NCAA Football

Contender or Pretender: Which SEC Teams Are for Real in 2015?

The SEC has long been considered college football's premier conference. From Alabama's recent dominance to all the consecutive national champions, the SEC has been at the forefront of the game for the past decade. 

Looking ahead to the 2015 season, which perennial powerhouses are contenders and which are pretenders? 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee joined Adam Lefkoe to scour through the teams and determine which are for real and which are not. 

Who is the SEC favorite heading into 2015? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Nick Chubb's 9-Year Old Cousin Is Emulating the Georgia Star on the Field

Harlem Diamond, the nine-year-old running back and cousin of Georgia star Nick Chubb, is opening up eyes on the kiddie gridiron.

Check out this crazy highlight reel in which Diamond imposes his will on his opponents.

Highlights courtesy James Diamond

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Every Top 25 College Football Program's Dream 2016 Recruit

Recruiting never stops, and it definitely speeds up during the summer.

The next few months will be the perfect time for top college programs to make some serious progress in building their next recruiting classes. Between camps, visits and the blue-chip stars who want to make their commitments before their senior seasons start, recruiting junkies are about to enter a busy time of year.

Using Bleacher Report's Post-Spring Practice Top 25, here is a look at the one specific target each school would love to sign next February. 

Who's the one player who would make your fanbase go crazy? Take a look at our list and submit your own picks in the comments below.

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How Alabama QB Seth Franks Fought Bad Recruiting Luck to Walk on at Dream School

Alabama’s quarterback group is adding a new face this summer, but it’s not who you might think. It won’t be Everett Golson, Braxton Miller or any other big-name recruit.

Instead, it’s a 6’1” kid from just across the river in Northport, Alabama, who suffered some bad luck during his college recruitment but ended up at his dream school anyway.

Seth Franks, who grew up in Tuscaloosa county and played high school football just 10 miles from Bryant-Denny Stadium, will join the team as one of a small handful of preferred walk-ons—players who aren’t on scholarship but that the coaching staff still goes out of their way to put on the team.

For Franks, who was rated a 2-star prospect by 247Sports and Rivals, it’s an opportunity to continue playing football at the school he grew up a massive fan of, like anyone from Tuscaloosa, spending Saturday afternoons tailgating on the quad and cheering from the stands.

"He's just a really good player," Nick Saban said. "His size is probably a little bit of a factor that probably had something to do with how he got recruited. It's too bad that—I had the same issues when I was in high school—it's too bad that's the case. But some guys are really able to overcome that and do a great job anyway. So we just feel like he's a really good player and a fine young man and somebody that we're excited about having in the program."

Franks won’t have quite the same problems that Saban had as a 5’6” defensive back who wound up at Kent State. 6’1” isn’t an insurmountable disadvantage by any means.

But Franks’ size issues were only compounded just as his recruitment was ramping up.

The summer after his junior year, when he led Tuscaloosa County High School to a 7-3 record and a playoff berth, Franks had an allergic reaction and his throat swelled up. Doctors put him on a strict diet that made him shed almost 20 pounds.

He was down almost 20 pounds from 180 to about 162, he estimates, as he was taking visits to schools like Southern Miss and Louisville that summer.

The quarterback that schools saw carving up defenses on film was just another skinny kid once he got to their campus.

“That hurt me pretty bad, at least that’s what I think, as far as recruiting,” Franks said. “Only being 6’1” and then coming in at 160 pounds doesn’t look good, you know?”

His high school coach, Lee Gibson, was upset that schools wrote him off so quickly after seeing him in person.

“I just don’t think guys ever got past that,” Gibson said. “I don’t know what that says, I don’t know if they don’t trust their own training table or what, but I’ve had numerous guys say they thought he was too skinny. And my argument to that would be, that’s kind of your job to put back on him once you get him.”

In his senior year, Franks added that lost weight back, throwing for more than 2,000 yards, 20 touchdowns and four interceptions, Gibson said, taking the Wildcats to the second round of the playoffs. He was named to the Tuscaloosa all-region team by

At that point, though, he still only had offers from Jacksonville State and a handful of Division-III and NAIA schools.

So he had all but decided to quit football altogether to focus on academics when Alabama called.

Gibson is a longtime friend of Alabama’s new director of player personnel, Jody Wright, who had also recruited Franks at Jacksonville State. Wright called Gibson to ask if Franks had decided where he was going to play football. Gibson said he hadn’t.

So Wright called Franks, who wasn’t exactly a stranger to the program, going to camps and attending games as a fan and once as a recruit.

Franks visited an Alabama practice during the spring, sat in on a quarterback meeting and then got to talk to Saban as he came off the field from practice.

Wright told him they had a spot for a preferred walk-on. Franks took about a week-and-a-half to talk it over with his family to figure out how they were going to pay for school.

In the end, Franks ended up at his top school all along.

“Especially when I first started coming to high school, getting recruited by small schools, that was definitely the dream to play for (Alabama),” Franks said.

If recent history is an indication, Franks won’t be written off just because of his preferred walk-on status.

Luke Del Rio joined the team in the same capacity in 2013, turning down offers from Oregon State and Oklahoma State. After his first season on campus, he was going to be right in the mix to replace AJ McCarron before he transferred to Oregon State.

Franks should have that same chance, if not now then down the road, in a quarterback pool that doesn’t have a sure thing right now.

“It’s like anything, they’ll put me at the bottom of the depth chart,” he said. “You’ve got to start at the bottom and work your way up, they’re not just going to give it to you.”

For now, he’s just happy to be staying close to home, where an unfortunate turn on the recruiting trail still landed him where he wanted to be all along.

“It’s just great to see him get this opportunity because he’s one of the better players I’ve ever coached, and people passed up on for some reason,” Gibson said. “I’m looking forward to him to prove a lot of people wrong.”


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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2018 CB Verone McKinley III 'In Awe' over 1st Offer from LSU Tigers

Ask anyone who knows 2018 cornerback Verone McKinley III, and you'll rarely find someone utter a negative word.

McKinley in a very short time has blossomed into, pound for pound, one of the best defensive backs in his class. As a freshman at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, McKinley—known around the area simply as "V3"—recorded 28 tackles, four interceptions and four pass deflections in only nine varsity games, according to

LSU likes recruiting young talent. LSU also likes recruiting star-caliber defensive backs. For those who follow LSU and national recruiting, it made perfect sense for the Tigers to surprise McKinley on Tuesday evening with his first scholarship offer.

"I was a little shocked, just in awe," said McKinley, who was offered by LSU defensive backs coach Corey Raymond. "I'm honored to receive the offer, especially this early. It's a blessing.

"[Raymond] said I fit into what they were trying to do, and they're trying to get their 2018 class going. I liked how he was open with me."

At 5'9" and 165 pounds, McKinley still has some growing to do, but instinctively he has the mind of a veteran shutdown cornerback. Part of that comes from his father, Verone McKinley Jr., who played in the secondary at Texas Tech from 1992-95.

The elder McKinley is a defensive backs coach at Prestonwood and gets the chance to work with his son daily. He's watched his son grow into an athlete worthy of having one of the premier SEC programs be the first school to offer.

"I've always told him from an earlier age that you've got to have fundamentals and technique," McKinley said of his son. "What he's grasped is being a smart football player. With him only being a freshman, his football IQ is on the level of a high school senior. I've always been a stickler on technique and football IQ."

When the younger McKinley isn't working with his father, he's doing training sessions with either George Adams or Clay Mack, two athletes who have extensive football backgrounds. Adams, the father of LSU safety Jamal Adams, was a running back at Kentucky who went on to play for the New York Giants.

Mack, who played in the secondary at Mississippi State, is one of the co-founders of Quick Twitch Training, which specializes in improving overall technique, quickness, control and agility for skill-position players. In fact, minutes after McKinley received the LSU offer, he asked his father if he could attend a Quick Twitch session the same night.

"V3's skill set at cornerback rivals that of Jamal Adams' skill set at safety at that age," said Mack, who trained Jamal in high school. "Jamal was advanced as it related to the physical nature, instincts and paying attention to details, as his primary position was running back, which allowed him opportunities to think the play and the game through. My job was to structure what he and his father had instilled in him and add a true DB skill set.

"V3, on the other hand, has always had a craft element to his disposition. He's natural at adjusting to angles and reacting, and by V3 having a more slender build, he has had to learn how to adapt his game as he physically natured."

Perhaps, Mack said, this explains why McKinley's feet, hips and overall movement compare to so many defensive backs older than he. The offer is valued by McKinley, who not only respects the culture of the LSU secondary unit but also a player in Adams, someone he considers a big-brother figure.

"It's DBU," McKinley said. "I like what they do and how they put DBs in the league. Plus, I know I can drop some questions here and there to Jamal and know that he'll be there to help me perfect my craft. He's a very physical player, and he also covers well."

McKinley has had his share of accolades in his young career. In addition to being an Adidas Freshman All-American, he will also be one of only 44 athletes nationally to participate in the inaugural NFL Prep Academy, which will be held June 17-20 in Philadelphia. The program is a leadership development initiative recognizing some of the nation's top incoming sophomore athletes.

McKinley's father said his goal is "to be the No. 1 corner in the 2018 class" and that he has a blueprint for success. McKinley's hoping to receive several more offers in the near future. If he stays healthy, he's expected to be one of the most talked-about defensive prospects nationally in his class.

"He's phenomenal to train and [to] watch grow in his craft," Mack said. "He pushes the older guys to the max in our training sessions."


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.

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Is Florida or LSU College Football's Real 'DBU'?

It's the offseason, and there needs to be something to talk about to cure the offseason doldrums.

With that in mind, it's only fitting that an argument has kicked up between two schools over a moniker.

LSU and Florida have both staked claims to "DBU"—the nation's top defensive back school—over last couple of weeks.

It started with this video that Florida released on May 11 calling itself "DBU."

That didn't sit well with LSU safety Jamal Adams, who voiced his displeasure on Twitter.

Star Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves then mixed it up with Adams on Twitter, before Adams ended the conversation with the date of this year's Florida/LSU game.

It didn't end there, though.

LSU's athletic department jumped into the mix with a "DBU" hype video of its own on Vimeo.

Which school is the real "DBU"?

Without question, it's LSU.

We're going to use the 2005 season as the starting point for a couple of reasons. It was the year that Les Miles arrived at LSU, and it was when Urban Meyer took the Florida job, which vaulted the Gators back into the national discussion.

Since that point, the two programs have combined for three national titles and won four SEC championships. On top of that, monikers like "DBU" are more "what have you done for me lately," and the identity of both programs lately has been the defense.

Since Miles arrived, LSU has sent a whopping 13 defensive backs to the NFL through the draft, produced six first-team AP All-Americans and even sent one defensive back—Tyrann Mathieu—to New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy finalist.

Those stars from Baton Rouge include first-round draft picks Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne and Eric Reid, among many others. LSU's ability to sign, develop and send defensive backs to the NFL is something that has been a mainstay of the program under Miles.

But it isn't just about the players and the draft, right?

Of course not. 

These players have to perform on Saturdays before playing on Sundays. On Saturdays, the two programs are close, with Florida holding a slight edge in one major category.

Florida has led LSU in overall pass defense five times over the last 10 seasons, and vice versa. But LSU has produced a top-10 pass defense five times over the last decade, with Florida boasting three. Simply put, LSU has consistently produced an elite pass defense every year except 2008.

Put another check mark in the Tigers' column.

While Florida has had plenty of success in the defensive back market over the last decade as well, LSU is the true "DBU." Its success on the field in college, its ability to send defensive backs to the next level as pros and the number of superstars who have passed through the program since Miles took over the program is far superior to that of Florida.

With players like Adams, Jalen Mills, Tre'Davious White and Kevin Toliver on the roster in 2015, it doesn't look like LSU is going to hand over that "DBU" championship belt anytime soon.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of 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.

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Miami Football: How Hot Is Al Golden's Seat for 2015 Season?

Al Golden is a coach who has come under fire. The Miami Hurricane fanbase is a passionate one that is used to winning at a high level. After a 6-7 campaign in 2014, how hot is his seat entering this season?

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Adam Kramer joined Stephen Nelson as they discussed Golden's fate and what he needs to do to stay off the hot seat. 

Will Golden survive another season in Coral Gables? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Tennessee Football: Early Grades for 2016 Recruiting Class

Stargazers may take one long look at this Tennessee football recruiting class and turn their noses up at a group of 10 players that is currently ranked 12th nationally and fifth in the SEC.

But the bottom line for the Volunteers' 2016 class is that it's not going to be very big and could wind up nowhere near as highly ranked as the previous two classes.

After coach Butch Jones brought in 32 signees in the 2014 cycle and 29 more last year, UT simply has a stacked roster full of underclassmen.

While those two classes—which wound up ranked seventh and fourth, respectively, by the 247Sports composite—will be tough acts to follow, there are several reasons Vols fans shouldn't be concerned about this year's ratings.

Gearing up for a 2017 class that could be big and loaded, the Vols appear poised to take a smaller group. There would simply have to be a lot of attrition from the current roster in order for them to reach the allotted 25 scholarships.

"With Tennessee having signed a couple of large classes over the past two years, I think the Vols definitely plan to have a smaller class in 2016," GoVols247's Ryan Callahan told Bleacher Report.

"Exactly where they will finish still is a bit of a moving target, but I think they would like to sign somewhere around 20, if possible," Callahan continued. "That always could change, though, depending on which players they might have a chance to sign."

Jones outfitted Tennessee with depth and talent at most every position. The only real areas where the Vols need more numbers are running back, receiver, offensive line and safety.

Those are the focal points of the small class.

Secondly, the way Jones had to construct the Vols, shedding some dead weight from the Derek Dooley era and loading up with two overfilled classes, there's a glut of freshman and sophomore players clustered together on the depth chart.

Taking some developmental prospects who have high ceilings but likely will need redshirt years, such as quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and defensive end Chidi Okonya, is a luxury UT can currently afford.

Would the Vols love to have a class of 17 4- and 5-star prospects again this year? Sure. Anybody would. But where and when would they all play?

"I don't think Tennessee intentionally will sign more developmental prospects in this class, but the Vols' current situation could give them the luxury of signing some players who aren't likely to make an immediate impact," Callahan said.

"In the past two classes, they needed players who were ready to play right away," Callahan added. "They couldn't afford to wait on a lot of guys to develop. Now, with Tennessee having some depth at several positions, they don't necessarily have to have a class full of guys who are ready to play on Day 1."

It was a matter of time before the huge classes caught up to Jones and the Vols, and this is the year. Still, UT should wind up with a top-15 class, even if it probably won't include much more than 20 players by the time national signing day arrives next year.

Let's take a look at some early recruiting grades for this year's haul.


Offense: B+

The prospects Tennessee have collected on the offensive side of the ball thus far are exceptional. The only reason why the Vols are docked is because of who they don't yet have.

Getting commitments from at least two running backs in this cycle is an absolute must.

Jones told GoVols247's Wes Rucker back in February that the position was the biggest need in the 2016 class, and so far, the Vols don't have one.

UT also needs to recruit some speedy, impact wide receivers. Though the Vols have a pledge from Louisiana prospect Corey Henderson, that's just a start. Huge irons remain in the fire, including Mecole Hardman, Diondre Overton, Kyle Davis and JUCO receiver Jeff George.

Getting a couple of those guys could really round out the offensive haul.

So, who do the Vols have on offense thus far besides Henderson? It all starts with the jewel of the class, Guarantano.

The nation's sixth-ranked pro-style quarterback is 6'4", 200 pounds and possesses a cannon for an arm and sub-4.6 speed. He's arguably the best fit for what UT does offensively in the entire recruiting class, and maybe in the past couple of classes.

It's going to be fun watching Guarantano battle current freshman Quinten Dormady in the future because of their elite talent and different skill sets. Jauan Jennings and Sheriron Jones will also be in the mix, so the Vols' quarterback recruiting is set for the foreseeable future.

Moving down to the line, the Vols didn't need many bodies after signing five in 2015, but they did want a couple of prospects who were big but athletic enough to excel in zone-blocking concepts.

Brentwood Academy product Ryan Johnson is exactly what UT needs on the exterior. The 6'6", 277-pound tackle decided to stay near his Brentwood, Tennessee, home to play his college football, and that's big news for the Vols.

Fellow 4-star lineman Brodarious Hamm pledged to UT at the Orange and White Game, and the Georgia product has a quality offer list and versatility to play either guard or tackle on the next level. With that duo, UT can be very selective in choosing another tackle if it so desires.

To go along with Henderson, Tennessee has a commitment from 4-star tight end Devante Brooks of Washington D.C. He is long, lean and athletic, and some schools were recruiting him to play on defense. UT loves his upside at tight end, and he looks like a nice prospect.

Athletes TaDarryl Marshall and Dorian Banks can play on either side of the ball, but both should get initial looks on offense.

Marshall is a dynamic athlete with the ball in his hands and dominated opponents as a dual-threat quarterback at Leeds High School in Alabama. He chose to leave the state despite having offers from Auburn as well as the Crimson Tide.

Banks is on the commitment list, though he's not discussed much. He has been committed to UT since February 2014, but after bouncing around from several high schools, it'll be interesting to see if he ever winds up in Knoxville.

So, the offensive players who Tennessee have lured to Rocky Top so far are stellar. There's just work left to be done on that side of the ball.


Defense: C+

The Vols' defensive haul perhaps best deserves an "incomplete" rather than the above grade. It's just so early, and they are going to be so selective on that side of the ball, there aren't many surefire defenders committed.

With last week's decision by Atlanta-area defensive end Chidi Okonya, the Vols now have three players in the 2016 class who project to play for coordinator John Jancek.

Though Okonya is a developmental prospect, some of the nation's top programs offered him based on his massive upside. He chose UT over Stanford, Ole Miss, Clemson and Duke, and his high school coach, Terry Herrod, told B/R he believes Okonya can be 260-270 pounds after a redshirt season.

The big defensive end likely won't be able to help right away, but there's no need for him to with all the depth at the position.

North Carolina cornerback Marquill Osborne has elite potential, evidenced by his offer sheet, which includes interest from LSU, Florida and others. If the Vols can hang on to him, he's exactly the kind of tall, athletic cornerback who has thrived in defensive backs coach Willie Martinez's system.

The only other defensive commitment thus far is Bailey Phillips, an undersized defensive back from Texas who is a relative of UT defensive lineman Dimarya Mixon. He committed at a camp last year, and it'll be interesting to see if he sticks with this class.

The 5'7" Phillips is a bit of an uncharacteristic "take" considering the Vols haven't gone after a lot of diminutive corners.

Much like the offensive side of the ball, this grade should change a lot if UT can close the deal with some of its top targets.

Linebacker Daniel Bituli is the state's top-ranked prospect, and he recently told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan the Vols lead for his services and that he's planning to make a decision this summer.

Perhaps the Vols' second-biggest need in this cycle is safety, even though the emergence of Evan Berry this spring to go along with Todd Kelly Jr. alleviates that somewhat.

Nigel Warrior and Joejuan Williams easily are the top two targets at that position, and Warrior is arguably the top target on UT's entire board.

If Tennessee can add those three prospects to its list, it'll be a nice haul on defense.


Quotes and observations obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information obtained from 247Sports.

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

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Inside Look at Towsley Family Museum, Home of Historic Michigan Memorabilia

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — New chapters of Michigan Wolverines football lore will be written this fall at the Big House with new coach Jim Harbaugh, but the storied past that built one of the NCAA's proudest programs resides in a 14,000 square-foot exhibit at the Towsley Family Museum in Bo Schembechler Hall.

It's a place where 134 years of maize and blue come alive at every turn.

The immediately noticeable displays draw attention with plaques, pennants, ribbons, buttons, trophies and jerseys, plus a lot more, from the personal archives of noted Michigan collector and historian Ken Magee, who has spent a lifetime acquiring the Wolverines' historical markers. 

With assistance from Bruce Madej, Michigan's longest-tenured PR director, Magee imagined ways to share his love of Michigan football with the public.

Also the owner of a memorabilia shop in Ann Arbor, Magee thought that his stockpiles of vintage items would greatly complement a $9 million renovation of the facility just north of Al Glick Field House. 

"If it wasn't for somebody like Ken Magee—in fact, if it wasn't for Ken Magee, we wouldn't have been able to do it," Madej said of the concept for the museum. "Knowing what Kenny had, I knew we could put together a good story." 

After lengthy conversations, they began to imagine a museum with glass-covered, wood-grain cases topped off by etched quotes and plaques. And to keep up with the times, they wanted to add plenty of screens, including an interactive menu so visitors could read more about the pieces.

Madej helped with the logistics, but Magee's imports completed the vision, seamlessly marrying technology and tradition. While some of the items come from families of past players, the majority of them, including the most valuable, belong to Magee. 

The timeline beneath the "This is Michigan" wall is Magee and Madej's favorite exhibit. It takes a jog through the decades with milestones punctuated by Rose Bowl mementos, such as rare hats, rings from players, pins, buttons and many other rare examples from the time. 

"My favorite items are probably the matchbox holder and the button from the 1902 Rose Bowl," Magee said. "I love the ribbons, as well. The ribbons are very cool. I loved the process that we went through to get these items—we took a lot of items from my personal collection and we sat down and kind of created a formula of what was coolest, what was most visually [appealing]..."

In terms of visuals, a hollowed, towering glass wall filled with commemorative footballs celebrating each one of Michigan's NCAA-leading 915 victories stands out in the middle of Towsley.

Secured by wire fixtures, each modern-day ball has the team emblems, score and date of the victory. 

Completed in April 2014, the Towsley museum also boasts rare artifacts dating back to the earliest of days of coach Gustave Ferbert, who went 10-0 in 1898, mementos from the era of Fielding Yost, who was the "first" coach, and it also provides a quick leap back in time with a corner dedicated to Bo Schembechler. 

Bo was, and remains so, more than a coach to Wolverines fans. He's a folk hero who helped guide Michigan to 13 Big Ten titles from 1969 to 1989. 

His share of real estate inside Towsley is hard to miss—it's near the entryway, and it's highlighted by a headset that has a blue piece of tape with the letters "BO" embossed in white. One can only imagine the words that have passed through those headphones.

However, Bo's presence is felt before then. Visitors will see him prior to setting foot inside the museum: A larger-than-life-sized bronze statue of the iconic coach perches on a circular-stepped cement podium in front of the doors. 

Having him guard the place is only right. 

"I was extremely ecstatic to be a part of creating a museum that was in a building named for one of my childhood heroes," said Magee, who's had close ties with the Schembechler family since his youth. "When I talk about Bo Schembechler, and when I talk to young people about things you can never have too much of in life, I talk about heroes, role models and mentors.

"And Bo Schembechler was that to so many people. And for me to be part of the process in creating the museum at Schembechler Hall was an honor. It was an outstanding honor."

Featuring others such as famed quarterback Tom Harmon is equally rewarding for Magee and Madej, who both feel Harmon is "in a league of his own" when compared to other figures in school history. 

"Harmon Corner" immediately jumps out with a vibrant movie poster depicting Harmon in a familiar role—that of a star football player. The colorful and artistic full-size sheet is "extremely rare" and one of four known to exist.

Magee owns two of them. 

The interest, though, lies more in the story of the film than the value of the art itself. Magee explained how the film, which was one in a series produced in Hollywood for Heisman winners in the 1940s, adds to Harmon's legend.

"It was what we'd refer to today as a 'B-movie,' and it also starred Tom Harmon's playing partner, Forest Evashevski. And interestingly enough, Forest Evashevski was in the movie with him as a Michigan football player. But the interesting thing about the movie, the plot was very, oh...interesting so to speak.

"Tom Harmon played the position of...technically, not a good person. He played the part of a very famous football player who went on to to be a coach who was obsessed with beating his former coach. He wanted to use a trick play that everybody warned him against using. 'Don't use that play, don't use that play! It's dangerous. The quarterback can get hurt!'

"He ended up using the play, and the quarterback got crippled—this is all near the end of the movie, too—the quarterback got crippled and Tom Harmon's wife left him, and he lost the game, too. That's pretty much how it ended. He was basically destroyed."

That character was the polar opposite of Harmon, a skilled, strategic and tactful fighter pilot who was awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star during World War II. Before dying at age 70 in 1990, Harmon, a two-time All-American, also worked as a broadcaster, calling UCLA football games for ABC. His son, Mark Harmon, is a well-known actor and stars as "Agent Gibbs" in the popular crime drama NCIS. 

When it comes to "ideal" Wolverines, there aren't many who can top 1991 Heisman-winner Desmond Howard, who finished his three-year career with 32 touchdowns (No. 3 at UM) and 2,146 receiving yards (No. 12 at UM). He'll forever be remembered for striking a pose versus Ohio State in 1991 and helping to lead the Wolverines to title contention. 

His autographed, game-used Rose Bowl jersey serves as a reminder of the early '90s. Magee and Madej didn't place a monetary value on the garment, but a conservative estimate of a few thousand dollars wouldn't be out of line, because it belonged to Howard, it's signed and it's game-used.

The paint-like, screen-printed numerals and mesh body drastically differ from today's tech-fit, carbon-fibered spacesuits. It's truly a collector's "dream piece." 

As a whole, Michigan's jerseys are among the most collectible and recognizable in all of sports.

They've covered a handful of superbly talented athletes, such as Gerald R. Ford (No. 48 on the field, No. 38 in the Oval Office), Ron Kramer (No. 87), Bennie Oosterbaan (No. 47), Harmon (No. 98), Howard (No. 21) and the Wistert brothers (No. 11).

Those program legends have their own wall, which is fronted by square, glass helmet cases that seem to float in midair. 

Michigan's most recent Heisman winner (1997), Charles Woodson, also has a jersey showcase complete with photo montage—even the photo of him with a rose in his mouth. Woodson, who was one of the greatest all-around athletes in all of college football, finished his career with 18 interceptions (No. 2 at UM) and a Heisman moment versus Ohio State.

In addition to individual shrines, team photos from throughout the decades, including tributes to the 1997 national co-championship team, are strewn about the area. Magee and Madej wanted each era to be well represented with prolific collectibles.   

Other tokens from important moments in Michigan's illustrious history are arranged throughout the museum, as well, including a photo from the famous 28-7 "platoon" loss to Army in 1945, Anthony Carter's Rose Bowl ring and instruments from the heyday of the college marching band.

Magee's pride and joy, the 1902 Rose Bowl program, which he called "the Holy Grail" of Michigan collecting, rests well behind glass. 

However, it's only a replica. Due to insurance reasons, Michigan thought it'd be best for the authentic and nearly impossible to find program to stay with Magee, who estimates its value in the $40,000 range, if not more. 

"I cashed in part of my retirement to be able to buy that," laughed Magee, who has other copies, both authentic and reproduction, in his collection. As for the other bowl games, their programs were enlarged to fit on the Wolverines' colorful "bowl history" wall, which marks each of the Wolverines' postseason appearances. 

Due to design, Magee prefers the programs of the 1920s. However, and oddly enough, the Wolverines didn't play in a bowl during that decade. Other than his affection for the '20s-style programs, he's partial to Bo-era programs and those from his childhood. 

Like Magee's collection, the museum will continue to grow and evolve. It probably won't look the same for very long, as there are thousands upon thousands of Magee's items waiting to be displayed. He often joked about Towsley housing the "second-best" Michigan football collection. 

His home, particularly a completely finished and ornamented basement, is where the gold standard rests. His shop envelops the No. 3-ranked stock. 

With that being said, pieces in the collection will rotate at the discretion of Magee, Madej and the university. Perhaps they'll end up clearing a space for Harbaugh, who could one day land in Towsley—right next to the men who set the standard he's trying to equal. 

"That's what we're waiting to find out," said Magee, with a grin. 


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.

Special thanks to Michigan collector/historian Ken Magee, Michigan athletic department member Bruce Madej and associate athletic director David Ablauf for assistance with this piece. 

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Who Will Be the Secret Weapon for the Florida Gators in 2015?

The Florida Gators enter the 2015 season with a new look. With head coach Jim McElwain in charge, they will try to re-establish their program as a national powerhouse. But who will be their secret weapon?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee breaks down who will be the X-factor on offense for the Gators.

Who will break out on offense for Florida in 2015? Check out the video and let us know!

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Ohio State Football: Will Backloaded Schedule Spoil Buckeyes' 2015 Playoff Run?

If championships are truly won in November, Ohio State is in for a stiff challenge this fall. 

The Buckeyes, fresh off their improbable tear through the 2014 postseason, are gearing up for another championship run in 2015, but a treacherous November slate that features Minnesota, Michigan State and Michigan could prove to be a significant speed bump along the way.

And if Meyer wants to propel his team into the College Football Playoff for the second consecutive year, he'll likely have to navigate that November stretch unscathed.

Of course, three of the four teams that participated in the first playoff (Ohio State, Oregon and Alabama) brought a lone blemish into the postseason, but all of those defeats were suffered before the first week of October rolled around. 

Other contenders such as Mississippi State, Michigan State and even Ole Miss weren't as fortunate, losing pivotal November games that crushed their chances of making it into the coveted final four.

The Buckeyes are hoping to avoid a similar fate this year. The challenge will start on November 7 with Minnesota. 

These two met last October under frigid Minneapolis conditions, with the temperature dipping to a chilling 15 degrees at kickoff. The Buckeyes scored the first 14 points in each half, but the Gophers battled back before eventually falling 31-24.

"I challenge any team in the country that wants to go ahead and schedule this one in November," Meyer said, according to Dave Campbell of the Star Tribune.

"That was a really great team that we just played," receiver Evan Spencer added, via Campbell.

That really great team will be making the return trip to Columbus this fall, though, and the Buckeyes have more than just home-field advantage on their side. Meyer's squad will be well-rested for the matchup, coming off a nicely timed late-season bye week. The Buckeyes will also have some bulletin-board material to use as motivation.

If the Buckeyes handle Minnesota, they'll get a tuneup game on the road against Illinois—a team they have outscored by an average of 32 points with Meyer at the helm—before the most difficult stretch of the season.

Mark Dantonio and Michigan State have battled Urban Meyer's Buckeyes harder than any team since 2012. Their first matchup three years ago in East Lansing, Michigan, was a defensive slugfest that Ohio State won, 17-16. A year later in the conference title game, Michigan State halted the Buckeyes' 24-game win streak—and their chances of making the BCS title game—with a 34-24 upset.

Ohio State got revenge in Spartan Stadium last November when quarterback J.T. Barrett amassed 386 total yards and five touchdowns in a surprising 49-37 victory. It was a win that validated the Buckeyes as contenders and propelled them back into the playoff conversation.

This year, it will be the Spartans looking for revenge. They'll look to replace key contributors such as tailback Jeremy Langford, defensive end Marcus Rush, safety Kurtis Drummond and cornerback Trae Waynes this fall, but they'll return an excellent core of 14 starters highlighted by quarterback Connor Cook and defensive end Shilique Calhoun. 

The Spartans are so loaded, in fact, that they're projecting as the No. 8 team in the country, according to Mark Schlabach of And if the Spartans can beat Oregon at home in Week 2, there's a great chance they could invade Columbus as a top-four, undefeated team on November 21.

And just seven days after Ohio State plays in what could be a top-five matchup, they'll have to hit the road to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to face a Michigan team that will be desperate to beat the Buckeyes. 

It will be the first Ohio State-Michigan game with the fiery Jim Harbaugh on the opposite sideline, and it's safe to assume he'll have his team ready to play. The Wolverines have risen to the occasion in each of their last three meetings against Ohio State despite the inferior coaching of Brady Hoke.

With Harbaugh in control and a crazed fanbase in the stands, this year's version of The Game won't be a breeze for Ohio State. 

Will the Buckeyes be up to the task this fall? Will they flex their muscles down the stretch of the season for another run at the playoff?

If the past is any indication, the answer is yes. Ohio State is a perfect 12-0 in November games under Meyer, winning by an average of 20 points per game. But only three of those games came against teams ranked in the top 25, and another three came against the walkover Illini team.

This fall, the Buckeyes could see a trio of top 25 teams in the final month alone. They'll need to be at their best to make it to December. 


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

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Predicting the Winner of Each College Football Conference in 2015

Memorial Day is almost upon us, and with it, the beginning of summer. We’re still more than three months away from the kickoff of the 2015 college football season, but we’re not far at all from college football preview magazine season.

Soon, people across America will be picking up glossy magazines at grocery stores and bookstores, soaking up all the information they can find on their favorite teams and their rivals. It’s the perfect time to make predictions, and that’s what we’re doing here. Here’s our guess at who’ll win each major college football conference in 2015.

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Should Auburn or Alabama Be the Favorites in the SEC West?

Alabama is the defending SEC champion, but its bitter intra-state rival Auburn is the team that's generating the most offseason momentum.

By now, you've seen all the Auburn hype.'s Mark Schlabach has Auburn losing in a national semifinal, while his colleague Brett McMurphy has the Tigers playing for the national championship against TCU.'s Bill Bender has them losing to the Horned Frogs in the Orange Bowl national semifinal. Steve Lassan of Athlon Sports (via says that Auburn could be a "major player in the 2015 playoff."

Hello hype train.

It's looking more and more like Auburn has a legitimate chance of being chosen as the SEC favorite when SEC media days kicks off in Hoover, Alabama, in July.


A stable quarterback position with junior Jeremy Johnson being named the starter following spring practice and the presence of new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp have a lot to do with it.

"We did lose a lot of quality players who really helped us the last two years," head coach Gus Malzahn said. "Here at Auburn, we want to win championships every year. That's the expectation. From a coaching standpoint, you don't get too caught up in preseason polls."

Should Auburn really be the favorite, though?


Alabama should.

Before we go any further, I'm not using the "Alabama is the defending champ until proven otherwise" rationale. The fluid nature of college football rosters that change from year-to-year makes that argument look incredibly silly and shortsighted.

This is more about Auburn and Alabama being viewed through different lenses in 2015.

Auburn is getting the benefit of the doubt because of Johnson. He's a tremendous quarterback who's in a great system led by Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee that always finds a way to click. But it's not like Johnson being named the starter was breaking news. The quarterback battle on the Plains was a mere formality rather than a true battle.

Defensively, does Muschamp matter that much?

Granted, all Auburn's defense has to be is adequate to contend for the SEC title, but we really don't know much about that defense. Star defensive end Carl Lawson sat out most scrimmages this spring, the interior of the defensive line is still searching for depth behind Montravius Adams, Dontavius Russell and Maurice Swain, and star corner Jonathan Jones recently underwent foot surgery.

Despite that, Muschamp is still getting the benefit of the doubt.

Why isn't Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin?

All he did during his first season as the Crimson Tide offensive coordinator was post a program-best 484.5 yards per game with a quarterback—Blake Sims—who once was a running back during his time in Tuscaloosa. 

Are there roster holes?

Sure, but players like running backs Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake have played plenty of football over the last two seasons, and we already saw Kiffin turn around an offense last spring that was in a much more dire situation than the 2015 edition.

Defensively, you've heard plenty about Alabama's front seven. It's one of the best in college football. The big problem is at the back end, where new defensive backs coach Mel Tucker needs to find someone to step up opposite Cyrus Jones at the other cornerback spot. During the spring game, wide receivers ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster had a field day, but there weren't many blown coverages and players like Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown looked comfortable.

That should matter, but it hasn't seemed to click quite yet.

That's not to say that Auburn won't contend. It probably will, and that Iron Bowl matchup in late November on the Plains is shaping up to be a big one. But it seems like the two rivals are being viewed quite differently this offseason, and what counts as momentum for one doesn't even register for the other.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of 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.

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B/R Exclusive: 4-Star WR Austin Mack Breaks Down His Top 8

Austin Mack is entering the final stretch of a frenzied recruitment with eight college programs still in the mix.

The 4-star Indiana wide receiver revealed his list of favorites Monday morning, setting the stage for a June 7 announcement ceremony:

Mack, a 6'2", 205-pound playmaker from Bishop Luers High School, is rated 20th nationally among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings. He caught 69 passes for 1,062 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall as a junior.

"I'm an all-around wide receiver who commits to the little things," Mack said. "I'm smart enough to memorize playbooks quickly and execute my assignments, whether I'm blocking downfield or running crisp routes. For a high school player, I'm polished. You can put me anywhere on offense, and I can contribute on special teams. I believe I'm ready to compete in college."

So where will he land at the next level?

"I haven't decided yet," Mack said. "Everyone on that list still has a chance."

Bleacher Report recently caught up with the coveted pass-catcher to discuss each of his eight options. 



The first of three SEC schools included on Mack's list made a strong impression during his campus visit in late March, when the Crimson Tide formally extended a scholarship offer. As usual, much of the appeal in Tuscaloosa starts with head coach Nick Saban.

"Sitting down with Saban and talking about your future with him is crazy," Mack said. "It's almost like being a little kid and meeting your favorite football player. I've grown up watching him coach on TV, and he's very respected throughout the country. It was really awesome to hear from Saban that I earned a scholarship to play for him."

The three-time national champion has assembled five straight top-rated recruiting classes. A crowded depth chart still seems appealing for Mack based on what he understands about the team's offensive needs.

"Surprisingly, even though they have a lot of talent on the team, there's actually an opportunity to compete early at wide receiver," he said. "Alabama is Alabama. There's nothing else quite like it."



The Wolverines would love to pair Mack with 4-star Indiana passer Brandon Peters, who became the new regime's first 2016 commit in April. The two have an established relationship that could continue to develop in college.

"Brandon is actually one of my boys, and he's not too far from me here in our home state," Mack said. "We talk all the time, and now, he's really trying to recruit me."

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has hosted him on campus twice since March. Like many Wolverines target on the recruiting trail, Mack admits he's intrigued by the new era in Ann Arbor. 

"Jim Harbaugh, as a person, is great. He's all about what Michigan stands for as far as character," Mack said. "His staff is very impressive, and they're all NFL-caliber guys. The thing that's special with them is I love the coaches."


North Carolina

UNC is the only East Coast college program to make the cut on this list. Mack traveled to Chapel Hill earlier in the process and is compelled by the Tar Heels attack.

"That offense is dynamic," he said. "They get the ball in the hands of their playmakers a lot, and that's exactly what you look for as a wide receiver."

Mack also enjoyed the environment that would await him as a student.

"It's a beautiful school and there's a lot to like about the area," he said. "They also made it a point to really talk about the academics at North Carolina, and that stood out to me. It's definitely a university I'm seriously considering."


Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish are in the mix for several receivers from across the country in this cycle. Mack is an in-state product who fits the bill for what head coach Brian Kelly looks for at the position.

Dating back to 2011, Notre Dame has signed the top-ranked Indiana prospect each year. Mack, who currently rates second on that list, now enters the crosshairs in South Bend.

"The tradition there is crazy, and its atmosphere is totally different than any other campus," Mack said. "They're all about being prestigious with both football and academics. That's huge for a person like me who really cares about education."


Ohio State

The Buckeyes are viewed as a favorite in this race, based on 20 expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Ohio State is expected to sign Mack in 90 percent of projections.

"The Ohio State coaching staff has definitely been recruiting me hardest," he said. "They were actually the first really big school to offer me, and they've been hitting me up almost daily since before last signing day when a lot of teams were focused on 2015 guys. That made a big impact."

This longstanding recruitment has resulted in multiple trips to Columbus, including the unique experience of attending Ohio State's national championship celebration in The Horseshoe.

"Columbus is buzzing right now, and there's a lot of energy in that town after the championship," Mack said. "There's nothing like Buckeyes fans. They are absolutely crazy. It's a great place to be."



Knoxville is expected to be the final stop in Mack's pre-commitment travel itinerary. He was in town last weekend, getting an up-close look at how Tennessee operates.

"It was a great experience to go down there, spend time with the coaches in person, and see what they had to offer," Mack said. "The football atmosphere is great and I like what the school offers academically. It was a good trip."

Volunteers quarterback commit Jarrett Guarantano was a driving force in convincing Mack to check out Tennessee. He remains in full-on recruiter mode less than three weeks away from the receiver's decision.

"Oh yeah, Jarrett's still talking to me about Tennessee," Mack said. "More than ever."



Mack has an interesting personal connection to the Badgers coaching staff. His wide receivers coach, Dre Muhammad, previously played for Wisconsin wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore when both men were with the Oakland Raiders.

"I know what to expect from his coaching and understand how he can help me develop at the next level," Mack said.

He is a big fan of how the Badgers attack defenses and sees a fit for him within the offensive scheme.

"It's a pro-style offense with a really strong run game that opens things up for receivers," Mack said. "You get an opportunity for a lot of one-on-one matchups against defensive coverages. From a business standpoint, playing football at Wisconsin wouldn't be a bad idea at all."



The Commodores present another opportunity for Mack to compete in the SEC. Vanderbilt is his second potential landing spot in Tennessee.

"I'm really high on their coaching staff. They might be the most intense college coaches I've met during this recruiting process," he said. "I really enjoy talking with (head coach) Derek Mason and his assistants."

Mack has made education a top priority throughout his search for the right fit. He gives Vanderbilt high marks in that spectrum.

"Academically, they're one of the more prestigious schools," Mack said. "The chance to play in the SEC with those kind of academics is huge." 


All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Nebraska Football: Coach Mike Riley's Biggest Challenges for Nebraska in 2015

Mike Riley knew he had a big job on his hands when he took over as Nebraska’s head football coach. But now that spring practice is over, Riley will be focusing on the upcoming 2015 season. As we settle in for a long summer offseason, let’s take a look at three things that will be occupying Riley’s attention as he prepares for the upcoming campaign.


What the Quarterback Will Be

Notice the very specific phrasing of this challenge. It’s not who Nebraska’s quarterback will be—all evidence points to junior Tommy Armstrong, absent injury. The bigger question is what the role of quarterback will be in Nebraska’s new offense.

At Oregon State, Riley’s quarterbacks were pure pocket passers. Riley’s most recent signal-caller, Sean Mannion, left Corvallis as the Pac-12’s career passing leader and was a third-round pick by the St. Louis Rams in this year’s NFL draft.

If that’s going to be what Riley is expecting, Armstrong is a bad fit. Mannion had a career 64.6 completion percentage and a 1.43 touchdown-to-interception ratio (according to Sports Reference), while Armstrong has a career 52.9 completion percentage (according to

But Riley might be changing his expectations of his quarterback. His first quarterback recruit for 2016 (according to 247 Sports) is Terry Wilson, a dual-threat quarterback. Why would Riley be bringing in a dual-threat quarterback if he wanted to move Nebraska into a pocket-passer style of offense?

It’s clear that Armstrong will not be Riley’s Joe Dailey, a run-first quarterback asked to run a pass-heavy offensive scheme. But trying to find that balance between the offense Riley has run with the talent in Lincoln will be one of Riley’s biggest challenges this season.


How Nebraska Adapts to a New Defense

Nebraska’s defense will look quite different under new defensive coordinator Mark Banker. As described by Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald, Banker’s Blackshirts will think less, react more and play fast. That’s in stark contrast to former head coach Bo Pelini’s focus on complex schemes and blitzes to keep opposing offenses off balance and look for advantages in matchups.

It sounds great, a very exciting style to watch. But it will also mean that Nebraska will have to win more battles athletically as opposed to a reliance on scheme to make up the gap against a more talented opposing offense. A team playing fast is also vulnerable to misdirections, counters and other offensive schemes designed to use a defense’s speed and aggression against it.

Particularly in year one of Banker’s new defense, Nebraska could be faced with growing pains as it learns how to play defense fast and simple. That could result in some ugly plays, which could lead to ugly losses if not managed properly.



“Wake me up when September ends.”

– Green Day

Say what you will about Pelini and the way he left, but he consistently won nine games. He never had his Callahan moment of a losing season and missing out on a bowl game. Yes, he never won the big prize, but he never guided Nebraska onto the reef like coaches past had done.

Some still question the hiring of Riley, whose career record of 93-80 in college may not inspire confidence in his ability to lead Nebraska to compete with Urban Meyer at Ohio State and Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. Of course, as a smart and particularly handsome analyst observed, Riley’s record in Corvallis was far more impressive than the .538 winning percentage given the limitations at Oregon State.

But there will still be some skepticism about Riley’s ability to win at Nebraska, and his first three games present a stern challenge. A home opener against BYU and dark-horse Heisman candidate in quarterback Taysom Hill could easily see Nebraska start off 0-1. And after a paycheck game against South Alabama, Nebraska has to make a trip to South Beach to play a very talented Miami squad.

Yes, on paper Nebraska should probably be favored to win both games. But given that Nebraska is also installing a whole new offense and whole new defense, it’s not at all implausible to imagine Nebraska losing to both BYU and Miami.

And a 1-2 start to his tenure could easily poison the well for Riley with the Nebraska faithful, particularly if NU struggles in the rest of the season and limps to a poor (dare I say) Callahan-like record in 2015.

Of course, the opposite is true as well. If Nebraska beats BYU and knocks of Miami on national television, Nebraska could find itself vaulted into the spotlight with a feel-good story of Riley’s success.

So while Riley should be afforded time to put his stamp on the program, the fact remains that the first three games of his career in Lincoln have the potential to define how he is viewed by the Nebraska faithful and the college football world as a whole. 


This column first appeared at The Double Extra Point, which you can follow on Twitter at @DblExtraPoint.

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Clark Yarbrough to Stanford: Cardinal Land 4-Star OT Prospect

The Stanford Cardinal bolstered their offensive line Tuesday with the addition of class of 2016 prospect Clark Yarbrough.    

The incoming offensive tackle shared the news on Twitter:

The 6’6” and 270-pound Yarbrough is a 4-star prospect, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, and the No. 95 overall player in the class of 2016. He is also the 12th-ranked offensive tackle and the No. 2 player in the state of Virginia.

A number of teams showed interest in Yarbrough during the recruiting process, including Virginia, Duke, Michigan, Florida and Clemson. He ultimately elected to go far from home and join a Stanford program that has developed a reputation for hard-nosed and physical running.

That sounds like something an offensive lineman can get used to during his college career. 

Yarbrough commented on his decision and why he chose to attend Stanford, per Jacquie Franciulli of "It was just a perfect fit for everything I was looking for in terms of great academics and a great football program."

Yarbrough is particularly important for Stanford because offensive tackle is an area of need moving forward.

Andy Drukarev of noted that “Stanford has only signed three true tackles in the last three recruiting cycles (Casey Tucker, Reilly Gibbons, Jack Dreyer), and with Gibbons leaving the program prior to the start of last season, the tackle position is a major priority for Stanford in the 2016 class.”

The opportunity is there for someone with Yarbrough’s strength at the point of attack and mobility from the offensive tackle spot to compete for playing time right away.

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Clark Yarbrough to Stanford: Cardinal Land 4-Star OT Prospect

The Stanford Cardinal bolstered their offensive line Tuesday with the addition of class of 2016 prospect Clark Yarbrough...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

How Mike Riley Plans to Get Nebraska Back to the Promised Land

Nebraska is a college football riddle: What do you do when nine wins a season isn't good enough? Most places, after all, would love to have that problem. 

But Nebraska isn't like most places in college football, so that's the question first-year head coach Mike Riley has to answer. 

The Huskers have a history of national championships and Heisman winners. The program is still a game-day destination with world-class facilities and outstanding institutional/fan support—all the things that make up a blue-blood program. 

Yet Nebraska hasn't won at an elite level since the early 2000s. The likes of Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini could never replicate the success the program experienced under legendary coach Tom Osborne.

Can Riley reverse that trend? Yes and no. 

Understand this about the promised land for Nebraska: It's not a replica of the Osborne era. That's just not the Huskers' place in college football anymore. 

If Riley can lead Nebraska to a Big Ten championship at least once and multiple Big Ten West division titles, he'll have done his job. More specifically, if he can get Nebraska to play with consistency, those goals are more obtainable.   

Consistency—that's something Pelini's teams rarely had. If anything, they were consistently inconsistent. That was perhaps the biggest reason Nebraska never flourished under him. How many times were the Huskers in a position to take home a divisional or conference crown only to fall (sometimes astoundingly) short?

There were losses of every variety, with blowouts and heartbreakers alike. The 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the 2012 Big Ten title game was an embarrassment. The loss to UCLA at home in 2013 was brutal. Up 21-3 with one minute remaining in the second quarter, Nebraska gave up a Paul Perkins touchdown. Then it gave up 28 straight points in the third quarter as part of a 41-21 defeat.

In order to get back to the level it wants, Nebraska has to be more consistent. That starts with winning the games it's supposed to win in a division that's—to put it one way—winnable. 

That goes without saying, right? Yes, but Brandon Vogel of Hail Varsity provides an in-depth answer as to why it's so important: 

Over the past seven seasons, Nebraska — according to Phil Steele’s data — was favored in 75.5 percent of its games. The Huskers won 71.1 percent of those games outright over that span. During Mike Riley’s tenure at Oregon State, the Beavers were favored 51.4 percent of the time and won outright 53.7 percent of the time. ...

Now, 2 percent above expectations might not seem like a huge deal, but it’s really hard for a coach, particularly one at a powerhouse program, to be better than the spread. That’s Riley challenge (sic) now. Assuming Nebraska is of relatively the same strength over the next five years (and 13 games per year), if the Huskers were favored 75 percent of the time and Riley was two percentage points better than that, he’s averaging 10.1 wins a season. Even if he’s just at that 75 percent number, that’s 9.8 wins per year, a half-game improvement per year over the average for the previous seven seasons.

That half-game could be a halftime adjustment. It could be finishing what the team starts in a game. It could be the difference between a second-place Big Ten West finish and a divisional title, or between another Holiday Bowl trip and a Rose Bowl berth.

It could also mean the difference between whether Riley has a job with Nebraska in five or six years or not. 

At Oregon State, Riley developed a reputation for taking a team of mostly under-the-radar players and getting every last bit of potential out of them. Though Nebraska is at a whole other level as a program, the same need applies. Riley has to get the most out of the talent available and the talent which is not yet on the roster. 

The benefit Riley has now is that he has resources available to recruit more than just under-the-radar players. Pulling out recruiting gems will still be part of the game plan, but so will landing bigger-name prospects. Nebraska may not have a natural recruiting territory, but it can still attract some blue-chip players Riley never would have had access to at Oregon State. 

As JC Schurburtt of 247Sports opines, Riley is as resourceful as any coach in the country. He'll make the most of his recruiting efforts in Lincoln: 

At Nebraska, you have a bigger, better brand to sell, but you still have to be resourceful and scour the country for talent (along with having a developed walk-on program for the in-state prospects). There’s no more proven head coach in the country at doing just that than Riley. The talent level at Nebraska will ultimately prove to be superior to what he had at Oregon State (and likely already is), but it’s his resourcefulness and ability to build a high-level roster on an annual basis that will pay dividends for this program.

That doesn't mean Nebraska will land top-10 classes regularly anytime soon, but Riley should be able to pull in top-25 classes with a mix of 4-star and higher 3-star targets from Oklahoma, Texas and elsewhere. One recent commit, dual-threat quarterback Terry Wilson, is from the Sooner state. 

He's also committed to keeping in-state and regional kids coming to Nebraska. 

“The one thing that we want to know for sure is that we’re going to keep all the best football players from right here,” Riley said, via Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald

Riley is known as one of the nicest, most respected coaches in the business—but he's also known as a builder and developer. Nebraska may have been winning nine and 10 games under Pelini, but the program is not above the need to build and develop. 

Riley is establishing a new culture at Nebraska, one that's more fan-friendly and less abrasive. Pelini's attitude (he only cared about his players) never meshed well with the administration or the fanbase. 

Nine-win seasons may not be the end of the world for this program, but the attitude around the program has to change. Additionally, the blowout losses have to stop, and the ceiling has to be higher. 

Even if that ceiling is reached once every few years. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

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College Football Teams with Longest National Championship Droughts

There are plenty of ways to judge success in college football, but one tops all the others: being a national champion.

Through the years, only a select number of schools can lay claim to this honor, and some have been waiting a long time since their last titles. While only 46 of the 128 schools currently playing at the FBS level have ever been considered a national champion in some fashion, a dozen of them have been going through a title-less drought that dates back 65 or more years.

This makes Ohio State ending a 12-year championship void far less noteworthy, doesn't it?

Since the first games were played in the 1860s, some form of champion has been determined via polls or ratings systems, as well as through bowl alliances like the BCS and the four-team playoff system that went into use following the 2014 season. As a result, there have been many years where two or more schools have been able to lay claim to a title.

There are more than 40 championship selectors the NCAA lists in its record books as entities whose title declarations over the years hold merit. Some of those date back to 1869...and even then there was controversy over who won the title, as Princeton was the choice of two selectors while it and Rutgers were considered co-champions by a third.

The most frequent selectors have been The Associated Press media poll, which has been around since 1936, and the coaches' poll (currently called the USA Today/Amway poll) that has been in use since 1950, as well as certain computer rankings and ratings based on historical data. These are the ones the NCAA recognizes as the most representative and are what we used to determine which FBS programs have gone the longest since their last national titles.

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Everett Golson and the New Free Agency in College Football

In the end, the only things missing from The Decision: Everett Golson-style were Jim Gray and ESPN. But it's one thing waiting for the world's greatest professional basketball player, LeBron James, to pick his new team and another waiting for a college quarterback to decide where he'll transfer for one year of football.

It is different, isn't it?

If you don't know, Golson left Notre Dame, shopped himself around to different schools and announced Tuesday he'll play this fall for Florida State, per Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman:

Let the college football world's panic begin.

This is the latest example of college football free agency. It's also the latest example of what big-time college football is all about: football, not college.

"Free agency's a little bit of the recruiting puzzle in college football now, whether we want to believe it or not," said Terry Bowden, who has coached at every level of college football and is currently head coach at University of Akron. "The top 30 quarterbacks in the country always go to the same few schools every year. When one is passed by another one, he's looking to transfer so he can play somewhere else.

"I always keep my eyes open to see what players are leaving."

So why is this cause for panic? It's not just the transfer rules; it's the graduate transfer rule, specifically. Normally, when a player transfers from one school to another, he has to sit out a year before he can play. It's meant as a disincentive to transferring, keeping college football from having open-market free agency like in professional sports.

But with the graduate transfer rule, which Golson is taking advantage of, a player doesn't have to sit out a year if he has already graduated. The rule was put in place to allow players, who can have five years of athletic eligibility, to start working on a master's degree. But players are making football decisions, not academic decisions.

Golson graduated from Notre Dame this past weekend. He'll play for Florida State this fall.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby put it best, telling CBS Sports' Jon Solomon that the way the graduate transfer rule is being used "sort of smacks of 'hired gun.'"

He's right. It's not about academics. It's about football. Most people have accepted that by now. The players and coaches already know it, and most administrators do, too.

Bowden said when he coached Division II football, he found the players were all holding on to their dreams of playing in the NFL—same as when he coached Auburn. College football is the minor leagues, and that's what players like Golson are after: the best path to the big leagues.

Golson's decision to transfer to college football superpower Florida State is not the first one of these moves of this offseason. Eastern Washington star quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who earned his degree, decided to transfer to Oregon. It was a move to the big time, where he'll get more exposure and a better shot at making it to the NFL.

This creates a situation where coaches have to worry they might lose their best player and big-time programs might start recruiting off of smaller programs' rosters. In fact, even dominant programs could lose players to other powerhouses with a better offer.

Look, this is about the professionalizing of college sports. That's where some panic comes in, and it's why the NCAA is looking at changing the rules, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today.

"It's a shame that happened at Eastern Washington," Bowden said of Adams' decision to play at Oregon. "You hate to see a team lose its quarterback. A school gives a kid a scholarship and all this time, and then he ups and leaves. But it usually isn't the team's best player that leaves. It's a kid who's not having success and is trying to have a great college experience.

Bowden has a perfect grasp on the reality here. He also noted coaches don't have any problem switching schools for better jobs, so it's hypocritical to demand players not be able to do the same thing.

The panic from most college coaches doesn't come from reality, though. It comes from a place of power.

Coaches like to have it over players. They make a player sit out a year as a freshman. They keep them around in the summers to work out. Sure, it's an investment for coaches. But it's also an investment for players, who are mostly on one-year renewable scholarships. Typically, coaches think that means they get to choose about renewing.

For nearly a week, everyone expected Golson to announce he was transferring to Florida State. But FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said they were still "negotiating," and then the decision didn't come off Monday as expected. Whispers leaked to the media that Golson might visit a few more schools before deciding.

You can bet the delay and the whispers were all part of the negotiation.

Bowden said that's fine with him. He's quickly rebuilding his own team on transfers from big-time colleges, getting players who aren't getting the field time they want.

But things might be different if a star player walked into Bowden's office this afternoon, degree in hand, and said, "Coach, I'm leaving for Notre Dame."

"I'd feel terrible about that," Bowden said. "And I'd say, 'Son, let me get this right. Notre Dame is trying to win a national championship, and they're coming to Akron to find the players to do it? Are you sure they've promised you a starting job? You're going to start here.'

"It'd be my job to sell him on staying."      

Recruiting your own players. It's the new reality.


Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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