NCAA Football

Notre Dame Flips 4-Star LB Josh Barajas from Penn State, What Move Means for ND

Penn State built plenty of recruiting momentum throughout the spring, but one of its key early commits has changed his plans. The Nittany Lions lost a pledge from 4-star linebacker Josh Barajas on Friday morning when he flipped to Notre Dame, according to Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

The 6'3", 210-pound prospect initially pledged to Penn State on March 30, capping off a two-week stretch that featured four 4-star commitments for James Franklin. His decision to back out of that verbal pact is a rare negative recruiting blow for the first-year head coach.

Notre Dame's Brian Kelly provided a social media jab in the aftermath:

Kelly and the Fighting Irish land a versatile defender who holds an expansive list of scholarship offers. Tennessee, Michigan, Oregon and Missouri are among teams who also pursued the Merrillville, Indiana prospect.

Barajas is rated No. 4 nationally among inside linebacker prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings. He is the top-ranked 2015 prospect in Indiana.

His junior season at Andrean High School included 92 tackles and five sacks. Barajas also intercepted a pair of passes.

He is an explosive run-stuffer who possesses the necessary frame to thrive as a pass-rusher in Notre Dame's defensive scheme. The Irish add an in-state talent capable of contributing immediately when he arrives on campus.

The university's proximity and past success played a key role in his choice to flip from Penn State, per Andrean head coach Phil Mason.

"When talking about tradition in college football, Notre Dame is the first thing that pops in your mind," Mason told Wiltfong. "Being close to home and playing on the national stage, and I can't say enough about the coaching staff."

New Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder arrived in South Bend after serving as linebackers coach with the New York Jets. He added a promising young pupil Friday morning.

According to a tweet from, Mason compared Barajas' impact abilities to another former Indiana high school standout:

Jaylon Smith, a 5-star 2013 Notre Dame signing, became the first Irish linebacker to start his career-opening game since 1995. He finished his freshman season as an unquestionable rising national star.

Those are lofty expectations to live up to for Barajas, who until today appeared headed to the place they call "Linebacker U." Barajas is Kelly's first pledge at the position during this cycle.

The Irish also remain in the mix for 5-star Cincinnati linebacker Justin Hilliard. Notre Dame holds nine commitments in the 2015 class, which rates 14th nationally in 247Sports' composite team rankings


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

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Satellite Recruiting Camps Good for Kids and That's All That Should Matter

If SEC coaches and admins had it their way, Penn State coach James Franklin would never leave Big Ten country to coach in a summer camp. 

According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy and Edward Aschoff, Franklin, formerly Vanderbilt's head coach, and his staff plan on coaching prospects at Georgia State (Atlanta, Georgia) and Stetson (Deland, Florida) camps in June. 

Franklin's smart to do so. He's taking advantage of a loophole within an NCAA rule ( that limits where football programs can run high school camps. Basically, a program can't leave its state to operate a camp located more than 50 miles from campus. 

But there's nothing in the rule that says coaches can't work at those camps.

Franklin is hardly the first coach to do it. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has done it in the state of Texas, as profiled by Dan Wetzel and Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports in 2013. 

Taking advantage of the loophole makes sense for Gundy and his staff, who heavily recruit Texas prospects. Joining camps at GSU and Stetson also makes sense for Franklin's staff, as they try to build Penn State's brand in the Southeast. 

Traveling to Georgia and Florida, the heart of SEC country, gives Penn State's coaches an opportunity to see players they may not have otherwise seen before. Maybe a handful of kids will seriously consider the Nittany Lions because of it. Some may even eventually sign. 

Guest coaching at camps isn't the same thing as taking an unofficial visit, as Bud Elliot of SB Nation Recruiting tweets. That's a big part of the experience of taking a campus visit. 

But taking unofficial visits are expensive. Not every recruit and their family can afford to do it. Official visits, which are paid by the school, aren't permitted until a prospect's senior year of high school. By allowing guest coaches to work camps anywhere in the country, face-to-face visits can take place sooner.

The evaluation process would be better because of that. 

Recruiting is at its best when kids have as many options as possible and are able to interact with as many coaches as possible—not the other way around. 

The reason the SEC is miffed is because it has a rule prohibiting what coaches like Franklin and Gundy are doing. Alabama's coaching staff can't appear at camp in Dallas, Texas, for example. As a result, the conference views guest coaches as an invasion of sorts. 

"That's our backyard, so anytime those things happen, your eyes and ears perk up to say, 'What do we need to address [the issue] if that's a hindrance,'" Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said (via Schlabach). "If it's a competitive disadvantage, then we need to look at it."

It's borderline unfathomable to think of the SEC as being at a competitive disadvantage at anything, but there's data that supports Bjork's concern. 

College Football Matrix compiled heat maps showing where SEC (via USA Today) and Big Ten schools get their recruits. As you'd expect, the SEC rarely has to venture far for players, while the Big Ten would like nothing more than to break further into the Southeastern region. 

Of course, one option for the SEC is to simply lift their rule, not force everyone else to comply with its policy. Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated expands on that idea

So, can the nation's coaches and athletic directors, most of whom have spent their entire professional lives as part of a system in which the solution to any problem is to make more rules, handle a system that treats them like adults and expects them to act accordingly? The SEC's reaction to the Franklin conundrum suggests those groups aren't quite ready to handle the freedom they're about to receive.

Change is a hard concept in college athletics. Even as power conferences push toward autonomy within the NCAA, fear of what other conferences/schools might do is enough to table just about any deregulated legislation.

By lifting the rule, though, LSU could send coaches to a camp in St. Louis, or Tennessee's coaches could help out in Los Angeles. Suddenly, a kid in California who never considered the Vols before realizes he has the best connection with the team's running backs coach. By the time that kid makes an official visit to Knoxville his senior year, he has a better idea of what to expect. 

For some prospects, the recruiting process is a narrow scope. Some kids know they're bound for a certain school the moment they're offered a scholarship. But for many others, the process is far more open. It would behoove any recruit to interact with as many different coaches as possible. 

At most, players will generally get five years of college. It's a time to be enjoyed, so recruits should open up as many options as possible while they can. It'll be the last time they have those options. 

The SEC should hop on board with that philosophy.


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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USC Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season

College football is still three months away, but with summer on the horizon, fans can start getting excited for what's to come in August. 

For USC, the Trojans are looking to start Steve Sarkisian's inaugural season as head coach on the right foot, and to generate as much excitement at the start of 2014 as they ended with in 2013. The Trojans will have a decent amount of depth this season thanks to an influx of talent coming in later this summer, something they haven't had during these sanctioned years. USC has all the pieces to have a good 2014 campaign, and a pretty favorable schedule to work with. 

Here's an early look at USC's 2014 schedule, with game-by-game predictions for each tilt. 

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USC Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season

College football is still three months away, but with summer on the horizon, fans can start getting excited for what's to come in August...

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Making the Case for Major College Football Conferences to Drop Divisions

With all the bellyaching about the recent decisions by the SEC and ACC to keep eight-game conference schedules, a most important point was largely missed. The scheduling setup makes competition within those conferences unfair.

Whenever there's an imbalance in the strengths of the conference's divisions, the race for the championship will become lopsided. Essentially, you'll rarely get the two best teams to play in the conference championship games.

And on top of that there's also the issue of preserving the familiarity and cohesion within the conferences. When the SEC decided to adopt the 6-1-1 model, with seven of the eight conference games permanently set, it meant that six teams within your own conference won't set foot on your campus for an entire decade. In the case of the ACC, teams will see Notre Dame—technically not a member—more often than a few actual member schools.

There is an easy way to fix this, and it's already been put on the table: College football should dump divisions.

College basketball has been getting along just fine without divisions, even though some leagues have as many as 16 teams. Only three of the 32 conferences employ divisions, and none of the major conferences do.

The divisions came into existence in 1992 when then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer exploited a little-known NCAA bylaw in order to stage a conference championship game after the SEC expanded to 12 teams. All other major conferences followed suit. But as realignment made conferences bigger—beginning in 2014 the ACC, Big Ten and SEC will all have 14 teams—the divisional setup has become more unwieldy.

In March, the ACC, in collaboration with the Big 12, submitted a proposal to drop divisions while allowing conferences to continue staging championship games. It was tabled during the NCAA's April meetings, but may be considered when the board convenes again in August.

The 10-team Big 12, currently the only one of the five major conferences without a divisional setup or a title game, believes dumping divisions only makes sense as we move into the College Football Playoff era this fall.

"You wouldn't any longer have to have 12 (teams)," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports in March. "You wouldn't any longer have to play a full round-robin in your subdivision. That would actually afford us the opportunity to have a playoff between two selected teams by whatever process we would want to select.

"Theoretically, we could say we're going to take the two highest in the BCS rankings and have them play at the end of the season."

In fact, the Big 12 has already taken steps toward making that a reality. This week the conference formally adopted a new tiebreaking procedure, tying it to the CFP poll as released by the selection committee. The same procedure obviously may be applied should it become necessary to determine the two teams to play in the conference championship game.

There is one other peripheral, though not unimportant, benefit to dumping the divisions. It is widely believed that the Big 12 will eventually expand back up to 12 teams in order to stage a conference title game. If that's no longer a prerequisite, then we might have some stability with conference memberships for awhile after five years of constant realignment maneuvers.


Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru 

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Ohio State Football: Analyzing Buckeyes' Top 5 2015 Recruiting Targets

Urban Meyer is widely considered one of college football's best recruiters, but what sets him apart isn't his ability to sign blue-chip prospects—it's that he finds the ones who perfectly fit his system.

Meyer wants tough, smart and angry football players. He wants his team to play with an edge, and building that starts on the recruiting trail by identifying the right players.

Ohio State is recruiting some of the country's top talent for its 2015 recruiting class, and although just three players have committed so far, Meyer has the Buckeyes primed for a strong finish.

Here's a quick look at some of Ohio State's top targets. 

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Why Notre Dame's QB Competition Won't End When the 2014 Season Starts

Brian Kelly finds himself in an attractive predicament, one that will stretch well past the summer heat and into the brisk South Bend fall.

He has two quarterbacks—each vastly different in terms of style, skill and makeup—and one vacancy to fill. It is an enviable position, although that is typically not the case in the sport he coaches. As the tried and true saying has taught us—the one hanging on the basement wall of every coach’s getaway lake home—two quarterbacks typically equate to no quarterbacks.

Not here, though.

This is the exception to the rule, a luxury at a position that rarely produces luxuries in bulk. With this rarity comes depth, but with such depth there also comes fine print. The Notre Dame quarterback competition won’t just be decided at some point this fall; it will likely be game to game, series to series and throw to throw. And for that reason, there’s a distinct possibility this attractive predicament could turn at some point.

More so than the candidates—which will be addressed momentarily—is the master puppeteer. Brian Kelly has already shown the propensity to go to his bullpen at any point, regardless of record, score or situation.

He couldn’t dip into his reserves last season because (a) the depth behind Tommy Rees was nonexistent and (b) outside of a handful of glaring, Tommy Rees-esque mistakes, the senior played quite well given the circumstances. But that’s not the case in 2014. Kelly’s itchy trigger finger could find life, and no one would be surprised given the arsenal he has to work with.

Following Notre Dame’s spring game, Kelly addressed the quarterback competition while speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times:

I would like to have one quarterback because they both can run the offense. This is not about having one offense for one quarterback and another offense for the other…I should be able to figure this thing out.

We should be able to get our players in a position where we can have a starting quarterback. I’ve been doing it long enough that I would hope I could figure it out come time to play Rice.

The two likeliest candidates are well established. In this corner we have Everett Golson, a year and a half removed from his trip to the national championship game and a year removed from his departure from Notre Dame after an academic mishap. He returned to Notre Dame before spring, meaning he was able to soak up valuable spring repetitions.

It was almost assumed—despite Brian Kelly’s magnificent extinguisher work to say otherwise—that Golson would immediately jump back into his role as starter. That still might be the case, although the term "assumption" no longer applies.

In terms of tools, no quarterback on the Notre Dame roster can match what Golson provides. In fact, in terms of overall arm strength, you’d be hard-pressed to find many quarterbacks nationally—excluding a handful of superhumans, starting with Penn State's Christian Hackenberg—that throw the football with the pace and distance that he delivers. His connection with Chris Brown in Notre Dame's 2012 victory against Oklahoma comes to mind.

He does this despite checking in right around 6’0” and 200 pounds, although his physical gifts are undeniable.

The other contender in this conversation is no longer simply a cult favorite in Notre Dame circles. Malik Zaire, fresh off his 292-yard, two-touchdown spring game, has seemingly obliterated the once-assumed canyon-sized gap between the two players.

Like Golson, Zaire does not come from the create-a-player QB mold. He’s listed at 6'0" and 208 pounds on his Notre Dame bio, similar in stature to his competition. Despite his lack of height, Zaire was still the No. 5 ranked dual-threat quarterback according to 247Sports’ composite rankings in the 2013 class, and he likely would have ranked much higher if he were a few inches taller.

Zaire, a lefty, runs exceptionally well. He’s not necessarily as explosive as Golson, however, and his game is built more on accuracy and control. That’s not to say he doesn’t have the physical gifts to excel at this level, but it’s simply acknowledging the obvious: He’s a different player than Golson. Each comes equipped with strengths and weaknesses.

Following a strong spring—highlighted by his electric performance in the spring game—Zaire added a bit more intrigue to the competition. Don't mistake this as one great performance in front of fans, either. He has been superb, and he also didn’t lack confidence when asked about his prospects of starting.

"Without a doubt. There will only be one guy starting on Aug. 30th against Rice at Notre Dame Stadium, there will only be one guy out on the field, and I believe that will be me," he said, courtesy of

Kelly has yet to announce when he will decide on a starter, although he’ll likely use the early reps in fall camp and name a starter shortly after that. Given Golson’s experience, there’s still a hovering notion that he will be the starter for Week 1. If you had to guess who the starter would be at this moment, he'd probably be the name you lean toward.

That might be the case, although it’s anything but concrete. And even if Golson’s remarkable skill set and experience prevail, there’s no guarantee that will be the case come Week 4. Heck, there's no guarantee it will be the case for Week 2 when Michigan comes to town.

Kelly has already proven that he’s not afraid to make a switch without much warning. Golson knows this firsthand having been pulled for Tommy Rees a handful of times in the midst of Notre Dame's undefeated regular season.

Perhaps Kelly will have to make that call again. Or perhaps the quarterback chosen will take full advantage of the opportunity and never look back.

For now, Kelly can rest easy knowing he has the most impressive depth at the most important position in the country. It really is a wonderful luxury to have, one coaches likely marvel at from a distance. And then that first (or second) interception comes once the curtain goes up and a familiar cycle begins to churn.

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Optimistic, Pessimistic and Realistic Predictions for Every SEC East Team

Yesterday, we hit on the SEC West's optimistic, pessimistic and realistic 2014 predictions. Now, it's time to head to the wide-open SEC East.

Defending SEC East champ Missouri surprised the world last year but now has to deal with the target on its back and some major holes on both sides of the ball. 

Can Georgia, Florida, South Carolina or Tennessee get back to Atlanta, or will this be another year of surprises and upsets in the East?

Optimistic, pessimistic and realistic picks are in this slideshow.


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Georgia Football: Recruiting Director's Departure Won't Hurt Dawgs' 2015 Class

On Wednesday afternoon, Gentry Estes of 247Sports (and others) reported that Daryl Jones had vacated his position as director of on-campus recruiting at the University of Georgia.  Shortly after these initial reports, Jones issues a statement, per 247Sports confirming his departure:

After serving the past two years as Director of On-Campus Recruiting for the Georgia football program, I will be pursuing other opportunities going forward. I would like to thank Coach Richt for the opportunity of representing the Bulldawg Nation in that capacity. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Richt and all he stands for as a head coach, man, and leader of the football program. I enjoyed my role in the two top 10 recruiting classes we signed and want to wish everyone involved with the team nothing but success in the years to come.

While Jones’ leaving the program may have been somewhat surprising and his statement did little to clarify the reasoning for the change, one thing is certain: Jones’ resignation will not adversely affect Georgia’s 2015 recruiting class.


Jones’ Role

While it would be ignorant to discount the role of on-campus recruiting directors, it is important to understand the scope of their influence over blue chip recruits. 

A few months ago, Bleacher Report’s own Barrett Sallee took a behind-the-scenes look at an official recruiting visit in Athens.  Anyone reading that article would be hard-pressed not to find Jones’ fingerprints throughout.  As director of on-campus recruiting, official visits were Jones’ wheelhouse. And he took the job seriously.  According to Sallee, Jones viewed hosting official visits as a commitment of resources and a dedication of time.

We don't visit guys just for the sake of visiting.  If they visit here, there's a sincere interest because we're pouring resources into them with manpower and hours being poured into getting guys here on campus. From that point on, we've done the background work, we know what they like, we know what their needs are and we know what they're interested in.

And to be sure, Jones had his hand in all of those actionable steps.  Undoubtedly he was instrumental in conducting background work, managing schedules, crafting activities and making the trip run smooth.

Jones—or any on-campus recruiting director for that matter—can add value to the recruiting process by laying the ground work and executing logistics to perfection.  And the importance of those functions should not be underestimated.  But Jones was not the relational draw responsible for defining a recruit’s view of the program. 

That responsibility—or perhaps more aptly, that opportunity—still belongs to the coaching staff.


2015 Relationships

As it stands, Mark Richt’s coaching staff continues to press forward in recruiting, and some of the nation’s best recruiters (Mike Bobo, Bryan McClendon, John Lilly, Jeremy Pruitt) will be the men responsible for earning the trust and confidence of recruits and their families.

So in that regard, Georgia’s recruiting objectives for 2015 have been minimally changed following Jones’ departure. 

By most accounts, Jones performed well in his duties as director of on-campus recruiting, but his job (by its very nature) did not necessitate deep personal connections with Georgia’s top targets.  Accordingly, fans can expect Georgia to fill the staff vacancy and press on.

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Florida Football: What Will Muschamp Must Accomplish to Save His Job in 2014

Everybody deals with pressure differently. Some take deep breaths, pick up a few yoga lessons or go for a late night stroll along the beach to help calm those nerves. Others are able to go on vacation for a week or so, completely removing themselves from the stressful situation.

Unfortunately, there are no days off and there is no offseason in college football, which has forced Florida head coach Will Muschamp to handle his stressful situation by pretending it doesn’t even exist. In an SEC spring meeting earlier this week, Muschamp said he’s not feeling any pressure heading into his fourth season as Florida’s coach, according to David Jones of Florida Today.

I don't feel any different pressure at all. We didn't have a good year and it was very unfortunate in what happened but I have complete confidence in where we are heading. No. 1, we are as deep and talented at running back and receiver as we've been. Jeff Driskel is going to have an outstanding year. I feel very comfortable in the first five to seven offensive linemen and I think we have the ingredients on defense to be really good. Our kick game, I think we have two punters that have NFL legs. … So I feel real good about our football team heading into the fall. 

Confident? Every coach has to be in order to be successful. Expecting a better season than last year? Well, there’s only one way to go after last year’s four-win season. Pretending you can’t feel the steam seeping through your khakis from sitting on a hot seat? If you believe that, I have an igloo in sunny Miami to sell you.

Florida hasn’t had to do much firing over the last few decades, but like any prestigious program, it won’t hesitate to show you the door once enough becomes enough. Just ask Ron Zook, the only Florida head coach who was fired since Galen Hall in the late 1980s. Zook was fired with a 23-14 record in three seasons. Muschamp is 22-16 in three seasons.

If that wasn’t enough to raise some eyebrows, 12 of Zook’s 14 losses came against ranked teams. Muschamp lost eight games last season, and one of them came against an FCS team. There’s an eerie pattern going on here that doesn’t exactly favor the current Florida head coach.

So, what has to be done to save Muschamp's job?

In the words of the late, great Al Davis: Just win, baby.

Since Muschamp admitted he’s comfortable with pretty much his entire roster, that shouldn’t be difficult. Problem is, the schedule is no cakewalk. I have the Gators winning nine games this season if everything goes well. In other words, assuming the offense is able to move the ball further than the length of a loveseat. Certainly that would be good enough to keep Muschamp around for another year.

But some may say that’s a stretch given the way the Gators performed last season and the difficulty of the schedule. After all, not every team can make an Auburn-like run from worst to one of the better teams in the conference in one short season.

If that’s the case and Florida can’t make the big boy jump, Muschamp must satisfy Gator fans with a bowl win and at least one victory over a rival. If there’s anything less attractive than his overall record, it’s his 1-5 record against Georgia and Florida State. Some things make mediocre seasons easier to swallow, and bragging rights over teams the fanbase can’t stand is one of those few things.

Muschamp must deliver some key victories this season or he'll have plenty of free time for walks on the beach and yoga lessons. 

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Notre Dame Football: Dissecting Brian Kelly's QB Strategy

At the end of January, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly declared he will be calling the offensive plays in 2014.

Kelly described the look he wants the offense to have as the Irish prepare to transition back to a style that “is best suited for the personnel that we have,” the head coach explained.

What exactly is that look?

“It starts with the quarterback and his ability to be a playmaker within the offense,” Kelly said at the time. “[We’ve had] an offense that, certainly at times, we really haven't been able to craft it to fit a player behind the center.”

In four seasons at Notre Dame, Kelly has played five different quarterbacks: Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson, Dayne Crist and Nate Montana. Only Golson was part of a recruiting class essentially completely handled by Kelly’s regime (Rees and Hendrix were part of the class of 2010, which signed two months after Kelly was named head coach). And only Golson has rushed for more than 200 yards in a single season.

The Irish, Kelly said in January, are looking to tweak the style of quarterback play within the offense.

“What I'm looking for in particular is somebody that can make some things happen outside the pocket,” Kelly said. “We have been driven behind the tackles for the last couple of years. We would like to be a little bit more dynamic outside the pocket.”

Now entering his fifth season in South Bend, Indiana, Kelly has stocked the roster with his players. And, with both the current signal-callers on the roster as well as the commitments and signees on the way, Kelly’s preferred style of quarterback play is apparent.

Notre Dame has targeted the quarterbacks it wants and—by and large—has reeled them in, situating the position nicely for the coming years.

In some order, Golson and Malik Zaire will be the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart in the fall. Incoming freshman DeShone Kizer is set to enroll at Notre Dame this summer. Between those three, the Irish boast a talented trio of dual-threat quarterbacks.

But the wheels have already been set in motion on the next wave of Irish quarterbacks. Four-star prospect Blake Barnett is the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2015 and the 65th-best player in the nation overall.

“Notre Dame is signing a guy that you don’t hear too often as the top quarterback in the country, but he’s in the discussion,” said Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports’ director of recruiting.

Maybe more importantly than national rankings, Notre Dame clearly identified Barnett early in the process, and the Corona, California, native gave his verbal commitment in late November.

“For what they do on offense, they couldn’t get a better player,” Wiltfong said of Barnett.

Kelly and the Irish continue to load up on quarterbacks. All five current and future Irish quarterbacks have garnered 4-star status and ranked in the top 300 overall recruits in the country.

The process has already begun to find a quarterback in the class of 2016. Notre Dame has sent out five scholarship offers, the second-most of any position. Four of those offers have gone to quarterbacks ranked among the top 100 players in the class of 2016: Malik Henry, Jawon Pass, Shea Patterson and Xavier Gaines.

“Now that they have Barnett in the boat, they can get in early with some of the top 2016 quarterbacks in the country,” Wiltfong said. “They’ve already offered a few. So they’ve established who they’d like and now they can start building a relationship early in the process.”

The future is undoubtedly bright for Notre Dame at the quarterback position. Golson has two years of eligibility remaining, while Zaire holds four.

Sure, there’s still a starter to be named for 2014. But, big picture, Kelly has the groundwork laid for his quarterbacks to be the dynamic playmakers he wants.


Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports Composite Rankings.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Nebraska Football: Power Ranking the Road Trips for Cornhusker Fans in 2014

With the Memorial Day weekend just behind us, Nebraska football fans may very well have travel on their minds and be looking to plan their road trips to follow the Cornhuskers next season. Nebraska hits the road for five contests in 2014.

So let’s take a look at those five road trips, not in terms of how the game will be, but in terms of how the travel experience will be for the Nebraska faithful following the Scarlet and Cream.

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Pros and Cons to 5-Star LB Justin Hilliard's Top Schools

Justin Hilliard is a 5-star linebacker from Cincinnati who is among the nation's top defensive recruits. At 6'2" and 230 pounds, Hilliard combines solid strength with athleticism, awareness and quickness.

He does a good job of quickly reading his keys before attacking the line of scrimmage to fill alleys. The Ohio native's skill set has caught the attention of many of the nation's top programs.

However, he is down to five final schools, according to Josh Helmholdt of (subscription required). Hilliard will have to weigh the pros and cons of each of his finalists before settling on one.


All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

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Georgia Football: What Bulldogs Fans Need to Know About Aaron Davis

Georgia Bulldogs defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt wanted to put his stamp on the defense during the spring. And the way he did it was by giving new players a chance to make an impact. If there is one player who did that during spring practice, then-cornerback Aaron Davis is the winner.

Technically, Aaron Davis is not a newcomer. He was on the team last season but did not play in a single game. He dressed in two home games and made the trip with the team to the Gator Bowl last year.

So how did Davis become a guy who was barely on the team to a leading candidate to win a starting cornerback position in less than a year?

Most fans know that Davis is a walk-on, and he was able to do some big things in the spring game. But what fans may not realize is that he is playing cornerback for the first time in his career.

Davis was a standout receiver at Luella High School in Locust Grove, Georgia. In 2010, he was named to the All-Region 2-AAAAA team and was being scouted by major Division I programs. But things would take a turn for the worst the following season, as he tore his ACL in the spring game. He missed his entire junior season and would re-injure the same knee his senior year, which led to him missing all but one game.

But in that one game he played his senior year, he caught 11 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns. However, colleges stopped calling him, and Davis did not want to play at the Division II or Division III level, which were the only schools interested in him.

So Davis called Georgia, and it let him on the team as a preferred walk-on. And despite not having a football scholarship, he was able to get an academic scholarship because he had a 4.5 GPA. He worked with the team all last season but never got the see any playing time.

Now with Pruitt at the helm, Davis was able to impress the coaches during spring practices and do the same thing at the spring game, as he tallied three tackles, one interception, one forced fumble and one pass breakup.

Kenneth Towns and Aaron Davis named as UGA's Outstanding Walk-ons for the Spring

— UGA Football News (@UGAfootballLive) April 15, 2014

That is impressive for a walk-on, but then again, Davis is not an average walk-on. Injuries have made his path a little more challenging, but based on the way he’s looked last month in the spring practices, the talent was always there.

During the final days of spring practice, linebacker Jordan Jenkins told Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Davis worked his tail off and doesn’t make mental mistakes. Davis added that he was just doing what he was told and he always tires to do the right thing even when fatigue is kicking in.

There is no telling if Davis will still be No.1 on the depth chart when preseason practice begins because of the incoming freshmen who are looking for some playing time. Not to mention, the reserves, such as Devin Bowman and Sheldon Dawson, will look to prove they are worthy of starting. But Davis has a chip on his shoulder, and if he continues to work hard and absorb everything the coaches tell him to do, he will see a lot of action when the Bulldogs kickoff the season against Clemson at the end of August.

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Winners and Losers of May on the 2015 College Football Recruiting Trail

The weather is getting hotter this spring, which means June is right around the corner. However, it wouldn't be smart to look ahead to next month without reflecting on what happened on the college football recruiting trail in May.

The SEC had another eventful month, as a Big Ten coach found a way to get under the conference's skin. However, several other SEC programs scored huge commitments in May as well.

A Big 12 school was left out of the final group for a 5-star linebacker, while a Pac-12 school lost out on two prospects.

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OSU Finally Lands QB in 2015 Class, Still Pursuing 5-Star ATH Torrance Gibson?

Joe Burrow, a 3-star dual-threat quarterback by 247 Sports Composite, has committed to Ohio State. This is just the third commit for the Buckeyes in the 2015 class and first on offense. 

Prior to the Burrow commitment, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes' top target was 5-star ATH/dual-threat QB Torrance Gibson. How does OSU's newest commitment affect Gibson's recruitment? Is Ohio State still pursuing Gibson?

Check out Ben Axelrod break down Ohio State's top QB targets and the latest on Torrance Gibson. 


Highlights courtesy XOS Digital. Recruit rankings from 247 Sports Composite

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