NCAA Football

5-Star DE CeCe Jefferson on UCLA: Hands Down Prettiest Women in the Country

CeCe Jefferson, a 5-star defensive end, is one of the most ferocious playmakers in the class of 2015. The 6'2", 250-pound athlete has over 30 scholarship offers from some of the top programs in the country.

Bleacher Report went one-on-one with Jefferson who discussed coach Jim Mora, the West Coast atmosphere and the UCLA women.

What did Jefferson have to say about Mora? What did he like most about the Bruins program?

Watch the video, and get the inside scoop on Jefferson and his feelings about UCLA.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings courtesy of 247sports.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star DE CeCe Jefferson on UCLA: Hands Down Prettiest Women in the Country

CeCe Jefferson , a 5-star defensive end, is one of the most ferocious playmakers in the class of 2015. The 6'2", 250-pound athlete has over 30 scholarship offers from some of the top programs in the country...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football's Biggest Performances from Week 2 Spring Games

Technically speaking, the batch of spring games from this past Saturday weren't in the "second" week of the spring game schedule. However, this was the second weekend in a row in which a significant number of games were played. 

So, for simplicity's purposes, April 12 was "Week 2" for spring games. 

There's only so much anyone can take away from these glorified scrimmages, and coaches basically have two goals: evaluate individuals and positions and keep everyone as healthy as possible. 

That said, there were several performances that stood out in Week 2 that should generate some excitement heading into summer. Which players raised eyebrows and made headlines?

 

Tennessee Wide Receiver Josh Malone

Offense wasn't hard to find in Tennessee's spring game with the White team beating the Orange team by a final score of 129-100.*

(*May or may not have been, but definitely was, a modified scoring system.) 

What wasn't modified were the numbers for freshman wide receiver Josh Malone. The early enrollee hauled in six catches for 181 yards—including a 79-yard reception—and three touchdowns. Fellow receiver Marquez North also broke the century mark with five catches for 106 yards and a score. 

Still, Malone stole the show in an offensive display. As B/R colleague Barrett Sallee points out, that display spells concerns for the Vols' defense

For Malone, it spells excitement for a freshman who may be able to contribute right away in the passing game.

 

Oklahoma Quarterback Baker Mayfield

Yes, that Baker Mayfield.

The former Texas Tech starter isn't eligible for the 2014 season as he satisfies Big 12 and NCAA transfer rules. Had he been eligible, though, he would have given starter Trevor Knight—and perhaps the Oklahoma coaching staff—something to think about in the months leading up to preseason camp. 

Mayfield completed all nine of his pass attempts for 125 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-13 win for the White Team.

Stats aside, B/R's Sean Frye notes that Mayfield looked like a guy who has been there, done that.

"His actual on-field performance was even more impressive," Frye wrote. "His drives were methodical, and his throws were precise. His best highlight was a 28-yard back-shoulder touchdown pass to Jordan Smallwood in the start of the second half." 

 

Knight had a less-impressive day statistically speaking, completing 5-of-14 passes with an interception.

That's not necessarily a reflection of how Knight has progressed as a passer this spring; Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said via press release that Knight has "made strides" since the Sugar Bowl.

Still, Mayfield stole the show. 

 

Notre Dame Quarterback Malik Zaire

Mayfield wasn't the only backup quarterback who showed up in a big way on Saturday. Notre Dame's Malik Zaire proved he was a legitimate challenger to incumbent starter (circa 2012) Everett Golson. 

Unlike Mayfield, though, Zaire is eligible this year. And he may very well beat out Golson for the job.

The sophomore threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns in a 63-58 "win" for the Blue team. 

“When we figured everything out and got it down and today was like, ‘This is your party,’” Zaire said via B/R's Mike Monaco. “That’s the same way during the season should work. Practice should be harder than the games and when it’s the game time, it comes easy to us, and it came easy to us today.”

Confidence has never been Zaire's shortcoming. Last month, he came right out and said he would be the Irish's starting quarterback in Week 1. 

"There will only be one guy starting on August 30th against Rice at Notre Dame Stadium, there will only be one guy out on the field, and I believe that will be me," Zaire told reporters (h/t B/R's Keith Arnold). 

Maybe he was right. 

 

Clemson Defensive End Tavaris Barnes

Sacks aren't really sacks in a spring game. They're more a result of getting to the quarterback rather than bringing him to the ground.

Still, defensive tackle Tavaris Barnes had himself a day in Clemson's spring game, a 24-5 victory for the White team. The redshirt senior recorded five sacks as part of a defensive effort from the White team that did not allow a touchdown.

"I’m working harder than ever and seeing it pay off. It was a statement game for me," Barnes said in a university post-game release. "I want to let people know that I am going to do everything I can to help this defense. I feel we are going to have a great, deep defense this year."

Barnes served as a backup for the Tigers in 2013. Still, he should be part of a talented and deep defensive line for Clemson in 2014. 

 

Nebraska Running Back Imani Cross

Nebraska's ground game still belongs to Ameer Abdullah, but fellow running back Imani Cross showed his big-play potential in the Huskers' spring game. With Abdullah held out, the junior tallied 100 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries. 

"It was a big opportunity, and I was thankful for the opportunity," Cross said afterward via a university release. "I just try to take it one day at a time, one play at a time. I just try to make sure I focus on the little things and not so much looking at the big picture. I just make the picture smaller and try to get better every day."

Cross' longest run of the day was a 39-yard touchdown in the second quarter, the longest rush of the day. His other touchdown came on a 20-yard run. 

 

Honorable Mentions

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini and his cat: No stats to speak of, but this was the best moment of any spring practice this year. Faux Pelini would be proud. 

 

Arizona wide receiver Trey Griffey: The son of future baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. showed he only needs one hand to make highlight catches in the Wildcats' spring game. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats reflect a spring game's unofficial numbers. 

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5-Star DE CeCe Jefferson on Alabama: 'Saban Is Godfather of College Football'

5-Star DE CeCe Jefferson is one of the most ferocious playmakers in the class of 2015. The 6'2", 250-pound athlete has more than 30 scholarship offers from some of the top programs in the country.

Bleacher Report went one on one with Jefferson, who discussed coach Saban and the Crimson Tide program.

What did Jefferson have to say about Saban? What does he like most about Alabama?

Watch the video and get the inside scoop on Jefferson and his feelings about the Crimson Tide.

Highlights courtesy of xosdigital.com

Rankings courtesy of 247sports.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Virginia Tech Football: Analyzing the Hokies' Second Spring Scrimmage

The Virginia Tech football team opened things up to the public for the second time on April 12, letting fans and the media alike get a good look at how the team’s developing at another spring scrimmage.

The Hokies ran 99 plays in all over the course of about two hours at Lane Stadium, and a few hundreds fans got to watch Tech work. 

However, the Hokies weren’t exactly at full strength for the scrimmage. Tech was missing receivers Carlis Parker and Josh Stanford and, most importantly, starting quarterback Mark Leal, as The Roanoke Times’ Andy Bitter reported. 

The veterans’ absence opened things up for some other, younger players to get more reps with the starters, and the coaching staff surely learned some valuable lessons about all of them.

Read on to find out which players really stood out in the second scrimmage of the spring. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes come from the team’s media availability immediately after the game.

 

Ken Ekanem

There was a fair bit of uncertainty at the defensive end spot opposite Dadi Nicolas heading into the spring, but redshirt sophomore Ken Ekanem seems to be distinguishing himself as one of the team’s best performers this spring. 

At the start of practice, Ekanem was listed as co-starter at the position with Seth Dooley, but he’s since pulled ahead of the redshirt freshman and taken the sole position at the top of the depth chart.

Ekanem looked dominant during the scrimmage, harassing both offensive units that he faced. He racked up three sacks for a loss of 24 yards, four total tackles for loss and six total tackles in all.

“I think Ken’s really playing well,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “Ken, after last week, has been the guy that you’ve been watching him more and he’s done a nice job.”

What was initially considered a weak spot for the Hokies now seems like a strength. Ekanem has spent the last two years recovering from a knee injury he suffered in the last game of his high school career, but now he seems as if he’s returned to form.

“I’m feeling like this is the place that I should have been when I got here,” Ekanem told Bitter. “I’m two years late, but I’m here now." 

The Hokies certainly have to be glad he’s back as his development will determine will help determine whether or not the line can be as good as it was a season ago.

 

Michael Branthover 

The Hokies still need to find themselves a starter at kicker, but it seems like they’re getting closer on that front.

Senior Michael Branthover seems to have pulled into the lead at the position after impressing early this spring.

“I think Branthover right now is in the lead as our field goal guy,” said head coach Frank Beamer. “He’s had a good week of kicking, he’s got a strong leg, he’s kind of our veteran guy out there right now and I think he’s the best right now, but we’re going to continue that on.”

Branthover made all three of his kicks during the scrimmage, nailing tries from 33, 37 and 42 yards. He split duties pretty evenly with Remington Hishaw, R.J. Warfel and Eric Kristensen during the scrimmage, but Beamer seemed particularly bullish on Branthover.

“He’s got the strongest leg and this week, every time he’s had a chance to make a kick, he’s made it. It’s been a good week for him,” Beamer said.

But that’s not to say the job is his just yet. The Hokies are bringing in several other kickers to compete for the top spot in the fall, including 2-star prospect Michael Santamaria.

“I think I’ve got a couple really good kickers coming in, I mean really good. So we’ll see how we finish up the spring,” Beamer said.

 

Bucky Hodges

The coaches have been singing the praises of quarterback-turned-tight end Bucky Hodges for the entirety of spring practice, and the redshirt freshman showed why in the scrimmage.

He only made one catch for six yards, but he made his presence felt early and often.

Whether he was blocking, split out wide or even lined up in a Wildcat formation taking snaps, Hodges looked like an enticing weapon for offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.

He ran three plays from the Wildcat, gaining 19 yards and looking fluid while doing it.

Hodges made an impact in the passing game too—he broke wide open down the field on two back-to-back plays, but quarterback Brenden Motley couldn’t find him either time. 

Loeffler refused to give up any detailed information about how the team plans to further utilize Hodges in the Wildcat—he shut down one reporter’s question about what the team likes about the formation with just a terse “It’s a Wildcat” and a shrug—but it’s clear that he’s very pleased with what he’s seeing so far if Hodges is getting this much time with the first team already.

 

Marshawn Williams

Early enrolled freshman Marshawn Williams remains on the third team on the depth chart at running back, but it doesn’t seem like he’ll be staying there much longer.

Williams looked excellent in the scrimmage, leading the team in rushing with 13 runs for 66 yards.

He got more carries than even spring starter J.C. Coleman, who finished with 11 runs for 27 yards.

“I think the zone read play for him was very natural,” Beamer said. “He feels an opening and he hits it and you don’t teach that a lot, so I was impressed with him.”

Williams finished his runs with burst and power each time, including one 16-yard run where he took several defenders with him down the field.

He looked great at the team’s last scrimmage too, and it’s becoming really clear that he’s got the talent to get on the field this fall.

The coaches seem to agree—he started the scrimmage on the second team, but by the last series, he was with the starters.

 

Andrew Ford

After throwing just one pass in the team’s last scrimmage, freshman Andrew Ford got a chance to get some meaningful reps in Leal’s absence.

Ford largely worked with the second-team offense while facing the first-team defense, so he looked a little rough at times.

He was sacked a total of nine times, yet he still finished 12-of-15 for 150 yards and a touchdown.

“As long as you’re accurate, and he’s an accurate guy, you can get those other things going, get the ball out of there a little bit faster,” Beamer said of the young passer.

Not only was Ford working against tough competition, but also many of his sacks were the result of bad snaps.

On at least three occasions, he had to collect the ball off the turf since both starting center David Wang and backup Kyle Chung were held out of the game.

When he did get a chance to drop back, he looked impressive in fits and starts. Loeffler frequently got him moving out of the pocket on play-action roll-outs, and he seemed comfortable while doing so.

He completed four long throws on the run, including his 17-yard touchdown throw to the back corner of the end zone to tight end Dakota Jackson. 

Ford certainly has a lot to learn yet, but he did show some flashes of brilliance at the scrimmage.

 

Brenden Motley

Motley was the biggest beneficiary of Leal’s absence, and he largely took advantage of his moment in the spotlight.

He finished 12-of-20 on the day for 163 yards and a touchdown. He got sacked four times, but discounting the 37 yards he lost on those plays, he ran the ball seven times for 32 yards as well. 

“He’d like to have a couple throws back, we could’ve had a couple more touchdowns. But I think he’s made progress this spring,” Beamer said. “He’s getting real reps for the first time, it’s not an easy place to be the quarterback, so I think he’s making progress.”

Motley was particularly impressive while throwing the deep ball. He absolutely nailed receiver Deon Newsome for 32 yards on one throw and made another long throw up the sideline to hit Demitri Knowles.

Loeffler also used him frequently on option plays. Motley ran the ball quite a bit in his days at Christiansburg High School, so it’s no surprise that Loeffler was trying to take advantage of his feet. 

“Football has changed in terms of you better have a guy that can extend the play because it’s not always perfect,” Loeffler said. “You want it perfect, but it’s not always perfect. So having a guy back there that can get out of trouble is advantage for sure.”

He ran the option six different times during the scrimmage, running for big gains on each of the three plays he kept it.

However, he wasn’t perfect on the day. Many of his big plays came against the second-team defense, which features a lot of subpar players with some injuries in the secondary.

He got the chance to face the first team on three series at the end of the scrimmage, and then his performance was a little more of mixed bag.

His best plays came on a long run up the sideline on the option and on a play-action pass to receiver Charley Meyer, but he felt the pressure on several plays and missed some easy throws.

“I got a huge opportunity today and I feel like I did pretty well,” Motley said. “There’s definitely some things I’ve got to work on, but I feel like I did some good things.”

Motley does indeed have room to improve, but this performance in the scrimmage did a lot to establish that he’s a legitimate contender for the starting job.

It’s not a good sign for Leal that he’s missing time this early, and Motley showed confidence running the offense in his absence.

It’s hard to declare anything with certainty until the QB reinforcements arrive in the fall, but Motley seems very much in mix for starting spot after his showing in the scrimmage.

 

Alex Koma is a B/R featured columnist and a member of the Breaking News Team. You can find his B/R archive here, follow him on Twitter @AlexKomaVT and visit his personal website.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

FSU Football: Projections for Jameis Winston's Monster Sophomore Season

Jameis Winston is coming off an amazing season in which he won the Heisman Trophy and led his Florida State Seminoles to the BCS National Championship. What does he have in store for his encore?

Expect to see Winston even more involved in the offense this season. The Seminoles lost running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. to the NFL draft. Winston will have to make up for these losses by putting up even bigger numbers than he did in 2013. 

Check out Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee break down what to expect from Jameis Winston in his sophomore season.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oklahoma Football: 'Sky Is the Limit' for Trevor Knight in 2014

Trevor Knight had an average season in 2013, throwing for only 819 yards and nine touchdowns after missing some time due to injuries. However, he lit up Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, going 32-of-44 and throwing four TDs. 

What can Sooners fans expect from Knight in 2014? If he can stay healthy, Knight has the potential to keep rolling from the Sugar Bowl upset and have a stellar season. 

Check out Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee break down what to expect from Trevor Knight in 2014. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: Expect Braxton Miller to Pass More, Stay Healthy in 2014

Last year, Braxton Miller had a fantastic season, even while missing some time due to injury. After a disappointing end to 2013, Miller has a lot to prove his senior year. 

Miller will have to protect himself by staying in the pocket more this season and not going on the run. Being an electric playmaker, this may seem contradictory to Miller's instincts, but he must do it in order to stay healthy and lead the Ohio State Buckeyes. 

Check out the video above, where Adam Kramer and Michael Felder project how Braxton Miller will fare in his senior season. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Everett Golson Will 'Absolutely' Start for Irish

Everett Golson is back on the field for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and should return to his old role as starting QB. Golson led the Irish to the BCS National Championship Game in 2012. Does he have what it takes to have the same success after a year off the field?

Golson was suspended for the 2013 season but is back in South Bend. Sophomore Malik Zaire played well in the spring game, but expect to see Golson starting for the Irish in Week 1.

Check out Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder break down what to expect from Everett Golson in 2014. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Northwestern Lands 4-Star Twin Brothers Andrew and David Dowell

Northwestern capped a whirlwind recruiting weekend by claiming commitments from 4-star twin prospects David and Andrew Dowell. The Wildcats welcomed five players into the 2015 class during a three-day span, signaling serious momentum for Pat Fitzgerald's program.

The twins announced their intentions Sunday evening:

David and Andrew, each rated among Ohio's top 15 recruits in 247Sports' composite rankings, are juniors at St. Edward High School (Lakewood). They helped lead the Eagles to state semifinal action last fall.

Andrew, a 6'0", 195-pound running back, rushed for 968 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013, per Cleveland.com reporter Bill Landis. He's a powerful, bruising back who does his finest work between the tackles.

Andrew is rated No. 26 nationally at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings.

David, who stands at 6'1", 180 pounds, is ranked No. 26 among receivers. His junior campaign ended with 26 receptions, 483 yards and seven scores.

He also shines at defensive back and presents the Wildcats with options on both sides of the ball.

The brothers are the most highly ranked members of Northwestern's recruiting class. Their commitments provide positive building blocks for the coaching staff, who they visited earlier this month.

"You could see they were very excited by us being there," David told Rivals.com reporter Louie Vaccher. "They really want us to play for Northwestern."

The Wildcats also added 3-star Missouri running back John Moten on Sunday. Linebackers Nathan Fox (Texas) and Tommy Vitale (Illinois) pledged Friday and Saturday, respectively.

The Dowells had several scholarship opportunities to consider. West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana and Cincinnati are among teams that extended offers to both brothers.

They bolster a Northwestern class that now ranks fifth in the Big Ten Conference and 33rd nationally, per 247Sports' composite team ratings.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: Don't Be Blinded by Spring Stats, Vols Have Work to Do

One look at the box score, and you'll probably be blinded by Tennessee's flashy stats from the spring game.

The Vols totaled 762 yards, early-enrollee Josh Malone and sophomore Marquez North each topped the 100-yard mark receiving and early-enrollee running back Jalen Hurd had 66 rushing yards and a score on the ground as the White outscored the Orange 129-100 in a modified scoring system in Saturday's spring game at Neyland Stadium.

Great, right?

Well, not really.

The emergence of Malone and Hurd as legitimate weapons to complement North and senior running back Marlin Lane is nice, but that's not the biggest issue facing second-year head coach Butch Jones this spring.

Defense is—particularly the fundamentals. 

Tennessee finished 11th in the SEC in total defense last year (418.4 YPG), and struggled with tackling on Saturday.

"The biggest thing I'm most disappointed in that we need to take tremendous strides is our tackling," Jones said in quotes released by Tennessee. "We've spent an inordinate amount of time this spring in terms of tackling. On the positive side of it, we were in good position to make the tackles. Everything is about body position, we just didn't make them so we'll go back."

There is quite a bit of inexperience on Tennessee's defense, particularly up front, where the Vols return no starters on the defensive line. Veteran linebacker A.J. Johnson was limited, but the defense has to take a step forward, and it starts with fundamentals.

Up front, Jones is still looking for the consistency and depth needed along the defensive line to be a contender in the SEC East. Owen Williams had five tackles, including one for a loss, hybrid linebacker/defensive end Curt Maggitt had three, Jordan Williams had two and Corey Vereen had one. 

"The thing I was kind of disappointed in, in the spring game today, was the drop off from ones to twos," Jones said in his postgame quotes. "We need to generate outs defensively and we didn't generate very many three-and-outs today."

The closer you are to the ball at the line of scrimmage, the better chance you have to play right away. With five defensive linemen coming in this summer as part of the 2014 recruiting class, including 4-star defensive ends Dewayne Hendrix and Derek Barnett and 4-star defensive tackles Charles Mosley and Michael Sawyers, there will be even more chances to build that depth during fall camp.

But what about the quarterbacks?

Josh Dobbs was sensational on Saturday, completing six of nine passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns, and adding 59 rushing yards and a score on the ground. Jones had begun to narrow the quarterback race down to senior Justin Worley—who completed 11 of 13 passes for 151 yards and a score on Saturday, and redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson—who threw for 83 yards and a touchdown but was sacked three times.

With a strong performance on spring's biggest stage, Dobbs may have elbowed his way back in. If he does, that will take some first-team snaps away from the eventual winner. But on the plus side, it will push Worley and Ferguson during summer conditioning.

Quarterbacks won't be an issue. They proved enough on Saturday that they are capable of getting the ball into their playmakers, and that's good enough.

But the defense struggled, particularly up front. That was one Tennessee's biggest issues heading into spring practice, and it remains its biggest issue exiting it.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All spring game statistics are courtesy of the University of Tennessee.


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LSU Football: Projecting Brandon Harris as No. 1 QB for Tigers in 2014

Les Miles and the LSU Tigers have a heated quarterback battle on their hands. Anthony Jennings, Brandon Harris and Hayden Rettig are all fighting to replace departing QB Zach Mettenberger. After the spring game, it seems that Harris has the best chance to start for the Tigers in the fall. 

How will Harris fare as a true freshman against SEC defenses? Can he learn the offense well enough to be a true replacement for Mettenberger? 

Check out Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder as they project Harris' stats as the starting QB for the LSU Tigers in 2014. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Football: Top Performers from the Gators Spring Game

After an interesting Florida Gators spring game that ended in a 23-23 tie, it’s time to point out some of the best players from the glorified practice.

The good news is that the offense looked a lot sharper than the defense for a change. On the other side of the coin, it’s a spring game, which means that everything is very vanilla and the rules are meant to favor the offense to a certain extent.

Still, there were a lot of positives to take away from this game and a lot of key players who rose to the occasion and left a positive impact heading into the fall.

Here are the top performers from the 2014 Gators spring game.

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USC Football: 10 Players to Watch in USC Spring Game

USC hosts its spring game on Saturday, and with it comes the culmination of the early work Steve Sarkisian and his new team have put in to preparing for the 2014 season. It also marks the final showing for a handful of Trojans that have been competing for time in the limelight.

While most position battles will reopen again when injured veterans and fresh, new talent are available during fall camp, the impression left in the spring game could go a long way in boosting one's name up the depth chart.

Broken down by head-to-head position battles, here's a preview of 10 Trojans to keep an eye on during Saturday's spring game. 

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USC Football: 10 Players to Watch in USC Spring Game

USC hosts its spring game on Saturday, and with it comes the culmination of the early work Steve Sarkisian and his new team have put in to preparing for the 2014 season...

Begin Slideshow

Arkansas Football: 5 Newcomers Who Will Have the Biggest Impacts in 2014

It's no secret that head coach Bret Bielema and the Arkansas Razorbacks are in the midst of a serious rebuilding project.

It's scary to think that the Hogs have to start the 2014 season on the road against the national runner-ups in the Auburn Tigers, but that's the reality of the situation. That means spring and fall practices are going to be that much more important in order to improve in all facets and prepare for a real test to open the season.

Because Arkansas is thin at a lot of positions, it also means that the Razorbacks need newcomers to step up and play impact roles.

Which new faces are going to have the biggest impacts in 2014? Here we break down the five first-year Hogs that will play the biggest roles in Bielema's second year.

 

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Tennessee Football: Top Performers from the Volunteers' Spring Game

While it's impossible to ignore the glaring questions facing the Tennessee Volunteers, it wasn't difficult for head coach Butch Jones to put a spring-ending positive spin on how far the team has come.

The Vols are a young, inexperienced work in progress, but if they get some serious help on defense, there are enough offensive weapons about which to get excited.

That was evident during Saturday's Orange and White Game, and Jones even cracked a smile a few times in discussing a month of practice where tons got accomplished, his team grew up and no major injuries were incurred.

"I left here a year ago at this time obviously very concerned about our throw game and big splash plays and that kind of showed itself last season, and that's in the past," Jones said. "I'm very encouraged by what I see, but we have a long way to go."

Jones, of course, went on to note the team's deficiencies—such as tackling, defensive depth and turnovers—but those are concerns for another day.

The spring finale was about the playmakers who emerged, and there were plenty. Let's examine Saturday's stars.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand.

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Ohio State Spring Game: Biggest Takeaways from Buckeyes' Intra-Squad Tilt

It is a testament to the popularity of Ohio State football in central Ohio that the Buckeyes’ spring game, which is truly just a glorified practice, drew more than 60,000 fans even though the tickets were being sold for $20 apiece up until the night before the game.

For context, the majority of schools do not charge fans for admittance to the spring game.

However, there were bigger takeaways to be made from the game than the fact that people love Ohio State football. The Gray squad topped the Scarlet one 17-7 in a contest that did not feature Braxton Miller due to injury.

According to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors, head coach Urban Meyer appeared far more interested in individual performances than who won the game:

I’m not trying to evaluate an offense. Who cares? There are guys out there who will never play or they’re not ready to play now. [Sports information director] Jerry [Emig] handed me these stats. I’m not sure what to do with these. I don’t care.

What I do care about is who’s physically going to make the plays. It was almost like an individual game today. That’s what I wanted to watch. I wanted to see who’s going to compete, who’s going to make plays and who’s going to fit the team concept because we all know what we saw out there. That’s not a team. That’s not the Ohio State Buckeyes. 

Even though Meyer wasn’t particularly impressed with the performance, there were some conclusions that could be made. Here are a few of them.

 

Braxton Miller Needs to Stay Healthy

Miller did not play in the spring game because he is still recovering from shoulder surgery. Backups Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett battled it out instead.

Neither made much of an impression, as Jones finished 14-of-31 for 126 yards and Barrett went 17-of-33 for 151 yards. There were no passing touchdowns on the day, which is somewhat concerning considering the secondary’s talent was dispersed between the two rosters—and safety Vonn Bell isn’t even healthy.

If Miller were to get hurt this season, there doesn’t appear to be a Kenny Guiton waiting in the wings.

Both Jones and Barrett flashed potential, particularly with their legs, but Guiton had a certain command of the offense when called upon. He saved Ohio State on multiple occasions in the past two seasons.

Barrett is only a redshirt freshman and presents more of a long-term solution than Jones, but don’t be surprised if Jones wins the backup job by August. Barrett didn’t do enough in the spring game to overcome the experience edge that Jones currently holds.

 

The 2nd Cornerback Position Is up for Grabs

Ohio State’s biggest weakness last year was its secondary.

The pass defense ultimately proved crippling in the Orange Bowl when Clemson scored 40 points, and watching the Buckeyes try to defend a screen pass against archrival Michigan was painful.

All-Big Ten player Bradley Roby is no longer around at cornerback, which means the second spot is up for grabs across from Doran Grant. Eli Apple and Armani Reeves both played significant minutes in the spring game and impressed throughout.

Apple and Reeves both broke up passes, although it was Apple who dropped a near interception. Ultimately, Apple looked slightly more impressive than Reeves thanks to his physicality and speed, but Reeves has more experience in the Buckeyes’ system.

Neither separated himself from the other, although the silver lining is neither struggled enough to fall in the pecking order either. Expect to see plenty of both when the season rolls around, although the starting job will likely be decided in camp.

It is also worth mentioning that incredibly talented incoming freshman Marshon Lattimore could work his way into the rotation as well.

 

Carlos Hyde Will be Replaced by a Committee

Miller drew many of the headlines when it came to Ohio State’s electric offense last season, but Carlos Hyde was the wrecking ball that made the engine go.

In fact, had the Buckeyes given Hyde the ball more in the losses to Michigan State and Clemson, they very well could have won both games. How effectively Ohio State replaces his production will go a long way toward determining how the season unfolds from an offensive perspective.

There is plenty of talent at the running back position, and if the spring game proved anything, it was that there will likely be a committee of ball-carriers this season.

Bri’onte Dunn finished with 35 yards and a touchdown on six carries while Warren Ball impressed with 55 yards and a touchdown. Curtis Samuel is a speedster who showed flashes of his potential (although he failed to get into the end zone from the 2-yard line on multiple occasions when running between the tackles), and Rod Smith is a physical bruiser who didn’t play. 

Land-Grant Holy Land and Rowland pointed out that Smith missed the spring game and hasn’t been practicing lately:

That’s not even mentioning Ezekiel Elliott, who didn’t break out on any runs in the spring game but could have the inside track for the starting job.

Elliott showed his explosive speed and power during garbage time on a number of occasions last year and may have the best combination of elusiveness and the ability to pick up tough yardage through the middle of anyone on the roster.

There may not be a Hyde on Ohio State this season, but there are still plenty of capable running backs in the stable.

 

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Big Ten Football: 5 Teams Having the Best Spring Camp

We're in the home stretch of spring football in the Big Ten, and there's been plenty to talk about thus far.  All eyes are—per usual—on the big players in the conference.  But with programs like Michigan continuing to show signs of struggling, we wondered about the other end of the spectrum.

There are many things that go into a successful spring camp.  Certainly coaches and fans want to see some improvement and maturation from the players on the field.  But the overall mentality of the program moving forward can be equally important, as we'll point out.

We're not quite finished with spring football yet, but we're close enough to determine the five Big Ten programs having the best spring camp—and we're giving you a sneak peek.

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Texas Football: 7 Players to Watch in the Longhorns' Spring Game

David Ash's fractured foot will place much of the spotlight on Tyrone Swoopes, but the sophomore quarterback is just one of several Longhorns that are must-see in Saturday's Orange-White Game.

This is the program's first spring game under new coach Charlie Strong, and therefore our first real look at the direction he is taking it. There's been plenty of talk about toughness and culture change, but few have been able to physically see the difference. 

Even with the quarterback debate on hold for a few months, the game offers valuable insight. Questions surrounding the safety position, who has stepped up to replace the departed starters and how the offensive line will shape up all get their first semblance of an answer when the team takes the field.

Be sure to watch Tyrone Swoopes, but the performances of Daje Johnson and Josh Turner will be just as important to next season's results.

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