NCAA Football News
The Florida Gators will begin fall camp in a little over a week, and while there are a good amount of position battles still up in the air, we have a good idea where the team stands as far as a depth chart is concerned.
Whether certain players have established themselves over their careers or have made a move in spring ball, the overall depth chart isn’t going to change a ton since you last saw it. Of course, things could change in no time due to injuries or players not showing up, but barring those circumstances, this is likely the depth chart you’re going to get heading into fall camp and the regular season.
Let’s take a look.
Starter: Jeff Driskel
While fans don’t have 100 percent confidence in Driskel, nobody is arguing that he’s the starting quarterback for Florida. Driskel fits Kurt Roper’s offense perfectly and is in the best position to succeed since he’s stepped on campus. He still has a lot of work to do if he’s going to be the main reason this offense turns around, but there’s no denying that he has the skill set to get the job done.
An official backup hasn’t been named yet, but Mornhinweg still has the edge until further notice given his experience. One of the true freshmen would really have to play out of his mind to steal the backup spot.
Starter: Kelvin Taylor
Backup: Mack Brown
Taylor is the starting running back and should have his workload doubled as a sophomore. It took a while for Taylor to get comfortable last season, but he started to come on late in the year and finished with 508 yards and four touchdowns on only 111 carries. Taylor has the potential to be one of the top backs in the SEC this season if used properly and given enough touches.
The backup spot is still up for grabs between Brown and Matt Jones, but the edge goes to Brown until Jones can prove he’s healthy. Even then, Florida is likely to use up to four running backs this season, so everybody is going to get playing time.
Starters: Quinton Dunbar, Ahmad Fulwood, Valdez Showers
Backups: Demarcus Robinson, Latroy Pittman, Andre Debose
Dunbar, Fulwood and Showers are the most consistent returning receivers from last season. Dunbar’s senior leadership and 90 career receptions earns him a starting job as the X-receiver, while Fulwood’s production late last season makes Florida’s coaching staff confident that he can handle lining up at Z-receiver.
The slot will remain an ongoing position battle, but Showers made plays all over the field last season and has more upside to give than the other candidates.
Robinson is the most talented receiver on the entire roster, but he’s got to prove he can be a leader on and off the field. Everybody else is just jockeying for playing time and could get it if they have a solid performance in the fall practices.
Starter: Jake McGee
Backup: Tevin Westbrook
As long as McGee shows up and is anything close to what he was in Virginia, he’ll be given the starting job and will instantly become a top option in this offense. In two seasons with the Cavaliers, McGee racked up 71 receptions for 769 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s an athletic tight end who can stretch out defenses and become that security blanket across the middle of the field.
McGee is a critical piece to Florida’s offensive success, and unless others can do more than what they’ve done in the past, he’ll be on the field nearly every play.
Starters: D.J. Humphries, Tyler Moore, Max Garcia, Trenton Brown, Chaz Green
Backups: Kavaris Harkless, Roderick Johnson, Trip Thurman, Drew Sarvary, David Sharpe
The starting offensive line shouldn’t be that surprising to anyone. Humphries is one of the better tackles in the SEC when healthy, and Moore played well last season when he wasn’t injured. Green is also one of the best offensive linemen Florida has when he’s healthy. I guess the moral of the story is that this is a pretty respectable unit when everybody isn’t nursing injuries on the sidelines.
Garcia also looked solid at center throughout spring drills and the spring game, and he will only improve with the more reps he gets at his new position.
The backup offensive line is where the concerns come in, as there isn’t a lot of experience. The backups should see a lot of playing time early in the season to prepare them when needed down the road.
Starters: Dante Fowler, Leon Orr, Darious Cummings, Jonathan Bullard
Backups: Alex McCalister, Jay-nard Bostwick, Caleb Brantley, Bryan Cox Jr.
Basically the same defensive line for Florida last season will hold down the fort again this season. Fowler lines up at the Buck position, while Orr, Cummings and Bullard fill up the nose tackle, defensive tackle and defensive end spots, respectively. On paper, this is one of the better defensive lines in the country, especially if Bullard can have that breakout season Florida fans have been waiting a couple of seasons to see.
Cox and Bostwick should have productive seasons as well if spring ball is any indication of things to come.
Overall, defensive line may be Florida’s most talented and deepest unit on the team.
Starters: Jarrad Davis, Michael Taylor, Neiron Ball
Backups: Daniel McMillian, Antonio Morrison, Matt Rolin
Ball has pretty much guaranteed himself a starting job due to his experience and production over the course of his career and spring. Davis is just way too talented to leave off the field, as everybody saw toward the end of last year. Besides those two guys and maybe Taylor, who has been the quarterback of the defense, everybody else is interchangeable.
There are going to be position battles at linebacker and certain guys are going to emerge, but there hasn’t been much of a difference between any of the players to make any drastic changes. Everybody is going to see the field this season and will have their chances to make plays.
Linebacker is a position that’s talented, but it has yet to reach its full potential.
Starters: Vernon Hargreaves III, Jabari Gorman, Marcus Maye, Jalen Tabor
Backups: J.C. Jackson, Keanu Neal, Marcell Harris, Duke Dawson
Hargreaves is the best player on the team, so there’s no way he’s losing his starting corner spot to anybody. Gorman’s experience and production in a limited role last season earns him the nod at free safety. And while I’ve been a bit of a Maye apologist the last year or so, he has to get the start over Harris heading into fall camp.
The battle everybody is waiting to see will be between Tabor and Dawson for the final cornerback spot. It’s going to be neck-and-neck throughout, but I give the edge to Tabor due to his overall length and the fact he’s better suited to cover some of the bigger receivers in the SEC.
Florida’s starting secondary is looking scary right about now.
Starters: Austin Hardin, Kyle Christy
Backups: Francisco Velez, Johnny Townsend
Hardin is the only Florida kicker on scholarship, and while he made only four of 12 field-goal attempts last season, he was flawless in the spring game. Kicking is all about confidence, and considering Hardin has the leg, if he can just figure out the mental part of his game, he’ll be just fine.
Christy’s production fell off a cliff last season, averaging less than 40 yards per punt. However, Christy has shown in the past that he’s capable of being one of the top punters in the country, as he averaged more than 45 yards per boot as a freshman. Like Hardin, Christy should have things figured out by the time the season begins.
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One of the great things about fall camp is that every team gets a fresh start. Every team has the same record, and every team has the same goal. But in order for a team to reach its goal, the players will have to put in the work, and it starts at the beginning of August.
For the Georgia Bulldogs, we know star players such as Todd Gurley, Ramik Wilson and Leonard Floyd will put in a lot of work during fall camp to get ready for the upcoming season, but there should (and will be) a few players who will turn heads during camp which will lead to more playing time and the possibility of earning a starting position.
Here are five players sure to surprise during fall camp.
August is right around the corner, which means football season is rapidly approaching. Toward the middle and end of next month, many high school teams will kick off their seasons.
That also means a few college prospects will be looking to get their decisions out of the way so they can focus on their teams. While a recruit can decide at anytime on a school, several players appear set to announce before or around the start of football season.
A 4-star receiver will likely decide between a pair of Pac-12 schools, while another 4-star receiver could opt for a Big Ten program. Also, a speedy athlete will be announcing his decision within the next few weeks.All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.com, Rivals and 247Sports.
Position battles are inevitable, and the Miami Hurricanes head into fall camp with three major spots up for grabs.
The 2014 edition of the 'Canes faces a pair of obvious competitions, one oft-discussed topic and a newly created major issue.
Since Miami focuses so much on rotations, spots on the offensive and defensive lines demand depth over a top starter. This suggests finding a true starter is not necessarily an integral task.
However, a final battle—a role the team had extremely covered last season—is an essential facet of a well-rounded team, and its importance cannot be overlooked.
Down went Ryan Williams, in stepped Kevin Olsen, and the only thing that emerged was chaos. Olsen showed his inexperience during the spring game, leaving the quarterback situation completely unsettled.
Three months later, though, Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post quoted head coach Al Golden as saying the redshirt freshman "has changed his body. He's working harder. He's been a better teammate this summer. ... I think he's made a lot of progress this summer. He's starting out with a little more confidence."
However, that doesn't mean Olsen is the clear front-runner. True freshmen Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier will be included in the competition and not immediately saved for the sake of future eligibility.
"We're going to let it play out on the field," Golden told Susan Miller Degnan of The Miami Herald. "I want to see what we have before we decide to redshirt them."
But as the talk of Williams taking over under center immediately following recovery intensifies, Kansas transfer Jake Heaps becomes a more intriguing candidate. If Golden is set on Williams as the No. 1 when available, Heaps may actually be the best option during the first few outings.
Instead of sending out a quarterback who has never seen collegiate game action, the 'Canes could use Heaps as an early-season stopgap until Williams is ready.
As noted by Porter, Golden plans on making the competition a two-man fight following the first scrimmage.
"We'll go from four to two fairly quickly and let the two battle for the rest of training camp," Golden said.
Miami knew it would be relatively thin on the outside, but Thurston Armbrister, Raphael Kirby and Jermaine Grace are the only true linebackers on the squad with any collegiate experience.
"Any" is used cautiously, too, since Kirby and Grace have been primarily used on special teams. Armbrister has recorded the most snaps, appearing in 25 games, starting 10 and registering 73 total tackles.
Golden told Miller Degnan that junior edge-rusher Tyriq McCord will also be utilized at the position. Granted, McCord's role is unknown because he has never been an every-down linebacker and, well, the coach did not offer a clear indication of how McCord will fit into the scheme.
Additionally, Golden included Darrion Owens in the conversation. According to Porter, the coach said the true freshman is "going to make a case to play" during the upcoming season.
Then again, Golden does not have much of a choice considering the extreme lack of depth.
"We lost guys, we've got to move on," senior leader Denzel Perryman told Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the Sun Sentinel. "We've brought the younger guys along and they know the playbook right now. We just have to focus on the season."
No, it's not just a punter. Though he has one job—blast the ball—it's not as easy as it sounds.
During ACC media days, Golden mentioned to reporters that the team needs to find its starter, obviously acknowledging the void left by All-American punter Pat O'Donnell. After all, the Cincinnati transfer shattered a Miami record during his lone season in Coral Gables.
With Matt Goudis, Justin Vogel and Ricky Carroll in the mix, the 'Canes should have a respectable option by the end of fall camp.
According to Miller Degnan, Golden said Vogel "is doing a really good job" to this point. "The way it's looking now, according to Golden, is it's between Vogel and Carroll, though Goudis will also work there," she added.
Flipping field position is a crucial part of the game—it will be especially so if the Hurricanes offense initially struggles while breaking in a new quarterback.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.
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During the past three years, Michigan coach Brady Hoke has been in steady contention for the highest-profile recruits. He wins some, he loses some—he lives to recruit another day.
Entering this fall, the Wolverines’ head man has a pair of former 5-star prospects waiting to cut their teeth, carve their niche and establish reputations as consistent, high-level contributors: sophomore quarterback Shane Morris and sophomore running back Derrick Green.
The time for Green is near; for Morris, the other gem of 2013, another year of waiting is likely before he jumps into the No. 1 role. Conversely, no one will know until they know. They've played 10 minutes (not really), and they'll take time to develop.
But why wait until then? Why not analyze and speculate now? It’s as good a time as any.
Bring the Shane
Morris’ stand-up showing during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl prompted talk—lots of talk. But that’s all it’ll be, as there is zero chance of Devin Gardner not being Michigan’s starter this fall—barring a series of catastrophic events, of course.
With that being said, Morris, a 6’4”, nearly 220-pound pro-styler, was supposedly the best thing going a couple of years ago. But then he hit college, which means he sat. A year later, he has more experience and knowledge—and a new offensive coordinator, former Alabama play-caller Doug Nussmeier, who is renowned for his work with quarterbacks.
And he’s a fellow southpaw who just so happened to play professionally, which may or may not greatly benefit Morris.
Outlook: Morris has the tools to be a great college quarterback. However, with the addition of Wilton Speight to the 2014 class, not to mention Michigan’s eyes being set on 2015 and 2016 elites, I can’t confidently project stardom. He may get lost in the mix. Then again, he could live up to his enormous billing and set the bar a little higher for future generations.
The bottom line is that he’s good. Hoke got it right with Morris, who was a 5-star prior to his senior year at Warren De La Salle (Michigan).
“Running game, where are you?” could have been a question that Michigan’s coaching staff asked itself in 2013…and in 2012…but why be picky?
Luckily for the Wolverines, today is a new day, one which promises the resurgence—which was something that I said last year, and probably the year before—of a steady, feared and incredibly efficient backfield.
Green, a former Virginia high school superstar, was to be the savior, the one to breathe fresh air into an otherwise flat approach. However, like Morris, Green barely saw the field in 2013. He had a respectable outburst in Week 1 vs. Central Michigan and even finished the season with valuable, late-game yardage vs. Ohio State (L, 42-41).
Outlook: This fall has to be the year that Green either gets it or makes way for someone who does. That sounds harsh, sure. But considering Green’s profile, it’s not an illogical assumption. The 5’11”, 230-pounder has improved his physique during the offseason and seems destined for the rebound.
At one time, Green was the No. 1-ranked running back of his class, but he dropped to consensus top 10 prior to signing with the Wolverines.
Will Drake Get Busy?
A classic deep threat and a guy who can go down the middle, sky upward and fetch the ball—that’s Drake Harris in a nutshell. At 6’4” and somewhere in the neighborhood of 190 pounds, the former Grand Rapids Christian star's arrival to The Big House has been eagerly anticipated—maybe not to the point of Green or Morris, but there are more than a few who are waiting to see him flash his skills on a college field.
Outlook: Michigan’s depth at wide receiver is a great thing—but not for guys who are looking to crack the rotation. I’m not sold on Harris being a huge factor, but I won’t rule out that possibility. If he makes some sort of miraculous recovery from his hamstring injury, well, that's another story. I’ve been impressed with his ability for two years—even when he committed to Michigan State to play basketball—and foresee a productive career.
At one time, Harris was considered to be the best receiver of 2014 by Rivals and 247Sports. He was ranked No. 8 when he signed with Hoke.
It’s Time to Have Pep
The No. 1-ranked athlete (No. 3 overall) of 2014 shouldn’t disappoint. He is, without question, the biggest pickup of Hoke’s coaching career. Generally speaking, he’s actually one of Michigan’s most notable signees.
Outlook: By now, you’re sick of the Jabrill Peppers chatter. By now, you’re ready to see the 6’1”, 205-pound Jersey kid pick-six his way into the record books. Not many true freshmen do much of anything, anywhere—let alone at Michigan. But this one is different; he’s of a rare ilk.
The football gods broke the mold when they made the one they call “Breezy.” If he’s not a program-changer, I don’t know who is.
When mentioning home runs, it’s only fair to mention the whiffs. To be clear, the following players are included due to their former high interest in Michigan: 2014 DE Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama), 2014 RB Leonard Fournette (LSU), 2015 QB Josh Rosen (UCLA), 2015 WR George Campbell, 2015 RB Damien Harris.
However, as usual, Hoke remains in the hunt for several of 2015 and 2016’s most elite 5-star talents. And if his track record is of any indication, he’ll get his with relative regularity.
Note: At one time, each of the mentioned players carried a 5-star ranking from 247Sports and/or Rivals, two of the leading prospect grading sites. Hoke's classes/futures, via 247: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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It was more of the same from Strong on his first media day as Texas' head coach, continuing to drive home his core values and goals for the team. But Strong also offered some news, officially naming David Ash as his starting quarterback and announcing the return of suspended tailback Joe Bergeron.
Cedric Reed, a late addition to Texas' lineup, also offered a big announcement of his own that should cheer up Longhorn fans.
But if you missed all of that, catching up with everything that Diggs had to say is a must.
Recruiting rivalries are all over the place nowadays in college football. Many teams do not stick to recruiting inside their regions anymore, which has birthed new rivalries on the recruiting trail.
For the 2015 class, several rivalries have formed due to the pursuit of several top recruits. Florida State and Alabama are in the middle of an arms race, while things have gotten even more intense between Auburn and Georgia.
Plus, USC and UCLA have renewed their rivalry on the California recruiting trail.
Alabama fans are all too familiar with Nick Saban’s dislike of preseason depth charts.
As AL.com’s Michael Casagrande explained during spring practice, Saban prefers that his players focus on improving daily in favor of jockeying for roster position.
"I think some guys about now start to worry about the depth chart and where they are on the depth chart," Saban said. “Well we really don't have a depth chart.”
However, with fall camp set to get underway in early August, the picture will begin to become clear as to which players will find themselves in good position to take the field in the Tide’s season opener against West Virginia on Aug. 30.
Which players have an inside track on securing a spot, and which positions will feature the most intriguing battles in fall camp?
Running backs are not as in demand as they once were. However, the 2015 class still has a great group of runners who can help offenses in college.
Looking at the top 10 running back recruits in the 247Sports composite rankings, each of them is an impressive prospect. However, each of them also has at least one thing he needs to improve on.
A speedy running back must get better at breaking tackles, while a powerful runner needs to lower his pad level. Also, a running back headed to an SEC school must improve his elusiveness.
Nebraska football fans know that fall camp is about to start, and with fall camp comes the depth chart battles that will help define the 2014 season. So while there are no official depth charts, we can speculate as to where things are at least starting out as fall camp opens. Of course, the battles in fall camp will go a long way toward determining what Nebraska’s depth chart will look like on August 30 when NU lines up against Florida Atlantic.
But until then, here’s a glimpse of where things might stand. Returning starters are in italics.
As the long wait before the start of fall camp draws to an end, the major storylines for Notre Dame Fighting Irish heading into the 2014 season are well-documented. But the Irish are only half of the story. The other half? Their 12 opponents.
As with any Notre Dame schedule, the slate is littered with some of the marquee players in college football. Who are the best at their respective positions among the teams the Fighting Irish will battle this season?
Let’s introduce the 2014 Notre Dame All-Opponent Team.
Quarterback: Jameis Winston, Florida State (So.)
A no-brainer here. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner led Florida State to the national title, throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns along the way. His lengthy release is the only real flaw in his game, but with arguably the best offensive line in the nation in front of him, he usually isn’t pressed for time.
Notre Dame last faced the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in 2005, when it lost to Matt Leinart and USC in the “Bush Push” game.
Backup: Taylor Kelly, Arizona State (Sr.)
Running Backs: Karlos Williams, Florida State (Sr.); Javorius Allen, USC (Jr.)
Williams was overshadowed last year by the since-departed Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. Starting his career as a defensive back, Williams is still extremely raw as a running back. That’s the scary part for opposing defenses, as he ran for 730 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013.
Allen will split time with Tre Madden again this season, but he had a nose for the end zone, scoring 14 touchdowns last year compared to just three for Madden. Twelve of those scores came in the final six games when the Trojans went 5-1 to close the season following a loss in South Bend.
Backups: T.J. Logan, North Carolina (So.); Venric Mark, Northwestern (Sr.)
Wide Receivers: Jaelen Strong, Arizona State (Jr.); Nelson Agholor, USC (Jr.)
Strong gave the Irish fits last season in the Irish’s 37-34 win at AT&T Stadium, catching eight passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. The junior made the All-Pac 12 team as a sophomore and could contend for All-American status this season in the Sun Devils’ high-powered offense.
Agholor, a Floridian who Notre Dame recruited heavily, will fill the void left by the Trojans’ all-time leading receiver, Marqise Lee. With Lee missing three games last season, Agholor led USC with 918 yards and six touchdowns.
No position among Notre Dame opponents comes close to the talent of the wide receivers that the Irish will face.
Backups: DeVante Parker, Louisville (Sr.); Rashad Greene, Florida State (Sr.)
Tight End: Nick O’Leary, Florida State (Sr.)
Instead of the narrative being that O’Leary is Jack Nicklaus’ grandson, it’s now becoming that Nicklaus is Nick O’Leary’s grandfather. A near-certain Mackey Award finalist, O’Leary enters his final season in Tallahassee off of a 33-catch, seven-touchdown campaign in 2013. At 6’3”, he’s not as tall as recent Fighting Irish star tight ends, but he does pack a punch as a blocker.
A motorcycle accident kept him out of much of spring practice, but there should be no lingering effects this fall.
Backup: Gerald Christian, Louisville (Sr.)
Offensive Tackle: Andrus Peat, Stanford (Jr.); Cameron Erving, Florida State (Sr.)
Peat went from backup to second-team All-Pac 12 last season, and has now anchored down at left tackle for the Cardinal. There are some question marks in the trenches for the first time in a while in Palo Alto, but left tackle is certainly not one of them.
Erving would likely have been a first-round NFL draft pick had he left school early. Unfortunately for Irish fans, he’ll again be protecting Winston’s blind side this season. He played in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl against Notre Dame, but as a defensive tackle.
Backups: Jamon Brown, Louisville (Sr.); Sean Hickey, Syracuse (Jr.)
Offensive Guard: Josue Matias, Florida State (Sr.); Tre Jackson, Florida State (Sr.)
Matias and Jackson made their first career starts against Notre Dame three seasons ago. At a combined 670 pounds, they’ll be a challenge to move for Irish defensive tackles Sheldon Day, Jarron Jones and Tony Springmann.
Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand doesn’t take a backseat to many peers, but Florida State’s Rick Trickett might be one. Due in large part to the development of third-year starters Matias and Jackson, Trickett has again molded one of the nation’s best units and is replacing only one starter this season.
Backups: Vi Teofilo, Arizona State (Jr.); John Miller, Louisville (Sr.)
Center: Max Tuerk, USC (Jr.)
There’s no dominant center on the Irish schedule, so Tuerk gets the nod here. A Freshman All-American in 2012, Tuerk will start at his fourth different position on the Trojans offensive line this season. The transition should be a smooth one, but there is always some natural hesitation when making a position switch.
The departure of third-round NFL draft pick Marcus Martin leaves a big void, but Tuerk has always answered the bell wherever he is needed during his time in Los Angeles.
Backup: Jake Smith, Louisville (Sr.)
Defensive End: Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville (Sr.); Mario Edwards, Florida State (Jr.)
There are four clear-cut candidates for two spots here. Mauldin and Edwards have a slight edge here due to their pass-rushing ability. With 9.5 sacks last season, Mauldin was a first-team all-conference performer, but he will see a step-up in competition this year in the ACC.
Edwards was one of the top players in the county in the 2012 class, and he finally came into his own late last season as a sophomore. He’ll be asked to do even more this season without second-round NFL draft pick Timmy Jernigan. Can he meet the lofty expectations?
Backups: Henry Anderson, Stanford (Sr.); Frank Clark, Michigan (Sr.)
Defensive Tackle: Eddie Goldman, Florida State (Jr.); Leonard Williams, USC (Jr.)
Goldman isn’t a stat-sheet guy but can consume multiple blockers in the middle of the line. His ceiling is infinitely high, and 2014 could be the year that he comes close to reaching it after being a 5-star recruit in the 2012 class, per 247Sports. Not having Jernigan alongside him, as is the case for Edwards, presents come challenges. This will be the biggest test of the season for Irish center Nick Martin.
Williams is the best defensive player Notre Dame will see all season. He’s had to battle through three different defensive coordinators in three years, but he still consistently produces, whether it be at end or tackle.
Backups: Christian Covington, Rice (Sr.); Chris Wormley, Michigan (So.)
Outside Linebacker: Norkeithus Otis, North Carolina (Sr.); Chi Chi Ariguzo, Northwestern (Sr.)
Of all the position groups, outside linebacker is the weakest among Fighting Irish opponents, lacking a true star. Otis plays the hybrid “Bandit” role in North Carolina’s 4-2-5 defense. At 235 pounds, he’s undersized for a 4-3 defensive end, so he’ll play both with his hand in the ground and standing up. He had 7.5 sacks in 2013.
Ariguzo was one of the few key Wildcats to stay healthy in last year’s 5-7 season. His 106 tackles last season are the most among returning Big Ten players.
Backups: Desmond Morgan, Michigan (Sr.); Dyshawn Davis, Syracuse (Sr.)
Inside Linebacker: Jake Ryan, Michigan (Sr.)
Ryan missed last year’s Wolverines win over Notre Dame in Ann Arbor while recovering from a spring ACL tear. He was impactful in both the 2011 and 2012 games, and Michigan likely wouldn’t have won the 2011 game without his drive-ending tackle.
Ryan slides inside this year for his final season at Michigan. A classic overachiever without any eye-popping physical qualities, putting his versatility on film bodes well for his NFL future. He’ll surely leave his mark on the final game in the Michigan-Notre Dame game rivalry.
Backup: A.J. Tarpley, Stanford (Sr.)
Cornerback: P.J. Williams, Florida State (Jr.); Blake Countess, Michigan (Jr.)
After a brief Florida State hiatus at linebacker (the only real question mark for the 2014 ‘Noles), Williams provides a return of the Garnet and Gold. He was a bit of a surprise as a sophomore last season after playing mostly on special teams in 2012. He finished with three interceptions, including a key return for a touchdown against Boston College—the Seminoles’ lone test prior to the BCS National Championship.
Countess, like his teammate Ryan, is now in his second season off of an ACL tear—generally when players truly return to pre-injury form. He was a thorn in Tommy Rees’ side last season, intercepting him twice in the Wolverines’ victory. Expect a second straight all-Big Ten season from Countess.
Backups: Ronald Darby, Florida State (Jr.); Alex Carter; Stanford (Jr.)
Safety: Su’a Cravens, USC (So.); Jordan Richards, Stanford (Sr.)
Notre Dame will see arguably the Pac-12’s two best safeties this year in Cravens and Richards. Cravens has already lived up to his massive hype after just one season, recording four interceptions and 52 tackles as a freshman. A Freshman All-American, Cravens is a big hitter at 215 pounds.
Richards loses partner-in-crime Ed Reynolds after two years together at safety. But with two returning starters at cornerback, Richards should be freer to take some chances and play closer to the line of scrimmage. He had his only career multi-interception game in the Cardinal’s big win over undefeated UCLA last October.
Backups: Durell Eskridge, Syracuse (Jr.); Jalen Ramsey, Florida State (So.)
Kicker: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State (So.)
Aguayo won the Lou Groza Award last season as the nation’s top kicker. The good news for Seminoles fans is that he still has three seasons, and possibly more trophies, yet to come. He converted nine of 10 attempts from 40 yards or more, a rarity in college football.
Perfect seasons in extra points are not as uncommon, but when your team scores 94 touchdowns, converting all 94 attempts is an impressive feat. (Florida State did not attempt a two-point conversion last season.)
Backup: John Wallace, Louisville (Jr.)
Punter: Tommy Hibbard, North Carolina (Sr.)
Hibbard brings 166 career punts into his final season in Chapel Hill. After averaging just over 39 yards per punt as a freshman, he has posted matching 43.0 averages in each of the past two seasons. He was only third in the ACC in 2013 in gross yardage, but the Tar Heels led the conference in net punting, a credit to not only their coverage but also to the height and placement of Hibbard’s punts.
Backup: Pablo Beltran, Navy (Sr.)
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Being listed as an "athlete" or "ATH" can be a gift and a curse. On one hand, it shows how versatile and talented a recruit is. On the other, it also shows that he may not have a true position just yet.
Looking at the top athletes in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, all of them will be given a position to start their college careers when they arrive on campus. This list will give you a sneak peak at where on the field these jacks of all trades will play on the next level.
Georgia will likely have a 5-star athlete play receiver, while Florida will start a pair of 4-star athletes on defense. Plus, one athlete on this list will try his hand at quarterback.
When the Texas Longhorns kick off the 2014 campaign against in-state rival North Texas, junior David Ash will line up under center.
New head coach Charlie Strong ended any potential QB controversy and announced his decision during Tuesday's Big 12 Media Days, as Rivals and Bleacher Report's Taylor Gaspar reported:
Ash, who will be starting his third season opener in a row for the Longhorns, saw last year's campaign cut short.
After a very encouraging sophomore season, the Belton, Texas, product looked intent on repeating his success in 2013. He went 2-1, completing 60.9 percent of his throws for 760 yards, seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also added another 152 yards and a score on the ground.
A concussion sidelined him for the rest of the year, however, and he was ultimately granted a medical redshirt.
The injury bug struck again in spring when Ash was sidelined with a broken foot, but he was recently cleared for practice, and that was all Strong needed to name his starting quarterback.
Texas has some intriguing youngsters in Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard, who both "will be given an opportunity to compete," but the general consensus is that right now Ash gives this team the best chance to win ballgames.
“It has to be Ash for them to have a chance,” an anonymous Big 12 coach told ESPN.com's Travis Haney (subscription required). “Has to be.”
Over the last two seasons, Ash has completed nearly nine yards per attempt with a solid 26-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He clearly has the talent to be one of the most prolific signal-callers in the conference, and now it's just a matter of staying healthy and staying on the gridiron.
Strong, via ESPN's Joe Schad, is making that a priority:
The Longhorns, who have fallen short of 10 wins in the last four seasons, are right on the edge of most preseason top 25 lists. They already have a monster rushing attack, though, and a healthy Ash playing at his full ability would pave the way for improvement in 2014.
However, with Swoopes and Heard waiting in the wings, don't expect the junior's leash to be comfortably long.
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Conference media days always bring a ton of attention and produce some good quotes, and the ACC media days were no different. Dabo Swinney showed he has complete confidence in his team on both sides of the ball, and there were even a couple more jabs between Swinney and Steve Spurrier.
Swinney and Spurrier Are Going to Keep Talking
The best quote of the week from Swinney was in regards to the differences between him and the Ol' Ball Coach. "He's from Pluto and I'm from Mars", Swinney told the media.
Spurrier had a line waiting in return for Swinney when asked about Clemson being the only team from the state to win a BCS bowl. "I'll admit to that, although we beat them about every year. They get there and we don't. That's just the way it is."
It's clear that both coaches are going to keep the back and forth going for a while, but the jabs have really put this rivalry on the map. While Clemson-Carolina hasn't been the best rivalry over a long period of time, there hasn't been one much better the past few years. The jabs are done in good fun, though, as Swinney pointed out that both have mutual respect for each other.
Swinney Has High Hopes Defensively
It's also clear that Coach Swinney expects a lot out of the Clemson defense in 2014. In a morning session interview with reporters, Swinney told the media (via Tony Crumpton of TigerNet.com) he would be disappointed if, by the end of the year, the Tigers were not one of the best in the country defensively.
This has certainly been the topic of discussion surrounding the Tigers this offseason—and for good reason. The Tigers return some big names on the defensive front seven, such as Vic Beasley and Stephone Anthony.
TigerNet's David Hood points out a quote from Swinney, in which he spoke about how the defense could take some pressure off the offense.
With the transition on offense, it's great for Tiger fans to hear this kind of confidence from Swinney about his defense.
Offense Is Going to Look Pretty Similar to Last Season
Another point that Swinney made clear is that Clemson isn't going to risk much with its offensive schemes. He noted that starting quarterback and senior Cole Stoudt may even be faster than Tajh Boyd, but the situations may call for different things.
While Boyd was used heavily last season on 3rd-and-short, the Tigers will likely look to a running back to step up when they need a few yards. Swinney said he realizes they may do some things differently but points out that Stoudt has practiced in this system for three years.
He also spoke to the confidence Stoudt has, gained mostly from his previous experience.
Deshaun Watson Is Going to Play Early
When the topic of redshirting Watson came up, there wasn't much pause from Swinney to discard the notion. He says that Watson had an incredible spring and that he will play early.
Swinney said it wasn't clear how Watson would be used at this point, but he would definitely play early. An interesting quote from Swinney that I took away from watching the interviews is that Watson has gone from 182 to 204 pounds in his time at Clemson. That is big news for Tiger fans, as a bigger Watson provides more opportunities for utilizing him in the run game.
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The 2014 Tennessee Volunteers have so many question marks, even their head coach won't know what to think until he sees them on the practice field.
Sure, Butch Jones probably has an idea what to expect. But there are battles at the vast majority of positions, and reliance on players with zero experience is a brutal reality for the second-year coach.
"It's a team of unknowns," Jones told local reporters at last week's SEC media days, according to GoVols247's Wes Rucker (subscription required). "Just a little less than half of our football team will be new this year. ... So it's gonna be, 'How fast can we jump that learning curve?'"
Depth charts this time of year for teams like Tennessee who will be relying on youngsters are ever-changing. A defensive end today may be a linebacker tomorrow. A freshman may line up at cornerback one day and be a safety the next.
Fall camp is going to be crucial for Jones to pelt the newcomers with as much as they can handle right away and see who responds. Whoever can grasp it will be relied upon once the season starts.
Also, who plays what position also will depend heavily on what UT is doing situationally to match up with the opponent.
"Nick Saban may act like he's the only coach who hates depth charts, but, trust me, all of them do," Rucker told Bleacher Report. "The simple fact is depth charts are very complicated these days."
Let's try to wade through the murky waters and offer an educated guess on who should emerge throughout fall drills for the Vols as a two-deep depth chart becomes clearer.
DALLAS, Texas — The Big 12's media days are in the books. Besides preseason practice, the only thing left is to strap on the pads and play football.
It's all happening faster than you think.
With media days over, it's time to look back at who won the press conferences and what was left to be desired.
Who were some of the winners and losers of this year's Big 12 media days?
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless cited otherwise.
Miami secured a verbal commitment from 4-star receiver Ahmmon Richards Tuesday afternoon, locking up its seventh player and incredible fourth WR for the 2016 class.
Richards is the No. 268 overall player and No. 48 receiver in the country, per the 247Sports composite rankings. He announced his commitment with a Tweet of himself flashing "The U":
Richards is 6'2" and a multi-sport star who also runs track at Wellington Community High School in West Palm Beach. Despite this, though, he does not project as one of the speedier receivers in the class.
According to his junior evaluation from ESPN Scouts Inc., his best attributes include football I.Q. and a willingness to make plays in traffic, whereas speed is an area of concern:
STRENGTHS: Richards is a tough receiver who uses his understanding of defensive schemes to get open. Very willing to go across the middle to make plays and is willing to make catches in traffic. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Has good route running ability but just needs to become more consistent. Can add weight to his long frame. Lacks great speed and a second gear. ... BOTTOM LINE: Richards is an athlete who makes plays all over the field. If he can learn to become a more consistent route runner then he should see a jump in his production. Improved speed will enhance stock.
However, this might make Richards a nice complement with his classmates at the position. Sam Bruce, the nephew of former St. Louis Rams superstar Isaac Bruce, is the No. 5 receiver in the class and projects as a Tavon Austin-type slot weapon.
He could use teammates such as Richards and No. 13 receiver Dionte Mullins to work as possession targets outside the numbers. No. 51 receiver Dredrick Snelson projects as more of an outside-the-numbers vertical threat.
All four receivers committed since the start of July.
On the field, Richards' commitment means an excess of depth at the receiver position—even more than already existed. If the other three receivers (especially Mullins) pan out, he can also be moved to safety, which would stagger the positions in the class. According to Peter Ariz of CanesInSight.com, Miami recruited him as an "athlete":
Off the field, Richards' commitment speaks to a larger resurgence in Miami's recruiting. The Hurricanes have dominated the early portion of the 2016 cycle (high school juniors), enough so that this news didn't launch them to the No. 1 spot on the 247Sports team rankings—it kept them there and extended their lead over Baylor.
With Florida State on the brink of becoming an Alabama-sized superpower but Florida a little bit down, now is an important time for Al Golden and his staff to recruit the area. His team could go in any number of directions these next couple of cycles.
Fortunately, they have fostered a strong pro-Miami sentiment among high school juniors and seniors. Even when they play for rival teams, top high school prospects talk to one another about which colleges are "hip" and "cool" and "in" and worth playing for. Miami hasn't been Miami the past few seasons, which might have put these younger kids at risk at forgetting its former greatness.
But it hasn't.
"We want to change the program," Richards said of he and his future classmates, per Anthony Chiang of the Palm Beach Post. "We want to be remembered like the other great players that played there. We want to put Miami back on the national radar."
This is one more step in the right direction.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT
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TCU defensive lineman Devonte Fields will be separated from the school following allegations by an ex-girlfriend, including assault and threatening the use of a gun.
Scott Gleeson of USA Today reports the incident in question happened early Sunday when Fields allegedly broke a window, punched former girlfriend Haley Brown in the head and pointed a gun in her direction, according to the police report filed with the Fort Worth Police.
The report notes Sgt. Raymond Bush stated that Brown ultimately decided against pressing charges and Fields had left before police arrived:
Sgt. Raymond Bush told USA TODAY Sports that Fields was not arrested but was a suspect of a domestic disturbance. Brown decided not to press charges and noted that she and Fields dated for two years before breaking up on June 1.
Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News provided a statement from the university about the situation:
At this point, it's unclear the exact punishment associated with being separated from the school during the ongoing investigation.
It has been an eventful stretch for Fields after being named the Associated Press' Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year after an outstanding freshman campaign in 2012. He tallied 53 tackles (18.5 for loss) and 10 sacks to headline the Horned Frogs' defense.
Since that point, he was suspended for two games of last season for a violation of team and university policy, suffered a foot injury in his first game back that cost him the rest of the year and was involved in an off-campus incident where he was reportedly robbed and shot at.
Now he's dealing with the alleged domestic disturbance. Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports TCU head coach Gary Patterson had no further information to give:
The news comes shortly after he was named the conference's preseason defensive MVP based on his expected return to the field. It's hard to argue with the selection based on the potential he showed in his first season at the college level.
His future is a now mystery. It's unknown if further information will be provided or when TCU will clarify his status with the team.
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On Saturday, Sept. 6, history will be made as Catherine "Cat" Conti will become the first female to officiate a Big 12 football game.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby spoke highly of Conti during the official announcement. George Schroeder of USA Today provides Bowlsby's comments on the matter:
She is not there because she is a female. She is there because she's paid her dues and because she is a really outstanding football official. … This is a good opportunity for her and a good opportunity for us, and I don't think you'll really notice much about how the officiating is done on the game. But it's significant that she's doing it.
The matchup Conti is scheduled to officiate is a home game for Kansas against Southeast Missouri.
Conti has officiated football games for years, but has done so at the high school and smaller conference level. While she is scheduled to officiate the one contest for the Big 12, she will be full-time for the Mountain West this year, per Schroeder.
She has slowly moved her way up the ladder in the lower conferences to now officiating in the Big 12, but Conti still has other dreams of making it to the NFL. She spoke about those aspirations, via Schroeder's report:
"That's the ultimate dream," Conti said. "But if this Big 12 game is the highest I ever get, it's certainly been a great career. … I've never walked on a football field and felt I was over my head."
Schroeder also provided Kansas coach Charlie Weis' thoughts on Conti, via Twitter:
Weis later expanded on those thoughts (via Darren Hartwell of NESN.com):
“I believe in the old-fashioned way, so I’ll try not to use as many bad words,” Weis said. “But it means nothing to me. It’s great that a woman is put in a position where she can be put on equal footing with the men.”
Referee Magazine on Twitter shared its congratulations to Conti:
Regardless of what she does following the Big 12 game, Conti will make history by simply stepping on the field. With the signature black and white stripes, Conti will no doubt look to simply blend in with her fellow officials and do her job as usual despite the added attention that this historic situation will generate.
This is a huge move that follows another significant moment in sports and officiating after Sarah Thomas officiated the first Division I game back in 2007. As the Associated Press reported last month, Thomas might become the first NFL official this fall.
Whether or not Conti will join her is another story. But for now, she'll blaze her own trail on Sept. 6 in a Big 12 game.
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.
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UCLA was amid a torrid rally midway through the fourth quarter of its Pac-12 South showdown with Arizona State last November. Down 35-13 at halftime of the de facto divisional championship, the Bruins outscored the Sun Devils 20-3 in the second half and were driving for more.
But with under five minutes remaining in the final period, a drive stalled out at the Arizona State 21-yard line. Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn came on to attempt a 38-yarder that would've drawn UCLA within two, but the kick was no good.
There's no downplaying the importance of special teams at UCLA. Another one of the program's more heartbreaking losses in the Jim Mora era also included a notable special teams misfire—a 51-yard attempt in the 2012 Pac-12 Championship Game that ended the Bruins' Rose Bowl dreams.
However, special teams have also played a key role in the program's resurgence since Mora's arrival before the 2012 campaign.
In 2012, UCLA's eight blocked kicks tied Rutgers for best in the nation. Last year, the Bruins blocked another four to finish tied for No. 10.
But while the Bruins' number of blocks declined, the team vastly improved in its return coverage.
UCLA has flourished on special teams by utilizing some of the roster's greatest talents. Take Myles Jack; before he was shining at running back, the Freshman All-America linebacker was already a two-way standout, blocking one of those four kicks.
Kenny Orjioke, one of the linebackers vying to replace All-American and first-round NFL draft pick Anthony Barr, made an impact on special teams a year ago.
This season, another cornerstone of the defense will play a key role on special teams. Cornerback Ishmael Adams will team with Fabian Moreau to give the Bruins one of the most formidable secondaries in the Pac-12, but Adams will also double as UCLA's returner.
Adams took over return duties late last season out of necessity, with Devin Fuller and Steven Manfro both shelved against Arizona State.
"Ish raised his hand,” Mora said of Adams' move to returner, per Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times. “We knew he played some running back in high school.”
Adams capitalized on the opportunity with 58- and 69-yard kickoff returns as well as a 49-yard punt return.
Indeed, the Bruins special teams will feature some familiar faces in 2014. But there's one key, new face who will be setting the tone.
Assistant coach Jeff Ulbrich has been integral to the performance of the special teams the last two seasons. FootballScoop.com named him Special Teams Coordinator of the Year in 2013, but Ulbrich transitioned to his new role as defensive coordinator in the spring.
That leaves Mike Tuiasosopo overseeing the unit, and the UCLA assistant will face an adjustment period. Mora told Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News that Tuiasosopo is "feeling his way" through the new responsibility and, to that end, leaning some on new running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu.
Polamalu, Mora's headline-grabbing offseason hire, had a hand laying the foundation for UCLA rival USC's dominance in the 2000s. His duties with the Trojans in the early part of last decade included special teams coordination.
In 2003, Polamalu's final season as the Trojans' special teams coordinator, Reggie Bush ran back a return for a touchdown for the first time in his collegiate career. That was 11 years ago, which may seem like ancient history, but it's only four years longer ago than UCLA had its last kick taken to the house.
Adams told the Los Angeles Daily Newsin December that he wants to give the Bruins' otherwise standout special teams that one highlight reel moment it's lacked since 2007.
"All the players are excited to see one," he said. "I’m definitely looking for it, obviously. I want to return one for a touchdown more than anybody else."
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com.
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