NCAA Football

USC Football: 5 Best QBs Trojans Will Face in 2014

2014 will be a difficult year for the Trojans given their well-known depth issues due to the just-completed sanctions that cost them 30 scholarships over the last three years...

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Florida Football: 5 Best QBs Gators Will Face in 2014

While they say defense wins championships, college football has become a quarterback league more than ever, and the position has made a massive impact on the outcome of the game. In other words, games a lot of times are only as difficult as the quarterback who is leading that particular team.

The good news is that the SEC lost a ton of last season’s starting quarterbacks, which should make life a little easier for the Florida Gators. No more AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray or Johnny Manziel. Instead, the quarterbacks the Gators will face this season have potential but aren’t nearly as accomplished as the guys who were just starting last season.

Besides a Heisman Trophy winner, the Gators have a rather easy slate of quarterbacks they’ll face this year.

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UCLA Football: 5 Best QBs Bruins Will Face in 2014

The Pac-12 in particular is no joke when it comes to quarterback play. Without question, the conference boasts the best collection of talent at the position in the entire country. 

Jim Mora and the UCLA football team will have to compete against quality signal-callers week in and week out. This piece will look at the best quarterbacks UCLA will face this upcoming year. The opponents will be listed in order starting with the fifth-toughest signal-caller, to the quarterback posing the biggest challenge. 

Here's a look at the top quarterbacks the Bruins defense will have to go up against in '14. 

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UCLA Football: 5 Best QBs Bruins Will Face in 2014

The Pac -12 in particular is no joke when it comes to quarterback play. Without question, the conference boasts the best collection of talent at the position in the entire country...

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10 Biggest Position Battles to Watch in 2014 Fall Camps

Training camps are starting up all over the country for college football teams, the beginning of roughly four weeks of preparation for the opening games of the 2014 season in late August. It will be the first chance for coaches to see their returning players and a full crop of newcomers working together at one time, and the practices will help finalize lineups for those first contests.

The vast majority of starting jobs are locked up, either by returning starters or key reserves from 2013. In some cases, freshmen who enrolled early or transfers earned themselves a starting spot during spring practice. Whatever is undecided will get taken care of during training camp.

While every starting position is important for that specific school, there are a handful of unfilled jobs that are so critical to a team's performance and success in 2014 that they'll be the main focus of fall camp. And it's not just internally; it's from a national standpoint.

Here's a look at the 10 biggest position battles to keep an eye on during fall camp.

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1 Freshman to Watch for on Every Big Ten Football Team in 2014

There will be plenty of Big Ten teams eager to make a run at a conference championship in 2014 and secure the likely resulting berth in the College Football Playoff.  In order to make those dreams a reality, programs certainly need great coaching and steady on-field leadership from the upperclassmen.

Moving a team from good to championship-caliber greatness often requires some unexpected contributions from unexpected placed—like the freshmen.

Here, we'll take a look at each Big Ten football program and identify a first-year player (usually meaning true or redshirt freshmen) who can truly make a difference for his team.

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Michigan Football: First Impressions from 2014 Fall Camp

Brady Hoke won't accept anything less than full cooperation and genuine dedication. Players are either in or they're out, and he made that clear while opening Michigan's fall camp. 

Announced Sunday, via a press release, the fourth-year Wolverines coach has shelved wideout Csont’e York. According to the statement, due to rules violations, the 6’3”, 180-pound sophomore wasn’t invited to fall workouts.

“Csont’e York is suspended indefinitely for failing to meet team standards and will not report for fall camp,” Hoke said (via media contact Derek Satterfield). “We demand that every person in our program represent the University of Michigan and the Michigan football program the right way on and off the field. When people fall short of that, there are consequences.”

As of Sunday night, details of York’s transgressions hadn’t been made public. However, he’s allegedly "subject to an Ann Arbor Police Department investigation," according to Kyle Feldshrer of the Ann Arbor News (via Joshua Henschke of Maize n Brew).

Bouncing a likely contributor for who knows how long was the right move; eliminating the potential or probability of larger issues is the smart approach. Hoke needs his players and staff—not to mention the fans—to be focused on the guys on the field, not the ones screwing up away from it.

If you were looking for someone to immediately set the tone, look no further than Hoke, who is clearly all business as his team prepares to rebound from a disappointing 7-6 slide in 2013. By emphasizing the fundamentals, such as responsibility and chemistry, Hoke has the Wolverines in the position to move forward.

His players are developing, and he has Doug Nussmeier, the new offensive coordinator, to assist in jumpstarting Team 135. Plus there’s Greg Mattison’s defense.

This could be Hoke’s year.

 

Devin's the Dude (at WR)

By now, you’re aware that Devin Funchess is now a full-time receiver and no longer a tight-end-turned-receiver. In terms of the swap, the 6'5", 230-pound junior says he's all-in when it comes to his new post, per MLive.com’s Brendan F. Quinn:

Game on. With 748 yards in 2013, Funchess returns as the team's leading receiver and has two more years of destroying defensive backs ahead of him. However, his collegiate future has been the subject of rampant speculation for months.

He's a projected first-rounder. Will he decide to enter the 2015 NFL draft? If he chooses to do so, Wolverines fans should sit back, enjoy the ride and expect their team to get the most out of the former Farmington Hills Harrison star. 

While the onus is on Funchess to produce, he's not the only one who's in line to flourish: Freddy Canteen, a true freshman, seems like the best option for the slot position; Amara Darboh, a redshirt sophomore, could be a breakout contributor; and Jehu Chesson could get some serious playing time this fall, too. 

 

Dig Doug

The video is dated, but it reinforces the idea of getting more in 2014.

After falling flat during its 31-14 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Kansas State, Michigan turned to Nussmeier, then Alabama's OC, for guidance.

Renowned for his touch with quarterbacks, not to mention his success with the Tide's Grade-A running game, Nussmeier faces the task of turning Devin Gardner into a reliable leader and pushing the backfield to new (old Michigan) heights. 

To say that Wolverines fans expect the world from him would probably be accurate. After watching Team 134 struggle mightily just to score a few touchdowns, fans want to see Team 135's Nuss-infused offense properly utilize its talent and blow the doors off the opposition. 

During Big Ten media days, Gardner was praised by opponents as one the Big Ten's best. On top of that, Nussmeier has two highly rated running backs (maybe a third if Ty Isaac is cleared), a group of solid but generally untested receivers and a bunch of big guys up front. 

Needless to say, fighting just to get 17 or 21 on the board should be a thing of the past under Nussmeier, who has streamlined things in Ann Arbor. 

Want to hear Nussmeier at work? MGoBlue recently provided an inside look at one of his practices. 

 

O-Line

It's still under construction. What's new? With freshman left tackle Mason Cole in the mix, expect to see healthy competition for one of college football's storied positions. There are certain responsibilities that come with being a Wolverines blindsider. Whether Cole gets the job is entirely up to him. 

After serving his one-game suspension for a violation of team rules, Graham Glasgow should be the No. 1 center. Kyle Kalis and Kyle Bosch are likely in line for the guard posts. 

There will be more as camp rolls along. However, tying up loose ends and tightening up all the moving parts prior to full immersion seems to be Michigan's No. 1 priority.

 

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

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Ohio State Football: 5 Best QBs Buckeyes Will Face in 2014

Ohio State may not play in the SEC or face the toughest schedule, but in 2014, the Buckeyes will take on a number of quarterbacks capable of derailing their title hopes.

The Buckeyes had a hard time defending the pass a season ago, allowing 268 yards per game. That ranked 110th nationally, and their deficiencies in the secondary ultimately cost them a shot at Florida State and a national title. 

New co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash was brought in to overhaul Ohio State's pass defense. His ability to do so could determine whether the Buckeyes make a run at this year's College Football Playoff.

Some of these quarterbacks have hurt Ohio State in the past, while others are ranked mainly because of their elite skill set. One runs a unique and proven offensive system, while another has a supporting cast that makes him a dangerous threat.

Here are the five best signal-callers Ohio State will face in 2014.

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Georgia Football: First Impressions from 2014 Fall Camp

The Georgia Bulldogs are a mere three practices into fall camp, but already concerns are being addressed, new stars are emerging and injuries are taking a toll.  Here are some first impressions from the Dawgs' 2014 fall practice.

 

Jay Rome Establishing Himself at Tight End

When he signed with Georgia in 2011, Jay Rome was supposed to be the next great Bulldog tight end. The progression of Arthur Lynch and a series of untimely injuries derailed that destiny for Rome—at least temporarily.  Now, the redshirt junior is battling back to good health and a prominent role in the Bulldog offense.

His participation thus far has been somewhat limited, but he told Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald that he's making strides:

I’ve basically been working in and doing what I feel comfortable doing. I’m getting a lot better. I can see a whole bunch of improvement. Still a little rusty, a little shaky on a few different things but it’s just some stuff that I’m going to have to work through and just keep getting better every day and just monitor.

No other tight end on Georgia's roster boasts Rome's experience, and that will serve him well once he's back to full speed.  He told Weiszer that his play will "speak for itself."  

 

Freshmen Here to Play, Especially on Defense

Several of Georgia's newest Bulldogs are already making an impact on the defensive side of the ball.

Lorenzo Carter, the prize recruit of this year's class, has already made an impression on his teammates. Offensive tackle John Theus had nothing but praise for Carter when speaking to Seth Emerson of the Telegraph, pointing out the outside linebacker's speed, size and "nasty streak." 

In the secondary, freshman Malkom Parrish and junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng are turning heads in the early parts of fall camp.

Parrish is playing both the cornerback and star position, and as Jake Reuse of UGASports.com points out, fellow defensive back J.J. Green thinks the freshman can play: 

 

Meanwhile, Green told Emerson that size and length really set Fenteng apart at the cornerback position. "You see his size and think: He plays corner? He’s rangy, he’s lean. He can make plays that short people probably can’t make."

 

Injuries Still a Factor

Just a few short days ago, optimism surrounded Georgia's deep wide receiver rotation thanks to the return of Malcolm Mitchell, arguably the most talented playmaker of the bunch.  

As Chip Towers reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mitchell is now expected to miss at least "the first part" of training camp.  

Last year, Mitchell suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter of the Dawgs' first game. Now, his future is yet again unknown.  As a result of Mitchell's latest setback and an unknown timetable for the return of Justin Scott-Wesley, some fans fear the Bulldogs may once again be without a truly elite deep threat.

In reality, a number of Georgia players are capable of going the distance and getting behind opposing secondaries.

 

Storylines to Watch This Week

Georgia will move into full pad practices this week.  A few developments worth keeping an eye on:

  • Physical Freshmen: How will talented youngsters hold up against collegiate hits for the first time? Look for Carter and running back Nick Chubb to use their unique combinations of size and athleticism to make an impression.
  • Offensive Line Lock-in: John Theus continues to rotate between left and right tackle and both guard positions remain somewhat up for grabs.  With real pressure and real banging taking place in the trenches, a starting lineup should soon emerge.
  • Defensive Secondary: Similarly, pads should bring some separation in the secondary, where new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has thus far utilized a deep rotation with little differentiation.

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Miami Football: 5 Best Quarterbacks Hurricanes Will Face in 2014

"Ah, the quarterback. The player most responsible for making or breaking an entire offensive unit," says Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer.

The Miami Hurricanes will be tested by plenty of talented quarterbacks, but some are significantly better than the others. Strangely enough, every mentioned player's respective team must travel to Sun Life Stadium when slated to play the 'Canes.

A Virginia Tech player is missing, which is a noticeable change following successive years of a serious threat dating back to Michael Vick's college days.

Who was included instead?

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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LSU Football: Biggest Takeaways from Les Miles' Opening Fall Presser

BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU fall camp is officially underway, and Les Miles is undoubtedly excited. 

"We are looking forward to the practice schedule. Looking forward to improving," said Miles.  

The Tigers reported to campus today and practice will begin tomorrow. This will be the first official full practice that includes most of the highly touted 2014 recruiting class.

Unfortunately for Miles, the entire team was not on campus. 

LSU junior safety and projected starter Jalen Mills was arrested for second-degree battery in early June and was released less than 24 hours later, per The Daily Reveille. Mills was suspended indefinitely from the team.  

“I really don’t know. I have not tried to, nor do I intend to, pressure the process in any way. Jalen Mills has a responsibility to handle his business. This is his business," said Miles.  

Incoming freshman defensive tackle Travonte Valentine has yet to pass the academic qualifications required from NCAA Clearinghouse. Valentine has taken summer classes in South Florida and has yet to officially enroll at LSU, according to Geaux247.com

"The reality is the high school and the Clearinghouse have to communicate. I think they're doing that, I think they're trying," said Miles. 

Miles addressed a few more topics in his opening press conference. 

 

Quarterback

LSU's starting quarterback will be either sophomore Anthony Jennings or freshman Brandon Harris. Miles was asked if there was a deadline for naming a starter and his answer, as it has all offseason, remained the same. 

"Never have and never will. We'll have to see each day how they proceed," said Miles.

Miles did share what he was looking for from both Jennings and Harris.

"I think maturity is the key for both of them. Recognizing the style of throw, the kind of play and seeing them understand what we are trying to get accomplished. How we are attacking the defense," said Miles. "There is going to be that time in the game where you have the opportunity to extend the play and make a play. And their self interpretation at some point in time will be, in my opinion, the criteria in which you pick the starter."  

There is no telling who will win the job, but experts seem to believe that Harris is the more gifted of the two.

"In terms of pure physical tools, he (Harris) is more talented than what LSU has," said ESPN's National Recruiting Director Tom Luginbill at SEC Media Days. "He can make all the throws." 

 

Offensive Line

LSU's offensive line returns four of its five starters, led by projected first-round NFL draft pick La'el Collins. Miles was asked if the group is the best he has ever had. 

"I'm not ready to describe them as the best offensive line ever just yet. But I agree with how they are perceived, talented and capable," said Miles. "I need them to come to the field ready to play before I give them that tag." 

The only vacancy is at right guard. Miles has yet to make a decision between Hoko Fanaika and Evan Washington, but he did say to expect both to see the field. 

 

Freshman Wide Receivers 

Replacing Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry will not be easy, especially while breaking in a new starting quarterback. The Tigers will need to have young players step in and make plays right away. 

The Tigers' best overall position in their heralded 2014 recruiting class was arguably wide receiver, and the influx could not have come at a better time. Expect two of the four incoming freshman receivers, Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn, to eventually be in the rotation. 

Miles said despite their youth, they will be ready to go. 

"I've never had a problem with backup receivers learning how to play, especially with guys as talented as these guys," said Miles. "I can't imagine they won't have success doing the things we are going to ask them to do. I think they will put some real heat on the guys who might be starting." 

LSU's No. 1 option will be Travin Dural, who returns as LSU's leading receiver. The rest of the returnees, which includes talented redshirt freshman John Diarse and senior Quantavius Leslie, will need to perform at a high level to challenge for a starting spot. 

 

Defensive Tackle 

LSU lost starting defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson this offseason. Johnson and Ferguson played a majority of the snaps last season and often got tired as them game went along. 

LSU must have better depth at the position. If not, teams like Wisconsin and Alabama will wear them down with simple runs up the middle. 

Despite uncertainty with Valentine's future, Miles feels comfortable with his starters and backups. 

"(Christian) LaCouture and Quentin Thomas have had great summers, both of which played a lot of football a year ago," said Miles. "The next guys that go in the game, Frank Herron is a large defensive end with real mobility that has moved inside and I look forward to having a look at him. Qued (Marquedius) Bain has always been real athletic and (Greg) Gilmore has lost 20 pounds, which might be the lightest he has been since he has been here." 

 

Emphasis Period 

Miles is looking to make his practices as efficient as possible. LSU is only 29 days away from its season opener against Wisconsin and the coaching staff must make tough decisions at critical positions.  

Repetitions are as important as anything for the youthful Tigers, especially learning all the nuances of Cam Cameron's offense and John Chavis' defense. Miles has decided to create an "emphasis period" in an effort to simulate the speed of an actual game. 

At the back end of practices, we are going to call an 'emphasis period," said Miles. "We are not going to have contact, we are not going to have tackle football. But we are going to have competition. And the emphasis period is going to be as close to game-like conditions as possible and do it routinely...That will give those young guys getting snaps in game-like situations starting in the first practice even though it is not with the pressure of contact.

Miles emphasized his talented backups when further describing how the practices will be set up. 

"We are going to divide the practices. There will be a two-deep morning practice and a two-deep afternoon practice with the offense and defense. We are going to take our best seconds (second string) and start them in the afternoon practice." 

By switching up personnel groupings, Miles will also get a better look at who his most talented players are. There are plenty of backups who could easily take over starting roles by the season opener. 

Miles will also switch up his quarterbacks often. This will allow Harris and Jennings to work with the first group, which gives both an equal opportunity to work with the best receivers.  

"One day one will work with the morning group and the next day the guy will work with the afternoon group. We'll go back and forth between practices. 

 

Injury Report

Defensive end Jermauria Rasco and safety Corey Thompson sat out spring practice while they recovered from injury. Miles said both are full speed and ready to go for fall. 

Rasco is projected to start at defensive end alongside Danielle Hunter. The Tigers have plenty of depth behind them, but those two are the best and most experienced players at the position. 

The uncertainty of Mills' future makes the Thompson news even better for LSU. Miles mentioned the names of Thompson, Ronald Martin, Rickey Jefferson, Jamal Adams and John Battle as players who could fill the two starting openings at safety.

Martin and Jefferson are the likely front-runners for now, but anything can happen with the talent the Tigers have in their secondary.   

 

*Rankings and stats provided by 247Sports.com and LSU Sports Information. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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