NCAA Football

Clemson TE Commit, Grandson of Gene Stallings, Talks Texas A&M, Alabama Offers

The latest offer for Clemson tight end commit J.C. Chalk seemed to be the missing piece of a three-team recruiting degree of separation.

Chalk told Bleacher Report that he was offered by Alabama on Tuesday. That offer gave Chalk, a 3-star prospect from Argyle, Texas, three offers with major connections to his famous grandfather.

Chalk is the grandson of legendary football coach Gene Stallings, who played and coached at Texas A&M and also spent two coaching stints at Alabama. One of Stallings’ former players at Alabama was Dabo Swinney, who now is Clemson’s head coach.

Three great offers with ties to Stallings. How does a recruit choose?

If you ask Chalk, the decision is easy.

"I'm still just as firm with [Clemson] as when I first committed back when I was a sophomore," said Chalk, who was the first 2016 athlete to commit to the Tigers, announcing his decision on June 11, 2014. "I just want to continue to get closer and closer to the coaching staff there."

Chalk, who measured at The Opening Dallas regional Sunday at 6'4" and 224 pounds, has been the topic of discussion for Texas A&M fans since before he officially landed an offer on March 2. Aggies fans believe it's a matter of time before Chalk flips and follows his grandfather's footsteps. Stallings, who celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this month, played at Texas A&M in the 1950s and returned to College Station to coach there from 1965-71.

Now, Alabama fans can have the same feeling. Stallings didn't play home games in Tuscaloosa, but he began his coaching career there in the late 1950s and helped the Crimson Tide win national titles in 1961 and 1964 as a defensive assistant coach. Stallings came back to Alabama in the 1990s after professional coaching stops with the Dallas Cowboys as a secondary coach and with the St. Louis (later moved to Phoenix) Cardinals.

"[With Texas A&M], I like how much they can offer you after football is over with the degree you'll get there and the Aggie network with all the connections," Chalk said. "They also have a great veterinarian program, which is what I want to do. They also have nice facilities.

"With Alabama, it's the history they have with winning. You can't really find a better program than Alabama. Them being able to say that if you come here for four years, there's a great chance you can win a national championship at least once...there aren't a lot of programs that can say that."

With all of that, however, Chalk said his heart is with Clemson. He's had extensive discussions with Swinney, who played wide receiver at Alabama under Stallings and won a national title with him in 1992. Per his 247Sports timeline, Chalk was at Clemson in January for junior day. He told Bleacher Report that he's planning to return to the campus next weekend.

Chalk has heard many stories about his grandfather, but it has been the ones from Swinney that have stood out.

"He talked about how much of a man my grandpa shaped him into," Chalk said of Swinney. "He said my grandpa made him a better football player and then a better man and future husband. The toughness, he brought out, but he said my grandpa was always there for him. The player-coach relationship was the best he had.

"Everyone looks at my grandpa and thinks he's a great person. To hear that from [Swinney] and all the other people in the football world, it really makes you appreciate how great he is. He made a lot of men who are now shaping other young men."

In addition to outside offers from Texas A&M and Alabama, Chalk has offers from Ole Miss and Oklahoma State that he considers attractive.

Chalk's relationship with Stallings is unbreakable. The two are very close, and Chalk said he values the time spent with Stallings, who lives on a farm in Paris, Texas.

"The one thing a lot of people don't know is how much he generally cares for his family," Chalk said. "His love for us is crazy. I can call him whenever, and we can talk about anything. We'll go fishing a lot, and if football is usually in the conversation, I'm the one bringing it up. He hardly ever mentions it."

Whether or not Chalk stays with Clemson by next February is still to be determined, but Chalk said Stallings won't have a dog in the race. He currently has seven offers—and all seven know of Stallings' legendary status.

"It's going to be hard to go anywhere and not have my grandpa with some kind of connection," Chalk said. "Being able to go to Clemson kind of gives me my own start. I think that's kind of cool."

 

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

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Predicting College Football's Cinderellas for 2015 Season

Who is college football's Cinderella?

It has to be someone—doesn't it? TCU finished 4-8 in 2013 and ranked No. 7 in last year's Preseason Big 12 media poll, but that didn't stop it from going 12-1 and winning the Peach Bowl.

The five teams that follow stand the best chance of following TCU's footsteps. Based on how many players they return, which players they return, the changes they made this offseason and myriad statistical factors, they have the highest ceilings of all under-the-radar teams, i.e., the best chance to win 10 games and make an Access Bowl.

One important team we omitted: Michigan. Why? It feels wrong calling the winningest program in college football history "Cinderella." Yes, the Wolverines went 5-7 in 2014, but they're also only three years removed from winning the Sugar Bowl.

These other teams are starving for success.

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The 3-Star CB Sure to Shoot Up Recruiting Ranks During 2016 Cycle

The Opening in Dallas was a great showcase from top football recruits, as well as a proving ground for one under-the-radar recruit. Chris Brown is a 3-star cornerback, as per 247Sports' composite rankings, that will be shooting up recruiting boards this offseason. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses what makes Brown such a dynamic CB prospect. 

Where do you think Chris Brown will land?

Watch the video, and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star Georgia Recruit Josh Imatorbhebhe Sets West Coast Spring Break Visit Tour

Premier Peach State prospect Josh Imatorbhebhe plans to expand his recruitment process next month.

The 4-star wide receiver will spend spring break traveling through Pac-12 territory. His itinerary includes campus visits to three universities during a week-long trip.

"I'll be visiting Arizona State, USC and Stanford," Imatorbhebhe told Bleacher Report. 

The 6'3", 202-pound playmaker departs from Georgia on April 3 and will remain on the West Coast until April 9. Imatorbhebhe revealed Arizona State as his first destination, followed by stops at USC and Stanford.

Though he's made a name for himself on the football fields of Georgia as a North Gwinnett High School standout, Imatorbhebhe has West Coast roots. His family lived in California early in his childhood.

He's already gained firsthand knowledge of the frenzied recruiting experience from older brother Daniel, a 2015 tight end prospect who signed with Florida and enrolled early. Josh accompanied him on trips to Gainesville and Ohio State.

"What I took away from joining him for the process is that it’s a big deal," he said. "You can’t take it lightly. People roll out the red carpet and overextend themselves to get you on their campus. It shows just how huge of a decision this is."

Imatorbhebhe has assembled an offer list that features more than 20 programs. Auburn, Ohio State, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama are among his options. 

He enjoyed a breakout junior campaign, establishing career highs across the board. Imatorbhebhe caught 59 passes for 1,072 yards and 15 touchdowns in 10 games, per MaxPreps.

Rated 46th nationally among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings, Imatorbhebhe is a candidate to see his stock soar as summer approaches with strong camp performances.

He intends to participate at the Nike Opening Regional in Atlanta this weekend and will be competing for an invitation to The Opening at Nike's world headquarters. He'll also be in attendance for a regional Rivals camp in Charlotte, North Carolina, days after he returns from his cross-country trip.

Imatorbhebhe entered high school primarily focused on basketball, but he's quickly become a coveted pass-catcher. After initially dealing with growing pains, his development on the field has him in position to command nationwide collegiate interest, as evidenced by the upcoming journey.

"I thought football would be mostly about athletic ability, but it’s so much more than that," he said. "Now I’ve matured to understand how to handle situations. I'm more meticulous in my craft and trying to actualize my potential."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star Georgia Recruit Josh Imatorbhebhe Sets West Coast Spring Break Visit Tour

Premier Peach State prospect Josh Imatorbhebhe plans to expand his recruitment process next month. The 4-star wide receiver will spend spring break traveling through Pac -12 territory...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Mississippi State Football: Complete 2015 Spring Practice Primer

Was Mississippi State's magical run to a 10-win season, the first No. 1 ranking in program history and its first Orange Bowl berth since 1941 a sign that the program has arrived, or simply a product of unique SEC West circumstances that allowed the Bulldogs to finish second behind Alabama in the division?

Head coach Dan Mullen began the quest to answer that question, when his Bulldogs opened spring practice on Tuesday in Starkville.

Star quarterback Dak Prescott is back to lead Mullen's potent offense that returns several stars, including wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson. Meanwhile, the defense must overcome massive roster attrition in the front seven.

What should you look for this spring in Starkville?

 

What to Watch on Offense

The battle to replace running back Josh Robinson will take center stage, as Brandon Holloway, Ashton Shumpert and Aeris Williams will battle to be the primary tailback in Starkville. Shumpert (6'2", 218 lbs) and Holloway (5'8", 160 lbs) split second-team carries last year behind Robinson and could provide a thunder-and-lighting combo that can kick the offense into overdrive.

Keep an eye on Williams, though. 

The 6'1", 215-pound redshirt freshman is a true all-purpose back and could provide the total package that Robinson did a year ago.

"Aeris always has a great attitude. He’s going to go as hard as he can with whatever he is doing," Mullen said in quotes released by Mississippi State. "When you look at a guy Aeris, we want to get the pads on him. He’s a physical-type player so you’re not going to see much out of his game until the pads come on."

Outside, De'Runnya Wilson—better known as "Bear Force One"—leads a talented wide receiving corps that includes Fred Ross, Fred Brown, Joe Morrow and junior college transfer Donald Gray. 

Up front, though, is the real concern. 

Mississippi State lost three starters off of last season's offensive line, but it still could get tackle Damien Robinson back after the presumptive starter tore his ACL in fall camp last year and sat out the entire 2014 season. Mullen told Logan Lowery of InsideMSUSports.com that Robinson is still recovering, and the school is awaiting word on whether or not he will receive a sixth year of eligibility.

The loss of star center Dillon Day is a big concern, and all eyes up front will be on former guard Jamaal Clayborn in the middle of the offensive line.

"I think we experimented with that in bowl prep a little bit to give him some opportunities there and see if he was comfortable," Mullen said in quotes released by Mississippi State. "He’s worked all offseason snapping. I think that’s a starting point, but I think we also have to create some depth at that position."

If that offensive line can come together this spring, it will allow Prescott to get comfortable in the pocket. You saw what happens last year when the dual-threat star—who finished eighth in Heisman Trophy voting—gets comfortable.

 

What to Watch on Defense

The front seven is undergoing a massive overhaul, after five of the seven starters from last year's final two-deep moved on to the NFL.

Specifically, star defensive tackle Chris Jones has to step up and become the leader.

The former star recruit played more of a rotational role last year in the veteran defensive tackle rotation, but he has all the talent in the world. At 6'5", 308 pounds, he has the size to play a 0-techinque and line up over center, but he has the quickness to play out at a 9-technique if defensive coordinator Manny Diaz lets him (he won't).

Another big loss is at linebacker, where Benardrick McKinney jumped early for the NFL. Keep an eye on freshman Gerri Green, a 6'4", 240-pound redshirt freshman from Greenville, Mississippi, to step up this spring and make a push for playing time. 

Mullen knows that his roster is loaded with youngsters.

"I bet 40 percent of our team has never played in a game," he said in quotes emailed by Mississippi State. "That’s redshirt freshmen, true freshmen and a lot of guys just graduated early and got in here as mid-year enrollees. A lot of guys that have never played in the game, and this is, to me, their first time to absorb it."

At the back end, Mississippi State lost starting cornerback Jamerson Love, safety Jay Hughes and Kendrick Market is still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered late last season. That is going to put a ton of pressure on some young players, including safeties Deontay Evans and Kivon Coman, as well as converted safety Jahmere Irvin-Sills.

 

Freshman to Keep an Eye on

Redshirt freshman Brandon Bryant.

The 5'11", 200-pounder from Tunica, Mississippi, is in a perfect position to make waves this spring considering the uncertainty that exists at safety on the roster. Bryant is good in coverage, has a nose for the football and isn't afraid to stick his nose in on run support.

What's more, with so many teams operating out of the nickel now, there's an even bigger chance that Bryant—and any other safety on the roster—will earn some playing time this spring.

 

Coach Mullen's Toughest Task

Managing expectations.

As many have noted, there's going to be a $4 million head coach in the SEC West who finishes last in the division in 2015. Will that be Mullen?

Last season's success was phenomenal, but with so much roster turnover, there's a decent chance that the Bulldogs take a massive step back from a record standpoint in 2015. That doesn't mean it's truly a massive step back, though.

The return of Prescott, Wilson and Mullen's ability to make an offense click regardless of personnel should keep the Bulldogs in plenty of games—even against the SEC West's big boys. That experience last year, though, played a big role in them winning most of those contests, and that doesn't exist on this year's squad. 

Mullen's crew may only take a minor step back in terms of overall talent and production, but a big one in the win-loss column. Mullen's ability to keep Mississippi State competitive will signal that it's still in the mix and has staying power, which would be a tremendous statement for the Mississippi State program.

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: How Injuries Will Impact Vols' Spring

Injuries infiltrated Tennessee's football program last season, nearly derailing the Vols' hopes of a late-season rally and bowl run.

They overcame them thanks to some spectacular individual performances (such as quarterback Joshua Dobbs' against Vanderbilt) and an opportunistic defense.

UT wound up with a convincing TaxSlayer Bowl victory over Iowa that reverberated good vibrations for the program into the offseason.

But reality is going to bite the Vols again this spring in the form of injuries. Even though head coach Butch Jones has built a talented roster, the depth is still not where it needs to be, and that will be obvious when drills begin March 24.

While the good news is there are no expected long-term effects that could threaten anybody's season, Tennessee is going to be razor-thin:

  • Only five scholarship defensive linemen are going to be healthy and green-lighted, and leaders Derek Barnett, Curt Maggitt and Danny O'Brien are out.
  • There's just one running back available and cleared for contact with Jalen Hurd limited.
  • Several of the highly touted mid-term enrollees, such as defensive end Kyle Phillips, middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. and offensive tackle Chance Hall are unavailable or hobbled.

The April 25 Orange & White spring game won't be the same format as it usually is. Jones told the Chattanooga Times Free-Press' David Paschall it will be tweaked due to the injuries:

We do have to modify that, and I think that's symbolic in terms of where we still are as a program. We have a shortage of defensive linemen, running backs and wide receivers. The spring game will still be very entertaining. We'll still play football and scrimmage, but we'll also do more competitive one-on-one battles.

We did that a little bit last year, and our fans really enjoyed that. So we'll make it an event, but I think it will be more of a spring event than a spring game.

The fallout from missed practice time could affect the season even if the injuries won't. Here are some areas to watch:

 

Immediate Impacts

Last year, the mid-term enrollees who arrived in Knoxville early got a head start and produced on the field.

Hurd, Dillon Bates, Von Pearson, Daniel Helm, Ethan Wolf, Dimarya Mixon, Coleman Thomas, Jakob Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley were all January arrivals who played key roles on last year's squad.

While the Vols have several more who should do the same in 2015, two of the players talented enough to play major roles right away who won't participate in spring drills are Phillips and Kirkland.

The latter is a 6'2", 235-pound middle linebacker who has all the elite skills needed to step in and play at one of the positions on UT's roster that will be wide open. The Indianapolis-born linebacker tore a pectoral muscle in winter workouts.

Phillips, on the other hand, is an in-state star who wasn't being depended on to start with Barnett and Maggitt manning the ends, but he has the ability to provide quality depth. Shoulder surgery will be an obstacle he must overcome in order to do that.

Neither is expected to miss any game action. But will they be hampered by missing time, and will it affect their roles on the 2015 Vols? The injuries could hurt them and the team.

 

D-Line Development

Tennessee really struggled against the run at times during 2014. Most of that was because of the lack of beef along the interior—a need UT addressed with the additions of Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle.

But part of the reason was the lack of depth.

Now, entering 15 spring practice sessions where Jones said the Vols will have just five scholarship linemen available doesn't give Tennessee fans a warm-and-fuzzy feeling.

With Barnett, Maggitt and Phillips out and Corey Vereen limited, that's four of the team's top five defensive ends. Only LaTroy Lewis will be full-go from last year's rotation.

The depth issues will produce a huge opportunity for mid-term enrollee Andrew Butcher to prove he should earn meaningful reps right away.

On the inside, McKenzie won't arrive until this summer. But O'Brien's injury issues mean UT will be down one starter.

Tuttle, Mixon and Kendal Vickers have shots to work into the rotation on the inside. That's good for depth and the future, but considering some key players are missing from the lineup, the Vols will have to fix run-defense issues in the month prior to kickoff.

 

Passing-Game Rapport

This spring is a pivotal period in the development of Dobbs. Not only is he needed and expected to be more accurate throwing the ball this year, he also has a new offensive coordinator in Mike DeBord.

With the defense extremely limited by injuries, spring's primary focus for the Vols needs to be on the offense humming along at the same frequency—quarterback, receivers, running backs, linemen and coaching staff.

That's why it's frustrating that two of UT's upperclassman receivers, including the team's most talented target in Marquez North, will be limited following season-ending surgeries.

If Tennessee's passing game is going to shine, North needs to be involved. He has elite skills, and if he puts everything together, he's talented enough to play in the NFL as soon as next year.

Also, Jason Croom is a 6'5", 243-pound specimen who could be a force inside the 20-yard line. He needs to develop consistency, and in order to do that, he needs to be healthy.

There is still more than enough talent in that Tennessee receiving corps to provide an abundance of assistance in Dobbs' development.

So, the Vols junior signal-caller will have to take some major strides without two of his biggest weapons at full-strength and just integrate them once they're healthy.

It shouldn't be a major deal, but any time a new offensive coordinator is thrown into the mix, there's at least a moderate concern warranted about everybody being on the same page.

That's another reason why the DeBord hire was a good one.

 

Middle Linebacker Battle

As if losing Kirkland for the spring wasn't a big enough blow, Bates is going to be limited, too.

That's the two most athletic players in the five-man battle to be heir to the middle linebacker throne vacated by A.J. Johnson.

Kenny Bynum, Jakob Johnson and Gavin Bryant all will be healthy and ready to vie for the job this spring, and Bates should get some action, too, if he's able. But the real race now has to begin this fall when all parties are available.

It's not an ideal situation, but it's that way at many different positions for the Vols this year. Unfortunately for Jones and a UT team with high expectations, it's the climate of this spring.

 

All statistics gathered from UTSports.com, unless otherwise noted. All observations gathered firsthand.

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

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Bret Bielema's Only Hurting Himself with Crusade Against Hurry-Up Offenses

I'll get this out of the way right out of the gate: I like Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema.

A lot.

He's always willing to chat when asked, will always drop in a casual one-liner or two and doesn't operate in the boring land of coachspeak like so many of his college football colleagues.

I find him a genuinely nice person who is entertaining, engaging, interesting and refreshingly honest.

Sometimes, though, that last quality gets muddled in a quest to slow the game of college football under the disguise of player safety.

Bielema saddled back up on his high horse and railed against hurry-up offenses on Wednesday in the wake of the abrupt retirement of former San Francisco 49er and Wisconsin Badger (under Bielema) linebacker Chris Borland.

"We have to protect student-athletes to extremes we never thought of before," Bielema told Sporting News' Matt Hayes. "I just read a study that said players in the no-huddle, hurry-up offense play the equivalent of five more games than those that don’t. That’s an incredible number. Our awareness as a whole has to increase."

And, with that, the 10-second rule—which I predicted would pop back up this offseason—is right back in the center of the national discussion.

If Bielema is so concerned with the number of games, plays and how they relate to player safety, then why did he say this inside the radio/Internet room at SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama in 2014?

If the four-team playoff is a "good starting point," then those two extra games—and potentially more extra games in an expanded playoff structure—are safety hazards, right?

Bielema can't have his cake and eat it too.

In the midst of the first "10-second-rule" hubbub, Dave Bartoo of CFBMatrix.com posted a fascinating study last year that suggests player weight in tight spaces creates a far greater injury risk than the number of plays run.

In that study, Bartoo found that the 20 fastest teams in college football in 2012 averaged 83.12 plays per game and lost 143 starts due to injury. The 20 slowest teams ran 65.85 plays per game and lost 151 starts due to injury.

Guess which team became synonymous with one of the biggest offensive lines in the country last season?

Arkansas, at 320.8 pounds per player. That, incidentally, would have been the third-largest in the NFL as of early September 2014, according to LubbockOnline.com.

I believe that Bielema truly cares about player safety, feels for Borland and wants to make the game safer not just for the good of this generation, but for generations to come. For that, he should be applauded.

Until he comes up with more proof other than "more plays equals more injury risk," he's not really arguing against hurry-up, no-huddle offenses, advocating player safety or championing the "10-second rule," which would prevent offenses from snapping the ball within 10 seconds of the previous play ending.

All he's doing is arguing against the sport of football—a sport in which he makes his living.

Whether you call this a contact sport, a collision sport or give the game of football any other moniker out there, players put themselves in danger every time they buckle up the chin strap. That doesn't mean that it shouldn't be tweaked to make players safer.

It should, and everybody—including coaches who employ hurry-up, no-huddle offenses—agree.

"Is there documented medical evidence that supports this rule change that tempo offenses are putting players at a higher degree of risk than others? If there is, then show it to us," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze told ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach last year. "Where is it? They're going to have to show us some evidence."

Simply saying "more football is a danger" when there's no other specific evidence to prove it won't cut it, especially when there is a statistical analysis that states that player size in space matters more than the quantity of plays.

Bielema likely believes that fast-paced offenses put players at a greater injury risk, and that's why this crusade continues.

It's only making him look foolish, though, because what he's really doing is biting the hand that feeds him—the sport of football.

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Teams That Could Ruin Contenders' 2016 College Football Playoff Hopes

Entering the second season of the College Football Playoff, we still don't know a lot about how the system will work. One of the most important things we do know is to get selected, teams not only must win most all their games, but they must play (and run through) a hard schedule. TCU and Baylor learned that the hard way, and if they plan on competing for national titles, then they must beef up their non-conference schedules.

The teams with the best chance of making the College Football Playoff, before the season starts, should run through the hard schedules they play. If teams have hard schedules, then the voters are more forgiving on a loss; three of the four teams in last season's College Football Playoff lost a game, but they had enough wins over strong opponents to make up for it.

If the top teams in college football were to lose a game (or two) this season, then which teams are most likely to defeat them? That's what I've predicted for today.

To rank the teams, I used the same composite that Brian Leigh of B/R used for his pre-spring practice record predictions. The larger sample size than just the B/R Top 25 allows for a more accurate prediction of which teams will indeed be considered the best in the nation prior to the season.

I strongly considered the rankings of the teams, the rankings of the teams they're playing and the amount of times they're playing highly ranked teams when deciding which teams to select for the list. I also didn't include any teams that would be considered contenders, so no teams ranked better than No. 19 made the list. 

With that, here are the teams with the best chance of beating teams with the best chance of making the 2016 College Football Playoff. 

  

 

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Notre Dame Football: What to Expect at the Start of Spring Ball

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Wednesday marks the start of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish's football’s spring practice, a time when imaginations and expectations often run in uncontrolled directions.

It’s reasonable to be optimistic with a clean slate and time to improve. So as practice begins early Wednesday morning for the Irish, what should be expected?

No, we don’t know who the better quarterback will be, and we won’t know based on one two-hour practice session.

Still, the importance of spring ball isn’t to be understated.

“These next seven weeks now we begin to do a lot more of the building of 2015's football team,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said.

Here’s what to expect.

 

Battles

Kelly is now in his sixth season in South Bend, and he already knows this spring will be different.

“This is the first time since I’ve been here where I feel like I can go into practice and I can bang around,” he said.

Oklahoma drills? Sure.

Tackling drills? Of course.

What would seem to be staples of a high-level football program have been delicacies in Kelly’s years. Oftentimes the Irish have had to work to reach the 85-scholarship limit. This year, it’s the other way around.

“It feels like for me that we've got the depth necessary to go and play football,” Kelly said. “I always felt like I'm tiptoeing around this roster in the spring because we're afraid over here or afraid over here.

“We can go play, really target some of the younger players in certain areas, let them get in there and get after it.”

There will be competition. Certainly, the highest-profile position battle is at quarterback, where Everett Golson and Malik Zaire are and will continue competing for snaps.

But healthy battles should litter the practice field, as Notre Dame has been able to continually land high-end recruiting classes and restock the depth chart. The focus, for now, is less on the starter and backup designation and more on overall depth and competition.

A few particular areas to keep an eye on, however, are left guard and linebacker. Kelly said redshirt freshman linemen and former blue-chip recruits Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars will compete for the left guard job, a two-man battle after the departure of possible fifth-year candidate Matt Hegarty.

At least seven linebackers will top the two-deep in the spring, and Kelly said it’s “a good problem to have,” pointing to the depth at middle linebacker, in particular. Defensive MVP Joe Schmidt is returning from injury, as is Jarrett Grace, who last played in October 2013 before suffering a broken leg.

Sophomore Nyles Morgan returns as well, while “Sam” linebackers James Onwualu and Greer Martini offer versatility. Early enrollee Te’von Coney backs up returning star Jaylon Smith at the weak-side spot.

“I think we offer more opportunities and a lot more flexibility in terms of whether we're three-down, four-down, whether we're nickeling out at the Sam,” Kelly said of the linebacker position. “One of them is not going off the field, and that is Jaylon Smith. That's a certainty. The rest of the guys are competing, and I think it's a pretty good situation.”

 

Position Shifts

There aren’t any major position shifts at this point, but the Irish do continue to tinker with their roster, especially as they wait for next year’s crop of freshmen to arrive this summer.

Fifth-year candidate Chase Hounshell has switched from the defensive line to tight end and swapped out No. 50 for No. 18.

“Chase knocked down my door, wouldn't leave me alone, just kept coming back and saying, ‘Coach, I want to be part of this team. I have something to offer,’” Kelly said of Hounshell’s pitch.

Kelly said he told Hounshell, who has battled injuries throughout his career, Notre Dame didn’t have a place for him on the defensive line but would give him a chance as a physical, blocking tight end.

“Nothing has been decided,” Kelly said. “He's willing to go through spring and give it a shot, and we'll see where it goes from there. He's been a great teammate, great in the locker room. The guys really enjoy having him. We like his team‑first mentality, so we're going to give him a chance to earn a roster spot playing tight end.”

Senior C.J. Prosise’s position is a more important, yet still minor, shift to pay attention to. The slot receiver is cross training at running back, Kelly said, and has been in the running back meetings and will “get quite a bit of work at running back.” The 220-pounder excelled as a runner at times in 2014, most notably in the Music City Bowl victory over LSU.

It’s worth noting Notre Dame has just two scholarship running backs on the spring roster in juniors Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston.

 

Progress

Again, caution is an operative word for the spring. All-Americans aren’t named in March.

But expect to see progress from the Irish after the first seven weeks of the spring semester were spent on the sheer physical aspects—strength and conditioning. These next seven weeks, Kelly explained, are more geared toward skill development, leadership and mental components.

A glimpse of practice should allow us to make some tentative guesses on who has progressed the most physically.

In terms of injuries, Kelly said sophomore safety Drue Tranquill (torn ACL) is a “nut” and would be practicing full contact if Notre Dame didn’t have a training staff. Expect Tranquill to do some lateral activities and maybe progress toward some drill work, Kelly said.

Grace is a wild card for the Irish. Before missing the final seven games in 2013, the middle linebacker was tied for the team lead with 40 tackles.

The fun begins Wednesday.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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3 Morgan State Football Players Stabbed in On-Campus Incident

Three Morgan State football players were stabbed on Tuesday, according to reports. 

Justin George and Justin Fenton of The Baltimore Sun have more information:

The incident happened outside a cafeteria around 2:05 p.m. after a suspect was observed "wildly swinging" a knife outside the facility, according to Clint Coleman, a university spokesman. The crime scene encompassed an area including residence halls and a practice football field.

A police spokesman said one victim was stabbed in the chest and taken to a hospital in very serious condition. Two other people were also injured. 

Coleman later said none of the victims' injuries were believed to be life-threatening.

Coleman told The Sun that a suspect was in custody. According to the report, there was also a stabbing on campus on Friday, and there were multiple fights at a dance over the weekend after on-campus parties had been banned for a year following incidents at such events in the past.

It's certainly a scary way for the Morgan State football season to begin, as spring practices had just commenced on Tuesday. The program will be relieved that none of the injuries appear to be life-threatening, though, of course, there will be major concerns at the school after two stabbing incidents in a matter of days.

At some point, the team will return to the business of beginning its preparations for another run in the NCAA FCS playoffs after last season's trip to the postseason. For now, however, the team's and school's primary concerns will be the recovery of the students injured in this incident.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting Where 2016's Top DTs Will Play College Football

The 2016 class is full of elite talent on the defensive line. Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, Adam Kramer and Michael Felder predict where the top defensive tackles will play their collegiate ball.

Where do you think these studs will end up?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Ranking the Top 25 College Football Coaches Heading into 2015

It's the players who score the touchdowns, make the tackles and ultimately win the games. But without a great coach guiding them along, on-field talent can only take a team so far.

That is why being a head coach in college football is a seven-figure job for most of the best in FBS. Yet a lofty salary alone doesn't automatically dictate how good (or successful) a coach is. Otherwise, we wouldn't be reading stories about coaches—cough, Charlie Weisgetting paid millions to not coach after getting fired in the middle of lucrative contracts.

To determine which are the best coaches in the game, we've ranked them based on what they've done at their current schools, how they've fared for their career and whether they're trending upward or not. We had to draw the line somewhere, though, which is why one thing you will not see here are coaches in their first year with a program, as our rankings are based on performance more than reputation.

Sorry, Jim Harbaugh.

Follow along to see which coach made the top of our list heading into the 2015 season.

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Is Georgia a Legit Threat to Steal 4-Star WR Kyle Davis from South Carolina?

One of the most versatile players in the 2016 class is 4-star athlete and current South Carolina commitment Kyle Davis.

The 6’3”, 220-pounder from Archer High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia, has been committed to the Gamecocks since last July.

However, as Kipp Adams of 247Sports notes, Davis is still being pursued by a number of schools.

While programs such as Auburn, Notre Dame and Tennessee are pursuing Davis, it’s in-state power Georgia that seems to pose the biggest threat to Steve Spurrier’s club in the tug-of-war for Davis.

But are the Bulldogs a legitimate threat to pull him away from his pledge to the Gamecocks?

That remains to be seen. But at this stage, it appears Davis is leaving the door open for Mark Richt and his staff.

"Georgia is in the mix," Davis told Adams. "I am going to stay committed to South Carolina for now, but I am going to keep my options open. I am planning on enrolling early."

Most schools, including Georgia and South Carolina, are recruiting Davis to play receiver.

According to Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover, Davis racked up more than 1,200 yards receiving last year in helping his team reach the Georgia Class 6A state finals.

What makes the Bulldogs attractive to Davis is the arrival of new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, whose resume is littered with NFL experience.

"Coach Shotty and me have a real close connection," Davis told Adams. "He is one of the coolest coaches I have met. I have really enjoyed getting to know him since he came to Georgia."

Adams notes that he’s also connected with fellow Bulldogs assistants Bryan McLendon and new running backs coach Thomas Brown, which should help the Dawgs maintain close ties with the No. 15-ranked prospect in the Peach State in the 2016 cycle.

Another factor that could benefit the Bulldogs is their pursuit of a handful of his prep teammates at Archer.

Among the Archer products who have received Georgia offers include 2016 4-star offensive lineman E.J. Price, 2016 4-star corner Dylan Singleton, 2017 4-star athlete Jamyest Williams and 2017 4-star safety Isaiah Pryor.

South Carolina has tendered each of those players except Pryor. The Bulldogs are squarely in the mix with all of the Archer standouts, and if they are able to even land any of them, it could potentially have a ripple effect with Davis.

However, Davis admitted to Niebuhr that it will take “a lot” for him to back off his initial commitment to the Gamecocks.

“I’m still committed,” Davis told Niebuhr. “Still love the coaching staff. I love everything about it."

Still, the connections he has to the Bulldogs program are enough to give Spurrier and his staff reason to aggressively pursue him until he enrolls at his school of choice.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2016 College Football Recruits Who Also Excel in Basketball

Football may be the ticket to a free collegiate education for many high school athletes, but it isn't always their sole athletic passion. Some stay busy participating—and thriving—in other sports arenas.

Basketball takes center stage in March as folks fill out college basketball brackets, and state champions are crowned across the country. With that in mind, we shine the spotlight on several premier football prospects who spent their winter doing damage on the hardwood. 

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Elite 11 Dallas QB MVP, Texas A&M Legacy Calls New Aggies Offer 'A Blessing'

Since his days of being a toddler, Dillon Sterling-Cole has been a fan of Texas A&M football.

It's understood, as the 3-star quarterback from Houston-area Spring Westfield High School is the son of former Aggies wide receiver Chris Cole, who went on to play in the NFL with the Denver Broncos. Sterling-Cole knows everything about the program, as he's been properly groomed.

Sterling-Cole had been hoping for a Texas A&M offer, and on Tuesday, the 6'3", 171-pounder got it. Ironically, Texas A&M is his seventh offer—lucky No. 7, if you ask him.

"I'm really excited about it," Sterling-Cole said. "I mean, it's truly a blessing to receive the offer, not only because of me being a legacy kid but based on them seeing me progress and continue to mature as a player and also a young adult."

Sterling-Cole now has offers from Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Houston, Arizona State, Utah, Temple and Nevada. Because of his father's college background, many feel Texas A&M is the team to beat. Sterling-Cole's 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions heavily favor the Aggies after Tuesday's offer.

And he's the first to admit that Texas A&M is very high on his list.

"A&M was at the top of my list of favorite schools growing up," Sterling-Cole said. "Jerrod Johnson was a person that I looked up to besides my dad."

The offer comes two days after Sterling-Cole put on a show at the Elite 11 Dallas regional. Sterling-Cole not only was named the event's MVP but also earned an invitation to The Opening this summer in Oregon.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Sterling-Cole threw for more than 2,200 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions for Westfield. Sterling-Cole's performance at the Elite 11 regional was almost something of a coming-out party for him. He wants all to expect more of the same this spring.

"[Being regional MVP] means a lot. It's a great opportunity for me to represent my school and where I come from," he said. "I felt like I had to come out and prove a lot. With my background, I didn't come with the most hype around my name.

"I just came out to compete and did what I had to get invited to the Elite 11 finals."

And now, Sterling-Cole has a decision to make: Does he accept the offer he's always wanted and follow his father's footsteps? Or does he continue to shop around for a program that he'd thinks would better fit his offensive structure?

If he commits to Texas A&M, he will join his teammate and go-to target, 4-star wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland—who also earned an invitation to The Opening over the weekend.

 

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

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How Jim Harbaugh Is Bringing Bo Schembechler Back to Michigan

Despite his brother being in charge, John Harbaugh felt unwelcome in Ann Arbor.

Harbaugh, the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl-winning head coach, was in town to speak at his younger brother Jim's first high school coaching clinic as Michigan's head coach. But as John watched the Wolverines practice one afternoon, he noticed a familiar anger come over his brother and soon found himself on his way out the door.

"He threw everybody out of practice," John told reporters. "It got a little crazy because there was so many people there visiting. About halfway through he said, 'Hey, everybody out of here!' I turned around, [former Michigan quarterback] Rick Leach turned around, everybody started walking away. He says, 'No, John, you can stay.'"

"He pulled a classic Bo. I know the guys thought Bo was back."

Bo, of course, is legendary Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler, for whom Jim played quarterback in Ann Arbor from 1983-86. Known for his no-nonsense style, Schembechler won 13 Big Ten championships in his 21 seasons with the Wolverines, his iconic personality helping to shape the program into a perennial powerhouse.

But following five largely successful seasons under Gary Moeller and 13 under Lloyd Carr—both Schembechler disciples—Michigan has managed to lose its luster. In succeeding Carr, Rich Rodriguez lasted just three seasons in Ann Arbor, compiling a 15-22 record as the Wolverines' head coach, while Brady Hoke went 31-20 in four seasons that saw his record decline with each passing year.

Under Rodriguez, Michigan's culture declined—players transferred at a rapid race, even to rival Ohio State—and under Hoke, the quality of football being played in The Big House did as well. Save for Hoke's 11-2 Sugar Bowl-winning debut season, the Wolverines haven't been nationally relevant—in a positive way—since losing to FCS program Appalachian State in their season opener in 2007.

Enter Harbaugh, who has consistently kept Michigan in the headlines since taking over the program late last December. But it's not just his crazy recruiting pitches, must-follow Twitter account or highway heroics that have fans in Ann Arbor buzzing as much as it is the tales that have emerged from the Wolverines' first few weeks of spring practice—all of which Jim has coached while wearing the same block "M" hat that Schembechler did.

"It was a Michigan practice," John answered when asked what he saw while watching the Wolverines. "It was physical, the guys really practiced hard. It was demanding. As Jim told the guys, they're building callouses. You callous your football, your character, your football toughness, your body."

It's no secret that Jim's coaching style has been heavily influenced by Schembechler, and not just thanks to his All-American career playing under him in the mid-1980s.

A native of Toledo, Ohio, Harbaugh moved to Ann Arbor in 1973 when his father, Jack Harbaugh, took a job as Schembechler's secondary coach. At his introductory press conference in December, Jim recalled running around the Michigan facility as a child, developing a personal relationship with the Wolverines legend.

"I remember thinking about this as a youngster, nine, 10 years old," Jim said. "There was a time sitting in Coach Schembechler's office. I was sitting in his chair and I had my feet up on the desk, and he walked in and said, 'How are you doing?' and I looked at him and said, 'I'm doing great, Bo, how are you doing?' He said 'What are you doing?' 'I'm sitting in your chair, coach.' I couldn't think of anything better to say.

"There have been times in my life where I've thought and dreamed about it. Now it's time to live it."

Throughout his stops at San Diego, Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers, Harbaugh relied on the lessons he learned from Bo, whether it be the importance he placed on road games or the emphasis he placed on "The Team, The Team, The Team." That obviously won't change now that Harbaugh is back at Michigan, not so much coaching in Schembechler's shadow as recreating it.

The reaction from the Wolverine players has been positive, despite four-hour spring practices filled with a new type of intensity as Harbaugh re-acclimates to the college game after four years in the NFL. Sure, there's been the typical attrition that comes with any head coaching change—most notably in the form of quarterback Russell Bellomy and center Jack Miller—but thus far, Harbaugh has been as good as advertised in Ann Arbor.

Of course, setting a tone is one thing, but in order for Harbaugh to truly emulate his mentor, he's going to have to find success on the field. Rodriguez and Hoke talked a big game early in their tenures too, but when push came to shove, neither managed to win on a consistent basis.

Harbaugh's brother, however, believes Jim is unquestionably the right man for the job.

"There's no doubt that Michigan's going to win," John said. "Obviously the variable's going to be time and how fast they can pick it up and how the ball bounces and those kind of things. He's got a bunch of good players out here who love to practice and love football. There's no question that he's going to make the transition perfectly well."

And as for the ex-players he kicked out of practice?

"The old players were laughing about it," John said. "They were saying, 'That's exactly what Bo would have done."

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

ACC Football: 5 Underrated Players to Watch This Spring

The ACC has plenty of talent in football heading into 2015, but talent can be found in more than just the big names. While players like Justin Thomas, Deshaun Watson, James Conner, Brad Kaaya and Tyler Boyd are all high-profile players, let's look at a few of the guys whom you may not know yet.

Now, an "underrated player" doesn't have to be someone you've never heard of—it's simply a player who has yet to meet his full potential to this point in his career but is ready to take that next step. It could possibly be a player who was sitting behind a star who's now gone, or it could be someone brand new to his team.

There are plenty of players to choose from, but these five are specifically intriguing, and you'll want to keep an eye on them in 2015 and beyond.

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Cameron Smith Injury: Updates on ASU WR's Knee and Recovery After Surgery

Big things were going to be expected of wide receiver Cameron Smith in his junior season after a strong sophomore campaign. However, a knee injury is going to cost Smith that opportunity.      

Continue for updates

Smith Out for 2015 SeasonTuesday, March 17

Arizona State received tough news on Tuesday, as wide receiver Cameron Smith is going to be out for the season due to injury. 

Doug Haller of AZCentral.com had the report:

Smith was a solid contributor in his sophomore campaign, catching 41 passes for 596 yards and six scores. With leading receiver Jaelen Strong heading to the NFL, Smith was likely going to take over as the team's top receiving option along with running back D.J. Foster, who caught 62 passes for 688 receiving yards and three touchdowns through the air.  

Now, the Sun Devils will need other players to step up in Smith's stead.   

While Smith will be missing his junior season, the hope will be that he can return at 100 percent in his senior season and continue to progress as he did in his first two seasons. While it was always unlikely he could have replicated Strong's production this year, he certainly would have been a reliable target for the team. 

Unfortunately, that won't be the case due to his injury.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cameron Smith Injury: Updates on ASU WR's Knee and Recovery After Surgery

Big things were going to be expected of wide receiver Cameron Smith in his junior season after a strong sophomore campaign. However, a knee injury is going to cost Smith that opportunity...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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