NCAA Football News

Ohio State Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from Big Ten Media Days

CHICAGO — For the defending national champions, Ohio State was supposed to have a relatively quiet Big Ten media days.

Key words: supposed to.

Sure the Buckeyes are currently sitting atop the college football world, but with Michigan's Jim Harbaugh making his return, Urban Meyer and his team were prepared to take a backseat from an attention standpoint. That game plan, however, went out the window with Thursday's news that suspensions will cause the Buckeyes to be without four of their key players—including star defensive end Joey Bosa—for their season opener against Virginia Tech, as Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch initially reported.

And with the new breaking mere minutes before Meyer took the podium at Chicago's McCormick Place Hyatt Regency, an unexpected storyline found itself front and center for Ohio State's media-day representatives.

 

Sudden Suspensions 

Unsurprisingly, the suspensions of Bosa, wide receiver Corey Smith and H-backs Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson were a hot topic of conversation for Meyer and the three Buckeyes players who were in attendance in the Windy City. The fourth-year Ohio State coach said that he's known about the suspensions for a while and admitted he is concerned with how they will affect the Buckeyes' battle with the Hokies.

"I kind of knew about this for a little bit," Meyer said. "We are playing an extremely talented team, very well-coached team on the road in a tough environment. However, we have recruited very well. So get going, move forward."

Meyer went on to state he is hopeful the culture he has helped create in Columbus will aid Ohio State in overcoming the loss of four of its contributors for at least one game. Buckeyes linebacker Joshua Perry agreed that his team has the tools to defeat Virginia Tech—who was the only team to beat Ohio State in 2014—but said that he wasn't going to ignore the Buckeyes' new situation either.

"We have to deal with it," Perry said. "You can be disappointed in friends. We're going to be disappointed a little bit, but you've got to move on from it, learn from it definitely. This is one of those experiences where we correct what happened."

As pointed out by left tackle Taylor Decker, Ohio State has a track record when it comes to dealing with less-than-ideal situations.

"Obviously you never want to lose guys," Decker said, referencing Ohio State's injury-plagued 2014 campaign. "We have a 'next man up' culture and believe that the next guy is going to get the job done."

Suspensions, however, won't be the only the distraction the Buckeyes find themselves dealing with in 2015.

 

Watch the Throne

At a program as prestigious as Ohio State, there always seems to be a target on your back.

But this year, the bull's-eye on the Buckeyes is even bigger than usual.

As the defending national champions, Ohio State knows that it will have to deal with the standard that was set by last year's team, which was the unlikely winner of the first-ever College Football Playoff. That hasn't been lost on Meyer, who has twice before dealt with what the Buckeyes are about to face.

"All we can do is watch the indicators, watch it closely and then dive into it with a sledgehammer if we start to see something that's disrupting the team. And we've dealt with one," Meyer said, referencing the suspensions. "At some point, we're going to have to address it, and we did."

To their credit, Ohio State's players—at least the ones who were in attendance in Chicago—don't appear to be buying the hype.

"There's an expectation when you come to Ohio State that you're supposed to win every game you play in, but also I think that can be dangerous," Decker said. "Being the preseason No. 1 team can kind of spark some complacency, and that can be dangerous because obviously you don't want to forget what got you to where you're at...the leaders of the team are going to establish the culture, and that culture's going to drive all of the behavior."

Of course, who at least one of those leaders will be still remains to be seen.

 

QB Conundrum 

With all of the attention that was being placed on Ohio State's recently announced suspensions, it took a full 10 questions before Meyer was asked about the most talked-about quarterback competition in all of college football.

Nevertheless, the question came, and Meyer had a response when asked how he would choose between Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett to start in the upcoming season.

"I like the culture of our team right now, and we're going to play the guy that helps us win. We've already started the process. And that's leadership. I have created the leadership throughout the summer," Meyer said. "We're keeping score of everything."

While the three-time national champion head coach went on to reveal that he won't be naming a starter in advance of Ohio State's matchup with Virginia Tech, we now at the very least know that the Buckeyes' starting quarterback won't be Braxton Miller. On Thursday, Meyer confirmed the two-time Big Ten MVP's move to wide receiver, which was originally reported by SI.com's Pete Thamel last week.

"I think Braxton will play receiver. I've worked with him, and [wide receivers coach] Zach Smith has worked with him," Meyer said. "I see a great athlete. But what actually he can do, we'll start, I think, a week from Sunday [at fall camp]."

And although Meyer's right in admitting that Miller's potential as a wideout remains unclear, he agrees that his ceiling is certainly a high one. While refusing to draw a direct comparison, he compared Miller's athletic ability to that of former Florida star Percy Harvin.

"Percy—I don't think I've ever been around a more dynamic athlete. I have not been around a more dynamic athlete," Meyer said. "Braxton Miller is in the same tonnage of that kind of athleticism. Obviously, Braxton has got a long way to go at that position."

As for Miller's teammates, they too appear excited about Miller's position switch.

"I think it'll be great for him, I think it'll be a great opportunity for him," Decker said of Miller. "Everybody knows he has that 'wow' ability. I think it'll complement his ability well."

And with three Ohio State wideouts suddenly missing for the season opener, the team might need that ability sooner rather than later. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Media Days 2015: Biggest Takeaways from Day 1

CHICAGO — The buzz in the Hyatt Regency Grand Ballroom for Day 1 of Big Ten media days was palpable.

There was a national championship trophy in the building with a strategically placed “Do Not Touch” sign resting at its base. Ah, maybe next time.

There were new coaches making official introductions. There were stars and future stars speaking at length about a variety of topics. And, perhaps most notable of all, there was a newfound sense of swagger for a league that has assumed the role of the pinata in recent years.

The current face of the conference could sense it.

“When I came here in 2012, I was shocked. It was like the Big Ten was an afterthought,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer told a tightly packed group of reporters huddled anxiously around his table. “That is certainly not the case this year, but it can go right back unless we all do our jobs.” 

Half of the conference’s coaches and players spoke on Thursday in a new format, including Meyer, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and new Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst.

Harbaughmania—and it will be just that—will be Friday’s main course, for those curious. 

While there was news delivered, the first major news item of the day came before the first coach stepped to the podium. Here’s what stood out in Chicago.

 

Ohio State Coping with (and Addressing) Week 1 Suspensions

The release arrived in my inbox at 11:03 a.m. central time on Thursday, less than one hour before Mark Dantonio took the podium and kicked off the two-day event.

Ohio State announced that defensive end Joey Bosa, H-backs Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson, and wide receiver Corey Smith were suspended for the team’s Week 1 road game against Virginia Tech. Meyer wasted little time addressing the situation when he spoke.

“I kind of knew about this for a little bit,” Meyer said. “We are playing an extremely talented team, very well-coached team on the road in a tough environment. However, we have recruited very well. So get going, move forward." 

The loss of Bosa, in particular, is monstrous. Meyer could only use the word “awful” when describing how his star defensive end took the news and how hard he was on himself.

In terms of filling in a gaping leadership hole, however, Meyer insisted that his star player would still play a significant role. 

“I’m going to go out on a limb here,” Meyer said. “I think Joey Bosa steps up.”

The fact that they have had time to brace for the news is critically important. However, despite magnificent depth at every position—including the defensive line—this development was the biggest item to come out of Day 1 and will play a significant role in Week 1.

 

But What About the Quarterbacks...

It should come as no surprise that the two biggest stories to come out of Big Ten media days involved Ohio State.

While Meyer did not name a starting quarterback in Chicago, he did provide some surprising (albeit limited) details as to what we can expect from the race in the coming weeks and months.

For starters, if his plan plays out, Ohio State will not reveal the starter until most games in Week 1 have already been completed. He plans to wait as long as possible.

"The first guy that jogs out at Blacksburg will be the starting quarterback,” Meyer said. “In my mind, we’ll know before that.”

As for some wrinkles that Ohio State might unveil with so much talent at the position, Meyer was asked plainly if we will see Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones on the field at the same time. 

“Yes,” he responded plainly. Unfortunately, he decided this was not the appropriate time to draw up plays, but you should still be giddy about this development.

While the depth at the position is both a blessing and, in a weird way, a matter of concern, Meyer did not dwell on the fact that he has a difficult decision ahead of him.

"I am the most fortunate coach in the country," he said.

 

Tim Beckman Sidesteps Controversy

Coming off a bowl appearance that was supposed to cool his warm seat, Tim Beckman’s offseason was injected with controversy after multiple players alleged misconduct while in the program.

On Thursday, the turbulent developments surfaced as Beckman was pelted with a handful of questions regarding the matter as he took the podium. No one expected him to really explore a sensitive issue in-depth, at least not here. But Beckman essentially sidestepped the matter entirely.

“You know, we're focused right now on a 2015 football team,” Beckman said when asked about the allegations. “We took off from last year after a great end of the year. And we've been focused since January on becoming a better football program. The philosophy that we continue to use is what these football players believe in football.”

When asked about it later on, Beckman budged a bit. While he refused to dive deeper than surface level—and legally he's likely extremely limited in what he can say—Beckamn did explore the current relationship between player and coach. 

“We're fathers,” Beckman said. “I think that each one of our coaches would say the same thing. We're in the process of providing avenues for our football players to become better men, become better football players.”

 

Randy Edsall Sells This Glorious “Lineman League”

The head coach of Maryland sees your league full of exciting skill position players, and he raises you the “lineman league." That was the expression Randy Edsall used to describe the Big Ten.

This also happens to be a one-way ticket straight to my heart.

On a day where so much was made about the conference’s rapid change in perception—and rightfully so—the Maryland head coach brought us back to its roots. He also complimented just how much recruiting has improved since making the switch.

“We found out that it was really a lineman league,” Edsall said while reflecting on his team's first season in the B1G. “That you had to be able to win in the trenches if you were going to be successful, week in, week out, year in, and year out.”

No, it’s not the sexiest way to sell it. It is to those of us who live here and have lived this large-man reality for longer than one year, but it may not garner massive interest. When asked to elaborate further, Edsall added more on the differences between conferences.

“I think from the standpoint for our players, it was just the physicality and also different from the ACC where, again, it was more of a lineman league so to speak,” Edsall said. “And I don't mean that there are not skilled people in the Big Ten. But there, you better be able to control the line of scrimmage if you're going to give yourself a chance to win.” 

Big Ten, here is a moneymaking concept. Print up a “Lineman League” T-shirt immediately, and I promise you will have at least one buyer.

 

Day 1 Quick Hits

Ohio State

Regardless of what podium you visited or what table you sat down at, Ohio State conversation was unavoidable. Every player and coach I sat down with answered at least one question regarding a) playing Ohio State b) not playing Ohio State or c) what Ohio State did to improve the image of the conference. Although every question I heard was answered, you could sense the frustration at times.

When talented defensive end Shilique Calhoun was asked about the most talented Ohio State quarterback on the roster, he quickly fired back an answer. “Conner Cook,” he replied. “He’s the best quarterback on Team Offense.”

 

Corey Clement

Wisconsin running back Corey Clement sounded like a young man ready to grab the baton from Melvin Gordon and run with it. When asked about his expectations for this season now that Gordon has moved to the NFL, Clement didn’t shy away from setting the bar high now that he has finally gotten his shot. 

“No less than 2,000 yards and winning the College Football Playoff,” he said.

Given the fact that he ran for 1,000 yards in a limited role last year, this first part might be doable. The second part? Well, let’s wait and see.

 

Michigan State Initiation Practices

Speaking of Cook, he unveiled some Michigan State initiation practices that have undoubtedly caught a handful of unseasoned players off guard.

Well played, sir.

MSU's Connor Cook apparently likes to initiate incoming recruits by calling completely made up plays in the huddle.

— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) July 30, 2015

 

Lineman Eats a Raw Egg

Have you ever wanted to watch an Iowa defensive lineman eat a raw egg? Sure you have.

Congratulations, friend. You are in luck. Here is Iowa senior Drew Ott eating an egg and then grading it on camera. Don’t ask why; just enjoy it.

Even with Jim Harbaugh yet to speak, this will be a difficult moment to top.

 

Adam Kramer is the College Football National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football: Ranking the Top 10 Heisman Candidates in 2015

Running backs figure to make up most of the Heisman Trophy contenders in 2015. 

College football is set to have its best crop of running backs in recent memory due to players like Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Pittsburgh’s James Conner and Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott all returning to school. 

A quarterback has won the award nine times in the last 10 years, but with many of the nation’s top signal-callers from last season gone, it is a definite possibility the award could go elsewhere. 

Here is a look at the top 10 candidates to win college football’s most prestigious honor. The rankings will be based individually off the players' projected statistics. The players will also be judged on projected team success and national exposure because, whether it is fair or not, players on winning teams play in bigger games, and the award historically favors this aspect.

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Football: Week 1 Suspensions Put Braxton Miller in Spotlight at WR

Ohio State's quiet offseason was interrupted on Thursday with the news that superstar defensive end Joey Bosa and three key pass-catchers—Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and Corey Smith—have been suspended for the Buckeyes' season-opening road game against Virginia Tech.

The news, as first reported by Tim May of the Columbus Dispatchadds a new twist to the highly anticipated showdown between the Buckeyes and the Hokies. The absence of Ohio State's best pass-rusher and defender carries huge significance, but losing three of the team's most dangerous perimeter playmakers is a huge blow as well.

And that blow has put Braxton Miller in the spotlight.

The two-time Big Ten MVP made recent headlines as well when he announced his transition to wide receiver from quarterback—the position he played and starred in during his first three years in Columbus. But after missing last season following a pair of surgeries to his throwing shoulder and a lengthy recovery process, Miller announced his position change in an interview with Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated.

“It’s a long process to get back totally to throwing and throwing every day," Miller told Thamel. "This is the smarter thing for right now. God blessed me with a lot of talent and different opportunities. I’m going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that.”

He may have to contribute sooner—and in a larger capacity—than many envisioned at the outset. 

In his interview with Thamel, Miller said that he will start the season playing H-Back, the position made famous by the electrifying Percy Harvin at Florida. The Buckeyes were already loaded at that position with three capable playmakers on the depth chart, but two of those players—Marshall and Wilson—won't make the trip to Blacksburg.

That leaves Curtis Samuel, Miller and a host of unproven underclassmen to fill the void. 

The Buckeyes know just how difficult it is to throw the ball against Virginia Tech's aggressive defense. In the home opener last season, the Hokies invaded Columbus and shut down Ohio State's offense, limiting quarterback J.T. Barrett to just 9-of-29 passing while forcing him to throw a season-high three interceptions, the last of which was returned for a touchdown to seal a 35-21 Virginia Tech victory. 

That was with a wide receiver corps that included Devin Smith, the best deep-threat receiver in college football last season, and Evan Spencer, a reliable wideout who was eventually named the team's MVP. Both have moved on to the NFL, so the Buckeyes were already working to replenish the receiver unit. 

Now, that receiver unit will be without three top-flight options when it goes up against one of the toughest defenses it will face all season. 

Will Miller be ready to help the Buckeyes avenge their sole loss from 2014?

Head coach Urban Meyer isn't so sure. 

When Miller announced his position change, Meyer told Doug Lesmerises of the Plain Dealer that Miller had a lot to prove in fall camp.

"We won't know enough until practice starts how we can use him and what he can do," Meyer said, via Lesmerises. "I just don't know. He's a great athlete, but he's never caught a pass for us. So we'll know more and we have plenty of time when practice starts."

But with these suspensions, there's more urgency to get Miller up and running in his new position. The suspended trio has diminished Ohio State's experience at wide receiver—a group that starts and stops with Michael Thomas now. 

Can Miller provide a lift on the perimeter to mask the losses of Marshall, Wilson and Smith? If not, the Buckeyes could have a hard time moving the ball against Virginia Tech. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Can Remain Independent According to College Football Playoff Director

College football independents Notre Dame, BYU and Army will not be forced to join an existing conference to be considered for the College Football Playoff, executive director Bill Hancock said Thursday.      

"The three independents are perfectly happy being independent," Hancock said, per Heather Dinich of ESPN.com. "They have the ability to craft their schedules to fit their needs. If their need and goal is to be in the playoff, then they're in the same boat as everybody else. You better play a good schedule if you want to be in the playoff."

Notre Dame in particular has come up in discussions, as some coaches from Power Five conferences believe the Irish have an unfair advantage. ACC coaches, who have a vested interest in Notre Dame's scheduling given their loose relationship with the school, came out over the past week, pushing the agenda. 

"I don't think any program should be treated differently," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said Tuesday, per Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com. "Notre Dame is a great school, but we all need to be in the same boat [having to play a conference championship game] as far as the playoff."

Now part of the NCAA tradition, coaches have increasingly begun clamoring for a more uniform way to handle the College Football Playoff. Conferences without a championship game, particularly the Big 12, have considered a change after seeing the effect such a game can have on the committee.

"The risks and rewards of conference championship games will always come into play," Hancock said, per Dinich. "I feel the same way about Notre Dame that I feel about the Big 12. It's impossible to quantify the effect of a championship game because you don't know who's going to win the game."

Notre Dame's independence, which allows it the right to schedule games around the country, can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, the Irish in some years have seen seemingly marquee games become washes as formerly prominent programs (Michigan, USC, etc.) fall out of the national scene. In others, the independence has come at a massive disadvantage as the schedule turns into a weekly gauntlet.

Notre Dame's football program has been independent since its inception. Despite numerous offers from other high-profile conferences, it appears the school plans to stay that way—whether opposing coaches like it or not.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Iowa Hawkeyes DL Drew Ott Eats a Raw Egg, Including the Shell

Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Drew Ott makes Rocky look like a wimp.

On Thursday, the senior downed a raw egg—an average feat for most people, but Ott went a step further.

He ate the shell, too.

The fact that Ott didn't gag at the audible crunch in the beginning is impressive. That's the type of thing that could break a man's spirit.

[Twitter]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Media Days 2015: Biggest Takeaways from Day 1

Five weeks from today, the 2015 Pac-12 football season will finally be underway as Utah, Arizona and Colorado all take the field on the first Thursday night of the schedule.

With the season nearing and fall camps just days away, the Pac-12 passed a big milestone in the preseason countdown with the start of the league's media days in Burbank, California.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott opened the event with his annual "state of the conference" address as six schools—Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and Washington State—faced the assembled media to preview their upcoming campaigns.

The Pac-12 also unveiled the annual preseason media poll, which marked the return to the No. 1 spot for a proud powerhouse and another division title pick for the defending champions. 

Here are four major takeaways from the first half of Pac-12 Media Days, which include conference expansion talk, position battles and a coach's entry into the great shoe war that started in the SEC earlier this month.

 

USC's hype train keeps rolling along

While the voting coaches of the preseason Amway Coaches Poll pegged Oregon as the top-ranked team in the Pac-12, the media that cover the conference is sticking with preseason darling USC.

The Trojans received the most votes to win both the Pac-12 South and the overall conference title, edging Arizona State in the division and Oregon in the league vote.

According to the Pac-12, this is the first year USC has been picked to win the conference since 2012. The Trojans finished that season with a 7-6 record. However, the media have correctly picked 12 of the last 15 conference champions.

Other notable takeaways from the poll, which was voted on by 45 media members, include Utah's sixth-place finish in the stacked South Division after going 9-4 last season and returning 14 starters. 

In the North, Cal was picked to finish third in the division, even after three-straight losing seasons. Head coach Sonny Dykes' Bears return 17 starters this season, including ace quarterback Jared Goff and receivers Kenny Lawler, Stephen Anderson and Bryce Treggs. 

 

Scott sticking with 12 schools

Thanks to the Big 12, conference expansion and realignment have once again become hot topics during the preseason.

But during his opening address Thursday, Scott said he wants to keep the conference at 12 schools for the time being.

"I do not see us expanding for the foreseeable future," Scott said, according to quotes released by the conference. "We are delighted with 12 schools. It's worked exceedingly well for us."

Scott believes having 12 schools makes the conference have the toughest schedules in the country and that increasing in size would weaken those slates.

Scott said:

One of the reasons I pushed hard for and am delighted that we've got a College Football Playoff Selection Committee the way we have because I think now we're being rewarded for that strength of schedule, and part of it is 12. When you go beyond 12, you're going to dilute somewhat. You're going to have more erratic types of schedules within your conference and all that.

Just before Scott took the stage in Burbank, USA Today released the Amway poll. Exactly half of the Pac-12's teams—Oregon, USC, UCLA, Arizona State, Stanford and Arizona—made the cut.

Scott, who also discussed Pac-12 officiating during his time at the podium, said he saw the poll as a sign of the 12-team conference's strength and how it is catching up in terms of national respect.

"I think the perception lag and perception gap is starting to change," Scott said. "I think many saw us as the best football conference in the country last year going into this year. Many are seeing us as the best. Many are seeing the Pac-12 South as the best division in all of college football."

 

UCLA, Oregon State not ready to name starting QBs

A few of the six schools who appeared at media days on Thursday are looking for new starting quarterbacks.

UCLA is widely expected to name 5-star true freshman Josh Rosen, who enrolled in time to participate in spring camp, as the replacement for Brett Hundley.

But Bruins head coach Jim Mora has repeatedly said he won't name a starting quarterback prior to fall camp, and he went on the offensive in his time with media Thursday:

New Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen was a bit more revealing when asked about his quarterback situation.

According to Gina Mizell of The Oregonian, Andersen is looking toward the third week of fall camp as a time when the coaches "need to have a pretty good feel on what direction that we're going."

Oregon State has a trio of freshmen competing for the starting job, and while true freshman Seth Collins seemed to have the lead in the spring, Andersen isn't naming a leader right now.

"It could be multiple directions," Andersen said, per Mizell. "We just don't know yet. It's too cloudy to say, 'This is our guy,' or 'This is the two guys.' I don't know what I even want to say yet, I've just got to wait for it all to filter out."

 

Meet the Pac-12's next two-way star

The Pac-12 has had its fair share of two-way players in recent seasons—Washington's Shaq Thompson, UCLA's Myles Jack and USC's Adoree' Jackson, to name a few.

On Thursday, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham confirmed sophomore running back Kalen Ballage will play both ways and is listed as the team's second-string "Devil-backer."

"He's going to rush the quarterback, an outside linebacker on defense," Graham said in quotes released by the conference. "Obviously, carry the football and be a playmaker for us on offense as well as return kicks. ... He was probably, I would say, the MVP of our spring training."

Ballage took 42 carries for 138 yards and three touchdowns last season as a true freshman. This spring, Ballage worked on becoming a more physical running back and fully utilizing his 6'3", 220-pound frame.

The rising sophomore also averaged 31.2 yards on six punt returns, highlighted by a clutch 96-yarder against Duke in the fourth quarter of the Sun Bowl.

"We think he's one of the most dynamic and versatile players in the country, so why not utilize that?" Graham, who was rocking some unique cowboy boots for the event, said Thursday. "We're going to do whatever we got to do to win games, and Kalen's willing to do anything we ask him to do."

 

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

California DB Chacho Ulloa Updates Recruitment Status, Discusses Top 3

Arguably one of the best "football names" of the 2016 class, Corona, California safety Chacho Ulloa, also happens to be one of the class' hungriest, most driven players. And it's looking like one of three schools are in the hunt for his services.

Ulloa, a 3-star safety from Centennial High School, said Notre Dame, Stanford and Arizona State are currently the three schools highest on his list. The order of rank changes weekly, but Stanford will have its opportunity to take over the top spot this weekend, as he plans on visiting the campus for the Friday Night Lights camp.

Ulloa said the upcoming visit will be his second to Stanford. He was there in May for a junior day.

"This time around, I'm going just to interact with the coaches and hang out with the players," Ulloa said. "I've hung out with the players from Notre Dame and Arizona State. I haven't really done that with Stanford.

"I just want to have a good vibe with the coaches, the players and the city."

There are three good schools on the table for the athlete no one knows as "Cesar." Ulloa's been known as Chacho all his life. It's a nickname given to him by his grandfather, short for "Muchacho."

"I get that every time I meet somebody," he said. "Everybody knows me as Chacho. With most people, if someone asked for Cesar, they would say, 'I don't know who that is.'"

Ulloa was supposed to make a return trip to Arizona State last week, but traffic as a result of a collapsed bridge of California's Interstate 10 forced him and his father to turn around a couple of hours into the trip.

With 18 offers, Ulloa is a versatile, blue-collar safety with decent speed and an ability to make plays either as a safety or an outside linebacker, if necessary. At 6'0" and 190 pounds, Ulloa can play strong safety, free safety or the nickel position at the next level.

Ulloa's nose for the football, however, may be the primary reason why coaches are drawn to him. He has been a part of 19 turnovers in two varsity seasons, whether it was a forced fumble, a caused fumble or an interception.

"I can get in the blocks and bang with the big boys, or I can cover and make sure no one passes me," said Ulloa, a self-proclaimed student of the game. "I'm an all-around player. All the coaches say I'm always around the ball.

"I just love football. If you tell me something once or twice, I'm going to correct it. Football is my life."

Ulloa, who had 59 tackles and three interceptions as a junior, said he plans on taking official visits to his top three. He will take in Notre Dame the weekend of Oct. 16 for the game against USC. He'll visit Arizona State for an Oct. 29 Thursday game against Oregon. He'll take in Stanford the weekend of Nov. 20 for the game against Cal.

Ulloa said his other two official visits are still in the air. If UCLA offers, he said he may make the Bruins his fourth visit. Ulloa and UCLA have been in discussion, but no offer has been extended as of yet. Schools like Michigan State and Vanderbilt also are on the watch list.

Attending a school with a good academic reputation is important to Ulloa, as he is looking to reach maximum potential on and off the football field. Ulloa said he wants to major in business and also has interest in the field of marketing.

I'd want football to last another 20 years if I could, but I know that's not a reality. If it only lasts my college years, so be it. I want to feel secure after football. I want to have a successful life and be set with a good degree from whichever school I pick.

Academics are important to Ulloa. Feeling comfortable on campus is just as vital.

"I want to feel welcomed," he said. "It's one thing to have good friendships with coaches, but coaches could come and go. Having good relationships with the players is mostly what I'm looking at. They're the ones I know I'll be with the next four years."

 

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

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4-Star TE Naseir Upshur Postpones Commitment Plans, Sets 3 Official Visits

Naseir Upshur needs more time.

The 4-star Philadelphia tight end cancelled plans to announce a commitment Aug. 8, instead eyeing the winter as an ideal opportunity to pick his collegiate destination.

"I'm pushing the decision back," he told Bleacher Report. "Probably until after the season."

Upshur, a senior at Imhotep Institute, holds more than 40 scholarship offers. The 6'2", 233-pound playmaker expects to spend visits on several campuses before concluding his expansive recruitment.

He will head to Florida State next week for the first time, setting up a multi-day stay in Tallahassee.

His trip comes at an interesting point in time for the Seminoles.

Top-ranked 2016 tight end Isaac Nauta ended an eight-month commitment to Florida State on Wednesday, jolting much of the team's fanbase and creating a keyhole in a star-studded 2016 recruiting class.

"A lot of Florida State fans are disappointed, but a lot of them don't really know me. They're not in any trouble if I pick them," Upshur said. "Everything happens for a reason. If I go there, I'm going to be the best tight end and win another Mackey Award for the team."

Despite Nauta's longstanding pledge, the Seminoles never stopped pursuing the Pennsylvania standout.

"I was speaking to their coaches every day before Isaac even decommitted," he said. "They were only going to take one tight end in this class, but they wanted me too. They only offered two tight ends—me and Isaac—so I guess they're only recruiting me right now."

Florida State, the new favorite among experts in Upshur's 247Sports Crystal Ball, already locked him in for an official visit. He will attend the Seminoles' Oct. 10 matchup against Miami.

Upshur is also scheduled to be in the bleachers at Arizona State (Sept. 18) against New Mexico and at Michigan, when the Wolverines face either Michigan State (Oct. 17) or Ohio State (Nov. 28).

Arizona State extended his first offer as a sophomore and remains a compelling potential landing spot. 

"[Former Sun Devils wide receiver] Jaelen Strong is like a brother to me. We've been cool for years, and that helped me develop a good relationship with the coaching staff," Upshur said.

Former teammate DeAndre Scott is a sophomore Arizona State defensive back.

Michigan, previously viewed as Upshur's favorite in Crystal Ball projections, has been ardent in its quest to land his commitment. Wolverines tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh visited Upshur earlier this year and has managed to make a strong impression along with his father.

"The Harbaughs have great personalities, and it's really important for them to get a top tight end. They think I can be that guy, so it's definitely a school to keep in mind," he said.

Upshur aims to use all five of his official visits, so that leaves two spots open.

South Carolina could be a contender to watch. The Gamecocks will host Upshur next week during his return trip from Tallahassee. 

This will be his second campus visit to Columbia. Upshur said 4-star Gamecocks quarterback commit and fellow Pensylvania product Brandon McIlwain is recruiting him as hard as anybody.

Rated fourth nationally among tight ends in composite rankings, Upshur caught 22 passes for 640 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014. He has loftier expectations in place for his senior campaign.

"My goal is to hit 1,000 yards this season. My blocking is going to be more aggressive, and I feel like I can score any time I catch the ball. I worked hard all offseason, so I shouldn't be easy to tackle," Upshur said.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Preseason College Football Rankings 2015: Predicting AP Top 25 After Amway Poll

It's officially college football season. Thursday saw the release of the first major Top 25 rankings for 2015, as the Amway coaches poll declared Ohio State to be the nation's best heading into the year. 

There really was no surprise at the top. The Buckeyes were expected to be No. 1 and received overwhelming support, as 62 of 64 voters put the defending national champions in the top spot. The other teams receiving first-place votes were TCU (No. 2) and Alabama (No. 3). 

Rounding out the Top Five in the preseason poll are Baylor and Oregon. These rankings provide a brief snapshot of how teams are viewed entering 2015, but things are going to change a lot between now and when we get to the College Football Playoff. 

The first major response to the coaches poll will come from the Associated Press, which is scheduled to release its own Top 25 on August 23. 

Here's a side-by-side look at what the two polls should look like at the end of August, with the official Amway poll on the right and predicted AP poll on the left. 

 

Ohio State's schedule sets up nicely for the team to make another undefeated run, like it did in Urban Meyer's first season three years ago. The Buckeyes are set up for an interesting test right out of the gate against Virginia Tech in the season opener on September 7. 

The Hokies on their own aren't necessarily a threat to Ohio State at full strength, but the Buckeyes will be missing many key pieces. 

Ohio State's athletic department announced defensive end Joey Bosa, H-backs Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson and wide receiver Corey Smith are suspended for the opener.

Bosa led the Buckeyes with 21 tackles for loss, while Marshall, Wilson and Smith ranked third, fourth and fifth in receiving yards last season. 

Even without those four players, the Buckeyes still have the talent to win the game. That sets them up to run through an easy schedule that includes only one game against a ranked team (Michigan State). 

Florida State's ranking in the coaches poll (No. 8) seems dubious, based more on past reputation than an actual deserved spot. Even the AP prediction at No. 10 feels too high, but it's a snapshot of how the program is viewed. 

College football writer Phil Steele listed the criteria most AP voters look for when filling out a ballot, with this reasoning being the most relevant to the Seminoles: 

A team that returns its starting quarterback and a combination of its running backs and wide receivers, for example, is often more highly regarded than a team that loses its starting quarterback but returns its entire offensive line. Similarly, a team that returns most of its starters on offense but loses a lot of its defensive playmakers is usually more highly regarded than a team that returns a majority of its defensive starters but loses its skill players on offense. 

That relates to Florida State because it is returning 11 starters on defense but just five on offense after losing quarterback Jameis Winston, wide receiver Rashad Greene, running back Karlos Williams and tight end Nick O'Leary. 

Florida State running back Dalvin Cook has been indefinitely suspended until his misdemeanor battery case gets resolved. Quarterback De'Andre Johnson was dismissed after video surfaced of him striking a woman at a bar, per ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach.

Given all that turmoil and roster turnover, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has a lot of work ahead of him just to make his team successful on the field in 2015. 

The nation's most underrated team heading into the season is Stanford, which I predict to start the season 19th in the AP poll and is 21st in the coaches poll. Head coach David Shaw has retained the physical style of play established during the Jim Harbaugh era. 

All of Stanford's questions heading into 2015 will revolve around quarterback Kevin Hogan, who is more efficient than dynamic. He completed 65.9 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year. 

Shaw is certainly high on Hogan's development this offseason, per ESPN's Brett McMurphy:

Stanford doesn't have to be a team that averages 30-plus points per game because the defense is so good. It hasn't finished outside the top 11 in points allowed since 2011, per Sports-Reference.com

The Cardinal do have a difficult schedule that includes a showdown at USC on September 19 and home games against UCLA, Arizona, Oregon and Notre Dame. Making it through that unscathed won't be easy, but even a 3-2 mark could give them an inside track at playing in the Pac-12 title game. 

That's the beauty of this time of year. Anyone in college football can turn into anything. With less than one month before the AP poll is released and five weeks until games start, the answers will be arriving soon.   

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Amway Top 25 College Football Poll 2015: Season Predictions, Championship Odds

We're exactly five weeks away from the return of college football, and the preseason reached a major milestone Thursday with the release of the first Amway Coaches Poll.

While the poll, which is released by USA Today, doesn't have any effect in the selection process for the College Football Playoff, it's still a good barometer of what other preseason rankings will look like as we inch closer to the start of the season.

(Plus, the poll's No. 1 team at the end of the four-team playoff will receive the iconic crystal football trophy that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is holding in the above photo.)

The poll is voted on by 64 FBS coaches, and all but two of them picked defending national champion Ohio State to open the season as the No. 1 team in the country. TCU and Alabama each grabbed a single first-place vote.

Take a look at the entire top 25 in the following slides, along with the teams' predicted regular-season records and their current national championship odds from Odds Shark.

Begin Slideshow

Should Ohio State Worry About Week 1 vs. Virginia Tech Without Suspended Stars?

Ohio State confirmed the suspension of four of its stars on Thursday. Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson will sit out for the Buckeyes' season opener at Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 due to suspensions for "marijuana and academics," according to ESPN's Joe Schad (h/t CBS Sports' Robby Kalland).

How will this suspension impact the Buckeyes' chances in the pivotal first game of the season? How concerned should Urban Meyer be?

Bleacher Report's CFB analysts Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder break down the suspensions and their impacts in the video above. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2015: Predicting Final Four After Amway Preseason Poll

The new college football season is finally starting to come into focus after a long offseason. Ohio State enters the campaign as the reigning national champion and will start the year as the top-ranked team in the country, based on the preseason Amway Coaches Poll.

Last season's inaugural College Football Playoff should go down as a success. While it's impossible to make every program happy each year, the fact the championship was decided on the field is a huge step in the right direction. Now, the journey toward the second annual showcase begins.

Let's check out where the Top 25 teams rank based on the initial Amway Coaches Poll. That's followed by some early predictions for which squads will battle for the national title at season's end.

 

2015 Amway Coaches Preseason Poll

 

Early Predictions for Playoff Final Four

Ohio State

The Buckeyes feature the necessary talent to win back-to-back titles. The amount of skill and depth on the roster is incredible, led by two worthy quarterback options in J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. Braxton Miller can switch back from his new hybrid role if something goes wrong, too.

On defense, Joey Bosa creates a massive headache for opposing offenses by getting constant pressure. He's joined by Vonn Bell, a budding star at safety, and Adolphus Washington, who should make a leap as a senior, among others. It's just a steady, reliable group across the board.

So it's not a question of ability. The biggest concern is how Ohio State will respond as the team with the target on its back, which is the opposite of last year. It's a challenge Barrett acknowledged, as noted by Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports:

"Last year, we were kind of the underdogs a lot of the time, which I like being," Barrett said. "I like people counting us out. But now, people are definitely going to be coming at us even harder than last year. People don't look at us as underdogs anymore."

The schedule isn't overly difficult, but according to ESPN.com's Austin Ward, Ohio State will be without four impact players—including Bosa— in their opening trip to face Virginia Tech. Their biggest hurdles come in the closing stretch when the Buckeyes face Michigan State and Michigan. But, if they handle the pressure well, another playoff berth is likely.

 

Alabama

The Crimson Tide consistently finish with among the top recruiting classes in the nation. A constant stream of top prospects ensures the roster is full of potential, but Nick Saban and his coaching staff have some work to get the pieces to fit together this season.

It starts at quarterback, where Jake Coker is the most logical replacement for Blake Sims. He must prove he warrants the starting spot during camp and the early weeks. Getting stability from that position is vital to success.

That said, Saban is focused on the bigger picture. Down the stretch last season, the Tide found themselves in a lot of shootouts where they needed to throw a lot to win. The longtime coach said the focus is getting back to basics, per Michael Casagrande of AL.com

"It's going to be a challenge for our team to re-establish the identity that we want to play with," Saban said.

Being able to run the ball in any situation and getting key stops of defense is the Alabama way. Getting back to that will give it a much better chance of success deep in the regular season and into the playoff. As long as the Tide execute in those areas, another playoff appearance is within reach.

 

TCU

TCU is one of the programs that emerged unhappy with the College Football Playoff. The Horned Frogs finished sixth in the final rankings as the Big 12 got shut out of the final four. Now, that's something they can use as motivation heading into the new season.

This is an offense with a chance to put up a mind-boggling amount of points. Trevone Boykin returns under center with most of his top targets from last season still in place. It's a talented group led by Josh Doctson, who had over 1,000 yards and scored 11 touchdowns in 2014.

The other good news for TCU is its schedule. There aren't nearly as many potential roadblocks as teams from the SEC are likely to face. The Daily Audible examined the favorable slate but also why it will put some extra heat on the Horned Frogs down the stretch:

On the opposite end of the schedule scale, if TCU wins in Oklahoma State on November 7th, they will likely coast into the final two weeks of the season where they will face Oklahoma and Baylor. The problem here is that both teams are capable of beating TCU, and a loss this late in the season would certainly kill the Horned Frog odds of getting into the Playoffs over a 2-loss SEC team or even a 1-loss MSU team.

There's no doubt they are going to score a lot of points. The quick pace always means the defense is likely to give up its fair share, too. But they'll be in good shape as long as they get enough second-half stops, which isn't too much to ask from a group laden with upperclassmen.

 

USC

The fourth spot is by far the toughest to predict. While Ohio State, Alabama and TCU are all pretty standard selections, that's where the confidence begins to drop off. Based on talent, several SEC schools could warrant the spot, but they will likely spend all season beating each other up.

That's going to open the door for a team from another conference—in this case USC out of the Pac-12—to take advantage. The Trojans are another team with a highly reliable quarterback in Cody Kessler, and the rest of the roster is rounding into form after a couple of down years by the program's high standards.

The question is whether they are ready to get back in the national title conversation. The Pac-12 doesn't feature as much talent as the SEC this year, but it's still highly competitive. Kyle Kensing of Athlon Sports explored how that impacts USC's title hopes:

"That run could come in 2015, but it may be early for the Trojans. The Pac-12 South is no easier than it was a season ago. Any one of five teams—Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Utah, as well as USC—could emerge as champion."

If everything comes together for the Trojans, they are capable of running the table and making the playoff. Given some recent disappointments, the fanbase may be reluctant to go "all in" on this year's squad, but there's plenty of reason for optimism with the opener on the horizon.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: Week 1 Suspensions Crucial Blow to Buckeyes

CHICAGO — When Urban Meyer arrived in Chicago for Big Ten media days on Thursday morning, it was supposed to be for a celebration of Ohio State's 2014 national title and to preview the Buckeyes' upcoming 2015 campaign.

Instead, the Ohio State head coach will find himself facing questions about the suspension of four of his players for the season opener, a group that includes All-American defensive end Joey Bosa. 

And with what could be one of the Buckeyes' toughest games of the year, those suspensions could prove costly.

When Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch initially reported that Bosa and H-back Jalin Marshall would each be missing Ohio State's opener with Virginia Tech because of a "violation of athletic department policy," the suspensions seemed significant but likely not enough to cost the Buckeyes in their showdown with the Hokies. After all, Ohio State is loaded at defensive end and wide receiver, especially with Braxton Miller's recently announced transition to wideout.

But when the OSU athletic department announced moments later that wide receivers Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson would be joining Bosa and Marshall on the sideline for the season opener, the threat of the Buckeyes being upended in the first game of their national title defense became all the more realistic.

For as stacked as Ohio State is at nearly each position on both sides of the ball, it was just a year ago that Virginia Tech handed the Buckeyes their lone defeat of the 2014 campaign. Playing underneath the lights of Ohio Stadium in the second week of the season, the Hokies flustered quarterback J.T. Barrett, as the Ohio State receivers struggled to make plays on a consistent basis against Virginia Tech's cover-zero defense.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott (32 yards and one touchdown on eight carries) also found himself bottled up by the Hokies defense in a game that Meyer admitted to being outcoached by Frank Beamer and his staff.

"First time I've seen that," Meyer said of Virginia Tech's defensive scheme, which essentially sold out to the Buckeyes running attack and dared Barrett to pass it downfield in what was a 35-21 Hokies victory.

"It was completely hours upon hours of game-planning, including in the spring we started looking at Virginia Tech, and they just completely played bear zero, which was a high‑risk defense, but obviously it worked."

And while it remains to be seen whether Virginia Tech will try to attack the Buckeyes in a similar fashion in their rematch on Sept. 7, Ohio State missing three of its top four returning receivers from a season ago in Marshall, Wilson and Smith certainly doesn't bode well.

Especially if Beamer again decides to load the box against Elliott, pressuring Ohio State's quarterback—whoever it will be—to make a play with his arm. Barrett progressed from that start into the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year and Cardale Jones has arguably the strongest arm in college football, but both signal-callers can only do so much without—for at least one game—three of the team's most important playmakers.

That's not to say Barrett or Jones won't have weapons to play with in the passing game, as wide receiver Michael Thomas (54 receptions, 799 yards, nine touchdowns in 2014) returns as the Buckeyes' top wideout. Sophomores Noah Brown and Curtis Samuel were two of Ohio State's top breakout players in spring practice and freshmen Johnnie Dixon and K.J. Hill each possess plenty of promise.

And then of course there's Miller, who's intriguing but ultimately unproven at this point when it comes to playing a position other than quarterback.

But under the bright lights of Lane Stadium—in a prime-time game on a Monday night no less—that potential may have to manifest itself even more than originally thought. Smith and Wilson have each been plagued by inconsistencies throughout their respective college careers, but Marshall was a key cog in the Buckeyes' national title run and is one of the players being counted on to replace Devin Smith as a downfield threat in the Ohio State passing game.

As for Bosa, Ohio State's defense should have enough to survive, especially with the versatility of defensive tackle Adolphus Washington and spring emergences of ends Jalyn Holmes, Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard. But the Buckeyes will also obviously miss having a player in their lineup who accounted for 13.5 sacks a season ago and is also considered one of the top prospects in the 2016 NFL draft.

Whether Bosa's suspension will impact his standing as such will also remain to be seen.

But for now Ohio State's focus remains on Virginia Tech and how it will now survive arguably its toughest test of the season until Michigan State comes to Columbus on Nov. 21. Meyer will be forced to answer that—and much more—during his various media appearances on Thursday afternoon, as the Buckeyes' suspensions, which ESPN.com's Joe Schad reported were for marijuana and academics, have now cast a cloud over what was supposed to be a day filled with positive PR for the defending national champs.

Far from a rookie when it comes to this situation, Meyer will undoubtedly have all the right answers.

Words, however, can only do so much. How Meyer answers these suspensions on the field in less than six weeks will be much more intriguing.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Amway Preseason Coaches Top 25 Poll: Biggest Snubs and Surprises

The first preseason college football poll was released Thursday, the surest sign yet that the 2015 season is just around the corner. It also provides one of the biggest things yet for fans to either get excited or gripe about, depending on where their team was ranked.

The Amway Coaches Poll no longer has any effect on who will play for the national title, but that doesn't lessen its value as a discussion topic. The poll, issued by USA Today, is voted on by 64 FBS head coaches who will submit weekly ballots throughout the season.

Not surprisingly, defending national champion Ohio State was picked first in the initial poll, with the Buckeyes grabbing 62 of 64 first-place votes to begin far ahead of No. 2 TCU. The Horned Frogs and No. 3 Alabama both received one first-place vote, and they were followed by Baylor and Oregon in the top five.

What stood out the most from this poll, both in terms of surprises and snubs? Follow along to see what we noticed.

Begin Slideshow

Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall Suspended for Ohio St. Season Opener vs. Virginia Tech

Defensive standout Joey Bosa and H-back Jalin Marshall headline a group of four players who will miss Ohio State's season opener against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 for violating department of athletics policy, the school announced Thursday.

Wide receiver Corey Smith and H-back Dontre Wilson will also miss the matchup. No further information about the rules violations was immediately released, but Joe Schad of ESPN.com reported the players were suspended for marijuana and academics.

Coach Urban Meyer commented on the news at Big Ten Media Day, per Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated: "I kind of knew about this for a little bit. You try to create a culture where teams know how to move forward."

It's a major setback for Ohio State as it begins its defense of last year's national championship captured in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Bosa, who's already being projected as the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft by CBS Sports writers Rob Rang and Dane Brugler, is the biggest loss. The defensive end racked up 55 total tackles, notched 13.5 sacks and forced four fumbles as the driving force behind the unit last season.

Marshall is one of the squad's most versatile offensive threats. He only received 63 touches (38 catches and 25 carries) last season but turned them into 644 yards and seven touchdowns.

Wilson would typically serve as the replacement at H-back. But since he's also going to miss the game, it could push Braxton Miller into a prominent hybrid role earlier than expected after he announced he's making the shift from quarterback.

Smith is a notable loss too. Although he caught just 20 passes last season and didn't find the end zone, he was expected to take on a larger role following the exit of Devin Smith to the NFL. Noah Brown, who had just one catch last campaign, will likely be asked to pick up the slack in Week 1.

Missing four impact players for a true road game against Virginia Tech makes the challenge far more difficult. The Hokies entered the season just outside the Top 25—29th based on total voting points—in the Amway Coaches Poll.

While a loss wouldn't completely eliminate the Buckeyes from playoff contention after one week, it would significantly decrease their margin for error the rest of the way. Much of the onus will be on the reserves to avoid that fate.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What You Need to Know About 2018 No. 1 QB Trevor Lawrence

While they have three more years to play at the high school level, a handful of rising sophomores have already flashed on the radar of college coaches across the country.

Perhaps atop that list is 5-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence—who was named the nation’s top prospect in the 2018 class, as noted by Barton Simmons of 247Sports

"That's great," Lawrence told Simmons upon hearing his new ranking. "I'm really happy my hard work is paying off but we've still got this season coming up. This will be a big one. You can expect to see us in the [Georgia] Dome at the end of the season. I'm ready for [the expectations] and this team is ready for it. It's going to be something to watch this year."

The 6’5”, 191-pound Georgia native already has 14 offers to his credit—with schools such as Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee among the programs who have already tendered him.

But what makes him a potential game-changing prospect at the next level?

For starters, Lawrence has the type of frame and skill set that excites coaches. However, he also produced at a high level in his first year as a starter. 

Last year as a freshman, Lawrence threw for 3,042 yards and 26 touchdowns while leading his Cartersville High School squad to a 12-2 record and a trip the Georgia Class AAAA semifinals.

But it’s the intangible qualities he displayed last season that has observers in the recruiting world gushing about his potential.

As Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247 detailed to Simmons, Lawrence has the type of mental toughness and competitive resolve that it takes to become an elite passer.

"There was an interception he threw in the semifinal game against Buford. He turned around and chased him and got KO'd on a crack back block. It was a huge hit. He got himself up, got to the sideline and I was on the sideline and walked over just to see if he was ok. He was pushing the trainers off and he wanted to talk to his offensive line. He said 'guys lets go, that one was on me. Let's get it back'. He showed me that he's got some intangibles, he was a leader at an early age and he's got some serious toughness."

With a majority of colleges already full at quarterback for the 2016 cycle, it’s likely to see the college interest in underclassmen prospects such as Lawrence continue to expand in the coming months.

According to Chris Kirschner of TheAtlanta Journal-Constitution, Lawrence named Tennessee as an early front-runner in his recruitment.

However, a recent offer from in-state power Georgia has the Bulldogs trending with him, as noted by Mansell.

It’s still early in his recruiting process, but Lawrence admits he’s pondered a timeline for possibly making a decision.

“Hopefully I’ll know what I want to do by this time next year and hopefully make my commitment and get that set,” Lawrence told Ryan Callahan of 247Sports. “But if I don’t know where I want to go, I’m not going to rush it. I’ll just wait until I know for sure where I want to go.”

Regardless of when he decides, Lawrence has already established himself as a prospect that will command the attention of fans, college coaches and recruiting analysts moving forward.

 

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

 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Don't Mistake the Preseason Amway Coaches Top 25 Poll as SEC Dominance

You can check off another landmark on the offseason road to college football.

The preseason Amway Coaches Poll was released Thursday, and it contained a distinctly southern flavor.

No, an SEC team didn't appear in the top two spots. Based on what Ohio State and TCU did last year and what each program has returning, they were essentially locks in the Nos. 1 and 2 spots, respectively.

Behind them, though, the SEC dominated the field.

Despite massive roster turnover on the offensive side of the ball and a secondary that gave up far too many big plays, Alabama chimed in at No. 3. Intrastate rival Auburn, fresh off an 8-5 season, appeared at No. 7, with No. 9 Georgia, No. 13 LSU, No. 15 Ole Miss, No. 20 Arkansas, No. 23 Missouri and No. 25 Tennessee rounding out the SEC teams in the field.

If you count Mississippi State and Texas A&M, the top two teams in the "others receiving votes" category, all seven SEC West teams are in the preseason top 27.

"I think the SEC as a league is still one of the—top to bottom—one of the best leagues there are, and that includes the East and the West," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said at SEC media days.

Is the coaches poll a sign that SEC dominance—once thought to be a thing of the past after Ohio State topped Alabama in the national semifinal and the SEC went a rather mediocre (by SEC standards) 7-5 in bowl season—is alive and well?

Nope.

All the coaches polls suggests is that great teams like Ohio State, TCU, Baylor, Oregon and Michigan State are getting the credit they deserve at the top of the poll, while the SEC is as balanced as it ever has been.

Sure, having 10 of the top 27 teams is impressive and certainly exemplifies the extraordinary depth that exists in the conference. But the extraordinary number of teams in the poll with only one in the top five suggests that the coaches (or sports information directors, perhaps) really have no idea how the SEC—and specifically, the SEC West—will play out.

As Aubrey Bloom of the Bryan-College Station Eagle pointed out, it's a crapshoot trying to rank these teams.

Balance is great for the conference, and it's safe to say that from a talent standpoint, the conference is on a different level from other conferences top to bottom. 

But good football is played elsewhere. 

It's played in Columbus, Ohio; Fort Worth and Waco, Texas; Eugene, Oregon; East Lansing, Michigan; and, yes, even South Bend, Indiana.

SEC dominance at the top of college football is a thing of the past and has been replaced by a much more appropriate term—SEC balance.

That balance should create one of the wildest seasons of SEC football we've seen in a long time.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national 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

IndyCar Driver Graham Rahal to Wear Customized Ohio State Helmet in Ohio Race

While driving in a race in his home state of Ohio, IndyCar driver Graham Rahal will pay tribute to the Ohio State Buckeyes football team.

Rahal will be at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend. As a way to honor the reigning national champions, he had a customized helmet made.

Designer Austin Polen, with the help of Ohio State football director of player personnel Mark Pantoni, took the design of the Buckeyes helmets and put it on a racing helmet for Rahal. From the paint job to the Buckeye leaves, pretty much everything is there.

In case you were wondering, there are 18 Buckeye leaves on the helmet, which represent each of his podium finishes as an IndyCar driver.

Rahal talked about the customized helmet with Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch

It is beyond awesome. ... I had this concept that, with Ohio State having won the national championship and us being in the championship battle here, it would be fun to come home and do something I haven’t done before. This thing, it is very accurate.

There's no doubt Rahal will be the crowd favorite.

[Graham Rahal, h/t CBS Sports]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USA Today Preseason College Football Rankings 2015: Twitter Reacts to Amway Poll

The 2015 college football season will begin much like the last one ended, as Ohio State was named the No. 1 team in the country Thursday as part of the initial Amway Coaches Poll.

OSU, which won the inaugural College Football Playoff last season, was a near-unanimous selection at No. 1 with No. 2 TCU and No. 3 Alabama garnering one first-place vote apiece. Here is a look at the entire Top 25:

It comes as little surprise that the Buckeyes pace the field, as they return most of their key players from last year's championship squad. That includes running back Ezekiel Elliott, who ran for over 200 yards in each of the team's last three games on the way to the title.

The quarterback trio of Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller is also back in the fold, although Miller is set to move to wide receiver.

Having so many great signal-callers could create an issue for head coach Urban Meyer, but Mike Greenberg of ESPN's Mike & Mike isn't concerned about the depth of talent:

Perhaps the most significant part of the poll is TCU's ascension to No. 2. Despite losing just one game last season, the Horned Frogs were left out of the four-team playoff, and they took it out on Ole Miss with a 42-3 thrashing in the Peach Bowl.

While TCU has a lot to like, including returning quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin, Carlos A. Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is still taken aback by some of the perennial powers the Frogs are ahead of currently:

Big 12 rivals TCU and Baylor created a great deal of controversy with regard to the College Football Playoff last season, as they were both jumped by Ohio State in the last week of the season.

The lack of a Big 12 Championship Game and the fact that the Bears beat the Horned Frogs 61-58 certainly contributed to the situation. Andrew Perloff of Sports Illustrated couldn't help but crack a joke that likely opened up old wounds of both teams' fans:

Unlike TCU, Alabama is seemingly always in the mix, and the powerhouse program is once again expected to compete for a national title as the No. 3 team in the nation.

But that won't be easy this season. The Crimson Tide will have to overcome losing key players like quarterback Blake Sims, running back T.J. Yeldon, wide receiver Amari Cooper and safety Landon Collins to the pros.

Even more importantly, they have one of the most difficult schedules in the nation, according to Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News:

Baylor checks in at No. 4 without the services of quarterback Bryce Petty, while Oregon must undergo a change under center as well with Marcus Mariota now in the NFL.

Despite losing just one game over the past two seasons, Florida State checks in at No. 8, due largely to the fact that superstar quarterback Jameis Winston joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

Even though those teams are undergoing huge changes, they are all still considered among the best teams in the nation by the coaches, which speaks to the parity within the sport, as Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette pointed out:

Storied programs like USC and Notre Dame are on the precipice of contention at No. 10 and No. 11, respectively, while Oklahoma is among the teams in unfamiliar territory, according to Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News:

Polls rarely tell the entire story of an upcoming football season since plenty of teams tend to surprise in both positive and negative ways. With that said, they are usually a strong indicator of who will be in the championship mix.

The 2015 campaign has all the makings of a wild one since so many different programs could potentially play their way into the College Football Playoff, but the coaches seemed to agree that Ohio State is the team to beat.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages