NCAA Football

Micah Clark to Rutgers: Scarlet Knights Land 4-Star OT Prospect

Micah Clark, considered the top-ranked player in New Jersey, committed to Rutgers on Tuesday. The 4-star offensive tackle gave his verbal to the Scarlet Knights, choosing the university over schools like Penn State and Michigan. 

He made the announcement via Twitter:

A breakout performer at St. John Vianney Regional High School in Holmdel, Clark had his recruitment centered on Penn State and Ohio State early on. 247Sports' "Crystal Ball" predictions initially gave the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes the best chance of landing the lineman. Clark himself named Ohio State his front-runner in December.

"The visit from Urban Meyer put them No. 1," Clark said, per Brian Dohn of Scout.com. "I was like, ‘Wow, the head coach actually came down to see me.’ I know he goes to see other players, but I know for a fact he only goes to see players he is really interested in. It was cool he came to my school."

Clark was also complimentary of the pitch the Penn State coaches gave him that pushed the school's academic programs.

"The message to me is even if football doesn’t work out, if the next level doesn’t work out, your education is still there," Clark said, per Dohn. "I know that. I look at Penn State and their business school, and I know if I don’t make it in the NFL, I still have the education. I like that about Penn State, and how the alumni base backs up every player."

For now, there are few reasons to expect football not to work out. Clark is already a physical specimen at 6'5" and 283 pounds, equipped with the length and power to become an elite offensive tackle at the next level. He's also a two-way player who understands what it takes to be effective on the defensive line, putting him a step ahead of some one-sided players from an IQ perspective.

Once he begins fully filling out his frame, Clark is going to be a force. He'll be a foundational piece of Rutgers' offensive line and is already going to boost its Class of 2017 stock quite a bit. 

At Rutgers, he may have the chance to earn a starting spot immediately at left tackle. The school finished 65th in the nation in rush yards per game (169.9) last year and gave up 25 sacks, 56th in the country.

But Rutgers does return 14 offensive lineman from a year ago, including four starters, per Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media. Three-year starter and left tackle Keith Lumpkin is the one starter no longer with the team, opening the door for Clark.

So while Clark will certainly have a fight on his hands to earn a starting gig in his freshman campaign, he looks like the early front-runner to play left tackle in Rutgers' new fast-pace offense.

 

All recruiting and star rankings courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings unless otherwise noted.

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Netori Johnson to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 4-Star OG Prospect

Georgia bolstered its future offensive line Tuesday, as guard Netori Johnson committed to its 2017 recruiting class. 

Johnson announced his commitment to the Bulldogs on Twitter:

The 6’3 ½” and 348-pound Johnson is a 4-star prospect, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, and he is the No. 122 overall recruit, the No. 4 guard and the No. 14 prospect from the state of Georgia in the 2017 class.

Being from SEC territory, Johnson naturally attracted plenty of attention from the conference. Georgia, Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama and Florida all recruited him throughout the process, while other schools, such as Michigan, Miami, USC and Michigan State, also pursued the lineman.

He originally joined Alabama's class but decommitted from the Crimson Tide on Feb. 5. The pairing seemed to make sense on paper considering head coach Nick Saban has built a dominant program that thrives on physically overpowering opponents at the line of scrimmage. Johnson is a massive lineman prospect who could step in right away and contribute.

Johnson seemed to be leaning toward Georgia for a time after leaving Alabama’s class and suggested as much when he joined vsporto’s SEC Recruiting Buzz (via Kipp Adams of 247Sports):

I am liking the Bulldogs right now, especially with them getting [head coach] Kirby Smart. He was my recruiting coach at Alabama. He was on me. Especially with them getting Sam Pittman, that is my boy. I like him too, as an offensive line coach. I looked up his stats and he sent a lot to the NFL. I would love to play for him too.

Johnson also said the opportunity to play early was important (via Adams): "Georgia is recruiting me as hard as Alabama and Auburn. Right now, I do not see any threats to me on the offensive line at Georgia. I believe I could go right in and just play, as a freshman. … I have not really thought about any factors besides playing time. I just really want to play."

The Bulldogs appear ready to give Johnson an opportunity to play early when he arrives on campus next year.

Johnson's commitment is also a big win for Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, who not only lands one of the prized offensive linemen in next year's recruiting class but took him away from Alabama.

Smart came from the Crimson Tide, spending nine years on Saban's staff, so he's seen up close and personal what having a powerful and deep offensive line can do to make an offense better. The Bulldogs are also having an excellent start to next year's recruiting season, as Johnson gives them their sixth commitment from a 4-star prospect, per 247Sports

The reason Johnson could play right away for his new team is his overwhelming power and physicality that allows him to drive defensive linemen into the second level and open holes for the rushing attack.

He also brings decent athleticism to the table for his size, which will help him in pass protection at the collegiate level. If Johnson continues to improve throughout his tenure at a top-notch college program, he could hear his name called on NFL draft day in the near future.

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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Oklahoma is one program that does its share of recruiting outside the borders of its home territory.

For example, only three of the Sooners' 12 pledges in the 2017 cycle are from in-state products. 

However, a new homegrown target has emerged for head coach Bob Stoops and his staff in the form of 3-star offensive lineman Creed Humphrey—who netted an offer from the defending Big 12 champions last week. 

The 6’4”, 301-pounder rates as the nation’s No. 5 center prospect and the No. 10 player overall from the state of Oklahoma in the 2017 class.

Additionally, Humphrey has earned offers from programs such as Houston, Kansas State, Texas, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech—all of whom, with the exception of the Cougars, have offered him within the last month.

As EJ Holland of 247Sports noted, Humphrey has stated his plans to take his time with the recruiting process.

However, the new interest from the home-state power could change the course of his recruitment.

 

Tennessee Offers Baylor QB Pledge

Tennessee landed one of 2016’s elite quarterbacks in Jarrett Guarantano, but Volunteers head coach Butch Jones and his staff are still recruiting talented passers in the current cycle.

Last week, the Vols offered 4-star quarterback and current Baylor commit Kellen Mond

The 6’2 ½”, 201-pounder has been committed to the Bears since last June, but he’s left the door somewhat open to others—as evidenced by a visit he took last weekend to Ohio State. 

Mond rates as the nation’s No. 5 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 118 player overall in the 2017 class.

 

California LB Nets 4 Huge Offers 

One of the hottest recruits in the country in recent weeks has been 3-star linebacker Samspon Niu.

Last week, the 6’1”, 217-pounder out of Madison High School in San Diego, California, picked up four offers. 

Michigan, Oregon, Texas A&M and USC all tendered the nation’s No. 18 inside linebacker and the No. 476 player overall in the 2017 class.

Niu is up to 20 offers heading into the summer, and it appears that the interest in him will only continue to grow in the coming months.

 

Clemson After 2018 Texas TE

Clemson’s rise under head coach Dabo Swinney has coincided with the Tigers making waves around the country on the recruiting trail. 

Last week, the Tigers ventured into the state of Texas to offer rising junior tight end Mustapha Muhammad

The 6’4”, 213-pounder from Ridge Point High School in Missouri City, Texas, has already racked up more than 15 offers—with UCLA also offering him last week.

However, the Tigers—who signed tight end J.C. Chalk from Texas in their 2016 class—will be looking to repeat that feat with Muhammad for the 2018 cycle.

 

Best of the Rest

2017

 

2018

 

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

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10 College Football QBs Who Will Break Out in 2016

While running backs are starting to get more and more attention in college football again after a renaissance 2015 season, the offensive spotlight still shines brightest on the quarterbacks.

In 2016, college football will see the return of Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield—two strong Heisman contenders. Others such as Ole Miss' Chad Kelly, Ohio State's J.T. Barrett and Notre Dame's combo of Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer will stand out this fall.

But this piece isn't about the signal-callers who are already big-time stars in college football. This focuses on those who make up the next wave of quarterbacking talent, which will rise to national prominence and all-conference contention this season. 

Here are 10 quarterbacks who will break out in the 2016 college football season based on their performances from last season or their potential as first-time starters, as well as their respective supporting casts.

Which quarterback do you think will have the biggest breakout year in college football this season? Sound off in the comments below.

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College Football Teams Guaranteed to Improve Their Win Total in 2016

Spring practice is a time for unbridled—and maybe even unfounded—optimism, but a select bunch of college football teams are guaranteed to improve in 2016.

And they'll be better where it matters most: the win column.

For some programs, that means crawling out of the Football Bowl Subdivision cellar. They could double or even triple the number of victories from 2015, an impressive step after mediocrity.

Others will compete for conference and/or national championships, reaching a level the school hasn't achieved in more than a decade or simply improving on a disappointing year one season ago.

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4-Star RB Anthony McFarland Jr. Talks Top Contenders as He Prepares to Trim List

Elite Maryland athlete Anthony McFarland Jr. intends to keep college football fans guessing until February.

The DeMatha Catholic High School junior—among America's most versatile offensive recruits—told Bleacher Report he doesn't expect to announce any commitment plans until national signing day. His motivation is to avoid uncertainty that often encounters many long-term pledges when programs undergo major alterations as winter arrives.

"With the coaching changes that happen after the season, you just never know. So I want to wait until the last minute," he said.

That doesn't mean McFarland, rated No. 3 nationally among all-purpose backs in 247Sports' composite rankings, won't provide hints of his thought process along the way. He plans to trim an expansive collection of scholarship offers to 15 options before next season, perhaps as soon as late spring.

Several programs have invested significant time into the pursuit of this 4-star prospect, who picked up his first offer from Florida State as a freshman. He held 20 scholarship opportunities by the end of a scintillating sophomore year that saw him tally over 1,400 offensive yards and 12 touchdowns, according to Tyler James of the South Bend Tribune.

"It's been a long process and stressful at times, but the important thing is to remember how many other players would want to be in this position," McFarland said.

Things won't calm down for the 5'9", 189-pound playmaker until he puts pen to paper and officially sends a national letter of intent to the university of his choice. Attention from coaches, fans and media alike are sure to intensify as a highly anticipated senior season approaches. 

McFarland, sorting through dozens of collegiate possibilities, is steadily building a list of legitimate contenders. He's implementing some pivotal criteria while assessing each possible landing spot.

"I'm looking for a team that doesn't just want me. I'm looking for a team that needs me," McFarland said. "And it's more than just football because the institution is very important. I want to be at a school that's similar to [DeMatha Catholic] with extra academic support. Education comes first and my parents have always preached that."

While checking off those boxes, he's concluded that a few schools are firm bets to appear in his upcoming group of favorites. McFarland mentioned Alabama, Florida, Maryland, Miami, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas A&M as programs on solid ground.

"Those are schools that basically sealed the deal for my list," he said.

Among those teams, three underwent sweeping coaching staff changes this offseason. The nearby Terrapins have targeted McFarland as a top priority since the early stages of his recruitment, an effort that continues to increase under first-year head coach D.J. Durkin.

"Maryland's new staff has shown me so much love,", said McFarland, who is also being pulled toward College Park by 4-star Terps quarterback commit Kasim Hill.

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp didn't waste time in his attempts to attract attention from the Mid-Atlantic standout. McFarland was an early point of emphasis for the new Gamecocks regime.

"South Carolina has become very big in my recruitment," McFarland said. "As soon as [Muschamp] was there, he and running backs coach Bobby Bentley showed me they want me and need me."

Miami head coach Mark Richt built a strong rapport with McFarland during late stages of his tenure at Georgia and carries that relationship to Coral Gables, where former Bulldogs running backs coach Thomas Brown now serves on the Hurricanes staff.

Despite their exodus from Athens, he still identifies Georgia as a key program of interest. 

"I had a great relationship with Mark Richt when he was there," McFarland said. "But after he left, Georgia did a great job making sure they still had a connection with me, making me feel like I'm one of the most important recruits they want."

He hopes to visit the Bulldogs, along with several squads, before next season. Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma are also among schools that could soon welcome him to campus.

"It's definitely going to be a busy summer for me." McFarland said.

The Crimson Tide have stockpiled talent in the offensive backfield and currently carry a commitment from 5-star running back Najee Harris. McFarland tries not to pay too much attention to the presence of other players in a program's offensive plans.

"I never like to shy away from competition, so that means going against the best," he said. "If you want to play this game at the highest level, that's what you have to do. If I want to commit to a school, that's where I'm going no matter what the depth chart looks like."

Much of McFarland's confident demeanor can also be attributed to his versatility.

"I see myself in a big role—playing out at wide receiver, moving into the slot, carrying the ball at running back," he said. "I just want to be valuable to a team and do everything we need. That's how I can get on the field faster and that's why I don't care about depth charts. There's not a lot of guys who have my versatility to play in all those different spots."

He showed off that array of talent in 2015. McFarland racked up 723 rushing yards, 675 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns, according to Brandon Parker of the Washington Post.

His skills as a pass-catcher shined Sunday at The Opening's Washington, D.C., regional, where he ran routes with receivers. The performance punched McFarland's ticket to The Opening finals, an invite-only July showcase held at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

 

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

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Deiondre Porter Arrested: Latest Details, Comments on Former Florida CB

Former Florida Gators defensive back Deiondre Porter was arrested for his connection to an armed robbery case.   

Per Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times, citing public documents, Porter was arrested at his home by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office after an "out-of-county warrant" was issued stemming from an "armed robbery complaint."

Baker noted that additional information regarding the robbery and warrant were not immediately available. 

This continues a downward spiral for Porter, who was a well-regarded prospect coming out of Jefferson High School in Tampa, Florida, two years ago. 

Last October, the 20-year-old Porter was indefinitely suspended by the Gators after he was arrested by Gainesville police for allegedly holding a gun to the head of his pregnant girlfriend, per Andy Hutchins of AlligatorArmy.com

According to Alachua County court records, Porter is facing four felony charges and one misdemeanor from that previous arrest. 

Florida head coach Jim McElwain said during a teleconference after Porter was arrested last year, per John Taylor of College Football Talk, that Porter is "no longer with the football team." He is not listed on the Gators' official roster

After redshirting two years ago, Porter did appear in two games for the Gators last season and was primarily used on special teams. He was ranked as a 3-star prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings before committing to the University of Florida in 2014. 

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Charlie Strong Should Take the Gamble on Freshman Shane Buechele for Starting QB

Even though it fits his philosophy on the field, Texas football head coach Charlie Strong's new offensive coordinator doesn't want to hurry things up with his quarterback race.

After Texas' spring game Saturday, Longhorns assistant Sterlin Gilbert offered no timetable for how long it will take to pick the new QB1 in Austin.

"To me, as much as I love to go fast, I want that thing to be right," Gilbert said, per Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman. "As long as it goes, it goes. We've just got to make sure we've got the right guy and it's the right decision."

Gilbert's words were supposed to throw the brakes on the runaway hype train that is Shane Buechele, the true freshman and early enrollee who stole the show in his Texas debut this past weekend.

But the postgame statement didn't slow down the Buechele buzz, and it shouldn't.

If anything, Strong and his staff need to go all-in on their new quarterback. They might not be able to afford to let that chance pass them by in 2016.

On Saturday, Buechele looked more like the present of the Texas quarterback position than he did the future. In just one half of a rain-shortened contest, he completed 22 of 41 passes for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns, rotating with senior Tyrone Swoopes.

At one point in spring camp, Swoopes looked like he was the leader again in the quarterback race. But on Saturday, he went 4-of-16 through the air for 71 yards and a pair of interceptions.

"Shane did have a good day, a really good day," Strong said, per Max Olson of ESPN.com. "Tyrone has had his days. He didn't have it today, but at practice, you see it happening."

Strong and Gilbert won't rush to make a decision on the quarterback job, considering the third member of the quarterback battle, Jerrod Heard, missed the last stretch of spring practices and Saturday's scrimmage with a shoulder injury.

But whenever Heard returns, it still should be Buechele's job to lose.

Heard and Swoopes have showed what they bring to the table for Texas, and consistency isn't one of their strong suits.

Heard went off for 364 passing yards against an awful Cal defense last year and topped 200 yards through the air only one more time—against lowly Kansas. Swoopes is 6-8 all-time as a Texas starter.

And while it's easy to fall in love with Buechele's spring game stats from this past weekend, what stood out even more was his poise and confidence in the pocket for a player who should still be in high school.

"The day he stepped on this campus, he's been a guy that you know will be relaxed and patient," Strong said, per Olson. "Nothing is going to fluster him."

That's one of the biggest endorsements Strong could give Buechele. It's difficult to start as a true freshman quarterback in big-time college football. The pressure is immense, and the speed of the game is tough.

But by enrolling early, Buechele has gotten a head start in an offense that he seems born to run.

Texas hired Gilbert, a part of Art Briles' coaching tree through Dino Babers and Philip Montgomery, to bring a fast-paced, run-pass option (RPO) offense to Texas. In the arms race that is offensive football in the Big 12, the Longhorns needed more firepower.

And while Heard and Swoopes are adjusting to the ins and outs of the RPO scheme this offseason, Buechele is like a blank slate. Actually, he might be even more appealing than a blank slate, considering this is the same type of offense he ran at Lamar High School in Arlington, Texas. 

The way Buechele led that familiar type of offense Saturday in the spring game was a sight for sore eyes in Austin, and that should continue into the fall.

Starting a true freshman quarterback is a gamble, especially with the opening stretch of games Texas has in 2016. The Longhorns play Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma within the first six weeks of the season.

Some may think throwing a teenage quarterback out to the Fighting Irish in Week 1 would be football suicide. And there's a fair chance Buechele could struggle in his first few games as a collegiate starter.

But consider the situation Strong finds himself in this season.

If Texas wins six or seven games this season—or fewer—with Swoopes or Heard at quarterback, it'll look like a lot of the "same old, same old" in Austin.

However, if Texas makes a bowl with a true freshman at quarterback, one who should improve as the season goes on after a tough opening stretch, Strong can point to forward momentum on the offensive side of the ball. That's a great insurance policy for a coach on the hot seat.

Handing the keys to Buechele, a young quarterback who has already showed in practices and scrimmages that he can lead this type of offense with confidence beyond his years, could buy more time for Strong and his staff in the eyes of the fanbase and—more importantly—the powers that be at Texas.

The Longhorns will be able to carry that young offensive growth into at least two more seasons with Buechele, building the new-look offense around the exciting cornerstone. Even if Buechele starts slowly, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Strong and Gilbert are wise to hold off on making a decision right now and allowing Heard to come back to the battle at full health. But it's telling that Heard wasn't able to gain an edge on Swoopes in spring camp.

Swoopes and Heard could continue to play key roles in the Texas offense, as the former starred in a power-running package last season. If the smaller Buechele goes down with an injury, Heard would be an experienced backup ready to lead the team.

Strong made it clear Saturday he won't make any personnel decisions for his quarterbacks until he's absolutely sure.

"When we make that decision, it won’t be a tie," Strong said, per Olson. "It'll be a guy who's clearly stepped out and, boom, that's the guy, let's go with him and let's go play."

This weekend, Buechele clearly stepped out.

And with the pressure mounting on him heading into the 2016 season, Strong shouldn't be scared of the one they call "Boo."

 

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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4-Star DE Ta'quon Graham Discusses College Announcement Date

For Temple, Texas, 4-star defensive end Ta'quon Graham, choosing a college destination isn't as difficult as some assumed.

In fact, it's already done.

Graham announced via Twitter early Monday evening that he will publicly announce his verbal commitment on May 27 after his team's spring game. But Monday night, the 6'3", 251-pound weak-side defensive end told Bleacher Report that the announcement will be more for those interested in his recruiting process.

"I pretty much know where I'm going," he said. "The school, No. 1, I'm getting a serious, good vibe off them. And No. 2, I've been talking to the coaches a lot and establishing those relationships. I did my research on [the school], and it just felt like the right choice. Everything about it just feels right."

Graham said he'll publicly choose among five schools—Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The winning school will get the nation's No. 11 weak-side defensive end and a Top 200 player in the 2017 class. Graham's 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions point heavily to Texas, but he said he's kept every school high and is appreciative of each of his 22 total offers.

The winning school gets a defender in Graham who is long, quick and tenacious. He creates separation well and shows a level of athleticism and a will to learn, something college coaches will use to help him mature into a mechanically strong defensive end and an overall leader at the next level.

"Collectively, I can see myself an All-American and an academic All-American in college," Graham said. "I can see [coaches] making me the best player I can be. It's all about establishing those relationships and having that good vibe."

On the field, Graham was a first-team all-state selection as a junior, recording 50 tackles and 11.5 sacks. Of those 50 tackles, 23 were behind the line of scrimmage. He also had three forced fumbles.

Graham said the days are "going by super fast," and he's more than excited to announce next month. Of the five schools he's expected to choose from, only Texas has a defensive end committed, 4-star Lagaryonn Carson, who is expected to line up as a strong-side end.

Graham has made two reported trips to Texas this month, including a trip there over the weekend. He also has visited Texas A&M this month and TCU last month.

Visits have been very important for him, as he doesn't want to be an athlete that second-guesses his decision.

"It hasn't really been that difficult for me so far," he said of recruiting. "I just know that I don't want to choose wrong. That's the worst feeling you can get. I've been sitting down and talking with my family before I make any decisions.

"But now, I'm pretty much set. I think I'm ready."

Graham additionally said he has a 3.2 grade-point average and is looking to major in business. Being an All-American is a goal of his, but also being an academic All-American would complete his college goals.

"That should be the main reason why you go to college," he said. "I mean, you're getting your education paid for. It's a really big goal for me. I take that seriously, to become great in and out of the classroom. Grades are important."

 

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

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SEC Football Q&A: Should Alabama Fans Be Concerned About the Tide QB Situation?

With the exception of Arkansas, the spring practices around the SEC are in the books, and we've entered what former South Carolina and Florida head coach Steve Spurrier calls "talkin' season."

So let's talk.

Spring games have given us a glimpse of where each team stands heading into summer workouts, position battles are raging and preseason predictions will soon be flying.

What should we make of Alabama's quarterback situation? Just how good is Georgia? Those questions and more are answered in this week's edition of SEC Q&A.

 

Not much, because some monster named Tim Williams decided to pay mortgage in the Alabama backfield, which made it difficult for the quarterbacks to get going.

It's easy to panic if spring games don't go well, because unlike 10-15 years ago, they are the only real points of reference that fans and media have to base projections on for most schools who have closed practices. In years past, we could say, "Well, Player X didn't have a great spring game, but he tore up a couple of scrimmages."

Because of that, every team in America is either going to win the national title or fire its whole staff—with no room for an opinion anywhere between those two takes.

Alabama's quarterbacks will be fine. 

No, veterans Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell didn't look great, but the younger players—redshirt freshman Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts—did, at times.

Barnett made a couple of big-time throws, including one over a linebacker and under the safeties to Xavian Marks in the fourth quarter. Hurts' athleticism was apparent early, and he fit some throws in tight windows on the run, including a couple to Cam Sims. 

"I think both guys made some good throws," head coach Nick Saban said in quotes released by Alabama. "Both guys showed their athleticism in terms of the ability to stretch plays. They certainly look faster and quicker in terms of how we are moving on offense when those two go in there."

The older players are caretakers, while the younger players have the upside. Yes, the older players need to at least provide a threat, and Bateman has a bit more upside than Cornwell due to his own athleticism. But Barnett and Hurts looked fine considering the defense they were asked to go up against.

Plus, this is par for the course for Alabama. 

Blake Sims looked awful two spring games ago when he completed 13 of 30 passes, tossed one touchdown and two picks (and could have had one or two more). Jake Coker went 14-for-28 for 183 yards, a touchdown and a pick last year, per Roll Bama Roll.

How did those two seasons work out? Two SEC titles, two College Football Playoff berths and a national title.

Alabama still has offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin—the ultimate ace up a coaching staff's sleeve.

Kiffin will make it work.

 

Not really. 

While quarterback Jacob Eason looked awesome in the spring game and should be the starting quarterback from the get-go (as mentioned in the story you responded to), the quarterback battle isn't Georgia's biggest problem.

The line of scrimmage is—on both sides of the ball.

Georgia has questions at both tackle spots on the offensive side of the ball, although the arrival of Rhode Island graduate transfer Tyler Catalina this summer should help. On the defensive side, injuries decimated the line during spring practice, virtually all key contributors on the projected two-deep are underclassmen and Georgia won't have the luxury to rotate nine or 10 players up front.

"We have to do a better job of being physical in all areas, especially up front along the offensive and defensive lines," Smart said. "First of all, we're not as big as we need to be, but we don't play as tough and as physical as we need to. The good news is that we have time to lift weights and get stronger in our summer program."

Because of those issues, it's hard to imagine scenarios in which Georgia handles tough, physical defensive fronts like the ones that Ole Miss, Florida, Auburn and Tennessee boast. It might win some of those games, but it's hard to trust them at this point. 

That same question exists on the defensive front, where the Bulldogs will square off with some punishing, physical rushing attacks throughout the year.

Georgia is going to be in the mix for the East, for sure. But it's impossible to move them over Tennessee at this point, since Tennessee looked like it solved its biggest issue (wide receiver) during its spring game.

 

It's hard to say exactly what the trajectory of any team will look like in December without knowing the specific circumstances. For instance, if Tennessee doesn't win the East but goes 9-3 and Joshua Dobbs misses several key games due to injury, I'd say that the trajectory is actually still moving forward. 

But if all rosters stay relatively intact throughout the year in the SEC East and Tennessee doesn't make it to Atlanta, it will be a disappointment, and Tennessee will go from "building brick-by-brick" during the first three seasons of Butch Jones' tenure to stuck in neutral (or in reverse if the season is a complete debacle).

Everything is set up for Tennessee to be successful and win the East for the first time since 2007.

The roster is loaded with depth and experience—which is something that hasn't existed on Rocky Top since the Phillip Fulmer era. The passing game should be better thanks to the emergence of Preston Williams and Jeff George outside. The Vols get Florida at home early in the season and get Alabama at home after it plays a physical road game with Arkansas.

Anything less than an SEC East title shouldn't be accepted by Jones, the players or the fanbase—assuming there aren't any catastrophic injuries or suspensions.

If the Vols miss Atlanta, the bus will be put in neutral, and Georgia and Florida could go zooming right by.

 

I'm not sure how much of a dark horse he is because a lot of people know about him, but Texas A&M defensive tackle Daylon Mack could be this year's version of former Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

With Myles Garrett dominating attention outside and Daeshon Hall gobbling up his fair share of attention on the other side of the defensive line, Mack will have plenty of opportunities to bring pressure up the middle and become the monster in the middle of what should be a phenomenal Aggie defensive front.

Does he qualify as a dark horse?

I'd say yes, considering the favorite to win the award is Garrett. But Garrett will get the "Jadeveon Clowney treatment" this year, which means teams will shy away from him as much as possible, just as they did during Clowney's final year at South Carolina in 2013. 

Mack will be a force against the run and a nightmare to opposing quarterbacks who will be forced to get on the move quickly, and he'll live up to his lofty 5-star expectations as a sophomore in College Station.

That could result in Defensive Player of the Year honors if things break right for him.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Can Cardale Jones Be an NFL Franchise Quarterback?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — He hasn't played a snap in an actual game in more than five months, but if you thought that was going to stop Cardale Jones from being one of the central focuses of the upcoming NFL draft, you must not have paid much attention to the former Ohio State quarterback's college career.

After flipping the script on his narrative, becoming a national championship-winning quarterback, turning down one opportunity to enter the NFL draft and becoming one of the most polarizing prospects in the next, the conversation about Jones has come full circle and back to the first subject that landed him in the public spotlight four years ago: school.

That's because while speaking to Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal about Jones' pro prospects, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer seemingly suggested Jones' academic responsibilities may have held him back during his time in Columbus.

"A really good skill set, intellectual, very smart, wasn't necessarily very good at school. I wonder if that kind of set him back a little bit," Meyer said. "That's one difference between pro and college—now he doesn't have to worry about classes and going to school and all that stuff. He can focus completely on football."

So the quarterback who first burst into the public's consciousness by tweeting he wasn't at Ohio State to "play school" and that "classes are pointless" during his freshman season in 2012 may not have paid as much attention to his academics as perhaps he should have?

You don't say.

But while Meyer's quote about Jones' interest in class—or lack thereof—is what drew the most attention and generated the most headlines in the past few days, what's been lost in the three-time national champion head coach's analysis of his former quarterback is his larger point. Despite his shortcomings and his disappointing 2015 season, Jones can still be a successful NFL signal-caller.

It might just come by way of an untraditional route.

As Meyer told Ridenour, "I think it's the situation he's going to get put in. I think there's going to have to be patience, an excellent quarterback coach that's going to have to earn his trust. ... It's going to be dictated by the team that takes him, the amount of patience and the relationship he develops with the quarterback coach."

A year ago, when Jones had first contemplated entering the NFL draft following his improbable run through the college football postseason as Ohio State's starting quarterback, such patience may not have been possible. Having started just three games in his college career while simultaneously showcasing all the necessary physical tools on the sport's biggest stage, Jones' perceived draft stock was somewhat of a mystery, but in the draft process, mystery can be a good thing.

"As an athlete, it's all there," Bleacher Report Lead Draft Analyst Matt Miller said after Jones quarterbacked the Buckeyes to the national title victory over Oregon in January 2015. "He's huge. His arm is amazing. It would be the best arm in this year's draft. He grades great throwing it to every level of the field. ... I could see someone falling in love with him and going crazy."

While Jones ultimately opted to return to Ohio State for another season, watching the 2015 draft, it was tough to imagine the 6'5", 253-pounder would have slid past the second round. After Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were selected with the first two picks, it wasn't until the New Orleans Saints picked Colorado State's Garrett Grayson in the third round with the draft's No. 75 overall pick that another signal-caller came off the board.

All together, only seven quarterbacks were taken in the 2015 NFL draft.

"He would have easily been the third QB drafted," Miller said in October.

What a difference a year makes.

While the top of this year's draft is seemingly weaker at the position—Cal's Jared Goff and North Dakota State's Carson Wentz appear to be the only consensus first-round quarterbacks—the middle to back end appears much more muddied. Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg, Kevin Hogan, Dak Prescott and Nate Sudfeld each fit somewhere in that equation, although exactly where is yet to be determined.

The same could be said for Jones, except his perceived draft stock is significantly weaker than it would have been just 12 months ago. Despite starting the season as Ohio State's starting quarterback, the Cleveland native ultimately lost a season-long quarterback battle to J.T. Barrett and failed to make an appearance in any of the Buckeyes' final three games.

All of the physical tools draft analysts were drooling over a year ago are still there.

But with more actual game film available, there's become less to like about Jones' game.

"He looks really disjointed. I think that's the best word for it. I don't think he's a good fit in that offense," Miller said upon Jones' benching last season. "Last year it was so simple—throw it deep to Devin Smith—and he was allowed to 'just play.' Now teams are game-planning for him, and he's asked to do more in the offense."

However, despite little having changed between now and then, there remains a path for Jones to not only be drafted, but potentially one day be the face of a franchise. Like Meyer said, it's going to take the right situation—perhaps the right veteran quarterback to sit behind—and the patience to know that even with his apparent physical tools, Jones is far from a finished product.

"The Ohio State offense didn't ask him to go underneath and read a lot of concepts," Miller said last month. "But there's a good foundation to build on."

Not that you'd expect him to say any different, but Jones too believes he can one day be a franchise quarterback. Alluding to the scrutiny he faced in Columbus over the course of the past 15 months, the national champion quarterback pointed out he's no stranger to the spotlight.

"You look at the guys who are franchise quarterbacks for their teams, they have it together on and off the field," Jones said after an impressive pro-day performance in March. "I played at Ohio State. I'm not going to say it's the same thing, but it's almost the same magnitude."

Former Buckeyes safety and Jones' college roommate Tyvis Powell added, "He's a winner. At the end of the day, Cardale's the only quarterback that's 11-0 [as a starter] and that hasn't lost a game. You can't beat that with a bat."

Of course, there's more to being a potential franchise quarterback than career records, saying all the right things and even physical traits. At some point, a team has to be confident enough in your total package to put its future in your hands.

As Meyer pointed out, for Jones, that could still happen. It's just going to need to come at the right place and at the right time.

Could Cardale Jones still become a franchise quarterback in the NFL? Sure.

But the reality remains that it's a long shot.

It also wouldn't be the first time he's overcome the odds.

 

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

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John Franklin III Is the JUCO Backup QB Who Could Take the SEC by Storm

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn quarterback John Franklin III isn't short on confidence. The former signal-caller at Florida State and East Mississippi Community College moved to the Plains in December and began his trek to win the starting job over senior Jeremy Johnson and sophomore Sean White—both of whom started games during the Tigers' lackluster campaign of 2015.

"I believe I'm going to be out there on Sept. 3 the first snap of the game," Franklin said.

The 6'1", 174-pounder from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, completed seven of his 11 passes for 61 yards in the A-Day spring game, including a 40-yard touchdown to Marcus Davis, and is squarely in the mix to be named Auburn's starting quarterback.

"I live to play in front of crowds," he said. "I love that. I'm a game-time player. I feel like I'm a different person come game day, and I felt relaxed, comfortable—like I've been playing here for five years. When a lot of people are around, I know when to turn it on and go."

Franklin was a 3-star prospect out of South Plantation High School near Fort Lauderdale whose only Power Five offers were from Florida State and Tennessee. He enrolled at Florida State in 2013 with the intention of competing for the starting quarterback job once Jameis Winston moved on, and he took a redshirt.

He announced he would transfer from the Seminoles in May 2015, shortly after Everett Golson decided to move to Tallahassee from Notre Dame, and played his sophomore campaign as a backup at East Mississippi Community College.

In the limited time Franklin played for East Mississippi, he shined. He was 64-of-110 passing (58.2 percent) for 733 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions and rushed for 451 yards (10.5 per carry) and nine scores.

People who know Franklin best think he will be the starting quarterback at Auburn.

Buddy Stephens coached him at East Mississippi Community College, where he split time with returning starter Wyatt Roberts, who played 11 games behind Chad Kelly (now at Ole Miss) in 2014 and threw 23 touchdowns and only two picks alongside Franklin in 2015, according to the NJCAA, before giving up football and enrolling at Mississippi State.

"It wasn't that John didn't take the job away from [Roberts], it was that Roberts never gave John an open opportunity," Stephens told Bleacher Report. "They co-habitated very well. John, never one time did he whine, did he gripe, did he cry. Nothing."

That's not coachspeak.

"John's a great student of the game and is always watching film," Roberts told Bleacher Report. "We had conversations in weeks before games about what coverages they were doing. It was a friendly competition, no doubt. We were both winners, and that's what we were there for. We helped each other out. When he was in, I was 100 percent behind him helping him out just like he was when I was in the game."

Though Roberts played a more prominent role than Franklin, Stephens saw what his backup was capable of.

"John's very athletic, very smart and can make a lot of things happen," Stephens said. "That's one of the things we talked to the coaches at Auburn about when they came to recruit him. John's probably the best athlete on the field whenever he's on the field."

It was when the Tigers sent coaches to recruit Franklin that East Mississippi made headlines for all of the wrong reasons.

A brawl broke out late in the first half of the Lions' Oct. 22 game against Mississippi Delta Community College with Stephens' crew up 48-0.

What you probably don't know about that brawl is that its genesis stemmed from Franklin—not for nefarious reasons but noble ones.

After entering the game for an injured Roberts, Franklin completed 10 of 16 passes for 119 yards and one touchdown, and he added 10 carries for 172 yards and five scores. It was his most significant action of the season, and it was by design.

"We planned on playing him a lot regardless because [Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett] Lashlee had come to watch him play," Stephens said. "On that Saturday [two days later], Auburn was playing at Arkansas, so Rhett drove through and had to leave at halftime.

"He was wearing everything out in the first half. So, we tried to do it one more time. We tried to get one more series so that we can throw a little bit so Rhett could see it because we knew that this was John's opportunity and John's chance. Well, the other team and everybody else around the league hates us so much because we win, it caused a fight."

It caused a fight but left a lasting impression on everybody who saw him play that night.

"He was on fire," Roberts said. "I came out, and John went in, and it was like a highlight tape. Every time I looked up from the training table, he was running for 60 yards or throwing a deep ball. It was, by far, the best performance he had all season, and it's a shame that all of the chaos broke loose."

Franklin got his scholarship, choosing Auburn over an offer from Buffalo, and now he has a chance to fit into a Power Five system that matches his skills.

For Franklin to take the SEC by storm, though, he needs to use his legs as weapons. He's the key for Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn to get off the hot seat and get Auburn back on the right track.

After winning the SEC title and coming within 13 seconds of claiming the national championship in 2013, Malzahn has sputtered. His Tigers have lost nine of their last 11 conference games and are coming off of a 7-6 season before which they were ranked No. 6 in the country.

There's far too much talent on the roster for Auburn to be mediocre, and if Malzahn tabs Franklin as his starter, Franklin will provide the running option the Tigers need to be successful.

Quarterbacks weren't "live" on A-Day, and if anybody got in the same ZIP code as Franklin, he was ruled down. But Malzahn's offenses are at their best when they have a running threat taking the snaps—like in 2010 when he won a national championship as Auburn's offensive coordinator with Cam Newton contributing 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground. In Malzahn's first season as head coach in 2013, Nick Marshall rushed for 1,068 yards and 12 scores, and the Tigers finished 12-2.

"I wish I played 'live' today," Franklin said after Auburn's spring game. "I could have gotten some other stuff done."

The staff knows Franklin isn't there to play a backup role. He's there to be "the man."

"You don't bring in a junior college guy and not expect him to play," Lashlee said in April, per Charles Goldberg of the team's official website. "I can't tell you what exactly he's going to do at this point because he's still in competition to be the starter. He is a guy that has shown he can handle things. He has some impact player ability, so I would expect us to find a way for him to help us regardless."

Franklin served as the scout team quarterback and did his best impression of Marshall for Florida State prior to its meeting with Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game in January 2014. That time with the Seminoles allowed him to hit the ground running on the Plains.

"When I helped out at Florida State, it was definitely my favorite week being the scout team quarterback just because it fit me," Franklin said. "That's one of the main reasons that I'm here now—because this offense fits me. It feels really good to be in an offense that's suited to fit my skill set."

Franklin's stature, speed and elusiveness make him much more of a Marshall clone than a Newton clone. Most of Marshall's damage on the ground came on the outside, with running backs Tre Mason (2013) and Cameron Artis-Payne (2014) taking the lion's share of the work between the tackles. Newton was more adept at running power and inverted veer elements.

For Franklin to play more of the Marshall role, he will have to provide a deep threat through the air. That has been his top priority in 2016.

"I see a big difference from when I first came in to now," he said. "The game is starting to slow down for me.

"The deep ball, I've gotten better at. Just the little things in the offense that are real unique, I'm starting to see myself get better and am going to take that to the offseason."

That's not just self-confidence; that's what his coaches are saying, too.

"The ball comes out of John's hands well. He's got a strong arm. He can spiral the ball, snap it off pretty good," Lashlee told Goldberg. "There's been a couple things naturally that he's worked on that I think that has improved a lot from Day 1 until now. The deep ball wasn't his strength. He can really drive the ball, make all the throws."

That progression will force the Auburn staff to make a choice—between a pro-style option or a scheme with more of a running threat from the signal-caller. If it goes with the running threat, Franklin is the only option.

"This is a quarterback-driven offense," said co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Kodi Burns, who switched from quarterback to wide receiver as a Tigers player prior to the 2009 season—Malzahn's first as Auburn's offensive coordinator. "We're going to do whatever suits our quarterback best—whoever that is."

Johnson entered last season with enough hype to fill Jordan-Hare Stadium, but he threw six interceptions in his first three games of the year, was benched for White and never seemed to have the confidence he showed in the 2014 season opener, when he threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the first half versus Arkansas.

White played admirably in Johnson's stead despite being put in a tough spot. He threw only one touchdown to four picks but looked much more consistent than Johnson in the spring game April 9, hitting Davis in stride for a big gain in the first quarter and dropping a couple of beautiful passes to running backs on wheel routes out of the backfield.

But he fumbled in the red zone, tossed what should have been an interception near the goal line and doesn't have the wheels Franklin does.

"Voluntary" summer workouts and fall camp are going to make or break Franklin's quest to win the starting job. Stephens, who not only coached Kelly but also former Rebels Bo Wallace and Randall Mackey, saw firsthand at East Mississippi just how good Franklin can be.

"He has all of the arm strength of any quarterback I've ever had—ever. Anybody," Stephens said. "He has tremendous arm strength. He's tremendously coachable. It's like that first-round draft choice, and you're just waiting on him to click one day in the minor leagues. All of a sudden, he comes to the majors, and he's 19-4 and wins the Cy Young."

Malzahn better hope Franklin can be his ace, because his job depends on it.

The kid from Fort Lauderdale who sought out his chance now has it, and Stephens doesn't think he's going to let it slip through his fingers.

"John Franklin's going to be one hell of a good quarterback," he said.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Craig Evans, Montez Sweat Part Ways with Michigan State Football Team

Michigan State Spartans defensive linemen Craig Evans and Montez Sweat have left the football team for "personal reasons."

The university announced the news Monday in a release (via Mike Griffith of MLive.com): "Michigan State sophomore defensive lineman Craig Evans and sophomore defensive end Montez Sweat have left the football team for personal reasons effective immediately, according to an announcement made Monday, April 18, by head coach Mark Dantonio."  

Evans was suspended during last spring's drills, and Sweat had just finished serving an indefinite suspension that lasted from last season's second game of the year until spring practice, per Griffith.

Evans played in 11 games for the Spartans last year and had stints in which he made an impact for Dantonio's defense. He recorded four tackles twice, once in the team's shocking 17-14 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes on Nov. 21.

He also totaled two tackles in the College Football Playoff semifinals against the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

Sweat, meanwhile, did not see much action in his two years at Michigan State. He totaled four tackles in his freshman year in 2014, but the team redshirted him in 2015 because of its crowded defensive line.

"Let's just say I'm behind Shilique Calhoun,'' Sweat said regarding where he stood on the depth chart in August, per Griffith. "I'm one of the fastest guys on the D-line, and they like my pass rush. But I want to be on the field on all the downs."

Griffith noted Dantonio called Sweat's status on the team "in limbo" last week.

Three seniors from the defensive line graduated last year, including potential first-round pick Shilique Calhoun. Evans and Sweat looked to be in position to see an increase in playing time, but that won't be the case.

Defense was the main reason why the Spartans went 12-2 and won the Big Ten title last year. Though losing two guys on the line would normally hurt a team, Dantonio's defenses usually play with a next-man-up mentality, so Michigan State should be fine.

 

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com/cfb.

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Lorenzo Featherston to Be Declared Medically Ineligible to Play for FSU

Florida State defensive end Lorenzo Featherston's career with the Seminoles ended on Monday when head coach Jimbo Fisher revealed he's in the process of being declared medically ineligible because of a severe knee injury.

Safid Deen of the Tallahassee Democrat reported the news. Fisher shared the information on Featherston's status at a Seminoles Boosters event in Jacksonville, per Deen.  

Fisher had warned the public March 30 that Featherston may not be able to return to the gridiron.

"I don't know if he'll be able to come back. It'll be interesting to see," Fisher said, per the Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone. "We knew it and it’s been bothering him pretty bad, so we've got to evaluate it."

An injury-plagued 2015 campaign limited Featherston to only four games, and he wasn't in action in Florida State's spring practices because of his ailing knee.

Per 247Sports' Chris Nee, Featherston suffered a serious knee injury in high school. He also underwent arthroscopic surgery before the 2015 season began and had been listed as the starter at the Seminoles' "Buck" position, a defensive end-linebacker hybrid spot on the front seven, according to Deen.

Featherston was a unique player who flashed potential as a true freshman in 2014, racking up 19 total tackles and five for loss, per CFBStats.com. At 6'7" and 218 pounds, Featherston's length and athleticism figured to lead to a starting spot.

Unfortunately, he will have to continue rehabbing aggressively to get an opportunity elsewhere if he decides to continue playing football.

Given his size and resultant ability to be a disruptive force off the edge, there's reason to believe some program would take a look at Featherston if he ever checks out medically.

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Should Texas A&M Worry No. 1 Dual-Threat QB Tate Martell Will Use All 5 Visits?

The nation's top-ranked dual-threat quarterback posted a Monday afternoon tweet that made a few Texas A&M fans cringe.

Tate Martell, the highly touted 5-star quarterback who's been committed to Texas A&M for nearly eight months to the day, tweeted that he plans on taking all five of his official visits when that time comes in the fall. While he stressed that he's still a Texas A&M pledge, he also stressed the importance of taking visits to finalize his decision:

"Currently, I'm in the process of trying to figure out which schools I would like to go visit," Martell said in a statement via Twitter. "I still have some more offers that I would like to receive before choosing which schools to visit, because these visits will ultimately determine where I will be going to college."

Seems simple enough, right? Shouldn't be major news, right? Every high school athlete should be entitled to take all of their official visits, right?

Right?

Truth is, that's just not how it works in the recruiting world, particularly when an athlete is committed.

For months, Martell has let social media know exactly how committed he is to Texas A&M. He's been an avid supporter of the future of the Aggies. As a 5-star prospect, Martell is hoping to do the same things for the Aggies as he's done on the field leading national power Bishop Gorman, which had another undefeated season last year.

Those tweets now will be replaced by the statement saying that while he still remains committed to Texas A&M, he is planning on taking all five of his upcoming official visits "because I feel that I have worked too hard to not take full advantage of the opportunities that I have been given." The statement also talked about Martell possibly taking unofficial visits—visits taken on his own dime—if he needs more than five officials to see things clearly recruitingwise.

Should Texas A&M worry about the upcoming visits? Naturally. Should the Aggies automatically assume the worst? Not so fast.

At first thought, this isn't the news Texas A&M wants to hear, especially with the quarterback issues that took place earlier this year. After all, Martell is supposed to be the cornerstone of the 2017 class and the answer to quarterback questions of the future for Kevin Sumlin and his coaching staff. The Aggies, once upon a time, had little to worry about with Martell's recruiting. Now, it almost seems like Martell's process is wide-open again.

Here's the good news for Texas A&M: Martell is not decommitted. In the statement, he mentioned that he not only remains committed, but also believes that "Texas A&M is the best school" for him. Go to Martell's Twitter page, and his pinned tweet dated from Aug. 20, 2015, declaring his commitment to the Aggies is still the first tweet seen. That tweet is accompanied by an Aggies photo edit:

The fact that Martell wants to visit schools may be viewed as concerning, but it's not a deal-breaker for Texas A&M. If anything, it should keep the Aggies coaching staff on its toes. Defensive tackle Daylon Mack was a 5-star athlete who made Texas A&M fight until the end of his recruiting process. He looked around at other schools but signed with the Aggies.

Before quarterback Kyler Murray decided to transfer, he was another athlete the Aggies managed to ultimately sign despite outsiders luring him from his commitment. Will we ever forget Murray's midweek trip to Texas which nearly broke Twitter with all of the comments and backlash?

Sumlin and his staff have been good at closing the deal on recruiting targets. Martell, however, could be their biggest challenge.

Most recently, Martell took an unofficial visit to Ohio State, where he gave the visit high marks, per 247Sports' Bill Kurelic. And on Saturday, Martell gave Nebraska fans hope with a tweet that has since been deleted.

And then are the schools that he's either looking to visit or looking to get an offer from. Martell has 18 reported offers, but some of the heavy hitters on his list of interested schools include Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Miami and Penn State.

For Texas A&M, the best plan is to continue battling for Martell as if he's an uncommitted athlete. His presence would be huge on and off the field for Texas A&M, as he's proved to be a solid player-recruiter for the 2017 class.

Keeping him committed will be a story in itself. Losing him, however, will be even bigger news, and the last thing the Aggies want is to be on the bad end of another 5-star quarterback situation. Expect the Texas A&M staff to fight for Martell's pledge, regardless of where he takes his five official visits.

 

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

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Alabama Football: Projecting Crimson Tide's Post-Spring 2-Deep Depth Chart

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban is used to getting attention, just not in the way he did over the weekend.

With the University of Alabama holding a special celebration to honor his 10th spring leading the Crimson Tide, his face was just about everywhere. From the game programs professing "A decade of dominance" to the video presentations glorifying his numerous achievements, Saban was celebrated from start to finish. 

"This was a really outstanding day for me personally," he said after Saturday's A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, which despite the threat of lousy weather drew 76,212 fans.

The head coach gave a special halftime speech, in which he made sure everyone acknowledged his wife Terry. The night before he was honored by many of his former players, who surprised him with numerous gifts of appreciation, including a new golf bag. 

"It was really heartfelt for me," Saban said. "But at the same time, it’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

"I drive the bus, but we have a lot of quality people that help the players benefit and create value for themselves."

The coach also got a little extra attention when coaching the scrimmage to close spring practices from the backfield when freshman quarterback Blake Barnett spun behind him while trying to avoid the pass rush. Needless to say, it didn't work very well.  

"When there’s a scramble, everybody seems to get attracted to me," Saban joked. "Sometimes when there’s an interception. There seems to be an unusual attraction for players to converge on me. I think it’s intentional to some degree, but as long as I don’t get hurt, I really don’t care. I usually can get out of the way, but I didn’t do a very good job of that today."

As for the rest of the Crimson Tide, our post-spring depth chart is based on how they lined up in the spring game and what might potentially happen over the summer.

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Ranking the Top 25 Seniors Heading into the 2016 College Football Season

Being a senior in college football means a player has navigated a long journey, one likely filled with ups and downs, and now is headed into the final stretch. Seniors are an incredibly valuable commodity, even if they generally aren't considered among the most talented on a team.

Because players can turn pro after their junior year, those who stick around for their senior season often get labeled as less talented. This blanket description doesn't accurately describe each player's individual situation, as while most weren't good enough to enter the NFL draft, some hope to use one last season to improve their pro stock. Others might have gotten off to a slow start in their careers, and a player's senior year is the best chance to shine.

As we have with the freshman, sophomore and junior class, we've ranked the 25 best seniors heading into the 2016 season based on what they've achieved to this point and what is expected of them this fall.

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Auburn Football: Projecting Tigers' Post-Spring 2-Deep Depth Chart

AUBURN, Ala. — The most crucial spring camp of head coach Gus Malzahn's Auburn tenure is officially in the books, and the Tigers are now transitioning to the long summer months of workouts and new arrivals ahead of what will be a make-or-break 2016 season.

Auburn's spring finale inside Jordan-Hare Stadium provided some more clarity to a potential two-deep depth chart, which Malzahn said he wanted to establish by the end of practices. 

While there are still some question marks at key positions, here's a position-by-position projection of what Auburn's depth chart should look like heading into the summer.

This depth chart does not include members of the 2016 recruiting class who haven't enrolled yet—such as defensive tackle Derrick Brown and wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers—and graduate transfers such as linebacker T.J. Neal and defensive back Marshall Taylor, who haven't arrived on campus.

These projections are based on who was on the Plains at the end of spring camp and where they lined up the most, according to interviews, media viewing window observations and A-Day performances.

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Michigan Football: 5 Things Standing in the Way of a Big Ten Championship

National championship buzz surrounds the 2016 Michigan football team, but several elements could keep the Wolverines from even taking the Big Ten crown.

Those factors are both internal and external, including positional questions, execution issues and potential stumbling points on the schedule.

Fortunately for Michigan, its defense should be among the nation's best units—although depth and inexperience at linebacker is a legitimate early concern.

But that possible shortcoming will rarely be exploited. The key for the Wolverines is to address that problem before it matters late in the season—because the schedule is merciless.

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B/R Recruiting Notebook: 5-Star WR Sets Decision Date

Multiple spring games took place over the weekend, and coincidentally or not, several players in the 2017 class decided to end their recruiting processes.

Tennessee was a big winner over the weekend, landing three commitments in 4-star wide receiver K.D. Nixon, 3-star cornerback Cheyenne Labruzza and 3-star linebacker Solon Page III. Nixon is the Volunteers' top-ranked pledge thus far.

While the recruiting world is focused on the 2017 class, there's one name in the 2016 class that still draws a ton of attention.

Here's the latest recruiting news on some of the nation's top players.

 

2016 5-star WR sets a decision date

It looks like the wait is over for Savannah, Georgia, 5-star wide receiver Demetris Robertson, the top-ranked receiver in the 2016 class. According to 247Sports' Kipp Adams, Robertson is expected to announce where he'll play college football on May 2.

Robertson took his five official visits to Notre Dame (weekend of Sept. 5), Cal (Oct. 3), Georgia Tech (Jan. 29), Alabama (Feb. 26) and Georgia (March 19). He has signed agreement forms for financial aid—documents that bind a school to a player but do not bind a player to a school—with Georgia, Georgia Tech and Cal.

Georgia holds a slight lead on Robertson's 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions, and head coach Kirby Smart would love to have a player of Robertson's caliber. The Bulldogs had a top-10 2016 class that featured two 5-stars in quarterback Jacob Eason and tight end Isaac Nauta, both of whom have been on campus since January.

According to DawgNation's Jeff Sentell, Robertson's announcement will take place at his high school, Savannah Christian Prep. Alabama is reportedly out of the race, per Adams. Since he did not sign a national letter of intent, he is not bound to any program and can enroll in the summer. Student-athletes who do not sign national letters of intent are eligible to work out financial aid agreements with the schools they ultimately choose.

Several 2016 signees recently offered their own recruiting pitches to Robertson. The winning school will get a playmaker not only as a receiver but also as a kickoff and punt return specialist. Robertson was the nation's No. 14 player in the 2016 class.

 

New UGA pledge Poole has eyes on targets

Saturday was big for Georgia, as the Bulldogs landed another stud to go in its defensive arsenal in 4-star cornerback William Poole III. A top-100 player nationally as the No. 12 cornerback in the 2017 class, Poole chose Georgia over Florida, Alabama and others on a list that was 39 offers strong.

Poole joined a talented 2017 class but said he's looking to lead a recruiting revolution that ultimately will land several more elite-level athletes to Georgia's rising class. Among those targets are 5-star JaCoby Stevens—the nation's top-ranked athlete—and the 4-star Georgia trio of defensive end Malik Herring, linebacker Nate McBride and wide receiver Trey Blount.

The biggest target on Poole's plate? Poole said he's keeping close tabs on 4-star cornerback Jamyest Williams, another in-state prospect who he said "can change the momentum of a game at any moment."

"What makes him an intriguing target is not only his love for the game but his competitiveness and thrill to be the best every rep," Poole said of Williams, ranked the nation's No. 7 cornerback. "[He's] not the biggest defensive back, but with him, things like that don't matter, because you're going to feel his presence when he steps on the field.

"Me and him, together in the UGA secondary, I see him playing the Star/nickel position covering those shifty slots, blitzing and using his speed to make plays at any moment. Plus, he's a great kickoff returner/punt returner."

Williams has 46 offers, but Georgia leads the race in his 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions.

 

USC, others on the mind of 4-star DE/LB hybrid

Sacramento, California, 4-star defensive end D.J. Johnson originally had plans to take in USC's spring game on Saturday. Instead, Johnson stayed close to home and attended Sacramento State's spring game. He was there watching his older brother P.J. Johnson, a defensive lineman for the Hornets.

The missed opportunity to see USC, however, doesn't mean Johnson, the nation's No. 12 defensive end of the 2017 class, is putting the Trojans in a secondary position. The 6'5", 240-pound athlete said he's making it a priority to take a visit to the campus soon.

"I know I'm going to make some visits, and right now, I'm trying to get to USC," he said. "It's one of those powerhouse schools and somewhere I know I can go in and fit real well. They have a great team, and you can see how the players love the coaches. They have a great family atmosphere."

Johnson, a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid who claims 40 offers, said he has an appreciation for USC's competitive nature and how the players rallied around Clay Helton when he was interim head coach and once he was promoted to full-time head coach.

Johnson added that while USC is high on his list, other schools are viewed equally. Ole Miss, Oregon, Michigan, Georgia and UCLA are schools to watch as he prepares to trim his list. He said he's planning on making a final decision after his senior season.

"Family atmosphere, that's important to me," Johnson said. "I want to see players and coaches getting along great. I don't want to go somewhere where the players don't like the coaches. I also want to go where I can fight for a job early as a true freshman. I want to be somewhere where I can go dominate."

 

For 4-star OT, memories of recruiting count

For Jackson, Tennessee, 4-star offensive tackle Trey Smith, the recruiting process is all about making and keeping memories. He has 25 reported offers and holds several schools in high regard.

Last month, Smith had a memorable time in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when he visited the Crimson Tide and met with head coach Nick Saban. He was able to spend considerable time with Saban and talk about both football and non-football issues.

"The biggest highlight I've had personally was meeting Coach Saban the first time," Smith said. "I grew up an Alabama fan, so walking into his office and shaking his hand while listening to him tell what a great player I am was surreal."

Meeting Saban will be something Smith will never forget, but will it be enough for him to commit to the Crimson Tide? Smith has a few schools on his watch list, including Ohio State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Notre Dame, Clemson and in-state school Tennessee.

Smith reportedly has made unofficial visits this month to Ole Miss, Ohio State and Notre Dame. At 6'5" and 302 pounds, he is the nation's No. 10 offensive tackle and No. 55 overall player in the 2017 class.

 

A sleeper option for Detroit 4-star CB?

Remember in September when Ambry Thomas received 129 pieces of mail from Notre Dame all in the same day? Detroit's 4-star cornerback still recalls it as if it were yesterday. There's a reason why Notre Dame remains high on his list.

But the Irish have plenty of competition, as Thomas continues to take his time with his recruitment. Schools like Penn State, West Virginia, Pitt and in-state schools Michigan and Michigan State have all received visits from Thomas this spring.

The one school to keep an eye on, however, is farthest from home. Thomas said there is one school to watch that some may not have on their personal radars for him.

"I'm feeling Arizona," Thomas said. "They've got new coaches around [head coach Rich Rodriguez], especially the cornerbacks coach [Donte Williams]. He's making a personal trip to see me on April 27."

Thomas, now 6'0" and 175 pounds, has 32 reported offers and said he's listening to all schools. LSU, Ohio State and Tennessee are three other schools that could be in the running.

"Everything's going real good," he said. "I'm picking up more offers and receiving more and more interest. It's going fine."

 

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

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