NCAA Football

7 Reasons 5-Star RB Damien Harris Will Sign with Ohio State

Damien Harris is a 5-star running back from Kentucky who is one of the top offensive recruits in the country. At 5'11" and 205 pounds, Harris has great speed to pull away from defenders in the open field.

The former Michigan commit is wanted by many programs from around the nation, but he has Ohio State as one of his top schools, according to Josh Helmholdt of Rivals (subscription required).

The Buckeyes are an attractive option to Harris for several reasons. 

 

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

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How Butch Jones Can Solve Quarterback Issue Before the Start of the Season

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones wisely didn't name a starting quarterback—or even a scribbled-out pecking order—following a competitive spring practice between his four candidates.

The decision likely will lead to all participants believing they've got a fair shake to win the job, cutting down the chance of a transfer. It also promotes an offseason atmosphere where every rep, every film study and every weight room session will be vital.

That benefits the Volunteers and all the quarterbacks in what should be a competitive offseason.

But the bottom line for Jones' Vols is the soonest into fall drills the team can name a starting quarterback, the better for all involved. For a young unit that could feature as many as seven or eight newcomers in the regular rotation, it's even more important. 

Following the Orange and White Game on April 12, Jones said he had "no timetable" on when he'd name a starter.

"We have to take tremendous strides," Jones said. "We turned the football over from the quarterback position today. You can't do that and play winning football so I'm very encouraged by where that position is in our program.

"…I'm encouraged by what I've seen but we still have a long way to go."

Jones needs to begin fall practice throwing Justin Worley, Riley Ferguson, Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman into game-simulation, live-action situations.

Whoever makes the fewest mistakes should start Game 1 against Utah State. Simple as that.

A team full of freshman contributors is going to make enough blunders without its signal-caller being careless.

Worley is currently the least likely to make the catastrophic, game-flipping turnovers. While the rising senior also may not be as dynamic as Ferguson or Dobbs (the other two participants with a realistic chance of starting), he takes care of the ball. 

Tennessee has enough game-breaking talent on offense that if somebody can just distribute the football to them, they can do the rest. That's why Worley's the popular guess to start if the season began today.

While Worley finished an abbreviated 2013 season with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions, three of those picks came in a baffling performance against South Alabama. The rest of his time at the helm he was solid protecting possessions.

Worley's biggest problem came in his inability to consistently lead the offense. While part of that was an inexperienced receiving corps, he had his own accuracy and timing issues. He said having a more seasoned group of targets has really helped.

"I think it makes a huge difference, Year 1 to Year 2," Worley said. "Having these older guys that have been in the system allows for us to install more and work on the little things more. It comes with being in the system." 

As 2013 progressed, Worley improved his game management in a narrow loss to Georgia and a victory over South Carolina.

Throughout this spring, he showed his maturation process has continued. During the spring finale, he was very sharp on timing patterns while confidently leading the offense to three scoring drives on the first-team UT defense.

One glorified scrimmage does not make a quarterback, but it does boost everybody's confidence.

Despite the progression of all of his quarterbacks, Jones simply hasn't found the man he believes is a confident, alpha-dog leader—or as he stated to the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown, someone with a "genuine swagger"—so he hasn't named a starter.

Worley shouldn't just be handed the job, but Ferguson or Dobbs will have to take it from him.

Redshirt freshman Ferguson spent most of the spring ahead of Dobbs on the depth chart, just as he did before a leg injury in 2013 forced him to redshirt. However, in the spring-ending scrimmage, he threw a bad interception as well as lost a fumble when he was sacked from the blind side.

Conversely, Dobbs had a breakout day, collecting 258 yards of total offense and leading the Vols on four touchdown drives, all of which were accounted for by him. The asterisk is it all came against reserves.

While it's not conducive to UT to split reps for a long time once fall practice starts, it's essential Dobbs and Ferguson get ample time against the first-team defense while facing every blitz package and game scenario the coaches can think of.

If one of them emerges alongside Worley, he should have the opportunity to start. If not, Worley has to be the guy going into the season. 

Coaches can't spend any time with players on the practice field during the offseason. But thanks to a new NCAA rule—according to the Associated Press via ESPN.com—there will be more time than normal for college coaches to spend with their quarterbacks in the film room.

That's going to be important teaching and evaluation time. Once fall practice starts, the competition needs to be whittled down quickly, and the staff needs to pick a quarterback and be patient with him for as long as they can. 

Rotating quarterbacks hurt the Vols last year, and they can't have it happen again. The confidence in the signal-callers around the program has blossomed with their spring performance, and the returns were largely positive, as this tweet about Knoxville News-Sentinel columnist John Adams indicates.

The Vols just need to know who it is so they can build their offense around his strengths. And the sooner, the better.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Winners and Losers of College Football's April 19 Spring Games

Some of college football's biggest spring games of the year kicked off on Saturday, including Alabama, Auburn, USC and Texas. 

In Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban may have found his answer at cornerback. But he's no closer to declaring a winner in the quarterback battle. 

Neither is Charlie Strong at Texas, who coached his first live game as the Longhorns head coach. 

However at Auburn, Nick Marshall looked impressive in his return to action. 

With that, check out the winners and losers from the April 19 spring games. 

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Ohio State Football Recruiting: Breaking Down the Top Target at Each Position

Urban Meyer and Ohio State signed a top-five recruiting class for the third consecutive year last February, but with just two commitments in the fold for 2015, that streak is in serious jeopardy. 

In recruiting, though, it's not how you start, but how you finish. The Buckeyes have targeted a number of the country's top prospects, and with Meyer at the helm, they're looking to surge.

Ohio State has big needs at quarterback and tight end, but Meyer's wish list spans the entire depth chart.

Here's a look at the Buckeyes' top recruiting target at each position.

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2015 QB Recruits with the Best Gunslinger Mentalities

When a quarterback is called a "gunslinger," it relates to his mental toughness, confidence and competitiveness. From a tangible standpoint, the most notorious gunslingers have exceptionally strong arms.

Their arm strength is what gives them the confidence to take chances with the football. The most famous quarterback with a gunslinger mentality is probably Brett Favre, while Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is likely the best active example.

Within the 2015 class, several quarterback recruits appear to play with a gunslinger mentality. A 5-star passer headed to Texas Tech isn't afraid to gamble, while Missouri has a pledge from a 4-star quarterback who is in love with his arm strength. 

 

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

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Alabama Football: Top Performers from the Crimson Tide's Spring Game

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Although most of the coaching staff’s spring evaluations were already done, the University of Alabama’s annual A-Day game at Bryant-Denny Stadium was the only time before the season opener that it could see how the players reacted to a large crowd.

Some obviously thrived in the spotlight, while others learned what they need to work on before fall camp opens in August.

“We did make some plays, but there wasn’t the consistency that you would like to see in the offense,” Coach Nick Saban said. “However, when you play against each other, what’s good for one is not so good for the other. So, you have to give the defense some credit.

“I really thought that our front people on defense made a lot of improvement this spring. We’re more athletic, we probably have more depth, we have more guys who can rush (the passer).”

Here’s a look at 10 players who helped themselves during Saturday’s A-Day game and the spring awards they won.

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The NFL Comparison for Top 10 RB Recruits from Class of 2015

It's easy to look at a 5-star running back recruit and compare him to Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings or Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks.

Yet, these comparisons take a close examination of a recruit's skill set to match it with an NFL runner who exhibits similar traits with the ball on Sundays.

A running back from Kentucky looks a lot like a runner in the NFC East, while Miami has a pledge from a running back who resembles a promising runner for the Cincinnati Bengals. Plus, a speedster from Texas races by defenders like an NFL running back who hails from the same state.

 

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

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Miami Football Recruiting: Breaking Down the Top 2015 Target at Each Position

After one of the best recruiting classes in recent program history, Al Golden and the Miami Hurricanes coaching staff are hard at work on the upcoming 2015 group.

At every position, the 'Canes have top targets who they are continually contacting in an effort to bring them to Coral Gables, Fla.

Every so often, it's necessary to break down the latest rumors and buzz surrounding the 'Canes' top targets in the current cycle.

Plus, as the recruiting rules change to essentially encourage early commitments, "The U" must push even harder to keep up with elite programs around the nation.

 

Note: All recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Oklahoma State Football: Early Analysis of 2015 Recruit John Kolar

The 2014 season hasn't even started. Heck, the majority of this year's recruits don't even get to campus until summer begins. However, Oklahoma State fans were treated to some interesting and exciting news about a certain 2015 recruit a few days ago.

On April 16, Norman North High School quarterback John Kolar went from unranked in the ESPN 300 to the No. 3 pocket passer in the nation and the No. 82 player overall.

Kolar's story is pretty interesting on its own. In 2013, he was backing up Alabama commit David Cornwell for Norman North. Cornwell was ranked as a 4-star recruit and the No. 3 pocket passer in the nation by 247Sports.

Midway through the season, Cornwell went down and Kolar stepped into the starting role. He quickly asserted himself as a quality player and ended his half-season with 1,693 yards and 15 TDs to just two interceptions.

Those numbers, matched with his 6'4" frame, made him an early priority for Mike Gundy and his coaching staff. But the question is this: What are the Pokes getting from this young man?

The first thing that jumps off the tape is that Kolar is not afraid to run the ball (even though ESPN has Kolar listed as a pocket passer). That probably comes from the fact that he used to play wide receiver and is a natural athlete.

Watch this Hudl highlight tape and you'll see him running the read-option quite a bit for Norman North, something that might remind Oklahoma State fans of J.W. Walsh.

However, the tape shows a guy who would rather stay in the pocket and make throws, even if he does have solid running ability on designed runs and scrambling opportunities. Clint Chelf might be the more apt comparison.

The thing that probably excites Cowboys' fans, though, is Kolar's deep ball. It still needs some work, but the tape shows that the ability to accurately hit receivers deep is there. Additionally, he throws a pretty good end-zone fade, something the Cowboys have been known to use a lot in the past.

That said, we can't crown Kolar as the next Brandon Weeden (or Clint Chelf for that matter) just yet. We still only have limited game tape available on this young man, and the 2014 season will be very telling when takes over full time as quarterback for his high school.

However, he definitely has legitimate skill at slinging the pigskin and some real athletic ability in the running game. Make sure to keep an eye on this guy.

Oklahoma State was smart to get on Kolar early, signing him on March 5, just a few weeks after 2014's national signing day. For now, they just need to hold onto their prize as he continues to impress and improve his ranking over the 2014 high school football season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football Recruiting: Breaking Down Top 2015 Target at Each Position

The Texas A&M football coaches have been busy assembling another top-five recruiting class for 2015. The Aggies are trying to land elite players at every position in order to build the depth that is required to win championships. 

They have the No. 3-ranked recruiting class for 2015, according to 247Sports. If the coaches continue to recruit at a high level and land some of the prospects who are leaning their way, the Aggies will be in contention for the No. 1 class in February. 

Recruiting in the SEC means you have to sign elite players at every single position in every year. To win championships in the SEC, you need to be three-deep at every position. 

The Aggies do not have this kind of depth in the program currently, but they are getting closer to that level with every passing year under head coach Kevin Sumlin. This is a look at the top recruit at each position that the Texas A&M coaches are targeting. 

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Grading Alabama's Post-Spring Depth Chart

With Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game in the books, the focus for Nick Saban and his staff shifts to evaluating the Tide’s roster in anticipation of fall camp.

With the rest of the Tide’s 2014 recruiting class, and incoming quarterback transfer Jacob Coker, set to arrive in the summer, plus Saban’s dislike of depth charts at this time of year, there's still plenty of time before the eventual lineup against West Virginia on Aug. 30 is settled.

However, a handful of players made a significant amount of progress and will head into fall with momentum toward earning a starting role.

Taking into account the recent happenings of spring practice, here’s an idea of how the Tide’s lineup may look in the season-opener against the Mountaineers.

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USC Football: Top Performers from the Trojans' Spring Game

After a spirited Saturday that saw the Trojan defense flex its muscles against an offense that's still developing, the dust has settled from USC's spring game. Though it wasn't a scrimmage that told us a ton about what this team is capable of under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, it certainly showed which players have made the most of spring camp. 

Because the Trojans are dealing with so many injuries, it gave younger athletes the opportunity to get quality reps and dig themselves out from being buried on the depth chart. Even some veterans stepped up, reaffirming their place in the Trojan lineup.

Position battles resume come the fall, and the performances put on in the spring game will undoubtedly have an impact on how those play out. 

Listed from offense to defense, here are five Trojans in particular that impressed in the spring game. 

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USC Football: Top Performers from the Trojans' Spring Game

After a spirited Saturday that saw the Trojan defense flex its muscles against an offense that's still developing, the dust has settled from USC's spring game...

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Alabama Spring Game Features 3 Different Marriage Proposals

Alabama Crimson Tide fans can be pretty devoted, and that's why it was no surprise that three different marriage proposals occurred during the team's spring game.

Two of the three marriage proposals during Alabama's A-Day came inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, while the other one came in front of Paul "Bear" Bryant's statue. You can see some pictures of the proposals in the tweets below.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Georgia Football: 5 Things Standing in the Way of an SEC Championship

Now that spring practice is officially over for the Georgia Bulldogs, they can focus their attention on the 2014 regular season.

The expectations will once again be high for the Bulldogs due to the returning starters they have coming back on offense and defense. However, the expectations were just as high in 2013 and the Bulldogs were not able to accomplish their goals for various reasons.

Can this year’s team be different? Can it rise up and win the SEC for the first time in nine years?

Here are five things standing in the way of an SEC title for the Bulldogs.

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USC Football: 6 Lessons Learned in Spring Practice

As USC closes its first set of practices under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, there are plenty of reasons for the Trojans' legions of fans to be excited as the 2014 college football season draws near.

With the arrival of "Sark," USC has been reshaped into a fast-paced team that mirrors its excitable head coach as he installs his hurry-up offense, while the defense finds its way under new coordinator Justin Wilcox.

Along the way, the coaches have learned a lot about their players as they have adapted to a new system that is far removed from the stoic days of the now departed Lane Kiffin.

This slideshow will look at some of the lessons learned from spring practice and how they may translate into the fall and beyond.

Here is what we now know about the Trojans after the first camp of practices.

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USC Football: 6 Lessons Learned in Spring Practice

As USC closes its first set of practices under new head coach Steve Sarkisian , there are plenty of reasons for the Trojans' legions of fans to be excited as the 2014 college football season draws near...

Begin Slideshow

USC Spring Game 2014: New-Look Trojans Finally Getting Used to Uptempo Offense

After a month of practicing behind the walls of Howard Jones Practice Field, the USC Trojans showcased the early stages of their new-look, uptempo offense. While little can truly be gleaned from the spring game because so many returning starters sat out with injury, one thing was clear: The Trojans looked promising in their new scheme, and the team will be quite impressive once they perfect it.

Each of USC's three quarterbacks had his moment to show what the future of USC would look like under his leadership. While Max Browne and Jalen Greene turned heads with their arm strength and agility, respectively, Cody Kessler left no doubt that he should be the Trojans' starter in 2014.

He commanded his reps with poise and made fewer mistakes than did his competitors. As the offense continues to crystallize under him during the fall, we can expect that he will get even more confident operating out of the shotgun and scrambling when tasked with making plays on the fly. 

Because of limitations, we didn't see anything too spectacular from the offense, but the progression that the defense showed promises another dominant performance in the fall.

Halfway through spring ball, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox expressed concerns to Garry Paskwietz of ESPN.com that the defense was struggling to keep up with the offense as scrimmages wore on:

That’s where we have to continue to emphasize finishing strong because the end of the game is when you get up there in play count. When you get to plays 100 to 120, that’s when you really need to sustain things mentally and that’s something we’ve got to work on. The effort has been good, we just have to get better. I would have thought through nine days that we would have it down pat and look great, but I don’t know if that’s reality.

In the spring game, the defense certainly seemed to have it down pat.

As a whole, the defense had a better performance than did the offense, even keeping all of the Trojans' prolific playmakers out of the red zone entirely. This is a vast improvement for a unit that was getting gassed in practices.

If the Trojans defense can continue to match the intensity and quickness of the offense on the practice field, it suggests that come game day, they will be able to hang with the likes of Oregon and the other spread offense teams in the Pac-12. 

USC still has a lot of work to do before it's ready to compete on Saturdays, but it is clear now that the foundation is there. In August, the Trojans will focus on finding out the best combinations of talent to put on the field to produce the best results. That starts with having a complete roster of healthy bodies, something that has been a pressing issue for Steve Sarkisian while he has been molding the Trojans this spring.

It's been a month filled with many new changes for the Trojans, but if Saturday's spring game is any indication, USC is finally forming its new identity under Sarkisian. In the fall, we will really start to understand just what that identity is. 

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USC Spring Game 2014: New-Look Trojans Finally Getting Used to Uptempo Offense

After a month of practicing behind the walls of Howard Jones Practice Field, the USC Trojans showcased the early stages of their new-look, uptempo offense...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Don't Let Tyrone Swoopes' Spring Game Stats Fool You, Texas Needs David Ash

"I wanted our ones to come out with confidence," Texas head coach Charlie Strong said after the spring game. "When you match up ones versus ones and the offense doesn't score, then they will feel like they're a long ways away."

Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes took the first-team reps Saturday against the second-team defense in the annual Orange-White Scrimmage, but his lack of experience was very apparent throughout the entire first half.

Swoopes completed 44 percent of his passes throughout the first half but shook off the slow start and completed nine of 12 passing attempts in the second half. He finished the game with 229 passing yards and three touchdowns. 

Swoopes' second-half performance was a positive step for the young player, but Texas fans should tread carefully before anointing Swoopes as the guy to lead the Longhorns. The reason for that is simple: Swoopes ran the first-team offense against the second-team defense. 

The spring game was the first time many Texas fans were able to witness the changes Strong and his staff have made for the Longhorns. The defense had a nice showing against the Longhorns offense, but that is not the best news for the quarterback position.

When Strong discussed the Longhorns scrimmages during spring practice, he mentioned that the ones went against the ones and twos versus twos, but the coaching staff chose to change it up for the spring game. 

Swoopes is obviously a talented player, but the best bet for the Longhorns at quarterback is David Ash. Before his injury, Strong commended Ash for how well he was practicing and said he had established himself. 

"You would have never known that he had the injury by just how well he has been practicing and the way he has been carrying himself," Strong said. "I wouldn't say that he is the clear No. 1, but he has established himself. He did a great job learning the offense and terminology and wanting to lead the team."

Ash's injury history is not something to overlook. He missed the last game of the 2012 regular season due to a rib injury and was sidelined throughout the majority of the 2013 season with recurring concussion symptoms. His most recent injury, a Jones fracture in his left foot, will require surgery. 

Some fans may be eager for incoming freshman Jerrod Heard to get to Austin; however, expecting Heard to start in 2014 is fairly unrealistic. Heard had a fantastic high school career and is obviously an extremely talented player, but the best-case scenario for Texas fans is for Heard to redshirt his first season and learn the college game with Ash leading the way.

With his injured past and, at times, inconsistent play, Ash is still the best option to lead the Longhorns in 2014.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow her on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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