NCAA Football

Re-Ranking the Top 5 2011 Recruiting Classes

Stephen Nelson sits down with Bleacher Report Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani to re-rank the top five recruiting classes from 2011. You may be surprised by who made the list.

Who do you think deserves to be the top recruiting class from 2011? Watch the video and let us know!

 

Rankings courtesy of 247sports.

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Jaylon Jones to Ole Miss: Rebels Land 4-Star CB Prospect

The University of Mississippi's dominant defense potentially got even better Tuesday as the Rebels secured a commitment from cornerback Jaylon Jones.

The Allen, Texas, native is a 4-star recruit and the No. 18 corner in the class of 2016, according to 247sports. He made an official announcement regarding his intention to play at Ole Miss on Twitter.

Jones' decision doesn't come as much of a surprise on the heels of his comments following a visit to Mississippi's campus:

With that said, the Rebels managed to beat out some top competition to land the 5'11", 182-pound defensive back, as evidenced by this top-six list released by Jones in June:

According to Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger, reeling in Jones is only the latest coup in what has been an impressive string of commitments in recent weeks:

The Rebels boasted the No. 1 scoring defense in major college football last season at 13.8 points allowed per game, and they were tied for fifth with 22 interceptions.

Jones, who could potentially play either cornerback or safety at the collegiate level, should help Ole Miss in those areas as early as the 2016 season.

Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze is building a defensive juggernaut in Oxford, and Jones figures to be a huge part of that moving forward.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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How Urban Meyer Has Ohio State Set Up for a Long-Term Dynasty

COLUMBUS, Ohio — From the moment the clock struck zero and Ohio State was crowned the first College Football Playoff champion in January, Urban Meyer instantly reentered the conversation for the sport's top active head coach—one which only Alabama's Nick Saban also belongs in.

In the six months that have followed the Buckeyes' national title run, Meyer only appears to have strengthened his case in that argument.

The fourth-year Ohio State head coach still trails Saban when it comes to college football's ultimate measuring stick—national titles—with the Crimson Tide head man holding a 4-3 advantage over his former SEC foe.

But looking at the future that Meyer has made for himself in Columbus, it's hard to imagine Saban's championship lead over him lasting much longer.

Especially when taking into consideration that Meyer's third championship season—which included a Sugar Bowl win over Saban and Alabama in the CFP semifinal—came a year earlier than he even expected.

"We're a young program—a team where if you had told me this in August, I would have said, 'Not yet,'" Meyer said upon the Buckeyes' inclusion in the College Football Playoff. "Maybe next year, but not this year because we're just so young."

But those young Buckeyes—whose starting lineup included 13 combined freshmen and sophomores in 2014—got the job done, knocking off the Crimson Tide before defeating Oregon in the national title game.

And with Ohio State kicking off fall camp for the 2015 season in less than two weeks, that highly anticipated "next year" that Meyer spoke of is just about here.

With 14 combined returning starters on offense and defense, including either the reigning Big Ten Quarterback of the Year in J.T. Barrett or the Buckeyes' national title-winning signal-caller in Cardale Jones, Ohio State is a heavy preseason favorite to repeat in 2015.

Bodog (h/t Odds Shark) lists the Buckeyes' odds of capturing college football's crown this year at 7-2, and when the preseason polls are released in the coming weeks, it'd be a shock if anybody but Ohio State is sitting atop them.

In football-crazed Columbus, "championship or bust" is usually the expectation. But that motto rings especially true this season, with all of the talent the Buckeyes return and all that they've already accomplished.

"We have a target on our back," Ohio State senior linebacker Joshua Perry said during spring football. "It's also a bit of a pride thing, being here and knowing what we've done and then knowing the guys that we have, that we could be special this year."

Whether or not the 2015 Buckeyes will live up to the lofty expectations set by last year's team will be determined in the coming months.

But win or lose, Meyer's promising future in Columbus won't stop there.

Even though Ohio State is prepared to lose what could be an unprecedented haul of first-round talent to the 2016 NFL draft, Meyer has positioned the Buckeyes to reload rather than rebuild.

In his first four recruiting cycles since arriving at Ohio State in late 2011, Meyer has never had a class rank lower than seventh nationally, including threetop-fivefinishes while maintaining the Big Ten's top-ranked class for all four years.

And with the Buckeyes coming off last season's national title run, that's not a train that appears to be slowing down anytime soon, with Ohio State currently laying claim to the nation's top-ranked classes in both 2016 and 2017.

"You move to the front of the line," Meyer said the day after the national title game, when asked how the championship would affect his program's recruiting efforts. "You can't recruit to this now, you're officially a bad recruiter."

Meyer's recent run isn't unheard of, as Saban capitalized on three national titles in four seasons at Alabama by capturing the country's top-ranked classes from 2011 to 2015. But unlike Alabama, Ohio State has created a clear succession plan at the sport's most important position, setting up long-term success that could conceivably last throughout Meyer's Buckeye tenure.

Between Barrett, who has three years of eligibility remaining starting in 2015, and incoming 4-star freshmen Torrance Gibson and Joe Burrow—each of whom the Ohio State staff is high on—the Buckeyes' quarterback position appears to be in good hands through at least 2018.

Add in 2017 4-star quarterback Danny Clark, who has been committed to Ohio State since he was a freshman in high school, and it's possible the Buckeyes could be set at signal-caller through the 2020 season.

It's not just at quarterback that Meyer is stockpiling talent either, with Ohio State laying claim to top commits in both 2016 and 2017 at running back, wide receiver, the offensive line and all over the defensive side of the ball. The Buckeyes' 2016 class is currently headlined by 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa, 4-star running back Kareem Walker, 4-star defensive end Jonathon Cooper and 4-star receiver Austin Mack, while Meyer's top-ranked 2017 class features 5-star offensive tackle Josh Myers, 5-star cornerback Shaun Wade, 4-star safety Isaiah Pryor and 4-star running back Todd Sibley.

Across the board, it's nearly impossible to find a position that the Buckeyes aren't seemingly set at—both in the present and in the future.

Of course, Ohio State's prospects have to develop in order for that plan to stand, and Meyer saw with his own eyes how quickly a potential dynasty can fall apart during his time at Florida. But perhaps it's not a coincidence that the Ohio State head coach's latest contract extension runs right in line with what could be the culmination of a historic recruiting haul.

And by that time, the question may no longer be whether or not Meyer's the greatest active coach in college football.

With the run that he appears to be embarking on, bigger accolades may be in order.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Florida Football: Biggest Storylines Heading into Fall Camp

The expectations for new head coaches have changed a bit over the last decade. The ability to recruit, catch lighting in a bottle and turn around programs that have struggled in a hurry has virtually erased the margin for error for newcomers.

Urban Meyer and Gene Chizik each won national titles in their second years at Florida and Auburn, respectively. Nick Saban turned Alabama around from an afterthought and went undefeated in the regular season in his first season in Tuscaloosa. Gus Malzahn was 13 seconds from a national title in his first season as Auburn's head coach.

Does the "win now" mentality put more pressure on first-year Florida head coach Jim McElwain?

A little bit.

What are the biggest storylines in Gainesville heading into McElwain's first fall camp with the Gators?

 

Quarterback Malaise?

The quarterback position in Gainesville has been a wasteland ever since Tim Tebow graduated after the 2009 season.

John Brantley couldn't get it done, Jeff Driskel, Jacoby Brissett, Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg all started games and eventually transferred, and Treon Harris stepped in for Driskel last year and was decent in former coordinator Kurt Roper's tempo system.

Now, it's Harris—the dual-threat weapon—vs. redshirt freshman pro-style prospect Will Grier this summer for the starting job in McElwain's more traditional scheme.

The scheme doesn't matter as much as the quarterback's ability to impact the players around him in whatever way possible.

"Really what it comes down to is when we get there in August is which one of those guys affect the play of the other people around them to help them be successful," McElwain said at SEC media days. "There's a lot of talented guys out there that can throw it and do all that, but for some reason don't click with the guys around them."

Grier has a slight edge on Harris heading into fall camp due in large part to Harris' absence for several practices this spring while he dealt with a family issue.

Grier, a former 4-star prospect from Davidson, North Carolina, has plenty of potential, looked good with the first-team offense in the spring game and fits what McElwain and new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier want to do more than Harris.

That doesn't mean that Harris won't have a role, though.

If he doesn't win the job, his athleticism will undoubtedly be used either as a Wildcat quarterback or in the lineup at the same time as Grier in an effort to confuse opposing defenses.

It will be interesting to see how McElwain uses both of his quarterbacks, how the battle progresses this August and how the offense changes based on which contender steps up.

 

Piecing It Together

One look at Phil Steele's offensive line returning starts chart will (and should) make Florida fans cringe. The Gators return just 10 starts—all from Trip Thurman, who's nursing a shoulder injury—up front, which is the third-worst mark in the country.

That list was created prior to the arrival of two-time FCS (Fordham) All-American Mason Halter, but the point remains the same. There's a lot of work for McElwain and Nussmeier to do this summer in piecing together an offensive line that is wildly inexperienced.

The offensive line will define just what kind of offense the 2015 Gators will run.

"We're a multiple shift, multiple motion, try to create as much confusion, some unbalance, create an edge here and there to give us an opportunity," McElwain said. "And we'll continue to do that. Kind of how they grow is kind of how we're going to grow."

The Gators will get stud 5-star freshman Martez Ivey this summer, and he could go the "Cam Robinson route" and immediately start at tackle—just like Robinson did for Alabama a year ago.

"These guys are going to have an opportunity to go take reps," McElwain said. "How you learn to play is sometimes by making mistakes, but you've got to get that opportunity to take those reps, and they're going to have a lot of chances."

Watching how the offensive line evolves this summer will be fascinating.

There's plenty of talent for McElwain to work with, but a lot of it is young and/or new to the program, which could lead to inconsistencies that prevent the Gators from getting into the SEC East mix.

 

Making the Transition

Part of the transition to the new staff is the switch to new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, formerly of Mississippi State.

Known for his "psycho defenses" in Starkville that buckled down in the red zone and forced field goals rather than touchdowns, Collins will have more talent to work with in Gainesville than he ever had at his previous stop.

Will it work, though?

Collins his been more of a strict 4-3 coach during his career, and Florida had used more of a hybrid scheme that featured a "Buck" at defensive end who was largely responsible for rushing the quarterback but did drop back from time to time.

"There's a lot of similarity, a lot of same language, and I think that that's really important as we go," McElwain said. "I just love [Collins'] energy every day, and the way his teams have played, that speaks for itself."

How will stud defensive linemen Jonathan Bullard and Bryan Cox Jr. adjust to the new coaching staff? How will blue-chip defensive end Cece Jefferson fit in? Will the linebackers be as successful as they were under the previous staff?

There will be a slight learning curve. If Florida can manage it well this August, the defense won't miss a beat in September and beyond.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247SportsBarrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Preseason College Football Rankings 2015: Predicting Amway Poll's Top 25

One of the more entertaining tasks before the season starts is predicting which teams belong where in the preseason rankings—especially in a sport as wild, crazy and unpredictable as college football.

But let's double down on the predictions: Let's try to predict how the coaches will vote to open the season.

It's hard to imagine the coaches will vote any team other than Ohio State as the No. 1 team in the country. There are too many compelling reasons to keep last year's national champions at the top spot.

The biggest one is that Ohio State comes into the season boasting three players who could all start at quarterback for most teams in the country: Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller. But what makes the Buckeyes even more scary is that Miller has agreed to convert to wideout and H-back, as he told Pete Thamel of SI.com:

For the most part, it’s going to be H-Back and punt return. It’s a long process to get back totally to throwing and throwing every day. This is the smarter thing for right now, God blessed me with a lot of talent and different opportunities. I’m going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that.

This makes the Buckeyes all the more frightening on offense. Miller is one of the most explosive players in the country, and now he's free to catch passes, run the ball on option plays, potentially throw the ball on trick plays and return punts. In essence, the Buckeyes are getting their cake and eating it too with Miller on the field along with either Jones or Barrett, depending on who wins the quarterback battle.

Austin Ward of ESPN.com thinks Miller is perfectly capable of the adjustment, noting, "Miller has always been a dominant force on the football field, there are obviously plenty of touchdowns already on his resume, and doubting his ability has always been a recipe for being proved wrong."

And, amazingly, Miller might not even be the best player on the team's offense. No, that distinction belongs to running back Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns last year and is one of the front-runners for the Heisman Trophy this year.

Of course, we can't forget about defensive end Joey Bosa, who might be the No. 1 overall pick in next year's NFL draft. Or linebacker Darron Lee. Or the fact that Ohio State returns 15 starters.

See, that's the thing about this team. This year was supposed to be the year they emerged as a power, not last year. They were supposed to be good last year, but national championship good? That seemed like it was a year away.

Which makes you think they might be downright unstoppable this year.

But teams will try, and the other team that seems to be a popular pick to be in the running is TCU. Quarterback Trevone Boykin leads an offense with 10 returning starters, and the defense always seems to be solid, even if they did lose some studs last year. Still, the Horned Frogs were oh so close to being a playoff team last year.

Expect the coaches to assume they'll reach the postseason this year.

From there, it's a bit of a crapshoot. Alabama is always good, and the SEC will be well-represented. Teams like USC and Oklahoma generally look good on paper. Auburn's Jeremy Johnson and Clemson's Deshaun Watson will elevate their teams' rankings. The Pac-12 should be well-populated.

But the rankings, like college football itself, are an unpredictable matter. And that's what makes all of this so fun, isn't it?

 

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4-Star DB Jaylon Jones Commits to Ole Miss: 'This School Has a Great Program'

As a defensive back with more than 200 tackles for his varsity career, Jaylon Jones has made his mark on an Allen High School football team that has won three consecutive Texas state championships and last lost a game September 28, 2012.

In short, Jones is a ball hawk. And on Tuesday, the ball hawk let the world know he was ready to be a "Landshark."

Jones, a 4-star defensive back who can play safety and cornerback at the next level, committed to Ole Miss Tuesday morning and became the 18th commit for a strong class. He chose the Rebels over offers from Texas A&M, TCU, Ohio State, USC and Auburn.

It was a decision that ended what Jones called "a tough process."

"At the beginning, of course, I enjoyed it because it was something I've worked for since I was little," Jones said. "But things started to get stressful having to call coaches almost every night and setting up visits to different campuses.

"I had to keep a lot of things in mind, and a lot of factors played into me making my decision. I couldn't seek guidance or ask for anyone else's input outside of my parents because I really had to make the best decision for myself."

Jones recently took in Ole Miss on an unofficial visit. He said the trip to Oxford, Mississippi, helped make the decision a little easier after seeing the overall camaraderie on campus, combined with the vibe he felt in and around the city.

"Right when I got there, I felt at home," Jones said. "I had a bond with the coaches that made me feel very comfortable with them. When it comes to football, this school has a great program."

Jones then added: "The atmosphere of the town was amazing, especially the campus."

The commitment gives Ole Miss seven 4-star players and a 5-star quarterback in Shea Patterson for its 2016 class. Jones is a big get for the Rebels, as he became their second defensive back pledge. Jones joins fellow Texan Greg Eisworth, a 3-star safety from nearby Grand Prairie, Texas.

Jones was recruited by cornerbacks coach Jason Jones and wide receivers coach Grant Heard. The 5'11", 182-pound defensive back, ranked by 247Sports as the nation's No. 18 cornerback in the 2016 class, said he was recruited to play safety.

Jones is a defensive back with good speed and arguably better tackling skills. He recorded 117 tackles, five pass breakups and an interception as a junior. Jones put himself on the recruiting map as a sophomore when he had 102 tackles and four interceptions.

Jones participated in the Nike football combine at The Opening earlier this month and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, ran the 20-yard shuttle in 4.13 seconds, threw the power ball 41 feet and recorded a vertical jump of 34.6 inches.

It's Jones' versatility that may allow him early playing time in his college career. In addition to being able to play safety and cornerback, Jones also can be a reliable returner on special teams.

But Jones said he's looking forward to doing most of his damage in the secondary. And he's hoping for the chance to do it early and often.

"Their defense is reputable for being good," he said, referring to the "Landsharks," one of the most respected defensive units in the SEC. "It really did stand out to me."

Jones has 21 reported offers, according to 247Sports. He is ranked as the nation's No. 207 player overall. 

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Inside SEC's No. 1 Recruiting Class for 2016: What's Working for LSU

LSU matched its lowest win total last season since head coach Les Miles arrived in Baton Rouge in 2005, but the Tigers remain undaunted on the recruiting trail. 

The program, coming off an 8-5 campaign that ended with a Music City Bowl defeat, sits atop 2016 SEC class rankings. It's a haul of prospects rated second overall nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Though these players still have senior seasons ahead in high school, collegiate expectations are already ambitious. 

"We're going to win a lot of games together. Our focus is on championships," Tigers defensive end commit Caleb Roddy told Bleacher Report. "It's important that we become close before we get to campus."

A few LSU commits were able to do that earlier this month at The Opening, an annual elite football showcase held at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Roddy was joined in Beaverton by LSU-bound quarterback Feleipe Franks, wide receiver Stephen Sullivan and cornerbacks Andraez Williams and Saivion Smith.

The latest additions to "DBU" actually worked in tandem during seven-on-seven action at The Opening, providing an early glimpse of what could be the next dynamic defensive duo in Baton Rouge.

“Me and Greedy (Williams) played on the opposite side of one another yesterday and today,” Smith said in Oregon. “We are just getting to learn one another more. I feel like we are going to be very good in the future.”

That seems to be the general consensus for this entire class, which is highlighted by several recruits who rate as top-12 talents at their respective position in composite rankings. 

LSU is in rarefied territory with nine pledges placed among the country's top 200 overall 2016 prospects. These players continue to credit the program's leader as a paramount reason for recruiting success. 

"Coach Miles is a great guy and he does an outstanding job recruiting players who can help the team compete for championships," Franks said while training at Elite 11 national finals.

LSU struggled at times last season, especially a Tigers passing attack that finished last among SEC squads in yards per game. That didn't shake Franks, who committed to the class last summer.

"My confidence is with [offensive coordinator Cam] Cameron and that staff. I have faith things are headed in the right direction and I'm looking forward to becoming part of the process on offense," he said.

LSU continues to reciprocate that confidence with the 6'5", 220-pound playmaker from Wakulla High School in Florida.

"Feleipe never wavered [during 5-star quarterback Shea Patterson's recruitment] and LSU coaches have been constantly wowed by his tools. He’s a guy they’re excited to build around," said regional recruiting reporter Andrew Lopez of the Times-Picayune.

Franks completed 58 percent of pass attempts for 2,249 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2014. He added 425 yards and three scores as a rusher.

A top-tier quarterback can quickly become the catalyst for a recruiting class. Though standouts like Smith are also leading the charge to target other elite peers, expect Franks to play a pivotal factor moving forward.

"It definitely gives you an edge to have a high-profile quarterback and in my opinion we have one with Feleipe Franks," Roddy said. "He's fantastic and he has a rocket arm. Hopefully he can take the offense to another level when it's his time to step up at LSU. I truly believe he can be one of the best in the country."

Tigers fans can also look forward to the arrival of an intriguing group of pass-catchers. Sullivan, Dee Anderson and Jamal Pettigrew are each 4-star prospects  who stand 6'4" or taller.

This trio combined to catch 120 passes for 2,080 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2014. LSU is still targeting wide receivers like Clyde ChrissNate Craig-Myers and Mykel Jones, but an impressive corps is already in place.

"What quarterback wouldn't be excited about this group of receivers? You've got guys who are physical, tall and make life difficult for the defense," Franks said. "These guys are great targets to throw to and I'm thrilled to get to work with them."

These offensive playmakers should set the stage for contentious college practice sessions.

LSU already features one of college football's deepest defensive backfields. It's a fearsome collection that will be further fortified by Smith, Williams and talented Texas safety Eric Monroe.

"We can help create a special secondary," Smith said. "I need to go in there, put in the work and learn from [defensive backs coach] Corey Raymond. He's the one who coached up a lot of those guys and helped push them into the league. If I do what he says and work on my craft, I won't have any worries or pressure."

Raymond is a valuable member on a Tigers staff that added a few aces during the offseason. Miles hired former Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron, former Alabama linebackers coach Kevin Steele and former Georgia wide receivers coach Tony Ball.

"They have the right staff to get it done in recruiting," Lopez said. "Those new additions, plus [running backs coach/recruiting coordinator] Frank Wilson, really give LSU an edge. It's almost unfair to have all those guys on one staff."

The team's sales pitch is straight to the point, per Roddy.

"It's the best football in America, by far. LSU has the best stadium, the best fans and the best environment. It's just the greatest place to spend your college career," he said.

That luster doesn't fade due to one underwhelming season. LSU opened this decade with four straight double-digit win totals and is just three years removed from its most recent national title game appearance.

"Unless you have a few seasons like [2014] in a row, you can bounce back on the recruiting trail because there's a strong track record in place," Lopez said. "They can still sell the ‘title contender’ brand because of what they’ve been able to do under Les Miles. I'm pretty sure he still has that national championship trophy sitting around somewhere."

This latest star-studded collection of recruits aims to add more bling to an already impressive LSU trophy case.

"The commits in this class and even the younger guys like [top-ranked 2017 pledge] Dylan Moses are focused on bringing a championship back to Baton Rouge," Smith said. "We are recruiting players just as hard as the coaches do."

LSU's remaining list of targets features 5-star prospects Rashard Lawrence (defensive tackle), Willie Allen (offensive tackle), Shavar Manuel (defensive end), Ben Davis (linebacker) and Brandon Jones (safety).

Another recruiting surge in the final six months before national signing day could solidify LSU's spot in the top SEC recruiting perch—occupied by Alabama since 2011—and possibly push the Tigers past Ohio State's top-rated class.

“They need to keep these key players who are already in the fold and try to add a couple more big-time, 5-star guys," Lopez said. "There will be some lower-tier commits who eventually flip, whether it’s their or LSU’s choice. You know they’ll add some solid 4-star guys. At this point, it’s about building off the really strong foundation they’ve already created.”

Tigers coaches can sell athletes on an opportunity to compete alongside America's best young talent. It's a recipe that could result in significant strides for LSU and Miles moving forward.

"It's really cool being part of such an elite class. It's a great feeling knowing you have so many people coming in at the same level as you," Roddy said. "We're going to win championships for sure—multiple maybe."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. B/R staff writer Sanjay Kirpalani also contributed to this story. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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CFB Recruiting 200: Top 20 Offensive Tackles in Class of 2016

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon Sayles, Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the class of 2016. Here we present the Top Offensive Tackles.

Other Positions

 

Given how passing concepts have expanded in recent years, the importance of having athletic and strong offensive tackles has grown.

Since defensive coordinators are always trying to find new ways to bring pressure on quarterbacks, offensive tackles must be agile enough to fend off sleek edge-rushers and powerful enough to push back beefier defensive ends.

The 2016 class is deep with high-quality tackle prospects, with 5-star Texas standout Greg Little leading the way.

The newest edition of Bleacher Report's CFB Recruiting 200 series will break down the best offensive tackles in the 2016 cycle and grade them on important traits such as hands, power, lateral quickness, pass protection and run blocking.

How do the nation's top offensive tackle prospects measure up to one another?

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Predicting Which QBs Will Lead College Football in Passing for 2015 Season

Can you name the quarterback who finished 2014 ranked No. 1 in yards per game?

Despite playing only nine games before being injured, Washington State’s Connor Halliday earned that accolade with a whopping 430.3 yards per game.  It’s the first time anyone has crested the 400-yard mark since Houston’s Case Keenum posted a 402-yard average in 2011.

While yards per game isn’t the only way or even the best way to rate quarterbacks, it’s not a bad place to start.

Don’t think so?

The top 10 finishers last season included such luminaries as Baylor’s Bryce Petty (No. 6), Florida State’s Jameis Winston (No. 8) and TCU’s Trevone Boykin (No. 9).  The Heisman winner, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, finished out of the running at No. 11, just 1.7 yards off the pace.

The 10 quarterbacks highlighted here, ranked by potential, are best positioned to finish 2015 at the top of the charts in a 13-game season. 

Though each signal-caller is a legitimate statistical weapon, they’re not necessarily the guys who might win the most games or the most individual accolades.

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Michael Eletise to Arizona: Wildcats Land 4-Star OL Prospect

Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez has already pieced together a strong recruiting class ahead of the 2016 season. Now, the group has a bona fide headliner after the commitment of Michael Eletise.

The 4-star offensive guard announced his decision Monday back home in Hawaii:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Eletise is the ninth-best guard in the country and No. 192 overall. The Arizona Wildcats climbed three spots to No. 5 in the Pac-12 in 247Sports' team rankings after he committed.

GOAZCATS.com's Matt Moreno praised the work of the Wildcats coaches responsible for doing the legwork on the recruiting trail to snag the Honolulu native:

Size certainly won't be a concern for Eletise; he's listed at 6'4" and 313 pounds. Even if he slims down a bit, he projects as a guard or right tackle if absolutely necessary. Guard would be the better of the two options given his impressive strength and somewhat average agility.

You can see Eletise (No. 72) lined up against defensive tackle Rashan Gary in the Vine below, courtesy of ESPN.com's Erik McKinney:

Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue provided another Vine of Eletise battling Gary, the No. 1 DT on 247Sports' composite rankings:

Offensive guards don't often grab a ton of headlines, but the work they do inside the trenches is invaluable to both the running and passing games, especially with defensive tackles becoming more and more versatile in the case of the latter.

Eletise showed he can hang with the best in his class when matched up with Gary. There's no reason he can't become a fixture on Arizona's O-line in the future.

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Michael Eletise to Arizona: Wildcats Land 4-Star OL Prospect

Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez has already pieced together a strong recruiting class ahead of the 2016 season. Now, the group has a bona fide headliner after the commitment of Michael Eletise ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Virginia Tech Football: Biggest Storylines Heading into Fall Camp

After a run of eight consecutive 10-win seasons, the Virginia Tech Hokies have struggled a bit over the last three years. In two of the last three years, Tech needed to win its season finale against Virginia just to become bowl eligible. 

Speaking of bowls, the Hokies have been to 22 consecutive bowls—the second-longest active streak in the country behind Florida State. 

But that's not good enough for Virginia Tech fans. Hokie Nation wants another ACC title and the opportunity to play for a national championship. Can that happen in 2015?

The Hokies do return 16 starters on both sides of the ball and appear poised to build off of a strong finish to the 2014 season.

As fall camp is set to begin next week, here are some storylines Hokie fans will be paying close attention to during the month of August and beyond. 

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Amir Rasul to FSU: Seminoles Land 4-Star RB Prospect

Although Florida State has put together one of the strongest 2016 recruiting classes in college football, the Seminoles lacked an elite-level running back to round out the group. That changed Monday with the addition of Amir Rasul.

According 247Sports' Ryan Bartow, Rasul committed to the 'Noles.   

"I felt FSU is the best place for me," he said. "Both coach (Jimbo) Fisher and coach Tim Brewster were very excited when I told them. I see myself as the same type of player that Dalvin Cook is. I can add to that and take over when he leaves."

Rasul is the seventh-best running back in 247Sports' composite rankings. He also ranks 197th overall.

This development comes mere days after he decommitted from the Miami Hurricanes. Chris Nee of Noles247.com believed Rasul was bound to commit his future to Florida State sooner or later:

Rasul should become a dynamic presence in the Seminoles backfield once he lands in Tallahassee. He earned a perfect "10" rating on 247Sports in speed and an "8" in explosiveness. Running through tackles will be a bit of an issue, but he's agile enough to consistently make defenders miss.

Since Florida State uses a more pro-style offense, there's no question Rasul would have plenty of opportunities to shine. And he's the exact kind of running back to complement the Seminoles' passing game.

Snatching a player out from under the Hurricanes also has to be a good feeling for Fisher since it further strengthens FSU's recruiting position in the state of Florida.

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Leonard Fournette Is the SEC's Best Chance to Win 2015 Heisman Trophy

It was a simple four-yard run up the middle, which, thanks to a small cutback, resulted in the prodigy scoring nearly untouched during a 56-0 victory against Sam Houston State.

Yet, Leonard Fournette couldn’t help himself after his first career touchdown last September.

Having already said that he wanted to win the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, and egged on by cheering fans at Tiger Stadium, the running back struck the famous pose only to be criticized far and wide for immature showboating.

It began with his own head coach, who greeted him back on the sideline with: “We have to talk.”

“It kind of happened in the moment,” said Fournette, who apologized to his teammates and is still regularly asked about it. “I was excited. It was a little childish of me.”

Although Les Miles was partially to blame after helping build up the hype, it was really the first time that Fournette got a taste of what being in the college football spotlight was really all about.

Out of St. Augustine High School in New Orleans, he had been considered the 2014 recruiting class' crown jewel—Fournette was listed as the nation's No. 1 overall prospect by ESPN.com and Scout.com, No. 2 by 247Sports and No. 4 by Rivals.

During 2014 SEC media days, Miles actually made an eye-raising comparison to Michael Jordan, while senior running back Terrence Magee said Fournette reminded him of Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings.

"Who wouldn't want to play in a backfield with a guy like that?” Magee said.

Only Fournette didn’t exactly play like that initially. While getting used to the speed of the game, the size of opponents and the physical nature of everything, the freshman was mostly a complementary player through the season's first half.

Nevertheless, he rushed for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns and also caught seven passes for 127 yards while making just six starts. Combined with his kick returns, Fournette led the Southeastern Conference in all-purpose yards (137.4 per game).

But what really made Fournette stand out was how he got those yards.

There was the play where he ran over a Texas A&M defender en route to a 22-yard score. Then there he was going over four defenders to reach the end zone against Florida and notching 140 rushing yards during his first start. And of course, there was the 100-yard kick return against Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl, where he also had an 89-yard touchdown run en route to 264 all-purpose yards.

That’s also when Fournette claims things really started to click for him.

“I feel like I’m 10-times better,” Fournette said about his outlook for 2015.

After a year in the LSU weight room, he’s listed as 6'1", 230 pounds, while still making moves like a spry tailback who only needs the smallest hole to break a big gain. Senior offensive tackle Vadal Alexander calls that combination “crazy” and his teammate a “freak of nature.”

“It kind of amazes me how big he is because he can really run,” junior linebacker Kendell Beckworth said. “He has a skill set like I’ve never seen.”

It’s also why Fournette has to be considered the SEC’s best shot at winning the Heisman this season, if not next.

Consider his primary competition. Fournette’s going to get his touches, while Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins will split their carries. Dak Prescott is widely thought to be the league’s best quarterback, but at media days Mississippi State was slated to finish last in the brutal SEC West, and there’s only so much he can do.

Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson and Alabama’s Derrick Henry have the same problem, someone in their roles recently won the Heisman. Topping their predecessor’s statistics may not be enough as Trent Richardson exceeded Mark Ingram Jr.’s rushing numbers and still only placed third for the Heisman in 2011.

That leaves Georgia running back Nick Chubb, who ran for 1,547 yards and 14 scores as a freshman, and thanks to two 200-yard performances, he averaged 165.4 rushing yards over the final eight games. He has four returning offensive linemen blocking for him, and last year the Bulldogs averaged 5.5 yards per carry while allowing just 12 sacks.

Yet, Georgia didn’t win the East Division.

“I met Nick in high school,” Fournette said. “He’s a great person. He’s a great running back. I think he is hands-down the best running back in the SEC. I’m competing against him every day.”

Fournette also said that if Chubb was a Lamborghini, he hoped to be more like his favorite car, a Bugatti. It’s a little more unique, which is exactly the kind of thing that can make all the difference come awards time when perception is everything.

With a veteran offensive line, LSU is always dangerous, and led by senior tackle Vadal Alexander (6'6", 320 lbs), this year’s group is also huge. But the Tigers’ passing game was pretty horrible last season, which only helps fuel the notion that Fournette will be carrying his team’s fortunes on his shoulder.

Chubb doesn’t really have that same status. Georgia has an easier division, an easier schedule and doesn’t have to rely so much on its top running back. So if Fournette’s numbers are anywhere close to Chubb’s, he’s going to get the benefit of doubt.  

What’s going to be interesting is that all of the SEC’s key Heisman contenders, except Henry, face Alabama and Nick Saban’s defense, which still may be college football’s best measuring stick. Cam Newton essentially locked up his Heisman win when he led a dramatic victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2010, as did Johnny Manziel two years later.

During an era in which few running backs receive serious Heisman consideration, Fournette’s in position and has the potential to be an exception if he can avoid any significant injuries.

He won’t be, though, unless LSU makes a strong push for the league title or playoffs. 

“I expect nothing but greatness,” Beckworth said.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer.

Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Lowell Narcisse to Auburn: Tigers Land 4-Star QB Prospect

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn certainly knows how to use dual-threat quarterbacks, as evidenced by Cam Newton's and Nick Marshall's success under his tutelage. On Monday, Lowell Narcisse potentially made himself the next in line.

The 4-star QB committed to the Tigers, per Shea Dixon of 247Sports:    

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Narcisse is the No. 3 dual-threat passer in the 2017 recruiting class. He's also No. 59 overall and the third-best recruit in Louisiana.

During his freshman and sophomore years, he threw for 5,137 yards, 58 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. He has also run for 2,039 yards and 30 touchdowns, per MaxPreps. Narcisse will miss his junior season after tearing his ACL in May.

His rushing yards are a testament to his athletic ability. There's no question Narcisse is a dynamic addition to Auburn's class.

However, he'll definitely need to improve as a passer down the road. He completed just 55.1 percent of his passes in his first two years in high school.

His mechanics are a bit of an issue. The following Vine from Cody Bellaire highlights how Narcisse's arm can drop a bit prior to release:

Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles showed how he can excel throwing on the run, however:

The things Narcisse must improve aren't vastly different from a typical dual-threat QB. And some level of accuracy can be sacrificed for mobility.

With Malzahn showing him the ropes, Narcisse could blossom into a star at the next level.

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Cardale Jones Performs WWE Moves on Kid While Horsing Around at Pool

Pool time gave Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones a chance to show that he could one day be a WWE star if football ever gets boring for him.

While horsing around with some buddies at the pool, Jones broke out his best wrestling moves—on an unlucky kid.

The 6'5", 250-pound quarterback gave the kid a taste of the WWE life at first. Then he took it up a notch:

Of course, this was all in good fun. 

[Tyvis Powell]

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2017 5-Star QB Tate Martell Details Top 5, Plans to Announce in August

Quarterback Tate Martell managed to launch a national recruitment in middle school. Weeks shy of his junior season, the 5-star passer is prepared to determine a collegiate destination.

Martell, who leads reigning national champion Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, Nevada), is focused on five finalists. He lists Alabama, Michigan, Texas A&M, USC and Washington as programs under consideration.

"It's down to that five," Martell told Bleacher Report. "I think the schools that want me to become a part of their program have offered me. I want to play for a coach who has made it clear he wants me."

His decision-making process won't last much longer.

Martell, the top-rated 2017 dual-threat prospect, plans to announce a commitment between Aug. 10-Aug. 20. His season starts August 29, against Arizona powerhouse Chandler High School. 

"I want to get it done before that first game," he said. "I think I have an idea of where I want to go and it just feels like the right time to make a decision."

Martell initially pledged to Washington prior to eighth grade, but he backed off that verbal commitment last winter. Steve Sarkisian, the coach who extended an offer from the Huskies, continued to target him following a transition to USC.

The head coach who landed him first could do it again.

"There's no doubt USC is going to be one of my top schools. If it's not the choice, it will probably be second or third on my list at the most," Martell said. 

Though Martell grew up rooting for Ohio State, he spent formative years in Southern California. His high school career started at Poway High School in San Diego County.

"It's USC. It's where just about every young football player in California dreams of playing in college," he said. "The program had a ton of stars when it was winning championships and now it feels like they're reloading."

How close does Martell think the Trojans are to transitioning from "reloading" to loaded?

"I think they're right there on that breaking point of being a great team. It's going to click eventually," he said. "They just had a top recruiting class and that's going to help. They're right there. This could definitely be a big year for them and set up a lot of successful seasons ahead."

Despite undergoing a regime change, Sarkisian's former school is still in the mix. Washington gives Martell two Pac-12 programs to consider.

"I really like [head coach Chris] Petersen and [offensive coordinator Jonathan] Smith. Also, their facilities are unreal," he said.

It's a potential landing spot that could lead to an earlier opportunity than elsewhere.

"The biggest reason Washington is one of my top schools is because there's a chance to play right away. I could go in there and maybe compete to play as a freshman," Martell said. 

Texas A&M presents a stark contrast in terms of depth chart outlook.

Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin signed 5-star quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray during the past two recruiting cycles. Both players appear capable of commanding snaps in the coming years.

"I love competition and that's exactly what there would be at Texas A&M if I joined those guys," Martell said. "I would get in there and compete, do everything I could to win the job. The best player will play no matter where you're at, so I can only control what I can do."

His most recent campus visit occurred in College Station earlier this month. Martell raved about time well spent at Texas A&M.

"The feeling I got there with the entire college atmosphere was pretty cool. That's one school where even if I wasn't going to play football in college, I would still be really interested in going there," he said. 

Martell met with Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital during the trip.

There's still a chance he spends his college career tormenting Texas A&M since Alabama also emerged as a finalist.

"I've talked with [Crimson Tide offensive coordinator] Lane Kiffin quite a bit. He's a really cool dude," Martell said.

His ultimate ambition is to play the sport professionally, and he believes Alabama is a proven commodity when it comes to helping athletes achieve that dream.

"Alabama puts a ton of guys in the league, but what really stands out is how long they stay in the league," Martell said. "I think it's because how they train and build up players. They call it 'Bama built', and those guys know how to play ball when they get into the league."

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is a guy who knows plenty about the NFL after grooming Andrew Luck at Stanford and leading the San Francisco 49ers to three consecutive conference championship games.

"Coach Harbaugh is somebody pretty much every recruit would want to play for. He knows how to lead a team and how to put people in the NFL," Martell said.

Other programs began ardently pursuing him earlier in the process, but ignoring Michigan's recent push wasn't an option for Martell.

"Michigan is just Michigan. There's a lot of tradition and guys who have gone to the NFL, but hiring Harbaugh is what made it one of the top possibilities for me," he said.

Once a decision is behind him, Martell plans to make the most of a long road to national signing day in February 2017.

"The good thing about committing early is it gives you a chance to surround yourself with the guys you want.  I'm going to love recruiting for the school I choose," he said.

Martell already laid groundwork with several premier contemporaries whom he could someday call teammates.

"I have a lot of good relationships with other top recruits. There probably isn't a top California player who I haven't talked to yet," he said.

His main target is easy to find.

Fellow 5-star Tyjon Lindsey is Martell's lead receiver at Bishop Gorman, and the pair previously played together at Poway High School. The quarterback anticipates a premier package deal that keeps them partnered in college.

"Obviously, I'll be pressuring Tyjon to pick the same school as me. I think he will," Martell said. "He wants to wait for a few more offers, which I think will come. He'll get any offer he wants. We'll see how things develop, but I think he'll end up joining me."

The duo connected for a team-high 15 touchdown completions last season. Martell, a starter since the second game last season, claimed Gatorade's Nevada Player of the Year honors after leading Bishop Gorman to its sixth straight state title.

He completed 62 percent of pass attempts for 2,537 yards and 40 touchdowns in 2014. He was intercepted just twice. Martell added 433 yards and five scores on the ground.

Immense expectations are in place for the upcoming 2015 campaign.

"I feel really good about where we're at as a team right now. Offensively, I think we're way ahead of where we were last year," Martell said. "Last year, I can honestly say I didn't know the offense too well, and we were just running basic stuff."

That basic stuff resulted in a record-setting Gaels offensive attack. Bishop Gorman averaged nearly 460 yards and 52 points per game.

Defenses be warned, Martell expects major improvements this fall.

"Now I fully understand the offense. I have the ability to check into literally anything on any play, depending on which formation I want," Martell said. "I can change our plan into something our opponent can't defend, based on defensive alignment and our reads. I'm at the point where we're running crossing stuff, full-field reads and more play action. I think we're going to move the ball a lot this season, and we're going to move it fast."

The highly anticipated Bishop Gorman title defense starts in just four weeks. Until then, the spotlight will shine on Martell's future and where he'll spend it.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

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Ohio State Dummy Prank Scares the Life out of Cardale Jones

While teams spend a lot of the offseason practicing and watching film, the Ohio State Buckeyes took some time to scare their players with a simple prank.

The reigning national champions had someone dress up as a mannequin and wait for unsuspecting players to walk by. Then, it was time to try to scare the life out of them.

The prank led to quite a few hilarious reactions. Curtis Samuel and Tyquan Lewis were each startled, but nobody freaked out like Cardale Jones.

When the mannequin popped out, the 6'5", 250-pound Jones quickly dove for cover.

Big Ten coaches better be taking notes. The best way to get Jones to the ground is to scare him, not tackle him.

[Brutus Buckeye, h/t Football Scoop]

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Predicting the 2015 SEC Defensive Player of the Year

The start of the 2015 college football season is just a few weeks away, so let's take a look at some end-of-year predictions.

Who will be the SEC Defensive Player of the Year after the 2015 season?

Watch as Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down who should win the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award in the video above.

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3 Reasons Why 2016 Commit Mark Jackson Will Be Texas A&M's Next Great DE

Mark Jackson is a 4-star defensive end who is committed to the Texas A&M Aggies, according to 247Sports.

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder gives three reasons why Jackson will be a star in College Station in the video above.

How good can Jackson be for Texas A&M? Check out the video and let us know!

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