NCAA Football

All-Big 12 Preseason Team 2016: Full Offense, Defense Rosters Announced

The All-Big 12 Preseason Teams were announced on Wednesday, highlighted by Heisman Trophy hopeful and Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. 

Here's how the offense looks:

And here's the defense:

Mayfield was one of the best players in college football a year ago, finishing fourth in the Heisman voting after throwing for 3,700 yards, 36 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Not surprisingly, he was also named the Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

Oklahoma led all Big 12 schools with nine players named to the all-conference preseason team, highlighted by Mayfield and running back Samaje Perine (1,349 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns last season).

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State's James Washington is one of the better returning wide receivers in the country after hauling in 53 passes for 1,087 yards and 10 scores a year ago. And Baylor's KD Cannon is another excellent receiver on the preseason team. He caught 50 passes for 868 yards and six touchdowns despite being second on the team's pecking order at the position behind Corey Coleman, who is now in the NFL.

Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson leads the defensive unit. The Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and last year's top defensive freshman is looking to build on an epic 2015 that saw him accumulate 61 tackles and seven tackles for loss.


You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on

Tennessee Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from SEC Media Days

Tennessee fourth-year football coach Butch Jones doesn't need to think too far back to when his Volunteers were so irrelevant that it was evident in the empty seats at SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama.

That was only 2013, when the downtrodden Vols and their unknown coach were afterthoughts. Now, after some heavy lifting on the recruiting trail and gradual-but-continual improvement on the field, UT is the favorite to win the SEC East.

The new commanded attention was evident in the packed house of media members who listened to Jones speak on Tuesday.

Expectations in Knoxville are high, but they don't make Tennessee shy. Amid his routine array of cliches, Jones never blinked at questions about predicted success from reporters on SEC Network's broadcast of SEC media days:

To me, I love it. That's what you work for. You want high expectations. You want high standards. I remember standing up here at the podium three short years ago, and the room was half-filled and nobody was talking about Tennessee football. ... That's why you play, is to be in a program like the University of Tennessee where everybody is talking about you. That's what you work for. Now it's what you do with that opportunity.

He also joked that he'd heard in all the years of the media picking the champion, it's only been right five times, so he didn't know if that was a good thing.

That was a moment of levity in a newsy press conference during which Jones discussed the settled Title IX lawsuit, injuries, new assistant coaches and shuffling of some coaching titles. All of that was headline-worthy, but the biggest thing for the Vols throughout this offseason is the hype.

Are the Vols worthy of the praise or will they wilt on the big stage, much the way they did with late-game flubs against Oklahoma, Florida and Alabama a season ago?

As expected, Tennessee didn't participate in much off-field trash talk (more on that later) in Hoover with classy representatives Joshua Dobbs, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cameron Sutton. But that doesn't mean they're robotically going through the motions.

Even Dobbs—the quarterback who is always so careful with his words—admitted to GoVols247's Wes Rucker that it's difficult to contain emotions when thinking about the possibilities:

Some Tennessee fans joked on message boards about playing drinking games when it came to Jones cliches, and he said his share. But there was a lot of sincerity sprinkled in.

There seemed to be a quiet confidence among the orange contingent in the Birmingham suburb. Unlike the blustery Gators trash-talking a day earlier, the Vols talked about how far they've come, but they also acknowledged that where you start means little versus where you finish.

That doesn't change the mentality of the team, according to Reeves-Maybin (via Rucker):


No taking the Gator bait

Last year, Jones stole the SEC spotlight when the normally reserved coach returned fire to former South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier's comment that the Vols and Arkansas were doing "cartwheels and high-fives" following 7-6 seasons in 2014.

There were no such verbal fireworks this year.

A day after Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis delivered the latest low blow in the Vols' direction following a few months during which defensive back Jalen Tabor tweeted several bulletin-board volleys toward UT, Tennessee players weren't biting.

First, here are Davis' comments regarding 11 consecutive wins over the Vols, via ESPN's Brett McMurphy:

Reeves-Maybin just shrugged it off. "Some guys talk," JRM said. "I just play."

"I don't really got time for that," added Sutton, via the Orlando Sentinel's Edgar Thompson.

That doesn't mean that once Tennessee gets between the white lines, it's a group of altar boys. Sutton doesn't like to run his mouth, but that doesn't stop his teammates from running it for him. They're 18-22-year-old kids, for the most part, so the chatter remains heavy on the field.

Reeves-Maybin joked with Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee that he'll pick up Sutton's slack if he keeps his trap closed following a big play:


Working titles

Not only did Jones expound on new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and tight ends coach Larry Scott on Tuesday, he also announced that some assistants would be adding some clout to their titles.

Jones announced that Scott—whom the Vols plucked from Miami—would also become UT's special teams coordinator, holding both titles former UT assistant and current Eastern Kentucky head coach Mark Elder held in Knoxville.

Also, running backs coach Robert Gillespie will be assistant head coach for offense, and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen will serve as defensive run-game coordinator.

Jones was very complimentary of the impact Shoop and Scott have made thus far in his press conference on the SEC Network telecast:

In terms of the coaching staff, we have two new additions. We have a new defensive coordinator in Bob Shoop. Bob has done a great job of coming in. We've really reaped the benefits since he joined our staff. He's done a great job of building the relationships that it takes to be extremely successful with not only our defensive players but everyone in our football family and our football program. And then Larry Scott, who coaches our tight ends and also be our special teams coordinator, has done a great job, just like Bob, of really establishing relationships. It's new energy. It's new ideas.

Though continuity has been a vital cog in Jones' first few years as a head coach, he's injecting some new blood this year. He hopes it pays big dividends.


Title IX still on Jones' mind

An ugly chapter reached a conclusion last week when UT agreed to settle a Title IX civil lawsuit with multiple Jane Does for $2.5 million.

It was a certainty that Jones would be asked about the lawsuit at SEC media days on Tuesday, and he didn't shy away from responding, according to the Tennessean's Adam Sparks.

"I don't view it as a relief," Jones said. "I don't view it as put behind us. I think that's a serious matter, a serious issue that every college, every university, every college campus faces. It's also in society as well. We'll continue to have that as a learning experience for our football program."

Jones noted that he'd continue to educate his players on the issues and continue to bring in guest speakers to address the real-world issues that face everybody—not just on college campuses.

Other newsy items that were discussed on Tuesday:

  • Tennessee rising sophomore star Shy Tuttle saw his 2015 season cut short with a year-ending leg injury suffered against Georgia. Jones said the defensive tackle will resume running next week and would be "50 to 75 percent" when fall camp starts. That's a little less optimistic than what Vols fans were expecting, but UT needs him healthy for the bulk of the conference schedule.
  • Reeves-Maybin was named Tuesday to the Butkus Award watch list. The award honors the nation's top linebacker.
  • Think Dobbs can't do it all? Well, he may need to improve his air assault on the field this year, but he's pretty good already in the air. The quarterback literally helped fly Jones, Reeves-Maybin and Sutton back to Knoxville following Tuesday's festivities.


All information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. All stats gathered at unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on

Ohio State Football: QB Tate Martell Will Help Ohio State Sign No. 1 Class

On June 12, Urban Meyer and Ohio State earned a verbal pledge from Tate Martell—a 4-star prospect and the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country. He was the 13th pledge in the Buckeyes' recruiting class, and he further tightened Ohio State's grasp on the No. 1 spot for the 2017 cycle.

And with Martell in the fold, Ohio State's grip on that top spot shouldn't loosen. 

Martell himself is a special talent who would instantly boost any recruiting class in the country. He's the No. 33 overall prospect nationally, and his impressive offer list indicates that he could play anywhere he wanted. 

He had collegiate offers before his first day of high school, which resulted in an early commitment to Washington. He later decommitted and pledged to Texas A&M before a coaching change made him reconsider.

"I made a decision in seventh grade," Martell said, according to Ryan Connors of SB Nation. "I can’t really give you a reason for that besides that I was 13 years old and immature. [Texas A&M], I thought, was the place for me, but with the coaching change and stuff like that I know it wasn’t the best fit for me."

That's the road that led him to Ohio State, and now that he's committed, he's taken it upon himself to make the Buckeyes the king of the recruiting world.

That process started the day he jumped on board with Ohio State. 

Martell has always been a vocal football player, a trait that has come naturally as the quarterback at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. He's carrying that role over to the recruiting field and helping Ohio State recruit its top remaining targets.

The first domino to fall was Wyatt Davis, a 5-star offensive guard and the No. 15 overall player in the country. 

Davis' commitment gave Ohio State a nation-leading three 5-star commitments, but looking at Martell's board, that's just the tip of the 5-star iceberg. 

Two of the Buckeyes' top targets are on the perimeter in 5-star wideouts Tyjon Lindsey and Trevon Grimes. Martell gave the pair a glimpse into a potential future at Ohio State last week at The Opening Finals, where the three were paired together on Team Alpha Pro for the seven-on-seven tournament.

Both Lindsey and Grimes are overwhelming favorites to commit to Ohio State, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions.

It doesn't stop there, of course. The Buckeyes are also favored to land 5-stars Jeffrey Okudah (safety), Cam Akers (running back) and Chase Young (defensive end), and they're in the running for Donovan Peoples-Jones (wide receiver) and Baron Browning (linebacker).

Ever-present in Ohio State's pursuit for the nation's top-flight talent is Martell, who's using the Buckeyes' recent success to sell a bright future.

"It kind of speaks for itself at Ohio State," Martell said of his pitch to other recruits, according to Tom VanHaaren of "All the guys that got drafted and every kid’s dream is to make it to the NFL. If that’s your goal then [Ohio State]’s the place to be for that."


All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

Read more College Football news on

Why It's All or Nothing for Texas A&M and Kevin Sumlin in 2016

HOOVER, Ala. — Although he didn’t go into details, Kevin Sumlin disclosed on Tuesday afternoon that he’s exchanged some text messages with his troubled former quarterback, Johnny Manziel, during the past few weeks.

“He's always going to be an Aggie,” the Texas A&M head coach explained to reporters at SEC media days, but that’s about as far as he wanted to go down that road, both in terms of disclosure and his team’s approach to the upcoming season.

If Texas A&M’s had a theme song during the head coach’s four-year tenure, it might be “Living on the Edge,” as the Aggies have been all over the place in terms of expectations and subsequent success and failure.

Granted, each Sumlin-led team finished with a winning record, but while all were at some point ranked in the Top 10 of the Associated Press Poll, only one finished there, with another in the Top 25. The other two drama-filled seasons sort of fell apart, contributing to the growing perception that the Aggies were a regressing program despite their promising potential. 

Not too long ago, back-to-back 8-5 seasons would have been considered pretty good for Texas A&M, but the bar has been raised. Now the coach is trying to get away from all that. In fact, he knows he has to for the 2016 team to come close to its potential.

Fortunately for Sumlin, the last few months have been quiet in College Station while he’s moved the pieces into place for his team to again be a real force in the SEC West.

“I like where we are,” Sumlin said. “I like the chemistry of this football team. I like where the locker room is. I like where their mind is.”

That’s a far cry from the way Sumlin felt after the 27-21 loss to Louisville in the 2015 Music City Bowl, after which he had to do some soul-searching about himself and the direction of the program.

One consequence was shaking up his coaching staff, with three moves, including Noel Mazzone replacing Jake Spavital as offensive coordinator. It’s the second straight year in which Sumlin’s hired a coordinator, which, combined with the departure of two high-profile quarterbacks, would normally indicate a coach reaching desperation, only Sumlin wasn’t done yet.

He added graduate transfer Trevor Knight, who had failed to hold on to the starting job at Oklahoma but gave the roster a veteran presence that had been sorely missing with the Aggies.

“Timing is everything,” Sumlin said. “You don't get a new quarterback and an offensive coordinator in seven, eight days if you don't have a plan.”

Knight called his initial move a “leap of faith” but feels like he’s now a “perfect” fit for the Aggies. The team has, in turn, rallied around him.

“When Trevor came in, he showed confidence,” junior wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones said. “He really shows that strength, determination and passion to go out. ‘I’m going to beat you until you beat me.’ That was his mindset in the spring, and he’s continued that through the summer.”

That approach didn’t work so well in Normal, Oklahoma, though.

Although Knight helped lead a victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 2013 season, that performance remains the biggest highlight of his career. Inconsistent play turned him into a reserve with the Sooners, and last season, he only attempted 40 passes—fewer than against the Crimson Tide.

“I think what has helped Trevor is some of that gunslinger has won games and some of that gunslinger cost him his job and has put him in the situation that he's in,” Sumlin said. “So, when you're dealing with a mature guy, a guy that understands and starts to understand his strengths and weaknesses maybe at the age of 23 that you didn't understand at 18 and you look in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, look, I got beat out and let's not just think about, you know, was the guy better than me?’ ‘What could I have done better?’ and he understands that.

“The growth during your career can happen quicker if you understand where your shortcomings are, and there was no greater teacher than losing this opportunity at Oklahoma.”

Ironically, the coach who had his best season with a gunslinger at quarterback now needs one not to be in order for his team to succeed.

Granted, Texas A&M has to be able to run the ball better, must improve at stopping the run and still has some major questions at linebacker, but having a veteran command the offense and the locker room might have made a big difference in how the 2015 season played out.

On a squad that now features an outstanding defensive line, standout safeties and a receiving corps with a ridiculous amount of talent, the Aggies could be a very tough team if Knight continues to click with his new teammates as well as Sumlin hopes.

For that, he needs the anti-Manziel, a player who learned from his on-field mistakes and matured. Otherwise, 2016 could be another roller-coaster season for the Aggies.

“It was pretty simple,” Sumlin said about the decision to name Knight his starter at the end of spring. “He earned it.”


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on

SEC Media Days 2016: Highlights, Comments and Twitter Reaction from Tuesday

Georgia, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M had their SEC media days on Tuesday, and few coaches were under the microscope quite like Georgia's first-year head coach, Kirby Smart.  

Smart, who is replacing longtime Georgia head coach Mark Richt, also has deep SEC ties. 

And he certainly learned a lot during his time as defensive coordinator at Alabama under head coach Nick Saban, which was reflected in his comments during his press conference, per Jim Kleinpeter of

The biggest thing for me is recognizing the difference... between a team and a program. A team is a group of young men playing together. The program is the entirety of that, what goes into that, how do we support these student-athletes off the field, what things can we give them from a nutrition standpoint, strength and development, their wellness, psychological development, everything we can do for the team and for the entire program is the stamp that I'd like to put on it.

The trademark for us is going to be big, physical, fast football team. We're not there yet, but we're certainly moving that direction. That's the stamp I would like to put on it.

College football pundit Paul Finebaum was impressed by the newly minted Georgia coach, according to the SEC Network:

The media also asked Smart about perhaps the most pressing pair of injuries in the SEC this summer, those suffered by running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The outlook for both remained up in the air, though things sound much better for Chubb, per Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times:

"That's a tough situation," Smart said. "Who would have thought at this point in time both guys would be on the sideline rehabbing?"

Smart said Chubb has been doing all workouts with the team in the offseason, but that could change when full practices begin. The biggest thing, Smart said, is for Chubb to regain confidence in his surgically repaired left knee. Michel had surgery to repair a broken forearm, but Smart didn't sound optimistic about his recovery.

"I don't know the expectation for Sony, whether he'll be back or not," Smart said.

Mark Schlabach of passed along more details on Michel:

And Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated didn't glean much optimism from Smart for either player's availability to start the season:

That would be a huge blow for Georgia. For a team with an unsettled quarterback situation and a new coach and system to adjust to, the absence of the team's top two offensive weapons is a rough way to start the season.

As for the quarterback situation—presumably an ongoing competition between Jacob Eason, Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey—Smart maintained that he hadn't decided on a starter yet.

"If I knew, I promise you I would tell you...but I don't know that," he said, per Baker.

Few decisions will be more important to Georgia in Smart's first year, and few will impact the SEC in general as much as Georgia's quarterback battle. In other words, there's little reason for Smart to rush to a hasty choice. 

Of course, quarterback seems to be a question for most of the SEC teams, as Brett McMurphy of ESPN pointed out:

Meanwhile, the media grilled head coach Dan Mullen during Mississippi State's media day for the school's decision to allow Jeffery Simmons to enroll. The talented defensive end was videotaped punching a woman multiple times while she lay on the ground. 

Simmons will be suspended for a game and will undergo counseling while he's at the school.

The reporters present pressed Mullen extensively on the decision to enroll Simmons. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports passed along some of the exchange between reporters and the coach:

Q: If it's your wife or your daughter [who Simmons hit], would you feel the same way about him?

Mullen: "I think he's a young man who deserves the opportunity. I have the opportunity to help mold him."

Q: If it was your family member [being assaulted], would you feel the same way?

Mullen: "I don't think it would be my family... In the video, I don't know if my family would be in that situation."

Q: Why not? Anybody can be on the ground and be assaulted.

Mullen: "Honestly, I'm very strongly against any violence... I think the video does not really define who that young man is.

"I would hate for anybody, for their life to be defined not only by 10 seconds of video ... that that is now all you get to do in life. You don't get an opportunity to get an education. You don't get an opportunity to be mentored by father figures when you don't have a father."

Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report didn't think Mullen handled all of those questions particularly gracefully:

Mullen did distance himself, somewhat, from the decision to bring Simmons aboard, however, per Dan Wolken of USA Today:

I wasn't involved as much. It was a university decision, but I was just thrilled that we're having Jeffery as part of our family coming in. As I said, I take a lot of pride as a coach on developing young men to be champions, not just on the field, off the field, and every part of their life to be successful in whatever it is they do, and that's not an easy process.

But he also acknowledged the responsibility he and the university would bear if Simmons had another incident of violence, per Staples:

Coach Butch Jones and Tennessee, meanwhile, were focused on finally breaking through to the nation's elite after the program's lackluster 21-17 mark in his first three seasons.

And Jones and Company have high expectations for 2016, as he said on Tuesday, per Drew Champlin of 

The expectations will never be greater than what we place on ourselves internally. You know, when we took over this football program, I think everyone understands what was in place. And so, you know, it's a tribute to them, it's a tribute to our staff. It's a tribute to our players. So I said we're going to sit back and we're going to work hard. We're going to work to be a better football program.

Jones also had a bit of fun, however, interrupting a session between Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and a small group of media members to tease Sumlin for arriving at the media days on a bus with air conditioning, via Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News

As for Sumlin, the media inevitably asked him about his former quarterback Johnny Manziel, who is out of football this season after a bevy of off-field issues in his short NFL career.

The Aggies head coach said that he's exchanged texts with his former quarterback, per Kyle Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Bottom line, he’s an Aggie," he said, per McMurphy. "He’ll always be an Aggie. At Texas A&M, we take care of each other"

He also dodged a few questions about Manziel, per Wolken, and perhaps justifiably so:

Not surprisingly, he also used the day to praise his current quarterback, Trevor Knight, per Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports:

It's hard not to draw the obvious comparison and contrast between Knight and Manziel on a day when the coach was asked about both.

The team's star defensive end, Myles Garrett, also praised Knight, per Sallee:

Garrett also set enormous goals for himself on the year, telling reporters he wanted to record 20 sacks in 2016 and be the top overall pick in next year's NFL draft, according to Alex Scarborough of

"I have to live up to my expectations, which is to break all the records that I can, dominate by a wide margin," he said. "Let it be unanimous. Don't let anyone be close to how good you are, no matter what the division is—one, two or three. It doesn't matter, everyone plays football. It doesn't matter who the competition is."

His teammates weren't doubting him.

"That's his personal goal," Knight said. "I personally think he can get it. Absolutely. I saw the way that, this spring, when I was in the middle of my drop, he was already on me. It was incredible. So if he puts his mind to it, I think he can do anything he wants."

Wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones agreed.

"Twenty sacks?" he asked. "I think Myles can do whatever he pushes his mind to. He's just a freak of nature. If Myles says he can get 20, he can get 20."

The rest of the SEC will be hoping he doesn't achieve that goal. After Garrett accumulated 12.5 sacks a year ago, however, few teams will be delusional enough to believe that he doesn't have the ability to dominate a game from his defensive end position. 

And after a Tuesday at SEC media days with a large focus on off-field concerns, former players and position battles, seeing some on-field action in two months will be nice. Big things are expected for Georgia, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M every season these days in the competitive SEC. 

All four programs have plenty of question marks to answer before the start of the season. Some were answered on Tuesday. Most won't be, however, until the games begin in September.


You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on

Power Ranking Top 25 2017 Recruits After The Opening

Midway through their final summer break of high school, top football prospects across America are preparing for final seasons at the prep level. This process includes individual and team offseason training, along with camp showcases.

The Opening, an elite invite-only event held July 5-10 at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, provided our latest glimpse of more than 150 athletes in the 2017 recruiting class. A busy week included combine testing, hours of installing systems, one-on-one drills and a seven-on-seven tournament.

While only linemen wore shoulder pads during action, intense competition tends to separate alpha dogs from the pack. Based on efforts at the country's premier prospect event and the overall impression players have made throughout their high school careers, here's how we rank the class' top 25 recruits nearly seven months shy of national signing day.

Begin Slideshow

Why the SEC's Lack of Star QBs Doesn't Even Matter

HOOVER, Ala. — If you're looking for quarterback star power around at SEC media days, you'll probably be wandering around the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel for a while.

There's not much of it. 

Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs and Texas A&M's Trevor Knight made the rounds on Tuesday, and Ole Miss' Chad Kelly will on Thursday.

Other than them...crickets. Now compare that to Big 12 media days, where eight of the 10 teams will bring quarterbacks.

The SEC quarterback 'crisis' (and we use that word loosely) began after the 2013 season when stars like Johnny Manziel, Zach Mettenberger, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray left, and has left a hole in the college football universe that seems to be getting bigger, not smaller.

I struggled when selecting my third-team All-SEC quarterback behind Kelly and Dobbs. A case could be made for Knight despite the fact that all of his snaps came with Oklahoma. The only other option is LSU's Brandon Harris, who received my vote despite a rather lackluster season in which he completed just 53.6 percent of his passes in 2015.

But if you think that lack of quality play from the QB position means that the SEC is bereft of contenders for the national title in 2016, think again.

Having a solidified star QB hasn't been a pre-requisite to BCS and Playoff success recently. 

Alabama is immersed in a quarterback battle that includes Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell, Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts. It's par for the course for the Crimson Tide, which has won back-to-back SEC titles with first-year starting quarterbacks thanks to offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's ability to adjust to his signal-callers on the fly.

What's more, six of the last seven national titles were won by first-year starting quarterbacks and 11 of the last 14 starting quarterbacks in the national championship game were first-year guys, if you count Deshaun Watson as a first-year starter on a full-time basis as a sophomore in 2015 for Clemson. 

"It has more to do, rather than the quarterback position, the positions around the quarterback that give [the quarterback] an opportunity to get a little bit better," Florida head coach Jim McElwain said. "Then, in turn, that quarterback has to elevate his play."

For some coaches, first-year starting quarterbacks have been the norm.

Auburn's Gus Malzahn broke in a new quarterback to his system every year from 2006-2013 during stops as either a coordinator or head coach at  Arkansas, Tulsa, Auburn and Arkansas State. It wasn't until Nick Marshall returned in 2014 after winning the SEC title that Malzahn got to build on a full season with one starter.

"We've been here and done this before," Malzahn said. "In 2013, we were in a similar situation when we were wide open at the quarterback position, and of course Nick Marshall won it with about two weeks to go in fall camp."

Mississippi State's Dan Mullen is charged this year with replacing one of the best players in program history, quarterback Dak Prescott. While recognizing that veteran signal callers understand that a deep shot called doesn't always mean to take the shot deep and check downs can be a quarterback's best friend, he also confirmed that proper coaching can go a long way toward overcoming inexperience.

"You have to be flexible to build around the strengths of your quarterback," Mullen said. "I think when you have that dual threat, it makes the defense have to account for all 11 players on offense on every single snap. And so we've been able to get more of those guys into the program that keep defenses on edge."

The space between the ears and ensuring that inexperienced players are prepared for hostile atmospheres is far more important to determining a successful quarterback than live game reps.

"The biggest challenge, I've found, is the young man coming on the field and being in that stadium for the first time," Mullen said. "Even a guy who hasn't taken a lot of reps and didn't start or play, they've been in a [road] stadium, seen the crowd and been there live and in-person."

While many of the quarterbacks are unproven entering 2016, the threat quarterbacks who can stress defenses with their arms and legs, while also providing the element of the unknown, is something that can trip up even veteran defenders.

"That position, starting with guys like Cam Newton who could do it all, are very athletic," said senior Mississippi State linebacker Richie Brown. "They're not just pocket passers, but they can be pocket passers. It's a huge threat when you have these guys who can run 4.4s or 4.5s who are athletic and big. It really stresses you as a defense."

The roster turnover in college football, nomadic nature of the coaching profession and influx of ultra-athletic quarterbacks have rendered quarterback experience to a secondary role in predicting a team's eventual success.

Don't write off teams like Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Auburn and others in the SEC who lack star power at the quarterback position in July.

The cast around Alabama has proven that it can help lead a quarterback to success, regardless of the style of that particular player. Texas A&M lured Oklahoma graduate transfer Trevor Knight to College Station, after having thrown for more than 300 yards in each of his two starts against SEC competition while with the Sooners (vs. Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl and vs. Tennessee during the 2014 regular season).

Auburn has found success with mobile junior college transfer quarterbacks in the past (Newton in 2010 and Marshall in 2013). Georgia's Jacob Eason, a true freshman from Lake Stevens, Washington, has as much upside as any incoming freshman in the country.

The floor for Harris' Tigers is incredibly high thanks to a stout defense and the ability of running back Leonard Fournette to control the game. Even a small step forward from his 2015 production (Harris ranked 10th in passing yards, 11th in completion percentage and 8th in QBR last year in the SEC) could go a long way toward impacting the ceiling. 

And though some of the players who will line up under center in Week 1 aren't household names, a lot can change throughout the course of the season, as players improve and break out. 

"It's kind of fun to see [quarterbacks] grow up," McElwain said. "It's kinda cool."

College football has a funny way of creating star power during the season, and the SEC's track record suggests history will repeat itself by the time we get to the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship Game in December. 


Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of 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.

Read more College Football news on

Predicting Every College Football Conference's Surprise Team for 2016

College football is a wonderfully unpredictable sport. The yearly exit and entry of talented stars and incoming recruits makes the exercise of picking a preseason Top 25 poll an extremely difficult exercise. Last year, the final postseason poll featured 10 teams that didn’t crack the initial preseason poll in August, including a pair (Iowa and Houston) that finished in the Top 10.

There’s little doubt that 2016 will unfold in similar fashion. Even elite 2015 programs like Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma have questions to answer, and it would be no surprise if a team no one is talking about makes a name for itself this fall.

Here’s a shot at picking a surprise team from each FBS conference. Each team was picked on the basis of its returning talent, its schedule and its overall potential. Will all of these picks hit? Maybe, maybe not. But make no mistake: There will be surprises, and we hope to identify at least some of them here.

Begin Slideshow

Georgia's Kirby Smart Handled 1st SEC Media Days Like a Seasoned Veteran

Kirby Smart rarely talked to the media as Alabama's defensive coordinator. Under Nick Saban, he didn't have the weekly press conference obligations of many top assistants in college football.

When Smart walked up to the podium Tuesday morning in Hoover, Alabama, for his first appearance at SEC media days as Georgia's head coach, a lot of intrigue surrounded him. Would he be tight-lipped or overwhelmed by the bright lights and the big stage?

Twenty-six minutes later, the answer was a resounding no. Smart looked like he had been doing this his entire career.

"He may be a rookie head coach, but he sounded like a veteran," radio host Paul Finebaum said on the SEC Network broadcast of media days. "I've been coming to these things for a long time, and I've never heard a rookie head coach like that. He was brilliant."

Smart looked like a seasoned veteran of the SEC media circuit from the start of his opening statement, which stretched more than 10 minutes and covered everything from thanking his sports information director to breaking down the percentage of reps taken by his three competing quarterbacks in the spring.

It was an opening statement that rivaled those of experienced head coaches such as LSU's Les Miles and South Carolina's Will Muschamp in terms of length:

But the meat of his time at the podium came in the Q&A portion, and Smart also handled that like a pro.

One of the biggest topics of discussion heading into the day was the health of Smart's two star running backs, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who are recovering from very different injuries.

Smart continued to be cautiously optimistic in his view of Chubb's recovery from the season-ending knee injury he suffered against Tennessee.

"Nick's progressed really well," Smart said. "Nick's working hard. I repeat that every time I talk. ... He's doing everything with the rest of the team as far as summer workouts. He may not do everything right away as far as tackling and scrimmaging, but ultimately he's got to gain confidence in that knee back. He's taking steps in the right direction."

It's a wise move from Smart, as he doesn't want any definitive statement to backfire on him by the time the Bulldogs play North Carolina in their season opener.

Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated saw the response as Smart possibly preparing himself for the worst:

Smart also skillfully sidestepped a recruiting question from a reporter who asked about the importance of Georgia commitments Richard LeCounte III and William Poole III "pitching the UGA program" to other targets during the dead periods.

"Well, first of all, I can't comment on those guys at all," Smart quickly replied before downplaying the hype surrounding Georgia's current standing in recruiting rankings.

Smart didn't back down from questions about the number of arrests of Georgia players since he took over as head coach.

Eight Bulldogs have been arrested this offseason, including defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter, who Mark Schlabach of reported would face a suspension in 2016.

"I hate that for them," Smart said. "Our team has moved on. It's very important that we don't make the same mistakes twice. That's a big part of improvement. We'll do everything we can with plenty of support from our athletic department to put things in place to help our players not make the same mistakes again."

A consistent theme throughout Smart's time at the podium Tuesday morning was the importance of building an overall championship-contending program at Georgia—something he took from his time under Saban at Alabama.

Smart said that goes beyond just the 11 players on the field.

"The biggest thing for me has been learning the difference between a team and a program," Smart said. "That's where I want to put my stamp at the University of Georgia. ... A team is a group of young men playing together. A program is the entirety of that."

Smart showcased another aspect of program-building Tuesday in Hoover. As the head coach of a powerhouse school like Georgia, Smart is the face of the program. 

Being able to handle his increasing amounts of time in front of the media with the same amount of poise and clarity will be beneficial to Smart in his efforts to turn Georgia into a perennial contender.

Smart looked like a focused veteran at the podium during his first visit to SEC media days. If that's a possible sign of how prepared he'll look on the field this fall, Georgia is in a great spot for the future.


All quotes obtained from SEC Network's broadcast unless otherwise noted. Stats are courtesy of Recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a national college football analyst at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

Read more College Football news on

Ranking College Football's Best Weeknight Games of 2016 Season

College football isn't just about all-day Saturday binges. A real diehard fan has to be prepared to take in the action on almost a nightly basis thanks to the proliferation of weeknight games.

The 2016 regular-season schedule will feature college games on every night of the week, starting with the opening slate that runs from Thursday through Monday and into October and November when Tuesday and Wednesday games help us bridge the gap between one Saturday and another.

Many of these weeknight games were pulled from the weekend to put a bigger spotlight on them, giving them the attention they deserve. We're going one step further by ranking the 20 best of this lot, chosen and ranked based on the matchup, the timing and the importance to each participant's overall season.

Begin Slideshow

Why J.T. Barrett Is the Best Preseason Bet to Win the 2016 Heisman Trophy

COLUMBUS, Ohio — For all the talent Ohio State finds itself losing from last year's team—the 16 starters, the 12 draft picks and the five first-rounders—the Buckeyes have managed to remain mainstays on each email blast announcing another awards watch list this offseason.

The Maxwell Award, the Bednarik, the Rimington, the Ray Guy, the Butkus, the Outland and Nagurski Trophies—their watch lists all included Buckeyes, with more likely to be added as watch lists for the Lombardi and Wuerffel Trophies and Walter Camp Award are revealed in the coming days.

And while the sport's most prestigious individual award, the Heisman Trophy, doesn't participate in preseason watch lists, if it did, it's a safe bet Ohio State would be present on that one, too.

In fact, there may not be a better bet at this point in the almost-over offseason to win the 2016 Heisman Trophy than Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett.

At 15-1, lists Barrett as the player in college football with the sixth-best odds of winning the upcoming season's "Stiff Arm" Trophy, but even that seems to be selling short all the Ohio State signal-caller has working in his favor in the upcoming year.

While Barrett has already been present on the watch list for the Maxwell Award and is a shoe-in for the Davey O'Brien Trophy and Walter Camp Award watch lists as well, names of Buckeyes skill players elsewhere have been absent, which is indicative of the load the Wichita Falls, Texas, native will need to carry in Columbus in the coming year.

In theory, less help should hinder, not increase Barrett's Heisman chances. But whether it be with his arm or his legs, this is a player who's already proved capable of doing it all, as evidenced by his fifth-place Heisman voting finish as a redshirt freshman in 2014.

"If you play quarterback at Ohio State in this offense, you have to be a Heisman candidate," Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said following Ohio State's spring game in April. "Or we're going to suffer."

Meyer's message may have been aimed at the younger quarterbacks on the Buckeyes roster, Joe Burrow and Stephen Collier, but he didn't have to search far for an example.

Starting the 2014 season on short notice due to a preseason injury to Braxton Miller, Barrett proved to be a perfect fit in Meyer's spread offense, setting a school single-season record for total offense (3,772 yards) and the Big Ten record for total touchdowns (45).

Embroiled in a season-long quarterback competition with Cardale Jones throughout 2015, Barrett endured somewhat of a sophomore slump, which was low-lighted by an arrest for operating a vehicle while intoxicated right after he had seemed to solidify himself as the Buckeyes' starter.

But Barrett bounced back to close 2015 strong, regaining his 2014 form by tallying 559 combined yards and five touchdowns in wins over Michigan and Notre Dame at season's end. Furthermore, Meyer has insisted that he'd prefer to continue to open up the OSU offense as the Buckeyes did in the Fiesta Bowl, where Barrett threw for 211 yards on 31 attempts.

"I want to make some adjustments. I want more of a balance, like we were in 2014," Meyer said after his team's win over the Fighting Irish. "We need to throw the ball. J.T. threw it 31 times. That's more what I'm looking for."

With Ezekiel Elliott and his 1,821 yards headed to the NFL, the Buckeyes may not have any other choice. Experienced playmakers around Ohio State's 6'2", 225-pound quarterback are few, which could force Barrett to increase his workload on the ground, where he's proved to be a more-than-capable runner with 1,620 career rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.

With the numbers presumably there, the rest of the necessary criteria provided by could follow. He already plays a premier position at quarterback and possesses name recognition at a big-name school, which should give him plenty of opportunities in prime-time games on national television to state his case.

If that leads to the Buckeyes remaining in contention for a College Football Playoff spot throughout the season, it's a safe bet Barrett will find himself doing the same for the Heisman Trophy.

It may not take watch lists to figure that out, but thus far, they sure have helped show just how important Barrett will be to Ohio State—and by extension, college football—in 2016.


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. Recruiting and class ratings courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. 

Read more College Football news on

Michigan Football: Why RB Position Presents the Greatest Unknown in 2016

A basic look at Michigan's football roster shows an experienced roster riddled with returning starters and other team leaders. Running back is no exception, but there are two vastly different ways to frame the position.

You could say the Wolverines boast a two-time leading rusher and unquestioned starter. He's the No. 1 ahead of last season's backup as well as a previous highly touted prospect and an incoming 4-star recruit. Michigan is stacked with talent.

On the other hand, you could choose a pessimistic route.

De'Veon Smith's season-high mark is an unspectacular 753 yards. Drake Johnson managed just 271 yards last year, while Ty Isaac fell off the travel squad and still hasn't sniffed his 4-star potential. Kareem Walker enrolled early, but high expectations for true freshmen often go unmet.

Deciding which outlook is more correct doesn't matter. What's clear, however, is that the Wolverines can improve immensely at running back, yet there's no guarantee it happens in 2016.

Michigan's offense will not change from being a run-focused attack. That's a staple of head coach Jim Harbaugh's philosophy.

But last season, the offense mustered just 4.2 yards per first-down carry, which ranked 96th of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

Smith was even less effective. He gained just 397 yards on 105 attempts, averaging a meager 3.8 yards on the initial down. Plus, according to B/R research, 139 of Smith's 180 season carries—77.2 percent—gained five yards or fewer.

Nevertheless, Harbaugh said during spring practice the senior is currently the starter.

Perhaps Smith has taken significant strides in his development. After watching Harbaugh take what most analysts considered a 7-5 team to a 10-3 record, that possibility cannot be discarded so easily.

Then again, blind hope isn't smart, either. Situational usage certainly had a small effect on Smith, but he tallied a mere 28 total first downs in 2015.

Comparatively, Johnson moved the chains nearly half as many times (13) in less than three times the carries (54). He also recorded 10 gains of 10-plus yards compared to 15 for Smith.

So does that make the other senior a better option? Maybe. But after working back from his second torn left ACL, Johnson was run over by a forklift. Harbaugh said the accident "would have killed a lesser man," per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.

Lumping a freak incident with recurring knee issues to call Johnson injury-prone is unfair. Still, the redshirt senior must recover from a scary mishap and hasn't held a significant role for an entire season while at full strength.

That's a stark contrast to Isaac, who was available for all of 2015 but slipped out of the rotation anyway. To his credit, instead of grumbling, Isaac went to work.

"I had to calm down, relax, understand there were things I needed to work on," Isaac said, according to's Dan Murphy. "It's not like it was going to be the end of the world for me. I still have opportunities."

Isaac looked like a new and improved back during the spring game, twice displaying a previously unseen burst of speed on gains of 30 and 29 yards while running for a scrimmage-best 78 yards.

But putting stock in a spring game performance is equally as dangerous as expecting greatness immediately.

Walker—the No. 4 running back of the 2016 class—arrived on campus in January. He registered three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and a pair of 1,500-yard outputs in high school. Walker hopes that success will continue right away.

"I came here to be great," he said on signing day, per Nick Baumgardner of "I didn't come here to sit the bench."

Although the opportunity is apparent, Walker will probably serve as an occasional rotational piece this season—especially considering the way Harbaugh views Smith.

The biggest wild card of this situation, though, could be the offensive line. Four starters return, and projected left tackle Grant Newsome impressed the coaches enough as a true freshman to not only avoid a redshirt but earn meaningful reps.

After inserting Newsome against Michigan State, Harbaugh lauded the tackle. According to Josh Henschke of Scout, the coach said:

He's physically mature than most, mentally very sharp moreso than most. He's a battler, he's tough. He doesn't take a backseat since he's been here. He gives no quarter, takes no quarter. I like that about him, all those things. I know he's going to be really good and he's ready now, you get better at football by playing football.

Plus, the unit as a whole improved considerably between the 2015 regular-season finale and 2016 Citrus Bowl. Prior to this season's opener against Hawaii, position coach Tim Drevno will have completed two more monthlong sessions that further develop his players.

Maybe Michigan's O-line dominated the offseason and this is the year Harbaugh's philosophy becomes apparent. Besides, the running backs should avoid a collective negative label. Behind a decent blocking unit, the Wolverines would put together a couple of excellent games.

As excitement builds, however, expectations rise—sometimes to unfair or unattainable levels. Last year, the offensive line was a mediocre run-blocking group. The Wolverines aren't simply looking to improve on a borderline-great campaign; no, their proverbial bar needs to hit "acceptable" and "solid" before flirting with "great."

Anticipating much better than average results from Michigan on the ground in 2016 is likely based more on hope than actual previous performance.

Yet Harbaugh and Co. shattered expectations last year. Perhaps the backfield is another major, unexpected success story. Heading into the season, there's no definitive conclusion either way.


All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on

SEC Media Days 2016: B/R Barrett Sallee's Predicted Order of Finish

HOOVER, Ala. — It's time for rubber to meet the road.

The SEC sent out ballots for predicted order of finish in each division and the SEC Championship Game on Tuesday morning. The conference will tabulate and release its full "media" picks on Thursday afternoon at the conclusion of the four-day event at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - The Wynfrey Hotel.

Over the years, the group as a whole hasn't been right very much.

At Bleacher Report, we're in the business of transparency. Here is how I submitted my ballot for the predicted order of finish in the SEC and the result of the SEC Championship Game.


SEC East

  1. Tennessee
  2. Florida
  3. Georgia
  4. Vanderbilt
  5. South Carolina
  6. Kentucky
  7. Missouri

Yes, that's right—Tennessee is my pick to win the East for the second straight year (Georgia received the overall media vote).

Last year, I was one play away from being right, as Tennessee gave up a 4th-and-14 touchdown with just under 90 seconds remaining in its late-September game at Florida, which ultimately kept the Volunteers out of the SEC Championship Game. 

This year, the Vols will return to the Georgia Dome in December for the first time since 2007. The roster is the deepest and most complete in the division. The Vols upgraded at defensive coordinator with Bob Shoop, and they should be able to take the next step in the passing game thanks to the emergence of Preston Williams. They also get Alabama and Florida at home.

For the second straight season, that Florida game will be the one that decides the division, with Tennessee breaking its 11-year losing streak to the Gators. 

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs will show flashes of brilliance, but inexperience at the line of scrimmage will cost them a couple of games.

Behind the Bulldogs, Vanderbilt is dangerous with a defense that's one of the best in the SEC. The Commodores—who also finished fourth last year—won't win the SEC East but will scare the daylights out of a couple of teams and could spring an upset or two. South Carolina, Kentucky and Missouri have far too many questions and will be fighting uphill battles to make bowl games.


SEC West

  1. Alabama
  2. Ole Miss
  3. Auburn
  4. Texas A&M
  5. LSU
  6. Mississippi State
  7. Arkansas

Out West, it's Alabama's division to lose until further notice.

It won't lose it in 2016. 

The Crimson Tide defense is as deep, talented and fast as it has ever been, and it's loaded with potential high-round draft picks, including defensive end Jonathan Allen, linebackers Tim Williams and Reuben Foster, and defensive backs Eddie Jackson, Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Are there questions on offense? Sure. But offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is back for his third season with the Crimson Tide and has proved over the last two years that he can handle massive roster holes and still lead the team to success.

Ole Miss has earned a little bit of that benefit of the doubt as well. The offensive line has been an issue for about two years now. The Rebels haven't been able to run between the tackles for three seasons and have still earned two straight New Year's Six bowl berths, improving every year under head coach Hugh Freeze.

Auburn and Texas A&M both made moves to improve their rosters this offseason. The health of defensive end Carl Lawson combined with a veteran defense that gave up just 339 yards per game over the final five games of 2015 and the presence of dual-threat quarterback John Franklin III will keep Auburn competitive. Behind the departures of two former quarterbacks and some Twitter shenanigans, Texas A&M hired the right offensive coordinator in Noel Mazzone to run the power spread offense, has a loaded defense that should improve in Year 2 under John Chavis and landed one of the best graduate transfer quarterbacks on the market in Trevor Knight.

Then there's LSU. The Tigers are essentially a mirror image of what they were last year. The defense should stay elite thanks to returning stars and the arrival of new coordinator Dave Aranda, and the running game is in good hands with Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. But head coach Les Miles has employed an ultra-conservative offense for nearly a decade and hasn't shown the creativity and flexibility needed to win games 45-42 consistently when Plan A doesn't work. I can't count on that changing this offseason, which is why I have the Tigers tied for third in the SEC West with Auburn and Texas A&M but losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with each to finish fifth.

Mississippi State and Arkansas will both be competitive and make bowl games, but this a retooling year for each. 


SEC Championship Game

Alabama over Tennessee.

Yes, this will be a rematch of "The Third Saturday in October" in Neyland Stadium and serve as a revenge game for Alabama—which will fall in Knoxville to the Vols. 

The Crimson Tide won't fall in December under the big top in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game.

Alabama will win a hotly contested SEC Championship Game, claim its third straight SEC title and make its third straight College Football Playoff over a Tennessee team that is not only worthy of the hype, but will be vying for a playoff spot as well.


Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of 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.

Read more College Football news on

Bleacher Report's Top 25 2017 Recruiting Classes After The Opening

A total of 13 players from the 2017 class ended their recruiting processes last week as the 2016 edition of The Opening took place. Five announced during Bleacher Report's "Commitment Week," and eight others made their decisions live either via Bleacher Report or ESPN.

With their decisions, there were shakeups in the team recruiting rankings. Some schools saw their stock rise, while others may have taken a slight dip because of the success of the schools around them.

Recruiting is a marathon and not a sprint, as final rankings will emerge after national signing day. For now, Bleacher Report wants to provide a top-25 recruiting ranking for the 2017 class. Rankings were based upon a team's success at landing 5-star recruits, 4-star recruits and its overall ability to fill its needs.

Begin Slideshow

SEC Media Days 2016: Highlights, Comments and Twitter Reaction from Monday

For the first time since 2004, the belle of the SEC media days ball was nowhere to be found. Steve Spurrier's absence cast a shadow over Hoover, Alabama, on Monday as things got underway for the 2016 session.  

The Head Ball Coach and owner of roughly the 1,000 best quotes from the SEC dog and pony show retired as South Carolina's head coach six games into the 2015 season, ceding his program and the spotlight to a new generation. Spurrier had been a head coach at an SEC program for all but three years (2002-04) since 1990.

Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Florida's Jim McElwain and Vanderbilt's Derek Mason all spoke on opening day, along with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. Here is a look at some of the most notable quotes from each respective press conference and reaction from the always-reasonable SEC fandom.


SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey

Sankey refused to say his conference had a problem with off-field issues despite a number of ongoing cases at multiple schools, per Alex Scarborough of 

If we really evaluate what's at the center of some of the recent articles, we're talking about some issues that probably occurred in 2012 and 2013 that are just being adjudicated. We might be talking about one or two or three individuals and their misbehavior. I don't think that attaches properly to the entire conference. The body of work in this conference far outweighs those problems, yet we are attentive to those realities. We understand when the issues arise, we need to be even more attentive, whether that's on campus or as a collective group.

Ole Miss is under investigation for alleged NCAA violations, while Tennessee recently settled a Title IX lawsuit regarding its handling of alleged sexual misconduct. Missouri men's basketball has also run afoul of NCAA bylaw.

“Our institutions are expected and will continue to handle these matters with integrity,” Sankey said, per Scott Rabalais of the Advocate. “We hope both of the current matters are completed in a timely manner. We understand there are issues that arise. That’s why the expectation for integrity is so high. And as we move forward together, we can’t have any more of those issues arise." 

Going further, Sankey took the time to explain the conference's policy on incoming players. While transfer students can and are restricted for past criminal activity, that is not the case for incoming freshmen. When asked why that's the case, Sankey offered a detailed response, per Scarborough:  

Our working group spent a lot of time dealing with that. A couple of concerns were consistently identified with that. A couple of concerns that were consistently identified, which is, what can you know, what can you learn through something, particularly one's juvenile past. Can you access information in a consistent way? When someone enrolls in college, they're generally an adult, you expect you'll have access to more consistent information to make decisions.

So we as a group decided and said, let's go further on transfer issues, since they have been adults on a university campus.

Sankey also took the time to address the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and five Dallas police officers last week, per Rabalais:

Last Monday, we, as a nation, celebrated Independence Day. Parades, field days and fireworks provided gatherings that are special that bring people together in America. One week seems like a long time ago. The sadness from the past few days remains on all of our minds, and it’s appropriate to make that observation up front as it remains in our hearts as well. This is one of those times in our nation where we weep, we mourn, for those families and cities who have experienced loss.

Dan Wolken of USA Today commented on the measured approach Sankey took:


Gus Malzahn, Auburn

After Auburn posted a 15-11 record over the past two seasons, Coach Malzahn is sitting on an increasingly hot seat three years after leading the Tigers to a national championship game berth. Malzahn's offense has sputtered, nosediving all the way to 80th in total offense in 2015. 

Auburn's 27.5 points per game last season were a dozen fewer than its 2013 run. Malzahn spoke of his desire for a return to form, per James Crepea of

Offensively, one thing we have focused on in the spring and will in fall camp, getting back to playing with pace. That's the edge of ours in the past, and that's got to be the same this coming year. Also executing at a high level. We always pride ourselves in executing at a high level. Last year we didn't dote get that done. Those were the two focuses from my standpoint to get this thing turned around so we can play quality offense like we expect.

Malzahn said one way he looks to ensure a return to form from the Tigers is getting more involved in the day-to-day coaching and play-calling himself: 

One thing that really hit me pretty hard is that I got to be more active with the daily X's and O's and coaching that goes with that. And that's what I look at as my strength. And so that's what I meant by that, and I'm looking forward to getting back in the middle of things and enjoying the actual coaching on the field.

Malzahn categorized the way things fell apart in 2015 as "humbling": "We had high expectations, and we do every year. We weren't able to reach our goals. And that was very frustrating, and it was very humbling to go through an experience like that. And I think you got to evaluate everything, like we talked about. You got to figure out a way to improve."

The coach cited his team's failures in close games as the biggest reason the Tigers dropped toward the bottom of the conference:

In this league, you're going to have a lot of close games. The two previous years, we were one of the best in the country at winning close games. And we had opportunities. And usually it comes down in this league to two or three plays in these close games, and you got to find a way to make them and you got to have your guys prepared and you got to be able to execute.

Saturday Down South noted the amusement of the mostly by-the-books presser:

On the subject of domestic violence, Malzahn said "we do our homework" on who Auburn brings in:

Matter of fact, we do our homework thoroughly on everybody we recruit. I've said before as far as domestic violence is something that we don't touch. But we do our homework on everyone we bring in the program. There's a lot of information out there these days, which makes it—makes it better. But, you know, that's just our approach.


Jim McElwain, Florida

After McElwain's largely successful debut season at Florida, a lot of his presser revolved around the discussion of other programs. McElwain, who was Nick Saban's offensive coordinator from 2008-11, said the Alabama head coach could go for as long as he wants.

"I think he can go forever," McElwain said, per Michael Casagrande of "That's just how he's wired."

"I didn't see one less bounce in his step, anything like that," McElwain continued. "And you know what? He's—the guy's something special."

A member of the media also asked McElwain about Florida State supplying its players with state championship rings after it defeated Florida, Miami and the University of South Florida last season. His response was one of bemusement while also arguably throwing a little shade at his own administration.

"Well, I mean, they won it, so why wouldn't you?" McElwain said, per Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports. "That's a hell of a deal."

"I don't really get that jacked up in that stuff," McElwain continued. "I've got too much to worry about with our guys, and yet I know what a great job they do up there and what a great program they have. [Head coach] Jimbo (Fisher) has done an outstanding job, when he took over changing that thing and winning a bunch of ballgames.

"I don't know whether our administration has it in our budget to do that. I don't know."

Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports commented on the curious nature of the presser:

On the subject of his own team, McElwain offered insight into the statuses of receivers Antonio Callaway and Treon Harris. Both were suspended from the program in January and have returned to the team for workouts. They have not, however, been fully reinstated.

"Right now they're obviously back on campus, doing team workouts and some things like that," McElwain said, per Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times. "Nothing's been resolved yet, and there's really not a time frame on it."

"More than anything, the help you have academically at Farrior Hall and the Hawkins Center is huge. That's really what it's all about. We'll see," McElwain continued.


Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

First, let's pay respect to Mason and his dope suit:

Seriously, this thing is a one-in-a-kind beauty:

When the conversation finally turned to his football team, the Vanderbilt head coach revealed himself as a dreamer who has high hopes for the Commodores.

"This football team knows how to compete," Mason said, per Evan Reier for "But it's not about competing, it's about winning. ... We let some things slide, we missed some opportunities, and that has not gone unnoticed by this football team."

Vanderbilt is 7-17 in Mason's two seasons. However, the team improved to a 2-6 record in SEC play last season—thanks in part to the head coach retaking defensive play-calling reins.

"People looked at me a year ago and thought I was crazy for going back and calling defense," Mason said. "But that's my wheelhouse. I'm a head coach who understands exactly what my strengths are."

Mason also took time out to back his selection of rising sophomore Kyle Shurmur as his starting quarterback.

"Towards the end of the season, you saw an occasion for a young quarterback by the name of Shurmur," Mason said. "He played some meaningful football in those last three-four games. That's important. I have named Shurmur the starter, that's where we are. ... He is the guy to lead this football team."

Also of great importance:

If nothing else, Mason had the most entertaining of the press conferences Monday.  

Read more College Football news on

Florida Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from SEC Media Days

Defending SEC East Division champion Florida got its turn in front of the cameras and microphones Monday during the first day of SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama. And not surprisingly, many of the questions coach Jim McElwain and his Gators players faced were related to the team's offense.

Florida managed to win 10 games in 2015 despite ranking 11th in the conference in scoring and 12th in yards per game. The offense went into a major backslide after quarterback Will Grier was suspended by the NCAA in mid-October for a failed drug test, with the Gators averaging 16.5 points and 296 yards over their final eight games.

A three-game skid to end the season put a sour note on the overall season, with Florida managing just 24 points in that span.

"I'm very disappointed in how we finished," McElwain told reporters. "Not something we're proud of or something we take very lightly. Learning from that, it will be interesting to see how this team responds. Looking forward to seeing what this team is all about."

There's an ongoing competition to determine the starting quarterback, with two true freshmen (Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask) and two transfers (Purdue graduate Austin Appleby and ex-Alabama/Oregon State passer Luke Del Rio) battling for the job. The winner will be working behind an offensive line that was a major weakness a year ago, allowing 45 sacks in 14 games.

McElwain noted that playing three true freshmen on the line contributed to the struggles but that it should also help this year in terms of experience and expectations. He'd ideally like to have a rotation of nine guys to shuffle through the five line spots, with versatility needed across the board.

To that end, sophomore Martez Ivey—who was the nation's No. 1 offensive tackle prospect in the 2015 recruiting class—is being worked at guard heading into this season, per Zach Abolverdi of SEC Country.

"Our offensive line play has got to get better," McElwain said.


Personnel update

Much of how Florida operates on offense might depend on whether it has a full assortment of wide receivers to work with. For now, that's still very uncertain.

Antonio Callaway and Treon Harris, suspended since January for unspecified reasons, remain in a state of limbo as far as their status with the football program. McElwain said the duo are enrolled in school and "using the academic center and working out," but beyond that, nothing has been resolved.

"There's not really a timetable on that," he said.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted McElwain said it's "out of his hands" about whether the duo will be on the roster for 2016.

Callaway led the Gators with 678 receiving yards last year as a freshman, his four touchdown catches tying for the team lead. Harris, who was switched from quarterback in the winter, threw for 1,676 yards and nine TDs while rushing for 238 yards last season. He also caught a TD pass in Florida's 41-7 loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.

If neither player is available this season, Florida's top returning pass-catcher will be junior Brandon Powell, who had 29 receptions for 390 yards three TDs in 2015.


Forgotten front-runners

As previously referenced, Florida won the SEC East and played in its first conference title game since 2009. Yet a high percentage of questions posed to McElwain, offensive lineman David Sharpe, linebacker Jarrad Davis and safety Marcus Maye were in reference to other teams.

Beyond the expected queries about reigning SEC and national champion Alabama, the Gators were asked about East Division foes Georgia and Tennessee, West contender Ole Miss (whom Florida beat in 2015 but doesn't play this past season) and even in-state rival Florida State.

The Gator contingency deftly handled these inquiries, with McElwain saying he wished new Georgia coach Kirby Smart was in "another division somewhere" and giving props to FSU for the state championship rings it gave to its players by virtue of going 3-0 against other Florida teams in 2015.

"They won it, so why wouldn't you?" McElwain said. "That's a hell of a deal."

But it wasn't all humility and diplomacy. Davis made the most of an opportunity to throw shade at Tennessee:

Florida has won 11 straight games against Tennessee, including last year's come-from-behind 28-27 win in Knoxville. The Gators and Volunteers meet in Gainesville, Florida, on Sept. 24 in a matchup that figures to go a long way toward deciding the SEC East.


Florida fashion

SEC media days have become an unofficial offshoot of New York's famed Fashion Week, with last year's edition featuring discussions on footwear and other clothing items. Through one day in 2016, the biggest apparel topic seems to be about socks—or the lack thereof.

McElwain is apparently not a fan of wearing them. He told ESPN's Mark Schlabach that even his daughter's upcoming wedding won't change his aversion to socks:


All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports, unless otherwise noted. All statistics provided by CFBStats, unless otherwise noted.

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on

Auburn Player Discipline and the Top Moments from Gus Malzahn at SEC Media Days

Player discipline will be a constant topic at this week's SEC media days as several programs across the league prepare to answer questions about suspensions—or the lack thereof.

So it came as no real surprise Monday when Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn opened his time in Hoover, Alabama, by announcing four of his players would not miss any playing time in 2016 for their marijuana-related arrests during the spring.

Before taking the podium at the Hyatt Regency hotel, Malzahn told reporters cornerback Carlton Davis, defensive end Byron Cowart, cornerback Jeremiah Dinson and wide receiver Ryan Davis would not be suspended for their May arrests on misdemeanor marijuana charges:

The situation Malzahn faced entering SEC media days wasn't new to him. In 2014, former quarterback Nick Marshall was not allowed to attend the event after being cited for marijuana possession days before.

A few weeks later, Malzahn announced Marshall would not start in the 2014 season opener against Arkansas. Cornerback Jonathon Mincy—who was arrested for marijuana possession in June of that year—missed the opening series of the contest. 

Two years later, though, Malzahn is going a different direction with the discipline for marijuana charges.

Carlton Davis will be able to return as a key starter at cornerback September 3 against defending national runner-up Clemson. The other three players are expected to be important reserves when the season opens.

During his main time with the media Monday, Malzahn was asked by Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports if the caliber of Clemson played a role in determining the punishment for the players who got in offseason trouble.

Malzahn said it did not.

"We have the same expectations regardless of the opener," Malzahn said on the SEC Network broadcast. "It just so happens we're playing one of the best teams in college football, a team that almost won it all last year. ... We have high expectations from our players, no matter who we're playing the first game."

While the news of no suspensions for the four Tigers was by far the biggest highlight of Malzahn's fourth time at the event as Auburn's head coach, he also provided some insight on how he's heading into what will be a crucial 2016 season for him and his program.

Here are some more key takeaways from Malzahn and the Tigers' time in Hoover.


Get ready for a "hands-on" Malzahn in 2016 

Auburn is coming off the worst year of offense for a Malzahn-coached team—one filled with quarterback issues, poor execution and questionable play-calling in crucial situations.

On Monday, Malzahn was particularly candid about his responsibility in a season in which the Tigers ranked 86th nationally in yards per play and 74th in points per game.

"From an offensive standpoint, [2015] really was the first time since I've been coaching college that we didn't execute at, what I say, a high level consistently," Malzahn said. "And that goes back on me."

Malzahn sounded like a head coach who knows he's under great pressure to fix the once-stellar offense that got him hired at Auburn in the first place:

In order to prevent a repeat of those offensive woes, Malzahn said he plans to go back to his roots as a coach this season. He said he was too much like a CEO of the team in 2015.

"One thing that really hit me pretty hard is that I got to be more active with the daily X's and O's and coaching that goes with that," Malzahn said. "And that's what I look at as my strength. ... I'm looking forward to getting back in the middle of things and enjoying the actual coaching on the field."

If Malzahn was indeed more hands-on with the offense in 2013 and 2014 than he was in 2015, then a turnaround on that side of the ball should be on its way for the Tigers.

The most crucial aspect of a potential bounce-back season on offense will be selecting the right starting quarterback. 

Malzahn, who was more hands-on with the quarterbacks during drills this spring, said Monday the battle continues to be open among JUCO transfer John Franklin III and former starters Jeremy Johnson and Sean White.

"The positive is we have three guys that we feel like can execute our offense," Malzahn said. "The challenge we have is defining and figuring out who that guy is that gives us the best chance to win games. The good thing is we do have experience in this."

Malzahn's focus on the three-way battle among Franklin, Johnson and White means true freshman quarterback Woody Barrett, who enrolled at Auburn late last month after some academic issues, will not compete for the starting job in fall camp.

"I think every player has a shot, but realistic right now the three older guys are going to be ahead," Malzahn said, per Michael Niziolek of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. "The fact that he just showed up two weeks ago, we are going to focus our attention on those three guys trying to win the position, and we will bring Woody along."


Great confidence in defense, despite coaching changes

It's been a while since Auburn has entered a season with more known qualities on defense than on offense.

But that's where the Tigers are right now in 2016. With so many questions about quarterbacks, play-calling and wide receivers on offense, the defense has the potential to be a strength again for Auburn. 

"We do have a lot of experience back, which I think is very important, we played well in the second half of the season," Malzahn said. "There's a lot of carryover, as far as our defense last year and defense this year, which I think is important. And I think we got a chance to have one of the best, if not the best, defenses we've had at my time at Auburn, which I think is very important."

A lot of Auburn's defensive success in 2016 will come down to one of the players he brought with him on the plane to Hoover on Monday—defensive end Carl Lawson.

Since he arrived at Auburn as a freshman in 2013, the Tigers defense has been better in almost every major stat category with him on the field. He missed all of 2014 and half of 2015 with injuries, so keeping him healthy will be vital, because he has elite talent.

"He's a game-changer. When you have a guy like that, it changes everything," Malzahn said. "And it really makes people better than maybe they are, or it hides some of your deficiencies. He's got that ability. ... He's at his fastest and quickest and strongest he's ever been."

Lawson will lead a defensive line that is so deep, 6'8" redshirt freshman defensive end Prince Tega Wanogho has moved over to the offensive line:

Auburn will be able to rely on the likes of returning starters such as defensive tackle Montravius Adams, safety Johnathan "Rudy" Ford, cornerback Carlton Davis, safety Tray Matthews and defensive tackle Dontavius Russell. 

But they'll still have to adjust to a new defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and defensive backs coach after the exodus of Auburn assistants to South Carolina this offseason. 

Still, with the changes to former LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, former Auburn linebacker Travis Williams and former NFL defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff, Malzahn remains confident in his defense.

"Our defenses responded extremely well," Malzahn said. "Our players were flying around during the spring. They were having fun with our defensive staff. You can just sense it when you go on the defensive staff room. They are all on the same page. It's a great feeling."

If Malzahn and his new-look staff can keep those good feelings going on both sides of the ball through the fall, then he'll be under a lot less pressure the next time he lands in Hoover for media days.


All quotes obtained from SEC Network's broadcast unless otherwise noted. Stats are courtesy of Recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

Read more College Football news on

The Biggest Takeaways from Ohio State Recruits' Performance at the Opening

BEAVERTON, Oregon — Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer has assembled college football's top-rated 2017 recruiting class in composite rankings, and several members of the group attended The Opening national finals this past week.

Held July 5-10 at Nike's world headquarters, the event featured more than 150 athletes from high school football squads across America. Recent alumni of The Opening include Leonard Fournette, Deshaun Watson, Ezekiel Elliott and Jalen Ramsey.

Ohio State recruits and targets arrived in abundance, competing alongside each other in seven-on-seven action and also making an impact in the trenches. Bleacher Report was in attendance throughout the week and observed a variety of Buckeyes-related developments.


J.K. Dobbins Receives Hardware from Former Buckeyes Star

J.K. Dobbins, a 5'9 ½, 199-pound running back from La Grange, Texas, committed to Ohio State in March. In Beaverton, he encountered one of the program's most impressive players of the Urban Meyer era.

Ezekiel Elliott, offensive MVP of the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship, was on location Friday when athletes underwent combine drills during the Nike Football Ratings Championship. An alumnus of The Opening, the dynamic Dallas Cowboys rookie running back commanded plenty of attention from recruits during his time on the field.

He spent some time with Dobbins shortly after the Ratings Championship wrapped up. The Lone Star State recruit took top honors at the event with a cumulative score of 146.76.

His effort included a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash, a 4.09 in the agility shuttle, a 42-foot power ball toss and a 43.1-inch vertical leap.

"Honestly, I felt I should've done better," Dobbins told Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani. "But, I came out on top, and that's been the main goal the whole time."

Elliott presented him with the trophy afterward. Now embarking on the next phase of his career, the No. 4 overall NFL draft pick appreciates a legacy of strong play at the position in Columbus will continue years after his departure.

"The thing that motivated me at Ohio State was continuing the lineage and upholding the reputation of the great pedigree of running backs," Elliott told Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles (via Kirpalani). "To see the next guy up come out and represent for the Buckeyes—for that running back role that so many greats played in—it's really good to see that."

Dobbins, who rushed for 4,971 yards and 72 scores during the past two seasons, didn't take the moment lightly.

"It's cool, man," Dobbins said. "He was an Ohio State running back, and I'm going to be the future there, hopefully. He's a great guy."


QB Commit Tate Martell and Targets Join Forces but Fall Short in Tournament

Things couldn't have started on a more positive note for Team Alpha Pro, a seven-on-seven squad stocked with Ohio State targets. The squad, also heavy on Georgia commits, shredded its first opponent Saturday, 33-0, carrying the swagger of championship favorite.

The tandem of Elite 11 finalists Tate Martell and Bulldogs pledge Jake Fromm appeared prime to deliver a deep run. The supporting cast included priority Buckeyes recruits Tyjon Lindsey, Jeffrey Okudah and Trevon Grimes.

When competition resumed Sunday, several onlooking analysts anticipated Alpha Pro would climb toward the top of bracket play. However, after earning a first-round bye, momentum was squashed.

Alpha Pro lost consecutive games in shocking fashion, failing to score a point in either contest. Offensive drives routinely reached the goal line and stalled, to the frustration of Martell:

It wasn't a banner day for the Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas) star, who hasn't suffered a loss through two seasons at the school. He's also been one of the country's most productive and successful seven-on-seven field generals.

Despite some struggles at The Opening and ensuing criticism on social media from rival fanbases, Martell maintained his composure and kept things in perspective. He told B/R those days of working with Ohio State commits and targets at The Opening were invaluable, and also noted it's time to get back to work at Bishop Gorman:

Longtime Ohio State safety pledge Brendon White expressed confidence in the quarterback to help take this talented class to a new level.

"Tate brings a lot of swagger to us," he said. "He has some people doubting him because of his size [5'10 ½"], but he's a very good athlete. He's going to help us put together the nation's best class and win championships."


Ohio State in Excellent Shape to Add More Top Talent

No college football program presently carries more combined 4-star and 5-star commitments than Ohio State (13), but there's reason to believe the Buckeyes are just getting started toward a rather amazing recruiting class.

Several elite talents at The Opening include Ohio State in their top group of collegiate options, including multiple 5-star prospects. These possibilities include a pair of premier pass-catchers in Grimes and Lindsey.

Lindsey is one of Martell's closest friends. Although USC, Alabama and Auburn are also in the pursuit, the Buckeyes are widely viewed as a slight favorite over Big Ten foe Nebraska. Rated No. 4 nationally among receivers, he earned first-team all-tournament honors at The Opening and expects to announce a decision in August.

Grimes has repeatedly gone on record to identify Ohio State as his favorite. The nation's No. 5 receiver also plans to reveal college plans next month, potentially setting the stage for Meyer to land both before the season starts.

Former Alabama running back commit Cam Akers, who was among the most explosive offensive weapons in Beaverton, is also high on the Buckeyes after multiple trips to Columbus. Rated No. 2 among rushers in the 2017 class, he could complement Dobbins well for years to come.

The Buckeyes are also among favorites for 4-star Tennessee offensive tackle Trey Smith, who could be in line for a 5-star bump soon in composite rankings after another impressive performance on the camp circuit.

"The Buckeyes are definitely in good contention with me," the 6'5 ½", 299-pound blocker told B/R. "I love Urban Meyer. He's a good dude, and obviously a great coach. He's got a family atmosphere up there, which I like a lot. It's a top-notch program."

Defensively, there are just as many possibilities to imagine for Ohio State fans.

Okudah, the country's top-rated safety, and Browning, the No. 2 outside linebacker, are both strong candidates to join new coordinator Greg Schiano's attack. Texas linebacker Anthony Hines, who held the most offers at The Opening with 90 scholarships, is also considering the Buckeyes.

Maryland edge-rusher Chase Young is another exceptional talent who could be on commitment watch with Ohio State. 

Interest also extended into the 2018 class at The Opening. Columbus-area all-purpose back Jaelen Gill was one of a few underclassmen invited. He's developed a strong rapport with Buckeyes assistant Tony Alford, and it may just be a matter of time until the local playmaker climbs aboard.

"This 2017 class is unreal," Gill said. "I also know they have a lot more great players coming in 2018, so things are going to keep getting better and better there."


Quotes and observations 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

The Biggest Takeaways from USC Recruits' Performance at The Opening

BEAVERTON, Ore. — High school football's premier prospects traveled to the Pacific Northwest from July 5-10 for The Opening's national finals at Nike's world headquarters.

As usual, the event included multiple USC Trojans storylines, including the presence of current standouts and future contributors. Head coach Clay Helton is looking to gain momentum as his first full cycle continues, and several competitors in Beaverton could ultimately aid that effort.

Bleacher Report spent the entire week witnessing developments on and off the field. Here are few USC tidbits from an action-packed showcase.


5-Star Running Back Commit Compares Himself to Leonard Fournette

Stephen Carr was amazed on Friday when The Opening staff revealed an awe-inspiring group of college counselors. It was heavy on All-Americans and Heisman Trophy contenders just a few years removed from competing at the event themselves.

Carr, rated No. 3 nationally among running backs, was particularly dazzled by the accomplished group of players at his position. The collection of counselors included Christian McCaffrey (Stanford), Nick Chubb (Georgia), Royce Freeman (Oregon) and Leonard Fournette (LSU).

"I was honestly starstruck," he told B/R. "It was incredible just watching them all walk onto the field together. I talked to McCaffrey for a while and he told me how much different the college game is from high school. You've got to be zoned in or you won't make it out there. It was a blessing to spend some time and learn from these guys."

Each member of the group would serve as a solid role model in terms of career trajectory, but Carr identified Fournette as someone he specifically hopes to measure himself against.

"I think I can match up with his style," Carr said. "He's a tough, physical runner who breaks tackles and can also get outside with his speed. That's a lot to deal with for a defense."

The 6'0", 202-pound California product is also an above-average receiver out of the backfield. He should contend for immediate touches in Los Angeles.


USC Squarely in the Picture for Top-Ranked Uncommitted Passer 

The Trojans carry a blue-chip 2018 quarterback commitment from 5-star recruit Matt Corral, but the position remains unaddressed in the 2017 cycle.

That could change this month if Jack Sears elects to join USC's class.

He hails from the same high school (San Clemente) that produced second-year Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold. Sears, rated No. 10 nationally among pro-style passers, didn't downplay the role of that relationship in his overall feelings toward USC.

"It's great having Sam there because I know I can trust him to give me his thoughts straight up," he told B/R. "He always talks about how much he loves it there."

Sears expressed plans to publicly pledge somewhere before August, naming USC as a legitimate local contender along with UCLA. He also recently visited Tennessee, Duke and North Carolina. 

The 6'3", 200-pound prospect produced 2,697 passing yards and 37 touchdown tosses last season while also inflicting damage as a capable runner. Sears is among the most athletic members of this Elite 11 class and was actually the only uncommitted quarterback in Beaverton.

"I like to go down my own path, and that's exactly how I'm handling the recruitment process," he said. "I know some quarterbacks have been committed for more than a year now, but I'm OK with taking my time while finding the right fit. I want to make my decision once, stick with it and have that be my home for the next four or five years."

Carr wouldn't give us a name but said a quarterback at The Opening informed him that a Trojans commitment could be coming. It would be a major upset if that player wasn't Sears.


Los Angeles Duo Could Further Bolster Trojans' Receiver Corps

Hawkins High School (Los Angeles) teammates Joseph Lewis and Jalen Hall form a fearsome tandem in the passing game. USC aims to keep these two together for years to come, and it's not far-fetched to think the Trojans are well positioned to eventually pick up both 5-star recruits.

Lewis, rated No. 2 nationally among 2017 receiver prospects, told B/R he's comfortable with the coaching staff.

"It’s a really cool relationship. I was just talking with [USC offensive coordinator] Tee Martin earlier. It was a really good talk. I’m good with those guys," he said. 

Lewis plans to use official visits at various universities, including Oklahoma, Nebraska and Arizona, but USC is still the safe bet to bring him on board this winter. That could ultimately set the stage for another celebrated receiver to sign in 2018, when Hall will be among the most coveted pass-catchers in his class. 

The rising junior already stands 6'3", 186 pounds and was the lone underclassman receiver invited to compete at The Opening. Hall, who reports 35 scholarship offers, intends to trim his list of options down to five or 10 teams later this year.

Helton and his staff would put the Trojans in enviable position if Lewis is on USC's roster when the decision-making process accelerates for Hall.

"We talk about playing together all the time and that would be special," he said. "We both need to make sure we're doing what's right for ourselves, but if it comes down to us attending the same school, that would really be great."


Quotes and observations 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

The Biggest Takeaways from USC Recruits' Performance at The Opening

BEAVERTON , Ore. — High school football's premier prospects traveled to the Pacific Northwest from July 5-10 for The Opening's national finals at Nike's world headquarters...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...