NCAA Football

Isaiah Holland Suspended: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The University of Colorado football team has indefinitely suspended freshman Isaiah Holland, who faces four felony charges after being arrested in October on allegations of sexual assault.

Alex Burness of the Daily Camera reported the news, noting that Holland is no longer enrolled at the school.

"We hold our student athletes to very high standards, and they know that when those are not met, there will be consequences," said athletic director Rick George, via Burness.

Holland was arrested early the morning of October 24. According to the campus police report, he allegedly entered a woman's dorm room uninvited and touched her without consent. He's charged with "sexual assault of an at-risk victim, sexual contact with an at-risk victim and two counts of second-degree burglary."

He has a preliminary hearing on Thursday, Jan. 22.

Holland, a 3-star offensive guard recruit from Littleton, Colorado, redshirted in his first season with the team. According to the school's athletics website, he is the son of Darius Holland, who enjoyed a successful career at Colorado and eventually won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers.

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Revenge of the SEC: College Football's Dominant Conference Won't Be Down Long

ATLANTA — I checked with my sources. The SEC is not surrendering to Urban Meyer.     

Y'all think the Mississippis and the Tide and the Dawgs and the Tigers, both of them, look like potted plants right about now, but their answer to the Urbanator is coming the next three weeks.

SEC coaches are going to roll up the long driveway at Buford High School in Buford, Georgia, and confirm commitments of some of that school's nine Division I prospects. SEC coaches are going to roll a few miles down the road to Grayson, where there are five seniors with D-I ability. They are going to swing around I-285 to Stephenson High in Stone Mountain, which has eight players with D-I offers.

Cedar Grove, also in DeKalb County, has Division I players. So does Archer in Gwinnett. Mays in Atlanta has five seniors committed to Division I schools.

These are schools within 25-32 miles of each other. We're not talking about the talent in the rest of the state, or the rest of the South. We're talking the same neighborhood.

Tom Lemming, a national recruiting analyst, said Gwinnett County, Georgia, in the Atlanta area, is the second-best county in the country for D-I talent, behind Broward in South Florida. Lemming had a seminar for Gwinnett rising seniors last fall, and 30 Division I prospects walked through the door.

Of the 75 players on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's thoroughly researched Super 75 for the state of Georgia, more than half are heading to SEC schools. That's one state.

On ESPN's Top 300, 56 of the top 80 prospects were in the SEC footprint. I stopped counting after 80 because, well, you get the point.

Meanwhile, NFL teams will sign more players from the SEC than those conferences in the Midwest, East, West and Southwest. Per NFL.com's Mike Huguenin, the SEC has had the most players drafted for eight straight years, which proves the conference hauls in talent and develops it.

That casket being lowered into the ground, the one supposed to be full of an SEC corpse, is empty.

There is no question Meyer is back as the best coach in college football, but he's won just a single title at Ohio State. Alabama had three in four years. The SEC just finished a run in which it was in eight straight title games with four different teams. Georgia was on the doorstep in 2012.

Alabama is still the NFL's 33rd franchise, not Ohio State.

This bunk about the SEC shriveling up started in New Orleans. I had a reporter from a national outlet tell me Mike Bobo left Georgia to become head coach at Colorado State because UGA would not take care of its assistant coaches with raises. Two days later, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt got a new deal for $1.3 million.

Let's stay there for a moment, on the subject of money. John Chavis, the veteran defensive coordinator, was snatched away from LSU by Texas A&M for $1.7 million. Will Muschamp, the new DC at Auburn, the old coach at Florida, was just lured in by $1.6 million a year.

Does that look like a white flag fluttering in the breeze? No, it looks like a lot of cash fluttering in the breeze.

The Big Ten just won its first national title since Ohio State beat Miami in 2002, with the help of a late, late flag that is still fluttering in the air. And the Buckeyes are supposed to be all things 'Bama?

Meyer is a terrific coach. I get it. The idea he ran from Nick Saban with some made-up ailments in 2010 is a crock.

I watched from the sidelines in New Orleans as Meyer used motion and formations to get Alabama unbalanced and then ran around the end. It was great scheming, helped by the fact that on Ezekiel Elliott's 85-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, All-American safety Landon Collins and 'Bama's best linebacker, Reggie Ragland, were not on the field because of injuries.

It was interesting to see Ohio State's players up close when the Buckeyes were down 21-6 to Alabama. No panic. That's coaching and leadership. I thought all along that the loss to Virginia Tech, which was tied around the neck of the Buckeyes for two months, was overblown. Tech was riddled with injuries and was not the same team at the end of the season that beat Ohio State at the beginning of the season.

Ohio State has most of its offensive line back, as well as its defensive line and Elliott. That is so Alabama-like. The Buckeyes, I've heard, also have a few quarterbacks to choose from.

An esteemed colleague, Matt Hayes of Sporting News, wrote that Meyer is the new king of college football because he is ruthless and relentless.

You want ruthless desire to win? How about Saban? Last week he welcomed a 340-pound early enrollee, defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor, who was kicked out of Georgia after allegedly committing theft and choking a woman. This is after another defensive end, D.J. Pettway, was brought back to 'Bama even after he allegedly had a role in an on-campus robbery.

Nobody is going to out-ruthless the SEC.

Relentless? Alabama had a ferocious defensive line, and it will welcome into the 2015 rotation the best defensive line prospect from 2014, Da'Shawn Hand. He will team with A'Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen and Pettway to give Alabama a defensive line better than Ohio State's. LSU just hired a superb defensive line coach, Ed Orgeron, who also happens to be a terrific recruiter. Ask around.

How is this for relentless? Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and LSU are relentless for stockpiling talent. They will do it again on national signing day in a few weeks. Eight of the top 20 schools on the Rivals board are SEC schools. Recruiting analysts get their information from college assistant coaches. These rankings are not bunk.

There are some things I detest about the SEC. The number of junior-college players. The number of juniors who leave school too early because they are going nowhere academically, and they want the money for their families.

The fraudulent courses these football players take are abominable. The made-up degrees are insulting. The 40-hour work weeks for football players to help a coach keep his multimillion-dollar job are distasteful. The SEC Network making us pay for things we used to get free every Saturday afternoon aggravates me, too. All that should be troubling to the fan of SEC football.

What should not be troubling is the future. Signing day will affirm the SEC's superiority in college football. Ohio State is still in Ohio. The best football players are still in the South.

 

Ray Glier covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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Clemson Football: Tigers' Top Remaining Recruiting Targets

We’re less than a month away from national signing day, but there isn’t a ton of excitement for the Clemson Tigers on the recruiting trail at this point. The Tigers’ class is almost full, and with the exception of a few names, the 2015 cycle is complete.

Clemson owns the nation’s No. 13 recruiting class, according to Scout.com, and a lot of that can be attributed to success in Georgia and Florida. The Tigers hold a verbal commitment from 5-star offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt as well as 4-star Sunshine State wide receivers Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud.

There are plenty of other 4-star-caliber players in this class, and the Tigers have worked to fill the needs of the team moving forward. The offensive and defensive lines were the priority, and the Tigers have done a solid job of meeting those needs.

Hyatt is the prized recruit, but some may be overlooking how important the addition of Jake Fruhmorgen is. The 4-star offensive tackle from Tampa, Florida, ranks No. 15 at his position, and he was sought after by many top-notch programs around the country.

The most recent commitment for Clemson was 4-star defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Wilkins, the No. 7 overall defensive tackle on Scout.com, has the kind of size (6'4", 290 lbs) to come in and make an impact early in his career. Other defensive line prospects currently committed to Clemson include Albert Huggins, Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell, LaSamuel Davis, Sterling Johnson and Gage Cervenka.

With that being said, there isn’t much more room in this class for prospects. Here are a few of the remaining targets left for Clemson in the 2015 class.

 

Mark Fields, CB

Fields decommited from South Carolina on December 16, and from that point on Clemson has emerged as the perceived favorite to land him. He is a 4-star prospect, and with the loss of Garry Peters, signing a cornerback is important to this class.

Juwuan Briscoe, a 3-star from Waldorf, Maryland, decommited from the Tigers in November, so the slot is open to sign another guy. The Tigers already have a lockdown cornerback in Mackensie Alexander, so signing another quality defensive back could mean big things for the Tigers secondary down the road.

Fields will be in Clemson this weekend, with his official visit date listed as January 16 on 247Sports. He will then visit Texas on January 23 and LSU on January 30. The Gamecocks, the team he was committed to before, also still remain as a potential school for him to sign with.

 

Denzel Johnson, WR/DB

The 3-star from A. C. Flora High School in Columbia, South Carolina, will also be in Clemson this weekend for a visit. Johnson averaged 19.7 yards per catch this season, and per Brandon Rink of orangeandwhite.com, former Clemson receiver Airese Currie was his position coach at A.C. Flora.

N.C. State is also in the picture for Johnson, and he has a visit set there for January 30. With a young group at wide receiver, signing Johnson isn’t a priority, but he could also play defensive back for the Tigers.

 

Kareem Orr, DB

The 3-star from Chattanooga, Tennessee, has been in contact with Clemson as of late, so he could also be a prospect to keep an eye on. If the Tigers receive a verbal commitment from Fields, they may be unlikely to also sign Orr, but he is a good option to have if Fields decides to go elsewhere.

Per Phil Kornblut for orangeandwhite.com, Orr said he “might visit there,” referring to Clemson. Kornblut also states that Orr expects an Ohio State offer soon, and that was one of his favorite schools growing up.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of Scout.com and 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Nebraska Football: Huskers DC Mark Banker Has Right Idea for Blackshirts

When Mark Banker became Nebraska's defensive coordinator, he also become the man in charge of the Blackshirts. It's not a task he plans to take lightly, either.

Part of that is getting the tradition back on track.

He said he's heard from former players who want the tradition to return to what it once was, via the Omaha World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht and Rich Kaipust. Banker would like the same.

“I was like, ‘Well, OK, so exactly how was it? What happened to it?’ ” he said.

The history of the Blackshirts dates back to the 1964 season when Bob Devaney was head coach. Hail Varsity's Mike Babcock compiled all of the information known on the tradition for Huskers.com in 2009.

Essentially, the jerseys were an "accident of availability." Intended to distinguish between offense and defense, the black jerseys were purchased at a bargain because they typically didn't sell well.

As one might say, the rest is history.

When Tom Osborne took over, the jerseys were handed out to the top defensive players at the end of preseason practice. That was a departure from what Devaney did, which was to hand out the jerseys before and after each practice.

Osborne's tradition lasted until 2008. That's when Bo Pelini was hired.

"That’s not part of our philosophy," Pelini said, per Huskers.com.

Instead, Pelini felt his team needed to earn the right to wear the black jerseys. This left fans and the media wondering when, and sometimes if, the jerseys would be distributed.

As Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star wrote in 2012, "He makes it clear he wants competition both in preseason camp and during the season."

And for the seven years Pelini was in charge, that's how it was. Banker is ready for that to change.

"If you’re going to carry on a tradition, let’s carry on the tradition and do it the right way, and don’t make a mockery of it," he said, per the Omaha World-Herald.

Is that the right approach? It absolutely is. 

Linebackers coach Trent Bray believes so, too.

"We're going to do all our research to make sure we do it right, because I know that's been an issue around here," Bray said, per Michael Bruntz of Huskers Illustrated. "Alumni have reached out to us and want it done right, so we're going do our research and make sure that when it's done, it's done right."

Bray was clear he didn't want to be disrespectful to any previous staff, but it's obvious what Pelini was doing will not be how Mike Riley's staff does things.

The defensive coaches want to return to the true Blackshirt tradition.

Fans should be excited. Players should be, too.

Earning a black jersey prior to the season establishes a player as a leader. It puts each person wearing one in a position to step up and be a role model.

Plus, it makes the Blackshirt tradition relevant again. Under Pelini, the Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel asked a simple question: "Has the Blackshirt tradition ever been less relevant?"

Requiring the players to work for a black jersey might have made it more meaningful, as Shatel pointed out, but it strayed from the tradition.

That's ultimately what it all comes down to: What is the tradition truly worth?

For Riley and his staff, it's worth enough to get back to it.

That's why athletic director Shawn Eichorst hired Riley. His attitude is a nod to the past Nebraska loves. That's why it makes sense his staff wants the tradition to return to what it once was.

In a time of change, this shift toward something familiar is exactly what Nebraska needs. The Blackshirts will still need to be earned—they'll just be hanging in the lockers at the end of preseason practices.

And that's how it should be.

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The Uncertain Future of Oregon's QB Situation

It is the one question everyone didn’t want to think about but knew was inevitable: Where do the Ducks go now without Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota?

Mariota, unequivocally the best player in Oregon football history, has officially declared himself eligible for the 2015 NFL draft after four years in Eugene. Though the result of Mariota’s final start as a Duck was a disappointment, his contributions to the program are immeasurable.

The redshirt junior from Hawaii is one of the most decorated quarterbacks in college football history. He set numerous Pac-12 records, NCAA records and led the Ducks to their second-ever national championship appearance. Despite the loss to Ohio State, Mariota will be remembered as one of the finest quarterbacks to ever play at the collegiate level.

Now, without Mariota, the Ducks find themselves in a position of uncertainty.

While Oregon’s motto of “next man up” has served it well over the past couple of seasons, the program has been built upon a foundation of stability. The head coaching position has been passed down to the offensive coordinator for the past two decades, and there are a plethora of assistant coaches who’ve been with the program for two or three decades.

The Ducks like to change up their uniforms, they enjoy shunning tradition; however, Oregon is also a program at its best when its leaders are program staples. No player has ever meant more to the Oregon program than Mariota.

Now, the Ducks must move forward without their leader. But whom will they turn to next?

The general assumption is that redshirt sophomore Jeff Lockie, who took a single snap in the title game versus Ohio State, is the favorite to take over for Mariota in the backfield. In a limited role behind Mariota, Lockie was 21 of 28 for 207 yards and a touchdown this season.

The relationship between Mariota and Lockie has been well documented. The duo is extremely close, and the relationship has been good for both parties, especially for Lockie.

“He helps me learn on the field, off the field, how to manage the game,” Lockie said of Mariota, according to The Associated Press (via SFGate.com). “It’s been a pretty awesome experience.”

According to offensive coordinator Scott Frost, Lockie is smart, coachable and has been a perfect backup for Mariota this season.

"He's been perfect for what we've had," Frost said, according to Paul Myerberf of USA Today Sports. "He's a completely reliable, extremely intelligent, very unselfish kid who's been Marcus' biggest fan in a hundred ways that people don't know about. He's been perfect for that role, and I think he's relished it."

While Lockie will be given every opportunity to win the job, the position is very much up for grabs, and the Ducks will likely hold an open competition for the job.

Since Chip Kelly took over as offensive coordinator in 2007, the Ducks have had three major changes at the quarterback position. In 2008, the quarterback job was open after Dennis Dixon graduated. Instead of going with Justin Roper, who had finished the 2007 season after Dixon tore his ACL late in the season, Kelly and then-head coach Mike Bellotti went with a player who was fifth on the QB depth chart coming into camp: Jeremiah Masoli.

Masoli was the unlikely choice, but he managed to lead the Ducks to the Rose Bowl in 2009 and earned first team All-Pac-12 honors along the way.

When Masoli left the program after the 2009 season, Kelly again held an open competition at quarterback. Once again, the favorite didn’t end up getting the job.

Coming into the 2010 season, it was expected that Nate Costa, a senior, would take over for Masoli and easily beat out his competitor: Darron Thomas. Instead, Thomas surprisingly won the job and led the Ducks to a perfect 12-0 regular-season record in his first year as Oregon’s starter. While the Ducks lost in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game to Auburn, Thomas set a championship game record 363 passing yards.

Thomas, who went 24-3 as a starter at Oregon, threw for 63 touchdowns in two seasons and guided the Ducks to their first Rose Bowl victory in 95 years.

When Thomas left the program after his redshirt junior season to attempt a career in the NFL, the job was once again vacant.

This time, the job was expected to be given to Bryan Bennett, a sophomore who had served as Thomas’ backup in 2011. However, a redshirt freshman from Hawaii came in and blew away the competition.

Now, with the job left vacant again, the Ducks will once again use an open competition to flush out the best quarterback candidate.

If Lockie is thought to be the prohibitive favorite, then it would be wise to get well acquainted with the other contenders considering the favorite is 0-3 in quarterback competitions since 2007.

The Ducks currently have three other quarterbacks on the roster who will vie for a chance to be the starter next season: freshman Morgan Mahalak and redshirt freshmen Taylor Alie and Ty Griffin, who transferred to Oregon from Georgia Tech.

Oregon could also go with Travis Waller, a 6’2” 4-star recruit, according to 247Sports, from Anaheim, California, who is expected to enroll at Oregon in the spring.

Of course, it could be someone from outside the program. As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee explains, Ohio State's Braxton Miller could be the perfect fit in Eugene. 

As a graduate, he can transfer now if he can find a home, and simply getting mental reps during spring practice would help not only him but also the younger players who get actual first-team reps.

Mariota stepped in as a redshirt freshman in place of Darron Thomas, and the offense didn't miss a beat. Thomas stepped in as a sophomore for Jeremiah Masoli and led the Ducks to the 2011 BCS National Championship Game following the 2010 season. 

It's a great system that's designed for simplicity, speed and efficiency—all of which would benefit Miller as he recovers from his shoulder injury.

Whoever gets the job will be tasked with filling Mariota’s shoes. It’s an unenviable task that shouldn’t even really be attempted. Oregon’s starting quarterback in 2015 should go out and try to be their own quarterback. There’s no doubt that whoever the man is, whether it be the Lockie, Waller, Mahalak or someone else, will have the full support of the coaching staff and his teammates.

Oregon’s “next man up” motto is one of the program's tenets and has come in handy more than a few times during the 2014 season. Now, facing one of the most important quarterback competitions in school history, the Ducks will once again rely on that motto.

There’s no replacing Mariota. The school should retire the No. 8. However, one player does not define the Oregon program.

The Ducks should be in a position to succeed in 2015 regardless of who is taking the snaps. Oregon will be flushed with playmakers next season as Thomas Tyner, Royce Freeman, Byron Marshall, Darren Carrington, Pharaoh Brown, Evan Baylis, Charles Nelson and Bralon Addison will all be returning.

If you look at it in that light, Oregon’s next QB may have the easiest job in the country. Just get the ball into all of the playmakers' hands and don’t turn the ball over.

Oregon’s next QB has some big shoes to fill, but the job might be the best in the nation.

 

Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise stated. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.

Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

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The Uncertain Future of Oregon's QB Situation

It is the one question everyone didn’t want to think about but knew was inevitable: Where do the Ducks go now without Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota? Mariota, unequivocally ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Predicting Every All-Conference Team for 2015 College Football Season

The undisputed MVP of Ohio State's run to a national title didn't even make his all-conference team.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott was only an Honorable Mention choice in the Big Ten this season, before he went on to rush for more than 200 yards in each of the Buckeyes' three postseason games to help them claim the championship. Those performances have Elliott among the early front-runners for the Heisman Trophy in 2015, and he'll no doubt make most preseason all-conference and All-America lists.

Who else will end up being among the best of the best next season? To figure that out, first we'll look at who should be the top players in each of the five power conferences.

Here's our predictions for who will be named to the all-conference teams in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. Check these out, then give us your thoughts and picks in the comments section.

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Cardale Jones Would Risk Less Entering 2015 NFL Draft Than Staying at Ohio State

Cardale Jones may not feel he's ready for the NFL just yet. That would be a logical assessment by a reasonable person. Then again, the extraordinary accomplishments Jones has achieved in his brief tenure as Ohio State's starting quarterback have defied reasonable expectations.

Jones led the Buckeyes to victories in the Big Ten title game, the Sugar Bowl and the national championship in his first three college starts. The 6'5", 250-pound instant star has a cannon arm and amazing athletic ability for his size, and he would be turning down a golden opportunity by spurning the 2015 NFL draft.

A convoluted quarterback depth chart looms in Columbus, where Jones isn't even guaranteed a starting spot this next year. SportsCenter's graphic illustrates the situation:

Asked about the possibility of making the improbable leap to the pros on Tuesday following OSU's 42-20 triumph over Oregon, Jones was reluctant to claim he was prepared for the next level, via ESPN.com's Heather Dinich:

I mean, it's very odd. You know, I'm going to be starting three games in three years, and you know, guys play their whole career to have that buildup and have that motivation to play in the NFL. In my personal opinion, I'm not ready for that level yet. I mean, like coach [Urban] Meyer said, it's a conversation me and him will have later down the road. But to me right now, it's far out.

Other than Jones' national championship counterpart, Marcus Mariota, and Florida State's Jameis Winston, there aren't any surefire first-round QB prospects in this 2015 class.

Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey alludes to the lack of alternatives available:

If Jones does require time to sit and learn a pro-style offense, he can do so at the NFL level, rather than lighting up the competition in college for another year.

There is a realistic chance that Jones sits behind either Braxton Miller or J.T. Barrett with the Buckeyes in 2015.

Presuming Miller or Barrett succeed, there would be little chance for Jones to see the field, and he'd lose steam as an NFL prospect and not have any recent, impressive game tape to point to.

That isn't to say Jones would go in the top 32 if he declared himself eligible for the NFL this year. Limited game action and a QB-friendly spread offense make Jones quite a risk the higher he'd be chosen.

But in this era of lesser rookie salaries, which team in need at the most important position wouldn't consider Jones in the second, third or fourth round?

The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre brings up another strong point:

Jones has shown enough innate accuracy and transcendent arm strength to fit the ball into tighter NFL windows, and his knack for delivering the deep ball also bolsters his stock. His feel for climbing the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield are other attractive qualities.

Far removed from his infamous "classes are pointless" tweet, Jones is 22 years old and has a daughter, which has aided his maturation.

"We've had a lot of conversations about the enormity of responsibility that comes from being a father," said Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman of Jones, per ESPN.com's Max Olson. "I think it's really caused him to mature and grow up and have a different perspective on things."

The skill set Jones has brings to mind the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton, two big signal-callers who've had considerable success in the pros.

Conventional wisdom isn't something Jones has adhered to amid his amazing run in leading the Buckeyes to the top of college football. In his aforementioned tweet from October 2012, Jones stated that he really came to Ohio State to thrive on the gridiron. He couldn't have hoped to do much better to date with the opportunities he's had.

A certain degree of naivete harmed Jones' reputation during that Twitter fiasco. Then that quality helped him take the reins of the Buckeyes offense and thrive on the biggest stages imaginable.

Using that logic, it suddenly doesn't seem so unrealistic that Jones could shine in the NFL if he takes the modest risk, marketing his limited experience as a positive to rise above the underwhelming prospects after Mariota and Winston.

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Texas Football: Offseason Goals for the Longhorns Defense

The Longhorns defense was one of the few bright spots on the team in 2014. Head coach Charlie Strong took a unit that was once the worst statistical defense in school history in 2012 and transformed it to the No. 25 total defense in the nation.

The Longhorns' final defensive performance was not what Strong was used to. Texas gave up 351 total yards in the 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl. Strong was not thrilled with his defense's performance and understands he has a challenge ahead of him.

"Defensively, you can't give up the big play. You've got to play better. You've got to play smart. You have to be able to go out and stop. It doesn't matter what happens on offense. Defensively, you have to make plays. We just didn't do that and didn't get off the field," Strong said following the loss.

"We see there's a lot of work to be done, which is great. It's a great challenge. I don't mind it. I don't mind accepting it."

Texas had a lot of veteran players on the defensive side of the ball, and Strong needs to find the right replacements for the talent he has lost.

 

Linebackers

Part of the reason for the Longhorns' success was because of the veteran group of linebackers. Seniors Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond were two of the most consistent players on the team last season, and their absence will be hard to replace in 2015.

The positive news for Texas fans is the Longhorns have a variety of options to replace the duo. The downfall is the lack of experience at the position.

Peter Jinkens is one of the most veteran returning starters at linebacker. Texas also has Dalton Santos, who played as a backup to Edmond in 2014. Aside from those two, the Longhorns have a group of linebackers with little to no experience.

Three names a lot of Texas fans are excited to see are incoming freshmen Malik Jefferson, Cecil Cherry and Anthony Wheeler. The highly touted commits could see playing time immediately, which could fill the void at linebacker.

With a group of inexperienced linebackers on campus, the Longhorns need to utilize this offseason to find viable replacements for Hicks and Edmond.

 

Defensive Line

Two of the highest-profile names on the Longhorns' list of departures are defensive end Cedric Reed and defensive tackle Malcom Brown. Replacing these two players will be difficult, but there is enough talent on the roster to make the drop-off a little less drastic.

Defensive tackles Hassan Ridgeway and Desmond Jackson are two veteran replacements for Brown. The Longhorns also have a variety of options at defensive end.

Shiro Davis and Caleb Bluiett will be back for their senior seasons and Naashon Hughes will return for his redshirt sophomore season. The problem does not lie within the starting defensive ends; the problem is with the inexperienced depth behind the starters. 

The backup defensive ends need to step up in order to continue the progress of the defensive line without Reed in the mix.

 

Defensive Backs

One of the biggest areas of need for Texas is at defensive back. The Longhorns will lose four-year starters Quandre Diggs and Mykkele Thompson. But Texas has a group of defensive backs who could replace the veteran duo.

Duke Thomas, Jason Hall and Dylan Haines return for another season, and the Longhorns have a number of defensive backs who could very well turn into starters in 2015.

But similar to the other positional groups, the issue lies with the lack of experience behind the starting defensive backs. The Longhorns need to determine which players can provide the needed depth for the position.

If you have not noticed, there is a common denominator for all of the defensive positional groups. The Longhorns have a lot of talent on the roster but need to have more depth in 2015.

Will this plague the Longhorns defense? Probably not, but an answer needs to be found during the offseason to continue the progress on the defensive side of the ball.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Super Early Top 25 Preseason Poll for 2015 College Football Season

Ah, yes, it's that time of year again. It's time to take what we've learned from bowl season, throw it in the trash and look ahead into the future with reckless abandon. 

College football is a year-round sport. The College Football Playoff National Championship may be over, but the offseason—recruiting, spring practices and the like—is just getting under way. In the meantime, let's make some predictions for the 2015 season. 

Here is your way-too-early Top 25 for next season. As always, we expect you to agree 100 percent with the decisions, as surely no team will be overrated or underrated. 

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