NCAA Football

5 College Football Teams Who Will Have Brand-New Offenses in 2015

Turnover. It's a drag. But it's part of the endless cycle of college football. Players come and go. 

Sometimes, they simply depart in larger numbers. 

In the following slides are teams that will have to significantly, if not completely, retool their offenses for the 2015 season. Whether it's the departure of a star player (or multiple star players) around which the offense was centered or a complete philosophical change, these five teams have a lot to work on over the next six months. 

Which offenses will look completely new in 2015? Here are five experiencing the effects of heavy turnover. 

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5 States Producing the Best Talent in 2016 College Football Recruiting

Most fans familiar with recruiting recognize the Big Three talent producing states of California, Florida and Texas.

More importantly, colleges across the country place importance on their recruiting efforts in those states. 

That trio will remain a focus for college coaches in 2016, as 60 of the nation’s top 200 players overall in the 2016 class—including 12 5-star prospects—hail from those states.

But what other states join them as the territories with the most college-ready group of rising seniors?

Find out as we break down the five states that are producing the best players in the 2016 cycle. 

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TJ Simmons Commits to Alabama: In-State WR an Offensive Weapon for 2016 Class

There was little time to weigh options for T.J. Simmons. He knew what he wanted.

Get the offer from Alabama, appreciate the offer, accept the offer.

It only took a few hours for the 3-star wide receiver from Pinson, Alabama, to give his verbal commitment to Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide early Thursday afternoon. Simmons became the fourth player to commit to Alabama and the first receiver to pledge, per 247Sports.

At 6'2" and 180 pounds, Simmons has good size, good hands and, as a 3-star player, may be considered an underrated target by some. He had additional offers from Mississippi State, Cincinnati, Southern Miss and Arkansas State, among others.

Alabama saw a lot of potential in Simmons during the 2014 season, and Simmons is in a great situation where he can silence a ton of critics who only see his star rating. He is only the 11th 3-star player to commit to the Crimson Tide since 2014, per 247Sports. The Crimson Tide have had 54 players commit since 2014—13 of those being 5-star athletes and 30 being 4-star athletes.

According to Drew Champlin of AL.com, Simmons was an all-state receiver who nearly recorded 1,000 yards on only 43 catches, averaging better than 22 yards a catch. He scored 20 all-purpose touchdowns in helping Clay-Chalkville High School win a state championship.

In short, Simmons isn't a marginal talent.

Simmons was a big-play receiver as a junior, and much is expected of him in his senior year. Alabama is hoping he can be just as big of a weapon when he arrives in Tuscaloosa in 2016. Champlin said Simmons made several trips to Alabama for games last season. Pinson is roughly an hour drive away from Tuscaloosa.

Simmons, additionally, is Alabama's first in-state commit of the 2016 class, which could be an advantage for him. He will be called upon to be a player-recruiter, which is important in a state with several elite players still uncommitted.

The level of competition at receiver is always high, as Saban, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and receivers coach Billy Napier do a great job of putting the best talent on the field. Simmons will be called upon to deliver his A game during every practice and every game.

Simmons hopes to follow the footsteps of Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and the other receivers to wear crimson and white. In the meanwhile, look for Simmons to get better all-around as a receiver and target a few other players with Alabama offers. Among the in-state talents available are 5-star defensive end Marlon Davidson and 5-star linebackers Lyndell Wilson and Ben Davis.

 

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

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Does Alabama Have a True Heisman Trophy Contender in 2015?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football players have become somewhat of a staple in New York in the Nick Saban era.

Amari Cooper became the fourth Crimson Tide player in the last six years to be named a Heisman Trophy finalist when he finished third to Melvin Gordon and Marcus Mariota in 2014. AJ McCarron was a finalist in 2013, Trent Richardson in 2011 and Mark Ingram won the award in 2009.

It’s funny, in a way, since for so long, not having players in the conversation for the Heisman was almost a point of pride for the program and its fans. "We win as a team," they said. "Not as individuals."

Ingram was the first Alabama player to win the award after a 73-year drought. Before Ingram, only one player—David Palmer in 1993—had even finished in the top three in voting.

The times have certainly changed.

So looking ahead to 2015, what are the chances Alabama players have for perhaps the most prestigious individual award in all of sports?

They're looking pretty slim right now.

If you ask Vegas, the bookies would disagree. But they often have different priorities than strictly determining probabilistic outcomes—like getting people to take their bets, which fans are happy to do for a running back at Alabama.

In Bodog's early Heisman odds (h/t Odds Shark), running back Derrick Henry was tied with Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine for the ninth-best odds to win the 2015 trophy at 14-1.

He'll probably at least be in the running, right? Not so fast.

First, it’s become increasingly difficult for running backs to win the award. Ingram was actually the last back to do so, and before him, a running back hadn’t won the award since Reggie Bush in 2005—though the award was vacated. Nine years, eight quarterbacks.

Second, while it may seem counterintuitive, it’s hard for one single running back to stand out at Alabama, even though the Crimson Tide still run one of the more back-friendly offenses in college football.

The Crimson Tide have featured a running back by committee of late. Since 2008, Alabama has had at least two running backs go over 600 yards in a single season. Last year, Henry and T.J. Yeldon each nearly hit 1,000. In 2012, both Yeldon and Eddie Lacy eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark.

It’s looking like that will be the case again this year.

Henry should be the No. 1 back, to be sure, but it’s hard to see him having too much of a featured role. In his two years on campus, he’s hit the 20-carry mark just twice in a game—both this year.

The same applies to Yeldon, who had two games in the 20s but otherwise was in the teens or single digits.

For comparison, when Ingram won the trophy in 2009, he had seven such games over a 14-game year. Richardson had seven over 13 games in 2011.

Henry likely won’t be getting that kind of a workload this year with Drake behind him and several talented freshmen nipping at their heels.

So where could Alabama turn to next for a Heisman contender? It would likely have to be at the two positions where the Crimson Tide had their most recent finalists.

At quarterback, nobody knows what will happen right now.

Last year, Jake Coker made Bovada's Heisman odds (h/t USA Today) without having played a down of football at Alabama after transferring from Florida State.

But after an underwhelming 2014, even as a backup, those brakes have been sufficiently pumped to the point where it’s not even a slam dunk that Coker will be the starter next season.

Perhaps Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell or Blake Barnett will grab the reins and light up the box score on their way to New York. Three of the last five Heisman winners were first-year starters at their school.

However, it’s all a little too murky to even say who will be Alabama’s candidate under center this year.

Wide receiver looks like it will take a by-committee approach this year. That stands in sharp contrast to 2014, when Cooper was Alabama’s leading receiver by more than 1,200 yards.

Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin lost his top three pass-catchers and will now rely on a talented pool of unproven players like Chris Black, Robert Foster, Cam Sims, ArDarius Stewart and Raheem Falkins.

Perhaps one of those names will emerge and blow up defenses like Cooper did last year. The likelier scenario, though, is that Kiffin spreads the ball around more than he did last year and no one name sticks out at receiver.

So, overall, it looks like for Alabama to have a finalist, it will have to be an emerging star—someone not on the fans’ radar at the start of the season.

Barring a rash of injuries at running back, forcing one guy to get a load of carries, Alabama fans might have to be content with a Tide-less New York this year.

That’s all well and good. The Heisman isn’t the ultimate goal.

Of course, there’s always the chance for an off-the-wall finalist. If cornerback Cyrus Jones has success returning kicks and punts while grabbing a bunch of interceptions, he could raise some eyebrows. Reggie Ragland looks like he’ll be a tackle machine at inside linebacker and has shown athleticism to make some interceptions.

And, my goodness, have you seen JK Scott punt?

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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15 Bold Predictions for 2015 Spring Football

Championships aren't won in the spring, but that doesn't mean we're any less excited about the prospect of some form of college football coming up on the horizon.

The far-too-long gap between the national championship game in mid-January and the first contests of the 2015 season in September can often feel like a never-ending wasteland, with only a few brief oases of hope for the future. We had national signing day earlier this month, and on Thursday we got the release of the American Athletic Conference schedule for the 2015 season.

But spring football, that's the big one. After nearly two months with hardly a sniff of the gridiron, we get several weeks of practices, workouts, premature depth charts and, finally, informal exhibition games that have no actual bearing on the upcoming season.

In a lot of ways, spring practice doesn't amount to much more than a chance for teams to get some extra work in and prevent complacency from sinking in. But occasionally some big developments happen during this period, both good and bad.

What's in store for 2015 spring football? We have our guesses.

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Odds on Where 5-Star DT Julian Rochester Lands

Julian Rochester, a 5-star DT per 247Sports' Composite Rankings, is undecided on where he will play at the collegiate level. The talented defender from Powder Springs, GA has lots of offers on the table. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer lists his odds on where Rochester will land. 

Where will Rochester play his college ball? Check out the video and let us know! 

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2017 CB Recruit Challenges Deion Sanders to One-on-One

Richard LeCounte is a 4-star athlete, as per 247Sports' composite rankings, who is uncommitted.  LeCounte is not afraid to talk a little trash, and he is going after some pretty big fish. 

Watch this 2017 recruit call out NFL great Deion Sanders. 

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Does Texas Have a Legit Shot to Flip Oregon QB Commit Seth Green?

Seth Green is a quarterback many programs are high on, and when the 4-star prospect ended his recruiting process with a commitment to Oregon back in October, he was predicted to be the next in line of great Ducks signal-callers.

With a new offer from Texas, however, Green has some Oregon fans wondering if he'll stay committed. Texas fans are wondering the same thing—only they're in favor of a flip before national signing day in February 2016.

Green, the top-ranked player from the state of Minnesota and the nation's No. 4 dual-threat quarterback, has a lot to think about with his recruiting. Before committing to the Ducks, Green made a few unofficial visits and camped at a few schools. He camped at Texas in June and had been high on the Longhorns since.

Oregon in the past has been on the positive end of a player flipping, but Texas is one of the teams that has recently won a recruiting battle against the Ducks. The Longhorns flipped 3-star safety PJ Locke on national signing day. Locke had been committed to Oregon since July 1.

If there's anyone who has shown they can recruit out of state, it's Texas head coach Charlie Strong. He has done well with the state of Florida, and he and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson landed 4-star Maryland stud Kai Locksley before signing day. They have been busy looking for top-notch talent of the future at the position.

Green told Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports that while Oregon was "still No. 1," a Texas offer "really meant a lot." Green also said that he'd consider looking more into his new offer.

You can believe that Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich and quarterbacks coach Scott Frost won't go down without a fight. Green, at 6'3" and 210 pounds, is a physically impressive athlete who catches the attention of coaches at first glance. He's just as comfortable under center as he is in the shotgun, and he possesses a nice arm. Green also is tough to bring down in running situations.

Oregon is hoping everything that won Green over in October will continue to be that important X-factor throughout his recruiting process. In October, Green told Josh Helmholdt of Rivals.com that Oregon felt like home, and he was a fan of everything in and apart from football there. Green added that he wanted to be a solid player-recruiter for Helfrich and the Ducks coaching staff.

A player like Green can be a game-changer in recruiting for both Oregon and Texas. From an offensive standpoint, wide receivers want to play with a reliable quarterback, and offensive linemen want to block for a leader. Green has the measurables and intangibles to be an impact player at the college level.

But will it be at Oregon? Or can Texas flip Minnesota's top-ranked player?

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

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College Football Teams Under the Most Pressure This Offseason

With seven months to go before the season, it might seem that no college football team is under immediate pressure.

But that, of course, is false.

Certain teams have tall tasks ahead of them this offseason and need to hit certain benchmarks during spring and fall camp. Their achievements won't count in the win and loss column—at least not directly—but they could alter the direction of the programs.

The teams on this list are walking on thin ice and can't afford a rocky offseason. Because next year is so important, they must answer pressing questions and avoid making the wrong kind of news (i.e., they can't contend for the 2015 Fulmer Cup).

Most of these teams face quarterback controversies, which is not a coincidence. Tutoring a quarterback is one of (a) the most important things a team can do in general and (b) the major things teams get done in the offseason. Now is when development occurs.

Sound off below, and let us know which teams you would add

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Top 5 Recruits Set to Attend Georgia's Junior Day

Georgia will welcome a flood of top recruits to campus this weekend for the program’s first junior day, according to Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247.

Players from at least five states are scheduled to be in attendance, per Mansell. 

Coach Mark Richt and his staff are already off to a fast start in the 2016 class with five commitments

Which players represent the top five targets that ‘Dawgs fans should be paying close attention to?

 

*Players listed in alphabetical order 

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Texas A&M Football: The Aggies' Top 5 NFL Draft Prospects

The Texas A&M football team will have multiple players selected in the 2015 NFL draft. The Aggies coaches have done a good job developing the talent on campus, and the 2015 draft will be a reflection of that work.

The Aggies had five players invited to the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. Texas A&M fans should expect four of the five players to be taken in the draft as long as they all perform well at the event. Josh Lambo was invited to the combine, but it is rare for kickers to be drafted.  

The combine is an opportunity for NFL scouts to get a closer look at college prospects. For some of the Aggies players, it will be a chance to show the scouts that their athleticism warrants being drafted higher than their play in 2014 indicated. 

This is a look at the five Aggies who are most likely to hear their names called during the 2015 NFL draft. 

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Is Steve Spurrier's Cinderella South Carolina Story Nearing Its End?

South Carolina entered the 2014 season with high hopes not just for the SEC East title, but for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Head coach Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks were picked to win the division at SEC Media Days last July, hosted Texas A&M on opening night with a Top 10 ranking and were set up to build upon three straight 11-win seasons.

Then Kenny Hill happened, the Gamecocks were run out of their own building and sputtered to a 7-6 record that included home losses to Missouri and Tennessee, as well as the first loss to Clemson since the month when Barack Obama was elected President...the first time.

Spurrier and Co. struggled to replace former defensive end Jadeveon Clowney—a once-in-a-generation monster whose presence made life much easier for the entire defense. It struggled to replace quarterback Connor Shaw—perhaps the best quarterback in program history.

It struggled to recapture the magic that Spurrier had when he ushered in the golden age of South Carolina football.

Was last season the anomaly or the start of a trend?

"The divide between winning and losing is extremely small and when there's so much turnover from season to season in college football," Wes Mitchell of GamecockCountry.com told Bleacher Report. "We've seen successful programs have a down year and then bounce right back the following year with a successful season. I don't think we'll truly know until 2015 if 2014 was a down season or the beginning of a downward trend, but Spurrier seems committed to making sure it's the former."

If South Carolina is going to prevent it from becoming a trend, Spurrier needs some of his veterans to grow up fast.

Inexperience up front and at the back end of the defense were the two main problems last year, and while many of those players will be back with more games under their belts, the roster as a whole looks to be following in last year's footsteps.

GoGamecocks reported on Tuesday that linebacker Marcquis Roberts is transferring from the program. Roberts finished 11th on the team with 31 tackles in 2014 and started nine games in 2013.

A huge loss? Maybe. He would have been fighting for a starting job this year, and whether he won it or not, his experience would have been invaluable for a defense that is desperately craving a leader.

Not to be outdone, Josh Kendall of The State reported on Wednesday that defensive lineman Blake McClain—who has not logged a snap for the program—is also moving on.

When compounded with what else has gone on in Columbia this offseason, though, Gamecock fans should be very concerned.

As Kendall pointed out, McClain is the 10th scholarship player to leave the Gamecocks since the end of the season. Michael Haney of 107.5 The Game noted that this move leaves inexperience littered all over the roster:

For reference, Tennessee—which was one of the youngest teams in the country last year—played 32 newcomers out of 71 players who logged at least one snap in the season opener vs. Utah State. Of those newcomers, 21 were true freshmen, according to its game notes.

The Vols' percentage of first-year players was never lower than 40 in any game during the 2014 season.

South Carolina looks like it's heading down the same path.

The front seven was gashed last year to the tune of 212.23 rushing yards per game and only managed 14 sacks. Gerald Dixon, Gerald Dixon, Jr. and several other veterans need to take a step forward and be pushed by a bevy of newcomers who were brought in specifically to be instant-impact guys.

"The first thing that South Carolina absolutely had to do was upgrade the talent on the defense, particularly on the defensive line," said Mitchell. "With the additions of Marquavius Lewis, Dante Sawyer and Quandeski Whitlow, they've certainly added some talent to the defensive end position and it wouldn't be a shock to see both Lewis and Sawyer as starters in 2015."

If the defense only takes a small step forward and not a giant leap, can the Gamecocks be consistent enough offensively to dig out of holes dug by the defense?

That's very much a concern in Columbia.

I have six fewer passing attempts than the most experienced quarterback on the roster, Connor Mitch, who was 2-of-6 last year.

Whether it's Mitch, Perry Orth or new signee Lorenzo Nunez, South Carolina will enter the 2015 campaign with inexperience at quarterback. Also, it won't have Mike Davis to rely on at running back, while Corey Robinson and A.J. Cann are gone off of last year's offensive line.

The new-look South Carolina offense will be looking to build around all-everything wide receiver Pharoh Cooper.

If Spurrier can find somebody to get him the ball consistently and take some of the pressure off the rest of the offense, the Gamecocks should be able to move the football as long as running backs Brandon Wilds and David Williams stay healthy.

"While the defense should be improved, there are question marks on the offensive side at both quarterback and offensive line," said Mitchell. "That's not a good combination. In order for South Carolina to get back to the type of season it became accustomed to those three straight 11-win seasons, it will need to answer the questions there."

The window for Spurrier to win the East is closed, but not locked. Is a roster loaded with youth and uncertainty at key positions going to be what prevents it from becoming locked?

Probably not.

With Tennessee reeling in a second straight top-10 recruiting class, Florida moving in a more offensive direction with new head coach Jim McElwain, Missouri doing Missouri things and Georgia routinely being competitive, it's hard to imagine South Carolina recapturing the magic and contending for the SEC East in the near future.

 

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.

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. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Georgia Will Play North Carolina in 2016 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game

Georgia and North Carolina will open the 2016 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt issued the following statement, per Seth Emerson of The (Macon, Georgia) Telegraph:

I know our team, coaches, and fans will be looking forward to playing a quality opponent like North Carolina in Atlanta. It will be a national stage for a season opener and generate a lot of excitement for fans not only of both schools but college football fans around the country.

Georgia last played in the Chick-fil-A game four years ago, when it lost 35-21 against Boise State.

Unless Georgia makes the 2016 SEC Championship Game, this will be its last chance to play in the Dome, which is being replaced by the Atlanta Falcons' new home stadium in 2017.

The Dome has become something of a curse to the Bulldogs, who lost the SEC title there to LSU the same year it lost to Boise State and again to Alabama in 2012. Ideally, it would make one more trip to Atlanta after playing the Tar Heels, but that cannot be guaranteed.

The game itself renews a rivalry on a 40-plus-year hiatus. Georgia and North Carolina have met 30 times, but the last meeting came in the 1971 Gator Bowl, which Georgia won 7-3.

With Richt and UNC head coach Larry Fedora (presumably) on the sidelines, though, it's safe to say the 2016 meeting will feature more than 10 points. It should definitely be a fun one to watch.

Georgia has now completed its 2016 nonconference schedule, which also includes Nicholls State, Louisiana-Monroe and Georgia Tech.

The Tar Heels are a step up from Georgia's soft 2015 schedule, which along with UL-Monroe and Georgia Tech features Southern and Georgia Southern, but no one has a right to complain about the Bulldogs' scheduling. They played a home-and-home against Clemson the past two seasons and have another planned with Notre Dame in 2017 and 2019.

North Carolina is a fine, respectable, above-average opponent for the Dawgs to play on a neutral field, especially since they already have one ACC team on their nonconference schedule. They continue to test their team more than they have to outside of SEC play.

This is good news for everyone—fans especially.

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Reloading for a Playoff Run: The Notre Dame 2015 Recruiting Class Hype Tape

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had a disappointing 2014 season, failing to live up to the lofty expectations placed on them. But with a good core of players returning, and a stellar incoming recruiting class, the future looks bright for the Irish. 

Check out this hype tape of the 2015 recruits that will take Notre Dame by storm. 

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Meet the Headliners of Tennessee's 2015 Recruiting Class

The Tennessee Volunteers are excited about 2015, and they should be. They landed a great recruiting class, and they are looking to build off the success of last season. 

Watch this hype tape for the 2015 recruiting class for the Tennessee Volunteers heading into next season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Deontay Anderson Reveals Top 10: Which Teams Hold Edge in Race for 5-Star DB?

 

Texas 5-star defensive back Deontay Anderson is one of the most coveted athletes in the Class of 2016. He's a top-five safety nationally, and his efforts over the spring could make him a top-25 player overall (he's currently No. 31 in the 247Sports composite ratings).

More than 30 schools reportedly have offered, but Anderson announced his top 10 on Wednesday. According to his tweet, Anderson is leaving his options to four of the Power Five conferences, choosing not to play in the Big Ten:

The list may or may not change as the spring approaches, but of the 10 schools, four will be watched closely. If Anderson chooses to stay in the Lone Star State, expect another recruiting battle between bitter rivals Texas and Texas A&M.

If he chooses to leave the state, however, keep your eyes on LSU and Alabama. Both schools have had success in recruiting top defensive backs from Texas. For many defensive backs, playing in the SEC means lining up against some of the best receivers.

Texas A&M has seen Anderson on two unofficial visits since October, most recently at its junior day on Jan. 25. Anderson has built a good relationship with the Aggies coaching staff. Texas also is an option, as his relationship with the Longhorns coaching staff is solid. Additionally, Anderson's high school teammate and 4-star receiver Reggie Hemphill-Mapps is already a commit and will be doing some player recruiting within the Manvel High School locker room.

And then there are LSU and Alabama. Both teams each year are grouped in the usual suspects competing for a national championship. In addition, early playing time has been good to Texas defensive backs at both schools. Anderson watched players like Tony Brown and Maurice Smith (Alabama) and Jalen Mills and Jamal Adams (LSU) get decent minutes in 2014.

If there's a wild card of the bunch, you have to look at TCU. With the explosive year the Horned Frogs had in 2014—particularly the dominant performance against Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl— more of the best in-state players are giving the program a second look.

Anderson is aware of what the TCU coaching staff does with its defensive players, and the prospect of working with head coach Gary Patterson, safeties coach Chad Glasgow and the rest of the staff could be a positive.

Additionally, Anderson has another teammate committed to TCU. D'Eriq King, a 4-star quarterback/athlete, gave his pledge to the Horned Frogs on Jan. 17.

There's still plenty of time for Anderson to make a decision—and he definitely has options. All 10 schools are considered contenders right now, but look for the spring season to separate the contenders from the pretenders.

 

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

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Florida RB Kelvin Taylor Is the Ultimate Sleeper for the Heisman Trophy

When you peruse through preseason Heisman lists, you'll undoubtedly see a few running backs listed among the small village of talented quarterbacks (looking at you, Ohio State) coming back for the 2015 season.

Players like Georgia running back Nick Chubb, LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Alabama running back Derrick Henry will be featured prominently on preseason watch lists.

One player who may be down in the second tier in the SEC could be the ultimate Heisman dark horse.

Florida tailback Kelvin Taylor.

As a sophomore in 2014, Taylor rushed for 565 yards and six touchdowns as the "1B" behind Matt Jones in a painfully one-dimensional Gators offense. At 5'10", 210 pounds, Taylor has proved during his first two years in Gainesville that he's big enough to take the pounding between the tackles but also has the burst to make one cut and run away from opposing defenders.

What's more, he has competition to be "the man" this year despite being the favorite for the top spot on the depth chart during the offseason.

Adam Lane emerged as a contender for carries in the Birmingham Bowl, when he rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown. How much can you take away from a bowl game? It depends on the situation, but even though he wasn't coaching, it was Jim McElwain's first glimpse of his team as Florida's head coach.

That has to count for something and, as I wrote last month, will put pressure on Taylor in the offseason.

McElwain then flipped 4-star Miami commit Jordan Scarlett leading up to national signing day. The 5'10", 202-pounder is similar to Taylor in that he's a true all-purpose back who has the jets to leave opposing defenders in the dust.

"With Matt Jones and Mack Brown gone, Kelvin is set up to take the bulk of the carries McElwain's offense," Nick de la Torre of GatorCountry.com told B/R. "Taylor had a hard time earning the trust of the previous staff, but with a clean slate and Scarlett there to push him, Taylor is poised to have a breakout season."

If he wins the job and becomes the No. 1 running back on the depth chart, he's in a system that will revolve around him and lead to some video game numbers. 

Former Alabama running back Dee Hart was buried on the Crimson Tide depth chart when he left the program last offseason. He made his way to Colorado State to join McElwain, his former offensive coordinator, and ripped off 1,275 yards and 16 touchdowns before declaring for the NFL draft.

That was with Garrett Grayson—a known commodity who posted back-to-back 3,500-yard passing seasons—at quarterback for the Rams. Florida doesn't have that kind of threat, which means even more chances for running backs to shine.

Taylor seems excited about the future.

"It's like a new fresh start," Taylor told GatorZone.com in December. "[McElwain] told us he is going to coach us hard, help turn this thing back around and just try to be the best coach he can be. We're just ready to go."

Don't sleep on Kelvin Taylor.

He's cleverly disguised as "field" on Bovada's Heisman odds, but once he starts running up and down football fields this fall, he could shoot up those lists and become a bona fide star. 

Only two running backs have won the Heisman since 2000, and in today's game with diverse offenses and quarterbacks who light up stat sheets, any running back who's going to evolve into a serious contender will have an uphill battle to fight.

Taylor has the talent and the opportunity to do it as long as he can help the Gators climb back into the national picture.

 

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.

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. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Which Teams Are Set to Stun College Football in the 2016 Recruiting Cycle?

This past season's national signing day was full of surprises. Now, we turn our attention to the 2016 cycle of college football recruiting, which will be just as entertaining. 

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson sits down with 247Sports Recruiting Analyst JC Shurburtt to discuss which class will surprise us in 2016.

Which team will surprise you in 2016?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Jameis Winston Causing Florida State Headaches Even After He Leaves

If the NFL doesn't work out for former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, he'll be welcome at the University of Michigan as the Wolverines' recruiting coordinator. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, too.

Winston and Petty, of course, spent some time in Ann Arbor with new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh this week preparing for the NFL combine. It's not an unprecedented move; players meet up with new coaches all the time in advance of big events. It's a great way to expand their football palates, and Harbaugh is regarded as one of the best football coaches in the country. 

However, it's what Winston said while working out at Michigan that grabbed headlines. And if you only read those headlines, you'd think Winston regretted his two phenomenal years at Florida State and wished could have played at Michigan under Harbaugh instead.  

Winston on Michigan's facilities: "We don't have this" at Florida State

Jameis Winston on Jim Harbaugh: "I Wish I Could Have Played for Him." 

That has to make you feel low if you're Florida State or follow the Seminoles, right? Yes, Winston loves Florida State and Florida State nation loves him, but it's never fun seeing those types of comments.

There's a certain "What the hell, man?" element to them. Not enough to be angry, but just enough to toss your arms up. 

However, when presented altogether and not in money quotes, Winston's comments aren't that big of a deal. Here they are below as broadcast on the MGoBlue.com website.  

On Harbaugh: 

It's a blessing to meet a guy like that [Harbaugh]. I made a reference back to when he was in Indianapolis in 1995. He had a great year that year. It was an honor to meet him. And all of his accomplishments and the type of coach he is, I wish I could have played for him.

On Michigan's facilities: 

These guys don’t know how blessed they are to have this type of facility. Florida State, we’re a very prestigious school, we have nice stuff, but we don’t have this. I love Florida State, I mean, go ‘Noles 'til the day I die, but they’re so much advanced than us.

Are those slights at Florida State and head coach Jimbo Fisher? No; it's possible to love where you came from and still be impressed—and more impressed in some aspects—with something else. 

Here's another way to think about it: Remember every time a coach said "X player is the best/easiest/fastest I've ever coached." It's hyperbole meant to prop up that one individual player, not necessarily discredit everyone else. 

And, in fairness to Winston, Petty raved about Michigan's facilities as well. The difference is Winston is a Heisman Trophy winner whose every word and action has been on trial in the court of public opinion. 

Why Winston and Petty propped up Michigan is easy to answer: They were featured in a video on Michigan's official website, likely being asked about what it was like to work with Harbaugh and what they thought of the things they saw.

Those are puff questions designed to generate puff answers. The only thing missing was coupling the video with "Everything is Awesome." 

The result is a free recruiting tool for the Wolverines. How much do you want to bet that the phrase "Even Heisman winner Jameis Winston wishes he could have played for us at Michigan" will be uttered by Harbaugh multiple times on the recruiting trail?

Since Florida State and Michigan battle nationally for blue-chip recruits, the Wolverines are going to get a lot of mileage out of that quote. The face of the Seminoles is talking up someone else. 

The comments themselves may not have been a big deal, but rest assured someone else at Michigan, or maybe elsewhere, will make them one. That's why that deep sigh heard from Tallahassee has echoed all the way up the country and into your living room. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

How the Unnamed NFL Scout Became College Football Fans' Worst Nightmare

They tear down giants with a single sentence. They make their presence felt without ever announcing their presence at all. They tell you everything you’ve seen over the past three or four years is a gigantic farce, a football mirage constructed purely for your entertainment. They are superpowered supervillains capable of mass destruction, and they operate while keeping their identities concealed.

They are anonymous NFL draft scouts—nameless, faceless lightning rods of negativity—and we can no longer allow them to run our lives.

The NFL Scouting Combine is the unofficial start to NFL draft season. It makes no difference that the actual draft is still months away. Scouts, people dressed as scouts, scouts operating in secret, NFL officials and television viewers will spend the better part of the next week explaining why [insert player here] won’t succeed at the next level because of how high his feet left the ground on a single jump.

Straight-line running will be worshiped and celebrated. The winners will be deemed "gods of speed" and honored with sports cars. Dropped passes and overthrown footballs will be greeted with deafening doom. Characters will be judged, and personalities will be dissected based on the briefest of press encounters.

The entire charade will be eagerly consumed by the masses. Given other viewing options and the overall compelling nature of the broadcast, the combine will likely find its way onto my television over the weekend. I’m not immune to the infectious nature of the broadcasts; the entertainment is undeniable.

Football is still football, even in packaged, helmet-less, overserved form. Like every other desperate fan seeking a quality fix, I’ll let the madness of the draft season wash over me like a warm shower. I’ll embrace the hysteria triggered by the sight of a 300-pound human running the 40-yard dash in under five seconds, which is something that should be celebrated regardless.

That is not the problem with the predraft hysteria as it stands now. There’s a mutual understanding, even with those less consumed by the madness, that physical attributes and measureables only tell you so much about the actual recipe.

The reaction and opinion that spring from the combine and NFL workouts—particularly of the nameless variety—are where the ritual plunges head first into a case of Peach Schnapps and refuses to come up for air. Some have already left their feet.

The most popular name you will hear over the next few months won’t be Jameis Winston. It won’t be Marcus Mariota. It won’t be Leonard Williams or any of the disruptive edge-rushers this class has to offer.

No, the most popular name you will read about over the weeks to follow will be Anonymous Scout. His friends call him that. You can call him Mr. Anonymous Scout. You are not friends.

Like he does every year, Mr. Anonymous Scout will announce his presence and wait for outrage. He will tell you why Mariota is too nice to play in the NFL, which has, unsurprisingly, already happened.

"Like if you punched him in the stomach, he might apologize to you," a scout told SI.com's Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans. "I just don’t know if he’s that alpha male that you’re looking for. This kid’s a kind of fly on the wall kind of guy."

Oh, but he’s just warming up.

Eventually, he will give you more. Perhaps he’ll explain why Ameer Abdullah doesn’t have the mass to play at the next level, or why Shaq Thompson won’t succeed because he can’t find a position suitable to his talents, or why Amari Cooper’s gravity-defying pull-ups lack technique and discipline.

“The player you worshiped over the past three seasons? He’s a third-down back,” the scout will say. “And I’m not sure he really loves football,” he might add.

On top of being an expert on straight-line running and a film wizard, Mr. Anonymous Scout is also an expert on body language and has a doctorate in psychology. That’s partly why he has to remain anonymous, you see. No one this gifted could possibly reveal his or her true identity. Just imagine if this power got into the wrong hands.

It’s the kind of power that college football fans are helpless to combat. Their favorite players—regardless of how pristine their football resumes might be—will be dismantled and sold for parts by a faceless, nameless, all-knowing sorcerer.

After all, just listen to what an anonymous scout had to say about a promising college quarterback just a little while back. (I would have given him credit, but he forgot to leave his name.)

"He's a system quarterback. 3-, 5-, 7-step guy. Can’t create on his own. Panics under pressure,” an AFC scout told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “Gets flustered easy. I don't think there's a quarterback in the draft worthy of a first-round pick. I'm dead serious. None of them are worth it."

This comment was made back in April 2005. The quarterback was former Cal product and renowned system QB Aaron Rodgers. If only the Green Bay Packers listened.

There are benefits of remaining anonymous.

It’s not a matter of missing on certain players and opinions. I miss on predictions weekly during the season. That’s part of the business. It’s enviable if you take enough swings. There’s an understanding—even among the most demanding readers—that not all prognostications will pan out.

Taking that uncertainty one step further, forecasting quarterbacks is a lot like trying to hit a dartboard from 35 feet away in a monsoon, especially when there’s no Andrew Luck to pick from. There usually isn’t.

It’s the secretive nature of these C-4 statements that add absolutely zero to the conversation. It’s sprinting into a room, lobbing a flaming stink bomb and running out, only to wedge a chair against the door so those inside can’t follow. And the only thing worse than offering up cryptic, “He’s just too nice to throw a football where it’s supposed to go” slosh is not owning this magnificent travesty of commentary.

Admittedly, it is personal. I cover college football. I have invested hours—no, days—in covering individual players who will be assessed on a far different curve. I have watched many of them make the sport look easy at a level suitable for this viewer’s taste buds.

When these memories are tainted through criticisms—many of which seem destined for a headline in a story and nothing more—one can’t help but feel his insides start to turn. Fans with their own individual worshipping habits likely know the same feeling. At some point, just about every talented player—product of the system or not—will endure the wrath of an anonymous scout.

That’s not to say some criticisms aren’t warranted. Going on record to express concerns over Mariota’s transition to a pro-style offense is a legitimate talking point. Hiding in obscurity and saying that his overall friendly demeanor could somehow hinder this transition is not.

And yet, despite this being mutually understood by all, this will not change. The anonymous scouts will still fire off scouting takes of the hottest variety. So, speaking for each and every college football fan bracing for another round of venomous drivel, let’s fire back.

“The anonymous scout lacks character and integrity and is someone I don’t believe can be trusted,” said an anonymous sports blogger. “To me, the concealment is deeply concerning. What else is this person hiding? When you consider how little is being added to intelligent draft conversation, I believe it’s only reasonable to ignore these comments moving forward.”

You heard it here first, from an anonymous professional no less.

Don’t let the anonymous scout tear down your favorite players this season. Just remember what an anonymous sports blogger told you and embrace the maddening stupidity of it all.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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