NCAA Football

No. 3 WR Christian Kirk Announces Plans to Visit Multiple SEC Powerhouses

The whirlwind recruitment of wide receiver Christian Kirk is about to hit the road.

He shared his plans to tour several campuses in SEC country during the final week of May with a Wednesday announcement on Twitter:

Kirk, rated No. 3 nationally among 2015 receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings, will celebrate the arrival of summer break by packing in four visits. The Arizona standout is set to spend time at Georgia, Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee as his recruiting process approaches a pivotal stretch.

The 4-star prospect garnered scholarship offers midway through his sophomore year, and they've continued to arrive at a steady pace. He now has more than 30 collegiate options to consider.

Kirk earned First-Team All-State honors after a dominant junior campaign. The 5'11", 197-pound playmaker provides a multidimensional presence in the offensive attack at Saguaro High School (Scottsdale).

He caught 65 passes for 1,183 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2013. Kirk also contributed mightily as rusher, gaining 832 yards and 13 scores on the ground.

He is the consensus No. 1 player in Arizona.

Kirk visited Oregon, Ohio State, USC and UCLA earlier this year. Now he'll have an opportunity to explore his options in the SEC.

Tennessee, a team that already holds a commitment from elite Georgia receiver Preston Williams, offered Kirk last April. The Volunteers have caught fire on the recruiting trail under second-year head coach Butch Jones, and a pledge from another top pass target could help convince top-ranked dual-threat quarterback Torrance Gibson to join the class.

Alabama landed 4-star receivers Daylon Charlot and Calvin Ridley in recent months. Kirk already has an established rapport with new Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

"The coaches love me and said they need me in their offense," he told AL.com reporter Matt Scalici after receiving an Alabama offer in February. "I talked to Lane Kiffin and he said him and coach (Nick) Saban sat down and watched my film. Coach Saban told him to go get me because he loves how I play."

Georgia picked up a pledge from in-state receiver Christian Owens in April. The Bulldogs would love to complement the rangy 6'5" target with the smaller, shiftier Kirk.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has already built an impressive offensive class, but the majority of incoming talent is along the front line and in the backfield. Kirk is precisely the kind of playmaker the Tigers look to find in space on quick-hit pass plays.

Fellow conference members like Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Arkansas appear to be on the outside looking in as Kirk formulates his travel plans in the Southeast.

He is projected to sign with Texas A&M by 85 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

 

Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Michigan Wolverines Quarterback Shane Morris Throws Long Pass to Himself

This time, it's real.

We recently saw Manvel High School recruit Gary Haynes post a video in which he sprints to catch a long pass he had thrown. That video was deemed to be fake—likely with another person throwing the eventually-caught football—as Haynes 'threw' his ball out of shot to the side.

Michigan rising sophomore quarterback Shane Morris decided to try his hand at the real thing. Perhaps the ball goes higher and not quite as far, but it's still impressive.

[Shane Morris, Vine]

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Former College Stars Whose 2014 NFL Draft Stocks Dropped in Their Final Seasons

We talk often about draft risers, players such as Blake Bortles and Greg Robinson who emerge seemingly from nowhere to become potential top-five draft picks.

But what about the flip side of the coin?

Just as Bortles and Robinson used a breakout 2013 season to put themselves in this position, players who began the year on NFL scouts' radars used poor 2013 seasons to play themselves out of it.

The results of this can be seen in the work of B/R's Matt Miller, who put out a first-round mock draft last June and another—his final seven-round mock of the season—last week. Some of the differences in player stocks are amazing.

For the purposes of this list, we will only count players who hurt their stock by playing poorly. Not included will be players such as Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, who dropped from No. 19 in the June mock to No. 112 in the May mock but enjoyed a fine season in 2013. His drop had more to do with the rise of other running backs and the devaluation of his position in NFL scouting circles.

Other exclusions from this list will be anyone, like Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin, who has dropped because of an injury. Instead, this list will focus on players who did not post the same game tape in 2013 as they did in the season prior—that being the reason they'll slip.

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NFL Scouts Reportedly Favor Marcus Mariota over Jameis Winston for 2015 Draft

It's the morning of the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, and yet, here we are, talking about who might go first in 2015—just as Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman warned would be the case.

According to anonymous scouts who spoke with Pete Thamel of SI.com, the consensus in the league is that Oregon junior Marcus Mariota will be the top quarterback taken in the 2015 draft, while Florida State sophomore and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston reminds some people more of noted bust Vince Young.

"I'd take him over [Johnny] Manziel," said one scout of Mariota, who could have declared for the draft in 2014 but opted for a return to school. "He's more accurate. He's bigger and I think he's faster, not as elusive, but more durable. A lot of upside there."

A lot of upside, indeed. Mariota played through a sprained MCL in the latter part of last season, and even though it took a visible toll on his performance, he still finished the year with 3,663 passing yards, 715 rushing yards, 40 total touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Winston, meanwhile, has never lost a game in his college career and has the size (6'4"), mobility and arm talent to become a high draft pick.

Off-field concerns are beginning to cripple his stock, however, as his most recent arrest for stealing crab legs from a supermarket comes on the heels of a much more serious sexual assault investigation last fall and even a few suspicious incidents before that.

"It's repeat behavior," said a NFL scout for a quarterback-hungry team, according to Thamel. "He's not learning from it. That's a problem."

That sentiment echoes what Freeman reported earlier this week, when he quoted an NFL scout saying: "We're talent whores. But we're not total whores. It's almost impossible, at this point, to trust Winston."

If he plans on declaring for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season, Winston has but 12 months left to win back that trust.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Ohio State, Ole Miss Latest to Offer Scholarship to Evander Holyfield's Son

Evander Holyfield made millions of dollars and became a global icon for his ability to dish out contact in the boxing ring. His son, Elijah Holyfield, hopes to spend his foreseeable future avoiding contact out of the offensive backfield.

The 5'11", 190-pound sophomore running back continues to see his collegiate options expand.

Ohio State and Ole Miss are the latest programs to plunge into his recruitment process, as both teams extended offers on Wednesday:

Holyfield has enjoyed a busy May, previously receiving offers from Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana. Mississippi State, Virginia, Wake Forest and Wisconsin were already in the mix.

Interest increased after his first season at Woodward Academy in Atlanta. Holyfield rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown in the 2013 season opener and remained highly effective throughout his sophomore campaign.

His freshman year featured 645 yards and 10 touchdowns at Riverside Military Academy (Gainesville, Georgia). Holyfield transferred to Woodward last year.

He isn't a burner, but excels at finding space after working his way between the tackles. His agility also suits him well off the edge, where Holyfield appears patient as rushing lanes form.

"He's going to be a big power back," Woodward assistant coach Matt Brennan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell. "I definitely think all the SEC schools are going to come take a look him. He'll be an excellent recruit for sure."

Holyfield displays an impressive set of lateral movements in the open field that allow him to evade defenders. He finishes plays moving forward, fighting for extra yards before defenders complete the tackle.

According to Carvell, Holyfield mentioned in-state Georgia and Michigan as favorites last October. Those squads haven't offered yet, but he certainly isn't lacking for opportunities at the next level after two high school seasons.

The son of the only four-time World Heavyweight champion continues to chart a course for his own success in athletics.

Count Ohio State and Ole Miss among those who hope that path leads to their campus.

 

Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted.

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SEC Football vs. Power 5 Conference Games We'd Love to See

The headaches associated with realignment forced the SEC to go to a "bridge" schedule format over the last few seasons. But last month, one of the top annual offseason questions was answered, when the SEC announced its long-term schedule format, which starts in 2016.

That format isn't much different than the current one. The eight-game conference schedule will be in the same "6-1-1" format, where each team from a division will play all six of its other division mates, one rotating opponent from the other division and one permanent cross-division rivalry.

Also included in that format is a requirement that each SEC team play at least one out-of-conference game against team from a different "Power Five" conference—ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12—per season.

That's not much different than what currently happens. Ten of the 14 SEC teams will play at least one "Power Five" team this season, with Ole Miss having Boise State—a team that isn't from a Power Five conference but has a solid reputation—on their schedules. 

But what home-and-home series' and neutral site games can we create that will be fun for the fans? Our picks are in this slideshow.

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College Players Will Reportedly Receive Compensation for Working Camps

The NCAA has drawn up a piece of legislation that will allow college football players to be compensated for working on campus during summer football camps, according to an anonymous director of football operations who spoke with Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com.

Roussel elaborated on how the arrangement would work:

In the past, college coaching staffs have mainly relied on high school coaches and even lower-level college coaches to assist with summer camps. …

At the moment, coaches suspect that the compensation will be very similar to the way in which high school coaches are typically paid for working camps – either hourly or by the camp session.

No colleges will be allowed to advertise that a star player will be serving as an instructor during a summer camp. For example, if Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston were to serve as part of the staff for Jimbo Fisher’s football camp, the Seminoles staff is prohibited from advertising that Winston will be present and/or coaching a group of quarterbacks.

It is hard to say for sure, but this—more much than the Unlimited Pasta Act of April 2014—feels like it should be a seminal moment in the movement for labor reform in college athletics.

Even if the payment is small, the gesture is large. College football players will be paid money for doing football activities on a college campus, and the NCAA would not find it impermissible.

On principle alone, that is remarkable news. If it forges and flows down a slippery slope, it is potentially paradigm-shifting.

If college players are paid for doing something—even something as small as coaching high schoolers during a positional workout—and the world does not promptly explode, it might only be a matter of time before the NCAA is forced to pay them for more.

Of course, the rule also brings with it some questions. Roussel wonders how coaches will go about employing this provision—whether they will invite the star players to coach at camp or the players most in need of financial support.

Personally, I wonder whether the rule is just for football players. And if that is indeed the case, I wonder how long it is before high-level basketball players start lobbying for the same privilege.

 

Note: A previous version of this article stated that the rule was in its proposal phase, when in fact it was passed last year. This summer, however, will be the first when it takes effect.

The story has been changed to reflect that.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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