NCAA Football

Tennessee Football: Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practices

When the Tennessee football team heads into spring practice in about a month, several players will have major opportunities to earn their coaches' trust.

Some are mid-term enrollees with the chance to get a leg up on their classmates. Others stand to be the recipient of extended looks thanks to injuries elsewhere at their positions. Then there are some who have been role players throughout their careers with potential to prove they're more.

UT head coach Butch Jones told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview last week that injuries to Derek Barnett, Danny O'Brien, Kyle Phillips and Darrin Kirkland Jr. are a blow this spring.

"We have a number of individuals who are out for spring football, so their development is set back," Jones said. "The fortunate thing is we'll have them available and they'll be ready in August, but their development's going to be set back. That's just where we are still in depth.

"Right now, our spring football is going to be one of many, many challenges."

From those setbacks blossoms the right set of circumstances for others to step up. That's exactly the atmosphere Tennessee will try to perpetuate this spring.

Let's take a look at some players who can advance their careers by breaking out this spring.

Begin Slideshow

Michigan Football: Who Is the Underdog in Wolverines QB Battle?

Listening to Jim Harbaugh’s banter after Michigan’s first practice you might be fooled into believing that he doesn't have a definite time table for ranking his seven quarterbacks.

But with early enrollee Alex Malzone already taking snaps this spring and two more quarterbacks arriving for fall camp (Zach Gentry and transfer John O’Korn) the clock is ticking for quarterbacks recruited by Brady Hoke to prove their worth.

“Every day there will be an evaluation process on every player, in every drill,” said Harbaugh. “That is ongoing, that’s always.”

Harbaugh dodged a question about how many quarterbacks would be too many to coach but Russell Bellomy won’t be the only transfer after competition shakes out.

Shane Morris brings the most baggage but also has the most experience having put in a decent performance during Michigan’s last bowl game. Morris was poised to challenge Devin Gardner last season until a nightmare outing in the Big Ten opener ended his season.

But the underdog is 6’6” Wilton Speight who was an early enrollee last spring. He was held out even as poor quarterback play sunk Michigan’s season and ended Brady Hoke’s tenure in Ann Arbor.

If Speight couldn't get playing time last season after Morris’ concussion and Gardner’s excessive turnovers, it doesn’t bode well for him cracking the lineup under Harbaugh.

But even with Michigan’s next starting quarterback on the horizon, Speight is excited by the opportunity for a fresh start under the new staff.

When questioned about the looming quarterback battle—the position that will surely dictate the success or failure of his first season—Harbaugh projected a sense of detachment.

“Right now we’re throwing the balls out there and letting them compete.”

Harbaugh said that most of his offensive staff would take part in evaluating the quarterbacks throughout the spring. But he will have the final word on who starts next season. Harbaugh has shown a knack for selecting signal callers who fit his offense even when the choice goes against conventional wisdom.

Now it’s just up to one of his seven quarterbacks to make a big impression before his handpicked quarterback recruits show up for fall camp.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

Follow
@PCallihan

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: 5 Under-the-Radar Hurricanes to Watch During Spring Practice

Spring practice represents more than the beginning of on-field preparation for the next season; it allows under-the-radar players to rise from the depths of the roster.

The Miami Hurricanes have a handful of athletes who, while they won't necessarily lift themselves into starting positions, can stake a claim to a notable role.

Previous playing time is the main factor in determining the list, which is organized by position beginning with the offensive side of the ball.

Though younger contributors usually best fit the category of "under-the-radar" players, the Canes have a couple of upperclassmen to keep an eye on, too.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: 5 Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practice

Spring practice provides a wonderful opportunity for players on the UCLA football team to potentially rise up and make a name for themselves. 

Jim Mora's team does return the vast majority of its starters from a season ago. As a result, there likely won't be many open starting spots on the roster. However, the team does need to continue to build depth. As is the case with any sport, competition breeds excellence. 

This piece will take a look at five players with the most to gain during the spring practice period. Two of these highlighted athletes are first-year players within the program. Two more are redshirt freshmen looking to catapult up the depth chart. 

Finally, a fifth is an established star on the team. While this individual doesn't necessarily need to gain anything from a playing standpoint, other aspects of his game need to evolve. 

 

 

 

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: 5 Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practice

Spring practice provides a wonderful opportunity for players on the UCLA football team to potentially rise up and make a name for themselves. Jim Mora's team does return the vast majority of its starters from a season ago...

Begin Slideshow

ACC Football: Projecting Every Starting Quarterback for 2015 Season

The ACC featured one of the top quarterbacks in the country over the last two seasons in Jameis Winston, but 2015 is a season where the conference has quite a few question marks.

Obviously, there are a few situations where quarterbacks are locked into their starting jobs, such as Deshaun Watson at Clemson and Justin Thomas at Georgia Tech. That's not the case for every ACC school, though, as there will be some heated competitions for starting jobs across the conference.

To go along with the quarterback competitions, we're also likely to see some new faces under center for teams. A prime example of that will be the Duke Blue Devils, who turn from Anthony Boone to Thomas Sirk.

Overall, the ACC will feature not only strong quarterback play this coming year, but also young players who are looking to take that next big step in their careers. Let's check out the predictions for every starting quarterback in the ACC for the 2015 season.

Begin Slideshow

20 Best College Football Traditions

We're constantly looking for ways to make college football better, more modern and efficient. Yet when push comes to shove, it's the game's longstanding traditions that keep us coming back.

During this long nightmare that is the offseason, it's the customs and practices that get us through the doldrums. These traditions bring back memories of watching and attending games as a kid, when we first got interested in the sport and decided it was worthy of co-opting all of our Saturdays in the fall.

Even as college football is now played on nearly every day of the week—we're not complaining, by the way—and technological advances make the experience of watching from home nearly as real as being at the game, we still get chills for every old-school chant, (real) animal mascot and fan-fueled practice that has survived the test of time.

Click through for a trip down Memory Lane with the 20 best traditions in college football.

Begin Slideshow

High School Teams Loaded with Top 2016 College Football Recruits

While most fans know the top college powerhouses on the recruiting trail, there are also a handful of prep programs that have established themselves as factories that produce college talent.

Whether it’s a perennial power such as Serra High School in Gardena, California, or a relative newcomer such as IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, those programs are a few of the rare ones that have multiple 2016 prospects on the same team. 

IMG, in particular, has four prospects who rate among the top 40 of 247Sports' 2016 list of top recruits.

Which other high school teams are loaded with top 2016 college football recruits?

*Schools listed in alphabetical order.

Begin Slideshow

Oklahoma vs. Texas: Which Team Landed the Better ATH in 2015?

The Red River Rivalry is the setting for our recruiting breakdown. The Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners have been battling for years on the field and the recruiting trail.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down who got the better 3-star athlete in 2015 between Oklahoma's Dalton Wood and Texas' Breckyn Hager.

Who got the better player?

Watch the video and let us know!

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Coaches Whose Jobs Are on the Line in 2015

The hot seat was forgiving last season, although it did claim victims from a pair of college football blue-bloods (Brady Hoke at Michigan and Will Muschamp at Florida).

Still, look at some of the names who were coaching for their lives last year and succeeded. Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia. Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. Even Dan Mullen at Mississippi State heard whispers about job security two years ago.

The names on this list are in positions similar to those of Hoke, Muschamp, Holgorsen and Johnson (and kinda, sorta Mullen) last season. They have failed to reach their program's expectations, so if they don't right the ship, they'll be given the slip.

Sound off below and let us know what you think.

Begin Slideshow

2016 College Football Recruits Who Could Change a Program Instantly

Expectations are never easy to meet or exceed for top-tier college football recruits. Plenty of prospects featured in the 2016 recruiting class are poised to arrive on campus with lofty ambitions that set a high standard for fans of their new team.

Not every player is equipped with the poise and skill set to match the hype, but some do carry an ability to elevate the respective college team of their choice. Here's a look at several athletes capable of carrying those squads to another level based on talent and potential landing spot.

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Commit Shaun Wade Describes Becoming Kick Returner by Accident

Shaun Wade (Trinity Christian, Jacksonville) is a 4-star cornerback, as per 247Sports composite rankings, who is committed to Ohio State. Wade has a unique story about how he became his high school's kick returner.

Wade sits down with Bleacher Report to discuss his favorite play on his hype tape, as well as what makes him the best corner in the class of 2017.

What kind of impact can Shaun Wade have at Ohio State? 

Check out the video!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How Michigan State Is Becoming the Big Ten's New NFL Talent Factory

When Trae Waynes ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at Monday's NFL Scouting Combine, he cemented his status as the top cornerback in this year's draft, ensuring a second consecutive year that Michigan State would have a cornerback selected in the draft's first round.

But that's not all Waynes solidified for his alma mater.

The Spartans' rise to national prominence has coincided with the construction of a steady pipeline being built between East Lansing and the NFL. Michigan State alums now litter professional football, including three starting quarterbacks last season and the NFL's second-leading rusher.

A potential top-10 pick, Waynes will be the next former Spartan to join the NFL ranks, but with five other Michigan State players invited to last weekend's combine, he won't be alone. MSU has produced pro prospects on a consistent basis dating back to the 1930s but never at the rate it has in recent years, with Mark Dantonio taking the Spartans program to a new level.

"When you get a Michigan State kid coming off that defense," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said as he evaluated Waynes on a conference call, "he’s got [to be] a tough kid that will tackle that’s been well-coached."

Since Dantonio arrived in East Lansing in 2007, the Spartans have had 17 players selected in the draft, including six players picked in 2012. In 2014, Darqueze Dennard became the first Michigan State player to be selected with a first-round pick since the Detroit Lions took Charles Rogers second overall in 2003, but you can count on a heavy presence of Spartans in the first round of the draft in the coming years.

Not only is Waynes a lock to land in the draft's first 32 picks this spring, but early 2016 projections have Michigan State with three likely first-round picks. Quarterback Connor Cook could very well be the first signal-caller taken in next year's draft, while defensive end Shilique Calhoun and offensive tackle Jack Conklin each currently possess first-round grades, according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

"He was on my radar because I thought maybe he would come out, he had such a high grade. But by going back, you’re looking at the elite of the elite. Jack Conklin has a chance of being a very high first-round pick," Kiper said on a conference call with reporters in January. “Certainly the first offensive tackle off the board.”

Kiper essentially said the same of both Cook and Calhoun, stating that either could have been a first-round pick in 2015 but will only increase their respective draft stocks by returning to Michigan State for an additional season. As for this upcoming draft, the Spartans could see as many as nine players picked in the NFL's annual selection show.

In addition to Waynes, running back Jeremy Langford, safety Kurtis Drummond, linebacker Taiwan Jones and wide receivers Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery were each invited to participate in last weekend's combine. Defensive end Marcus Rush, punter Mike Sadler and running back Nick Hill are also on the radar of NFL teams and will get the chance to work out in front of scouts at Michigan State's pro day on March 18.

Of the players invited to the combine outside of Waynes, Langford did the most to boost his stock, running a 4.42 40-yard dash—the fastest of any running back in attendance. Kiper previously described Langford as a "fifth- or sixth-round type of guy," but the 6'0", 208-pounder's big weekend could move him to as high as the third or fourth round.

Of course, getting drafted is one thing, but sustaining success at the professional level is another. The Spartans, however, have enjoyed a bit of each in recent years, even from some unlikely sources.

Take for example the case of Brian Hoyer, the starting quarterback in Dantonio's first two seasons in East Lansing who signed with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2009. After backing up Tom Brady for three seasons and unsuccessful stints with the Steelers and Patriots, Hoyer landed a starting role with the Cleveland Browns, leading the team to a combined 10-6 record in 2013 and 2014 before being benched for Johnny Manziel late last season.

Hoyer, who joined Drew Stanton and Kirk Cousins as MSU alums to start at quarterback in the NFL last season, told Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com he credits Dantonio's development for his success at the next level.

"Other than Drew, we all played for Coach Dantonio, who I think has done a great job of turning that program around and getting things going there," Hoyer said. "We felt like we really kind of laid the foundation for where they're at right now."

The same could be said for Pro Bowl running back and 2013 second-round pick Le'Veon Bell, who played for the Spartans from 2010-12 and rushed for 1,361 yards and eight touchdowns for the Steelers in 2014. Last season, Michigan State laid claim to 29 NFL players, according to SportingChart.com.

With big showings expected in each of the next two drafts, that number should only climb as Dantonio continues to establish his program as one of the best in the country at producing pros. The Spartans still have some catching up to do with the likes of Ohio State (54 NFL players in 2014), Wisconsin (43 pros) and Michigan (35 pros), but they are trending in the right direction.

And as Wayne showed on Monday, they aren't showing signs of slowing down anytime soon—literally.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Felder Rant: Big Ten's Freshman Ineligibility Proposal Is an 'Empty Rule'

According to a recent story in The Diamondback, the Big Ten Conference is attempting to institute a rule in which freshmen will be required to sit out a year in both football and basketball. This would have huge ramifications in the college football world. 

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder gives his opinion on the "year of readiness" in the video above.

Do you think this is a good rule? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Wisconsin Releases Old Video of Chris Farley Showing Support for the Badgers

This is the only video the Wisconsin Badgers should show to prospects during the recruiting process.

If it doesn't get the job done, it just wasn't meant to be.

The Badgers recently released this old video of Chris Farley bringing back his legendary Matt Foley character in order to send a message to recruits. If a student is on the fence about committing to Wisconsin, this video should seal the deal.

Farley played the role of Foley—a motivational speaker—in a classic Saturday Night Live sketch:

[Wisconsin Badgers, Hulu; h/t College Spun]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Fact or Fiction: Will Nick Bosa Follow His Brother Joey to Ohio State?

The 2015 recruiting cycle has come to an end. Our attention turns to 2016 and a fresh crop of new recruits to examine. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee, Adam Kramer and Michael Felder debate some fact and fiction in regards to CFB recruiting. 

Would Jacob Eason be the No. 1 recruit in the 2015 class?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star Saivion Smith Commits to LSU, Tells B/R 'It Just Felt Good in My Heart'

Saivion Smith knew his recruiting process would come to an end shortly after arriving in Baton Rogue for LSU's junior day last weekend. 

"It just felt good in my heart," Smith told Bleacher Report. "Right away, I knew it was the place for me." 

Les Miles and the Tigers landed a huge commitment when Smith—rated as the nation's top-rated corner and the No. 6 player overall in the 2016 class—announced his commitment Tuesday on ESPNU.

The No. 2 prospect from the Sunshine State selected LSU over Clemson, Florida, Florida State and Virginia Tech among others.

His time in Baton Rouge and his relationship with the coaching staff are what sold him on becoming a Tiger.

"Everything from top to bottom was great," Smith said. "I loved the coaching staff up there. We had a great talk with Coach Miles and Coach [Corey] Raymond. When I went out there and was talking to the players, they told me the same thing the coaches told me. The ins and outs of school kind of sold me on LSU."

Another thing working in LSU's favor is its recent history with sending elite defensive backs into the NFL. With pledges from Smith and Kevin Toliver II in the last two cycles, LSU has now swiped the top corner prospect from Florida in consecutive seasons.

For his part, Toliver—who already enrolled at LSU last month—relayed his sentiments about Baton Rouge becoming a home for standout defensive backs.

"He just told me they work every day," Smith said. "It really is 'DBU.' Everybody there really respects that mantra. He told me that before I stepped foot on campus, and I saw that he was telling me like it is [when I was there]."

After transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, last year, the 6'1", 175-pounder burst onto the scene by registering 67 tackles, five interceptions and three forced fumbles. He also blocked three punts and scored six non-offensive touchdowns. Performances like the one he had against Toliver's Trinity Christian Academy squad are what propelled him to 5-star status, as noted by Barton Simmons of 247Sports.

For now, Smith—who mentioned plans to still use his official visits in the fall—will turn his focus to helping the Tigers build their 2016 class.

He won't have to look far in terms of finding talented prospects to recruit in hopes of getting them to join him at LSU.

IMG has a bevy of top recruits on its roster this season, and Smith mentioned teammates such as 5-star defensive end Shavar Manuel and 4-star corner Khalil Ladler—who accompanied him on his visit to LSU last weekend—as potential targets he's looking to work on. 

"Everybody is just congratulating me right now, and I'm trying to get them to come join me in Baton Rouge and win a national championship," Smith said.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand, and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Crimson Tide Winners and Losers from 2015 NFL Combine

Alabama’s NFL draft hopefuls have crossed another hurdle in their path to play at the highest level of football.

Eleven former Crimson Tide players went to Indianapolis this weekend to work out for NFL scouts and coaches at the NFL combine.

For a full list of results, you can head over to our Alabama combine tracker here.

But what do these results mean for some of these players? Who helped and who hurt themselves?

Let’s take a look at some winners and losers. All results and rankings come from NFL.com’s combine database.

 

Loser: Christion Jones

A bad year for Jones on the field only got worse on Saturday.

Jones’ 40-yard dash time of 4.63 seconds put him at No. 34 out of 39 receivers who ran the drill. He only beat players such as Division II Harding’s Donatella Luckett and Michigan’s Devin Funchess, who could end up playing tight end in the NFL.

Forty-yard dash times on their own shouldn’t be used to judge a prospect’s ability at the next level. But it’s troubling for the 5’10”, 182-pound Jones, who made his mark in college as a slot guy and a return man. Speed was supposed to be his asset, and he didn’t even put up an average score.

That led many to ask questions such as this, from Football Perspective’s Chase Stuart:

Indeed, this performance was near-unthinkable a year ago. Jones had 349 receiving yards in 2013 playing in a deep rotation and returned three punts and a kick back for a touchdown, including one of each in the season opener against Virginia Tech. He was a second-team AP All-SEC selection and tied for the first team on the coaches ballot.

After a disappointing season that saw a drop in receiving production and major struggles in the return game, this wasn’t the combine performance he needed.

 

Winner: DeAndrew White

Where one former Alabama receiver saw his draft stock fall in Indianapolis, another one did a lot to put some doubts to rest.

The big question for White coming into the weekend was how his speed would be affected by a major knee surgery he underwent during the 2012 season. Measuring in at 5’11”, 183 pounds, the former track star needed to show that his speed could still be an asset for him.

Consider those questions answered.

White ran a blazing 4.44, tied for No. 13 among the wide receivers alongside names such as Louisville's DeVonte Parker and Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong.

White likely won’t be a superstar in the NFL like his counterpart, Amari Cooper. But he has potential to carve out a long career as a reliable No. 2 or 3 wide receiver. His speed will make him more valuable for a team looking for a slot or return guy in the mid to late rounds.

 

Loser: Non-participants

Linebacker Trey DePriest and offensive guard Arie Kouandjio watched from the sidelines as their fellow former teammates ran the 40-yard dash, did the vertical jump and took part in the other measurables.

Kouandjio only went through offensive line drills and didn’t participate in media interviews, while DePriest didn’t do any on-field work at all after a postseason surgery for a torn meniscus, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Kouandjio did, though, get some good reviews from a former player he faced this season.

The pair are already projected mid- to late-round projections and could have helped themselves with big showings in front of scouts who may not have been paying them close attention in games loaded with other high-end talent.

Still, it’s not a death knell, either. They’ll get a chance to work out at Alabama’s pro day. An official date hasn’t been announced, but it is typically just before the start of spring practice, which begins on March 23 this year.

 

Winner: Alabama’s studs

Amari Cooper and Landon Collins solidified their status as future first-round picks with very strong showings at the combine.

Cooper turned in a 4.42 40-yard dash, a great time that backed up the speed he showed on the field.

And while West Virginia’s Kevin White—who is Cooper’s competition for first wide receiver off the board—slightly edged him with an official 4.36, a video of their runs synced up shows that Cooper may have actually run faster than White. Nothing like a good combine conspiracy.

Cooper also earned NFL.com’s “top performer” honors for his times in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.

Collins, meanwhile, ran the fifth-best 40 time of any safety at 4.53. It’s especially impressive considering he weighed in at 228 pounds and is a strong safety. That speed will show teams that he has the speed to run sideline to sideline, in addition to playing close to the line.

And Alabama didn’t waste any time touting Collins’ outing to potential recruits.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Saivion Smith Commits to LSU: 'Set Up to Dominate at Cornerback'

Saivion Smith, the No. 1 cornerback in the 2016 class, per 247Sports composite rankings, has officially committed to the LSU Tigers, according to 247Sports' Shea Dixon. What will his impact be at the next level for the Tigers?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down Smith's game and how he'll fit in Les Miles' defense. 

How will Smith fare at the next level? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football: Aggies Most Likely to Be Invited to 2016 NFL Combine

The Texas A&M football team has developed into a pipeline to the NFL under Kevin Sumlin, with 14 of his Aggies playing in the league in 2014. Texas A&M will continue to produce NFL talent and will likely have a number of players invited to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine in 2016.

There is more than one way to get into the NFL.

Of the 14 players Sumlin has put into the NFL, only seven of them heard their names called during the NFL draft. The other seven made teams as undrafted free agents.

Just because you do not get invited to the combine does not mean you will not play in the NFL. Wes Welker was not invited to the NFL combine after his career at Texas Tech yet became one of the most prolific wide receivers of all time.

The Aggies have a few players who will be invited to the NFL combine and even more who will sign with NFL teams in training camp in 2016.

This is a look at the Aggies who will likely be invited to the 2016 NFL combine. Since it is impossible to predict who will leave school early, this list will only include players who will be seniors during the 2015 season.

Begin Slideshow

Pages