NCAA Football

Nebraska Football: 5 Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practices

Spring practice officially begins for Nebraska football on Saturday, March 7. As head coach Mike Riley gears up for his first season with the Huskers, there are key players Nebraska fans will have their eyes on.

Plus, Husker fans are anxious to see what Riley and his staff can do with the current roster. That's what makes this spring even more intriguing. Whether it's the possibility of a quarterback controversy or the question marks on defense, there's plenty that spring practice needs to sort out.

Nebraska's annual spring game is April 11, which gives the Huskers a little over a month before fans get a firsthand look at what the 2015 team has to offer. What will fans see, especially from key players?

Let's take a look at the players who have the most to gain in spring practices.

Begin Slideshow

4-Star CB Chad Clay Names Georgia Favorite, Says He'd 'Love to Stay at Home'

One of the biggest names in attendance for Georgia’s junior day last weekend was 2016 4-star corner Chad Clay.

The 6’0”, 177-pounder, whose father, Willie Clay, was a standout defensive back at Georgia Tech and in the NFL, said that the Bulldogs made a strong impression on him during the weekend’s festivities.

“Coming out of this visit, I’m going to put Georgia at No. 1,” Clay told Bleacher Report. “They made a really big jump in my mind.”

But what is it about the Bulldogs that has them trending with one of the nation’s top corners in the 2016 class, and how did this weekend’s trip open his eyes up to the possibility of staying close to home?

For starters, Clay has developed a strong bond with Bulldogs defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

On this trip, Clay said that he got to interact more with the staff and Pruitt in particular.

“This time, it stuck out to me more because I got a lot more one-on-one time with the coaches because it wasn’t like a game atmosphere where they had to worry about a game,” Clay said. “Coach Pruitt and the defensive staff really seem like they have a plan in the future going forward to get Georgia in contending for a playoff spot every year. They really put a big emphasis on recruiting the Georgia kids.”

Clay was one of several in-state standouts in town over the weekend, as noted by Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247.

He also notes that he’s developed a strong bond with a number of top prospects he played with during the Rising Seniors game last December. The group of recruits had such a good time that he admits that he has pondered the thought of staying home and building something special in Athens.

“When I think about it, in the long run, I’d love to stay at home and play with some of my good friends and people I’ve grown up with since I’ve been playing football,” Clay said. “To stay at home and play college football and win, that would be a great thing.”

There’s another layer to Clay’s recruitment that makes the current direction of this process all the more intriguing.

Of course, Clay’s father starred for the rival Yellow Jackets, but his mom attended Georgia, which makes Chad’s recruitment quite the topic of interest in the Clay household. 

“The crazy thing is, my dad, he always tells me he will leave it up to me and he wants me to make the best decision for me and my life because he’s already lived his,” Chad said.

“She’s the one who came up with me for junior day because my dad was out of town and she really liked it. She was talking to Coach [Mark] Richt and Coach Pruitt and she really likes UGA from an academic standpoint. She said there’s a feeling of trust between her and the coaching staff at UGA.”

The Bulldogs are now in the driver’s seat with one of the many studs on a loaded squad at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Georgia. However, Clay has visits lined up to a few SEC programs coming up in the near future—with a timeline for his decision also on the horizon. 

“I don’t have the exact dates, but I know I have trips to LSU, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi State coming up,” Clay said. I want to make a decision by May or by the summer time. So these visits will be crucial coming up.”

 

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

12 Legacy College Football Recruits in Class of 2016

Remember the days of watching that stud athlete make play after play in college football in the 1980s or 1990s?

Some of those studs have grown up to become fathers of stud athletes, and those young studs are a year away from showing their skills on the college football scene.

Feel old yet?

Watching legacies of college football stars always brings out the water-cooler questions. Will the sons end up better than the fathers? Will the sons follow the fathers' footsteps by attending the same university? Can the sons finish with a better football resume?

The Class of 2015 had its share of sons looking for similar success that their fathers enjoyed in college. Kyler Murray, the nation's top-ranked dual-threat quarterback, signed with Texas A&M and hopes to have a career like his father Kevin, who was an All-American quarterback for the Aggies in the 1980s.

Here are 12 2016 prospects, in alphabetical order, with fathers who once shined in college football.

Begin Slideshow

Will Jim Harbaugh's Big Personality Overshadow Michigan Football in 2015?

This isn't exactly breaking news, but Jim Harbaugh has a big personality.

Need proof? Look no further than the new Michigan head coach's Twitter account.

Yes, while other head coaches use their Twitter accounts purely as a promotional tool—such as Harbaugh's Ohio State counterpart, Urban Meyer—the Wolverines head man has opted to put a personal twist on his return to Ann Arbor. Tweeting almost daily, it's not uncommon for Harbaugh to uniquely wish his players happy birthday, share his thoughts on historic anniversaries and post pictures of himself among other members of the Michigan elite.

He's even (allegedly) subtweeted Meyer. And Harbaugh's ability to create headlines hasn't been limited to 140 characters or fewer either.

Since accepting the Wolverines' head coaching job at the end of December, Harbaugh has become college football's most meme-worthy coach. Whether it's eating pizza courtside at a basketball game, tutoring NFL prospects Jameis Winston and Bryce Petty or unintentionally going face-to-face with Tom Izzo, the former 49ers head coach has shown an uncanny ability to go viral on a consistent basis.

Even his introductory press conference with the Wolverines made waves on the web.

“I don’t know if anyone saw me trip on the way in,” Harbaugh said as he laughed off his stumble. "A lesser athlete would've gone down."

Harbaugh's bold personality is apparent in everything he does and appears to be one of Michigan's greatest assets moving forward. But with his first spring football at the helm of his alma mater kicking off Tuesday, his Twitter presence will take a backseat, the happenings on the gridiron taking precedent.

Make no mistake, Harbaugh's personality isn't going anywhere—it's just as evident on the sideline as it is online. But once the Wolverines are finally on the football field, what kind of effect will it have?

For all of the positive public relations Michigan has enjoyed since Harbaugh's hiring—including a likely much-needed boost in ticket sales—the Wolverines are yet to prove they're anything more than a mediocre football team. Last season, Michigan endured a 5-7 campaign under Brady Hoke, and with only one month on the recruiting trail before signing day, Harbaugh only managed to add the nation's 38th-ranked recruiting class to his roster.

The revitalized Wolverines fanbase is embracing Harbaugh's tweets right now, but how will it receive them if Michigan's struggles continue in 2015?

One precedent worth examining is Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, another social media-active coach who has only accumulated a combined 10-15 record in his first two seasons in Fayetteville. Bielema seemingly racked up Twitter miscues as quickly as he did losses with the Razorbacks, which made him an easy target for the college football blogosphere.

Being the butt of jokes hasn't affected Bielema's job security, however, with Arkansas recently extending his contract through 2020. The former Wisconsin coach also doesn't have a track record that matches that of Harbaugh, who took the 49ers to three consecutive NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl in his first three seasons in the NFL.

He may not have been on Twitter then, but the former Pro Bowl quarterback's personality was just as apparent during his time in the Bay Area. Even without a social media platform of his own, Harbaugh still managed to make viral headlines with stories about his wardrobe, facial expressions and offseason activities.

In fact, one could argue that Harbaugh's intensity and uniqueness have been the primary forces behind his success. And neither has prevented him from completing a turnaround as a head coach before.

When Harbaugh took over Stanford in 2007, the Cardinal were coming off a 1-11 season. In each of his four seasons at Stanford, Harbaugh managed to increase the team's win total, culminating with a 12-1 Orange Bowl-winning campaign in 2010.

That was the same year the 49ers went just 6-10 despite possessing one of the more talented rosters in the NFL. San Francisco opted to turn to Harbaugh when hiring a new head coach in the offseason, beating out the Miami Dolphins, who were also vying for his services.

The Toledo, Ohio, native's time in the pro ranks was hardly a disappointment, as he amassed back-to-back NFC West championships in his first two years on the job and a third straight trip to the conference title game in 2013. A clash of personalities with San Francisco management had more to do with his departure than performance, which shouldn't be an issue in his return to Ann Arbor.

Because for the first time since Lloyd Carr left the Wolverines following the 2007 season, Michigan is finally united behind a single leader. But with a roster still left with much to prove on the field, only time will tell whether Harbaugh's strong personality will be a uniting or dividing force in Ann Arbor.

But make no mistake, when the Wolverines take the field for their first spring practice under Harbaugh on Tuesday, his attitude will be evident.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tom Bradley Hired as UCLA DC: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Tom Bradley will reportedly leave his post as West Virginia senior associate head coach to become the defensive coordinator at UCLA.    

ESPN.com's Kevin Gammell reported the news on Monday:

Bradley was a longtime fixture on the Penn State coaching staff, where he played as a defensive back before rising to defensive play-caller from 2000 to 2011 (h/t WVUSports.com).

That experience gives Bradley plenty of credibility as the Bruins' new coordinator. Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports approved of Bradley's hiring:

The Bruins have a quarterback in Brett Hundley to replace as it is—increasing the need for a stout defense in 2015 to stay in Pac-12 contention.

But the concept of coaching two-way dynamo and linebacker Myles Jack had to be enticing when UCLA offered Bradley the position.

Mark Whicker of LA News Group highlighted one element of Bradley's raging success as a coach:

Penn State produced a lot of great players at Jack's position during Bradley's stint in University Park, keeping the Nittany Lions' heritage of "Linebacker U" intact. Now Jack may become even better under Bradley's tutelage.    

Bradley's years in the Big Ten should rub off on UCLA. He figures to bring a physical brand of football to the West Coast. With Jack leading the way and a promising 2015 recruiting class thanks to a solid national signing day haul, the future appears bright for head coach Jim Mora's Bruins.

Since he's had such a strong track record of developing future NFL players, Bradley should only help bring in superior talent to UCLA's program, too.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tom Bradley Hired as UCLA DC: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Tom Bradley will reportedly leave his post as West Virginia senior associate head coach to become the defensive coordinator at UCLA. ESPN...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Georgia Insider Buzz: 5-Star DT Julian Rochester Says Athens Feels 'Like Home'

Georgia had a rocky season, but it's looking to bounce back in recruiting. The Bulldogs are looking to return to the top of the SEC East. 

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson was joined by 247Sports' Georgia beat writer Rusty Mansell to discuss the Bulldogs' 2016 commits.

What kind of recruiting class can the Georgia Bulldogs have in 2016?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Tigers' 2016 Dream Recruiting Class

LSU had a bumpy season on the field, but it is hot after it on the recruiting trail. The Tigers had a great recruiting season in 2015, and they are looking to continue that success with a stellar 2016 class. 

Bleacher Report college football analyst Barrett Sallee gives his picks for the dream recruiting class for LSU.

Who are the must-have recruits for LSU?

Watch the video, and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Derrick Brown Tweets Top 8 Schools: Which Team Holds Edge for 5-Star DT?

Derrick Brown has everything a program wants in a defensive tackle. Strength. Size. Agility. A mean streak.

Brown has 25 offers, but on Monday, the 6'4", 309-pound brick wall trimmed his list to eight schools—all eight representing the SEC. He tweeted that Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU made the cut.

We know the conference, but when looking at favorites, keep your eye on the first three schools he tweeted. And consider the last school one to watch, as well.

Georgia has to be considered an early favorite. Georgia was one of his first offers, and with the campus being less than an hour from his home of Buford, Georgia, proximity will have an advantage. In an interview last month with Jake Reuse of Rivals.com, Brown said he speaks frequently with head coach Mark Richt, defensive line coach Tracy Rocker and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Georgia is the leader according to the 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions, but Auburn, LSU and Alabama are three schools who could challenge the Bulldogs in the race. Auburn and Alabama both are within reasonable driving distance from home, and both are contenders for SEC championships each year. Brown has made multiple unofficial visits to both schools.

And then there's LSU, a school Brown wanted to visit for last week's junior day but, according to Justin Rowland of Rivals.com, couldn't make the trip because of a scheduled student council retreat. He told Rowland that he was a fan of the team's defense, and an unofficial visit could take place around spring break.

Since November, Brown has been to Mississippi State, Alabama and Vanderbilt. He also wants to make visits to the four aforementioned schools, per Rowland.

Player-coach relationships will be very important as Brown looks to trim his list from eight. Defensive line coach Rodney Garner has been his primary contact at Auburn. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and defensive line coach Bo Davis are Brown's contacts at Alabama.

LSU is a wild card because of his budding relationships there. Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron is Brown's recruiting contact, and he told Rowland that while everything is still new, he likes Orgeron's passion for the game.

The winning school gets someone who can be an immediate impact player on the defensive line. Brown could be an all-conference player early in his career.

Georgia is hoping he'll be that kind of player in Athens. The other schools are hoping to do enough to make Georgia a runner-up in the race.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

FSU Insider Buzz: What Are the Chances Seminoles Land No. 1 DE Shavar Manuel?

Florida State continues to have success on the recruiting trail, landing another top-five class in 2015. The Seminoles now set their sights on 2016, where they are looking to make a huge impact. 

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson sits down with 247Sports recruiting analyst Josh Newberg to discuss Florida State's 2016 recruiting class. 

What kind of class will FSU have in 2016?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football Recruiting Offers of the Week

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A week after offering scholarships to more than 20 prospects, Alabama took its foot off the gas a little bit this week, not quite doling out that many offers.

The Crimson Tide are continuing their post-signing-day push and added another member to their 2015 class in the prospects.

Here’s a rundown of Alabama’s offers from this week.

 

T.J. Simmons, 2016 3-star wide receiver from Pinson, Alabama

It didn’t take long for Alabama to add a wide receiver to its 2016 class. The Crimson Tide offered Simmons on Thursday, and Simmons committed right away:

Pinson is currently rated a 3-star prospect and the No. 86 receiver in the country from just down the road at Clay-Chalkville High School. Alabama was only his second SEC offer, behind Mississippi State, and he committed immediately.

"It means that I have a chance to go play for one of the best teams in the country," Simmons told AL.com’s Jeff Sentell. "Alabama has one of the best programs in the country."

Simmons broke down the speedy commitment to Sentell. Nick Saban offered him a scholarship over the phone.

“I told him if he didn't mind then I would like to go ahead and commit," Simmons said. "He was like 'Okay, cool' and he was like talk to your family and make sure this is what you want to do, but if this is what you want to then then I will accept it. I said I wanted to play at Alabama."

Simmons also said that he plans to attend Georgia’s junior day with a Clay-Chalkville teammate but otherwise wants to “slow down” his recruitment.

Bleacher Report’s Damon Sayles broke down what the commitment means here.

 

Nico Collins, 2017 wide receiver from Pinson, Alabama

Alabama is hoping that its most recent commit can pay dividends down the road.

A day after it offered and got a commitment from Simmons, the Crimson Tide extended an offer to his 6’4” teammate and fellow wide receiver, Nico Collins.

Collins does not yet have a star rating on 247Sports or any other recruiting service. He is a tall, physical specimen who has a lot of developing to do after just his sophomore year in high school.

Still, the offer speaks to what kind of potential Alabama sees in Collins.

Simmons spoke fondly of his teammate, per AL.com’s Jeff Sentel:

Nico and I learn from each other. I teach him things here and there and we still listen to and work with (Clay-Chalkville receivers coach) coach (Chris) Mills to get better at what we do. Coach Mills has really helped us both on different stuff. I'm trying to get Nico to work hard in the weight room to get bigger. He's really tall and lanky and I really want to work with him hard so he can add more muscle and get bigger and become an even better player.

You can see the height difference here:

Simmons and Collins only have a year left playing together in high school but might get the chance to continue being teammates in college.

 

Keyshawn Johnson, Jr., 4-star 2017 wide receiver from Mission Viejo, California

It was a big week for wide receivers and Alabama offers, continuing with one of the biggest names in the 2017 class.

The Crimson Tide extended an offer to Johnson Jr., the son of NFL legend Keyshawn Johnson, on Monday.

Johnson, Jr. told 247Sports’ Alex Gleitman how he felt about the offer:

I talked to Coach Saban on the phone and he offered me personally. That made it very special. It's a great offer. Any offer I would be blessed to have whether it's the best team in the nation or the worst. Any coach that sees me as talented enough to play for their college is something special. But Alabama, that's crazy. I still don't really have a favorite, but they stand as high as anyone else on my list.

Johnson, Jr. is working his way up through the recruiting rankings, now the No. 19 receiver in the country and No. 93 prospect overall, per 247Sports. His crystal ball is currently split 50-50 between Ohio State and USC, but he still has a ways to go before a decision.

Bleacher Report’s Brian Leigh looked at what the offer means for Johnson, Jr.’s recruitment.

 

Other offers from the week

Donnie Corley, 2016 4-star wide receiver from Wyandotte, Michigan

Khalid Kareem, 2016 4-star defensive end from Farmington, Michigan

Jeffrey Simmons, 2016 4-star defensive end from Macon, Mississippi

John Simpson, 2016 4-star offensive guard from North Charleston, South Carolina

Craig Watts, Jr., 2016 4-star safety from St. Petersburg, Florida

Devwah Whaley, 2016 4-star running back from Beaumont, Texas

Jaquan Yulee, 2016 4-star inside linebacker from Chesapeake, Virginia

Darel Middelton, 2016 3-star tight end from Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Carlin Fils-Aime, 2016 running back from Naples, Florida

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Fast-Rising DB Spencer Perry Gets Auburn Offer, Calls Will Muschamp 'Genius'

Spencer Perry saw his recruitment process switch gears on Saturday, when he received offers from three powerhouse programs.

The standout 2016 defensive back collected scholarships from Michigan, Florida and Auburn. The Tigers extended an offer while Perry spent time on campus for a junior day, culminating a lengthy recruitment with the team.

“I’ve been talking to Auburn for a year but it’s been a much different situation with the other schools," he said.

Perry's past experience with Florida and Michigan was far abbreviated. Neither team maintained significant correspondence until last week.

"I kind of saw that one coming and knew Auburn just wanted to get me on campus and make sure my size is the same as it's listed," he said. "Michigan and Florida were more of a surprise."

Perry, who claims to stand at 6'3", 200 pounds, has quickly formed a relationship with Auburn's recent additions on the defensive staff. Former Florida head coach Will Mushchamp warranted substantial respect when he accepted the position of Tigers defensive coordinator.

"I truly believe Muschamp is one of the few defensive masterminds in college football," Perry said. "He's a genius on that side of the ball and understands how to put his players in position to dominate. It's the kind of defense you want to be a part of in the next few years."

Auburn defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson also made a strong impression on Perry during the visit.

"T-Rob can relate well with anybody, and he's the kind of coach who tells you things how they really are—not just what you want to hear," he sad. "One of the coolest things about junior day was when my parents and I sat down with him while he explained his defensive game plan and how I would fit in it."

Auburn, like most interested college programs, is targeting Perry as a safety. His physical stature and range are rare for the position, and he appears comfortable embracing that role for years to come.

"Pretty much every coach tells me that my size and athleticism make me different than a lot of other top safeties," Perry said. "They say I'm 6’3”, 200 pounds but move like I’m 5’11”, 160 pounds when I react to the ball. I understand how to use my body when I hit people. Some players go too low or too high on tackles. I fire through full force with my head forward."

His skills have quickly caught the attention of several top-tier college squads.

Though he lived in Auburn last season, Perry has since transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Now Sunshine State programs have entered the mix with increased interest.

The Gators extended an offer on Saturday and Perry anticipates some upcoming visits to The Swamp.

"Now that I'm at IMG, it'll be easier to get up to Florida," Perry said. "I know a lot of my teammates have interest in the Gators, too, so there will be some opportunities for us to check it out."

He is also set to visit Tallahassee this upcoming weekend. Perry, who noted his decision-making process is "totally wide open," believes another offer could await him at the Seminoles' junior day.

"Florida State has shown interest for a while, but when Florida offered, it seemed like FSU became more urgent with wanting me there," Perry said.

Beyond the Southeast region, Perry plans to visit Michigan "sometime this spring". The Wolverines have utilized former Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin as a key recruiter in the area.

Perry noted his decision-making process remains "totally wide open" right now. He mentioned Miami, Oklahoma and Ohio State as other potential eventual possibilities.

Though he only held a short list of collegiate opportunities until recently, things have heated up for Perry. Saturday's flurry of offers have swiftly altered the course of his recruitment.

"It changes a lot," Perry said. "I was taking things slow and really waiting for schools to start showing some more interest. Then suddenly, three of the county’s biggest schools reached out with offers. The process is definitely picking up.”

 

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

Player ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Design Company Creates Alternate Concept Helmets for College Football Teams

The Oregon Ducks have led the way in bringing bold uniforms to college football. For those who would like to see their favorite team follow suit, a design company has come up with new helmet concepts for NCAA football programs.

Last week, the sports world fell in love with the NFL helmet concepts that Deeyung Entertainment created. The design company has added plenty of college football helmet designs since the NFL helmets went viral.

Take a look below and see what you think of the helmet concepts.

 

Florida State Seminoles

 

Georgia Bulldogs

 

Michigan Wolverines

 

Missouri Tigers

 

North Carolina Tar Heels

 

The rest of the helmets can be seen here.

[Fresh Football Helmets]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: 4 Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practices

The Texas Longhorns will return to the football field March 25 to kick off year two of the Charlie Strong era. After a 6-7 season, the Longhorns need to make drastic changes on the field, and it will begin with spring practice. 

The biggest question mark on the team will be at quarterback, but that will be just one of the positions the coaches will need to figure out for the upcoming 2015 season.

With practice right around the corner, here's a look at four Longhorns with the most to gain in the spring.

Begin Slideshow

Top Alabama Commit Demetris Robertson the Next Honey Badger?

Demetris Robertson, the No.1 athlete in the country, per 247Sports' Composite Rankings, is an Alabama Crimson Tide commit. The multitalented Roberston will bring a lot to Nick Saban and his staff, as he can play on both sides of the ball.

What will Robertson's impact be at Alabama? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Trae Waynes Lights Up Combine, Solidifies No. 1 CB Status in 2015 NFL Draft

The 2015 NFL draft's top corner just left little doubt about his elite status. 

Michigan State's Trae Waynes entered the combine as my top cornerback and also No. 1 at his position on the boards of NFL Network's Mike Mayock and Daniel Jeremiah as well as ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay

He won't be leaving Indianapolis any further down on anyone's board. 

Officially, Waynes was the fastest cornerback at the combine with a 4.31 40-yard dash. In the entire event, that time was only bested once, by UAB wideout J.J. Nelson who ran marginally faster at 4.28. To round out Waynes' athletic profile, he jumped 38 inches in the vertical jump (sixth among corners) and put up 18 reps in the bench press (fifth). 

This is a classic case of checking off the boxes. 

No, it's not good scouting to credit Waynes for being athletic in spandex when he's already credited for being athletic on the field, but it's important to double-check and quantify that athleticism when he's lined up against his peers.

He lit it up.

Fortunately for Waynes, he's solidifying his stock in a year where the cornerback position is begging for a top talent. Every single corner has something against him, whether it's character issues, size concerns, athleticism issues or unpolished play.

Waynes is the only cornerback who brings a clean resume and sparkling tape to the table.

His combine performance just wraps a bow around it.

 

What Waynes Brings to the Table

Don't pigeonhole Waynes as a just a "Michigan State corner."

Though it's certainly not a pejorative, the cornerbacks coming out of Michigan State under head coach Mark Dantonio and (now former) defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi are handsy, physical corners who make up for lack of athleticism by playing the kind of tough coverage coveted in the NFL but against wide receivers who aren't nearly the caliber of athlete they would face on Sundays. 

In a way, this becomes a mirage as it was for last year's Spartan cornerback drafted—Darqueze Dennard, now with the Cincinnati Bengals. It's one thing to excel in physical coverage. Corners from Alabama and Louisiana State are coveted for that as well, but it's important to temper that with the caliber of talent they're going against as well as projecting how those skills translate to the next level. 

Being physical is fantastic, but it needs to be part of the overall package. 

Last year, Dennard was drafted by the Bengals toward the end of the first round, but my assessment of him was that his athleticism wasn't enough to project his style of play to success at the next level. The 4.51 time at the combine helped solidify that for me, and the fact he only played 61 snaps for the Bengals, according to Pro Football Focus, says there's still work to do for him. 

That's not Waynes.

We've talked about his athleticism on a track, but out on the football field it's just as evident. He's smooth and fluid enough to turn and run with a receiver who has fought through his press. This allows him to continue to "body up" his man down the field, staying in the hip pocket of even the most athletic receivers.

His work at Michigan State was almost always on the boundary, which is likely where he would be used in the NFL as well. He is adept at utilizing the sideline as an "extra defender," and he showcases incredible awareness for field positioning as well as locating the ball in the air.  

He also "shifts down" well in coverage, which allows him to click and close on shorter routes and change direction before truly opening up. In the NFL, where he should be tested more than he was at Michigan State, this should result in a fair amount of interceptions. 

Perhaps most tantalizing for NFL coaches is that his physicality doesn't just show up against weaker receivers in their route. He's also a talented tackler who is willing (and able) to throw his body into a bigger target and bring him down. This should allow him to consistently defend the run as well as stop bigger receivers and tight ends in their tracks after the catch. 

 

Where Waynes Can Improve

All that said, Waynes is not an elite prospect...just the best prospect in a weaker class. 

Although Waynes has a higher grade than many top corners in recent years, he is not in the same upper tier with the Patrick Petersons and Joe Hadens of the world. What sets him a step below them is not necessarily his athleticism—Haden tested famously poor at the combine, in fact—but rather the lack of well-rounded polish to his game. 

Yes, Waynes can play in press man, which is rare for a corner coming out of college these days. 

However, he was rarely asked to play off man coverage and even less often in zone situations away from the boundary line. These are things he will have to do at the next level, at least sparingly, and there just isn't enough good tape on him to project those skills forward. 

There are, however, question marks about whether his physical abilities will allow him to do them well, and that is an issue. Balance is an issue for Waynes, and although he has great change-of-direction ability as a linear athlete, playing in space could expose him in terms of that balance and agility.

Combine that with lack of experience and polish, and he could be picked on rather easily. 

Much of this has to do with body type as well. Waynes is a longer corner in the "Legion of Boom" type, but he lacks the ideal bulk for that prototype. At only 6'0", 186 pounds, Waynes could end up having to bail and trail in coverage a lot more than he did in college. 

To use an extreme metaphor, Waynes' longer-than-tall body type is faintly reminiscent of a young man going through a growth spurt who doesn't quite understand the muscle control needed to operate his newfound size.

While that is obviously not the case with Waynes, he could easily stand to add some bulk and even sacrifice a little top-end speed in the process if it helped him remain physical at the next level and balance a little more easily. 

Finally, Waynes (like Dennard before him) was penalized far too much in college for it to not be at least a minor concern. While Dennard's penalties looked like an overcompensation for lack of athleticism, Waynes was simply in denial that he should ever be beaten. 

Because of the difference in penalties for pass interference in college and the pros, it's not a terrible strategy, and it's appears to even be allowed (preferred?) by the Michigan State coaching staff. That said, the NFL has made defensive contact an emphasis point, and he could be a magnet for flags if he doesn't play a little more cleanly. 

 

Why Not...?

It's a tight class with a number of borderline first-round prospects. 

Although Waynes is at the top of that class for many, there are concerns in the section above that have plenty of talented evaluators questioning if he should truly be in the top spot (including Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller). 

Still, though Waynes may not have the perfect polish of some of the top prospects in the past decade, his areas for improvement are hardly any more glaring than his peers in the 2015 cornerback class, and his warts seem far less serious. 

Let's run down the list:

 

Marcus Peters (CB Washington): Peters (6'0", 197 lbs) was kicked off his football team this season and had numerous run-ins with the coaching staff. Though he confessed to many of those mistakes in Indianapolis and it appears that some of the urban legends of his time there were overblown, it is still an issue teams will not be taking lightly. Though he's bigger than Waynes and plays a similarly physical game, he's not as long and does have the top-flight athleticism (first-round grade with character concerns).

 

Jalen Collins (CB LSU): He has the size (6'2", 198 lbs) NFL teams are looking for out of the cornerback position in recent years and has immense amounts of polish coming out of a top-notch SEC program. He's very raw, however, and doesn't have a lot of tape on him whatsoever. The tape that is out there showcases a guy who is better with the ball in front of him, and although he has the body of a man-press corner, he might be better in zone or even as a safety convert (top 50).

 

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB Oregon): At one time considered the top corner in this draft, injury issues submarined his already shaky stock which was always likely to plummet thanks to his less than ideal size (5'10", 195 lbs). If he stays healthy, the former All-American can be an elite nickel corner in the NFL, which isn't the knock it used to be. Still, it could keep him from going in the first even if he convinces teams he's not a health risk (top 50 with size concerns).

 

P.J. Williams (CB Florida State): In many ways, Williams is a similar prospect to Waynes, as he's got good size (6'0", 196 lbs) and crosses off all the marks on the athleticism front. Williams showcases better ball skills than the Spartan corner. But he's not as consistent, and he played with some incredible talent around him which allowed him to have a little more freedom than Waynes, who was asked to do more on his own (top 100).

 

Ronald Darby (CB Florida State): Speaking of awesome help around Williams...Darby is extremely fast and a good overall athlete but feigns away from contact more than other top corners in the draft and is very raw in terms of movement and footwork (top 100 with polish concerns).

 

Though all of these corners may appeal to some teams more than others, none of them should appeal to as many teams as Waynes. With the extreme need for corners—especially toward the top of the draft order—there's a good chance these young men end up being drafted a number of slots (even a full round) above where I expect they should go. 

In this class, though, Waynes continues to stand head and shoulders above his competition and could hear his name called as early as the top-15 picks this April. 

 

Michael Schottey is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, a writer for Football Insiders and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff on his archive page and follow him on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big NFL Scouting Combine Adds Credibility to Big Ten's Resurgence

The Big Ten's path to restored credibility first took the national stage three months ago with Ohio State's 59-0 Big Ten Championship Game walloping of Wisconsin inside of Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium.

And while there's been plenty of stops in between—most notably with January trips to New Orleans and North Texas—the conference's road to resurgence took a detour back through the Circle City this past weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine.

It was there that Big Ten alums took center stage in the heart of the conference, working out for NFL teams at the annual draft showcase. If NFL talent is any indication of a conference's quality—and there's no reason to think it's not—the Big Ten may have been in better shape than originally thought last season, even after a bowl season that saw the conference compile a 6-5 record, including the Buckeyes' two victories in the College Football Playoff.

Of the 323 prospects invited to this year's combine, 38 hailed from the Big Ten, including players from 13 of the conference's 14 schools, Illinois being the only exception. No, the Big Ten didn't have any quarterbacks in Indianapolis over the weekend, but that's only because potential first-round picks Connor Cook and Cardale Jones each opted to return to Michigan State and Ohio State, respectively.

Signal-caller aside, the Big Ten was well-represented among the remaining position groups, including invites for five running backs, six wide receivers, four tight ends, four offensive linemen, seven defensive linemen, five linebackers, two cornerbacks, three safeties, one kicker and one fullback. The seven defensive linemen invited certainly stood out, as it's no secret success in college football comes from controlling the trenches.

"If you want to have a bad team, have a bad defensive line," Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said in 2012. "It's over if you have a bad defensive line."

As evidenced by the combine, there were plenty of good defensive linemen in the Big Ten last season, including a trio of potential first-round picks in Nebraska's Randy Gregory, Ohio State's Michael Bennett and Iowa's Carl Davis. Despite his off-the-field issues, Michigan defensive end Frank Clark remains an intriguing prospect, as the 6'3", 271-pounder finished first for all defensive linemen in both the 20-yard and 60-yard shuttles.

The star of the group, however, remains Gregory, whom Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller currently projects the Jacksonville Jaguars to take third overall in his latest mock draft. No Big Ten player has been selected in the draft's top five since the Miami Dolphins selected Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long with the first overall pick in 2008.

"I think I'm worthy of the No. 1 pick. I would hope anybody in the draft would want to be the No. 1 pick," Gregory wrote in a recent draft diary entry for USA Today. "I know how I am as a player. I know my potential. I know what I can do. I know what I bring to a team. And I understand that this position is a premium."

Yes, linemen on sides of the ball are certainly at a premium, and Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff could very well be the first offensive linemen taken in the draft despite a hamstring injury cutting his strong start to the combine short. But the Big Ten could see plenty of skill-position players selected highly later this spring as well, which hasn't always been the case in a league that's lacked playmakers in recent years.

Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon attempted to strengthen his case to be to be the first running back selected in April, posting a 4.52 time in the 40-yard dash and the top showing in the 60-yard shuttle. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock recently bestowed a first-round grade on the Heisman Trophy finalist on a conference call, while also noting that he ranks Indiana's Tevin Coleman and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah as second-round running backs.

Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford also boosted his draft stock, posting the top 40-yard dash by a running back with an official time of 4.42 seconds. Of the seven charted events at the combine, a Big Ten running back finished first in six of them.

A 4.42 40-yard dash helped Ohio State wideout Devin Smith show why he could be taken in the first round, where he could very well be joined by Michigan's Devin Funchess. A strong combine showing also solidified Minnesota's Maxx Williams' chances of landing in the first 32 picks, where he would likely be the only tight end taken.

"Maxx Williams would be the only guy from Minnesota that could be considered a late [first round pick]," Mayock said. "I see him as a second-round pick, but he's a good receiving tight end. Like him a lot as an athlete."

Williams wasn't the only Big Ten tight end to help his cause in Indianapolis, with Penn State's Jesse James earning the status of "late-riser," according to NFL.com's Bucky Brooks.

"The 6'7", 261-pound tight end posted solid numbers in the vertical jump (37 1/2 inches), broad jump (10-foot-1), bench press (26 reps of 225 pounds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.50), while effortlessly catching the ball in drills," Brooks wrote. "James' strong hands and natural ball skills stood out; he has all of the tools to be a tough matchup as a post-up playmaker near the goal line."

Add in Ohio State's Jeff Heuerman, who was limited due to an ankle injury but still posted 26 reps in the bench press (tied for second with James among tight ends), and the Big Ten could see a run of tight ends taken that rivals its crop of running backs. Not bad for a league that's trailed the SEC, Pac 12 and Big 12 when it comes to offensive star power in recent years.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Big Ten also managed to make waves, with Michigan State's Trae Waynes confirming his status as the draft's top cornerback. In an otherwise weak cornerback class, Waynes stood out with a stellar 4.31 40-yard dash, the second fastest of any player at any position in Indianapolis this weekend.

"Trae Waynes is very comfortable in press coverage. He's got length. He jumps up there like all the Michigan State corners do," Mayock said. "When you get a Michigan State kid coming off that defense, he's a tough kid that will tackle that's been well-coached."

The only other Big Ten corner in attendance at the combine also had a nice showing, with Ohio State's Doran Grant posting a 4.44 40-yard dash and 21 reps on the bench press. Michigan State's Kurtis Drummond posted the highest vertical jump of any safety with a mark of 39.5 inches, but the Big Ten's run of linebackers and safeties will likely be limited to middle- or late-round picks.

Nevertheless, this year's crop of Big Ten pro prospects is one of the best in recent memory and a trend that doesn't appear to be stopping anytime soon. This time next year, the conference could boast the 2016 draft's three top quarterbacks in Cook, Jones and Penn State's Christian Hackenberg, as well as a plethora of other highly touted prospects including Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Jack Conklin, Shilique Calhoun, Adolphus Washington, Taylor Decker and Anthony Zettel.

It started with the Buckeyes' playoff-clinching win in Indianapolis last December and continued with big-time bowl wins, attention-grabbing coaching hires and what's shaping up to be a heavy presence in the NFL draft for the foreseeable future. With this rate of momentum, the Big Ten could soon be in the best shape it's ever been in, as the league only continues to gain steam moving forward.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

7 SEC Surprises from the 2015 NFL Combine

The annual job fair known as the NFL Scouting Combine took place over the weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and during the time there, many SEC players made positive impressions on NFL scouts who were just itching to tear them down.

Several simply won't let that happen.

From former Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley's record-setting combine to former Alabama safety Landon Collins' accolades to former LSU cornerback Jalen Collins' surprising performance, it was a big event for former SEC stars.

Which stars shined brightest? Our picks, based on combine results, pre-combine hype and college performance, are in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football Recruiting Offers of the Week

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Notre Dame football coaching staff handed out two new scholarship offers this past week to class of 2016 linebackers.

Each week we’ll be keeping tabs on the new scholarship offers sent out by the Notre Dame coaches, tracking the recruiting process as the Irish turn their attention toward the classes of 2016, 2017 and maybe even 2018.

 

Daniel Bituli

Notre Dame extended an offer to class of 2016 linebacker Daniel Bituli at the beginning of last week. The Nashville, Tennessee, native is pegged as the No. 7 outside linebacker and the No. 112 overall player in the country.

The 6’3”, 227-pounder has also landed offers from Ohio State, South Carolina, Auburn, Oklahoma, LSU and Tennessee, among others. Bituli has taken multiple unofficial visits to both Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

 

Julian Okwara

A familiar name resurfaced Friday afternoon when class of 2016 linebacker Julian Okwara reported an offer from Notre Dame.

Okwara, the younger brother of Notre Dame senior defensive end Romeo Okwara, is currently slotted as the No. 12 outside linebacker and No. 145 overall prospect in the class. The 6’4”, 210-pound Charlotte, North Carolina, product also boasts offers from Michigan, Georgia and Ole Miss, among others.

According to 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong, Okwara said he has been familiar with Notre Dame’s coaches since eighth grade and his “interest is definitely there.” Wiltfong said, “Notre Dame is strongly in the mix to sign [Okwara].”

Romeo Okwara played in all 13 games for the Irish in 2014, earning 12 starts along the defensive line. He piled up 39 tackles and notched a team-high four sacks.

Notre Dame has now offered 10 linebackers in the class of 2016 (three inside, seven outside). The Irish inked a highly regarded group of linebackers in the recent recruiting cycle, hauling in 4-star signees Te’von Coney, Josh Barajas and Asmar Bilal.

 

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 College Football Programs with the Most Compelling QB Controversies

Who likes a good quarterback controversy?

Everyone, of course. Well, except fans of the team in question. It's so much easier when things are laid out nice and neat.

Of course, it doesn't always work like that. Whether there's turnover at the position or no clear-cut front-runner, quarterback competitions typically make up the most interesting offseason storylines. 

Not all quarterback controversies have to be "bad" to be compelling, however. Ohio State has the most compelling offseason storyline of anyone because it has three quarterbacks who could take the Buckeyes to another national championship. 

Which programs have quarterback questions to answer this spring and summer? The answers, along with Week 1 projections, are in the following slides. Teams on this list were selected based on projected spring rosters and incoming freshmen/transfers. 

Begin Slideshow

Pages