NCAA Football

Why Marquill Osborne May Have the Biggest Impact of Any Vols True Freshman

Defensive back Marquill Osborne might be one of the Tennessee Volunteers' most forgotten freshmen, but he will be easy to remember once he steps onto the football field.

That likely will be sooner rather than later.

The 5'11", 183-pound nickelback from Cornelius, North Carolina, may not have received the same headlines as Tyler Byrd or the fanfare of Nigel Warrior when he committed, but that was more about timing than talent.

He pledged to the Volunteers way back on Sept. 6, 2014, a year-and-a-half before national signing day '16. After enrolling midterm, Osborne got on the field this spring, and though he went through the standard freshman struggles, he also showed out at times.

That natural ability could be a ticket to quick playing time. While Warrior may be one of the best true freshman prospects UT has signed in a long time, his starting path at safety is blocked by two good players in Todd Kelly Jr. and Rashaan Gaulden.

Junior Evan Berry and sophomore Micah Abernathy will have a say in that race, too.

At nickelback—where Osborne appears to have a sterling future—there's only one player ahead of him on the depth chart in senior Malik Foreman. Though Foreman was excellent during the last half of 2015, he was a liability during the first part when he thrust into the starting lineup.

Maybe Foreman had a "Eureka!" moment as the season progressed, but it is also possible that his play improved when Tennessee's quality of competition diminished. That's not taking anything away from the speedy Foreman, who has an NFL ceiling, but he's still got some things to prove.

If he falters, Osborne proved this spring he's capable of stepping in and stepping up.

"Osborne was rated so highly out of high school for a reason, but you never know what you're gonna get from a kid until he shows up on campus and practices in pads at this level," GoVols247's Wes Rucker told Bleacher Report. "Fortunately for the Vols, Osborne was as advertised this spring.

"He's a good athlete, and he's a tough, hard-working kid who isn't afraid to stick his nose in the pile against bigger players. He's also decided to hitch his wagon to All-SEC cornerback Cameron Sutton and follow him everywhere he goes, which is another good sign for his future."

Osborne shadowing Sutton isn't a surprise. The two have similar work ethics and physical attributes. Sutton was known as a technician from the moment he stepped on campus, putting in the extra reps that wound up earning him an immediate starting job.

That likely won't happen right away for Osborne, but it could before the season is over.

He took a lot of first-team nickel reps in the spring-ending Orange & White Game in Foreman's absence and proved what he could do.

It wasn't like he was some unknown recruit, despite the fact that he sometimes got lost in the shuffle when it came to members of UT's 2016 recruiting class that excited fans. Several powerhouses made late, long runs at him such as Ohio State, Clemson and Florida.

In the end, he stuck with UT, partly because of his relationship with defensive backs coach Willie Martinez. He showed so much promise and maturity this spring that Tennessee coach Butch Jones let him speak to the media. That's almost unheard of for any first-year Vol, much less one who just got to Knoxville.

While Osborne looked good this spring, he also battled the normal "mental fatigue" that hits all freshmen, Jones told the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown. Even the player noticed a major difference from the last level to the latest.

"It feels like playing three high school games in one practice," Osborne told Brown.

Just getting through those first few grueling weeks of practice is always tough for first-year players, and while another wall sometimes comes late during that inaugural season, guys who get to school early have a better chance of busting through it because they've had longer to prepare for it.

So, being an early enrollee is another benefit Osborne has on a bunch of his fellow classmates. Only JUCO players Jeff George, Alexis Johnson and D.J. Henderson enrolled in January, and Johnson was suspended. Osborne was the only freshman to do so.

Warrior, Byrd, receiver Marquez Callaway and others have the opportunity to get on the field quickly for the Vols, but all of them will be playing catch-up when they arrive on campus this summer. Osborne will have a spring practice and five months of workouts and film study on the field.

"Getting a head start by enrolling in January should pay dividends as well," Rucker said. "I'm not sure Osborne will start as a true freshman, but I think he'll play some on defense and be a big help on special teams as well. And I think he has a bright future at Tennessee."

That future could start right away.

The best-case scenario for the Vols, of course, is for Foreman to pick up where he left off last season with his spectacular, game-changing plays when football seemed to finally slow down for him. If that's the case and Osborne continues to push him, that's best for everybody.

That way, the coaches can bring along Osborne, work him into the fold in less pressure-filled situations and watch him grow as the season progresses. By the middle of the season, he should provide quality depth at the very least.

When you have special players, it's difficult to keep them off the field. Osborne has that ability; a perfect picture of the upgrade in athlete that Jones is bringing in since coming to Knoxville.

There's very little that's raw about him. From his footwork to his physique, he is an impressive defender who'll have firm footing in that Tennessee defensive backfield for years to come. Sutton agreed, telling Rucker:

He's hungry, willing to learn, willing to take critique, staying in his playbook, always watching film, always asking questions, and he's able to come out here and make plays and be successful. He's one of the first couple guys in the meeting room each and every time. I see him, you know, staying after practice or after lifting and working his game, working his craft.

Those are the type of guys you need in the program—guys that are gonna be consistent and, you know, learn, and be willing to learn and help us out there on Saturday.

Warrior may be the favorite freshman to wow everybody with his ability, and Byrd is the uber-athlete who can play both ways. Callaway is a polished receiver who can bolster a thin position, and Latrell Williams' speed will be hard to keep on the sideline.

But Osborne's head start is a big deal, and his talent is even bigger. Don't count him out as a player who could make a lot of noise right away, even in a deep, star-studded defensive backfield.

 

All quotes and information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. All stats gathered at CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Butch Jones Comments on Peyton Manning Coaching Rumors

Tennessee Volunteers head football coach Butch Jones thinks former quarterback Peyton Manning would be successful as a coach, but he believes success wouldn't come early.

"We talk all the time, and I think anything Peyton Manning does, he'll be successful. But coaching is a completely different animal than playing, as any great player would tell you," Jones said, per Ryan Callahan of 247Sports.

Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman reported Wednesday that he's heard the recently retired two-time Super Bowl champion has an itch to coach for his alma mater in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Jones appears to have heard the rumblings as well and said Manning is more than welcome to come back to Tennessee any time he wants.

"But again, I welcome him any time he wants to come in to Tennessee and spend time with our players," Jones said, per Callahan. "He's been great that way. He's been very willing to do that. We've been very fortunate and blessed to have him be a part of our teams, coming in and speaking to (them), and this year will be the same."

Manning retired in March, ending his NFL career after hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy over his head at Levi's Stadium as a member of the Denver Broncos.

If Manning wants to coach, it wouldn't hurt Jones to give him a small role to see what the former Tennessee quarterback thinks about the coaching life. He has an intelligent mind and developed into one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.

He could be a valuable asset in terms of coaching and recruiting for the Volunteers.

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Charles Baldwin Dismissed by Alabama: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Charles Baldwin's tenure with the Alabama Crimson Tide football program ended before it began, as the offensive tackle was dismissed from the program on Thursday.   

Per Michael Casagrande of AL.com, Alabama head coach Nick Saban confirmed Baldwin's dismissal in a brief statement: "Charles Baldwin has been dismissed from the program for a violation of team rules."

Baldwin originally announced his commitment to Alabama as a junior college transfer last June while playing at ASA College. 

The New York native explained his decision to join the Crimson Tide to Drew Champlin of AL.com: "I have a great relationship with the coaching staff and the players, and I feel they can push me to be the best player I can be."

Baldwin was the latest in a long line of talented offensive linemen Saban has brought to Tuscaloosa. He's listed as a 4-star prospect and No. 2 JUCO transfer in the country, per 247Sports' composite rankings. 

Even though this was going to be Baldwin's first year at Alabama, Casagrande noted he was considered a "prime candidate" to get reps at right tackle in 2016. 

In March, Saban told Casagrande he felt Baldwin needed significant development before realizing his full potential: "A very good athlete. He's got a lot of ability. He's got a lot to learn. He's got a long way to go. We're going to continue to work with him, to get him to do things right, to get him to buy into doing things the way we need him to do them so he can have success here."

ESPN's Cole Cubelic did note on Twitter that Baldwin's dismissal will likely have an impact on the team in 2016:

Alabama has the highly touted Jonah Williams ready to step on the field in 2016. Saban has never had problems finding offensive linemen who can open holes for running backs to steamroll through with ease. 

Losing Baldwin will test the Crimson Tide's depth up front, but no coach is better at recruiting and developing talent in the trenches. It's not going to have any long-lasting impact as the team prepares to defend its national title. 

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Tyler Luatua Reportedly Will Not Transfer Away from Notre Dame

Despite announcing his intention to transfer from Notre Dame to BYU in February, junior tight end Tyler Luatua has reportedly decided to remain with the Fighting Irish.  

Anna Hickey of Scout.com was among the first to report the news. Matt Freeman of Irish Sports Daily later confirmed.

Luatua revealed his intention to transfer in a since-deleted tweet on Feb. 2, according to Matt Lombardi of College Spun, before having an apparent change of heart.

Luatua is primarily a blocking tight end, as the California native has yet to catch a pass during his time with the Irish.

He helped pave the way for running back C.J. Prosise to rush for over 1,000 yards and average 6.6 yards per carry last season, and his presence could be even more important in 2016 as a blocker for the likes of Josh Adams, Tarean Folston and Dexter Williams.

Although Luatua is unlikely to gain many accolades for head coach Brian Kelly's team, retaining him may be an under-the-radar coup for a team that has the talent needed to rack up a lot of yardage on the ground.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Michigan Football: 5 Toughest Defenders Wolverines Will Face in 2016

No individual player makes a team, but the Michigan Wolverines must overcome a handful of college football's best defenders during the 2016 campaign.

Using Bleacher Report's post-spring-practice top-50 list as a guide, the following players are considered the toughest opponents on the Maize and Blue's upcoming slate.

Since an extra spot remained, the fifth name is a subjective choice yet a tremendous talent who might be among the nation's top players once the season is over.

The list begins with No. 5 and works toward the top spot.

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Leonard Fournette Reportedly Has 2 $10 Million Insurance Policies

LSU star running back Leonard Fournette has taken out two separate $10 million insurance policies—one that covers him for "total disability in the event of a career-ending injury" and a second that would cover him for "circumstances that would lead to him falling from his projected NFL draft spot"—according to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports.

"I don't think about it," Fournette told Dodd. "This is the second time I'm actually talking about it. I leave everything in God's hands."

Fournette, who will be a junior in the 2016 season, rushed for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns this past season, his second straight year with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 10 rushing scores. He added 19 receptions for 253 yards and another touchdown.

That makes him one of the players to watch for the upcoming season and a prized prospect in the 2017 NFL draft. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. had him as his No. 3 prospect on the 2017 NFL draft big board he released Wednesday, writing: "Big, bruising, fast...but let's keep an eye on the mileage. Fournette is a dynamic talent, that rare running back who generates excitement for teams drafting in Round 1. But he carried 300 times last season and is at 487 carries in two years. Will LSU use him up?"

That concern, along with the risk of any potential injury, is why potential stars like Fournette so often take out insurance policies. For instance, Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, a 2016 second-round pick, took out a policy that reportedly will pay him $900,000 after a knee injury dropped him out of the first round, per ESPN's Darren Rovell (h/t Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk).

Smith was considered one of the top players in the 2016 draft class before the injury.

Similarly, Fournette projects to be a top-five pick in the draft, barring injury. While a lot can change in one season, Fournette clearly is trying to cover his bases and protect his future earnings.

 

You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.  

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Coveted 2018 RB Jaelen Gill Could Juggle Football and Baseball in College

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Well on his way toward becoming one of the most pursued prospects in the 2018 recruiting class, Westerville South High School sophomore Jaelen Gill isn't restricted to athletic options on the football field.

Rated No. 19 overall among 2018 recruits in 247Sports rankings, this dynamic running back admits his athletic aspirations also reside beyond the gridiron.

"Baseball is a close second to football," Gill told Bleacher Report. "I have a lot of passion for it because it's our family sport and I've played it all my life. I'd love to keep playing baseball."

It certainly seems as though there's a distinct possibility that goal will become a reality after high school. 

Athletic departments at Penn State, UCLA and USC are among those showing interest in his potential as a two-sport contributor who would split time between baseball and football facilities.

Gill is more than just an athletic freak in centerfield. He's a nuanced and productive player who earned first-team all-league honors as a freshman after accumulating a .370 batting average with 26 stolen bases, according to Frank DiRenna of the Westerville News and Public Opinion.

"Baseball is something I take very seriously," Gill said.

Scouts at the collegiate level and beyond have also begun to take him seriously.

"I've been told and coaches have told me I need to enter the [Major League Baseball] draft [as a high school senior]," he told Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com. "There's more of a chance that I'll go play college football and try to do baseball, also, but there's definitely a chance I could choose the baseball route." 

A rookie baseball contract comes with guaranteed cash, but a collegiate scholarship could provide him with an opportunity to pave his path toward football stardom.

Gill, who measured in at 6'0", 172 pounds Saturday at The Opening's Columbus regional, proved why he's such a prized offensive backfield prospect. His SPARQ testing results included a 4.58 40-yard dash, a 4.01 agility shuttle and a 36.1-inch vertical jump, resulting in the sixth-highest rating (114.24) of the day and No. 1 overall among underclassmen, according to Student Sports.

Tipping his hand a bit regarding where his athletic allegiances lie, Gill missed one of his baseball squad's final regular-season matchups to attend the event.

"Football is No. 1, so I had to come here," he said, while noting circumstances would have been different if a playoff game was on the line.

Gill possesses athletic traits to contribute at a variety of positions, but most collegiate coaching staffs have him pegged at running back. During his recruitment—which now features 19 scholarship offers—teams have also discussed the possibility of him playing H-back, slot receiver and even as an occasional Wildcat quarterback.

"I just want the ball in my hands," he said. "I bring a lot of versatility to the table. You can swing me out wide or put me in the backfield. When it's crunch time and we need to pick up a few tough yards on the ground, I can go get those. I'm stronger than I look, and there isn't just one label you can put on me, so that makes it difficult for a defense to prepare."

Gill landed on the national recruiting radar in eighth grade when his first scholarship offer arrived from Pittsburgh. The recruitment quickly gained an SEC stamp, as Kentucky's staff extended an offer through Westerville South coaches at halftime of his second high school game.

Naturally, sorting through so many collegiate opportunities already takes precedence 21 months before national signing day provides a conclusion to the process.

"It's hard not to think about it every day," Gill said. "I'm still pretty high on about half of my list of offers so there's a lot on my mind."

There's still a long way to go in an attempt to whittle down choices, with so many schools in the mix. He points to Tennessee, Michigan State, Penn State, UCLA, USC, Michigan, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame as teams in contention.

The nearby Buckeyes are favored to land his commitment by 100 percent of experts' predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Located just minutes away from his high school, Ohio State is the most recent program to welcome Gill to campus.

He attended a spring practice alongside friend and 2017 Buckeyes commit Brendon White.

"Jaelen is a phenomenal athlete who reads the holes very well and can make dudes miss," White said. "I think he could help us a lot and score touchdowns for us. Jaelen is still young and needs to enjoy his recruitment, but he knows where home is. Ohio State is where he needs to be."

Gill believes proximity helped the Buckeyes staff make an immediate impact on his recruitment.

"I'm getting closer and closer with [head coach] Urban Meyer and [running backs coach Tony] Alford," he said. "I go to school pretty close to campus, so that gives us a chance to build a strong relationship. They've made it clear they're going to recruit the heck out of me. Coach Alford has even come to watch me play baseball."

Among programs Gill mentioned as viable options, only Notre Dame has yet to receive a visit. The Fighting Irish offered in late April, and he plans to reciprocate interest this summer with a trip to South Bend, Indiana.

Aside from Notre Dame, Gill is also eyeing return trips to Michigan State, Tennessee, Penn State and Virginia Tech in the upcoming months. He doesn't view a verbal pledge as imminent at this point.

"It's a busy summer, but this is part of the process and something I've got to do to make the best decision for me," Gill said. "The original plan was to do it either right before or right after my junior season, but I think it's going to push into my senior season. I don't see a commitment coming anytime soon."

 

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

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10 College Football Players Who Will Take Huge Strides Forward in 2016

The constantly changing landscape of college football opens the door for breakout players each year. Starters graduate or move on to the NFL early, which leaves spots open for powerhouse programs. Other players adjust to new roles under new coaches and thrive there.

Last year, Christian McCaffrey became the No. 1 running back at Stanford and smashed an all-time FBS record on his way to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Shaq Lawson became one of the game's most feared edge-rushers after taking over for Vic Beasley on the Clemson defensive line.

For these 10 players, 2016 should be their time to shine. They have all the potential to take huge strides forward and turn from complementary pieces or reserve players into big-time playmakers who will command a lot of attention.

Whether it's a new position or a new coach in charge of them, these are several of the players in college football who appear destined to break out after strong spring practices.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, as there are dozens of athletes who should move forward in a big way this fall. Shout out who else you think will make that leap in the comments below.

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Top Incoming Freshmen with the Best Chance to Start in Week 1

Early enrolling true freshmen have a significant advantage in climbing depth charts, but an elite group of summer arrivals could earn starting roles in Week 1 of the 2016-17 college football season.

In some cases, the prospect fills a position of need. Others, however, simply beat out all other options on the roster.

Although nothing is guaranteed, the following players—each of which are ranked in the top 60 nationally—have the best chance to establish themselves in a significant role immediately.

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SEC Extra Points: Should SEC Look into Expansion If Realignment Happens Again?

The wheels of conference realignment keep spinning, and the next conference up on the offseason wheel of fun is the Big 12.

The 10-team conference wrapped up its annual spring meetings this week in Arizona, and officials will meet again later this month with expansion being the hot topic. 

It's a mess.

As Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com noted earlier this month, there's infighting at Oklahoma on whether expansion is needed at all, smaller programs in the conference like Iowa State, Kansas and West Virginia are in favor of it and targets could include Cincinnati, BYU, Memphis, Houston, Colorado State, UCF, South Florida and just about any other higher-profile Group of Five school in the country. 

Infighting at Oklahoma should at least force the ears of SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to perk up a bit, because the only way the SEC would and should consider adding teams is if the Big 12 crumbles.

Dysfunction within the Big 12 a half-decade ago led Colorado to bolt to the Pac-12, Nebraska to the Big Ten and Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC. That, coupled with the SEC's need to add top-35 television markets in the lead-up to the launch of the SEC Network, made the two additions to the conference naturals.

Things are different now. 

The SEC Network was the most successful cable launch in television history, according to John Talty of AL.com, is on virtually every national and regional carrier and played a big part in the record $31.2 million each team received from the conference last year—a $10.3 million per team increase from 2014.

The only reason for the SEC to even consider expanding at this point is if the age of 16-team superconferences comes quickly thanks to Big 12 instability and all of the Big 12's teams start looking for new homes. 

If that happens, then the Sooners would be a natural fit for the SEC, as would another team in Texas as long as there are no objections from Texas A&M and the other SEC schools that are located in states without another conference foe. 

Country music legend Garth Brooks told SiriusXM's College Sports Nation on Wednesday that he'd like Oklahoma State to go with their intrastate rivals, which would keep that rivalry intact:

Other than the Big 12 crumbling, though, the SEC is fine with 14 teams and that massive check that gets distributed to its member institutions every year.

 

As Oxford Turns

What should have been one of Ole Miss' finest nights became a disaster late last month when Laremy Tunsil became the talk of the first round of the NFL draft for all of the wrong reasons. First, it was the video posted on his own Twitter account of Tunsil smoking out of a bong with a gas mask on, followed by screen shots of conversations with an Ole Miss athletics department employee regarding payments and then a draft press conference in which he admits to taking money from coaches after previously denying it.

The latest twist comes in the civil case filed by Tunsil's stepfather, Lindsey Miller, that stems from the incident that resulted in domestic violence charges against both parties last month.

Daniel Paulling of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported on Wednesday that Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze has been deposed in the case, and that Freeze is fighting to have the questions written and be specific to the altercation, not the ongoing NCAA case or, as TMZ reported, to his comments from the NCAA.

"At this time, the NCAA is considering allegations against the university and its football program, including allegations related to [Tunsil]," the court filing states, according to TMZ.

Is it necessary to put this into the court document? Why would the court care if the NCAA is conducting an investigation into Tunsil?

The court cares if Miller is owed something from Tunsil as a result of an altercation, not whether he got extra benefits that aren't allowed under NCAA rule. Putting this into the stipulations regarding Freeze's potential deposition only makes Ole Miss look like it's hiding something, whether that's reality or not.

Freeze being deposed in the case makes sense, because the suit alleges defamation of character as a result of Freeze's comments shortly after the altercation. But it also feels a bit like phishing and Miller trying to make a splash, just as he did during draft week when this suit was filed.

Ole Miss took the bait this time. 

 

In Need of a Leader?

The idea of having one person to oversee college football as an FBS commissioner has become a hot topic over the last few weeks, with head coaches such as Alabama's Nick Saban, Stanford's David Shaw, TCU's Gary Patterson, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and others all supporting the idea, according to ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

But as Rittenberg noted on Twitter, that idea has virtually no traction elsewhere: 

Why?

Athletic directors and administrators want control of their schedules, know what's best for their departments and, unlike professional sports, the needs and goals of FBS programs vary widely. After all, it's not like Alabama and South Alabama are comparable to the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns.

It's a nice idea to have somebody that looks out for the best interest of the sport, but it needs to be the right person—somebody, as my Bleacher Report colleague Justin Ferguson pointed out, who won't be slanted toward specific teams or conferences. Since that hypothetical person would be an outsider to the world of college athletics, that has led some coaches to state that they're fine with the status quo.

"I'm pretty well-pleased with the SEC and commissioner Sankey," Auburn's Gus Malzahn said on Tuesday at the College Football Hall of Fame. "I'm happy with the way it is."

Unless there's a clear-cut candidate, I have a hard time buying that this idea will become reality anytime soon. 

 

The Forgotten Defensive MVP

Auburn's defense hasn't finished in the top half of the SEC in total defense since 2007, but this year's crew that features star defensive end Carl Lawson, tackle Montravius Adams and freshman All-SEC corner Carlton Davis could reverse that trend under first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.

If it does, one of its veterans will play a big part.

It seems like Johnathan "Rudy" Ford has been around the Plains forever, and the veteran safety returns for his senior season after leading the Tigers in tackles in each of the last two years. 

"He's a lot more confident [this year]," Malzahn said. "There's nothing like experience. He did lead us in tackles the last two years while he was still learning the defensive side of the football [from running back] when we moved him up from the nickel position. He seemed really natural with that. He has a lot of ability."

Ford might be the third or fourth player mentioned when discussing Auburn's defense, but his presence at the back end, willingness to stick his nose in against the run and work in coverage makes him one of the most valuable players on the roster. 

In addition to his work on defense, Ford averaged 28.73 yards per kickoff return, and should be a force in that department again in 2016.

"He's a good kick returner too," Malzahn said, "and is one of our leaders."

If Auburn's defense is going to be a power again, Ford is going to have another stellar season in his first under Steele.

 

Tennessee "Head Coach" Peyton Manning?

Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman reported this week that Tennessee legend and recently retired NFL veteran Peyton Manning is interested in coaching the Vols, according to several "NFL people."

Wait, what?

The last time I checked, Manning has no experience as a head coach, the Vols' current head coach, Butch Jones, has improved upon his record every year since taking over in 2013 and has assembled a roster that's finally capable of contending for the SEC East title after successfully escaping the dark days of the Derek Dooley era.

Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News reported earlier this month that television isn't in Manning's plans this season, so it makes sense that he might want to test the NFL waters this year.

But Jones isn't going anywhere. Nothing against Manning. He was a great quarterback, is the most prominent player in Tennessee history and will likely make a great coach if he goes down that road.

Tennessee has a good coach and momentum now, though, so don't expect to see Manning roaming the Neyland Stadium sidelines in a capacity other than as a former player anytime soon.

 

Quick Outs

  • I get nervous running at eight miles per hour on a treadmill. Here's Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd hitting 23.1 mph:
  • Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post found video of former Georgia and current Miami head coach Mark Richt starring in an Italian jeans commercial in 1982. How this fell through the cracks during Richt's 15 years in Athens is a travesty, and we all should feel responsible for not bringing this to the surface earlier. 
  • A big round of applause to Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight and the 29 Aggie athletes (15 football players) who are in Haiti on a mission trip, according to Brandon Wheeland of the Dallas Morning News

 

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

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

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Why J.T. Barrett Makes Ohio State the Big Ten Favorite in 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It hasn't taken long for the hype to build for Michigan as it spends its second straight offseason in the spotlight thanks to Jim Harbaugh.

But with J.T. Barrett returning for his third season as Ohio State's starting quarterback, the road to the Big Ten title—and in effect, the College Football Playoff—will once again run through Columbus.

Yet, as preseason polls have begun to pop up with fewer than four months to go until the start of the 2016 season, the Wolverines have found themselves a popular prediction to crash the College Football Playoff—an even trendier pick than their archrival Buckeyes.

The logic? After a 10-3 debut season under Harbaugh, Michigan not only appears to be ahead of schedule, but it returns several key pieces—and 2017 NFL draft prospects—on both sides of the ball.

"In between his Twitter wars with other coaches, recruiting extravaganzas and spring break trips, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is quickly building a playoff contender," ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach wrote in this week's "Way-Too-Early Top 25," which ranked the Wolverines third.

Approximately 190 miles south of Ann Arbor, Ohio State can't claim the same carryover and consistency the Wolverines are about to enjoy—not with what the Buckeyes saw walk out the door during last month's NFL draft. Altogether, Urban Meyer finds himself replacing 16 starters, including 12 NFL draft picks and five first-rounders in a crop of players predominately responsible for his 50-4 start as Ohio State's head coach.

"We have a lot of momentum here at Ohio State right now," Meyer said, whose team Schlabach ranked 10th in his recent poll. "We can't lose it just because we lost some great players."

Even with all that the Buckeyes are losing, that seems unlikely to happen—and not necessarily because of the blue chip-filled recruiting classes that will be replenishing Meyer's roster (although those doesn't hurt either).

Of the six players who find themselves in the rare position of returning starters on this 2016 Ohio State team, Barrett remains the Big Ten's best offensive player, a potential Heisman Trophy candidate capable of single-handedly maintaining national relevancy for his team.

"No, it's not his last game," Meyer assured with a smile following the Buckeyes' Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame in January.

And if Barrett's last game performance was any indication, the Wichita Falls, Texas, native isn't just back; he's back. After a season-long quarterback competition with Cardale Jones resulted in mixed results for both signal-callers, Barrett finally seemed to find his groove in the final two games of the 2015 season, totaling a combined 559 yards and five touchdowns in wins over Michigan and the Fighting Irish.

Barrett's barrage to close his sophomore campaign was reminiscent of his breakthrough freshman season, which saw him break the Buckeyes' single-season total offense record (3,772 yards) and the Big Ten's total touchdown mark (45) before finishing fifth in Heisman Trophy voting.

If Barrett can remain on that trajectory, Meyer believes that he—along with center Pat Elflein—can help negate the loss of what was 78 percent of Ohio State's offensive production from 2015 that just walked out the door, according to SBNation's Bill Connelly.

"The fact that these two guys are back, we have a shot," Meyer said. "I think we have a decent shot of being good on offense, and it's mostly due to those two guys coming back."

"A shot" might be all Meyer is willing to concede to his offense right now, with just three starters returning from last year's team and an inexperienced crop of skill players now at Barrett's disposal. At times this spring, the Buckeyes offense looked admittedly disjointed, as Barrett's timing with predominantly first- and second-year players wasn't nearly as cohesive as it was with Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall the past two years.

That, however, will only increase the value of a player who's consistently been lauded for his leadership since he arrived in Columbus as a true freshman in 2013. Named a captain a year ago, despite starting the season as Jones' backup while in the midst of an unprecedented quarterback controversy, Barrett has already been given the same title this offseason in an effort to help overcome the OSU offense's obvious inexperience.

"His value is more than running and throwing," Meyer said of Barrett this spring. "His value is he's one of the best leaders we've ever had."

The running and throwing sure don't hurt either, and as a result, the Buckeyes should have more than just "a shot" on offense in 2016. Barrett has already proven capable of carrying the load for a national championship-caliber offense, having done so as a redshirt freshman two years ago, before a broken ankle prevented him from playing in the postseason.

Elsewhere in the vaunted Big Ten East, defending champ Michigan State finds itself replacing an experienced quarterback of its own in Connor Cook, Penn State is doing the same with Christian Hackenberg and still appears at least a year away from contending under James Franklin, and Michigan is currently in the midst of what has thus far been an uninspiring quarterback battle between John O'Korn and Wilton Speight.

It's also worth noting the Nov. 26 showdown between the Buckeyes and Wolverines will be played at Ohio Stadium.

So perhaps literally, the road to the Big Ten title will once again travel through Columbus.

"It's a really special place right now," Meyer said of his program. "We've played at a high level for two years and now—are we going to drop?"

As long as J.T. Barrett's behind center, that seems unlikely, regardless of what the preseason polls say. 

 

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. Recruit rankings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

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2018 DE Dorian Hardy on New Scholarship Offers: 'I Was Speechless'

Given that he’s getting ready to play his junior year at St. Joseph’s Regional High School in Montvale, New Jersey, defensive end Dorian Hardy is still getting used to the attention that has come his way as his offer list continues to expand.

The 6’5”, 245-pounder has already landed more than 10 offers, but a pair of football titans from the SEC came calling for him earlier this week, as both Alabama and Florida offered the Garden State pass-rusher.

Needless to say, those tenders caught Hardy off guard.

“I would’ve never thought I’d get two huge schools in the SEC to offer me this early in my career. I was speechless,” Hardy told Bleacher Report.

In particular, the tender from the defending national champions was a thrill, since he admittedly grew up a fan of the Crimson Tide.

“I was just surprised because I never expected to get an Alabama offer this early at this point in my high school football career," Hardy said. "It meant a lot to me. I was very excited and humbled, but I have a lot of work left to do. My family has always been huge Alabama fans. My dad has a lot of family in Alabama. With all of them being fans and him being a fan, it kind of made me become one growing up.”

Tide offensive line coach Mario Cristobal delivered the good news to him. While they didn’t specify which position they were offering him for, Hardy believes it was as a defensive end, since that’s the position he’s got film on.

The offer from the Gators was unexpected, since he’s never been in contact with head coach Jim McElwain or his staff.

“When I got Florida, it was surprising because I’ve never talked with Florida before that. Just getting it, I can’t even explain it. I was shocked,” Hardy said.

Illinois also offered Hardy this week. According to Adam Friedman of Rivals, LSU and Miami followed suit, which brings his total number of offers to 18. 

Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, North Carolina and Virginia Tech are among the other programs that have offered Hardy in recent months.

Hardy maintains that there are a few programs he’s stayed in touch with on a regular basis.

“I’ve been in contact with Rutgers, Temple, Nebraska, Wisconsin and North Carolina," he said. "Really, it’s been all of the schools who have offered me. I try to stay in touch with them."

While he’s in no hurry to make a decision, his next order of business is to take visits to see most of the programs that have already declared interest in him.

“On May 20, I will be visiting Michigan and Michigan State. During the summer, me, my mom and my head coach plan to go visit most of the schools who have offered me,” Hardy said. “I don’t have set dates for those yet, but I want to try my best to see every one if possible. I want to see all of those schools who have offered.”

Hardy, who reports a GPA of “around 3.4,” said he’s yet to make concrete plans on what he wants to major in on the college level—although oceanography and sports management are two fields that intrigue him.

For the athletic big man, who also plays power forward for his school’s hoops program, there are a few things he will be looking for when taking visits and speaking with coaches in the coming months.

“I want to go to a school where they can compete for a national championship or a big bowl game every year," Hardy said. "I want that program to be a top team every year. Other than that, just a place where I will feel comfortable and where the coaches value me. I just want to go to a place that feels like home.”

 

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

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College Football's 25 All-Time Best Rivalry Games

The players and coaches change, but the passion and history between college football rivals never goes away. The combination of pride for one's own side and a healthy mix of hatred and respect—mostly the former—for the opponent is what fuels college football and keeps the game so popular.

Rivalries are the life blood of the sport, and those games are always among the most anticipated on the schedule each season. For many fanbases, a win against their rival makes the season a success, regardless of what happens the rest of the year, while a loss in that game is often a harder pill to swallow than falling in the national championship.

Every college football fan likely thinks their team's rivalry game is the best around, which again is part of why we love this sport so much. But even rivalries aren't all created equal, so we've ranked the 25 best. To do this, we factored in the history and longevity of a rivalry, the closeness of the series and its resonance on a national scale.

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Marcus White, Bowling Green DC, Cited After Alleged Altercation at Bar

Bowling Green co-defensive coordinator Marcus White and graduate assistant Kenneth Williams were reportedly “cited for assault and released” following an altercation at a bar, per the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune.

The Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune noted the fight occurred early Sunday morning at an establishment named Liquid in Bowling Green. The two staff members allegedly refused to leave and “reportedly struck multiple bar staff members, punching them in the face” during the ensuing fight.

John Wagner of the Toledo Blade reported White was placed on administrative leave, and Williams could face discipline from the student-conduct process because he is a graduate student.

The 2016 season will be White’s first at Bowling Green after he was an assistant coach for Faulkner University in 2015. The Falcons hired him as the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, and Nick Bromberg of Yahoo Sports said he used to work with head coach Mike Jinks at Texas Tech.

Jinks took over the head coaching role at Bowling Green for Dino Babers, who was hired by Syracuse.

White played at Auburn and Murray State as a defensive tackle and reached the NFL as a member of the Tennessee Titans before going into coaching.

Bowling Green beat Northern Illinois in the MAC title game last season and finished 10-4 after losing to Georgia Southern in the GoDaddy Bowl.

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Texas A&M Football: Predicting the Aggies' 2016 Win-Loss Record

For most programs in the Southeastern Conference, a long offseason usually means coming off playing in one of the lower-tier bowls or missing the postseason all together.

But this one’s felt even longer for Texas A&M fans.

The way last season unraveled with quarterbacks announcing their departures while there was still a game left to play, chemistry concerns and the continuing turnover of the coaching staff, Kevin Sumlin was a long mustache short of resembling a circus ringmaster.

The head coach definitely needed a couple of quiet months devoid of drama—which wasn’t helped by wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead’s recent odd rant on Twitter about losing a recruit, causing another prize prospect to de-commit. 

It would have been easier to downplay except for the numerous other things casting long shadows over the program, especially the quarterback transfers. Kyler Murray went to Oklahoma. Kyle Allen headed to Houston. A year previous Kenny Hill left and is now set to be the starting quarterback at TCU.

How could anyone not have concerns that something’s seriously amiss in College Station? All three had started games and wanted to be the next Johnny Manziel, at least on the field, but are now at rival schools.

Meanwhile, a pattern of sorts had developed in the standings, which Sumlin desperately needs to break. Although every Aggies team under the head coach has been ranked in the Top 10 of the Associated Press Poll at some point of the season, only two finished in the Top 25.

Since the 2012 Manziel-led team ended up fifth following its impressive dismantling of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, 41-13—the program’s best finish in the poll since 1956, when Paul “Bear” Bryant was the coach—Texas A&M hasn’t been able to replicate that success.

The Aggies got up to No. 6 during the two subsequent seasons, only to drop off to No. 18 in 2013 and unranked in 2014.

Last year, they began unranked and quickly moved into the Top 25 after defeating No. 15 Arizona State in the opener. A&M peaked at No. 9 when Alabama and Ole Miss exposed it on consecutive Saturdays, and combined with the quarterback issues, it never really recovered.

It’s also reflected in Sumlin’s record against ranked opponents. His team went 4-2 in 2012 but is 5-9 since.

Yet despite all that, the conditions are ripe for a turnaround this season.

The defense should be much better with John Chavis in his second year as coordinator, and the line has the potential to be outstanding.

The Aggies have a favorable schedule by SEC standards, highlighted by an intriguing matchup with UCLA in the opener, two weeks before a telling game at Auburn.

With the exception of Alabama on October 22, A&M’s toughest games all appear to be at home (UCLA, Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU), a huge advantage considering rebuilt Kyle Field and the Texas heat.

The real reason for some optimism, though, is with the players themselves, as the Aggies appear to have some real leadership on this team. It begins with quarterback Trevor Knight, the graduate transfer from Oklahoma who only needed the spring to lock up starting job.

“I just felt like because how he’s played, how he’s handled himself, everything, his body of work, he was ready to go,” Sumlin said during the league’s recent spring coaches teleconference with reporters.

Although Knight had an impressive spring game, what’s been largely overlooked by SEC fans outside of Texas was that he also participated in a spring-break mission trip to Haiti.

"This is my fourth trip to Haiti," Knight said during a pre-trip press conference.

“It was a life changer, a perspective changer.”

He was one of 15 football players—including backup quarterback Jake Hubenak, prize defensive end Myles Garrett, defensive lineman Daeshon Hall, defensive tackle Daylon Mack and wide receiver Josh Reynolds—and 29 Texas A&M athletes to make the trip through Mission of Hope out of Austin, Texas. 

“The leadership on this team really couldn’t be at a higher level,” Sumlin said.

If so, Sumlin might finally weather this storm and his team challenge for the SEC West title if there aren’t any more major setbacks. Far more likely is something along the lines of an 8-4 regular season, which in this case could be viewed as both as successful and disappointing season.

  

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Explosive WR KJ Hamler Weighs Big Ten Offers, Targets Expanded Pac-12 Interest

Raised in Metro Detroit, wide receiver KJ Hamler grew up admiring the man Lions supporters call "Megatron" prior to his recent retirement.

However, admiration didn't exactly equate to imitation.

"I'm a big fan of Calvin Johnson and loved watching him play but I'm not a 6'5" dude so I've studied guys who are more similar to me," Hamler told Bleacher Report. "I watch film of receivers who use their speed and technique to beat defenders without a size advantage."

Standing 5'9", 155-pounds, the St. Mary's Preparatory standout cites Steve Smith, Andrew Hawkins, Tavon Austin and Antonio Brown as NFL receivers he emulates. His developmental process has involved lengthy YouTube sessions in which Hamler attempts to mimic what makes this diminutive effective at the sport's highest level.

"I try to be a student of the game and a technician," he said.

Of course, there's also his speed.

This explosive element is what initially shines when you watch Hamler compete. He's targeting a third straight state title in the 4x100 and 4x200 track events and clocked a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash Saturday at The Opening's Columbus regional.

"I've heard a lot of coaches say I'm electric," Hamler said. "I can shake people at receiver in a way they don't usually see."

Rated No. 48 nationally among receivers in 247Sports composite rankings, he holds more than 20 scholarship offers nine months shy of national signing day. Some view this as a battle between Big Ten Conference rivals Michigan State and Penn State, but it's important to note interest extends well beyond the region at universities such as Louisville, Mississippi State and West Virginia.

Ultimately, this has the makings of a lengthy recruitment because Hamler hopes to add more options as things progress. He is particularly intrigued by several schools in the Pac-12, specifically mentioning Oregon, Arizona State, USC and Cal as programs he'd certainly consider if an offer is extended.

"I'm trying to get myself out more to the West Coast schools because I know their offenses fit me a bit more than some of these Midwest programs," Hamler said. "I want to see what kind of chance I could have in the Pac-12."

Oregon, the first school he mentioned when asked about non-offer interests, is set to visit his school later this month, according to Hamler. The Oklahoma staff is also expected to make an appearance at St. Mary's Prep in May, setting the stage for a busy recruitment to further expand.

Michigan State is viewed as the favorite here in his 247Sports crystal ball. The Spartans carry 86 percent of experts' commitment predictions and he recently attended the team's spring game.

"I saw what I needed to see," Hamler said. "I saw my boy Donnie Corley (freshman wide receiver) get a lot of reps and it looks like he's ready for a big year. Also saw my boy Messiah deWeaver (freshman quarterback) go to work. I spent time talking to the coaches and growing those relationships. It was all good vibes."

Given his familiarity with the in-state school, it's no surprise to see analysts pointing to East Lansing as Hamler's most likely landing spot. Although he hasn't visited Michigan yet, the Spartans face conference competition from Penn State.

He attended a Nittany Lions junior day earlier this year, where he enjoyed the environment. Hamler has also developed chemistry with one of head coach James Franklin's key commitments.

"One thing I can definitely say about Penn State is it's beautiful," he said. "Me and [2017 Nittany Lions quarterback pledge] Sean Clifford have a good relationship. He wants me there really bad."

Hamler, a first-team all-state selection as a specialist last fall, is capable of contributing in a variety of roles. Collegiate coaching staffs see him in the slot, lined out wide, returning kicks and some believe he can enjoy success at cornerback.

He took reps at receiver in Columbus during Saturday's regional camp, impressing onlookers and torching opponents throughout the afternoon:

Those efforts secured Hamler a coveted invitation to attend The Opening national finals, held in July at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. For a guy looking to raise his profile in Pac-12 territory, the opportunity presents a perfect proving ground for the speedy pass-catcher.

Don't expect a commitment to occur before then, as Hamler remains ambitious about gathering more offers and exploring alternatives.

"I'm going to be patient about the process," he said. "I'm not going to rush anything. If it feels right, that's when I'll make my decision."

 

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

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University of Nebraska Sued over Balloon Release Touchdown Celebration

The Nebraska Cornhuskers may have to find another way to celebrate their first touchdown of the game if one fan has his way. 

According to ESPN.com's Josh Moyer, Omaha resident Randall S. Krause is suing the school, arguing the balloons released by fans during games causes environmental harm and poses a threat to children.

In his lawsuit, Krause alleges balloons from football games can end up in far-flung bodies of water, such as the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, per Chris Dunker of the Lincoln Journal Star.

In 2011, Matt Havelka of the Daily Nebraskan wrote the school had taken proactive steps to ensure the tradition left as little an impact on the environment as possible:

"Many years ago we switched to biodegradable balloons," [Chris Anderson, the director of athletic community relations] said. "That way we can keep the tradition alive without hurting the environment."

Additionally, when the balloons reach their maximum height of about five miles, the atmospheric pressure causes the balloons to expand and eventually shatter into thousands of tiny little pieces, which makes it nearly impossible for animals to eat.

In 2014, however, Benjamin Vogt, an English lecturer at Nebraska, filed a petition to stop the balloon release. On his personal website, Vogt argued biodegradable balloons still took a long period to decompose, thus putting wildlife in danger if they attempted to ingest the balloons.

Clemson also releases balloons during football games, which led to a 2012 study by the university's Creative Inquiry. The study noted balloons can decompose more slowly in wet areas and travel up to hundreds of miles:

It's important to remember that this research focused solely on natural latex balloons without any strings, ribbons, or plastic clasps, and the balloons were not tied together. The balloons degraded well in a variety of terrestrial environments, but took considerably longer in aquatic environments, raising concerns about their effects on marine life. To see if the balloons could travel as far as the ocean, the team used a combination of GPS devices to track movements. The balloons traveled a median distance of 23 miles, but two or three made it as far as 280 miles (the distance from Clemson to the shore is about 250 miles).

Various schools' unique traditions are part of what sets college football apart. If that tradition is causing harm to local wildlife, though, then it would be a good idea to bring it to an end.

Perhaps Krause's lawsuit will make Nebraska take a more in-depth look to determine whether the balloons leave too large an environmental footprint.

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Notre Dame Football: Predicting Fighting Irish's 2016 Win-Loss Record

Notre Dame's path to the 2016 College Football Playoff mostly travels through South Bend, but the Fighting Irish need to avoid road upsets along the way.

Most key matchups bring the opponent to Notre Dame, which has nine power-conference opponents on the upcoming slate. A particular league presents the biggest obstacles, though.

While the Irish don't yet have a starting quarterback, their outlook for 2016 shouldn't change much with either DeShone Kizer or Malik Zaire theoretically under center.

Rather, the X-factor for the upcoming year is Notre Dame's defense, as a few of the nation's best players will challenge the unit.

 

Note: Although most predictions won't change, the smallest factors can change the biggest games. For better or worse, those projections might not last once the regular season arrives.

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Elite 2018 QB Phil Jurkovec Plans Several Summer Visits, Wants Stanford Offer

The recruitment process has progressed rapidly for Pennsylvania quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who received his first scholarship offer from the Pittsburgh Panthers last fall.

Just seven months later, the Pine-Richland High School sophomore has already lost track of an expanding offer total.

"I think it's over 10, but I'm not sure," he told Bleacher Report.

For the record, 247Sports reports Jurkovec currently holds 16 scholarship opportunities, including several from America's most marquee college football programs. The reigning national champion Alabama Crimson Tide added itself to the list earlier this spring, joining a collection that also features the Clemson Tigers, Tennessee Volunteers, Penn State Nittany Lions and UCLA Bruins.

"It gets a little bit crazy, but it's been a whole lot of fun so far," he said.

Jurkovec, who measured in at 6'5", 202 pounds Saturday, May 7, at The Opening's Columbus regional camp, is rated No. 1 among 2018 dual-threat quarterback prospects by 247Sports. Listed No. 9 overall in class rankings, he has risen to prominence as an underclassman.

The 16-year-old gunslinger showed off a versatile skill set for his size last season. Jurkovec gained 1,250 yards on the ground, threw for 2,560 yards and tallied 31 total touchdowns with just four interceptions. 

He impressed Elite 11 coaches in Columbus, establishing himself as the top underclassman in attendance. He was the lone 2018 class member to compete in "pressure chamber" action, a drill comprised of five quarterbacks selected by the staff.

"He's got a frame that gives him a lot of room to grow," Elite 11 instructor Matt James said. "He has big hands. The ball comes slinging out of his hands. He's still learning, but he can make all the throws downfield. Once he kind of gets some of the drills down and becomes more polished with his footwork, that's going to help his arm."

Despite mounting adulation from collegiate scouts, Jurkovec understands he remains a work in progress at this point of his development.

"I just try to take it all in stride and realize [coaching staffs] show you a lot of love right now, but you have to keep working, have to keep getting better," he said. "Every weakness I have, I try to make that a strength."

This untapped potential makes Jurkovec a particularly compelling talent, according to James.

"He's got a lot of room to improve, and I think that ceiling is what makes him so high on people's boards," the Elite 11 leader said.

His latest contact with coaches included visits to in-state Pittsburgh and Penn State. Jurkovec also traveled to Ohio State and Notre Dame in March.

It was his second trip to South Bend.

"The Notre Dame visits were a lot of fun," he said. "I got to meet with all the coaches and see all the facilities."

Jurkovec competed Saturday just minutes away from Buckeyes facilities, and he continues to establish a relationship with Ohio State co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tim Beck. He developed increased admiration for Urban Meyer's program after watching the NFL draft unfold on April 28-30.

"If you watch the draft you see all the players that got drafted and all the talent they're bringing in there. It's amazing," Jurkovec said. "They have a great coaching staff. [The Ohio State offer] was huge."

He already has one premier member of the Buckeyes top-ranked 2017 recruiting class watching closely.

"We were on a visit together this spring," 5-star offensive tackle Josh Myers said. "He's 6'5" and a dual-threat quarterback, which is something you don't see very often. Most taller quarterbacks don't have that mobility. He's a talented guy and cool to be around. I talk to him all the time."

The Buckeyes boast significant young quarterback depth with incoming freshman Dwayne Haskins—a 2015 Elite 11 finalist—enrolling this summer, 4-star commit Danny Clark and the possibility of another blue-chip pledge at the position later in the 2017 cycle. 

There are several alternative schools on Jurkovec's list that also feature a potential log jam for starting reps. It's a dynamic he's monitoring, but depth won't serve as a major deterrent in his search for an ideal fit. 

"It's important to me because you want to play, but you're going to have good competition at every major school, so I don't pay attention to it that much," Jurkovec said.

His recruitment will expand further this summer.

Jurkovec is targeting campus trips to several universities he has yet to visit, such as Clemson, Michigan State Spartans, North Carolina Tar Heels and Wisconsin Badgers. Penn State, Pittsburgh, Ohio State and Notre Dame Fighting Irish are expected to receive return visits from the coveted quarterback, who plans to attend camps at those schools.

While he seems very much content with current college opportunities, Jurkovec pointed to a West Coast program he'd like to add to the list.

"Stanford would be one," Jurkovec said, though he expressed it would likely require travel to Palo Alto in order to attend a Cardinal camp.

Still just halfway through his high school career, Jurkovec doesn't anticipate a lengthy recruitment.

"I feel like junior year might be the time to commit," he said.

That would set the stage for him to join a class well in advance of national signing day. The chosen program would acquire both a premier passer and a peer recruiter who can help construct a strong class around him.

 

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. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Projecting Biggest Upset for Each Week of 2016 College Football Season

Upsets are a key storyline during the college football season, and the 2016 campaign assuredly will bring unexpected results.

But when and where will the shockers occur?

Each week, an underdog will rise and knock off the favorite. We're giving it our best shot to project the timing. Most memorable upsets impact conference races, cause a shake-up in the polls or crush a program's championship dreams.

The list is composed of primarily power-conference tilts, though a couple of "Group of Five" matchups made the cut. Just remember, we don't hate your team, but we love Team Chaos.

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