NCAA Football

Quarterback/Wide Receiver Combos That Are Bound to Break out This Season

With quarterbacks regularly eclipsing 5,000 passing yards, and with wide receivers inching toward 2,000 yards, quarterback/wide receiver combos are trending in college football. They're combos that are fun to watch—unless you're an opposing defense, that is. 

Last year, it was Oregon State's Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks. Two years before that, it was Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. 

With the departures of duos like Fresno State's Derek Carr and Davante Adams, or Clemson's Tajh Boyd Sammy Watkins, there's a new crop of quarterback/receiver combos bound to break out in 2014.

The only rule here is the quarterbacks on this list must have thrown for fewer than 3,000 yards last year. Similarly, the receivers must have had fewer than 1,000 receiving yards last year. 

Who are some players to watch? The answers are in the following slides. 

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Questions We Would Love to Ask at SEC Media Days

It is part circus and part mob. Oh, and there is also intermittent college football talk sprinkled among the crowds, the three-letter chants, the pristine golf tans and glorious coaching hair, which appears, for the most part, in unnerving shades of deck stain.

SEC Media Days have become the media days, and the spectacle is upon us yet again.

The event now stretches four days, a sign of just how big it’s gotten. Could you squeeze it all into three days, or even two days? Of course you could. But the Southeastern Conference would gladly soak up the offseason spotlight for as long as it possibly can—stretching expense reports just a wee bit more—and you can’t blame it one bit for doing so.

The basic foundation of SEC Media Days remains the same: Players and coaches flock to a destination—this year, Hoover, Alabama, from July 14 to 17—to discuss the upcoming season and answer every question the media can cough up.

Some of these questions are intelligent and legitimate; others will prompt Nick Saban to stare through a media member’s soul until he melts into a puddle before his peers.

The list of SEC attendees is out, which means the questions can begin to take shape. To help kick-start this process, here are some questions we’d recommend asking next week.

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Is USC Updating Its Look with Shiny Helmets?

The University of Southern California football team is known for its traditional uniforms, but the Trojans may have a more modern look this fall.

Inside SoCal's Scott Wolf posted the image of the helmet on Thursday morning. Here's what he had to say about the possible change:

Is this what USC’s helmet will look like next season? The company that makes the Trojans’ facemasks published this photo of a USC helmet and a player told me the helmets would be 'shiny' next season 

Call it chrome, call it shiny. Either way, the Trojans may be sporting a new look this season.

[Paul Lukas, h/t College Spun]

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Kyler Murray to Christian Kirk at The Opening, 'Future Dynamic Duo for Aggies'?

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove that they have what it takes to play against elite competition. The Texas A&M Aggies have a handful of big-time commits and targets in Beaverton showing that they could be huge assets for head coach Kevin Sumlin at the next level. Do you think we will see all of these insane athletes in College Station?

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these studs out at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

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Penn State Commit WR Juwan Johnson Showing He Can Do It All at the Opening

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to prove they have what it takes to be great college players. The Penn State Nittany Lions have a few big-time offensive commits in Beaverton showing they can be huge assets to new head coach James Franklin. How well do you think these monsters will do at Penn State?

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these future offensive weapons at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

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Notre Dame's Tristen Hoge Proves at the Opening He's No. 1 Center in 2015 Class

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove that they are the best of the best in the 2015 class. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a big-time offensive line commit in Beaverton showing that he can be a huge asset for head coach Brian Kelly at the next level. How well do you think he will do at Notre Dame? 

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on this Notre Dame commit out at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

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Clemson Commit Deon Cain Taking Command at Opening, 'All-ACC-Caliber WR'

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove that they are elite players in the 2015 class. The Clemson Tigers have two big-time commits out in Beaverton showing that they can come in and have an impact for Dabo Swinney in the future. How good do you think this duo will be at Clemson?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these future offensive monsters out at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

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Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List 2014: Full List Released

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is one of the premier individual honors in college football. The award is given to the best defensive player in the country as voted on by the Football Writers Association of America. Aaron Donald was the winner for 2013.

Now the first watch list for the upcoming season has been released. Unlike last year, when Jadeveon Clowney was the clear favorite before a lackluster junior campaign, this time the race is truly wide open. There are no shortage of contenders, though.

Players can be added to the list throughout the fall and given the nature of the race, somebody from off the radar could very well win the trophy. The winner will join the likes of Champ Bailey, Charles Woodson and Warren Sapp, among other big names.

Here's a complete look at the watch list, as released by the Charlotte Touchdown Club and the FWAA:

Although it's a pretty extensive list, it's still a select group considering how many defensive players are eligible across the nation. That's why there's always a chance somebody that doesn't even make the initial listing emerges to win the award in the end.

Vic Beasley (Clemson), Leonard Williams (USC), Randy Gregory (Nebraska) and Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida) headline the list.

The fact Beasley is back with Clemson comes as somewhat of a surprise. He was eligible to enter the NFL draft as a possible first-round pick, which is usually enough for most players to make the jump. The defensive end opted to continue his Tigers career instead.

Heather Dinich of ESPN passed along comments from the dynamic edge rusher, who explained why his decision went right down to the wire:

I want to play in the NFL, it's always been a dream. It's kind of tough to turn down the opportunity to go in the first round. But I looked at the big picture, seeing I could get my degree and also have the possibility of improving my draft stock.

His return is huge for a Clemson defense that's going to take on a bigger burden as the offense rebuilds without Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. It should allow Beasley to shine bright on defense and gives him the inside track on the defensive awards.

Williams is a player enjoying a rapid rise. The Trojans defensive lineman has racked up nearly 140 tackles over his first two seasons, 26 of which were for a loss, and 13 sacks. It's allowed him to become a top prospect with an eye toward the NFL draft.

Alas, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com believes he's still very much a work in progress despite the enormous amount of hype heading into his junior season:

When scouts affix a top-10 grade to a player, they expect to see a player that dominates the game with his presence and skills. While Williams certainly "flashes" that kind of talent, he must take his game to another level in 2014 to truly earn the blue-chip label that observers have attached to his name at this point.

Further improvement in his third season with USC will solidify his stock and allow him to contend for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.

Gregory was a force on the defensive line in his first season with Nebraska. He had 65 tackles, 9.5 sacks and even an interception return for a touchdown. He's an athletically gifted end who's only scratched the surface of his potential.

Hargreaves enjoyed an outstanding freshman season for Florida. The cornerback flashed shutdown capability while tallying 38 tackles, 11 passed defended and three interceptions. He should take another step forward as a sophomore.

Myles Jack (UCLA), Ramik Wilson (Georgia) and Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State) are some other preseason contenders to watch. All three are creating plenty of buzz and further illustrate the among of depth on the defensive side of the ball this season, even without a singular star leading the pack.

It should make for a very interesting Nagurski Trophy race.

 

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Alabama's Richie Petitbon Impresses at The Opening, 'Anchor for Offensive Line'

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to prove they are the most elite recruits in the country. The Alabama Crimson Tide have some big-time commits and targets in Beaverton who are showing they can be huge assets to Nick Saban and his coaching staff in the future. How well do you think these linemen will do for the Crimson Tide?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these Crimson Tide recruits at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

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Florida 5-Star Targets Ivey and Cowart Destroy at Opening, Must-Get for Muschamp

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to show they are elite recruits in the 2015 class. The Florida Gators have some big-time targets in Beaverton who are showing they can be huge assets to Will Muschamp and his coaching staff at the next level.

Do you think these two studs will end up in Gainesville?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on these Florida Gator targets out at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

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LSU 5-Star Commit Kevin Toliver Is Impressing at The Opening

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove that they are the best of the best. The LSU Tigers have a big-time commit out in Beaverton showing that he can be another name added to that elite secondary in Baton Rouge.

How well do you think this 5-star stud will do at the next level? 

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on this LSU commit out at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite

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USC's 5-Star Target Iman "Biggie" Marshall Is Best CB at The Opening

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to prove they are the best recruits in the country. The USC Trojans have a big-time target in Beaverton who is showing that he can make a huge impact immediately at the next level. Do you think he is a lock to USC?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on this USC target at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports.

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USC's 5-Star Target Iman "Biggie" Marshall Is Best CB at The Opening

The top athletes are in Oregon at The Opening to prove they are the best recruits in the country. The USC Trojans have a big-time target in Beaverton who is showing that he can make a huge impact immediately at the next level...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Alabama Commits Blake Barnett, Calvin Ridley Will Be SEC's Next Big QB-WR Combo

The college football world is getting a glimpse of the future this week in Beaverton, Oregon, as America's top high school seniors participate in The Opening on the campus of Nike's corporate headquarters.

For the Alabama Crimson Tide, the future looks bright—really bright.

Blake Barnett shocked the recruiting world last month when he committed to the Crimson Tide over Oregon with B/R's Adam Lefkoe on Team Stream Now.

The 6'4", 200-pound dual-threat quarterback from Corona, California, is rated as the third-best dual-threat quarterback in the country, has tremendous accuracy downfield and can make plays on the run.

An Elite 11 finalist, Barnett has been impressing the masses in Oregon since the start of the camp

Guys who've impressed during 7-on-7 include Blake Barnett, Justin Dunning, Brady White, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Will Gragg and Calvin Ridley.

— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 9, 2014

Blake Barnett (@BlakeBarnett_8) has looked very impressive at times in game one. Here's a back shoulder strike #RTRhttp://t.co/YCwoz7s8Ka

— Brian Stumpf (@Stumpf_Brian) July 9, 2014

Bama commit Blake Barnett just threw a strike to future teammate Calvin Ridley in the back of the end zone for a TD

— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) July 9, 2014

That last tweet is important, because of all the receivers in camp, Calvin Ridley—a 6'2", 170-pound, 4-star prospect from Pompano Beach, Florida—has been one of the most impressive. 

ESPN's Tom Luginbill was very impressed with Ridley during ESPNU's broadcast of the SPARQ national championship on Tuesday, saying that he has the speed, frame and route-running ability that compares favorably to current Tide wideout Amari Cooper.

#Bama commits Barnett and Ridley connect on a 2 pt conversion https://t.co/W31ScAf79t

— Charles Power (@CharlesGPower) July 9, 2014

A fellow member of the seven-on-seven Team Apocalypse at the event, Ridley and Barnett have connected early and often, already establishing a chemistry that will benefit both of them once they arrive in Tuscaloosa. 

B/R's Tyler Donohue got more from Barnett on the instant connection:

QB Blake Barnett tells me being on same team as fellow Bama commit WR Calvin Ridley helps develop chemistry before they head to Tuscaloosa.

— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 9, 2014

Since head coach Nick Saban took over in 2007, Greg McElroy has hooked up with Julio Jones for plenty of success, and the AJ McCarron-Amari Cooper combination provided the sequel when Cooper got to T-Town in 2012. The Barnett-Ridley connection will be the next great quarterback-wide receiver combo to hit Tuscaloosa. 

If Alabama continues its run-first approach with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin (and there's nothing to suggest it won't), that means plenty of play-action opportunities for Ridley, plenty of chances for that crisp route-running to shine and that connection with Barnett to flourish.

Alabama is never going to be the type of team that slings it all over the field. With the athletes it has at running back and the way it recruits up front, the running game will always be the focal point of the offense.

The Crimson Tide is at its best when it has a couple of solid receivers that can get open downfield to take the top off a defense. Ridley is that guy, and Barnett is the guy to get him the ball.

Get used to "Barnett to Ridley," because it will be a dominating theme in the SEC for years to come.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


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Wisconsin Football: 5 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

On the heels of a disappointing finish to the 2013 season, the Wisconsin football team looks to return to Indianapolis and the Big Ten Championship Game in 2014.  From receiver to the front seven, the Badgers have plenty of holes on both sides of the ball.

But even when the Badgers have returning starters and plenty of skill, there are still freshmen who can come in and contribute with a strong showing during fall practice.  The Badgers will only be able to win the Big Ten West and have a shot at the inaugural playoff if these five freshmen shine in fall practices.

 

1. Krenwick Sanders

Even though the Badgers lose a number of key pieces on the defensive side of the ball, it is receiver where the Badgers need the most help from the freshmen.  Sanders, a 4-star recruit according to 247Sports, has the complete package to play right away.

Sanders will likely be in the mix with Kenzel Doe, Jordan Frederick and Robert Wheelwright for the spots on the outside, with Sanders having as good a shot as any of them to be playing on day one.  Sanders stands at 6'2" and has the ability to make all the tough catches and then some.  From what's been seen on tape of him, it'd be surprising if he didn't emerge as an impact player early in his Badger career.

 

2. Natrell Jamerson

That's right. There's not one, but two wide receivers on this list.  The Badgers have a lot of holes in their receiving corps, and both Sanders and Jamerson can contribute right away if they play well enough in fall practices.  While Dareian Watkins may end up being the most talented of the bunch, it is Jamerson's speed that will get him on the field quickly.

If Jamerson can establish himself as a kick and punt returner, and can maybe work in the slot, it will take the pressure off battery mate Kenzel Doe, who has been an excellent kick returner himself but has struggled fielding punts.

Jamerson supposedly ran the 100-meter dash in 10.6 seconds, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, and that straight-line speed will help the Badgers immeasurably in the return game along with incoming transfer Serge Trezy.

 

3. Jeremy Patterson

Dipping into Georgia was a huge step for the Badgers recruiting effort.  But the Badgers didn't settle for just establishing a pipeline with lesser players.  Bringing in Patterson was huge for them as the departure of Beau Allen leaves a chasm at nose guard that only a man of Patterson's size could fill.

Patterson, a 3-star recruit according to 247Sports, is at 310 pounds with room to grow.  Patterson also has a remarkably quick first step for someone of his size and can really move the pile.  Furthermore, if Patterson can develop quickly, it would give defensive coordinator Dave Aranda flexibility with Warren Herring, as he could then move back to a 3-4 end and would create a massive problem for opposing offensive lines.

 

4. Rafael Gaglianone

The kicking game for the Badgers has been a nightmare for the past two seasons.  Even though Jack Russell hit nine of his last 11 field-goal attempts, he only hit 2-of-4 during the spring game while also never looking particularly confident in any of his attempts.

In walks Gaglianone, who has the strongest leg of any Wisconsin kicker I've seen.  The 3-star kicker, according to ESPN, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, will provide much-needed competition for Russell and should be able to take the job with a strong showing in the fall.

Gaglianone's ESPN scouting report (subscription required) calls him "a young Sebastian Janikowski" and goes on to say that he is an "FBS kicker who should start four years in college."  After a season and a half of Kyle French, Badgers fans will rejoice at the concept of having a young Sebastian Janikowski on their team, a freshman or otherwise.

 

5. Taiwan Deal

Last but not least, while running back is not a position of need in the slightest, the third-string back on the Badgers has been a spot for up-and-coming stars to showcase their talents.  Corey Clement picked up 547 yards on only 67 carries in that spot in 2013, Melvin Gordon picked up 621 yards on 62 carries in 2012 and in 2010, the Badgers were four Montee Ball yards away from having three 1,000-yard rushers.

With that in mind, Deal, a 4-star back according to 247Sports, could fill the hole of between-the-tackles mop-up rusher.  Deal, who sits at 225 pounds, looks to be one of the best hidden gems, though at four stars, he shouldn't really be under the radar.

Deal is a powerful runner who evokes memories of past Wisconsin power backs.  With a strong showing during the fall practices, Deal could grab that third running back spot behind Gordon and Clement, and see the field quite a bit as the season progresses.

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