and gain confidence."

Contrast that with what was being said by Hoke following the spring game. 

"We missed a couple guys during the course of spring with (Joey) Burzynski and (Erik) Magnuson and Chris Fox on and off," said Hoke, via Baumgardner of MLive.com. "But I think the improvement is coming. Is it where we want it to be? No. I'd be lying if I told you we were exactly where we wanted to be."

As the teams focus shifts to fall, progress in front of the public is important—if for no other reason than to alleviate some of the public and private pressure on your job.  

For that reason alone, it is advantage Roper and Florida’s offense. Yet, there’s more to it than that.

The combination of returning players, a quarterback situation that is already settled and a coordinator with a lot more athletic talent to build around gives Roper and the Gators the overall edge. 

It wouldn't be surprising to see Florida’s offense doing some impressive scoring this season given what we saw this spring already.

Combine that with a defense that should be one of the SEC's better units and the Gators could be in for a very quick turnaround, at just the right time for Muschamp to keep his job. 

 

Andy Coppens is a national college football featured columnist. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndyOnCFB

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2015 CB Recruit Kareem Ali Reveals Top 5, Talks NFL Player Comparison

New Jersey junior Kareem Ali is an explosive cornerback who has commanded interest from college football programs across the country. The Timber Creek High School star has collected scholarship offers from dozens of teams and is considering several options.

Ali, a 5'11", 175-pound prospect, is a playmaker on both sides of the ball. He helped Timber Creek (Erial, N.J.) reach the South Jersey title game last season, securing postseason honors and a U.S. Army All-American Bowl invite along the way.

The physical defender is a speedster who also shines on the track. Ali is clocked at 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to 247Sports.

He is rated No. 33 nationally among cornerbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings and No. 8 in the state. Ali received offers from Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers, Wisconsin, Clemson and Pittsburgh prior to the start of his junior season.

More opportunities arrived at a rapid pace during the 2013 season and the months that followed. His list expanded to include Nebraska, North Carolina, West Virginia, Michigan State and Florida.

Ali recently spoke to Bleacher Report, revealing significant changes to his list of favorites. He also spoke about practicing against two of the country's top receivers and revealed which NFL player he models his game after.

 

Bleacher Report: Your recruitment has really heated up since last fall. How are you handling all the attention?

Kareem Ali: I'm not really focusing on it. Enjoying the time with my family and teammates right now. I'm focused on next season and not paying (recruiting) much mind. My coaches and my parents are telling me "Let it all fall in place and keep doing what you're doing."

B/R: Last month, you announced a list of your top eight college options (Michigan State, Louisville, Rutgers, North Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Temple and West Virginia). Does that list of favorites look different these days?

Ali: It's kind of cut down a little bit. Rutgers is out of the picture. Temple—they're still in the picture but they're on the border. I really like Temple. I don't really want to count them all the way out. Pitt is counted all the way out right now ... Michigan State is also out of the picture. I have a couple more visits left—Florida, Louisville, North Carolina and West Virginia. Those four, including Maryland, are my top five.

B/R: You've made substantial changes to that list in the past month. What exactly are you looking for at the next level?

Ali: Just a place that's a good fit for me, during college and after college. Whatever city it is, whatever state it is, I want to make sure that it's a fit for me and my family. A place that feels like home that's not too far from home. I've got to get my little brothers and my mom and my dad up to the games, so I don't want to be that far. I just want to feel comfortable and feel at home wherever I'm at.

B/R: When do you plan on visiting some of your favorites?

Ali: North Carolina is going to be pretty soon, just because I'm on my spring break right now. Louisville and West Virginia will be in June. I'm trying to get down to Florida soon too, but I kind of doubt that one. That's a little pushing it. It won't hurt to go visit, though.

B/R: What stands out about Florida? You've eliminated some closer regional options but still have the Gators and Gainesville as a top choice.

Ali: Just their history with defensive backs. They've put a lot of defensive backs in the league, especially (players) from up north. Joe Haden and his family. Jalen Tabor, who's also from Maryland. I talk to Jalen Tabor a lot and he just tells me, "They make it feel like home. They make it feel like I'm one of their sons." That's all the feedback he's given me. I think that's kind of why I still have Florida in the picture.

B/R: You've spent significant time defending Timber Creek teammates Adonis Jennings (4-star 2014 Pittsburgh signee) and Cam Chambers (4-star 2016 prospect, MaxPreps National Sophomore Player of the Year) during practice. What have the battles with those receivers been like?

Ali: Me and Adonis used to go at it. I think I got the upper hand on him by probably two reps, but we always went at it. Me and Cam haven't gone against each other as much, but whenever we do I always teach him a lesson. It's never an easy catch. I don't remember the last time he had a catch actually.

B/R: Is there a cornerback in college or the NFL who you really try to replicate on the field?

Ali: It has to be Darrelle Revis. Just because of the fact that he's a small DB like me and he doesn't back down from any challenge. He'll go against any receiver, any day. He's up for it. He plays the ball, he plays the man, he's a Pro Bowler trying to win a Super Bowl. He plays hard, came back from (an) ACL injury and went to the Pro Bowl this year. That says a lot, especially at DB. It tells me that his drive is repetitive. He doesn't stop.

B/R: You mention the size comparison (Revis is also 5'11"). How do you respond when people question if you're big enough to succeed in college as players get larger at the position?

Ali: I play like (a big cornerback). I'm all 5'11", 175 pounds of me. That's that but I can play up to size no matter who the receiver is, no matter how big they are or how small they are. I go up against 6'3" receivers every day in practice. That right there just gives me a hint of what someone else could be like, someone bigger. A small DB (has an edge) because we get in their chest, and they don't know what to do. You need someone small and gritty to get inside of you. Receivers don't really know how to (match up with) me. I understand people say they don't want small corners...but we're feisty. It's not going to be easy.

B/R: Are you still waiting to see if any other programs offer a scholarship, or are you locked in with what you have now?

Ali: There's no school I'm actually waiting on. I received every offer I actually wanted. I'm blessed to have that opportunity. Every school that I have in my top five are all my top schools—every one that I want to be in the equation and where I could see myself at. I couldn't see myself anywhere except for my top five.

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