NCAA Football

Florida Spring Game 2016: Live Score, Top Performers and Analysis

The Florida Gators are back on the field for the 2016 Orange & Blue Debut at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

SEC Network is broadcasting the scrimmage. Bleacher Report is providing scoring updates, analysis and top performers.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: Biggest Threats to Dethrone Alabama in 2016

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Even though the University of Alabama would go on to win the national championship, the moment wasn’t lost on Nick Saban.

It was December 5, Alabama had just knocked off Florida in the SEC Championship Game, 29-15, and the head coach was pausing to try to put it into perspective. His team had to win nine straight games just to get to Atlanta despite playing one of the toughest schedules in college football. 

“I don't think anybody really thought after the Ole Miss game this team would wind up here,” he said. “To be honest with you, I had some questions in my mind as to whether we'd wind up here.

“They responded every time in some very difficult places to play.”

Alabama didn’t just win the SEC title that day, it became the conference’s first repeat champion since Tennessee in 1997-98. Not even Saban’s 2011-12 national champions pulled that off.

It led to Steve Spurrier famously quipping during the 2012 edition of SEC media days: “It’s easier to win the national championship than the SEC, ask Nick Saban.”

The now-retired “Head Ball Coach” did have a point. Alabama was fresh off winning the national crown without having played for the league title. After losing to LSU in overtime during the regular season, it finally got a shot at a rematch in the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans and won convincingly, 21-0.

Meanwhile, the last repeat winners in the other major conferences are (* indicates co-champion):

  • Big Ten: Wisconsin 2010-12.
  • ACC: Florida State 2012-14.
  • Big-12: Baylor 2013*-14
  • Pac-12: Stanford 2012-13

Bret Bielema was the head coach of the Badgers—which, like the Florida State Seminoles, actually won their league title three straight years (2010 the first)—but he hasn’t come close yet to matching that at Arkansas. In three seasons, his teams are 18-20 overall, 7-17 in league play. 

Last year, Alabama faced nine teams that were ranked in the Associated Press Poll when they played, the most of any national champion (previously held by LSU in 2007 with eight but had only one opponent in the top five), and 12 teams that were ranked at some point of the season.

Moreover, it had to play the top three teams in the SEC East en route to the conference crown.

“Our league is a tough league, and we beat each other up,” Saban said.

Consequently, any list of teams that could dethrone Alabama from atop the SEC could easily include Arkansas, Auburn and Florida, but here are the strongest challengers heading into the 2016 season:

 

1. LSU

A lot of people will make the mistake of overlooking the Tigers, thinking the problems in the passing game are nothing new and Les Miles won’t be able to fix them enough to beat Alabama. However, it’s not like Miles or offensive coordinator Cam Cameron have never had a successful passing game before. 

After LSU’s passing game ranked No. 105 in the nation last season, the question isn’t if it’ll be better but how much. Considering the talent level of wide receivers Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, it may be a lot, but just a little bump would be problematic for defenses that already have to deal with running back Leonard Fournette.

 

2. Tennessee

The Volunteers will be a popular pick to win the SEC East after winning their last six games of 2015, and the four losses were by a total of 17 points—including two to eventual playoff teams (Alabama and Oklahoma).

The team returns nearly every starter, including quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who has to do a better job of completing passes downfield to help out the running back. Nevertheless, it might be a make-or-break season for head coach Butch Jones, who desperately needs to draw attention away from the program’s off-field issues.

 

3. Ole Miss

The natural reaction is to have Ole Miss higher on this list, as it defeated the Crimson Tide in both 2014 and 2015 and will be home for this year’s meeting on Sept. 17. Last season, the Rebels caught Alabama before it had an established starting quarterback and might have that advantage again.

Chad Kelly is widely considered to be the league’s best quarterback. However, even with better depth, the Rebels have a lot of big names to replace on both sides of the ball and all five offensive line starters from the Sugar Bowl. The season opener against Florida State in Orlando will be telling.

 

4. Georgia

The Bulldogs are coming off a 10-win season but have a new coaching staff, running back Nick Chubb is a question mark following knee surgery, there’s a quarterback battle and the defensive front seven has to be almost completely revamped.

That’s a lot for any team to overcome, even for the ones that don’t have a first-time head coach. We’ll learn a lot about Georgia’s potential during a three-game stretch beginning Sept. 24, when it visits Ole Miss, hosts Tennessee and then travels to South Carolina.

 

5. Texas A&M

If you’re looking for a sleeper pick in the SEC, it’s A&M. It has a new offensive coordinator in Noel Mazzone, and Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight, the only active quarterback not named Kelly to beat Alabama, will lead it.

A&M’s defense was so bad two years ago that it went from being ranked No. 102 in the nation (455.4 yards per game) to No. 51 last season (380.0). Expect it to take another step forward under the direction of defensive coordinator John Chavis.

  

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Bans Football Satellite Camps: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The NCAA banned football satellite camps, effective immediately, in accordance with Friday's ruling by the Division I Council. 

According to Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer, FBS football programs are now required to hold camps at their own facilities:

Tate Martell, a 5-star Texas A&M quarterback commit, per 247Sports, reacted negatively to the news on Twitter:

Satellite camps rose to prominence last summer due largely to Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh. His practices came under fire, however, particularly from SEC and ACC coaches who were not permitted by their conferences to hold camps farther than 50 miles from campus, per ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman.

When asked about the camps in June 2015, Harbaugh made his beliefs quite clear, according to George Schroeder of USA Today: "In my America, you're allowed to cross the state borders. That's the America I know."

While some argued that the satellite camps provided an unfair recruiting advantage, Alabama head coach Nick Saban was among those who questioned if they made a significant difference, per John Talty of AL.com:

I'm really not even thinking that it has that much value. What would be a more interesting question for you to research—and I can't answer this—the teams that have done them, what value does it serve? How many players did they get? They had some players commit to them and some of those players decommitted, and I know they even wanted to drop some of those players when they found out they could get better players.

Brett McMurphy of ESPN reported, per a source, that the ACC, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12, MWC and Sun Belt all voted against satellite camps, while the Big 10, AAC, Conference USA and MAC all voted in favor.

While Harbaugh wasn't the only coach to conduct satellite camps, he was undoubtedly the face of the operation due to his outspokenness on the matter.

The divisive coach has yet to comment on the NCAA's decision, but he'll have no choice other than to abide by it despite his beliefs.

Even though the elimination of satellite camps takes a tool out of Michigan's repertoire, there is still a lot for Wolverines fans to be excited about, as Harbaugh led the team to a 10-3 record last season with a roster that was mostly devoid of his own recruits.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame vs. Texas' Week 1 Game Rescheduled from Saturday to Sunday Night

Many college football fans are eagerly anticipating Notre Dame's regular-season opener at Texas because the contest will showcase the winner of the Fighting Irish's quarterback competition.

But we must wait one day longer than anticipated.

Notre Dame announced the clash—which was scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 3—will be played on Sunday night. Kickoff time and broadcast details are to be announced for the now-Sept. 4 tilt.

"A game of the magnitude of Notre Dame-Texas, played on the opening weekend of the college football season, deserves a special place on the Labor Day sports calendar," Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick said, per the release.

ESPN's Matt Fortuna provided statements from Texas athletic director Mike Perrin and head coach Charlie Strong.

Special timing for games on Labor Day weekend has become commonplace, especially when the NFL regular season doesn't start until the following week.

However, the Monday night game has typically served as the headliner. In 2014, Miami battled Louisville. Last season, Virginia Tech hosted Ohio State. This year, Ole Miss and Florida State will square off on a neutral site.

Sunday has usually lacked a nationally-relevant matchup, considering the outings recently included Purdue-Marshall (2015) as well as Baylor-SMU and Tennessee-Utah State (2014).

Not so this year.

The 2016 meeting will be the 12th in series history. Notre Dame currently holds a 9-2 series lead, including a five-game winning streak that began in 1971.

Last season, Malik Zaire threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns, helping head coach Brian Kelly's team hammer the Longhorns 38-3. DeShone Kizer was merely an afterthought at the time, but Zaire's campaign ended due to a broken right ankle the next week.

Zaire and Kizer will continue vying for the No. 1 spot throughout the spring and summer. Coach Kelly might not even make a decision on the starter before the Irish invade Austin.

The winner of the competition—or, perhaps, the first one in the rotation to go under center—will be the focal point of the prime-time game.

Once the meeting is over, Notre Dame's players and students who made the trip must return to South Bend for class on Monday.

Granted, the process of changing flights and hotel reservations is probably worth the hassle for Fighting Irish supporters.

And we already know the athletic departments will have increased exposure and benefit on the bottom line—assuredly the primary reason Notre Dame vs. Texas is switching to a Sunday night game.

Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Football Q&A: Who's the B1G's Dark-Horse National Title Contender?

Michigan's spring game has come and gone, Northwestern and Minnesota will each play their annual exhibitions this weekend and before you know it, we'll officially be in the longest—and least eventful—portion of the college football offseason: summer conditioning.

So while college football is still in the news—at least as much as it can be during spring practice—let's enjoy it with another edition of Big Ten Q&A. This week we'll tackle the conference's national championship dark horse, the best Big Ten sleeper pick in the upcoming NFL draft, the league's most overrated and underrated teams and whether one Big Ten team was more talented than a certain NFL roster was a year ago?

As always, you can send your questions to me each week on Twitter @BenAxelrod.

Let's get started.

 

Outside of the Buckeyes and Wolverines, I actually do think there is one other Big Ten team capable of making a national title run in 2016.

But after the way Iowa closed its 2015 campaign, the reality is that I have no idea what to make of the Hawkeyes' prospects in the coming year.

Starting with the negative, Iowa's 45-16 loss to Stanford in January's Rose Bowl left plenty of doubt about the program being on the same level as college football's elite while simultaneously lending credence to the theory that the Hawkeyes' 12-0 regular-season record was more of a matter of happenstance than sustainable progress in the program.

If Iowa looked so overmatched on the national stage, how could it be counted on in a playoff scenario where it would not only be forced to face a team as talented as Stanford, but also one as dominant as Alabama or Clemson?

At the same time, however, the Hawkeyes have a lot working in their favor in 2016.

Most notably, Iowa will return 72 percent of its production on both offense and defense from 2015, according to SBNation's Bill Connelly. That's good for the third-most returning production in all the Big Ten in 2016 and the most of any team in the league to possess a winning record a year ago.

Quarterback C.J. Beathard will be back in Iowa City, as will Thorpe Award-winning cornerback Desmond King. Perhaps most importantly, Wisconsin, arguably Iowa's biggest threat in the Big Ten West, faces a schedule so tough in the coming year that it's tough to imagine the Badgers being in the hunt for the division crown by year's end.

Conversely, the Hawkeyes' schedule is much more manageable, with matchups with Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska all coming inside the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium. If Iowa can survive that and pull off what would likely be an upset in the conference title game over the representative from the superior Big Ten East, the Hawkeyes could find themselves in the College Football Playoff after missing out on football's final four by just one game a year ago.

From there, anything could happen. But after last season's Rose Bowl, I'm not necessarily holding my breath on an Iowa national title run in 2016.

 

Here are a few mid-late-round Big Ten prospects to keep an eye on:

 

Carl Nassib, Penn State

It's rare that a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year with 15.5 sacks in his senior season would fly under the radar. But given his status as a former walk-on and questions as to whether or not he was even the best defensive lineman on the Nittany Lions roster last season, that's exactly where Carl Nassib finds himself at the moment.

While he's currently projected by CBSSports.com as a second- or third-rounder, you can't teach 6'7", 277 pounds. You also don't tally 15.5 sacks by accident—so don't be surprised if Nassib makes an instant impact in his college career.

 

Aaron Burbridge, Michigan State

After a largely inconsistent career in East Lansing, Aaron Burbridge saved his best for last, catching 85 balls for 1,258 yards and seven touchdowns in his senior season. Still, questions about his lack of consistency and injury history haunt him, as he's currently projected as a third-fourth round pick by CBSSports.com.

A former 4-star prospect, Burbridge has the talent and, as last season showed, is more than capable of making an impact when he's on the field. If he can manage to continue to do just that, an NFL team could find itself with a first-round talent in one of the middle rounds.

 

Nick Vannett, Ohio State

Ohio State's use of its tight ends—or lack thereof—has been a long-running joke in Columbus, and Nick Vannett's production over the course of his college career shows why. Despite his apparent talent, the 6'6", 260-pounder only caught 55 balls for 535 yards and six touchdowns over the course of his four seasons with the Buckeyes.

As a result of his lack of production, Vannett's draft stock has slid, with CBSSports.com currently projecting him to be a third-round pick. But according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, he's comparable to at least one former first-rounder, which could make him another potential steal in the upcoming draft.

 

Starting with the overrated, I'm going to go with Wisconsin, although as a whole I really like the Badgers roster and the direction of their program. Despite his disappointing junior campaign, I believe Corey Clement will achieve star status in 2015 and that Bart Houston should fill in seamlessly for Joe Stave at quarterback.

That schedule, however, is too much to ignore.

Even aside from a season opener against LSU, I can't imagine a Big Ten team ever having a tougher start to conference play than Wisconsin has in 2016. Not only are the Badgers' three cross-divisional games this season against the three best teams in the Big Ten East (Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State) but Wisconsin starts its Big Ten slate with those three games, in order.

After that, it doesn't get much easier, with a trip to Iowa City to face the defending Big Ten West champion, Iowa, on October 22. As talented as Wisconsin is, a 2-6 start to the season isn't out of the realm of possibility.

As far as underrated goes, I've already made the case for Nebraska as the potential Big Ten West champ, so let me give you another team from the division to keep an eye on: Minnesota.

Despite last season's 5-7 regular season record, I still like the direction the Golden Gophers are heading, as last year's disappointing results can largely be blamed on the mess that came with former head coach Jerry Kill being forced to step down due to health reasons midseason. As Kill's former defensive coordinator, new Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys can allow the Gophers to maintain continuity while still putting his own updated stamp on the program.

With quarterback Mitch Leidner back for his third season as a starter, Minnesota should have a shot at contending for the division crown this season. In total, the Big Ten West should be a lot better than most people think—even with the Badgers' brutal schedule.

 

This question was written in jest—I think—and in reference to how often Cleveland Browns fans clamor for their favorite team to pick players from nearby Ohio State.

But given that the Buckeyes could have as many as seven players picked in the first round later this month, there's actually something to explore here.

As early as the Browns preseason last summer, it struck me just how little talent their roster possessed compared to the defending national champion (Ohio State) I was in the midst of covering. It seems that every year it gets asked whether or not a college team could beat an NFL team and each time the answer is a resounding "no."

But as far as whose roster I'd rather have moving forward, I could certainly make a compelling case for the Buckeyes.

Just look at it from a position-by-position breakdown as far as Ohio State's draft-eligible players are concerned:

Would you rather have Robert Griffin III or Cardale Jones? I could argue that's a wash.

Isaiah Crowell or Ezekiel Elliott? I'm definitely taking Elliott.

Brian Hartline, Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel or Mike Thomas, Braxton Miller and Jalin Marshall? Give me the Buckeyes.

Gary Barnidge or Nick Vannett? I'd stick with Barnidge.

Joe Thomas or Taylor Decker? Given age and Decker's status as a likely first-round pick, I'd take him.

Barkevious Mingo, Paul Kruger and Danny Shelton or Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington and Darron Lee? I'd take the Ohio State players.

Joe Haden, Tramon Williams and Justin Gilbert or Eli Apple, Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell? I'd give the Browns the edge, but it's closer than you'd think.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if the Browns were to flip rosters with the Buckeyes, they actually might be in better shape moving forward than they are now.

Now I guess the real question is whether that says more about the rosters in Cleveland or Columbus at the moment.

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Starting Quarterbacks Most Likely to Lose Their Jobs Before End of 2016

Spring football is a time for competition. Fifteen practices and no games to prepare for give college football coaches a chance to push players who they aren’t happy with or give younger players an opportunity to win a starting role. The quarterback position is not immune from this phenomenon.

Each spring, programs across America hold quarterback competitions for a variety of reasons—a former starter returning from injury, an ineffective starter, the graduation of the previous starter o the separation of two similar players. This spring is no different.

A number of intriguing, high-profile competitions are taking place, and some are certain to shuffle the starting quarterback ranks while ruffling some feathers. Here’s a look at 10 starting quarterbacks who are most likely to lose their jobs by the end of the 2016 season, if not well before.

Begin Slideshow

Early 2016 Win-Loss Record Projections for Every SEC Football Team

It's never too early to make predictions, and you'd better believe around water coolers and chat rooms across the Southeast that folks are talking about how their favorite SEC football teams are going to fare once September rolls around.

So, why can't we go ahead and make our way-too-early predictions?

Everybody wants to know whether Alabama can repeat as the national champion. Which Florida will show up in '16—the one that started so hot or the one that couldn't muster any points as the season progressed?

What will Georgia look like without Mark Richt on the sideline during the Kirby Smart regime? Can Barry Odom return Missouri to its SEC East-leading form of 2013 and '14 after Gary Pinkel's final season in Columbia was disastrous?

The other Columbia didn't fare too well either in Steve Spurrier's finale. Is Will Muschamp the answer?

Tennessee (again) has tons of hype surrounding it, and Ole Miss looks like a full-fledged yearly contender under coach Hugh Freeze, but the Rebels still need to get to Atlanta for the first time in order for us to take them seriously.

With a top-tier nonconference slate, the league will try to prove its dominance once again after a strong bowl showing in 2015. There is a ton of quarterback and coaching turnover, but the SEC appears primed to flex its talent superiority again.

Let's take a look at what could be in store for every program once spring practice, summer workouts and fall camp give way to real football.

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Football: Can Mike Weber Emerge as the Buckeyes' Featured RB?

Ohio State has fielded one of the most devastatingly productive rushing attacks in the country since 2012—the year Urban Meyer took over as head coach—and much of that success is tied directly to the Buckeyes' featured running back.

From 2012-13, that role belonged to Carlos Hyde, who rumbled his way to 2,689 total yards and 35 touchdowns.

Over the last two seasons, it was Ezekiel Elliott who led the charge, and he put together historically great numbers with 4,125 total yards and 41 touchdowns from 2014-15.

With Elliott making an early jump to the NFL, Meyer and the Buckeyes have a lot of questions in their backfield.

Mike Weber is trying to emerge as the answer.

The 5'10", 215-pound bulldozer was rated as a high 4-star prospect for the class of 2015, and he became one of the crown jewels of last year's Ohio State recruiting haul when he chose Meyer over Jim Harbaugh and the home-state Michigan Wolverines.

It didn't take Weber long to show his talent.

In fall camp last year, Weber shot up the depth chart despite being part of the program for a couple of months. He flexed his muscle in one of Ohio State's fall scrimmages, saying he ran the ball 15 times for nearly 200 yards with "a few touchdowns," according to Dave Biddle of 247Sports.

Everything was lining up for him to become Elliott's primary backup and get some playing time in his first season in Columbus.

He was the second true freshman to lose his black stripe, joining offensive tackle Isaiah Prince as an official member of the team, and he factored in as a nice change-of-pace back to the lightning-fast Elliott.

But Weber suffered a torn meniscus that required surgery before the start of the season, an injury that was expected to cost him three to four weeks, per Eleven Warriors' Eric Seger. But that, paired with Elliott's ability to carry the load, led to a redshirt and a season on the sideline for the talented running back.

That setback gave Weber the opportunity to sit back and learn from one of the most productive running backs in school history, and after Ohio State's 44-28 thrashing of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, he talked about his lost year and expectations for 2016, according to Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com:

I started off really good. I kind of caught on to the college speed of the game really quick and was basically running the ball really good. The injury slowed me down a little bit. It kind of set me back this whole year and maybe pushed me toward a redshirt.

But if I had to do it again, I'd be a redshirt because I learned from Zeke and the guys in front of me. I just sat back and watched those guys. I am just going to let it all loose next year.

Now that he's fully healthy, he's vying to become the next great running back under Meyer at Ohio State. But he's in the thick of a heated position battle with senior Bri'onte Dunn, a career backup who's not taking what is likely his last opportunity for a starting position lightly.

With spring practice winding down, neither Weber nor Dunn have surged ahead to become the clear starter, and questions about whether Ohio State should implement a two-headed running back attack have surfaced.

"Will we get to that point? I don't know," Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford said, according to Seger. "I guess the question you're asking is if we'll do it by committee? I don't have that answer right now."

Alford expanded more on what each running back brings to the offense.

"Mike’s probably a little more of a slasher," Alford said, via Tony Gerdeman of The Ozone. "He slides off of things a little better than Bri’onte. Bri’onte is more of a downhill, just a plugger. They both can do the jobs that we need them to do in this offense."

If Weber proves to be more of a home run hitter, he'd be the better fit for a featured role in an offense that's replacing eight starters from last year's team.

And if recent history is any indication, Weber could be in for some huge numbers in 2016 and beyond.

 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Biggest Recruiting Visits Planned for Spring Football Games

Spring games present an opportunity for college football coaching staffs to gauge roster strengths and weaknesses well in advance of the season. These events are also key in recruiting efforts, as prospects across the country join fans in the bleachers for an early look at 2016 squads. 

Several premier high school playmakers will be on the move during upcoming weekends, and their on-campus experiences could prove pivotal when decisions are finalized on national signing day. Here's a look at 10 coveted recruits expected to attend spring games.

Begin Slideshow

Best Neutral-Site Games for 2016 College Football Season

Whether you view them as a necessary evil or a fun growing tradition in college football, neutral-site games are bigger than ever before.

More and more powerhouses across the country are meeting up at NFL stadiums or other monstrous venues to square off in early-season showdowns that command plenty of eyeballs and revenue. 

But the concept of a neutral-site game isn't new by any stretch. Some historic rivalry games between bitter foes have been contested at off-campus sites for years now, and they always seem to provide atmospheres unlike any other.

In 2016, college football's jam-packed opening weekend will nearly reach double digits in neutral-site games, returning to familiar sites such as AT&T Stadium and the Georgia Dome. Other games will start new trends elsewhere, including a historic NFL stadium and, a week later, a NASCAR race track.

Here are the 10 best neutral-site games coming our way in the 2016 season, listed in order by date. Tell us which ones you're looking forward to the most in the comments below. 

Begin Slideshow

College Football Rivalry Games That Won't Even Be Close in 2016

Rivalry games in college football tend to transcend records, throwing those aside to put center stage the passion between (and hatred toward) schools who share a long playing history. Regardless of how the rest of the year goes, winning a rivalry game makes for a memorable season.

Too bad some of these games are apt to be quite one-sided in 2016.

For every rivalry game that goes down to the wire, there will be some that aren't even close. This is because one of the principles is much better than the other, and though anything can happen in these games, right now they have the potential of being lopsided.

Begin Slideshow

4-Star WR Tarik Black Breaks Down Top 5, Upcoming Visit Plans

Scholarship offers piled up for prized Connecticut prospect Tarik Black during the past two years. The 4-star wide receiver, facing a rapidly intensifying recruitment, opted to simplify things last weekend.

"This recruiting process has become pretty overwhelming, so I decided it was time to narrow it down and take some stress off myself," he told Bleacher Report.

Black, a 6'4", 208-pound junior at Cheshire Academy, elected to announce five favorites on Twitter:

The list features, alphabetically, Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Stanford and UCLA. At this stage, no member of the group has gained significant separation.

"All these schools are high on academics, have great football programs with excellent coaches who can help develop me into the receiver that I want to be and get me into the league," he said. "It makes it tough for me because all these schools pretty much have what I'm looking for."

Black has visited each top option at least once, with multiple trips to Michigan. Though this collection of schools is currently under his concentrated focus, he mentioned Georgia, Nebraska, Michigan State and Miami as teams that could make an impact if he's able to spend time on campus down the line. 

Though no dates are locked in at this stage, Black plans to be busy later this spring and into the summer. He hopes to develop a travel itinerary that takes him back to every favorite, aiming to attend as many camps as possible in order to develop a stronger feel for each respective coaching staff.

Black doesn't have a decision timeline in place and ultimately expects to use all five of his official visits.

"You only have one chance to go through this process, so it's important to make the most out of it and really understand your options," he said. 

Black, rated No. 15 among receivers and No. 95 overall in 247Sports' composite rankings, burst onto the scene as an underclassman. He tallied 97 total receptions as a freshman and sophomore, per MaxPreps, including 21 touchdown catches.

We documented his impressive skill set during film studies earlier this year as part of Bleacher Report's CFB Future 100 breakdown:

This level of hip fluidity is typically reserved for receivers of a smaller stature, setting him apart from several contemporaries who stand in the 6'4" range. His route running is legitimately polished, and Black effectively incorporates savvy shoulder shimmies that throw defenders off his beat for brief moments, often providing him with a stride or two of cushion as the quarterback targets him downfield.

Black broke down each team in his top five during a discussion with B/R, providing a glimpse of what stands out about each program.

 

Alabama

The Crimson Tide extended a scholarship offer before the end of his sophomore year, creating major buzz for Black on a national stage. Wisconsin, West Virginia and Virginia Tech each offered within a week of Alabama.

"They came in really early in my recruiting process," he said. "When a big school does that you appreciate it a lot. It was the offer that made me kind of blow up in recruiting."

Black pointed to the program's recent prolific pass-catchers as proof of what's possible in Tuscaloosa.

"That coaching staff can make me the best receiver I can be," he said. "Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley made a ton of plays down the field there. If you play there, you can win a title and get into the league, so that's very intriguing."

 

Michigan

The Wolverines land on yet another top prospect's list of favorites, serving further evidence of the momentum Michigan has built following a 10-win season and a top-five 2016 recruiting class. Black admits he was impressed by the swift rebound enjoyed in Ann Arbor last fall.

"Looking back at Michigan before [head coach Jim] Harbaugh got there, they've progressed so much," he said. "That has a lot to do with the coaching staff he put together. They have NFL experience. Michigan is on the rise and I can definitely see them being a national title contender within the next two years or so."

Though he's yet to establish substantial communication with 5-star Wolverines quarterback commit Dylan McCaffrey, Black is looking for a situation much like what Michigan is developing on its depth chart.

"I definitely want to play with a pro-style QB. That's just my preference," he said. 

McCaffrey is rated No. 1 overall among pro-style passers in the 2017 composite rankings. Brandon Peters, a Wolverines freshman who enrolled early, was No. 6 at the position in 2016's composite rankings and earned recognition as a U.S. Army All-American Player of the Year finalist.

 

Notre Dame

Black is searching for well-rounded universities and believes it's difficult to contend with Notre Dame in that department. He pointed to the school's blend of education, career development and football tradition as main motivating factors to feature it as a favorite.

"Their academics are great and the networking is global," he said. "From a football aspect, they're always top 10 in the country, they pass the ball a lot and the coaching staff does a great job."

His interest also arises from the Fighting Irish's unique scheduling situation. Black knows a career at Notre Dame would include a widespread slate of opponents, along with the national spotlight. 

"I like that they're independent because you get to play teams from the ACC, Pac-12 and all over the place," he said. "That's definitely a plus."

 

Stanford

In his search for an academic fit, Black acknowledges Stanford has few peers on the recruiting trail.

"It's like the Harvard of the West Coast," he said.

He journeyed to Palo Alto in late February for a junior-day event, gaining a positive sense of the school's community.

"When I was out there, I really enjoyed the atmosphere," Black said. "They were very welcoming and I can definitely tell that I'm a priority for them. They haven't offered many receivers. I like their pro-style offense and think that could be a good fit for me."

Stanford signed No. 3 pro-style passer KJ Costello in February and, last month landed a commitment from coveted Georgia quarterback Davis Mills. Rated No. 4 among pro-style prospects in the 2017 rankings, Mills developed a connection with Black early in high school.

They teamed up as freshmen competitors in a youth All-American game, maintaining contact since. Mills and Black attended Stanford's junior day together and their rapport could play a big role in this recruitment.

"I have a great relationship with Davis and he's definitely on me right now to go to Stanford," Black said.

 

UCLA

The Bruins present another legitimate landing spot on the West Coast. Along with pleasant weather and Pac-12 competition, Black pointed directly at UCLA's starting quarterback as motivation to explore the program further.

Josh Rosen, rated the No. 1 overall quarterback recruit in 2015, largely lived up to immense hype as a true freshman in Los Angeles. He completed 60 percent of pass attempts for 3,670 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Viewed long term as a potential top-tier NFL draft pick, Rosen may ultimately be tempted to depart college early in 2018. Regardless of how that dynamic plays out, Black is compelled by the possibility of running routes for one of the country's premier young passers. 

"They throw the ball a lot with Josh Rosen, so any receiver should be interested," he said. "If I was to go there, I could get at least a year in with him."

 

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. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages