NCAA Football

Who Has the Best Defensive Line in College Football?

College football is ripe with talent on both sides of the ball, with standout quarterbacks, explosive wide receivers and shutdown defenders. With that said, a strong defensive line can wreak havoc on any offense.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss which defensive line group they feel is the best in college football.

Who has the best defensive line in the game today? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Les Miles Might Play 2 QBs in 2015, and That's a Recipe for Disaster

The quarterback battle raging at LSU between sophomore Brandon Harris and junior incumbent Anthony Jennings is arguably the most important battle in college football. Head coach Les Miles boasts a wildly talented team that seems to be "a quarterback away" every season since Matt Flynn led the Tigers to the 2007 national title.

Jennings completed just 48.9 percent of his passes last year, and when Harris got his lone start—on the road at Auburn—he completed just three of 14 passes before being pulled.

Head coach Les Miles, however, is pleased with the progress of his two signal-callers through spring practice.

"There's a real closeness," he said during Tuesday's teleconference. "One guy hasn't separated himself from the other, and both guys are playing much better."

It's May, not August, so an unsettled quarterback position isn't exactly the most alarming development in the world.

What is alarming, though, is Miles' admission that both could play if no leader surfaces before toe meets leather in the season opener against McNeese State.

"I could also see a time where we have a necessity to play them both," Miles said. "I would like to see those guys going into fall camp and one separate from the other and be a clear-cut decision. With that being said, if that does not happen, you can't make it happen and we'll end up playing whichever is best for our team.

"If we have a guy who's going to compete with whoever the starter could be and step in maybe in the second series and say, 'OK, we're ready to do this,' I think there's an advantage to that as well."

Miles is wrong, at least in this situation.

Jennings and Harris are too closely related in terms of what they bring to the table to make a two-quarterback system work. They're both dual-threat quarterbacks who can make things happen on the ground and through the air, but they have proven to be inconsistent through the air on a game-by-game basis. 

If neither wins the job, what message would it send to both of them if LSU plays musical quarterbacks early in the season?

The same message Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron sent early last season: They have no confidence in either quarterback.

That's the last thing the eventual No. 1 needs this season, which is a critical juncture for Miles and Cameron. Cameron is in the final year of a three-year contract, while Miles could land on the hot seat in 2016 if the Tigers don't return to SEC West contention in 2015.

LSU hasn't finished out of the top six in the 247Sports team recruiting rankings over the last three seasons, and with that kind of talent on board, November contention should be an annual event. LSU is still a quarterback away, and if musical quarterbacks doesn't work this year, it's clear that there's a coaching problem.

The easy solution would be to let Cameron walk, and as I wrote earlier this year, he is coaching for his job in 2015. If he is let go, that brings Miles one step closer to shouldering all the blame in 2016.

A decision needs to be made during fall camp, and barring a meltdown or injury, that decision needs to stick.

Miles has used two quarterbacks at times during his LSU career.

When LSU won the national title in 2007, Flynn combined with Ryan Perrilloux to lead the Tigers to the promised land. In 2010 and 2011, Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson made the collective stress level of the LSU fanbase rise, but did lead the Tigers to the 2011 SEC title. In 2013, Jennings was the running quarterback who came in during drives in place of Zach Mettenberger.

The common thread among all of those situations is the difference in style between the pro-style passer and the dual-threat quarterback.

LSU doesn't have that in 2015.

A two-quarterback system in Baton Rouge in 2015? Nope.

That would do more harm than good.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Auburn Commit and Legacy Stephen Davis Jr. Focused on 'Playmaker' Status

Auburn commit Stephen Davis Jr. is one of those athletes who, when asked if he wants to play safety or linebacker in college, has a simple answer.

Reason being, Davis wants to play safety. And linebacker. And wide receiver. And any other position a college coach will let him. For Davis, the nation's 17th-ranked athlete in the class of 2016 and the No. 5 player from the state of South Carolina, according to 247Sports, taking a play off during his senior year won't be a part of his plan.

"If there are 100 plays this year, I'm going to be on the field for all 100 plays," Davis said. "I have to be in the best shape I can, because I'm not coming off the field, honestly."

Lofty expectations indeed, but consider the source and what he's done on the field. Defensively, the Irmo, South Carolina, standout had 66 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery as a safety for Dutch Fork High School. He also saw time sparingly on offense, but in his eight rushing attempts, he scored three times and averaged a whopping 19.5 yards per carry, according to MaxPreps.com.

A 3-star athlete and the son of the former NFL running back with the same name, Davis considers himself the consummate playmaker. If he's not on the field, he's unable to make plays. To him, it's simple mathematics.

While it may not be as simple for most to comprehend, you can bet that Davis will lobby to the Dutch Fork coaching staff to see as much game time as possible. You can also bet that he'll see extended playing time as a senior.

Davis' play last Saturday is proof that he can be a major contributor. He worked out with the safeties during The Opening Charlotte regional and put a performance together worthy of wowing The Opening coaching staff and earning an invitation to the event finals this summer in Oregon.

"I just wanted to show that I can be a playmaker," he said. "Right now, I'm just playing safety, but I feel like I can play a lot of places in college."

At 6'4" and 215 pounds, Davis has the size, speed and skill set to effectively play outside linebacker, wide receiver or flex tight end at the next level. Davis added that playing defensive end or running back wouldn't be far-fetched, either.

"People say I look like a linebacker, so I may try linebacker in college," he said. "I'm going to play linebacker for my high school."

Playing multiple positions is the easy part for Davis. The hard part will be trying to match his father, who had an illustrious high school and college athletic career. The elder Davis rushed for more than 2,800 yards and 30 touchdowns in his career at Auburn from 1993-95 and then went on to become a three-time NFL Pro Bowl selection, a two-time NFC rushing leader and a catalyst who competed in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Davis said he's often compared to the elder Davis, but the support he gets from his father is valued.

"He tells me what I should and should not do," the younger Davis said. "He keeps it simple and honest with me. That's what I love about him. He keeps it real.

"It can be hard sometimes, but it can also be fun. I know that people expect so much out of me because of who he is. For me being 16, they expect me to do a lot of stuff that some college people can't do. But I expect it out of myself. I know I can go out and compete and be that playmaker."

Davis has one more season at Dutch Fork, and then he'll prepare for college life, where he said he'll study law enforcement. The question, however, is, where?

Davis has been committed to Auburn—his father's alma mater—since Aug. 4, 2014, and he's still high on head coach Gus Malzahn, defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and the rest of the coaching staff. On Saturday, however, Davis said he's only "70 percent" with his commitment and is looking at potential visits to Florida State, Clemson and UCLA.

"It's not just about the trips," Davis said. "I want to know how they are as a school and as a program. I'm not going to always play football. I want to see what I can major in and what the campuses are like and if the environments there are good around the schools."

While he weighs his options, Davis reiterated that he's still committed to Auburn and forever will be a fan regardless of what happens in the future. He knows the program well because of his father, and being a legacy is something he always thinks about.

A memorable return trip to Big Cat Weekend later this month could help bump that "70 percent" to a more comfortable number for Auburn fans. Davis said he's looking to make the trip to Auburn May 30.

"Auburn is family; it's like home for me," he said."It's a great environment. When you go down there, there's always something new. I just love it."

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Offseason Question Marks for Top College Football Playoff Contenders

Spring football has finally wrapped up across the nation, and as college football players dig into their final exams and prepare for “voluntary” offseason workouts, the time has come to sit back and reflect, at least for a moment.

This week’s dominant college football story has been Everett Golson’s eventual destination following his transfer from Notre Dame, which has spiced up a slow period. Now is the time when players think about what lies ahead and coaches analyze what they have on their rosters.

It’s an excellent opportunity to look at the offseason questions that face the top College Football Playoff contenders. So we’re going to do just that.

Here’s an examination of the biggest question marks facing the top 12 teams in our most recent preseason top 25.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: Brian Kelly's Offensive Blueprint with Malik Zaire at QB

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A blueprint executed to perfection in 2012 is back on the table for Notre Dame football in 2015.

Everett Golson is gone, and Malik Zaire is left to run the show. While it’s tough to make the argument Notre Dame is better without Golson—the 85-man roster is weaker, after all, with the loss of a quarterback with 23 starts, 5,850 passing yards and 55 total touchdowns—life, in a way, is easier for Irish head coach Brian Kelly.

Instead of tailoring an offense to two different quarterbacks, Kelly, associate head coach Mike Denbrock and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford can go all-in with Zaire, crafting the playbook and play-call sheet to fit the style of the dual-threat redshirt sophomore.

And Kelly doesn’t have to look far for the blueprint.

Through five seasons in South Bend, five different quarterbacks have started for Kelly. How did Kelly fit the offenses around them?

The Irish trended toward a 50-50 split between running and throwing the last two seasons. But in 2012, with a first-year starter in Golson at the helm, Notre Dame ran roughly 57 percent of the time, the 34th-highest rush rate in the country, per TeamRankings.com.

Now correlation obviously doesn’t equal causation, but Kelly and the Irish were on to something with an inexperienced quarterback, a veteran defense and a rushing attack that featured heavy doses of Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood with a side order of George Atkinson III.

Golson, a redshirt freshman at the time, only needed to complete 187 passes in a 12-1 season that ended with the trip to the national title game. He only tossed 12 touchdowns, but he only coughed up six interceptions. In his 12 games (11 starts), Golson attempted 318 passes.

By comparison, Golson’s 319th pass (of an eventual 427) during the 2014 season came in the third quarter against Arizona State, Notre Dame’s ninth game of the season and a loss during which Golson chucked four interceptions.

In the months since Zaire started and helped Notre Dame to a 31-28 win over LSU in the Music City Bowl, Irish fans have increasingly wondered—and some begged and clamored—if Notre Dame should run more in 2015. With Zaire unquestionably atop the quarterback depth chart now, the answer assuredly crystallizes for Kelly and company. The pieces around Zaire on offense seem ready for their part, as well.

“It was pretty clear that we’ve got a very good offensive line,” Kelly said after Notre Dame’s spring game in April. “They’re going to be able to control the line of scrimmage in most instances, and we’ll continue to go to our strength, which we believe is up front.”

Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson, Alex Bars, Nick Martin, Steve Elmer and Mike McGlinchey will be tasked with protecting Zaire and plowing ahead for running backs Tarean Folston, Greg Bryant and C.J. Prosise, who certainly seem capable—in some combination—of at least replicating the production from Riddick, Wood and Atkinson in 2012.

The blueprint isn’t as straightforward as it might seem four months away from a season opener. Zaire will still have to make important throws, and the defense must play well enough to allow a persistent offensive focus on the ground game.

But a quarterback is gone, and an offensive identity could be forming.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Predicting the Bulldogs' 2015 Win-Loss Record

It’s mid-May, and that means the college football preview magazines will be hitting the shelves in the near future. And odds are many of those magazines will have the Georgia Bulldogs high in the polls and have them in first place in the SEC East.

That would not be a surprise, because the Bulldogs won 10 games last year, and they have the majority of their starters from last season coming back in 2015.

But they are also replacing some starters at very important positions, and if they don’t grow up in a hurry, it could be a long and disappointing season for the boys from Athens.

So what will be the win-loss record for the Bulldogs this upcoming season? Let’s take a look.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: Projecting Bruins' Post-Spring 2-Deep Depth Chart

With spring practice officially over for head coach Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins, it's time to take a step back and assess the bigger picture heading into the fall.

The session proved to be significant for the Bruins. There were no serious injuries reported, and the depth on this team is potentially as good as it's been during Mora's tenure.

There are still some questions being asked—specifically at quarterback and various reserve spots.

This piece will attempt to craft a post-spring two-deep depth chart. We will exclude any incoming freshmen unless they're already enrolled in school.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: Projecting Bruins' Post-Spring 2-Deep Depth Chart

With spring practice officially over for head coach Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins, it's time to take a step back and assess the bigger picture heading into the fall. The session proved to be significant for the Bruins...

Begin Slideshow

Texas Football: Summer Enrollees Who Could Make Immediate Impact

Beyond any sort of doubt, Texas' true freshmen will figure heavily into the 2015 rotation. There's too much talent in this group to justify keeping the youth on the sideline.

We've already seen evidence of this fact. Early enrollee Malik Jefferson tore up the spring game from the linebacker position, and classmate Connor Williams ran as the first-team right tackle.

Those two are locks for the two-deep rotation when Texas opens its season at Notre Dame, but the story on this top-10 class doesn't stop there.

The Horns have 22 more players arriving this summer, 12 of whom are consensus 4-star prospects, per 247Sports.com.

As many as 13 of these guys have a foreseeable path to playing time in their first year on campus, but most of them will take time to get up to speed. And Texas needs guys to step up immediately—as in on the field in South Bend, if possible.

Cornerback Holton Hill will be out there, and four of his classmates will be right behind him.

 

CB Holton Hill

Hill is a no-doubter to crack the paper thin two-deep at cornerback, where Texas will really appreciate his length and athleticism.

With Sheroid Evans presumably lost for the season and Jermaine Roberts on the shelf, the Horns are short on options behind senior Duke Thomas. Bryson Echols played well in the spring game, but the 5'10" cover man is going to struggle against bigger receivers.

Hill doesn't have that problem at 6'2", which had Charlie Strong excited about him on signing day:

If you look at Holton, he's a young man that has great size and in that range of 6-foot to 6-1. You like those big corners because they can body up the wide receiver, so when jump balls come, you hope they can go up and defend. He can cover and he's long. You are looking for those long guys instead of those shorter ones. I like big defensive backs because I know he can be physical.

Also blessed with 4.5-second speed, Hill will be the most physically gifted corner on the roster the moment he steps on campus. He'll be the opponent's best receiver by the time he's a sophomore.

 

WR Ryan Newsome

A unique offensive talent, Ryan Newsome will take some time to nail down a defined role within the offense. That won't stop the coaches from scheming the ball into his hands.

Whatever superlative you can come up with for Newsome's ability, this ESPN scout's take pretty much covers why he was such a great get for this 2015 class:

If Newsome was taller, he might be perceived to be one of the best skilled athletes in this class regardless of position on a national level. His size is really his only detriment physically. His skill set however is outstanding. Could be an immediate impact player in the kicking game as a return specialist. Needs to be employed in a variety of roles on offense to maximize his playmaking ability which is why the spread offense is such a good fit.

At 5'8", size is definitely a concern for any aspirations Newsome has beyond the college game, but he's going to be a fine player for Texas. He can score from anywhere on the field and has an incredible ability to make people miss in space.

Newsome will eventually man the slot for Texas, while also getting the ball on handoffs and jet sweeps. Until then, he should be the focal point of a return game that ranked in the bottom half of the Big 12 on both kick and punt returns (per cfbstats.com).

 

ATH DeAndre McNeal

DeAndre McNeal isn't quite a tight end, nor does he fit the model of a classic receiver. He's a truly unique player, and his role should be molded to fit his variety of skills.

247Sports' Jeff Howe believes McNeal will serve in multiple roles, and it's easy to see why. He's well built at 6'2" and 228 pounds but also has the suddenness to elude defenders in the open field. In a move role where he can work out of the backfield and the slot, he could be a deadly weapon in the Longhorns offense.

Texas showed some willingness to flex fullback Alex De La Torre between those two spots in the spring game. McNeal has that same ability but with the explosiveness to burn a defense that doesn't respect him.

If the Horns really want to go tempo, McNeal gives them a lot of flexibility, and they need to get him involved early in the season.

 

CB Kris Boyd

Like Hill, incoming freshman Kris Boyd has the talent to be a shutdown corner in Strong's defense. He'll provide immediate depth thanks to his speed and quickness.

Boyd isn't quite as long as Hill, but he makes up for it with elite track speed, quickness and a willingness to bring the wood. Those traits make him an ideal candidate for work as the nickel corner, where he'll most likely spend 2015 backing up redshirt freshman John Bonney.

Look for Boyd to push Bonney in fall camp and provide some depth to a corner spot that's been devastated by graduation and spring injuries. He's too talented to stay on the sideline for long.

 

S DeShon Elliott

Texas doesn't have a reliable backup at safety, especially now that versatile defensive back Mykkele Thompson has moved on to the NFL. It won't take DeShon Elliott long to assume that role on his way to becoming one of the Big 12's premier enforcers.

Say a quick prayer for the first poor soul that Elliott sets his sights on. The Kraken is a killer on the back end—a pure hitter (per SB Nation's Wescott Eberts).

While a player of Elliott's frame might be stuck with that dreaded tweener label, he covers like a true safety. As you can see below, his explosiveness translates to making plays on the ball. He'll still spend a lot of time in the box, but there won't be much need to pull him off the field on passing downs.

With Jason Hall already in the fold, the Longhorns will spend the next few years sporting one of the ferocious safety duos in the country. As a freshman, Elliott will serve as the primary backup to Hall as he adjusts to the college game.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats and information courtesy of TexasSports.com, with recruiting data courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona Football: How Wildcats Can Win Pac-12 in 2015

As defending division champions with plenty of key starters returning, Arizona should be considered a contender to not only claim another Pac-12 South title but to win the conference outright. In order to accomplish that, however, the Wildcats need to get better since the league remains as strong as ever.

Arizona returns breakout stars at quarterback and running back, as well as one of the deepest receiving corps in the nation, while on defense a handful of veterans are highlighted by reigning Bednarik, Lombardi and Nagurski award-winning linebacker Scooby Wright. They provide the core of a team that is capable of being Pac-12 champions, but it will take more than just talent and ability to get the job done.

Here's a look at what the Wildcats must do and the path they need to take in order to take down the conference title.

 

Come through in the red zone

Arizona averaged more than 34 points per game last season, keeping opponents on their toes with a fast-paced offense that ran more plays (1,139) than any other team in the country. The play clock was a non-issue for the Wildcats, though coach Rich Rodriguez could regularly be seen urging on his defense to play faster than the pace they set out at.

"I think we can play faster than we have before," Rodriguez told Bleacher Report after the April 10 spring game. "We have a really good grasp of what we can do."

But as is the case with a lot of uptempo teams, when the field shrinks the difficulties in moving the ball increase. Arizona was not immune to this problem in 2014, ranking 85th nationally in red-zone efficiency and managing only 33 touchdowns on 60 trips inside opponents' 20-yard line.

In an effort to be more diverse and less predictable in the red zone, Arizona has been experimenting with using slot receivers in the backfield and spreading ball-carriers out wide. This led to smaller skill players like junior Samajie Grant, sophomore Tyrell Johnson and redshirt freshman Jonathan Haden lining up in multiple places depending on the play call.

With Arizona not using very much time on the clock when it has the ball—at less than 27 minutes, 14 seconds per game it ranked 119th last season—it can ill afford to have wasted possessions, especially when close to the end zone and it either has to settle for a field goal or comes away with nothing. In two of its losses last year, a combined four red-zone drives ended without points and only half of the eight scoring drives resulted in TDs.

The Wildcats lost those two games by a combined 10 points.

 

Be more than a one-man defense

Last year it was Wright and then everyone else. And those other Wildcat defenders didn't do much, at least not in comparison to Wright, with the next most productive ones now graduated.

The sophomore linebacker led FBS in tackles (163), tackles for loss (29) and forced fumbles (six), while also ranking third in sacks (14). Will Parks, who will be a senior, had 81 tackles and 13 tackles for loss to rank as the top returner not named Wright in those categories, while no three players had as many sacks as Wright.

Arizona's offense is one of the fastest in the country, but as a result its defense is also on the field more than most. Last year the Wildcats faced 1,115 snaps on defense, third most in FBS, and that led to quite a few breakdowns because of fatigue.

Rodriguez wants to get to where he can cycle in fresh bodies as much as possible, two or three at every position, and Arizona's depth is slowly getting to that level. To further that, Parks said Rodriguez overworked the defense with a litany of looks and alignments this spring to get them prepared for constant change during the season.

"They threw everything at us," said Parks, who will play the "spur" position that serves as both a linebacker and safety in Arizona's 4-2-5 setup. "This was definitely a smooth spring. We have a lot of versatility."

 

Maintain offensive balance

The version of the spread that Rodriguez prefers is one that is as close to 50-50 run/pass as possible and leaning more toward the run. In his three seasons running the Wildcats, his offenses have averaged 258.5 passing yards and 223.8 rushing yards per game, but last year they ran for 100 yards fewer per game than they gained through the air. 

The combination of record-setting freshman quarterback Anu Solomon and a deep receiving corps contributed to this skew, but so did a lack of experience at the running back position. Nick Wilson, a true freshman, emerged as the go-to rusher and finished with 1,375 yards and 26 touchdowns, but Solomon didn't prove to be as mobile as expected as he was sacked 40 times.

With nearly every significant skill-position player back, this could be Arizona's best offense yet. In order for it to be most effective, though, the balance has to be there in the play-calling. Wilson got banged up as the workhorse in 2014, and unless Solomon can prove more effective in scrambling another runner will need to emerge to take on some of the carries.

Arizona showed in 2013 it can play fast and still eat up clock, thanks to the running of Ka'Deem Carey. Being able to replicate that approach, but with a better overall set of parts than in that season, should keep this team in the running for another division title and a shot at its first-ever trip to the Rose Bowl by winning the Pac-12 championship.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona Football: How Wildcats Can Win Pac-12 in 2015

As defending division champions with plenty of key starters returning, Arizona should be considered a contender to not only claim another Pac -12 South title but to win the conference outright...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Insider Buzz: Who Leads for Former Auburn Commit and No. 1 WR Nate Craig-Myers?

Nate Craig-Meyers is one of the top receivers in the Class of 2016. He's currently uncommitted but is on the shortlist of a lot of top programs. 

Michael Felder is joined by Bleacher Report Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani to discuss the latest on Nate's recruitment. 

What kind of player can Craig-Meyers become at the next level? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: Ranking the Top 15 Players Heading into 2015

Choosing the top 15 players in the SEC is like picking the luckiest lottery winners.

They're all pretty darn good, and the people at the bottom or off the list entirely are still well off.

The SEC will be driven by running backs and defensive fronts going into this year, which means a remarkable absence of quarterbacks on our list. 

Who made the cut? Our picks based on talent, resume and potential are in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

Recruiting Rivalry: Will FSU or Florida Land 5-Star DT Dexter Lawrence?

Dexter Lawrence, a 5-star defensive tackle, per 247Sports, has not decided where he will play his college ball. The athletic lineman has several offers on the table from some of the top schools in the country. Two in particular are Florida State and Florida. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down Lawrence's game as well as the interstate recruiting battle that will play out for the next few months. 

Where will Lawrence land at the next level? Check out the video, and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will Urban Meyer Continue Beating Jim Harbuagh for Top Michigan Prospects?

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is beating Michigan on and off the field.

Since taking over the Buckeyes in 2012, Meyer is a perfect 3-0 against the Wolverines, with the closest call coming in 2013 via a thrilling 42-41 affair in Ann Arbor. But Ohio State's head man has invaded the state of Michigan on the recruiting trail, and he's producing much more decisive victories over the Wolverines for The Mitten State's top prospects.

And that's a trend Jim Harbaugh hasn't been able to stop during his first five months in Ann Arbor.

The Buckeyes struck first in January 2013, when Damon Webb—a high 4-star recruit and Michigan's second-ranked prospect—announced his verbal pledge to the Buckeyes. He was the nation's No. 35 prospect and a big target for the Wolverines, but he spurned his home-state school because Ohio State was much closer to college football's biggest stage.

"The chance to win championships," Webb said of his collegiate choice, according to Miles Joseph of Eleven Warriors. "I think the Buckeyes are going to start winning national championships."

That was sound logic from Webb, who was a true freshman on Ohio State's national title-winning team last year. 

That run through the first-ever College Football Playoff paved a deeper road into Michigan as the Buckeyes stole 4-star running back Michael Weber and 3-star defensive end Joshua Alabi from the Wolverines during last year's recruiting cycle. 

Webb, Weber and Alabi all hail from Cass Technical High School in Detroit—Michigan's biggest in-state recruiting pipeline. They were the school's top three Division 1 prospects over the last two recruiting cycles, and they'll all be suiting up in Scarlet and Gray during their collegiate careers. 

Imagine Michigan doing the same to Ohio State's in-state pipeline: Glenville High School in Cleveland. The Wolverines haven't signed Glenville's top recruit since 2001 when it landed Pierre Woods—which was the year Ohio State was in transition under new head coach Jim Tressel.

But Ohio State's success recruiting Michigan was similarly fruitless before Meyer showed up.

During Tressel's decade-long tenure at Ohio State, the Buckeyes managed to snag just three players from the state of Michigan—James JacksonReid Fragel and Johnathan Hankins. Meyer has equaled that number with his last two recruiting classes alone, and he's looking to add to that total moving forward.

In fact, Meyer already hit paydirt for 2016 when Michael Jordan, a 4-star offensive tackle out of Canton, Michigan, announced his verbal pledge to the Buckeyes last Thursday. Jordan, Michigan's third-ranked prospect, chose Ohio State over the Wolverines, who had 2-1 odds over the Buckeyes to earn his commitment, via 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

The two rivals will be battling for other Michigan standouts like Michael Onwenu and Thiyo Lukusa before signing day in February 2016. Michigan is the favorite to land both players, but as Jordan showed last week, that doesn't matter much when decision time rolls around.

And if Harbuagh and Michigan don't start winning most of these battles, they'll have a hard time keeping up with the Buckeyes on the field. 

 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Team Has the Best Linebackers in College Football?

Defense wins championships, and in college football, some of the most important defenders are the linebackers. They are the generals out on the playing field.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee offer their picks forth top linebacking corps in college football today.

Who do you think has the best linebacker group in college football? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Simon Cvijanovic Needs Support of Ex-Teammates to Put Tim Beckman on Hot Seat

It's been two days since Simon Cvijanovic first took to Twitter to air his grievances about Illinois head coach Tim Beckman.

But thus far, it's hard to imagine the former Fighting Illini offensive lineman has received the response he wanted.

Embarking on a prolonged Twitter rant that has now entered its third day, Cvijanovic has lofted numerous accusations at his former head coach and the Illinois program, including claims of mistreatment both personally and medically. The four-year letter-winner has yet to respond to multiple requests for an interview from Bleacher Report but hasn't been shy when it comes to sharing the intentions of his tweets:

And while the second and third goals of Cvijanovic appear noble on the surface, his primary objective is going to be difficult to accomplish without the support of his former teammates.

At least, it will if Cvijanovic's Twitter tirade continues to resemble that of a smear campaign without offering tangible proof of any of his lofty accusations. It'd be hard to imagine that the words of just one former player could affect the security of a head coach, particularly when Cvijanovic has repeatedly lobbed personal attacks at Beckman throughout his admitted "rampage."

That's the line of thinking Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas seems to be following as well, as he's taken note of Cvijanovic's serious accusations but continues to back his head coach. On a conference call with reporters, Thomas said he'll conduct an internal investigation into the former player's claims but has yet to find anything that corroborates Cvijanovic's story.

“He’s put the welfare of (Cvijanovic) above everything else,” Thomas said in the conference call. “The feedback I get from players and our players’ families is that our coaches genuinely care for them and treat them like their own children.”

Multiple Fighting Illini players and family members have backed up Thomas' sentiments. Like Cvijanovic, senior offensive lineman Ted Karras saw his 2014 season come to an end due to injury but insists that accusations of mistreatment from the Illinois coaching and medical staffs don't hold any water.

The same can be said for Matt DiLauro, the father of sophomore offensive lineman Christian DiLauro, as well as former Fighting Illini wide receiver Miles Osei. Conversely, the most prominent person to publicly back Cvijanovic's claims has been Andrew Weber, a former walk-on kicker who played under Beckman at Toledo. 

That's not to say neither Cvijanovic nor Weber is being truthful, but it's going to be hard for Cvijanovic to accomplish what he wants with just the support of one former player from another school. If Beckman has truly created a culture as ugly as the one Cvijanovic has described, it's more probable than not that more players—current and former—would have already come forward.

It also doesn't help Cvijanovic's case that he has admitted that he wasn't a fan of Beckman's before he ever played for him. Speaking to The Doug Gottlieb Show, Cvijanovic recalled Beckman lying to him about beverages in order to pump up Toledo's sponsor, Yoo-hoo, during a recruiting visit.

"The first major issue is that he lied to me on my recruiting visit at Toledo," Cvijanovic told Gottlieb. "He told me Yoo-hoo chocolate drink has more protein than Muscle Milk. Simple lie, didn't need to be said, but it made him seem like a liar to me. So on the way home, me and my dad decided I wasn't going to go to Toledo."

Nevertheless, Cvijanovic's and Beckman's paths would cross when Beckman took over Illinois in 2012.

Whether or not Beckman is really bending the truth about Yoo-hoo (which possesses two grams of protein to Muscle Milk's 25) is really a "major issue" is somewhat beside the point. What's clear is that while Cvijanovic's recent accusations should be taken seriously, his issues with his former head coach have predated his playing days and are only becoming public now that his college career is over.

Any speculation about Cvijanovic's motivation truly being rooted in revenge would be just that, but at this point, there's simply not enough evidence for Illinois to take action on his accusations. What Thomas' investigation will ultimately find remains to be seen, but if it's Cvijanovic's goal to bring down Beckman, he's going to need help.

And maybe it is. But it's going to take more than tweets like that. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cincinnati Bearcats Use Chipotle to Try to Sway Recruit

College coaches need to familiarize themselves with recruits well enough to know what they like and then use that information to win a recruiting battle.

For most young athletes, food is high on the priority list.

Accordingly, the Cincinnati Bearcats are pulling out all the stops to attract Homestead (Fort Wayne, Indiana) High School receiver Ben Skowronek, whom 247Sports lists as a 3-star recruit. As part of his recruitment, they sent him a flier detailing just how close Chipotle is to Nippert Stadium.

Most people love Chipotle, so it's a clever strategy. However, the Bearcats should also be hyping up some local restaurants, such as Skyline or LaRosa's, to sell recruits on the taste of Cincinnati in addition to well-known national chains.

[Twitter]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Are Florida Gators Everett Golson's Best SEC Transfer Option?

It's been nearly a week since former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson announced that he is transferring from the Fighting Irish for his final season of eligibility, and it seems like he's been linked to just about every team.

Florida State, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Alabama—you name the school, and Golson has likely been mentioned in connection with it.

The latest school to jump into the Golson sweepstakes is Florida.

According to Andy Staples of SI.com, Golson visited the Gainesville campus on Tuesday morning after visiting intrastate rival Florida State on Monday.

The interest certainly makes sense. First-year head coach Jim McElwain is choosing between sophomore dual-threat quarterback Treon Harris and redshirt freshman pro-style passer Will Grier this summer, and Golson's experience playing major college football would certainly elevate him as the front-runner to win the job if he lands in Gainesville.

That might be easier said than done, though.

As Bleacher Report first reported in January, the SEC's new graduate transfer rule could stand in the way of Golson transferring to an SEC program since he was suspended from the school for the 2013 season after academic misconduct.

Let's toss that out for a minute and assume that Golson gets a waiver from the SEC office in order to transfer into the conference. Is Florida the best fit for Golson?

Nope.

If Golson is going to transfer somewhere and play quarterback, his goal is likely to start, get exposure and impress NFL scouts enough to get a decent shot at the next level.

While Florida certainly certainly would satisfy the first two factors on that list, the third is very much in question. Golson turned into a turnover machine last season, when he threw 14 picks, lost eight fumbles and generally drove Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly crazy in South Bend, Indiana.

Is that suddenly going to change behind a Florida offensive line that, if guard Trip Thurman doesn't come back from injury, has a total of zero starts under its belt, according to ESPN.com's Edward Aschoff?

Not a chance.

What's more, Golson's chances of ever making it at the NFL level would likely wither in the hot Florida sun if he continues to drive the turnover-machine train.

Despite the fact that Harris and Grier are inexperienced compared to Golson, it just doesn't seem to fit.

Georgia fits from schematic standpoint, but head coach Mark Richt seemed content with all three of his quarterbacks—Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Jacob Park—during his press conference after the spring game.

Alabama fits too, but head coach Nick Saban seemed content with his group during the post-spring practice teleconference on Tuesday.

As Bleacher Report reported on Tuesday, Golson to South Carolina is "not happening."

That leaves LSU as the best SEC fit for Golson.

The Tigers have a solid offensive line, a laundry list of wide receivers who could wind up in the NFL and an offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron who not only has a pedigree in the NFL, but would likely be more willing to hand Golson the job after last season's struggles with Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris.

LSU would make a ton of sense for just about every reason imaginable.

Golson to Florida would seem more like a marriage out of convenience than anything else.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: How Dennis Norfleet's Dismissal Impacts the Wolverines

The surprising dismissal of Michigan Wolverines senior Dennis Norfleet on Tuesday sent shockwaves through social media, pelted messageboards with speculation and ignited talk radio’s finest.

"Evidently he was dismissed from the team, Dennis informed us he was no longer on the team," said Norfleet’s high school coach, Dale Harvel, according to Nick Baumgardner of MLive. "Something about a disciplinary thing between him and coach Harbaugh. Whether it was academics or something internal, I'm not sure. He just said they had a disagreement and he was let go."

While untimely for a team searching for production, the loss of the senior return man/athlete/receiver probably won’t put a major dent in Michigan’s offensive plans for 2015, if any.

Though “excited” about Norfleet’s possibilities for the upcoming season, first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh has repeatedly referenced power football as his weapon of choice, vowing to restore the familiar brand that has led to hundreds of victories for the Wolverines.

The days of the small, shifty mini-mites in Ann Arbor have run their course.

But it wasn’t supposed to be that way for Norfleet, a 5’7”, 168-pound stick of dynamite out of Detroit Martin Luther King.

According to 247Sports, he was the No. 7-ranked all-purpose back of the 2012 class, suggesting he would go on to have a successful career with the Wolverines, who, at the time, were burning opposing defenses with speedsters such as quarterback Denard Robinson and receiver Jeremy Gallon.

Norfleet was supposed to be one of those guys—someone who could make a crowd stand still in silence until he took off with rocket-like velocity.

Oddly enough, he never returned a kick for a touchdown during his time at Michigan. He came close, though, missing a few opportunities by a block or less; he leaves the team with 90 kick returns (the most in program history) and 2,293 return yards, the third-most on record. He’s one of three Wolverines with at least 2,000 career return yards. As a junior, he caught 11 passes for 115 yards.

Replacing Norfleet, who primarily handled return duties and projected to be a second- or third-string receiver, shouldn’t be too much to handle for Michigan, which has true freshman Brian Cole, a former 4-star recruit, and Freddy Canteen, a sophomore, steadily climbing the ranks.

In 2014, Canteen was the name of the spring game. In 2015, Cole, a former Saginaw Heritage star, gained some attention for his practice habits and overall athleticism. Each of them stands to fill Norfleet’s role.

At 6’1” and 185 pounds, Canteen has a recognizable size advantage over Norfleet—plus he has comparable speed and arguably better hands. Bobbled returns became an issue during Norfleet’s final two seasons.

As a true frosh this past fall, Canteen, a former 4-star recruit, appeared in 11 games with three starts. He finished 2014 with five catches for 22 yards. The minimal, almost nonexistent production was hardly expected from a guy who lit up spring; however, “Freddy Footwork” is on the ascent and qualifies as a top candidate to absorb Norfleet’s reps.

He’s actually pushing for a No. 1 job, so he wouldn’t be a literal replacement for Norfleet. In a sense, he’d be a plus-version of Norfleet. 

At 6’2” and 200 pounds, Cole is another versatile athlete—probably just as versatile as Norfleet, only seven inches taller and 32 pounds heavier. While in high school, Cole ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds, earning recognition as one of the country’s elite prep talents.

Expectations for Cole are justifiably high. Due to having played in the spring game, Cole, the No. 5-ranked athlete of 2015, absolutely has an edge heading into camp—not to mention a wide-open window to playing time.

Due to Norfleet’s dismissal, it’d be easy to tab Jabrill Peppers as the No. 1 return man. But don’t rule out Cole and Canteen as fill-ins for Michigan’s kind of the “Atomic Dog.” Dancing prior to kicks probably won't be required, but doing so probably wouldn't hurt the next guy's chances.

Unlikely but not impossible, the vacancy could be plugged with Keith Washington, a superbly athletic do-all from Prattville, Alabama. The former 3-star recruit has now become somewhat famous for showing off his 4.3 speed during a visit with Harbaugh. 

Pencil him in as a contender. 

With Norfleet, there were possibilities but few results. Other than eclipsing 2,000 return yards, he wasn't much of a factor within the offensive scheme.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability. All recruiting information comes via 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages