NCAA Football News

President Obama Applauds ​'Heroic' ​Young Athletes, Loses Game of HORSE

It's not every day you get to meet the Leader of the Free World. 

"I was starstruck as soon as I saw Obama," Jamal Holloway told Bleacher Report. "I was afraid to say my name wrong, it felt like my hands were really sweaty, and I was just kind of falling apart with nerves."

The 3-star college football recruit was among a small collection of Camden athletes who took part in an intimate meeting with President Barack Obama during his May 18 visit to the tough New Jersey city. A 2011 study of 432 American cities identified Camden as the poorest and home to the highest crime rate per capita, according to the Philadelphia InquirerThat year, its murder rate was found to be nearly 12 times higher than the national average.

This was a landmark day for the city as the president came to applaud the role Holloway and fellow Camden youth have played to help improve safety in the city. 

"He said we've pretty much had to be superheroes to do what we're doing," said Holloway.

The high school junior met Obama at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. Three Camden High School basketball teammates joined him—Myles Thompson, Rasool Hinson and fellow coveted college football prospect Brad Hawkins—as well as four members of Woodrow Wilson High School's girls basketball program.

"President Obama understood what's been going on in Camden and the challenges we faced sometimes growing up," Holloway said. "He's an excellent listener.

"It was an amazing experience for all of us," he said. "Not many people get to sit down with the president and actually speak with him. I kind of couldn't believe it was actually happening."

A city that seemed lost not too long ago is beginning to find its way toward a new era, according to Obama.

“Nobody is suggesting that the job is done,” Obama told John Kopp of the Philly Voice. “This is a work-in-progress. ... But this city is on to something. ... That’s why I’m here today—because I want to focus on the fact that other cities across America can make similar progress.

“The kids who grow up here, they’re America’s children,” the president told Kopp. “Just like children every place else, they’ve got hopes and dreams and potential."

Obama later tweeted a picture of his meeting with the collection of Camden student-athletes. It was actually the first photo ever posted from his personal Twitter account. Holloway can be seen far left in the second row of bleachers:

Holloway said he, too, senses a momentum shift in his hometown.

"A lot of people view this as a crime-ridden city, but things are improving," he said. "Everything isn't what it seems. You really have to see our city for yourself to understand it's not always violent here. It's not people getting shot every day. Our community is maturing. The police are more interactive with everyone, and people are looking to make sure that children have leadership so we can keep moving forward."

The serious nature of the visit soon turned fun and competitive when the basketballs came out.  

"Obama said he wanted to play some ball, so you know that got me excited," Holloway said.

Holloway is known for his skills on the gridiron, but he is no slouch on the court. The 6'4", 205-pound playmaker is also a basketball standout who led Camden in points, rebounds, blocks and steals during a 25-win season last winter.

Obama, arguably the world's most well-known hoops fan, couldn't resist challenging the young athletes to a game of H-O-R-S-E.

POTUS might regret that decision now. 

"President Obama was pretty good. He hit a couple shots, but then I eliminated him," Holloway said.

A silky mid-range jump shot sent the president packing.

Holloway later claimed an overall victory in the game by sinking an attempt from the foul line.

Though he didn't head back to the White House as a H-O-R-S-E champion, the president did receive a consolation prize—a Camden Panthers basketball shirt presented to him by Holloway and teammates.

Athletics have helped open the door for Holloway to represent Camden at a high level on the field and in the classroom. After spending time with President Obama, he carries an increased understanding of what that could mean for the future—his and the city's.

"Obama told us he believes we'll be successful when we get older. He was confident about that," Holloway said. "As more kids from Camden get a chance for college education and earn a good living, there will be better opportunities to make a positive impact in the community."

It's fair to say Holloway will remember his interaction with Obama for the rest of his life.

 

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

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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UCLA Football: Bruins' 2015 Offseason Checklist

With the summer rapidly approaching, the UCLA football team has multiple items to mark off of its proverbial offseason checklist. 

For one, the defense will have to continue to develop under new leadership. The team as a whole will also have to continue to integrate inexperienced players into the mix. 

Jim Mora and his staff will also have to find clarity in two serious situations facing the team—from both a personnel and coaching standpoint. Lastly, the team will need to select the leader of its offense going forward. 

This piece will delve deeper into the four items mentioned above. 

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Julian Rochester to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 5-Star DT Prospect

Julian Rochester, a 5-star defensive tackle recruit from McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia, announced Thursday that he'll play college football at Georgia.

He tweeted news of his decision:

Rochester is the third-rated defensive tackle and the 10th overall prospect in the class of 2016, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

That highlights how deep this crop of talent seems to be at Rochester's position. It's also a testament to how he's deserving of the highest possible rating a recruit can have.

Listed by 247Sports at 6'5 ½" and 315 pounds, he has a fair amount of athleticism to accompany an already massive frame. His length and size allow him to disengage blockers with relative ease and close quickly into the backfield.

Although he could use some agility work to improve his initial burst, there's no denying Rochester has the physical tools to be a college star.

Because he is nimble for such a young big man and has shown the ability to line up on the edge, he can see time as a 3-4 defensive end, play on the interior in a 4-3 alignment or even evolve into a true nose tackle.

A lot of that depends on what Georgia does schematically, how the program tailors Rochester's diet and exercise program and where the Bulldogs envision him succeeding.

Wherever the young stud lines up, he figures to wreak havoc and blow up plays at the highest level of college football soon enough. The Bulldogs have to be pleased to add such a blue-chip prospect with a tremendous ceiling.

 

Recruit star ratings and information via 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

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Can a Memorable Play Jump-Start Recruiting for Rising 2017 RB Isaiah Montanez?

Before May 17, Isaiah Montanez was just another young football player working to become a household name. He was known around Golden Valley High School in Merced, California, but when he stepped outside of his school zone, he was just another kid.

Even at May 17's The Opening Oakland Regional, he originally was viewed as one of the hundreds of athletes who showed up at San Leandro, California's Pacific Sports Complex. No fanfare or pre-combine dramatics followed. He wasn't even a preregistered athlete; Montanez was a walk-up entry to the event—and his last name was accidentally misspelled "Martanez."

Like most young football players, Montanez wants to play the sport he loves in college. And he wants to go to school for free by way of a football scholarship.

Perhaps the move he made during a "Cat and Mouse" drill at The Opening will be his first step to achieving that goal. The recruiting world quickly found out who Montanez was with a video game-like juke in the drill that became the most talked-about topic of the event.

The move hit social media and was retweeted hundreds of times via Twitter. Nearly two weeks later, it still receives plenty of attention.

"I thought I was going out just to be in the combine. I mean, a lot of people don't know me," Montanez said. "I thought I'd just go there, do the combine and leave. Now I have people looking at me and scouts looking at me. It's crazy."

In Cat and Mouse, a running back and a linebacker are separated by roughly 15 yards. A running back takes the ball on a handoff and looks to evade a linebacker before he is touched. It's a drill that tests a running back's elusiveness, a linebacker's anticipation and the vision of both players.

Montanez's efforts proved to be bigger than just another highlight move at a combine. In a friendly contest between running backs and receivers, his move broke a 3-3 tie and gave the running backs a victory—one that finished with the linebackers doing pushups, as the members of the losing team did 25 each.

The move also was capped with a super-athletic Montanez backflip. It was the perfect ending for a great play. It made for even better film considering he was battling a mild ankle sprain.

"The spin was out of reaction. I mean, you're pumped, and your heart is beating so fast," Montanez said. "My backflip, I didn't want it to be arrogant, but that was the icing on the cake. It just felt unreal."

It may have been the move of the year regarding the spring camps and combines circuit. And it was captured by many. From multiple angles. The play even made "SportsCenter's Top 10" on ESPN.

Within hours, Montanez, the 5'8½", 171-pound running back with zero offers, was the guy everyone wanted to talk about. Now he's hoping that one play spearheads efforts to get him more attention with college coaches.

As a sophomore, Montanez received minimal recruiting looks. He only rushed for 495 yards for Golden Valley, and his team going winless last season didn't help bring out the college coaches.

The combine circuit, however, could be the gateway to additional college interest. He's hoping the interest will soon turn into multiple offers.

"[The Opening] was my first time doing anything like that," Montanez said. "I've never done a laser [40-yard dash], the power ball [toss], none of that; it was all new to me. But now I know what it's all about.

"And I now know I have to train. Train, train, train, train, train and then train some more. I've got to catch some of those other running backs."

In-state names like 4-star Damian Alloway, USC commit Melquise Stovall and Washington pledge Sean McGrew aren't foreign to Montanez. The 2016 backs are players to shoot for—and he still has time. Currently, Montanez said he has only received low interest from Fresno State and Arizona. He said he will take in a camp there next month, as well as a June camp at Utah.

Still somewhat new to organized football, Montanez said he first played in pads in the eighth grade, which means he just finished up his third season. He's a reliable running back, but he also played in the secondary and at linebacker for Golden Valley. Montanez said he played linebacker last season out of team necessity.

Along with his elusiveness, Montanez relies on his speed and athleticism on the field. He said his best 40 time was 4.46 seconds, and he showcased a 34-inch vertical jump at The Opening.

On the field, he was a two-way varsity starter for Golden Valley as a sophomore and is expecting to take on more of a leadership role in his final two years of high school. But what's it going to take for Montanez to receive additional interest from colleges?

He said he's relying on past advice from his coaches and parents: staying humble and "being a sponge." He's also going to use the moment of how he felt after the now-famous juke.

It was an adrenaline rush he said he'd never forget—and one that will be a motivator for the future.

"When I had the ball in my hands [at The Opening], I thought that was my chance; that was my time," Montanez said. "Thinking forward. I have to be on my toes. I know what I want, and I have to work really hard now and be that guy all the time."

 

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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Alabama Football: Who Can Be the Leader Nick Saban Needs in 2015?

Nick Saban didn’t hold back when talking about the downfall of his 2014 Alabama team to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports.

After every Crimson Tide team that doesn’t win a national championship, there is some sort of complacency narrative, but the Alabama coach has never quite laid it out this bluntly:

“I'm really anxious to get back to the team being the most important thing,” Saban told CBSSports.com. “In the beginning … the first four or five years of the program … there was no doubt regardless of the player … the team was the most important thing.”

Does that mean the 2014 team lacked those qualities?

“I'm not saying that. I'm anxious to reemphasize, we didn't finish well the last two years,” Saban added. “That's when the distractions become greater for the guys whether they're going out for the draft, staying in. Seniors that are going to get drafted …

“Teams win championships, individuals don't.”

It’s easy to see where that mentality could come from. Just about everyone on Alabama’s roster has experienced a national championship, won a state title or been the top player at their high school at some point. They’ve grown up being the best.

And sometimes individual goals aren’t always on track with team goals, hence Saban’s frustration.

If Saban and Alabama get the change they want, it’s going to have to come from within. It’s one thing for coaches to preach a certain mentality. It’s another to see a fellow player, a peer, set an example or confront you directly.

“You have leadership that's supposed to reinforce the principles and values of the organization,” Saban said during the 2013 season about leaders stepping up. “When people don't buy in and do those things and make the commitments that they need to make, I think leadership, guys on the team, peer intervention, peer pressure, whatever you want to call it, is something that every good team has.”

So who can be that player for Alabama this year? It could do worse than looking to the guy who should have the football in his hands a lot.

Derrick Henry has been a model of that team-first player Saban is looking for since he got to campus.

He was one of the most-hyped players in the 2013 recruiting class after shattering national high school rushing records and has carried that momentum over into college, running for almost 1,400 yards in two seasons.

Now, he’s primed to be the No. 1 ball-carrier and a major face of the program, if Alabama’s offseason marketing is any indication:

Saban couldn’t stop gushing about him during the spring.

“Well you know, I love Derrick Henry. He's one of the hardest workers on our team," Saban said. "If you were going to give a most valuable player in the offseason program for just finishing, running hard, winning every race, finishing the drill, he'd have probably got it or been in the top three at least. I think that he has a real burning desire to be a really really good player and works really hard at it.”

Henry has shown what happens when a 5-star, slam-dunk player (of which Alabama gets a handful of every year) comes in, works hard, waits his turn and makes the most of the playing time he earns.

This year, he’ll be a force for Alabama carrying the ball. But almost more importantly, he can set an example off the field of the kind of work ethic and attitude it takes to play the football Saban is talking about.

It started in offseason conditioning, where Saban called him the team’s MVP. It’s carried over into the offseason, where he hasn’t let up.

"I accept that role as being a leader,” the soft spoken Henry said at the start of spring practice. “Like I said, I just want to make everybody better around me and just get them to push themselves because I'm going to give it my all every time I'm out there and just try to make the team better."

Only time will tell whether the 2015 Alabama unit, which should be as talented as any it’s had under Saban, can meet its full potential and get the program another national title.

Like Saban said, the issue has been finishing, which Alabama hasn’t been able to do the last few years. The 2014 team looked like his most resilient until it had a month off and ran into Ohio State in New Orleans.

His tone-setter for the mindset he wants to see on this year’s team will be Henry.

 

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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Mark Dantonio and the Most Important Recruiting Class in the Big Ten

As Ohio State enjoys its victory lap following a national title and Michigan's new head coach shows the power to create headlines as quickly as he can tweet, Michigan State has somehow managed to fly under the radar this offseason, despite accumulating a combined 24-3 record in the past two seasons.

But that hasn't stopped the Spartans from making some noise of their own since the 2014 season came to a close, even if it's seemingly gone largely unnoticed. And with Urban Meyer on top of the college football world and Jim Harbaugh now in Ann Arbor, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio may not have had any other choice.

In any other year, the Spartans would be the story of the college football offseason, a program capitalizing on its recent string of success by putting together what could arguably be its best recruiting class in school history. With 13 prospects committed, Michigan State's 2016 class currently ranks ninth in the country with seven months to go until national signing day.

“Right now, we’re selling results," Dantonio said on ESPN's Championship Drive podcast earlier this month. "Other people are selling hope.”

While some saw Dantonio's comment as a shot at Harbaugh—and it likely was—that doesn't make it any less true. Few programs can sell the sustained success that Michigan State can at the moment, and the results in the recruiting rankings currently speak for themselves.

The importance of Dantonio's big upcoming class is also twofold.

On the one hand, a recruiting class the caliber of the one that the Spartans appear to be on the verge of acquiring could take them to the next level, as so much of their foundation has been built on player development.

If Dantonio can win consistently by getting the most out of kids who were 3-star and 2-star prospects coming out of high school, what will he be capable of with a steady stream of 5-star and 4-star kids?

“It should take them to another level," former Michigan State running back T.J. Duckett told Bleacher Report. "Coach Dantonio and their staff, they’ve done a great job of bringing in guys and developing them over the years. Not just their skill level, but also their maturity and the way that they engage and interact."

But while making a jump to the next level may be what's most exciting about the Spartans' upcoming class, it's the timing of Dantonio's potentially historic haul that will be most important.

Because with Ohio State on a run of its own and the Wolverines capturing the most attention in the suddenly strong Big Ten East, Michigan State couldn't afford to fall into a holding pattern this offseason. The addition of some of the top recruits in college football may not just be exciting, but it may be necessary in order for the Spartans to remain a consistent contender for the College Football Playoff.

“It’s very important," Duckett said of the timing of his alma mater capitalizing on its on-field success. "Now that Coach Dantonio has been there for a few years, he’s shown that he’s going to stay...and if you perform, there’s a chance you’re leaving with a degree and a chance to play in the NFL—and win some games.

"That’s huge compared to a program that might just be getting a new head coach or that has a coach that’s only been somewhere for a couple of years, and they’re still trying to figure it out.”

A former premier prospect himself, Duckett spent three seasons in East Lansing from 1999-2001 before the Atlanta Falcons selected him with the 18th overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft. Having been recruited to Michigan State by Nick Saban, the six-year NFL vet has kept an eye on the career of his former head coach and believes that there are lessons that Dantonio can learn form the now-Alabama head man.

Because while the culture of Michigan State has been established by under-recruited players who have bought into the Spartans' system, it's not always easy to do the same with prospects who arrive on campus with more accolades and expectations.

That's why Duckett has been so impressed with the work Saban has done in Tuscaloosa, routinely turning in top-five classes that have rarely suffered from a sense of entitlement.

"[Saban] takes these players and gets them to come in, buy in, commit and sacrifice everything," Duckett said. "Maybe they don’t play their first year, maybe they don’t play until their senior year because the talent ahead of them is such, but he’s figured out how to take these talented and amazing players and get them all on the same page, put egos aside and get them all to head into the direction to be a champ.

"Now that Coach Dantonio is getting these better players, will Coach Dantonio be able to get everybody on the same page and get everybody focused, no matter what the person coming in there has and what they’re trying to do?"

For the most important recruiting class in the Big Ten, that might be the most important question of all.

“One bad apple spoils a bunch. If you bring in one big recruit and it’s all about them, that doesn’t help the program," Duckett said. "But if you bring in a top recruit in and they’re about the program, then they’ll just attract more and more top recruits that buy in, and once they come in there’s already a system. But now that eyes are started to be drawn in on the ratings, we’ll see what happens.”

 

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.

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The College Football Quarterback Under the Most Pressure in 2015

The quarterback position is always under an intense microscope, but which college football signal-caller actually faces the most pressure in 2015?

Is it Tyrone Swoopes at Texas? What about Everett Golson at his new home at Florida State? There's a sense of urgency with both of those players, but the Longhorns are still in rebuilding mode, and Golson may not even win the starting job with the Seminoles. 

When it comes to expectations, both individually and with the team, no one is facing more scrutiny than Missouri's Maty Mauk. 

Mauk is an unlikely candidate to be the quarterback under the most pressure, to be sure. However, he's now one of the SEC's more veteran signal-callers. And, right now, the perception of the SEC's quarterbacks is low.

Mauk earned four starts as a redshirt freshman in 2013 while James Franklin sat with injuries. Mauk became an All-SEC Freshman Team selection and looked like the future face of the program. His performance as a reliever against Oklahoma State in the 2014 Cotton Bowl (105 total yards of offense, one touchdown) provided a spark for the Tigers. 

It also set the bar high for Mauk in 2014, but he never quite lived up to the expectations. In his first full season as a starter, Mauk completed 53.4 percent of his passes and was downright dreadful at times. Against Georgia, he threw four picks in a 34-0 shutout. Making the situation worse was a shoulder injury that plagued him throughout the second half of the season. 

Still, it's easy to question whether Mauk really faces the most pressure of any quarterback in the country. Others might say Mauk isn't even facing the most pressure in the SEC. 

Jake Coker at Alabama, for instance, is approaching now-or-never territory in his quest to earn the starting job. Still, Coker has been a career backup to date at Florida State and Alabama; his pressure is rooted in what he could do but hasn't. Furthermore, two of the Tide's three national championship runs have been made with first-year starting quarterbacks. The point being, quarterback hasn't been a guiding force for head coach Nick Saban's success. 

Mauk, on the other hand, could be the player who has to lead his team to the top of the divisional standings. If for no other reason, the Tigers defense may be in rebuilding mode. 

Consider how head coach Gary Pinkel has altered Mizzou's philosophy in recent years. As a member of the Big 12, the Tigers won a lot of games because of their offensive firepower. However, the days of Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman and Jeremy Maclin have been gone for some time.

In the SEC, Missouri has won back-to-back divisional titles because of its defense. Specifically, Mizzou has led the SEC in sacks in each of the last two years (41 in 2013 and 42 in '14). Kony Ealy, Michael Sam, Markus Golden and Shane Ray have been some of the top pass-rushers not just in the SEC but in all of college football. 

When Mizzou had those kinds of difference-makers on defense, it could afford to win games in spite of its offense. That was the case in 2014, when the Tigers ranked 12th in the SEC in points per game (27.8) and yards per pass attempt (6.4). 

That may not be the case this season. In fact, it probably won't be. 

Already, Mizzou is down one edge-rusher. Sophomore Marcus Loud, who was projected to fill one of the defensive end spots, was dismissed last week. Unless other unknown defensive players step up quickly—junior college defensive end Marcell Frazier should see playing time—defense might not be Mizzou's calling card in '15. 

That puts a lot more pressure on Mauk to live up to expectations. For Missouri to get back to a third straight SEC championship game, Mauk might have to exceed them as well.

"Right now, I want to do whatever I can do to step my game up to the next level, but at the same time, I gotta do whatever I can do to help Mizzou win football games," said Mauk to Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com in April. 

Mauk has always been a superb athlete. That gives Mizzou's offense an extra dimension that can be difficult to prepare for. But Mauk's development as a passer has held the Tigers back from having a truly potent offense. 

In addition to his personal improvement, Mauk has to compensate for turnover in the passing game. Mizzou loses its top three pass-catchers from a year ago: Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White. Tight end Sean Culkin is a big-bodied target who figures to catch plenty of passes, but the true receiving corps is brutally young. 

Mauk has to be the leader to bring those players along, and even then, there can be issues. Young receivers can run the wrong routes, or the timing can be off. Those are instances when interceptions or sacks are "team stats" and not necessarily the fault of the quarterback or offensive line, respectively. 

Pinkel addressed this earlier this month during the SEC coaches teleconference (h/t Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch): 

Maty’s a great teammate. I always ask my players when they come into my office … I always ask them up front, "Are you a great teammate?" Because that’s what we all want to do. He’s a guy who loves playing football. I know (after) our second or third scrimmage, on Sunday he had all the freshman receivers, because we have a lot of young receivers, he had them all in our indoor facility and worked for about an hour and a half and did that on his own. And he did it in a very caring way in terms of being positive and "let’s work to get better."

I think he’s done a lot of good things here. The efficiency of our pass offense is not just him. It’s protection. It’s throwing. It’s coaching. It’s catching. It’s all those things. That’s what we want to see improve.

Improvement needs to happen across the board, but 2015 is also the year when Mauk has to show this is his team. 

The SEC East is still a wide-open division. Tennessee is gaining a lot of momentum after last year's 7-6 effort, and Georgia will again be an early favorite. But Pinkel has built Missouri into a consistent winner over the past two seasons, and he's done so using different tactics. 

The one that will get the Tigers back to the SEC championship game for a third straight year involves Mauk becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. That's no small matter. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

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What to Expect from Laquon Treadwell in Bounce-Back Season

Laquon Treadwell suffered a gruesome, season-ending injury in an intense game against the Auburn Tigers that ended in an eventual Ole Miss loss. 

Adam Lefkoe is joined by Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer to discuss what kind of season Laquon can have next year.

What kind of season do you expect Treadwell to have in 2015? Check out the video and let us know!

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Winners and Losers of May on the 2016 College Football Recruiting Trail

May represents a transition from spring to summer on the college football recruiting trail, as several states wrap up the school year. It allows rising high school seniors to explore options in greater detail, months before their final prep seasons.

Spring evaluations have altered prospect boards in recruiting departments across the country, while recent commitments completely alter the outlook for various programs moving forward. Here's a look at a few teams that flourished in May and some that sputtered in the recruiting spectrum.

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Is 5-Star DT Derrick Brown Leaning Away from Georgia?

Up to this point in his recruitment, there’s been little mystery as to which school has been at the top of 5-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown's list.

That perch has been reserved for the home-state Georgia Bulldogs.

However, as he prepares to take a visit to Auburn this weekend for the Tigers’ Big Cat Weekend, the 6’4”, 305-pounder told reporters that the Bulldogs are no longer the clear-cut leaders for his services, via Keith Niebuhr of Auburn Undercover.

"I don't really have an overall favorite," Brown said Wednesday. "I just want to be able to step back and take a look at all the schools, and with having a favorite, I do not feel like I would be able to give every school a fair opportunity."

Does this news mean that Georgia should no longer be considered the overwhelming favorite to land him?

Not necessarily.

However, the fact that this news is coming out right before a trip to Auburn—which has long been considered to be No. 2 on Brown's list—is enough to cause a slight concern among the Bulldogs fanbase.

Auburn has a huge need at defensive tackle, and Brown is one of a handful of the nation’s elite prospects who is physically capable of making an impact early in his career.

He will arrive a day early to meet with Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn and his staff and to tour the facilities.

As Niebuhr notes, he will also have family, a coach and his girlfriend accompanying him on the trip. The presence of people who are close to him hints at the level of importance of the visit.

While Auburn has a shot to make a strong impression on the nation’s No. 4 overall player in the 2016 class, the Bulldogs are still major factors in the race to land the Peach State’s top prospect.

After all, he’s been a frequent visitor to the Bulldogs campus this spring and has established a strong bond with head coach Mark Richt and his staff.

“I love the atmosphere there (at Georgia),” Brown told Bleacher Report in March. “When I go there, it feels like home.”

Still, the fact that he has backed off on naming the Bulldogs as leaders means there is more work to be done. 

He’s cracked the door open enough to give others a chance to woo him. However, at this point, it would still be a major upset if he landed anywhere other than Athens when signing day rolls around.

 

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

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Arizona Football: Early Grades for 2016 Recruiting Class

For a program that prides itself on being built on speed and aggressiveness, Arizona isn't moving that swiftly on the 2016 recruiting trail.

Though national signing day is still more than eight months away, the Wildcats are far behind the national curve when it comes to commitments. As of Thursday, they have secured pledges from just five players for the 2016 class, according to 247Sports, a far cry from the double-digit commits several other FBS schools already have lined up.

Arizona had six commitments by the end of May last year, then went on a binge during the summer with a dozen more in the three months prior to the 2014 season. It ended up signing 23 players and had the nation's No. 42-ranked class.

It's far too soon to pass judgement on Arizona's overall class, but not too early to give it some interim grades. Here's how the Wildcats rate to this point.

 

Offense

The most notable part of Arizona's four-person offensive group set to join the 2016 team is the presence of two quarterback prospects. The Wildcats didn't sign a passer in 2015, and after Connor Brewer transferred to Northern Arizona this spring, that leaves them with just three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.

Backup Jerrard Randall is a senior, and while Anu Solomon should be entrenched in the starting spot through at least the 2016 season, the added depth will bode well for that year and beyond.

Devon Modster is the jewel of the group, the No. 10 pro-style passer in his class who picked Arizona over Boise State and UCLA. He threw for more than 2,600 yards and 24 touchdowns and added another 680 rushing yards and 12 scores in 2014, and his blend of arm strength and mobility should be a perfect fit in head coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense.

Modster came on board four weeks after Arizona landed Khalil Tate, another California product who ran for 1,287 yards while throwing for just under 1,400 yards with 34 total touchdowns (17 rushing, 17 passing) last year. There was speculation that Tate might reopen his recruitment after Modster committed, but he took to Twitter the same day to quell that rumor.

According to Brad Allis of 247Sports, the Wildcats were "pretty open with their recruits" that they would be looking to sign two quarterbacks for 2016.

The desire to have multiple options for the run portion of the spread is evident as well, as Arizona has already secured two rushing prospects who could also work as slot receivers. Russell Halimon was the most recent addition, in mid-April, and that would have given Arizona three running backs in the class, but a few days later 3-star Texas prospect Trevor Speights decommitted.

While the skill acquisitions to this point look promising, they don't have the accompanying blockers up front to balance out the offense. Until Arizona secures some offensive line commitments, this unit won't earn high overall praise.

Grade: B-

 

Defense

Justin Holt is the No. 12 player in Arizona and the top-rated player from the Tucson area, so his commitment helps keep the Wildcats true to their desire to hold on to the best local prospects. But the son of former Arizona linebacker Julius Holt doesn't figure to be an instant impact player, but at this point he's the only defensive pledge on board.

Arizona's 3-3-5 alignment is such that it needs to cycle fresh bodies onto the field on a regular basis to keep up with the uptempo offenses in the Pac-12, so depth is imperative. The Wildcats' 2015 class included 11 defensive players, seven of who will contribute in the secondary.

Junior linebacker Scooby Wright III, who won three major national defensive awards in 2014, is likely to turn pro after this season, and his departure will leave a huge void. The Wildcats didn't sign a linebacker this past February, and that figures to be an area they'll push hard to get commitments for this summer.

Grade: Incomplete

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football: Early Grades for 2016 Recruiting Class

After landing the nation's No. 11 recruiting class in February, Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff are off to a modest start in building the Aggies' Class of 2016.

The highlight of the class so far is one of the nation's top players, who has been committed to Texas A&M for almost an entire year. He's joined by six other in-state pledges—one 4-star, four 3-stars and one 2-star kicker, the latter of whom is one of the nation's top five at his position.

According to 247Sports' composite Rankings, the Aggies' current Class of 2016 is No. 27 nationally and No. 9 in the SEC.

Sumlin and Co. have plenty of time left to shoot up this list of top classes and have more than 20 blue-chip players listed as their "top targets."

With seven months left in this cycle, it's time to hand out some early grades for Texas A&M's Class of 2016:

 

Offense

Greg Little is now the No. 2 recruit in the country. A massive offensive tackle who looks like he could step into a starting role from day one in College Station, he was named a second-team All-USA player by USA Today as a dominant junior offensive lineman.

The Aggies could definitely use an impact player at tackle next season, and Little fits the bill perfectly. He remains a firm pledge to the Aggies but said he isn't shutting out anyone.

"I’m still a fully committed to Texas A&M, but I am still listening to other schools," Little told Horns247. "In no particular order, obviously Texas A&M and then Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and Ole Miss make up my top five."

In addition to Little, the Aggies have picked up commitments from two other offensive linemen: twins Austin and Riley Anderson.

The Andersons have good size and share an impressive offer list that includes Auburn, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas. Right now, they've decided to go to the same school, and Texas A&M could benefit from additional depth across its offensive line with these 3-star talents.

One of the Aggies' biggest positions of need is tight end, so getting a commitment in March from top target Zarrian Holcombe was a great recruiting victory.

The 6'5" Holcombe moves well for a player his size and "was beginning to heat up on the recruiting trail" when the Aggies offered him a scholarship, according to 247Sports' Taylor Hamm. Holcombe is set to graduate this December and enroll early at Texas A&M, which makes him an even bigger pickup.

Texas A&M also has a commitment from Braden Mann, the No. 5 kicker in 247Sports' composite Rankings. Mann certainly has the kicking power top schools want to see, as shown by this video in which he kicks a 67-yard field goal at practice: 

The Aggies would love to improve this class with several running back and wide receiver prospects, but a group led by one of the nation's best players looks like the start to a great 2016 haul on offense.

Grade: B

 

Defense

Texas A&M hired John Chavis away from LSU this offseason to fix the defense, and the emphasis on turning things around on that side of the ball is apparent in the program's list of top targets for 2016.

While the Aggies are still hard at work recruiting top-50 players such as Keion Joyner, Brandon Jones, Eric MonroeDeontay Anderson and McTelvin Agim, they have only picked up two defensive commitments so far this cycle.

Travon Fuller, the No. 12 cornerback in the country, has been committed to Texas A&M since last August.

According to 247Sports' Brian Perroni, Fuller was named a first-team All-State selection at cornerback last season even though he mostly played running back for his high school.

In just four games at cornerback in 2014, Fuller recorded 54 tackles, seven interceptions, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He has the big-play ability the Aggies would love to see in a unit that has struggled mightily in recent years.

Charles Oliver committed to Texas A&M in April and has been steadily climbing the recruiting rankings these last few months.

Oliver can also play running back and returner—Baylor has offered him a scholarship as an athlete—but the Aggies see this under-the-radar player making an impact on defense down the road.

The Aggies are in on plenty of elite defensive prospects, especially ones at safety and defensive end, across the state of Texas and all over the country. This class will definitely grow, but Texas A&M can feel confident in the potential of the two defensive commitments they already have.

Grade: C

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is an On-Call College Football Writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Team Has the Best Chance to Return to the College Football Playoff?

The first annual College Football Playoff was an incredible success, with the Oregon Ducks, Ohio State Buckeyes, Florida State Seminoles and Alabama Crimson Tide fighting for the title. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer gives his pick, excluding OSU, for the team most likely to make a return visit to the CFP. 

Who will make the CFP this season? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M QB Kyle Allen Set Up for Heisman Trophy Run in 2015

DESTIN, Fla. — Welcome to the "Summer of Allen."

Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen came to College Station last year as "the next big thing."

A 5-star pro-style passer who can move from Scottsdale, Arizona, Allen was the perfect candidate to blend the offense that head coach Kevin Sumlin was successful with while dual-threat quarterback Johnny Manziel was at the helm with the Air Raid offense he employed at Houston that got him the job in Aggieland in the first place.

It didn't work out—at least not initially.

Allen was beaten out last summer by then-sophomore Kenny Hill, who held down the job for two months.

"To start the year, he was devastated," Sumlin said at the SEC spring meetings.

Good things come to those who wait. 

Allen was inserted into the starting lineup on Nov. 1 against Louisiana-Monroe and thrived in the starting role. He dispatched the Warhawks, tossing four touchdowns, and earned a win in his second career start—a road tilt vs. No. 3 Auburn.

Against West Virginia in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Allen threw four touchdowns, ran for another and helped cap off A&M's roller-coaster season with a 45-37 win.

"He goes through the middle of the year and gets to be the starter the last four or five games and has a good game at Auburn and gets to be the MVP of the bowl game, and he's a confident kid coming off of that," Sumlin said.

That set the stage for 2015, a year in which Allen is going to make a run at the Heisman Trophy.

With Hill transferring out, Allen has not only been the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback in College Station, he's been more or less the only option. As a result, Sumlin has had plenty of time to work with Allen on and off the field.

"We've talked about him becoming a better leader, No. 1," Sumlin said. "No. 2, increasing his football awareness and making him a student of the game. Since he was really the only scholarship quarterback during the spring, he got a lot of reps. The leadership role really came to the forefront, because he was the guy. I think he's got confidence right now."

As he should.

Not only will first-team snaps for an entire offseason help Allen skyrocket even further into stardom, he has a medium-sized village of experienced wide receivers to work with.

Six of his top seven receivers from last year return, including leading receiver Josh Reynolds (who missed most of spring), matchup nightmare Ricky Seals-Jones (6'5", 235 lbs) and the ultra-athletic Speedy Noil. What's more, early enrollee Christian Kirk—a 5-star prospect in the Class of 2015 who's also from Scottsdale—enrolled early and worked with Allen at times this spring.

From a Heisman standpoint, the deck is stacked in Allen's favor. He plays in a system that is notorious for helping quarterbacks produce video game statistics, which always pleases voters. Plus, he has weapons all over the place to use to his advantage.

The only missing piece is Texas A&M winning enough to stay in the national spotlight for a full three months.

Enter John Chavis—Texas A&M's new defensive coordinator who has plenty of pieces to work with and a much greater margin for error than he did at LSU. In Baton Rouge, two-touchdown leads were mythical. At Texas A&M, they're the norm.

That should keep A&M at least in the discussion for the SEC West title into November, which is when the Heisman Trophy is typically won or lost.

Will there be pressure? Sure. Three-time Texas state champion and undefeated legend Kyler Murray will enroll on June 2, along with junior college transfer Jake Hubenak.

That's a good thing for Allen.

"They'll give [Allen] some competition and also take some stress off of his arm, so that he can continue to get better," Sumlin said. "With the new rules and us being able to meet with players [over the summer], that accelerated his growth last summer and can also help him this summer."

If all goes according to Texas A&M's plan, the Summer of Allen has a really good chance of becoming another Heisman-level fall from an Aggie quarterback.

 

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

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

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Stat Projections: Will Tyrone Swoopes Live Up to Potential in 2015?

Tyrone Swoopes struggled at times in his first years as the signal-caller for the Texas Longhorns, but the ability is definitely present. 

Adam Lefkoe sits down with Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer, who gives his predictions for the Texas QB's 2015 stats. 

What kind of season do you think Swoopes can have for the Longhorns? Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 College Football Players with Most to Prove in 2015

You know what they say: It's a new year, a chance to start over and leave the past in the past. 

For 10 college football players, 2015 is a year to prove that what happened last year (or the year before that) should not define them. It's a time to show that all the work they've put in during the spring and summer has paid off. These are the players with the most to prove this season.

Whether these players are in the middle of a position battle, coming off of an injury or suspension or simply need to rebound from a lackluster showing, they must have a breakout season in 2015. Otherwise, time could be running out for them. 

Begin Slideshow

Power Ranking College Football's 10 Best QB Depth Charts for 2015

Star quarterbacks are the most coveted players in all of football. Winning without one is extremely difficult, and that's why programs spend so much time and energy recruiting and developing top players at the position.

But there's something even better than having a star quarterback—having multiple quarterbacks who can lead their offenses to greatness.

As the defending champions showed last season, it pays to have more than one elite signal-caller on your campus. 

Injuries and individual slumps can come out of nowhere, so having a talented backup plan or backup plans can be the difference between a season of sustained success or one of complete collapse.

Here are the nation's 10 best quarterback depth charts heading into the upcoming 2015 season. More weight on this list is given to teams with experienced talent at the No. 1 spots and those who have more than enough options from which to choose a new starting quarterback.

Begin Slideshow

Odds on Where Freakishly Athletic QB Jawon Pass Lands at the Next Level

Jawon Pass is 4-star dual-threat quarterback, per 247Sports' composite rankings, who is uncommitted but has narrowed his search to five teams. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer gives his updated odds on where Jawon Pass will land. 

Where do you think the 4-star QB will end up? Check out the video and let us know!

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Atlanta Is a Natural Fit for the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship

DESTIN, Fla. — The College Football Playoff was recently named the 2015 "Sports Event of the Year" by the Sports Business Journal, and now we now what the future of the event holds.

Executive director Bill Hancock announced the communities that have submitted bids for the 2018-2020 College Football Playoff National Championship games on Wednesday:

Consider Atlanta a shoo-in to win the bid in January 2018.

First, let's just use some common sense.

It's the only year the city bid on hosting the title game, while two of its four competitors in 2018—Santa Clara, California, and Houston—also submitted bids for the 2019 and 2020 games. That creates a sense of urgency with the committee picking Atlanta.

So let's eliminate Santa Clara and Houston from the mix for 2018.

What about South Florida?

After all, the Orange Bowl has been a mainstay as part of the BCS rotation since its inception following the 1998 season. Atlanta can boast many of the same features that also makes the Orange Bowl—which joined the "Group of Six" playoff rotation following the 2014 season—attractive.

"Air service, hotels and the ability of the city to put on a big event," Hancock said at SEC spring meetings on Wednesday. That's where having big events like a BCS or a CFP game could come into play. But in our minds, nobody has any advantage in this race. They're all starting from a clean sheet of paper."

Air service? All Atlanta boasts is Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which was the world's busiest airport in 2014, according to CNN.com. Getting sponsors into town from around the country and around the world would not be an issue.

Hotels? South Florida has the edge in that department for sure, but most of those hotels are located in downtown Miami and South Beach—which is 18 miles and a few major traffic jams away from Sun Life Stadium.

The new Atlanta stadium, which is scheduled to be complete in the summer of 2017, will be located in the heart of downtown, adjacent to numerous hotels and an entertainment district that includes, among various other attractions, the new College Football Hall of Fame.

Hello.

Plus, the CFP has made it a point to spread this event around the entire country. 

"We'd like to move it around," Hancock said. "We'd like to bring the top level of college football to as many parts of the country as we can."

Will it really want to host the 2018 event in South Florida, one year after the title game in Tampa?

Nope, especially knowing that other cold weather and west coast bidders remain in the mix in 2019 and 2020.

 

What about the new, 75,000-seat retractable roof stadium that's being built just south of the Georgia Dome? Could that be the deal-breaker?

It couldn't hurt.

"When the stadium was constructed is not a factor," Hancock said. "What the stadium offers is a factor. The number of seats—the minimum is 65,000—fan amenities, backstage space. These events, our event, the Final Four and others require a tremendous amount of backstage space, for media primarily, but also for entertainment. That's the biggest change in newer stadiums is the amount of backstage space."

Sun Life Stadium, even though it is undergoing a $350 million renovation of its own, simply won't have that.

Is Atlanta winning its 2018 bid to host the College Football Playoff National Championship a mere formality?

That may be a stretch. After all, upsets happen.

But it's playing the role of the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Atlanta Hawks in the 2015 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. 

Unless something crazy happens between now and early November—when the announcement of the three winners is scheduled to take place, don't expect an upset.

 

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

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

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Who Will Be Notre Dame's Secret Weapon in 2015?

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2014 season with a run for the college football playoffs. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer gives his pick for the secret weapon for the Fighting Irish. 

Who will be the secret weapon for Notre Dame in 2015? Check out the video, and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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