NCAA Football

Michigan Football: 10 Wolverines Who Could Surprise People This Spring

There is enough untapped talent on Michigan’s roster to forecast several potential surprise players during spring practice. From defense to offense to special teams, coach Jim Harbaugh has droves of unproven athletes who could make a noticeable difference.

The Wolverines’ well of linebackers and linemen has been full for some time, and one of the bunch could end up blowing away defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin in the coming weeks.

Will Ben Gedeon be the one to command attention? What about Bryan Mone? Can he fill a void up front?

Michigan’s need for a star quarterback has never been greater, so it’s fair to assume that offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and passing game guru Jedd Fisch will be on high alert during spring workouts. Finding the Wolverines’ next go-to signal-caller is one the biggest challenges facing Harbaugh’s staff.

This game is pretty simple—and really, it’s almost like picking a name from out of a hat. At the very least, the surprise tag could apply to roughly a quarter of Michigan’s roster. With that said, in order to qualify for placement in this slideshow, a player must have shown at least a little something during the past year or have noteworthy hype behind him.

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The Most Underrated Rivalries in College Football

Every college football program has at least one rival: a team it hates every day of the year and regardless of the differences in quality of the two. Rivalries are the heart of college football, and they're something the college game does better than the pro game.

Some rivalries are well-known across the country; Ohio State-Michigan, Texas-Oklahoma and Alabama-Auburn are three of the biggest. There are rivalries that much of the college football world doesn't talk about, too, and these are the focus of this slideshow.

The following rivalries don't get enough press. Today, I'm going to discuss why they don't and why they should get more. 

All the rivalries listed are still active. I've defined "active" as rivalries still being played without interruption, or briefly interrupted rivalries that are scheduled to return by 2016. They're also rivalries between two FBS schools.

For the most part, rivalries are known regionally as opposed to nationally. In the comments section below, please add whichever such rivalries you feel should get more recognition across the country.

With that, here's the list, in no particular order.

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Big Ten Football: Early Odds for Each Team to Make the 2015-16 Playoff

Ohio State represented the Big Ten during the inaugural College Football Playoff, defeating Alabama and Oregon en route to a national title.

Urban Meyer's crew is a clear favorite to make a repeat trip to the playoff in January, but what are the odds another Big Ten team joins the Buckeyes?

Organized alphabetically, the following list breaks down the chances for each conference program to earn a coveted spot in the final four of the Football Bowl Subdivision's championship bracket.

Can Michigan State avoid a late-season loss? Will Wisconsin have enough offense to make it? Is there an under-the-radar squad waiting to emerge? Read on to find out.

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Why Clemson Tigers Will Win National Title in 2015-16 Season

With all due to respect to the Florida State Seminoles, it may be time to pass the torch to the Clemson Tigers in the ACC, at least for the next season or two.

For that matter, the rest of the nation needs to be on "Tiger watch," because Clemson is poised and ready for a statement year in 2015. We saw the Ohio State Buckeyes battle through quarterback injuries and question marks to become the first-ever College Football Playoff champions. They were a well-rounded team which beat some of the best in the country to win the title.

This year, Clemson may end up being the 2014 version of Ohio State. No, really, the Tigers have the potential to be that good.

 

Odds for CFP National Championship in 2015-16 Season

According to Odds Shark, the Buckeyes open as the favorites to win the CFP once again next season, with odds between 4-1 and 4.5-1. In comparison, the Tigers open with odds of 22-1 to 25-1 to win it all. Obviously, those odds show a level of respect given to Clemson, as it puts them on a similar level with teams such as the Oregon Ducks, Michigan State Spartans and Oklahoma Sooners.

Those odds make Clemson the favorites to contend for the CFP National Championship from the ACC this season, which isn't a huge surprise.

The Seminoles are losing quarterback Jameis Winston, wide receiver Rashad Greene, running back Karlos Williams and tight end Nick O'Leary offensively. On top of that, they'll lose defensive talents such as defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby.

With many teams in contention this year, the argument for the Tigers to get the job done is an intriguing one.

 

Buckeyes Facing a Tough Task

While Ohio State returns a ton of talent and has one of the best coaches in the country, the odds of the Buckeyes repeating don't factor in every aspect. Since the BCS began in 1998, only one team has managed to win back-to-back national championships. This was the Alabama Crimson Tide back in 2011 and 2012, according to NCAA.com.

Obviously, we can't forget the fact that the USC Trojans won in both 2003 and 2004, but their second win was eventually vacated by the BCS.

So the question for the Buckeyes now becomes, how will their push for a repeat look with the entire nation gunning to take them down? Ohio State's 2015 schedule isn't overly tough, but they do have some major tests along the way. This includes teams such as the Virginia Tech Hokies in their first game and the Northern Illinois Huskies soon after that.

Let's not forget that those pesky Hokies were the only team to beat the Buckeyes last season.

As the season rolls on for Ohio State, they draw the Penn State Nittany Lions, Minnesota Golden Gophers and their biggest test, the Michigan State Spartans. The schedule isn't brutal, but the fact that they don't have the toughest schedule may actually come back to hurt them.

 

Clemson's Strength of Schedule

As much as we all love talking about what the Buckeyes did last season, let's not forget that Clemson doesn't have to be No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation to get in. The Tigers just need to win the ACC and take advantage of the chance to grab some big wins along the way.

While Clemson's nonconference schedule won't blow you away, the fact that they finish the season on the road against South Carolina will help. The Gamecocks may have gone 7-6 last season, but expectations are higher heading into 2015.

What really helps the Tigers in terms of their schedule, is that they not only draw the Notre Dame Fighting Irish this season, but they also have quite a few tough conference games. They'll be on the road against the Louisville Cardinals, Miami Hurricanes and NC State Wolfpack (who will surprise quite a few people in 2015).

Those are three tough road games, but the Tigers also benefit quite a bit from playing tough opponents in Notre Dame, FSU and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets all in Death Valley.

Also, it's worth noting that, according to the aforementioned odds from OddsShark, Clemson faces six teams who have odds of 100-1 or better to win the CFP National Championship. Those odds may seem a bit high, but a few other teams listed with odds of 100-1 include the West Virginia Mountaineers, Utah Utes, Arizona Wildcats, Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers and Nebraska Cornhuskers.

  

Plan for Replacing Lost Talent

It's not all good news in Death Valley in terms of their own losses in 2015, as multiple players from their top-ranked defense will be gone next season. This includes DEs Vic Beasley and Corey Crawford, DT Grady Jarrett, linebacker Stephone Anthony and CB Garry Peters, who are all graduating.

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables will have holes to fill, but there's talent waiting in the wings. Through the losses of all the big names, players such as DE Shaq Lawson, LB Ben Boulware and safeties Jayron Kearse and Travis Blanks are all ready to step in.

Let's also not forget about CB Mackensie Alexander, who is only a rising sophomore and has the potential to be one of the best in the nation next season.

The Tigers won't begin 2015 as the same dominant defense that they were at the end of 2014, but they're going to be a very good unit. Also, there's no reason to doubt Venables and head coach Dabo Swinney, as these two are masters at getting the most out of their players.

 

Offensive Firepower

Deshaun Watson, Artavis Scott, Mike Williams, Wayne Gallman and Tyshon Dye. These are the players who opponents will line up against on a weekly basis. It's a pretty daunting task for any defense, especially since we just started to see Gallman and Dye scratch the surface at the end of 2014.

While Dye only saw action in four games, he put together an impressive 20 rushes for 124 yards and two scores against Georgia State. As for Gallman, he may be the man to watch in 2015. The redshirt freshman rushed a total of 16 times in his first four games, but he was called upon in a big way down the home stretch.

Gallman finished the year with 769 yards and four scores, but three of his four touchdowns came in the final four weeks. He also had 88 or more yards in four of the final five games, with the other game being against Georgia State, when Dye got the nod.

As for Watson, he has the potential to be a Heisman Trophy contender next season if he's able to stay healthy. While Watson is able to make plays with both his arm and his legs, he needs to be smarter when he takes off to run. The freshman rushed for five touchdowns last season, but he needs to avoid taking those big hits that can lead to injuries this season.

Let's not forget about wide receivers Scott and Williams, who combined for 1,995 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns. What makes those numbers even more impressive is the back and forth between Cole Stoudt and Watson at quarterback they dealt with. The numbers that those two could put up with extra time to work with a talent like Watson are pretty scary to predict.

The X-factor will absolutely be Watson. His pure talent mixed with his supporting cast makes it easy to see how he tossed six touchdowns against the North Carolina Tar Heels last season.

 

Instant-Impact Freshman Class?

According to 247Sports, the Tigers wrapped up 2015 with the eighth-best class. This included a combined 12 4- and 5-star commits. While many of these players may not see much action on a talented Clemson team in 2015, a few stand out as potential immediate playmakers.

Two specifically? Ray Ray McCloud III and Deon Cain.

Both of these players are incredible prospects. McCloud scored 55 rushing touchdowns over his final three years at Sickles High School in Tampa, Florida. He also rushed 570 times for 4,249 yards combined in his junior and senior seasons, while averaging 7.45 yards per carry.

As for Cain, he's played quarterback, running back, wide receiver and has even dabbled a bit on the defensive side of the ball for Tampa Bay Tech in Tampa, Florida. Through his junior and senior seasons, he combined for 5,633 total passing and rushing yards.

While Cain was a quarterback who showed he had some serious wheels in high school, he's slated to play wideout for the Tigers. Cain showed his versatility by not only throwing a 54-yard touchdown pass in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl but also catching a 50-yard receiving touchdown.

 

Projecting the Final Four

For argument's sake, we'll assume that the Buckeyes make it back into the 2015-16 CFP. This leaves three spots for the Tigers.

It seems as though their biggest competition will likely be the USC Trojans, TCU Horned Frogs, Baylor Bears and whoever makes it out of the SEC West. Based on that alone, you have to like their chances, for a few different reasons.

Not only does TCU play Baylor, but they play in the final game of the 2015 season. There's a very good chance that we could see that game decide which team makes it the College Football Playoff next season, possibly taking up the second spot.

As for the Trojans, without question, they're going to have to earn their spot. Their schedule features the Stanford Cardinal, Arizona State Sun Devils, Washington Huskies, Notre Dame, Utah, Arizona, Oregon and the UCLA Bruins.

That's brutal.

USC could very well surprise us all and get the job done, but seeing a team with more than one or two losses at most make the CFP is very unlikely. If the Trojans can get through that schedule as a one-loss team, it would be very surprising.

As for that muddled SEC West, will the Crimson Tide roll once again? It's likely that we'll see our fair share of surprising wins from that conference, but one team will still prevail and make the playoff. While I can even see an argument for two teams to make the CFP from the SEC West, I'm not betting on that.

Prediction (in no order): Alabama Crimson Tide, TCU Horned Frogs, Ohio State Buckeyes, Clemson Tigers

 

The Tigers' Case to Take Down the Playoff

It seems to be a common theme that the ACC gets overlooked, but in 2015 there will be quite a few talented teams in the conference. Remember how the Buckeyes were overlooked when the 2014-15 playoff began? We may see a similar situation with the Tigers.

While everyone will see big-time programs such as Alabama, TCU and Ohio State, the expectation will be for one of those three to get the job done.

A fair warning? Don't bet against Swinney, Watson and a Venables-led defense in postseason play. The past few seasons tell quite a story.

Since 2012, the Tigers have faced tough competition in the postseason and have shown up big both offensively and defensively:

YearRecordBowlOpponentOpp. RecordScore 2012 10-2 Chick-fil-A Bowl LSU Tigers 10-2 W 25-24 2013 10-2 Orange Bowl Ohio State Buckeyes 12-1 W 40-35 2014 9-3 Russell Athletic Bowl Oklahoma Sooners 8-4 W 40-6

 

Say what you will about Clemson, but Swinney is getting the most of his players on the biggest stages. In 2012, LSU was an early favorite to make the National Championship, but fell just short after a regular season loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide. They then drew the Tigers and the rest was history.

Clemson's 2013 victory over Ohio State was against another team who nearly made the BCS National Championship. The Buckeyes lost in the Big Ten Championship Game, which left them on the outside looking in. Their consolation prize was the Orange Bowl, where the Tigers pulled off the surprising victory.

Lastly, comes the win over the 8-4 Sooners. While Oklahoma failed to live up to preseason expectations and they weren't on the level of LSU or Ohio State, this was a team with plenty of talent. To top it off, the Sooners got starting quarterback Trevor Knight back for the bowl game.

Knight did very little against the Tigers' stellar defense, though, completing 45.9 percent of his passes with 103 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions.

 

Tigers Heading to Title Town in 2015-16

This Clemson team will likely have its most offensive talent since Tajh Boyd, Andre Ellington, Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and Martavis Bryant back in 2012. Watson showed us glimpses of being one of the best quarterbacks in the country last year and was nearly unstoppable at times.

For his encore performance? How about shocking the nation and leading the Tigers to a College Football Playoff National Championship victory?

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

JD Spielman, Son of NFL GM, Chasing Football Dream Despite Lacrosse Stardom

JD Spielman made serious noise as a collegiate lacrosse recruit early in his high school career. Now, he's focused on earning scholarship opportunities in football before graduation.

The 5'9", 175-pound prospect is a versatile standout at Minnesota powerhouse Eden Prairie High School and is the son of Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. His uncle, Chris Spielman, was an All-American linebacker at Ohio State and went on to have a lengthy NFL career.

JD was supposed to be a Buckeye, too. 

He committed to play lacrosse at Ohio State in July 2013 following a freshman season that featured 30 goals and a state championship. Spielman capped off a magnificent campaign with the game-winning goal in state championship action and starred again last spring as Eden Prairie captured a second straight state title.

Things appeared on track for JD to join his brother, Ohio State freshman Ronnie Spielman, on the Buckeyes' roster in 2016. Instead, he's opted to shift gears and prove himself as a prospect all over again.

"I just love football and can't get enough of it," Spielman said. "I realized that I can't imagine being done with the sport after high school, so I'm doing everything I can to reach the next level."

After weighing those feelings internally, he approached his father about the change of heart as a sophomore.

"He was honest with me, saying, 'If you're serious about making it to the next level, you need to get bigger, faster and stronger,'" Spielman said. "Since then, we've focused on my nutrition and training. I've gained about 20 solid pounds by following his advice. Athleticism is important at any level, but size becomes a much bigger factor when you reach college."

His speed has also drastically improved despite added bulk. Spielman shared his 40-yard dash time dropped from 4.60 to. 4.45 seconds with a heightened training regimen. 

Lacrosse remains an option, but his attention is directed toward securing opportunities on the gridiron.

"The scholarship is still there, but they understand right now that I'm focused on the football recruiting process," Spielman said. "My dad and I had a talk while I was deciding on the lacrosse scholarship. He asked me, 'If a Division I college football opportunity comes up, would you take it over lacrosse?' I already knew the answer. Football comes first."

Now that he's made it clear, college programs are taking increased stock of the two-way playmaker.

"I've reached back out to some of the schools that were sending me early mail for football, so they know what my plans are," Spielman said. 

Several teams have reciprocated his interest. 

He'll travel to Northwestern this weekend while three other Big Ten campus visits are set for the spring. Spielman will spend time at Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan in coming weeks.

Could a one-time future Buckeye eventually become a Wolverine?

"My whole family has been about Ohio State, but my dad asked me if I'd be interested in playing at Michigan," he said. "It's a great campus—I visited for lacrosse—and that program is heading in the right direction. My dad told me he was going to talk to Coach [Jim] Harbaugh and set that up. I'm excited for it."

It certainly helps to have a father who has spent more than two decades working in the NFL. He accepted a position with Minnesota in 2006 following stints with the Lions, Bears and Dolphins.

"Having a dad at home who has been around football his entire life is a huge plus," Spielman said. "Words can't describe how much he's meant to my improvement as a player. He breaks down my game more from an NFL standpoint than a college or high school standpoint. From fundamentals to film study, it's a big help. All of the stuff I focus on using in games now is based on things that my father taught me or things I've learned while being on the Vikings sideline."

His unique access to the professional game has allowed him to note nuances about the sport other young players may never have a chance to see. He found another mentor in five-year NFL veteran Marcus Sherels, who plays cornerback and stars as a punt returner for Minnesota.

"He's been a big influence because we both return punts and we're not exactly the biggest guys (Sherels is listed at 5'10", 175 pounds)," Spielman said. "He proves you don't need to be a big player to make big plays; it's all about staying focused and doing your job. We'll talk on the sidelines about what he's doing on the field, and I consider him a friend now."

College teams have predominately targeted Spielman as a slot receiver or cornerback, validating his "athlete" status on 247Sports.

He plans to expand his recruitment beyond Big Ten territory this summer, eyeing potential visits to Oregon, Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor and Kentucky.

There's still a chance Spielman goes back to his initial game plan and joins Ronnie in Columbus for a lacrosse career. However, he ultimately hopes at least one program will give him a reason not to go that route.

"My brother says if I get a football scholarship, he'd want me to take it, too," Spielman said. "It's up to me to make that happen. I'm not ready to be done with football after next season."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

John Chavis Right to Sue Both LSU and Texas A&M

Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis has served unofficially in that capacity since early in January, but not officially until Feb. 16, when Texas A&M announced its 2015 staff assignments.

Now we know why it took so long.

KBTX in Bryan/College Station, Texas, reported Friday afternoon that Chavis is suing both LSU and Texas A&M over his contract situation with the Tigers.

Chavis claims that LSU is demanding $400,000 because his contract with the school, which was set to expire on December 31, 2015, was terminated with more than 11 months left on the deal. Chavis, who turned in his 30-day notice on January 5, 2015, claims his last official day with the Tigers was February 4, 2015, which would result in Chavis owing LSU nothing.

Except that his last official day with the Tigers was long before that date, as Hunter Paniagua of TigerSportsDigest.com notes.

So what's the deal?

This is Chavis protecting himself, plain and simple.

What's more, it's the right play.

Wait, what? Suing his current employer is the right play? 

LSU knows Chavis was out recruiting for Texas A&M in January. Texas A&M knows Chavis was out recruiting for Texas A&M in January. Chavis knows that Chavis was out recruiting for Texas A&M in January.

This was neither a secret nor should it come as a surprise to anybody involved in the process.

Would Texas A&M really put a provision in his contract—which is public record—stating that it will cover the expense if he's sued by his former employer? Of course it wouldn't. So this is the next-best thing. 

The following are quotes from the suit according to KBTX's story.

[Texas A&M] is currently obligated to satisfy or cause to be satisfied the liquidated damages, if any, associated with Chavis' previous Employment Agreement with LSU.

[Texas A&M] is "unwilling to tender the liquidated damages demanded by LSU because it does not believe that liquidated damages are called for under the Employment Agreement as mentioned above."

Well of course Texas A&M is unwilling to tender the liquidated damages now, because, technically, Chavis' last day with LSU was February 4 and his first day with Texas A&M was February 16.

If the court feels otherwise (which, let's be honest, it should), then a quick settlement will likely take place, the buyout will be taken care of and A&M and Chavis will be happy. Texas A&M waited a long time to officially announce Chavis as its new defensive coordinator, so it's not like this came out of the blue to the school. 

It knew what was going on, and the delay in the announcement suggests that it is on board with Chavis' plan.

Instead of jumping through a ton of legal hoops and souring the relationship with Chavis before he even starts the job, Texas A&M is putting up the facade of unwillingness now to protect itself, knowing that it might have to cover the damages at a later date.

It isn't risky that Chavis is suing his current employer, it's safe.

He's protecting himself and his bank account knowing that, while he might win his case against LSU, a loss wouldn't impact his own bottom line. Moreover, Texas A&M's actions suggest that it is on board with the plan, even though its words in the suit say otherwise.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star RB Tavien Feaster Poised 'To Set the World on Fire' for Clemson in 2016

Tavien Feaster, a 5-star running back, per 247Sports, is committed to the Clemson Tigers. The speedster will bring his athleticism and big-play capabilities to head coach Dabo Swinney's program. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down Feaster's game, his comparisons and how he will fit in at Clemson. 

What is the ceiling for Feaster? Check out the video, and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

John Chavis Suing LSU, Texas A&M over Contract Dispute: Latest Details, Reaction

John Chavis, who was hired as Texas A&M's defensive coordinator in January after spending six years in the same position at LSU, is reportedly suing both schools. 

According to Steve Fullhart of KBTX 3, Chavis' previous contract with LSU may require money going back to the university, and Texas A&M could be on the hook for it:

The suit, filed Friday afternoon, notes Chavis became the defensive coordinator of LSU in 2009. Originally, it says he was under contract until the end of 2011, but a pair of contract extensions pushed his deal to December 31, 2015.

According to the suit, when the 2014 football season ended, another extension was being discussed, but the negotiations broke down.

Also in Fullhart's report, Chavis claimed he wouldn't owe LSU anything if he terminated the deal when there was between zero and 11 months left on that contract. 

However, per the report, if Chavis opted out with between 11 and 23 months left on the deal, he would owe LSU $400,000:

"Based on Chavis' notice of termination on January 5, 2015, the 'termination date' according to the Amendment was effective thirty days after the written notice served to LSU or (sic) February 4, 2015, which falls within the 11th month remaining on Chavis' Employment Agreement," reads the suit. According to Chavis, he does not owe LSU $400,000 as a result.

Citing the lawsuit that was filed, Fullhart wrote Chavis claims Texas A&M is "currently obligated to satisfy or cause to be satisfied the liquidated damages, if any, associated with Chavis' previous Employment Agreement with LSU."

The cited lawsuit also notes that Texas A&M is currently "unwilling" to pay LSU the money because the school doesn't believe it's necessary under the terms of the aforementioned deal. 

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin hired Chavis away from his SEC rival following the Tigers' loss in the Music City Bowl against Notre Dame. The Aggies have had problems on defense throughout Sumlin's tenure, especially in 2014, when they finished tied for 75th in scoring defense. 

Hiring Chavis, who coached the always-potent LSU defense, was a major coup for Texas A&M. Not only did it upgrade Sumlin's coaching staff, but it took away a key coach from an SEC rival. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2015 College Football Pro Days Primer: Dates, Names You Need to Know

The finish line—Auditorium Theatre in Chicago—is in sight. Before you know it, the 2015 NFL draft will be underway, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be on the clock. 

There's no more game tape to add to, no more combines to attend. The last major hurdle for NFL hopefuls is the pro day. 

It's a comfortable setting. Players are surrounded by familiar faces in a safe environment. It's all designed to maximize that one final chance to impress pro organizations; however, it's also an opportunity for scouts to get a firm impression about what others—coaches, school staff, etc.—think about a player. 

Sure, a coach may back his star player in public, but what does he really think of him when the cameras aren't on? Remember, the coaching fraternity is tight and extends to every level of the game. These guys look out for one another.

How is his work ethic? Is he consistently late to meetings? Does he make everyone around him better? Pro days are just as much a personal audition as they are a physical one. 

Which players are on everyone's radar? Which ones have the most to prove? Which ones are possible sleepers? With the help of Bleacher Report NFL writer Michael Schottey, we break down the key names to know over the next six weeks. 

All pro days for Power 5 conference schools are listed below: 

  

Who's On Everyone's Radar?

The quarterbacks, of course. More specifically, the focus is on Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, depending on your personal preference. According to the most recent draft big board from B/R's Matt Miller, Winston and Mariota are the first- and third-best players available. 

After that, there's a significant drop-off. 

"Winston is leaps and bounds ahead of Mariota," Schottey said. "But the thing about pro days is that anything can happen. Mariota had a good, but not a great, combine. He can get much better with a great pro day." 

Since the NFL is a quarterback's league, there's an emphasis on exterior pass-rushers. Two names to watch here are Clemson's Vic Beasley and Nebraska's Randy Gregory. Beasley, at 6'3", weighed in at 246 pounds at the combine. Gregory, about two inches taller, weighed in 11 pounds lighter at 235. 

"Their weight is important," Schottey said. "NFL guys are texting these players' trainers, wanting to know what their weight is." 

Success stories for smaller defensive ends who have thrived in the NFL include Bruce Irvin of the Seattle Seahawks, who measured 6'3" and 245 pounds at the 2012 combine. A first-round pick, Irvin has since moved to linebacker and tallied 8.5 sacks in 2014-15. 

 

Stars Who Need a Big Day

Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar recently shined a draft spotlight on Washington's "Big Four" prospects—defensive tackle Danny Shelton, outside linebackers Hau'oli Kikaha and Shaq Thompson and cornerback Marcus Peters. 

Two of them can impress with a solid pro day. 

According to Schottey, folks in NFL circles aren't as in love with Shelton as his pre-draft hype suggests. Yes, Shelton got rave reviews at the Senior Bowl, but in review of his tape, Schotty explained "there'd one or two good plays then streaks when he didn't have as big an impact." 

Peters, who was dismissed in November after reportedly getting into an argument with coaches, has built a reputation for what Bucky Brooks of NFL.com refers to as "football character" issues: 

From speaking with several scouts familiar with Peters and his interaction with the Washington coaches, I've been told that the dismissal stems from his inability to get along with coaches and team officials. Peters reportedly has a strong personality and didn't mind challenging authority about various situations on and off the field.

Another player who can help himself is Colorado State tackle Ty Sambrailo.

"This is a guy who did not stand out in the draft process," Schottey explained. "He could be a first-rounder or get lost in the shuffle. He has to show he has functional strength and lateral movement."  

Exiting the combine, Sambrailo was Miller's 13th best tackle and 113th overall player. 

 

Whose Pro Day Could Be Costly? 

Call this the Teddy Bridgewater category. 

Realistically, bad pro days don't hurt players, per se—they just don't help them continue the upward trajectory, as Schottey explains. No high-profile player could fall into that category like Mariota.

"With an average pro day," Schottey said, "Mariota could drop to the bottom of the first round. He could fall epically." 

That makes Mariota a fascinating prospect. Last September, the ex-Oregon signal-caller was being mentioned as the potential No. 1 quarterback in the draft by writers like Peter King of Sports Illustrated. However, following Oregon's loss in the national championship to Ohio State, Mariota's stock has started to slip ever so slightly. 

And remember the Washington draft prospects mentioned above? Thompson, a two-way player for the Huskies, has a lot to prove as a linebacker. 

"The linebacker tape is terrible," Schottey explained. "He might give you something on special teams or at running back, but he has to work out well as a linebacker on his pro day." 

Finally, Ereck Flowers, the tackle from Miami (FL), could slide down draft boards with a sub-par showing on his pro day. "I want to love him, but he just hasn't done it," Schottey said. "He needs to show a mean streak." 

Following a 30-13 loss to Virginia last season, noted by Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald as Flowers' worst game of the season, Mike Mayock of NFL Network remarked that the Cavaliers "ate [Flowers’] lunch a little bit." 

Yeah, not good. 

 

Sleepers to Know

There are two kinds of NFL draft sleepers. There are the ones few truly know about, and then there are the higher profile players who could pop off the paper on pro day. 

USC cornerback Josh Shaw fits into the latter category. Shaw, of course, missed most of last season with a suspension for fabricating a story of heroics that, well, didn't happen. However, at 6'0" and 198 pounds, Shaw has excellent size for a corner. As Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated wrote in January, Shaw's versatile and capable of playing multiple positions in the secondary. 

If Shaw impresses at his pro day, he should be able to put his past off-the-field issue behind him once and for all.

"If he works out well, he's the No. 2, No. 3 corner," Schottey said. "If he messes up, his stock is shattered." 

Staying in the Pac-12, Oregon tackle Jake Fisher has lived in the draft shadow of Mariota and even defensive lineman Arik Armstead; however, Fisher's athleticism could make him a possible first-round selection.

"The process is better than the tape," Schottey said, "meaning you don't want to like him because of the scheme, the wide splits." 

Also keep an eye on Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder. Crowder doesn't have great size (5'8", 185 lbs), but was a productive player for the Blue Devils (283 career receptions). This year's wide receiver class is solid again, so Crowder could be a smart mid-round pick for any organization. 

 

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

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Check out a Florida Fan's 'Psycho' Pitch to Convince 4-Star to Join the Gators

Some fans will do just about anything when it comes to trying to convince recruits to attend their school of choice. One Florida Gator fan took it to a new extreme when the fan jokingly mentioned kidnapping Chauncey Gardner in order to get him to Gainesville. 

Is that the craziest thing you've heard a fan do? Check out the video and let us know! 

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2016 4-Star LB Tre Lamar Dishes on New Offers, Academic Deal-Breakers

With a 3.4 GPA and plans to major in civil engineering, Tre Lamar is equally focused on getting it done in the classroom at the next level.

For someone who has a knack for blowing plays up on a football field, Lamar hopes to put things together as an engineer when his playing career is over.

“The main factors are me feeling comfortable on the campus and really seeing myself being able to go there everyday for four years,” Lamar told Bleacher Report. “Also, I want the school to have a good engineering program. I want to go somewhere where I can feel good about getting my degree and who can provide the academic support and help that I need to get it done in the classroom as well.”

The beastly 4-star linebacker from Roswell, Georgia, is one of the most sought-after prospects in the 2016 class.

There’s no denying the credentials the 6’4”, 240-pounder has on the gridiron. Within the last week alone, Lamar’s lengthy offer list has expanded to include Georgia, Texas A&M and Oregon.

“They are just a winning program,” Lamar said. “They’re well-coached. They have awesome facilities. They have a lot to offer, so that’s why I like Oregon.”

He’s also high on the Aggies and their tradition of developing studs at his position. 

“In terms of Texas A&M, I’ve been watching them play, and they are also well-coached. I’ve seen a lot of great linebackers come out of Texas A&M like Von Miller and guys like that, so I think they do a good job of developing linebackers,” Lamar said. “If I went there, I think they would do the same with me.” 

He mentioned the Aggies along with Clemson and Georgia Tech as schools whose engineering programs have impressed him—something that could give head coaches Dabo Swinney and Kevin Sumlin a leg up in the recruiting process. 

Lamar has been active in the offseason. He was named one of the top performers at the Adidas Georgia Showcase camp earlier this month. He was also one of many studs on hand in Athens last weekend for Georgia’s junior day. 

However, his experience was made a little more special when Mark Richt personally informed him that he had an offer from the Bulldogs.

“It’s always awesome to get an offer from the in-state team,” Lamar said. “It’s really cool because I got that one from Coach Richt. I got to talk to him and they told me that they really like my film and they like what I could do at Georgia, so it was a good feeling to get that offer.”

The Bulldogs are pitching him on the idea of staying close to home for college. However, even though Lamar admits that thought does appeal to him, he maintains that distance won’t be a factor in his decision.

Trips to Alabama this weekend and then Auburn and Florida are on deck for the Peach State standout. In particular, Lamar—who noted that his school “went off” when Tide head coach Nick Saban visited him recently—is excited about his trip to Tuscaloosa this weekend.

“I’m definitely interested in Alabama,” Lamar said. “I have a great relationship with the coaches down there. Coach [Kirby] Smart and those guys, it’s good to talk with them again and get a more in-depth look at Alabama and kind of the academic side of it there. Also, I want to see how they see me fitting into the defense.”

Despite Lamar’s busy schedule—one that he mentioned will include trips to the Atlanta Nike Camp in March—he maintains that he’s in no rush to make a decision.

In fact, Lamar enjoys the traveling he’s been doing, and he feels each trip is a fact-finding mission that he hopes brings him closer to making his choice. 

“I’m really having fun with this process, and I want to take as many visits as possible before I make the decision,” Lamar said. “I want to get a good feel for the school I’m going to.”

In the end, his fit away from the field will have as much to do with the benefits he can provide for his future home on the field. 

 

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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'Coaches Are Going to Fall in Love With' Underrated 2016 QB Khalil Tate

Khalil Tate, a 3-star dual-threat quarterback, per 247Sports, has not committed to where he will play his college football. But the program that does get Tate's services will be pleased with his well-rounded game and athleticism. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down Tate's game and illustrates why he will be rising up the big boards of many college coaches. 

Where will Tate land? Check out the video, and let us know! 

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4-Star Parker Boudreaux on Close Relationship with Penn State's James Franklin

Parker Boudreaux, a 4-star offensive lineman, per 247 Sports, has not decided on where he will play at the next level. With over 70 Division I offers on his table, he certainly has many options. 

Bleacher Report sat down with the talented lineman, and he touched on the two schools he may be narrowing in on. 

Where will Boudreaux play at the next level? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Can Lane Kiffin Keep Explosive Alabama Offense Moving Forward in 2015?

Perhaps the biggest surprise of Alabama’s 2014 season wasn’t necessarily that Lane Kiffin had so much success at the helm of the Crimson Tide’s offense but the amount of success that he had.

Alabama broke school records for yards and plays run. Quarterback Blake Sims broke the single-season passing mark, while wide receiver Amari Cooper broke just about every record in the book.

He did it with Sims, a first-year starter, utilizing the immense treasure of skill-position talent around him.

So after such a massive season on the offensive side of the ball, the question now becomes how does Alabama and Kiffin follow it up this year?

Kiffin will have to do almost a complete rebuild on the fly. He loses all but two starters from that uncharacteristically explosive team and will have to develop new stars in order to make things click for him once again on that side of the ball.

It will start, of course, at quarterback, where Alabama has more question marks than it has had in the past with no “sure thing” set to take the reins.

Jake Coker was supposed to be that sure thing, but he couldn’t pick up the offense quick enough in just a few months of work in Tuscaloosa before the 2014 season started. Now that he will get a full offseason’s worth of work in, he’ll probably be the de facto No. 1, but he is far from a slam dunk to win the job.

It’s hard to count anybody out in this year’s race, even true freshman Blake Barnett, whose leadership qualities are already impressing the coaches and the players—especially those in the 2015 class who are already in school.

Kiffin has a proven track record of developing quarterbacks, so whoever does end up winning the job will be in good hands. He has worked with mobile types, like Barnett and Coker, and pocket passers like Alec Morris and David Cornwell. Kiffin hasn’t given anyone reason to doubt that whichever quarterback he chooses won’t succeed.

Once the quarterback position is settled, though, he’ll need people to protect him and to throw it to.

Alabama’s top three pass-catchers—Cooper, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones—are all gone. The next-most productive receiver last year was Chris Black, who caught 15 passes for 188 yards. Behind him, it’s ArDarius Stewart, who caught 12 for 149.

Someone’s going to have to step up.

More than likely, though, Kiffin will use more of a spread-it-out approach as opposed to making one guy the first, second and third option, like Cooper was this year, racking up over 1,000 yards more than the next guy on his team.

While the faces of Kiffin’s offenses in the past have been quarterbacks, like Sims or Matt Leinart, and wide receivers, like Cooper and Marqise Lee, he’ll need to develop some offensive line talent quickly.

Alabama returns stud left tackle Cam Robinson and center Ryan Kelly but will need to piece together three other starters from a mix of players without much experience.

2014 JUCO signee Dominick Jackson should get a shot either at right tackle or right guard. Grant Hill, who has seen spot duty at both positions, too, will likely hold down the other.

Left guard will be a challenge, though. There are talented rising redshirt freshmen from Alabama’s mammoth 2014 offensive line class who could step up after a season’s worth of work. Or, a journeyman like Alphonse Taylor could fill that role.

For as many big, flashy plays as Alabama made this year, it wasn’t quite as dominant in the trenches as it has been in the past, and it cost them at certain points in the year.

It will be no easy task for Kiffin to put together an offense nearly from scratch during the offseason. In 2014, he had established weapons returning and was able to break in a quarterback to facilitate things quick enough to set a lot of records.

His second year in the program looks like it will be more difficult than the first.

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Texas A&M Distancing Itself from '#WRTS,' so Who Really Does Run State of Texas?

Hashtags, if used effectively, are great for labeling and metadata. They allow similar messages to be grouped throughout social media.

In College Station, Texas A&M Aggies football fans love quite a few hashtags. The easy one is #Aggies. Others include #GigEm, #12thMan and one of head coach Kevin Sumlin's favorites, #YESSIR!—the unofficial bat signal for when the Aggies land a new commitment.

Texas A&M, however, is distancing itself from one particular hashtag. According to ESPN.com sports business reporter Darren Rovell, the #WRTS hashtag (short for "We Run This State") is one the program refuses to publicly recognize.

Aggies fans love the hashtag. Fans of other Texas schools love it, too—just not in favor of Texas A&M. When it comes to who really runs the state on the field and in recruiting, the title is ever-changing. 

For the average fan, it's also a matter of opinion. It can become anything from a basic office discussion at lunch to a heated discussion on a blog site—or in the average comments section of an article.

Statistically, however, the answer can be broken down in several ways.

Head-to-head competition quickly settles most chatter. Baylor beat Texas, TCU, Texas Tech and SMU last year. The Bears were 11-2 overall and were an October road loss away from being undefeated in Big 12 play.

If we're talking wins alone, you've got to give it to TCU. The Horned Frogs finished with a 12-1 record, dominated Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl and ended the season with a No. 3 ranking. Baylor could make an argument for top honors as the only team to beat the Horned Frogs, but TCU fans would counter with the Bears' season-ending loss in the Cotton Bowl to Michigan State.

If we're focused on 2015 recruiting, Texas and Texas A&M went neck and neck, but according to the 247Sports team rankings, the Longhorns edged the Aggies for a top-10 spot nationally. Texas (No. 10 in the rankings) had 29 commits, while Texas A&M (No. 11) had 25. The Aggies, however, had three 5-star commits to the Longhorns' one.

If the discussion involves 2016 recruiting, that race is ongoing. Currently, TCU is the only in-state program in the national top 10. The Horned Frogs got off to a great start and have eight commits, including five 4-star pledges.

If you want to go with the hottest team right now, you have to put Texas at the top. The Longhorns have four commits—the latest being 4-star Shane Buechele—and hope to add to their 2016 class this weekend during and after Saturday's junior day.

Fan appreciation can be a category as well, and when it comes to fan appreciation, few nationally can compare to what Texas A&M has. The Aggies drew six-figure attendance last year, and against Ole Miss in October, they set an SEC attendance record by drawing 110,633 at Kyle Field. That number is the most for a football team in Texas at any level—professional, college or high school.

And then there are Texas Tech, Houston, SMU, Rice, Texas State, North Texas, UTSA and UTEP. You don't think they have a vote in this?

So who really runs the state of Texas? Whatever the answer, it makes for a great debate. A lot of questions will be answered with the 2015 season approaching and the 2016 recruiting cycle finishing next February.

And when all is settled, the discussion will happen again around this time. Folks will prepare for next year the same way they did this year—almost like clockwork.

 

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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Rev. Theodore Hesburgh Balanced Notre Dame Football with Academic Excellence

"Texas has oil. Notre Dame has football. Neither should apologize." 

That quote is one of many great ones widely attributed to Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., who passed away at the age of 97 on Thursday night. The president of Notre Dame for 35 years and one of the foremost leaders in America as the architect of the groundbreaking Civil Rights Act of 1964, Hesburgh lived a life far from ordinary. 

"We mourn today a great man and faithful priest who transformed the University of Notre Dame and touched the lives of many," said the Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's current president. "With his leadership, charisma and vision, he turned a relatively small Catholic college known for football into one of the nation's great institutions for higher learning."

Hesburgh's balance of academics and football—what Notre Dame was primarily known for when he took over as president in 1952—is nearly as interesting as his many pursuits. While he would come to recognize the place the game held in the university's DNA, it wasn't always that way. 

Take this snippet, from the New York Times' obituary

Father Hesburgh understood the special role football played in Notre Dame’s reputation. But he was not a huge football fan, and he resented the influence that collegiate sports had on higher education. At his inauguration as president in 1952, he was appalled when local newspapers sent sportswriters to cover the event, and he refused to cooperate with photographers who asked him to pose with a football.

“I’m not the football coach,” he barked at the surprised journalists. “I’m the president.”

Hesburgh's battles with legendary coach Frank Leahy likely created this fracture. Hesburgh recommended to Leahy that he retire because of health issues, even after four national championships and an undefeated 9-0-1 season that saw the Irish finish the season as No. 2 in 1953.

Lou Somogyi of Blue & Gold details Hesburgh's conversation with the legendary coach, who had his last rites administered after a halftime collapse in a game against Georgia Tech.

"Frank, this is ridiculous," Hesburgh recalled, per Somogyi. "I think you ought to seriously consider retiring, for the sake of your family and your health. But it's up to you, you still have two years to go on your contract, and we'd pay you the rest of it."

Leahy's departure marked the beginning of an eight-year run that still serves as the low point for Notre Dame football. And it brought the critics out in full force, after a university president accused of wanting football to fail. 

Hesburgh took to the pages of Sports Illustrated to talk about Notre Dame's intentions to balance academics and athletics. Penned 61 years ago, much of what he says could've fit in my column from yesterday. 

The fundamental difference between intercollegiate and professional athletics is that in college the players are supposed to be students first and foremost. This does not mean that they should all be Phi Beta Kappas or physics majors, but neither should they be subnormal students majoring in ping-pong.

Once this fundamental principle is accepted three equally obvious conclusions follow as the day the night.

First, any boy who has demonstrated during his high school days that he is quite incapable of doing collegiate work should not be admitted to college, even though he may have been an all-state high school fullback.

Secondly, once a qualified student who also happens to be a good athlete is admitted to college, he should follow the same academic courses, with the same academic requirements as the other students. Presumably he is in college for the same reason as the others: to get a good education for life, and to earn a degree in four years. This means, in practice, no fresh-air courses, no special academic arrangements for athletes.

Thirdly, the athlete should enjoy (and I use the word advisedly) the same student life in college as the other students. He should not be treated as prime beef, should not be given special housing and disciplinary arrangements, made a demigod on a special allowance who is above and beyond the regimen that is found to be educationally best for all the students of any given school. In this connection, I am reminded of the animal who is enthroned and crowned with great ceremony at the annual Puck Fair in Ireland. It happens to be a goat.

Hesburgh followed common-sense logic in all walks of his life. It was why he turned Notre Dame co-ed in 1972 and why he turned over the governance of the university to a lay Board of Trustees, a controversial decision that the Vatican approved in 1967. 

And after a tough run, greatness in football returned to South Bend. The Irish won a national championship under Ara Parseghian, part of three titles won in a 12-year span between 1966-77.  

"The Parseghian family was blessed when he made the decision to name me the head football coach in 1964," the former Irish head coach said in a statement released by Notre Dame. "We will be eternally grateful. Father Ted has touched many lives and we are honored that he made us a part of the Notre Dame family."

Lou Holtz won his 1988 national title a year after Hesburgh retired as president. But that didn't stop the president emeritus from serving as counsel to the former coach. 

"If Readers Digest asked me to write about the most amazing person I’ve ever met in my life, my answer would be, without a doubt, Father Hesburgh," Holtz said in the same statement. "I was blessed and fortunate to be under his tutelage while I coached at the University of Notre Dame...Whenever I’m faced with difficult times, I reflect back on Father Hesburgh and how he handled things and his outlook on life.”

Hesburgh's legacy will be about so much more than football. But as he built Notre Dame into America's premier Catholic university and elevated the academic profile of the university to among the best in the world, perhaps this quote best encapsulates his attitude toward the Fighting Irish:

"There is no academic virtue in playing mediocre football."  

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Why Alabama Redshirt Freshman DB Marlon Humphrey Will Set SEC on Fire in 2015

While Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany spins his wheels with the preposterous idea of reinstituting freshman ineligibility, the college football version of endangered species are preparing for their first seasons in competitive college football.

Redshirt freshmen used to litter rosters across the Southeast, but as more and more true freshman phenoms find the field across the SEC, redshirt freshmen are going the way of the dodo bird.

If you're looking for a redshirt freshman in the SEC who's going to explode onto the scene in 2015, look no further than Alabama defensive back Marlon Humphrey.

The son of former Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey, Marlon Humphrey signed with the Crimson Tide in the class of 2014 as part of a dynamic defensive back duo with fellow 5-star prospect Tony Brown.

At 6'1", 186 pounds, Humphrey is a taller defensive back who can go one-on-one with bigger wide receivers and bump them off routes at the line of scrimmage. He's got tremendous recovery and ball skills, is good in coverage and has everything it takes to be a star—including the speed of a track star.

Humphrey is spending his offseason on the Crimson Tide track team, where he's busy setting records in the 4X400-meter relay according to Drew Champlin of AL.com.

"He was already so much faster than everybody else in high school so he was able to transition pretty smoothly," assistant track coach Matt Kane told Champlin. "He looks like a man as opposed to a college freshman, but he's not too bulky. People worry about that, but he's really got good football weight and everything."

Everything.

As in, everything he needs to be a superstar.

The former Hoover (Alabama) High School standout was brought to Tuscaloosa to be an instant impact defender but instead had to adjust to working with the scout team. According to Michael Casagrande of AL.com, Humphrey did fine with that transition.

"It wasn't too hard," Humphrey said. "Once you get over the fact, it's not too bad."

That hard work might pay off in a hurry, because aside from Cyrus Jones occupying one cornerback spot, the rest of the defensive rotation at corner is wide open. Eddie Jackson and Bradley Sylve were inconsistent last year, Tony Brown was relegated to a reserve role, and the Tide finished the year ranked 11th in the SEC in pass defense (226.0 yards per game) and opponent passing plays of 20 or more yards (43).

Inconsistency against the pass has been a problem that's lingered for two years in Tuscaloosa, and Mel Tucker was brought in to coach defensive backs in an effort to fix it.

That means a clean slate for everybody, which is huge news for Humphrey.

Jones' improvement from Game 1 through Game 14 last year was an indicator that the light bulb went off in his head. So, barring any unforeseen injuries or problems, it's safe to assume that he's going to build off of that in the offseason.

For everybody else, the race is wide open.

Since nickel packages have evolved into more of the base defense in college football, that means there's even more of a chance for Humphrey to earn playing time and become a star.

Humphrey has the talent, is at a school that needs help and has the opportunity to shine thanks to a new position coach.

That's a recipe for redshirt success.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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10 College Football Seniors with Most to Prove in 2015

Senior leadership is a valuable commodity in college football, especially if it comes from a team's best players.

This is a rarity, though, as most of the game's top performers leave school after their junior years to pursue an NFL career. For those who stick around, that final season is one where they get the opportunity to make one last impact while also trying to show they've got what it takes to play in the pros.

That's one of many things that some of the nation's top seniors have to prove in 2015.

Beyond pro value, there are other motivating factors that come into play. Some are trying to rebound from disappointing 2014 seasons, while others hope to lift their teams over that last hurdle and battle for a championship.

Check out what's at stake and what will drive some of college football's top seniors this fall.

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Play Him or Redshirt Him Decisions for Top 50 Signees in Class of 2015

The faxes are in. The ink is dry. College football’s 2015 recruiting cycle is over. With players across the nation signed to national letters of intent and committed to their programs of choice, recruiting followers have moved on to 2016.

But for college football coaches and fans of on-the-field action, the fun is just getting started. Numerous 2015 players have already enrolled in college and will go through spring practice with their new teams, and many more will follow early this summer. We’ve moved on from “Where will he sign?” to “Will he play?” That’s what this feature is all about. We’ve taken the top 50 recruits of 2015, per 247Sports, and examined their chances of immediate playing time this fall.

Will they redshirt? Will they star immediately? We’ll see. Team depth charts and needs, as well as the player’s overall ability, were all considered for this feature. Rankings throughout the feature are per 247Sports’ composite ranks.

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Why College Football Needs to Keep Its Title Games in College Stadiums

When it comes to the Super Bowl, the adage "If you build it, they will come" applies. In college football, it's a similar story. 

It doesn't have to be, though.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the San Francisco 49ers are planning to bid to host the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at their new palace, Levi's Stadium: 

A person with knowledge of the plans told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the team will seek to host either the 2018, '19 or '20 title game when they come up for bid later this year. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because there has been no announcement about the plans.

Cities interested in hosting one of those three title games have until May to bid. A decision on the winners is expected in the fall.

The bid, whether it succeeds or not, checks off the important boxes: a new and fancy stadium, solid location (Santa Clara, California, just south of San Francisco) and decent January weather. 

Here's something to consider: Why doesn't college football take back its own title game? Put the national championship on campus. You want tradition? You got it. And, yes, tradition is an important part of the postseason. 

When the idea of the College Football Playoff was in its infancy, a chief concern among college admins was how the bowl system would play into it. Question the business model of bowl games all you want—Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports successfully did in 2010 with his book Death to the BCS—but the long-standing relationships between bowls and conferences was too deep to cast aside. 

College power brokers made sure the bowls remained a part of the sport's postseason by incorporating the six biggest ones—the Cotton, Fiesta, Peach, Fiesta, Rose and Sugar, now called the New Year's Six—into the semifinal games. Only the national championship game is up for bid to a neutral-site location. 

Basically, the playoff became an altered version of bowl season with an extra game tacked on the end.

So why does that extra game have to be played at an NFL location? Imagine college football's national championship game being held in Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, or in Death Valley at LSU. There could still be a national championship at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles or other big-market college stadiums.

Have a college football stadium bucket list? This would be a dream come true. 

Why can't host committees, with the approval of the appropriate college football program, bid on that right, just like in the NFL? 

OK, so it wouldn't be just like the NFL. Mike Kaszuba and Rochelle Olson of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune uncovered the NFL's lengthy list of demands for hosting the 2018 Super Bowl. The College Football Playoff National Championship was big, but it wasn't Super Bowl big. Nothing else in America is. 

Schools already wine and dine bowl reps, so this would just be an extended version of that. A more expensive version, of course, but nothing they wouldn't be willing to do. Maybe it kick-starts that stadium/press box expansion project that's been on the table for a couple of years. 

After all, getting the playoff folks to share that willingness is the challenge. 

The No. 1 excuse by then-BCS executive director Bill Hancock—who now holds the same title with the CFP—was that college football stadiums/towns/etc. logistically couldn't handle a semifinal game, let alone a national championship. 

The program sacrificed to this logic a few years ago was Kansas State when Hancock pondered, via Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, "Can Manhattan, Kansas, take care of 1,200 media? Where will people stay?" 

However, there's a fallacy in that, as Staples pointed out in 2012:

Well, Bill, I say this as a media member who routinely stays two hours from a game site because of outrageously priced or unavailable hotel rooms. In your hypothetical, there is this magical place called Kansas City. They have great barbecue there. You should know. You live there.

Now, would there be an uphill battle to climb for Kansas State to land the hosting rights? Absolutely. The playoff would simply select the most desirable option every year. Guess what, that already happens. 

Besides, with advertising revenue and television rights being what they are, seating/press box capacity should be a few rungs down on the list of priorities (and they are). 

But wait. What if perennial championship contenders like Alabama land the bid and get another home game? That's a possibility, but it also exists in the NFL. 

There are complications in every plan. Budgets have to be made, plans have to be secured years in advance. However, with media rights contracts for Power Five conferences being what they are, and with more money coming in through the playoff, there's a lot of green to be spent. 

Schools would love nothing more than to showcase their facilities and town. It's an economic boost and a recruiting tool. Fans would get to experience a college football trip they might not have otherwise taken. 

So, to college football admins: Let's bring the national championship game on campus and have some fun with it. 

 

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

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