NCAA Football

Manning Award Watch List 2015: Full List Released

As the 2015 college football season approaches, some of the nation's best teams and players begin to get dissected from all angles as they prepare to compete in the second-ever College Football Playoff. 

For many teams, they are only as good as their quarterback, the leading man who has to endure pressure from not only opposing defenses, but from the national spotlight. The Allstate Sugar Bowl announced its watch list for the Manning Award on Wednesday as it honors some of the NCAA's top players under center.

Here is a complete list of the 30 candidates, per SportsNOLA.com:    

The Manning Award was created in 2004 to honor one of the greatest football families ever in Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning. It recognizes the best quarterback in the nation while taking his bowl performance into consideration. This is why the voting panel gives out the award after the national championship game.

One of the names that can develop into a favorite is Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, who was a top-20 passer last season with 3,449 yards while leading the Bulldogs to a meteoric rise to No. 1 for four weeks after starting the season unranked. 

Prescott led Mississippi State to three consecutive victories over ranked teams in No. 8 LSU, No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 2 Auburn before the Bulldogs lost three of their last four games, including a 49-34 loss to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. 

It is also safe to assume the starting quarterback of the defending national champions, the Ohio State Buckeyes, will be in the mix for the award when the team names a starter, whether it be Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller or J.T. Barrett.

But with plenty of talent—such as Michigan State's Connor Cook and the nation's leading passer last season, Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty—the Sugar Bowl will have quite the tough decision to make come January.

 

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

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How TCU's Offense Has Evolved into a College Football Powerhouse

Twenty-one minutes. That's all it took for TCU's offense to show it had changed for the better. 

Twenty-one minutes into the second game of the 2014 season, against Minnesota, it was clear this was not the same TCU offense that barely mustered 25 points a game the year before. By the nine-minute mark in the second quarter, the Frogs were up 24-0 on the Golden Gophers thanks to a B.J. Catalon touchdown. TCU would score just six more points in the 30-7 win, but the damage was done. 

A quick look at the drive chart told the whole story:

Three plays, 18 yards, 35 seconds: touchdown.

Six plays, 45 yards, 1:29: field goal.

Three plays, 27 yards, 55 seconds: touchdown.

Five plays, 39 yards, 1:12: touchdown.

TCU had help from multiple Minnesota turnovers, but the Frogs offense still made the Gophers pay with quick-strike drives. Like the Baylors and Oregons of the college football world, TCU was suddenly making opponents pay for their mistakes. 

TCU would go on to finish second nationally that season in points per game (46.5), fifth in total offense (533 yards), and quarterback Trevone Boykin averaged about 355 of those yards by himself. The most dramatic offensive transformation was complete. Head coach Gary Patterson, who hired co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie that offseason, was viewed as a genius for going outside his comfort zone and transitioning to a hurry-up, no-huddle offense. 

The thing is, though, it almost never came to be. 

"I think we were all surprised that offensively—because last spring, the spring before, going into last season—we just weren't very good when we ended spring. Some guys were hurt.  So you really couldn't tell," Patterson said at Big 12 media days. "Then our kids really came along during the summertime on their own, really bonded and started doing it, and things just happened."

It just happened. 

That's an appropriate way to describe TCU's offense, in a way. The Frogs had so many weapons last year: Boykin, running backs B.J. Catalon and Aaron Green, receivers Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee. How does a defense stop all of that? With an offense that athletic run by a collaborative brain trust made up of future head coaches, there's only so much a defense can do before the yards and points pile on. 

Eventually, if you do things long enough, they start to click. 

But just because the transformation happened doesn't mean it happened magically. There are reasons for it. Boykin needed a full offseason to be "the guy" at quarterback to build his confidence and consistency. For the previous two seasons, he had filled in as Casey Pachall's understudy while experimenting with other positions. "Really, he was the toughest quarterback that I've played against, it just had not come to fruition on the field," Patterson said. "Really, I wasn't surprised by his success." 

TCU's receivers needed to come together too. The receiving corp was a long, athletic group but one that underachieved in 2013. "Guys just bought in," Boykin said. "It was about the want-to. Once you weed out the bad apples, you see the potential you have.

"I knew we had guys who could catch the ball. It was all about being focused and mentally prepared."

The offensive line, previously marred by injuries, got healthy. (Rarely in '13 did the Frogs start the same five O-linemen two games in a row.) Put all of these factors together, and TCU's offense went from a unit that couldn't do much right to one that couldn't do much wrong. 

With the pieces in place, TCU's offense just needed the right scheme. This version of the hurry-up isn't complicated, as Patterson and starting center Joey Hunt explained, but it does offer plenty of options. 

"It's a player-friendly offense," Hunt said. "You go, get your play, and go do it. That's what I love about it."

Oh yeah, and the tempo. Hunt, a self-described "more athletic" center, loves keeping defenses on their toes. But the only way this can happen is if TCU's players are executing more and thinking less. Make a mistake? It's not the end of the world; you just have to throw the play away and move on—quickly. "If you're going to make a mistake, make a mistake full speed," Boykin said.

For Boykin and Hunt, success in the offense revolved around maturing in the decision-making portion of their games. For Boykin specifically, it was about identifying defensive formations and adjusting appropriately. For Hunt, it was about having the confidence to call out more blocking assignments and dictating the pace. 

"The transition was a little different," Hunt said. "For me, as a center, I was controlling how fast we go and snapping it. The snap's on me. Tre(vone) just tells me when he's ready. I make more calls, like which way we're sliding on the line and all that. I call a little bit more than I used to." 

Now in Year 2 of the offense, TCU's players feel there's even less caution than before. Considering practically the entire starting lineup returns, it's possible the Frogs could improve on their numbers from '14. 

Patterson, though, was his usual conservative self.

"Everybody has always told me there's always another level second year. Kind of like last year, I'm going to wait and see what the difference is," Patterson said. "When you've been around other kinds of offenses, you kind of know the progression.  This will only be my second year of being the head coach with this offense, so I don't know what the progression is besides playing against it.  But everyone I've talked to has talked about taking it to another level."

It's definitely possible. Perhaps no back in the Big 12 finished stronger than Green, who had four 100-yard games in the second half of the season. Boykin specifically pointed out Deante' Gray and Emanuel Porter as receivers who have stepped up their game this offseason. 

But what really all of those players give this offense are options. "You're not going to be perfect," Boykin said. "There are times when we're not passing the ball well and we have to rely on our running game. There are times when we're not running the ball well and we have to rely on throwing the ball."

As for Boykin himself, the extra year as the clear-cut No. 1 quarterback has given him more confidence than ever before. He, along with TCU's other veteran players, has improved as a leader by example. Patterson said that Boykin has been offered to work out in front of "NFL and quarterback" gurus. Instead, Boykin stayed with his teammates this summer to make sure they were doing seven-on-seven work. 

These are the types of lessons Boykin and Co. hope younger players pick up on so that, one day, they'll teach them to even younger players.

That's how TCU plans to keep its offense on an upward trajectory. Not just for 2015, but for all the years after. 

First up, though: Minnesota, the first FBS team exposed to the new TCU offense last year. 

"We've got a lot of practices before we get to Minnesota, which it's going to be a very tough ballgame," Patterson said. "It's like Custer. The only difference between Custer and us is we know what's on the other side of the hill."

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

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Jim Harbaugh's Senior Tryouts About Creating Culture, Not Kicking Kids off Team

When former Michigan and current Ohio tight end Keith Heitzman revealed to Mark Znidar of the Columbus Dispatch (h/t the Washington Post) on Wednesday that new Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh held tryouts for fifth-year seniors upon his arrival in Ann Arbor, it was easy to assume the worst.

After all, it's not exactly unheard of for a coach to do everything he can to free up as many roster spots as possible once he accepts a new job.

Harbaugh has already been accused of such practices. According to ESPN.com's Joe Schad, defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins claimed the former San Francisco 49ers head coach pressured him to leave the program before he eventually transferred to Texas Tech.

"College football is a business. New coaches have to win games. They want to go with guys they think can win," Pipkins, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL in 2013 before returning for the 2014 season, said. "If I’m a victim of making room, so be it."

But while Pipkins' departure from Michigan is a matter of "he said, he said"—Harbaugh has vehemently denied the accusation, stating that the Wolverines medical staff's decision to disqualify the defensive tackle was only medically related—it's unfair to lump Heitzman's hard feelings in the same category.

In fact, team tryouts fall right in line with the culture that Harbaugh has been trying to create at Michigan, which has struggled to maintain stability since Lloyd Carr's departure in 2008.

And if there's one characteristic that's been prevalent ever since Ann Arbor's prodigal son returned home last December, it's the competition that's seeped into every aspect of the Wolverines program.

From quarterback camps to spring-game rewards, there have been plenty of winners—and maybe just as many losers—in Harbaugh's first seven months as Michigan's head coach.

"Within the program, the intensity and the enthusiasm of going out every day and competing and not only competing on the field, it never stops," Wolverines senior linebacker Joe Bolden said on a May conference call. "Just being in meeting rooms and when we're working out and running and stuff, too, the competition and enthusiasm, it's in every aspect of this building right now."

This would help explain why Harbaugh may have found it necessary to have fifth-year seniors try out this spring, proving that spots on his roster will be earned rather than given—even for the team's elder statesmen.

Only Heitzman didn't see it that way, telling Znidar that he felt disrespected by having to prove his worth to his new head coach.

"That definitely took me off guard," Heitzman said about the senior tryouts. "I was bummed out."

Rather than participate, Heitzman announced his intentions to transfer in January, ultimately landing at Ohio University as a graduate transfer eligible to play immediately in the 2015 season.

That's obviously his prerogative, seeing as playing time would have likely been hard to come by behind Mackey Award watch list member Jake Butt, but it shouldn't be viewed as an indictment of the way Harbaugh is running his new program.

Especially when considering that aside from Heitzman, only two other fifth-year seniors have opted to transfer from the Wolverines program since Harbaugh was announced as the team's new head coach. Both quarterback Russell Bellomy and running back Justice Hayes ended their respective Michigan careers before the start of spring practice, and neither player was projected to receive significant playing time in 2015 in the first place.

Another fifth-year senior, center Jack Miller, opted to end his football career altogether.

That would indicate that when it came to Harbaugh's alleged tryouts, every fifth-year senior who wound up participating—if they even happened—made the cut.

"We don't run off players," Harbaugh said about the Pipkins situation earlier this month, via MLive.com. "When it comes to the health and safety of the players, that argument trumps all other arguments."

And as for holding tryouts for fifth-year seniors, the ability to free up roster spots hardly suffices as logical reasoning, considering the logistics of the Wolverines' 2015 roster were pretty much set after national signing day in February.

If a coach was attempting to run off players from his program to gain a competitive advantage, it would certainly make much more sense to do so with players with eligibility remaining beyond the 2015 season.

That's not to say the practice isn't happening to a degree, whether it be at Michigan or other programs across the country. Sometimes it simply makes sense for both parties to move on, especially when a new coach comes to town hoping to instill a different mindset than the one his predecessor possessed.

But in the case of Heitzman's departure from Ann Arbor, that hardly appears to be the case. Rather, the situation screams of Harbaugh's desire for nonstop competition—something that not every player in college football is cut out for.

Whether that type of culture will work to Harbaugh's benefit or detriment with the Wolverines remains to be seen. But for now, he's letting his track record speak for itself.

 

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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4-Star John Simpson Breaks Down Top 7, Reveals Decision Date

John Simpson is less than 10 days away from the start of his final high school football training camp, and he understands it's time to focus on the future. 

The 4-star Charleston, South Carolina, offensive lineman moved closer toward deciding where that future awaits Wednesday morning, announcing a list of seven favorites on Twitter: 

This collection features six SEC squads—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and Tennessee—and in-state ACC contender Clemson.

Simpson expects to trim his list to five schools at some point this season, setting the stage for official visits and a commitment this winter.

"As of right now, I want to make my announcement at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl," he said.

The game is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 9, in San Antonio, Texas.

Rated 10th nationally among guard prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings, Simpson is seen as a versatile cog along the offensive front. In fact, the majority of college coaching staffs are targeting him at tackle.

"College coaches tell me I'm athletic enough to play anywhere on the line. I'm open to compete at any position my team needs me," he said.

Now that Simpson has narrowed things down in his recruitment, we caught up with the 6'4.5", 296-pound Fort Dorchester High School senior to discuss his outlook toward each top option.

 

Alabama

Tuscaloosa was a stop on Simpson's recruiting tour this summer. The Crimson Tide actually took him by surprise with significant interest.

"I honestly didn't think Alabama would offer, but I'm glad they did," he said. "The tradition down there is incredible. [Offensive line coach Mario] Cristobal taught me more there in a couple days of camp than anyone has ever coached me up at a different school."

Cristobal works with quite a depth chart at Alabama. Already loaded with former high school All-Americans and with more incoming talent in place this recruiting cycle, it's a positional group that isn't easily climbed by young players.

A crowded situation in the trenches doesn't bother Simpson. He's willing to wait for his opportunity while undergoing further development.

"I want to take the time to let my body mature more so I can be fully prepared to play when it's my time," Simpson said. "Obviously I'd be happy to have an early chance on the field, but that isn't necessarily the biggest thing for me."

 

Clemson

The Tigers have hosted Simpson more than any program in the country because of a combination of proximity and longstanding mutual interest. He looks at Clemson's location and atmosphere as key elements of strong interest.

"Clemson definitely stands out a lot," Simpson said. "It's pretty close to home, and I'm very comfortable with the coaching staff. Things are definitely personal between me and the program after all these visits."

He's focused on checking out other colleges now, but Clemson is clearly a top contender, if not the favorite for his commitment. Simpson is projected to sign with the Tigers by 75 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

 

Florida

The Gators offered Simpson following the arrival of a new coaching regime led by Jim McElwain. He attended the team's first spring game under new leadership in April.

A conversation with offensive line coach Mike Summers increased his intrigue.

"He told me they didn't have very many scholarship offensive linemen playing in the spring game. I guess a lot of them were walk-ons," Simpson said. "Coach Summers told me if I come there, I would basically be guaranteed a shot at a starting spot."

 

Georgia

Aside from Alabama, Simpson pointed to Georgia as a contender that carries the most tradition. He also expressed enthusiasm about how the coaching staff handles things.

"I really like the way those coaches carry themselves and treat players," Simpson said. "[Head coach] Mark Richt is an awesome leader, and I like his style."

The Bulldogs offered in December and impressed Simpson during his time on campus. Georgia now seeks an official visit to gain ground in this chase.

 

LSU

LSU is the lone university that hasn't yet secured a campus visit from Simpson. He plans to change that soon by traveling to Baton Rouge in order to develop a better feel for the program.

Simpson credits first-year assistant coach Kevin Steele as the driving force behind his desire to explore more with LSU.

"He was the one at Alabama who made sure they looked hard at me as a recruit," Simpson said. "Then when he went from Alabama to LSU, that's when LSU offered. Apparently he's really interested in me. I want to get down there to see what it's all about." 

 

South Carolina

The Gamecocks offered Simpson a scholarship before any FBS program, extending that opportunity shortly before his junior season. He is set to visit Columbia on Friday, July 24, and it could be a chance for South Carolina to reestablish its relationship with the in-state standout.

"I haven't been speaking with South Carolina as much lately, but I'm really cool with [assistant coach Everette] Sands. I know that will continue when I get there for my visit," Simpson said.

He admits some concern about the longevity of Steve Spurrier's tenure. Uncertainty continues to swirl around when the Hall of Fame head coach will retire, reverberating in the recruiting spectrum.

"I'm nervous about it. Personally, I really thought he was going to retire this year," Simpson said. "It makes me nervous because I really like [offensive line coach Shawn] Elliott. He's one of the best coaches that I know. But the thing is, if Coach Spurrier leaves, then Coach Elliott would probably leave, and I would be left behind."

He is hardly alone with this sentiment. It's an issue the Gamecocks—rated 53rd overall in composite class rankings—are forced to deal with moving forward. 

 

Tennessee

The Volunteers are the most recent team to welcome Simpson on campus. He attended a camp in Knoxville earlier this month and called it a positive experience.

"I thing their facilities are excellent, and the stadium is really big," he said.

His feelings at Tennessee were even more important than any sights.

"I'm looking for a family environment at these schools, and that's what I felt at Tennessee," Simpson said. "It feels like that at Clemson too. That's a big part of this process."

 

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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Ranking the Most Quotable Head Coaches in College Football

College football coaches are judged on their win-loss record, their performance in clutch situations and how they fare on the recruiting trail. Being a great quote is just a really nice bonus.

There are some coaches in the game today that have a knack for spouting out memorable lines during press conferences and other interviews. Often these come in the heat of the moment, usually in reaction to an unexpected event, but they also come as a result of that coach's sense of humor and personality.

Whatever the reason, when a microphone or tape recorder is nearby we're all ears, eagerly anticipating the next great quip or one-liner.

Here's our ranking of the most quotable college football coaches in the game today, ranked based on how memorable their lines tend to be as well as the reactions they provoke.

Begin Slideshow

Cardale Jones Responds to Twitter User Regarding 'All Lives Matter' Comment

We knew Cardale Jones could shut down the Twitter world with his humor. On Thursday, his feed took on a whole new, deeper meaning.  

The Ohio State quarterback started off the morning by commenting on the ongoing hashtag war between #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter, tweeting: "Why is it that the only ones getting beaten, killed when unarmed, & mysteriously dien [sic] in custody are African American? You tell me that #AllLivesMatter well I say how do you define "All"?"

Responding to Jones' thoughts, a Buckeyes fan with a now-deleted account wrote: "worry about getting us fans another championship....stay out of this bulls--t. #GoBucks"

Jones' response was, well, perfect:

Shutting down a Twitter troll and forcing him to delete his account? Rumble, young man, rumble.

Here's a reminder that Jones can be found at @CJ12_ in case you've haven't yet followed the best athlete account on the World Wide Web.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Nebraska Football: Adidas Gets It Right (Mostly) with Cornhusker Alternate Uni

For the last few days, Nebraska fans have been on pins and needles, as Adidas teased the Cornhuskers’ new uniforms. On Thursday, we finally got a look at what Adidas has in mind.

A tribute to history. A future advantage. @Huskers new TECHFIT x #Primeknit#HuskerBold uniform. #GBR#teamadidaspic.twitter.com/S0BELqcL1f

— adidas Football US (@adidasFballUS) July 23, 2015

This year’s offering will be a one-off, worn on Oct. 24 against Northwestern—much like the Purples did last year with their Gothic-inspired alternates against Nebraska.

It’s not quite as dramatic a look as Adidas gave Louisville for its alternate uniform. And it’s not the sweeping full-uniform change that Adidas put together for Miami this year. Nor is it the missed-opportunity disaster that Adidas fostered on UCLA.

So how did Adidas do in making Nebraska part of its #3StripeLife?

The Good

The helmet works well, basically replicating the standard helmet with a matte black base and chrome red striping. Functionally, it’s a matte version of the 2012 alternate helmet, which up to now was the sharpest of the helmet offerings.

There is one difference, though. On the back of the helmet, there will be giant-sized player numbers with the same horizontal slashes that permeate the design of the uniform. 

@PhilHecken has Adidas ever watermarked school names / nicknames into jerseys before? I've never seen it pic.twitter.com/xd0SAbRXYo

— Jake Sanchez (@j_sanatez) July 23, 2015

The jersey is a real amalgam of previous alternates for Nebraska. Since 2013, Adidas has used the stencil-like numerals for Nebraska’s alternate, and this year’s offering is no different. It has the black from Nebraska’s 2013 alternate and incorporated the “metallic” look from the 2014 model.

However, by using a red-on-black color scheme, Adidas will hopefully make the numbers legible from a distance, a huge problem with the 2014 offering.

The pants are functionally identical to last year’s model, with the color scheme being swapped (red-on-black instead of black-on-red) this year. The subtle sans-serifed N inside of the side stripes on the pants is repeated this year, which is a clever addition.

One other observation is the number Adidas chose for the uniform: 15. Probably not breaking news, but it's further confirmation that De'Mornay Pierson-El is slated to be the face of Nebraska's program for 2015.

The Bad

Yes, the undershirt is ridiculous, as pointed out by Paul Lukas of UniWatch.

Embarrassing. I think the red "N" stands for "No." pic.twitter.com/GyNvcfEqVR

— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) July 23, 2015

(And before you say it, yes, we’ve all heard the one about the N standing for “knowledge,” thank you very much.)

But it’s an undershirt. No one other than the players will ever see it outside of today’s reveal.

Of bigger concern is the tire-tread stretch pattern on the jerseys. Of course, we’ll hear from Adidas all about how it will make the players faster, lighter and stronger.

But, come on.

The primary reason for the design is to give a unified look to all Adidas-outfitted schools. The German outfitter wants you to know, at a glance, that a uniform is living the #3StripeLife, and the pattern—along with the diagonal slashes in the stripes, as seen with Nebraska, Miami and UCLA—is how Adidas will accomplish that goal.

And The Amalgam

Adidas has come under withering scrutiny over the last year or so for producing flops in uniforms. It’s no accident that Michigan, Tennessee and Notre Dame have all stopped living the #3StripeLife when they got the chance recently.

So there was more than a little pressure on Adidas to get things right this year for their football offerings. After a huge fail (UCLA), an interesting alternate (Louisville) and a qualified success (Miami), what Adidas would do with Nebraska was a cross-your-fingers moment.

Taken on its own, the 2015 alternate is a success. For alternates, black seems to work better than red, as it’s easier to differentiate it from Nebraska’s standard uniforms without being overly weird.

Prior to this season’s gear, the 2013 black uniforms were the best in my book, followed by the under-loved 2012 giant N uniforms (although Wisconsin’s that year were better) and then the 2014 “duct-tape” model, which worked far better in theory than in practice.

But when you look at the history of Nebraska’s alternates—never mind how weird it is to think of alternate uniforms as having a “history”—this year’s offering seems like a re-tread.

See what I did there, referring to Nebraska’s tire-tread-pattered uniform as a “re-tread”? Quality analysis at work.

There’s really not much new in these uniforms. Instead, it feels like taking the best parts of previous uniforms and melding them together in the hopes of getting something right.

Functionally, the uniform takes the black helmet from 2012, the black shirts from 2013, and the shiny numbers and N-pattered pant stripes from 2014 in a way that will be (hopefully) legible from a distance.

So overall, it should be fun to see Nebraska take the field on October 24 in these uniforms. Assuming the numbers are legible, Adidas managed to avoid a car-crash of a uniform. And the black uniforms and helmets should be a hit.

But it’s hard not to feel like this year’s offering is anything more than a recycling of previous years’ models. And that’s not what an alternate uniform is supposed to be.

This column first appeared at the Double Extra Point, which you can follow on Twitter @DblExtraPoint.

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New 5-Star Ohio State Commit Nick Bosa Has Skills to Be Better Than Brother Joey

Nick Bosa, following in the footsteps of his famous older brother, has decided to leave Florida for a college football career in Columbus.

The 5-star St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) defensive end announced his commitment to Ohio State on Thursday via a Twitter post that indicates a proverbial passing of the torch from his older brother, Joey Bosa:

The elder Bosa, a junior standout at Ohio State, is a two-year starter who earned Big Ten Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors last season. A strong 2015 campaign could put him in contention to become the top overall pick in next year's NFL draft if he chooses to forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility.

Nick's commitment Thursday ensures there will be yet another talented lineman to fill the void for Ohio State after Joey's departure.

The 6'4", 265-pound playmaker is rated No. 1 among 2016 strong-side defensive ends and ninth overall nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. He is considered the Sunshine State's top senior defender.

Bosa becomes the 18th member of a star-studded Ohio State class. His pledge also pushes the Buckeyes past Florida State and LSU atop the composite class rankings.

The Seminoles were viewed as a viable contender for Nick, while Florida and Notre Dame also received interest. But despite a lengthy list of scholarship offers, few ever imagined he would end up anywhere other than Ohio State.

All 57 expert predictions in his 247Sports' Crystal Ball pointed to Columbus as Bosa's ultimate destination. It always seemed to be a case of when, not if, he would join the Buckeyes class.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, fresh off his third national championship as a coach, reeled in a dominant prospect who will face immense expectations at Ohio State. Joey has quickly become a Buckeyes legend, and Nick faces a long road to step out of that shadow during his college career.

In what should be seen as a testament to the Bosa bloodline, Nick actually has the attributes to become even better than his older brother, depending on individual dedication and further fundamental/physical development.

Nick wreaks havoc in the offensive backfield, terrorizing opponents and inspiring teammates with the same level of relentlessness that makes Joey such an endearing star. Nick tallied 30 tackles for loss and five sacks last fall, leading one of the nation's most prominent high school programs to a state championship.

His winning pedigree and punishing style of play in the trenches put him in rarefied territory among 2016 recruits.

Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Damon Sayles scouted Bosa as part of B/R's CFB Recruiting 200 series:

The stock of Nick Bosa appears to rise every day, but the hype is real. …

Bosa brings toughness and tenacity to the football field. He's a big, strong athlete who plays with a chip on his shoulder. It's that mean streak that makes Bosa such an intriguing player. He already has the mindset of a college athlete; now it's simply a matter of getting him on the field.

Given his skill set and mentality, the evidence suggests Nick might match Joey's experience as a true freshman starter. How his career unfolds from there will eventually determine which Bosa goes down as a bigger Buckeyes hero.

Joey's journey in Columbus is at least halfway through, featuring an abundance of accolades and a national championship ring. Nick, the newest member of America's top 2016 class, has the necessary tools to duplicate—and perhaps even exceed—his predecessor's accomplishments.

 

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

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Updated Odds: Where Will 2016's No.1 Recruit Rashan Gary Land?

Rashan Gary is the top-ranked recruit in the 2016 class, according to 247sports.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Adam Kramer throws down some odds on where we may see Gary land.

Where do you think he will end up? Watch the video and let us know!

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Xavier Kelly Sets Decision Date: Where Will 4-Star DE Land?

One of the nation's top pass-rushers will come off the board Friday when 4-star defensive end Xavier Kelly announces his commitment.

The 6'5", 255-pound Kansas native recently announced via his Twitter account that he will choose from a group of eight finalists: Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Kansas State, Michigan, Oregon and TCU.

Kelly is scheduled to announce Friday at 2 p.m. ET, as Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports detailed.

Kelly, who initially committed to Kansas State back in November 2014, has been on a whirlwind tour in the last month, with Clemson and Georgia being the last two schools to get him on campus earlier this month.

Which school has the inside track on adding the nation's No. 8 weak-side defensive end and the top prospect from the state of Kansas?

As Wiltfong noted, at the end of June, Kelly stated that a trio of schools—Alabama, Florida State and Georgia—were standing out to him.

However, it appears Clemson is the school gaining the most traction on his Crystal Ball page since he's set his announcement.

Kelly visited Clemson back in late May and returned last week for head coach Dabo Swinney's All-In cookout, according to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

As Hale McGranahan of the Clemson Insider noted, Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables and defensive ends coach Marion Hobby were treating Kelly as a top priority while he was on campus.

"They were just giving me a lot of good reasons why I should be here," Kelly told McGranahan. "They feel like they really need me. They said it's perfect timing for me to come to Clemson because they really need some players at the position. They're in need at that position, so they want me to come in." 

As Ourlads detailed, the Tigers depth chart at defensive end has three upperclassmen among the top four players at the position, which illustrates the staff's desire to load up on quality pass-rushers in this cycle.

After his Clemson visit, he made the short trek to Athens to attend Georgia's Dawg Night camp.

According to Kipp Adams of Dawgs247, the Bulldogs also made an impression on him thanks to the opportunities they can present him on the field and in the classroom.

"Georgia is a great fit for me because it is close enough for my family, they are in the SEC, and they have great academics," Kelly told Adams. "I want to major in business, and they have a great business school."

The Bulldogs are also targeting quality pass-rushers in the 2016 class. But Kelly may fit in as more of an outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's 3-4 scheme.

However, given Clemson's need at defensive end and his fit as a traditional pass-rushing end in its defense, the Tigers appear to hold the edge in landing Kelly's pledge heading into his announcement.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ranking the Top QBs Notre Dame Defense Will Face in 2015

On Wednesday, we examined the top quarterbacks Texas' defense will face in 2015. Now, let's take a look at the same category for Notre Dame, who just so happens to be the Longhorns' Week 1 opponent. 

The thought process for this list is similar to the previous one. Open quarterback battles take a back seat since it's difficult to project a winner. Previous games against the Irish are taken into consideration, as are career production and preseason/postseason accolades. 

The Irish return a defense that struggled in the second half of the season, but one that also has a lot of experience with proven playmakers like linebacker Jaylon Smith. Which quarterbacks present the toughest challenges for Smith and Co.? Let's take a look. 

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Nick Bosa to Ohio State: Buckeyes Land 5-Star DE Prospect

By the time offensive linemen can stop worrying about Joey Bosa, it will be time for his younger brother, Nick, to fuel the nightmares of opposing blockers everywhere.

According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, Bosa will follow in his brother's footsteps and head to Ohio State.

Bosa confirmed the news on his Twitter account:

Bosa is the No. 1-ranked strong-side defensive end and the eighth-ranked player overall on 247Sports' composite rankings.

No matter what the St. Thomas Aquinas High School star does, he'll be inextricably linked to his older brother. Especially early on, as more fans become familiar with Nick's game, everything will be viewed through the prism of where Joey was at the same stage.

Nick will obviously want to get out of Joey's shadow, but there's no question he has reaped some of the benefits from his brother's success.

ESPN's Brian Bennett wondered if having Nick around would keep Joey in Columbus for another season:

Rocco Casullo, then-head coach of St. Thomas Aquinas, spoke in January 2014 about the impact of their kinship and how Nick has always been an attentive learner, per Doug Lesmerises of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:

I think having Joey as his older brother has helped him tremendously. If you watch Joey's high school film and how he has matured from his freshman, sophomore and into his junior year, Nick was always around watching him as a youth. Nick always wanted to compete with his older brother and play with the older kids and show everyone that he is a great football player, which he is.

I think that year really propelled Nick big time because he got the experience of playing on a great defense with Joey and (Miami recruit) Anthony Moten, and he saw he fit in. Then it just elevated his game as a sophomore and I can't wait to see what he does this year.

Bosa is well on his way to becoming a major difference-maker at the college level. He's extremely strong and more than willing to use that strength to his advantage. He won't blow by offensive linemen too often; he'll simply run right through them.

He'll only get stronger when he works with a strength and conditioning team at Ohio State.

Technique-wise, Bosa is still a work in progress. He's a bit too reliant on his physical gifts. That's more than enough to make him a beast in high school, but it won't work all of the time against college blockers.

That should only be a minor problem, however. Bosa has the physical tools to become a well-rounded defensive end, and there's little doubt, given his improvement in high school, that he's willing to put in the work to get better.  

 

Recruit star ratings and information via 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

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Clemson Leads the Way on 2015 Preseason All-ACC Team

After taking home the media's preseason vote for the conference championship and Player of the Year award, it's no surprise that Clemson has the most representation on the 2015 preseason All-ACC team.

The ACC issued a press release confirming the selections:

Clemson leads all schools with five selections to the 2015 All-Atlantic Coast Conference Preseason Football Team announced on Thursday.

The team was selected by a vote of 163 media members who were credentialed for the ACC Football Kickoff earlier this week at Pinehurst Resort.

Clemson sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson, who earlier this week was voted the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, is joined on the All-ACC preseason team by Tiger wide receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott, offensive guard Eric Mac Lain and defensive end Shaq Lawson.

Florida State and Virginia Tech each placed four student-athletes on the 2015 All-ACC preseason team, while Pitt had three selected.

Here is the full preseason All-ACC team:

The first team has an extra member at defensive end due to a tie in voting between Lawson and Louisville's Sheldon Rankins. Virginia Tech's Dadi Lhomme Nicolas, who finished second in the ACC last season with 18 tackles for loss, led the position with 108 votes.

Pittsburgh had two of the top three vote-getters in the preseason team. Running back James Conner, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, garnered a team-best 148 votes, while wide receiver Tyler Boyd grabbed 137 to finish third in total votes behind Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo (141).

Conner ran for a conference-record 26 touchdowns as a sophomore last season, while Boyd became the first player in league history to record 1,000 receiving yards in his freshman and sophomore campaigns.

Aguayo, the 2013 Groza Award winner as the nation's best kicker, has hit at least 90 percent of his field goals in his first two seasons at Florida State and is on pace to break the FBS all-time record for career field-goal percentage.

Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller, Duke safety Jeremy Cash, North Carolina kick returner Ryan Switzer and Aguayo were also named to the ACC's preseason first team in 2014, with Fuller and Aguayo later finishing the year as postseason first-teamers.

 

Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting the 2015 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year

The start of the 2015 season is just a few weeks away, so let's take a look at some end-of-year predictions. Who will be the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year after the 2015 season?

Check out Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down who should win the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What LSU Needs to Do to Keep No. 1 Recruiting Ranking

According to 247Sports, the LSU Tigers are currently holding the top ranking for the 2016 recruiting cycle.

Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue breaks down exactly what the Tigers need to do to stay in that top spot.

Do you think they can do it? Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida's Defense Can Keep the Gators in the SEC East Discussion

For the most part, Florida has been the punch line to a really sad joke over the last two seasons, as former head coach Will Muschamp struggled to keep the program relevant in the down SEC East.

Despite that, the Gators stayed in the division title conversation into November of last year after their surprising 38-20 upset of Georgia in the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."

For a team that struggled mightily offensively, managing just 367.6 yards per game (12th in the SEC) and 179.9 passing yards per game (12th in the SEC), being in the discussion in November was a minor miracle—and perhaps an indictment of the division.

Can that happen again?

Muschamp was shown the door, and new head coach Jim McElwain—an offensive-minded coach—brought in former Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to run the defense.

Don't expect much of a change.

"There's a lot of similarity, a lot of same language, and I think that that's really important as we go," McElwain said at SEC media days earlier this month. "I just love his energy every day, and the way his teams have played, that speaks for itself."

Collins ran primarily a 4-3 at Mississippi State, where his situational defense was stellar. The Bulldogs led the conference last year in red-zone scoring defense (63.64 percent) and finished third in third-down defense (34.95 percent). 

He inherits a program that was more of a 3-4 multiple scheme under Muschamp and known for attacking the quarterback. Collins might implement more 4-3 looks than Muschamp did, but the goal will be the same.

In fact, it's going to be even more aggressive thanks to a trustworthy secondary led by All-American corner Vernon Hargreaves III, fellow corner Jalen Tabor, safety Keanu Neal and the rest of the talented group in the back end.

"It's going to give us a chance to do some stuff that's out of the ordinary for us," said defensive end Jonathan Bullard. "You know, take a few more shots. When you have guys behind you like Hargreaves, you're not really worried about it. All of our defensive backs there are really good, so it's important for our young guys to know exactly what they're doing. I'll probably take a few more shots."

With Bullard, Bryan Cox Jr., Taven Bryan, Jarrad Davis, Antonio Morrison, Alex Anzalone and a loaded front seven, the Gators will still bring the same aggressiveness that helped keep them in games even during the down times.

That will allow the offense a little more of a cushion adjusting to McElwain, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and perhaps new pro-style starting quarterback Will Grier—assuming he beats out dual-threat returning starter Treon Harris.

Sure, the offensive line will be an issue despite McElwain welcoming two new transfers who are eligible immediately, including two-time FCS All-American Mason Halter (Fordham). That, plus the transition to a new scheme and perhaps a new quarterback, will prevent the level of consistency needed to truly contend.

But with seven starters returning, the defense will at least give the Gators a shot.

"We're going to have to lean on [veterans] as we introduce some of these younger guys, and yet it's up to the offense to kind of take some of the heat off of them as well," McElwain said. "It goes hand in hand."

Plus, look around. It's not like other division foes are absent of holes. Defending division champ Missouri has no proven wide receivers and a defensive line that's very much a question mark, Georgia has a brand-new defensive line and an offense that is a big unknown behind running back Nick Chubb, and Tennessee's offensive line is experienced yet inconsistent.

Florida likely won't win the division, but the defense will at least keep the Gators in games and in the conversation.

The foundation of the Gators has been defense for the last half-decade. Even though McElwain's track record is as a successful offensive coach, the identity of the Gators will remain.

"As far as the defense taking a step back, that's not going to happen," Bullard said. "We're not going to allow that to happen."

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 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.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

CFB Recruiting 200: Top 11 Interior Linemen in Class of 2016

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report recruiting analysts Damon Sayles, Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports Composite Rankings and provided in-depth analysis. As the summer camp circuit comes to a close, Bleacher Report provides a position-by-position breakdown of the best college football recruits. Today, we present the top Interior Lineman. 

Other Positions

 

Unlike in basketball, center and guard are two of the least flashy positions on the gridiron.

Those who line up along the interior of the offensive line may not generate daily headlines.

Yet coaches across the country covet top interior offensive linemen because of the need to be stout up the middle.

The latest entry of Bleacher Report's CFB 200 series profiles the top underappreciated big uglies in the 2016 cycle and graded them on a 100-point scale in areas such as strength, pass-blocking, run-blocking and explosion.

How do the top interior offensive linemen in the 2016 cycle measure up?

 

All analysis provided by B/R National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani.

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Georgia Football: 4 Players Sure to Surprise at Fall Camp

Fall camp is a time for players to build chemistry as well as get in shape for the upcoming season. The Georgia Bulldogs should have both of those things already in place because the team looked in shape during spring practice, and with 11 starters returning, chemistry won’t be hard to build either.

However, with 11 returning starters also comes a new slate of players coming into the fold, which makes fall camp more exciting. The Bulldogs have a talented core of young players and veterans looking to gain playing time this season. And if the Bulldogs reach their goals for this season, it will be because of the players who are able to be productive in fall camp.

So here are four players who are sure to surprise when the Bulldogs hit the practice field in a couple weeks.

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UCLA Football: 5 Players Sure to Surprise at Fall Camp

With fall camp starting up in the early portion of August, a look ahead to the UCLA football roster seems like the logical thing to do. 

There are five players with the potential to surprise during fall camp in San Bernardino. None of the five are currently projected to start. In fact, a few might not see the field much—if at all—in 2015. 

However, each has his individual talents to make an impact this coming season. This piece will analyze why the five athletes in question are sure to surprise for Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins. 

 

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UCLA Football: 5 Players Sure to Surprise at Fall Camp

With fall camp starting up in the early portion of August, a look ahead to the UCLA football roster seems like the logical thing to do. There are five players with the potential to surprise during fall camp in San Bernardino...

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