NCAA Football News
Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden has assembled a respectable recruiting class in 2015, but the much-maligned leader of The U can ill afford many signings to backfire.
The fifth-year coach is under a constant barrage of criticism from disgruntled fans who are lamenting the win-loss regression of the Hurricanes' 2014 campaign.
Though some of the complaints are fair and some are not, that's irrelevant. The fact of the matter is it's happening; the frustration is real and—thanks to social media—vocal, too.
National signing day, one of the most important landmarks of the offseason, is within a week, and Miami currently holds 19 commitments who comprise 247Sports' No. 20 class. Four prospects have enrolled, and 3-star Charles Perry is set to arrive on campus shortly, per Nate Taylor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Golden and assistant coaches are still working the recruiting trail, looking to fill a half-dozen more spots for this cycle. The way they've gone about it, though, is leaving little room for error.
Now, that's not a problem. Considering the losses due to graduation and early exits for the NFL, Miami needs to bolster both sides of the trenches. Attacking two positions so aggressively, however, leaves the Hurricanes coaches extremely reliant on their evaluation abilities for the rest of the class.
Ah, yes, evaluation. Strong showings by former Miami players in all-star events—like Anthony Chickillo in the East-West Shrine Game along with Phillip Dorsett and Ladarius Gunter in the Senior Bowl—provided evidence that neither player evaluation nor development is the problem.
They didn't become standout performers due to three days of NFL-level coaching. As Chickillo—who was constantly criticized for never living up to his 5-star potential—said during the Shrine Game, per Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, "I've always had it."
So, there's plenty of proof that supports Golden and Co. are targeting the right talent. The issues lie in utilization and execution, but that's a-whole-nother debate with a-whole-lotta time remaining before next season to discuss it.
Take a look at the progression of the 'Canes staff in evaluating for this cycle. If possible, forget about records, stars, class rankings and any pent-up anger for just 10 minutes.
Golden had his quarterback in Dwayne Lawson, who committed in May 2014. Then, Brad Kaaya immediately backed up all the hype and will undoubtedly be a four-year starter if he stays that long. Consequently, no one should criticize Lawson for backing out of that situation.
But then, Vincent Testaverde transferred from Texas Tech to Miami, so the once-imperative need to sign a quarterback in this cycle diminished. As a result, Evan Shirreffs is on the radar, but—while a decent addition as a reserve—he appears to be a contingency plan because no scholarship has been offered.
The Hurricanes must replace their three biggest skill-position contributors in Duke Johnson, Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford, which isn't accomplished easily.
Johnson doesn't leave a "next man up" hole; rather, there's a gaping void. But with Joe Yearby and Gus Edwards returning, Mark Walton showing no signs of wavering and Jordan Scarlett down to Miami, Florida and Florida State, Miami is set at running back.
Dorsett is the only departing wideout who consistently logged significant snaps, so the 'Canes aren't even in dire need of receivers. That said, Lawrence Cager and Terrell Chatman are both possession-oriented additions, while key target Antonio Callaway provides straight-line speed akin to Dorsett.
Walford emerged as his quarterback's leading target, something to which few newcomers can ever stake a similar claim. But Golden signed Jerome Washington, a 6'5", 260-pounder who's ranked the No. 1 JUCO tight end.
On paper, what else did Miami need to accomplish?
The narrative alters slightly on defense, but it's certainly not drastic. Linebacker is the most glaring need, so the Hurricanes only bringing in a pair of prospects can be concerning to some.
At this time, only Perry and Jamie Gordinier have given pledges to The U. While Miami is still pursuing Kansas State commit Mohamed Barry, other options in an already weak position for 2015 are dwindling.
But it's not for a lack of trying. Perry, Gordinier, John Houston, Tevon Coney, Dominic Sheppard, Claude George, Saleem Brightwell and 30 more linebackers were extended a scholarship. Barring a surprise commitment or shocking flip, none of them are coming to Coral Gables.
However, those 37 offers are tied with Louisville for most in the ACC, according to 247Sports' data.
Yes, the 'Canes must further deal with their linebacker situation, but Golden stormed the need from the beginning. He is addressing it, and it's a safe bet he'll continue exploring backup plans after signing day.
In the secondary, Miami has targeted players who potentially fit at multiple spots. For example, early-enrollee Jaquan Johnson could play cornerback while Deon Bush completes his final season of eligibility, then move to safety in 2016.
Top target Marcus Lewis would provide similar versatility in the secondary, and he'll choose between Kentucky and the Hurricanes on Feb. 3, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.
So, as it pertains to the class as a whole, what else could Miami have done? The 'Canes surely need top-level talent, but big-name recruits aren't lining up like they did for a dominant program a decade ago.
Consequently, Golden and his assistants must be very selective with their second-, third- and fourth-tier targets. And with mere hours remaining before signing day, despite all the uncertainty of Miami's future, it appears they have.
Golden has addressed the Hurricanes' positional needs. He's targeted players based on scheme fit. He's close to replacing specific attributes of departing players. He's signed prospects who can contribute at multiple spots.
It's not like Golden is stuck in an outlandish state of mind, completely oblivious to what's missing on his team. Properly using that talent is sometimes a problem, but again, table that discussion for a later date.
On paper, he's checked off nearly everything that needed to be a main focus in the 2015 recruiting class. But the results—aka wins—need to start coming, and disgruntled fans want the first victory to arrive on signing day.
The criticism will ratchet up another level on the fourth of February, even though Golden has proved his prowess as a recruiter. The key triumphs demanded cannot be achieved until September, but that's not the point.
If the 'Canes don't finish with a high-profile name or two, the angry voices will likely grow louder. The progression Miami took to reach this stage is irrelevant to disgruntled followers who are demanding change.
Fair or not, Golden doesn't have room for error on signing day.
Note: Recruiting information via 247Sports.
Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.
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Together, D.J. Durkin and Greg Mattison have the potential to drive Michigan’s defense into an era of dominance and superiority.
Regarded as one of the best young coaches in the game, Durkin, 37, just left Florida to become Jim Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator in Ann Arbor. His hiring was a hit among fans and media.
Due to the addition, Mattison, 65, slid over to the Wolverines defensive line, where he’ll continue to mastermind a rabid front four. His retention and re-designation also went over well.
Moving into 2015, the scenario has become just about perfect for Harbaugh. Intensely energetic and driven, his defensive coaches are two of a kind. There aren’t many in college football who can recruit at national award-worthy levels like Mattison and Durkin, and there aren't very many who can top their passion for molding athletes.
Durkin and Mattison could spend a handful of years together and construct one of the best defenses to ever take the field at The Big House.
The backbone of Michigan football just got a lot stronger.
Meeting of the Minds
The stats have been mentioned several times over, so we don’t need to waste of ton of time rehashing old news. That said, Mattison had the No. 7-ranked total defense in 2014, while Durkin’s Gators finished ranked at No. 15. They both had run-stuffing fronts, too. Michigan was No. 15 overall; Florida was No. 13.
As a defensive assistant, Durkin coached with Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-09. He spent the following four years building an SEC power in Gainesville, having a hand in the development of linebackers and special teams.
His best years are ahead, and he’ll have another chance to develop alongside one of the most consistent assistants in the nation.
“We worked together at Notre Dame and kept in close touch ever since," Durkin recently said, via MLive’s Nick Baumgardner. "(I'm) thrilled (to be working with him). We've kept in close touch for a long time, and to get back together and work together is huge.
"For both of us."
Mattison’s move to the D-line is a familiar one. In 1992, he landed his first job with the Wolverines as a defensive line coach. Prior to that, he held the same title at Navy, Texas A&M, Western Michigan, Northwestern and Cornell.
In 2010, he returned to Michigan as its defensive coordinator; prior to that, he had a two-year stint with the Baltimore Ravens (DC/LB).
Maximize on the Trail
The Wolverines are breeding an elite D-line and continue to look for the best to fill their 2016 class. They’ve already extended an offer to Rashan Gary, a 5-star defensive lineman out of Paramus Catholic in New Jersey (the former stomping grounds of Jabrill Peppers).
At 6’4” and 285 pounds, Gary, who has “warm” interest in Michigan, possesses the ideal size for a Division I D-tackle. According to 247Sports, he’s the No. 2-ranked prospect of 2016, making him a special case. He’d be a historically good get for Durkin and Mattison, who also have their eyes on 3-star weak-side defensive end Connor Murphy and 5-star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence.
Decommitments decimated Michigan’s 2015 class, which now has nine commits compared to just six before Harbaugh took over. Losing 4-star linebacker Darrin Kirkland and 4-star defensive backs Shaun Crawford and Garrett Taylor hurt, but Mattison and Durkin have scoured the trails for late additions.
They just happened to land one such prospect this past weekend, as former Nebraska pledge Reuben Jones—the No. 44-ranked strong-side defensive end of the next class, per 247Sports—switched his allegiance to the Wolverines.
The 6’3”, 223-pounder runs a respectable 4.89-second 40-yard dash and would fit well into Durkin’s 3-4 or 4-3 packages, either as an end or outside linebacker.
Mattison and Durkin have also courted Shelton Johnson. The 6’5”, 220-pounder is the No. 20-ranked strong-side defensive end of 2015 and reportedly has “warmer” interest in the Wolverines, per 247Sports. He visited Jan. 16 but seems destined for Florida State.
That said, Durkin has plenty of links to other talent in the Sunshine State, and he has pipelines spreading from southern hotbeds out to California.
Mattison is renowned for his ability to attract talent and ultimately develop it into rock-solid linebackers and D-linemen.
Their similarities in terms of recruiting, coaching and development should give the Wolverines one of the best DC/DL tandems in all of college football.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability.
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Jim Harbaugh said that he would hire “the best” assistants to “…carry forward the excellence of the University of Michigan football program.” He has assembled a staff who can not only develop talent but who also have strong ties to the hotbeds of national recruiting.
With a only a few days left before national signing day, incidents like the miscommunication with recruit DaiShon Neal have been rare as his coaches have blanketed the nation to fill Harbaugh's first Michigan recruiting class.
They have been welcomed because in most cases they are already well known to the players they are visiting.
The impact of these relationships will reap dividends in the future.
Compare the geographic recruiting reach of Michigan's coaches with states that have produced the most NFL draft picks over the past three seasons, according to Scout.com.
With the exception of Texas, Harbaugh or a member of his staff have strong ties to 10 of 11 of the top states.
At first glance it appeared that Harbaugh simply followed the “friends and family” model used by most coaches, hiring assistants from his previous staffs and filling gaps based on reputation and expertise. For Harbaugh, family included members of the Michigan family (Tyrone Wheatley and Greg Mattison) and his son Jay.
But his staff contains a mix of coaches who have experience at both the collegiate and professional levels, which allows them to evaluate recruits for success at Michigan and beyond.
This is an important factor for recruits. Many coaches can say they have helped develop NFL draft picks, but Harbaugh and his staff have experience on both sides of the NFL pipeline. They can speak firsthand about how NFL coaches evaluate talent.
Michigan's top recruiter is Harbaugh himself. He is credited with taking San Francisco to three consecutive conference championships and one Super Bowl after making Stanford into a national power. His experience as a former college and pro quarterback also gives him a unique perspective when talking to recruits.
In a few short weeks on the recruiting trail, Harbaugh and his assistants have already made a big impression with a number of top recruits.
With less than a week to go before national signing day, Harbaugh is making a strong case to his top recruiting targets.
Having already flipped recruits from Texas and Nebraska, he now has his sights set on players who can help him compete for a Big Ten championship.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand
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Tennessee coach Butch Jones is spanning the country in search for the Volunteers' next offensive coordinator, but the best candidate can be found in Canada: North Carolina State coordinator Matt Canada.
The offensive guru behind the Wolfpack's resurgence has been mentioned on several hot boards, including Wes Rucker's of GoVols247. Canada is the perfect replacement for departed Vols OC Mike Bajakian—who left late last week to become Tampa Bay's quarterbacks coach.
Though there haven't been any reports that Jones actually has or even will meet with Canada, the name is intriguing for various reasons.
Currently, the expected favorite for UT's vacancy is Mike DeBord, who interviewed with Jones over the weekend. DeBord is a longtime college and NFL assistant and current Olympic Sports Coordinator at the University of Michigan, but he hasn't been a coordinator since 2007.
Rucker even noted Monday: "We believe…DeBord seems likely to be involved with the program going forward in some capacity. Whether DeBord will be involved as the offensive coordinator remains to be seen, but that's certainly a possibility."
Other names have been tossed around and perhaps even spoken with or vetted by UT's coaching staff, but DeBord's multi-day interview has to put him atop the list.
Despite that development, Canada matches Jones' desire for schematic fit and familiarity on the surface as well as DeBord, and there are other factors that make him a more ideal replacement for Bajakian, if for no other reason than he hasn't been out of coaching for that long.
The Knoxville News Sentinel's Dustin Dopirak notes that it's a consensus from colleagues with credible sources that Canada is a "legit candidate" for the position:
Let's take a look at why Canada should get the call.
While Tennessee has struggled offensively the past couple of seasons, finishing 104th and 93rd, respectively, per CFBStats.com, the Vols have players now in place to run a spread-option offense.
Especially with junior dual-threat Joshua Dobbs entrenched as a difference-making quarterback, UT looked poised to make a big jump after bowl practice and a 45-point outburst against Iowa.
The receiving corps is loaded, Alvin Kamara is a JUCO jewel recruited to help ease the load on Jalen Hurd in the offensive backfield and the Vols have plenty of other weapons, too. That's why replacing Bajakian isn't exactly an encouraging turn of events.
When a team hires a new guy, it runs the risk of philosophy mismatches and dissension among the coaches on staff. That's the last thing Jones needs.
Make no mistake: 2015 is a huge year for the Vols, so this is an important hire. You don't want to go changing things around at vital points of your career (see: Derek Dooley's hiring of defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri).
That's why Jones told Football Scoop Radio on ESPN radio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this week (via the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown):
For us, we're not looking for a major overhaul offensively. We're just looking to enhance our system. Going into year three and playing the inordinate amount of freshmen that we had to play last year, now they understand the system.
The thing we can't do is go backwards and spend our time installing a new offensive system. We have to be able to enhance it, continue to grow and elevate it. That's where we can spend more time on the fundamentals and the fine details of what it takes to play winning football.
Canada already runs an offense with spread elements, and he has been extremely successful recently. In his 22-year coaching career, he has been an offensive coordinator at Butler, Northern Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and N.C. State.
Most importantly, given the number of quarterbacks with the different sets of skills coming in Tennessee's 2015 recruiting class, Canada's offense has proven adaptable. Some years, he has been more spread-oriented, but he also has tailored his scheme to suit pro-style players, as noted by Dopirak:
He showcased offenses such as the one at a 2012 Wisconsin team that went to the Rose Bowl that he can be successful with a run-heavy unit, finishing 12th nationally in rushing yards.
Before that in his days at Indiana, quarterbacks Ben Chappell, Kellen Lewis and Blake Powers, held the top three spots in single-season touchdowns, yards, completions, attempts and completion percentage.
"Our offense is going to be quarterback-friendly," Canada told GoPack.com upon his hiring at State. "When you look at it, we've had running quarterbacks…we've had pure drop-back guys…we've had multiple quarterbacks who've done many things in our system. We're going to do what our players do well."
First and foremost, Canada is a quarterbacks coach. Considering Bajakian was one, too, bringing him in would enable the Vols to slide through this coaching change without much of a staff shakeup.
With receivers coach Zach Azzanni a potential candidate to be Central Michigan's head coach, there could be more moves coming, anyway. But hiring Canada would ensure a seamless transition.
Not only does he coach signal-callers, he coaches them well. On top of the aforementioned work at Indiana and with star Chandler Harnish at Northern Illinois in 2011 where he finished with 4,043 yards of total offense, Canada's development of Jacoby Brissett in 2014 was astounding.
The former Florida Gators quarterback who transferred from the scrap heap of backups in Gainesville had a resurgent season. Brissett finished with 2,606 passing yards, 529 rushing yards, 26 total touchdowns and just five interceptions.
The Pack finished 8-5, and Brissett led them to a big win over Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
Canada also has groomed NFL running backs Michael "Burner" Turner and Montee Ball, who won the Doak Walker Award in 2012 while he was the coordinator. Both are physical, one-cut backs, which should suit Hurd's game.
Given the fact that this is Jones' offensive scheme, it's a viable question whether the head coach would hand over the reins to an assistant like Canada. At North Carolina State, Canada handles quarterbacks and calls all the offensive plays for Dave Doeren, a defensive-minded coach who probably doesn't meddle too much.
During Canada's one season in Madison, there was a reported "power struggle" between him and then-Badgers coach Bret Bielema. However, according to the Wisconsin State Journal's Tom Mulhern, once Bielema handed over control to Canada, the Badgers thrived:
Numerous UW sources said Canada's decision to stand up to Bielema was a significant factor in the offensive outburst that followed. The Badgers amassed 640 yards, including 539 on the ground, in the 70-31 victory over Nebraska.
Jones' handprints are all over this program, and this scheme—his scheme—has been successful everywhere he has been. Will he just hand everything over?
An experienced coach such as Canada would probably demand control. He has earned that right.
Jones should give it to him, if what he really said about "enhancing" the Vols' offense holds water.
Three other characteristics make Canada an attractive commodity for Tennessee's football program.
- Experience—In Canada's 22-year coaching career, he has been an offensive coordinator at five different programs. It's hard not to be impressed by that type of resume. He has coached for a long time, led an offense for a long time and has experienced success. He would bring a level of expertise to the staff that Bajakian didn't have, where he has had to adapt and diversify his scheme to different players for different coaches.
- Familiarity—The "Butch Jones Coaching Tree" doesn't have as many branches as others, but he does like to have a background with his assistants. That loyalty and familiarity is a big reason why he has tried to keep most of his staff in tact. While Jones and Canada have never coached together, Canada did coach with Zach Azzanni at Wisconsin and defensive line coach Steve Stripling at Indiana, so there's some overlap. Since Canada coached in the MAC a long time, there's no doubt Jones (a former Central Michigan head coach) has plenty of familiar references.
- Salary—While money shouldn't be an option at a place like Tennessee, the bottom line is the athletic department still isn't that far removed from operating in the red. Athletic director Dave Hart probably doesn't want to break the bank for a coordinator, which leads to candidates such as Arizona State's Mike Norvell (who makes $900,000) being out of the question. Canada makes $500,000 at N.C. State, according to 247Sports, which puts him in UT's price range. Bajakian made $480,000, and with the increased salary pool for assistants that came along with Jones' recent raise, the Vols would be able to give Canada a bit more money than he's currently making.
So, would Canada be interested? The Vols need to vet him and his agent and find out. Considering how long he's been in the business, it may appeal to the competitor in him to come and coach in the nation's top conference.
The Vols are an up-and-coming program, the weapons at the disposal of the new coordinator have to make the job appealing, and the continuity and stability that is now prevalent in the program have to be attractive.
Tennessee is on the prowl for an innovative coordinator, one who can enhance the position. Or, as Jones told Volquest.com's John Brice:
"I want him to come in and manage and develop the offense. To have an individual that's an expert at multiple positions. First and foremost, the quarterback position, but an individual with a proven track record of success, who's coached at all different levels."
That fits Canada to a "T." He has coached a long time, overseen every position on that side of the ball other than the offensive line, and he has a long history of making his players successful within the framework of his scheme.
That's why Jones needs to make him the next offensive coordinator at UT.
All statistical information gathered from CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.
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California's passing game was just upgraded, as wide receiver prospect Carlos Strickland has decided to commit to the school.
Greg Powers of Scout.com tweeted the news:
Eldridge Massington, a freshman wide receiver for UCLA this past season, congratulated Strickland on his decision on Twitter:
Strickland is a 4-star prospect from Skyline High in Dallas, Texas, according to 247Sports. The ranking site lists him as the No. 144 prospect in the country, the No. 20 player from the state of Texas and the No. 16 wide receiver.
Standing at 6'5" and weighing 194 pounds, Strickland registered 84 receptions for 1,770 and 27 touchdowns in the past three seasons, including an impressive 15 touchdown receptions this past season.
Along with quarterback recruit Ross Bowers, Strickland will be expected to dramatically improve Cal's passing game over the next four years. His size and ability to go up and get the ball should make him a dangerous weapon in the red zone, and he'll be expected to compete for a starting job immediately.
In other words, it's a good day for the Bears. They'll be hoping Strickland develops into a special player, and the talent is in place to suggest he just might.
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The recruiting season for the UCLA football 2015 class is coming down to the wire.
Jim Mora and his staff have about one more week to make their pitches before national signing day on Feb 4. As it currently stands, the Bruins have 16 public commitments. There are also a handful of prospects considering the program at this time.
This piece will take a look at the five most underrated recruits for UCLA in 2015. This includes four committed prospects and one athlete currently uncommitted.
Prospects will be listed alphabetically. Much of their appearance on the list is due to overall upside and current rankings as prospects.
Cory Batey and Brandon Vandenburg, two of the former Vanderbilt football players charged with raping a female student in June 2013, were found guilty on all charges by a Nashville jury on Tuesday.
According to a report from The Tennessean—which contains graphic descriptions of the charges—the jury found Batey and Vandenburg guilty on a total of 16 charges. Batey, 21, was charged on five felony counts of aggravated rape and two of aggravated sexual battery. Vandenburg, 21, was found guilty on those same charges plus an evidence tampering count and unlawful photography.
Four Vanderbilt football players were initially charged with sexual assault in August 2013. Brandon Banks and Jaborian McKenzie, the other two men implicated, are yet to stand trial. The Tennessean report notes a total of five players and two others have been charged with varying levels of involvement and the attempted cover-up. Chris Boyd pleaded guilty to helping the cover-up in 2013 and was sentenced to probation.
Prosecutors alleged the players sexually assaulted the victim while she was passed out and recorded video and took pictures of the attack. An ABC News report indicated footage showed the woman, who was intoxicated, being carried back to a dorm room where the assault took place.
Each of the players involved were kicked off the football team in 2013. Batey and Vandenburg are scheduled for sentencing in March. No date for the trials of Banks and McKenzie has been set.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter
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On Feb. 4, 2015, Butch Jones will put the finishing touches on his third recruiting class as the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.
While Jones's first class, assembled in the final two months before national signing day in 2013, produced standout stars like Cam Sutton, Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennesse's 2014 class proved that Jones is an elite recruiter.
Now, he's on the verge of repeating his success and perhaps even surpassing it with the Vols' 2015 class.
Of Tennessee's star-studded group of 28 recruits, 10 are already on campus and learning the ropes of life in the SEC. The rest will arrive in the early part of the summer and begin preparing for the upcoming season.
The Vols' 2015 class is ranked so highly due to the number of 4-star and 5-star recruits who pledged to spend their college careers on Rocky Top, but they aren't the only ones who have a chance to make an impact on their team.
Here are five of Tennessee's most underrated recruits of the 2015 class and the reasons why they could be big-time players for the Vols in the near future.
The clock is winding down on the 2015 recruiting class, but a few prospects have quietly emerged as prospects who are underrated in the eyes of recruiting services.
In the case of some prospects, a big senior year caused their offer lists to swell, while others were simply discovered late in the process.
One running back, a trio of standouts who will line up in the secondary and a defensive tackle highlight this year’s crop of late risers.
Which 2015 recruits have emerged this season as standout prospects?
*Players listed in alphabetical order.
What makes for a great college quarterback?
Is it based on awards won? Titles claimed? Victories achieved? Statistics compiled? Yes, all of those things and so much more.
We've just completed our fifth straight season in which a quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy, the award given to college football's top player. Three of those passers played for (or won) a national title that same season and along the way won a slew of games and put up huge numbers.
But which one is the best of the best? Not just of the last five years, but in college history?
We've come up with our list of the 10 best ever, ranked by their overall performance and impact on the game. Click through to see our ranking criteria as well as who made the cut.
Once thought to be a lock to the home-standing Florida Gators, 5-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson will have Gator Nation and fanbases such as Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss sweating out his decision on national signing day.
He's taken visits to all of his finalists except LSU, which will host the talented pass-rusher this weekend, and Florida—where he's visited unofficially numerous times over the last year.
Can another SEC foe pry him from landing anywhere other than Gainesville?
Let's break down his options and assess each team's odds at landing one of the top prospects from the Sunshine State.
Odds for playing at Alabama or LSU: 10-1
According to BamaOnline, Jefferson stopped in Tuscaloosa prior to and following his official visit to Ole Miss last weekend.
Jefferson is versatile enough to play defensive end or outside linebacker in the Tide's scheme—which makes him a valued target for Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
The fact that he's been to Tuscaloosa several times—along with Saban's penchant for pulling studs late in the cycle in recent years—means that the Tide can't be counted out.
LSU will take a swing at Jefferson this weekend, with new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron—both of whom have been ace recruiters throughout their careers—getting a chance to make their best pitch to the U.S. Army All-American.
The Tigers will have to replace both starters at defensive end next fall, which can appeal to a talent like Jefferson, who hopes to find the field early.
Overall, both Alabama and LSU are quietly lurking and hoping to make a late surge and steal one of the nation's top defensive players in the 2015 class.
Odds for playing at Florida: 6-1
As JC Shurburtt of 247Sports notes, one coach who was involved in Jefferson's recruitment felt that he would ultimately be a Gator in the end.
However, with the arrival of new head coach Jim McElwain, Jefferson hasn't had the chance to develop the type of bond he had with the previous coaching staff, as his father, Leo Jefferson, told Luke Stampini of GatorBait.
"I don't know him, this is my first time meeting him," the elder Jefferson told Stampini. "I've talked to him on the phone several times, but basically it's my first time physically seeing him."
It's still tough to count the Gators out because of the fact that they have been his longtime favorite, and the campus is located close to his home in Glen St. Mary, Florida.
Time will tell if McElwain and his staff can find a way to lure him to Gainesville in the end.
Odds for playing at Auburn: 5-1
Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has recruited Jefferson vigorously for the last few years, dating back to his days as the head coach at Florida.
His arrival on the Plains has given the Tigers a surge in their pursuit of Jefferson—who visited Auburn on the weekend of Jan. 16.
As Jefferson admitted to Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover, the Tigers coaching staff has made an impression on the nation's No. 2 strong-side defensive end:
The coaching staff. Like I said, I got that family feel with them. They've been recruiting me hard the past four years. And I know what I'm getting if I come here. That's mainly what sticks out. I know I'm going to be taken care of. Surrounded by good players. It's a good town. It's country like my hometown so it's great.
Given that Auburn is heavily pursuing other top targets from the state of Florida, such as 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart, 5-star offensive lineman Martez Ivey and 4-star linebacker Jeffery Holland, Jefferson could potentially be a part of a large migration of talent heading north to the Plains on signing day.
Odds for playing at Ole Miss: 3-1
Jefferson made the long trek to Oxford, Mississippi, last weekend to visit Ole Miss unofficially.
Considering he had already used an official visit to see the Rebels last October, his return trip in the late stages of his recruitment is a strong signal of his interest in the Rebels program.
Jefferson made waves in late December when he named the Rebels his leader. While that may have been initially met with some skepticism, there's a growing sentiment that Hugh Freeze and his staff sit in great position for him.
As noted by Stampini, the Rebels have made a furious push for Jefferson and could even be the team to beat heading down the stretch.
Freeze was able to land former prized recruit Laremy Tunsil out of the grasp of Florida two years ago, and he's hoping history repeats itself with Jefferson on national signing day.
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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Sometimes, just attending a college football game isn't enough. And because attendance is at a 14-year low, according to Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com, schools have developed new ways to get fans to come to the game.
Of course, not every perk is new. Some traditions have been around for decades and remain some of the best extracurricular activities the sport has to offer.
Which game-day perks are the best? We pick five in the following slides. From old to new, the following pregame, in-game and postgame perks have to either take place in the stadium or in the surrounding area.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It wasn't exactly on the same level of Ohio State's College Football Playoff semifinal victory over Alabama, but Urban Meyer managed to pick up another win over his former conference on Monday when he secured a verbal pledge from 3-star defensive tackle and former Kentucky commit DaVon Hamilton.
Given that Hamilton hails from nearby Pickerington, Ohio, his change of heart to his hometown school shouldn't come as a surprise to the college football world. But it does continue what's now a three-year trend Meyer has developed of flipping already committed prospects in the days leading up to national signing day.
Meyer's most recent flip may have come by way of the SEC, but his relentless recruiting practices have been felt the most in the Big Ten, where rival teams now know that no prospect is off-limits for the Buckeyes head coach.
"His presence and how hard he attacks recruiting has put a lot of pressure on the rest of the league to re-evaluate how they get after it on the recruiting trail," recruiting analyst Marc Givler of BuckeyeGrove.com and Rivals.com told Bleacher Report. "Teams now understand that recruiting doesn't end with a verbal commitment. Nothing is binding until these kids sign their letters of intent."
It wasn't always that way in the Big Ten, at least not until Meyer took over the Buckeyes program in 2012. Leading up to his first national signing day in Columbus, Meyer flipped two committed prospects within his new conference, landing Se'von Pittman from Michigan State and Kyle Dodson from Wisconsin.
Unsurprisingly, neither the Spartans nor Badgers were pleased with losing a highly touted player to another Big Ten school.
“[Former OSU coach] Jim Tressel and [Michigan State coach] Mark Dantonio would never call or talk to each other’s commitments,” then-Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi told Todd Porter of The Canton Repository at the time. “It sets a tone and starts a recruiting rivalry...I guess it’s fair game. You don’t want it to be that way, but that’s how it is.”
Surrounded by mounting criticism, Meyer didn't bat an eye.
"You're pissed because we went after a committed guy? Guess what, we got nine guys who better go do it again," Meyer said while speaking at the Ohio High School Coaches Clinic in 2012. "Do it a little harder next time."
Meyer would also add former Notre Dame commit Taylor Decker to his first class at Ohio State, as well as no fewer than five player who were either once committed to Penn State or considered to be heavy Nittany Lion leans prior to the sanctions that arose in Happy Valley as a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Although it was met with less fanfare, Meyer's reputation for successfully recruiting committed players only grew in the following years.
The Buckeyes' 2013 class saw Meyer flip 4-star cornerback Gareon Conley from Michigan, as well as 4-star athlete Dontre Wilson from Oregon. Last year, the Ohio State head coach took offensive tackle Brady Taylor away from Virginia Tech and defensive end Darius Slade from Michigan State on the morning of national signing day.
This year, however, has been one of Meyer's busiest recruiting seasons yet. With one week to go until this year's signing day, he has already flipped 4-star linebacker Jerome Baker from Florida, 3-star offensive tackle Kevin Feder from Miami (Fla.), 4-star running back Michael Weber from Michigan, 3-star offensive tackle Branden Bowen from Utah and both 4-star wideout Alex Stump and Hamilton from Kentucky.
As Givler explained, the advantage of Meyer's ability to sway committed recruits extends beyond adding talent to the Buckeyes' roster.
"Not to compare recruiting to war, but there are a lot of elements of taking the battle to the opponent in Meyer's recruiting strategy," Givler said. "Make them focus just as much on recruiting their own kids as they are recruiting some of Meyer's uncommitted targets."
In other words, if Ohio State finds itself going head-to-head for an uncommitted prospect against a school like Michigan, the Buckeyes could hold an advantage. All it would take would be for Meyer to call one of the Wolverines' verbal pledges, in order to shift Jim Harbaugh's attention back to his own already committed players.
Of course that strategy is a two-way street. Meyer's committed prospects aren't off-limits to opposing teams either, although his track record would indicate testing him may not be worth the effort.
Rival schools have frequently made runs at players committed to the Buckeyes in the past three years, with Michigan recruiting Bri'onte Dunn in 2012, Missouri coming after Ezekiel Elliott and Auburn trying to lure Trey Johnson in 2013 and Michigan State making a last-ditch effort for Jamarco Jones a year ago. Each time, Meyer proved successful in keeping the player committed to Ohio State, which has been indicative of his general recruiting approach.
"That has been the most underrated thing about Meyer. Everyone makes a big deal about how good he is at flipping kids, and he is good at it for sure, but he's probably even better at keeping what he has in the fold," Givler said. "It just goes back to that mindset where he almost treats every kid as uncommitted until they sign. Recruiting doesn't stop with a commitment."
Meyer will need to continue to do just that for the next seven days.
While Ohio State's 2015 class only has a spot or two to fill, no fewer than three prospects currently committed to the Buckeyes remain targeted by other programs. For at least one more week, Meyer will attempt to fend off the likes of Auburn and LSU from 4-star quarterback Torrance Gibson, Auburn from 4-star cornerback Carlton Davis and Michigan from Weber.
History would suggest that Ohio State should be in good shape and will likely hold on to three of the key pieces in what is currently the nation's seventh-ranked class. History would also suggest you shouldn't be surprised if Meyer adds an unexpected prospect to the Buckeyes' haul between now and next Wednesday, even if it's one who's currently committed to another school.
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com, and recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
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Since first stepping on the Louisville campus, Teddy Bridgewater was a weapon for Charlie Strong's offense. The numbers don't lie.
In three years, Bridgewater completed 72 touchdown passes and threw for more than 9,800 yards. Per Louisville athletics, Bridgewater in 2011 was the first freshman quarterback to start a game since Stu Stram did it in 1976. He played three seasons before entering the NFL draft early and becoming a first-round pick in 2014.
In short, Bridgewater was a gem for Strong at Louisville. Now Strong is at Texas, and he’s looking for a quarterback with Bridgewater's playmaking skills.
Or, at least, someone close.
In Strong's first year as Texas head coach, the Longhorns finished the season 6-7 and with a loss to Arkansas in the Texas Bowl. That loss included one of the Longhorns' worst passing performances in the school's modern history, as Tyrone Swoopes threw for 57 yards and an interception.
As Strong and the Longhorns prepare for the spring, fans are expecting changes—primarily at quarterback. Options are slim as of today, but with recruiting and transfer speculation, could Strong be in a much better place by the start of the 2015 season?
Here are six options who, if luck runs their way, the Longhorns could go with at quarterback. All six would be available to start Texas' first game Sept. 5 at Notre Dame.
At this time last year, Saivion Smith was an unranked prospect with zero offers.
Today, he is the No. 1 defensive back in the class of 2016, boasts more than 20 offers and has the recruiting world at his feet.
This is the story of his journey to superstardom.
Smith’s nimble footwork can be traced back to a stroke of destiny.
In 1996, his father, Anthony Smith, was sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting on his pregnant wife, LaDonnica, to get off work to join him on a flight back home to Tampa.
He sat down at his gate and noticed world-famous tap-dance artist Savion Glover waiting to board the same flight. After he introduced himself to Glover as a fan, the renowned performer sat down with Anthony, and they prayed together for a smooth, healthy delivery process.
Just a few weeks later when his wife was in labor, they were struggling to come up with a name for their newborn son.
“I never wanted him to be a junior, because I wanted him to have his own identity,” Anthony told Bleacher Report recently. “That guy, the prayer and his name just kept coming up in my spirit. So that’s how I came up with his first name.”
It didn’t take long for Anthony to realize that his son would share his namesake's athleticism.
Growing up, young Saivion was never too far from a football. Anthony and his brother, Marty Kennedy, coached local little league football teams in the Tampa area, and Saivion began shadowing them when he was just four years old. The allure of the gridiron instantly hooked him. When Anthony put him in a flag football league shortly thereafter, he was a natural.
Saivion’s passion for the game was so intense that Anthony recalls his son routinely wearing his helmet and pads around the house and even sleeping in a football-shaped bed during his younger years. He jokes that he must have bought “300 mouthpieces” because Saivion would continuously lose them.
However, a turning point for him came when he was in the fifth grade when one of his teachers asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. His answer: a professional football player.
“His teacher laughed at him and said, ‘yeah right.’” Anthony recalls. “He looked at his teacher and said, ‘I’m going to be what I’ve dreamed of being.’ He may have been eight or nine years old at the time, and he just blew it off. He was a kid following his dream. And I’ve never been the one to dash my son’s dreams. I’ve always been supportive of him and told him that education comes first and athletics is second.”
He would go on to dominate Tampa youth leagues at several positions, including quarterback, receiver and corner.
By the time he became a freshman at Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport, Florida, the coaches there were wondering where they should line him up.
Saivion preferred quarterback, but Kennedy—who was on the Boca Ciega staff as a defensive backs coach at the time—suggested that his nephew move to corner.
Another factor helped Saivion embrace his move to the secondary. His older brother, Tae Gardner, was a standout corner during his playing career.
“I grew up with my brother a lot, and he played corner his whole life,” Saivion said. “I just learned a lot from him.”
Kennedy used his nephew’s offensive background as a teaching tool to help him adjust to his new home on the field.
“I just thought he was a natural,” Kennedy said of the move. “He has great ball skills. He has great hips. He was on offense a lot, so for me, it was just about transferring some of what he’d learned on offense over to the defensive side of the ball. He knew what the offense was trying to do. From that standpoint, it helped him understand the position and his job clearly.”
It was evident from the get-go that he could be special as a lockdown cover man.
Saivion entered the 2012 season opener against area power Countryside High School as a third-team corner. The coaching staff had plans to let him get his feet wet on the junior varsity squad, but an injury to the team's top corner scrapped those plans.
Another defensive back went down early in that first game, which meant Saivion would be pressed into action immediately.
Kennedy estimates that Saivion was around 6’0”, 150 pounds “soaking wet.”
However, as his father wondered in the stands whether his son was ready, Saivion turned in a strong performance that set the stage for him to emerge as a potential star in the secondary.
Afterward, Anthony felt compelled to ask the head coach why he put Saivion in the game as a freshman. He laughs while recollecting the coach’s response, something he says he will never forget.
“He told me, ‘Mr. Smith, nobody else knew he was a freshman except me and you.’”
When the team struggled to a 0-5 start, the coaching staff made the decision to play Saivion both ways—giving him his shot to play quarterback in the process. Boca Ciega would go on to win four of its last five games with Saivion calling the signals.
Saivion continued his development as a corner one year later. According to Anthony, he became just the second player in Pinellas County to be named to the all-conference team as a sophomore at defensive back.
However, following Saivion’s sophomore season, Anthony’s desire to make sure that his son was on track to qualify academically for college led him to research a potential transfer to IMG Academy in nearby Bradenton.
“After seeing the academic side, touring the facilities, talking with the dean, talking with the teachers and seeing the curriculum that they had, I knew the football program was a no-brainer,” Anthony said. “It was a win-win for Saivion and our family, and it looks like it has turned out to be a win-win for the IMG program as well.”
Chris Weinke would certainly agree with the latter portion of Anthony’s assessment.
The former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, who is the head coach at IMG, knew exactly what he was getting when Saivion arrived on the school's campus.
“Obviously, we understood the magnitude of Saivion’s skill set and what he was capable of,” Weinke said. “The challenge always is, how do these kids take coaching. I can say that Saivion, as many players that I’ve been around, he’s a kid that is coachable, and he’s one of the players that has the best instincts.”
The move to IMG paid off in a big way for Saivion. He was a major cog for an Ascenders defense that fueled the team to a 10-1 record in 2014.
Per MaxPreps, Saivion logged 67 tackles, five interceptions and three forced fumbles. He also blocked three punts and scored six non-offensive touchdowns. Weinke notes that he had another two scores wiped away due to penalties and one discounted because of an inadvertent whistle.
His signature performance came against powerhouse and defending 3A Florida state champion Trinity Christian—a team with at least 10 players who have offers from Power Five schools, including 2015 5-star corner and LSU pledge Kevin Toliver II. Saivion was the most dominant performer on the field.
In a game televised nationally by ESPNU, Saivion recorded 13 tackles and scored two non-offensive touchdowns, per MaxPreps—one on a blocked punt and another by stripping 230-pound man-child Jeffery Holland and racing 46 yards for a scoop and score.
It was a performance that emphatically stated his case to be billed as the nation’s top corner in the 2016 class.
“He seems to find a way to be around the ball,” Weinke said. “He’s a big-play guy. He’s one of the guys that comes in early to our meetings and spends a little time with me and our coaches in our bullpen. He just loves football and loves being challenged.”
That monster performance resulted in Saivion gaining his lofty 5-star ranking, one that Weinke said he’s rightfully earned. Not only does he have the resume, but it’s his versatility and potential at the next level that have earned him his current status.
“In my opinion, when you look at the class of 2016, I’d be shocked if there was a better corner in the country,” Weinke said. “He is that good. He’s long. He can jump. He can be a Cover 2 guy. He can be a man-cover guy. He’s not afraid to hit you. He’s obviously made big plays for us on special teams whether it's returning kicks or blocking punts or extra points. He’s all over the field.”
Saivion’s progression into a can’t-miss recruit has also coincided with the impressive work he’s done in the classroom. The 6’2”, 180-pounder reports a 3.0 GPA but mentioned plans to turn that into “a 4.0 or higher” and potentially major in sports management when he gets to college.
Powerhouses such as Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami and UCLA are among the schools garnering his interest at this point.
Weinke, himself a former stud recruit, knows what it’s like to be in Saivion’s shoes as a burgeoning star. However, he’s advising his pupil to continue to work hard while enjoying the fruits of the labor it took for him and his family to reach this point.
“He’s going to have an opportunity to go wherever he wants to go for college,” Weinke said. “I think that he needs to enjoy this. This is a high school experience that kids don’t forget. He’s been great. The fifth star has not gone to his head. He’s a great kid. There’s nothing about the kid that I can say that I don’t love. This is a special kid, and I’m glad that he’s here at IMG.”
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand, and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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One of the most intriguing prospects of the 2016 recruiting class has narrowed his college choices down to five, setting up a battle between Big Ten and SEC schools and the country's most notable Independent.
Donnie Corley, a 4-star wide receiver/cornerback from Michigan, has offers from 19 schools but has whittled his list down to five: LSU, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Tennessee.
The 6'2",180-pound athlete is rated by 247Sports as the No. 120 overall prospect in the 2016 class, as well as the nation's 27th-best cornerback. He had nine interceptions last season for Martin Luther King High School in Detroit, where he also caught 47 passes for 1,087 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Corley has had a busy past two months, making unofficial visits to Michigan and Ohio State in January and also getting home contact with coaches from those schools, while in December he took an unofficial visit to Michigan State and met with coaches from Tennessee. He's also expected to attend Notre Dame's Junior Day on Jan. 31, per Tom Loy of 247Sports.
LSU and Notre Dame were among the first schools to offer Corley, though he's yet to make any visits to Baton Rouge or meet with LSU coaches.
With blazing speed—he reportedly ran a 4.28 while visiting Michigan earlier this month, per Michigan high school sports site TheDZone.net—and a knack for getting his hands on the ball regardless of what side of the field he's on, Corley figures to find himself rising up the rankings as he heads toward his senior year.
Though the process is still very early, 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictor is giving a heavy edge to Michigan State. Eight of 10 projections have him joining the Spartans for 2016, where he could be the next Tony Lippett and possibly replicate what Lippett did late this past season when he started lining up at both receiver and cornerback.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.
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The offseason is upon us, and with national signing day around the corner and coaching changes abound, there's still plenty to talk about in the SEC.
Jim McElwain welcomed a brand-new staff after he got tabbed as Florida's new head coach. The domino effect of Florida's coaching change was felt in Auburn, as former head coach Will Muschamp signed on to be the new defensive coordinator of the Tigers, as well as Mississippi State, where defensive coordinator Geoff Collins left to join McElwain's staff.
Will McElwain's new-look Florida program have success?
That question and more are answered in this week's SEC Q&A.
Yes, but it won't happen in 2015.
Defensively, the talent is there for McElwain and Collins to keep things going in the right direction on that side of the ball. Vernon Hargreaves III is one of the best cornerbacks in the country, the front seven is loaded, and Collins proved at Mississippi State that he can lead defenses that are stifling in the red zone.
The offensive line and quarterback position are problems, and I'm not sure either is a one-year fix.
Three starters are gone off a Florida offensive line that didn't exactly impose its will on the opposition on a consistent basis last season. Martez Ivey, a 5-star offensive tackle prospect who's considering the Gators, is being counted on to be an early contributor, which is one of the key selling points for the Sunshine State product.
Is Treon Harris the man at quarterback? Will redshirt freshman pro-style quarterback Will Grier be the man for McElwain? Will Florida hit the quarterback free-agent market?
Those are all major questions that I'm not sure can be answered in the immediate future.
Long-term, yes, McElwain will win at least one SEC title.
He's a talented offensive mind who has surrounded himself with coaches who know what it takes to win inside the living rooms of prospects and, as long as he maintains some control of the offense, should be able to right the ship.
Besides, it's not like there's a juggernaut within the division that is standing in the way.
Tennessee is building fast, but two-time division champ Missouri doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of opponents. Georgia's annual inexplicable loss routinely prevents it from becoming a power, and South Carolina is regressing.
In 2016, Florida will be in the mix for the SEC East and will have at least one conference title by 2018.
It's rising sophomore Brice Ramsey's to lose, and I don't think he will lose it.
He completed 24 of his 39 passes for 333 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions last year. He looked great in mop-up duty against Kentucky, going 5-of-5 for 80 yards and a touchdown in the 63-31 win, and wasn't bad in a pinch for injured starter Hutson Mason in the 37-14 Belk Bowl win over Louisville.
Ramsey has the arm strength to be successful in Athens, and as long as he progresses with the starters this offseason, I imagine he'll be the guy for new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
Rising junior Faton Bauta is more of a dual threat than Ramsey, which doesn't really fit what Schottenheiemer will want to do, and rising redshirt freshman Jacob Park has no game experience.
With the top two receivers gone, Ramsey's experience will be too much for Schottenheimer to pass up.
I wasn't a fan of the Schottenheimer hire when it was announced. After all, he really hasn't had much success as a coordinator at the NFL level. Yes, some of his quarterbacks have been less than stellar, but it's not like he has a known commodity at Georgia, either.
Ramsey is his best bet, and I think he'll be Georgia's starting quarterback when toe meets leather vs. Louisiana-Monroe.
Trying to figure out where 5-star defensive tackle prospect Daylon Mack will be attending college is like trying to spot a unicorn—I'm not sure it's possible.
The former Texas A&M commit backed out of his pledge to the Aggies in December, only to name TCU and LSU finalists. When former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis moved to College Station, Texas A&M appeared to be back in the sweepstakes. After a visit to Austin last weekend, it appears that Texas has now joined the party as a finalist, along with Texas A&M and TCU.
If I had to place a bet on Mack, I'd stick with Texas A&M, not Texas—despite this rather cryptic tweet on Tuesday from Mack himself.
The 6'0", 320-pound monster would likely contribute from day one with the Aggies and get the benefit of playing for Chavis, who has made a name for himself by producing top-tier defensive line talent on a regular basis.
Is he playing games? No. I think Mack is actively looking around and trying to figure out where he's going, but in the end, it will be with the program he gave his pledge to in October of 2013.
But I guess more importantly, if I could find a place to take a bet on where where Mack goes, I'd probably just put that money back in my pocket and go play craps.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.
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The Texas A&M Aggies need to sign a quarterback in their 2015 recruiting class. Kyler Murray is currently committed to A&M and should sign with the program on Feb. 4 for a variety of reasons.
Murray is the most important recruit in the class. He would walk onto campus in August and immediately be the backup quarterback.
The Aggies only have one scholarship quarterback on campus right now, incumbent starter Kyle Allen, so Murray might even play in 2015—although the Aggies would prefer to redshirt him.
In the right system, Murray could be a Heisman-level performer. This is a look at why he should sign with Texas A&M on national signing day.
The 2014 season presented young and otherwise inexperienced members of the USC football team with opportunities to shine. In 2015, another wave of Trojans who flew under the radar could prove vital to USC's championship aspirations.
"On our team right now, it is critical everybody has a role," head coach Steve Sarkisian said in the final month of the 2014 regular season.
Those filling complementary roles should see their impact expand next year, thanks to the experience gained in the past campaign and departures in various spots on the roster.
The Trojans defense in particularly is rife with potential playmakers just waiting for their opportunity to break out in a big way. Some already began that process to close the past season.
Defensive end Claude Pelon was a 4-star junior college transfer coming into the year, but was slow to get his bearings at the Division I level. But early in Pac-12 Conference play, Pelon became a primary contributor on the defensive line.
He recorded all 2.5 of his sacks during the conference slate, including a critical one in the Trojans' 28-26 win at Arizona on Oct. 11.
Pelon also blocked a field goal in that win.
With three-year defensive line dynamo Leonard Williams headed to the NFL, Pelon has an opportunity to become the primary pass-rusher up front for the Trojans. However, he certainly won't be the only one USC needs to step up his production in 2015.
The linebacker corps is replete with talented role players, some of whom could emerge as leaders of USC's blitz defense in 2015.
Quinton Powell got his first taste of prominence in the USC defense late in the season, helping fill the void J.R. Tavai's injury left in the Trojans' pass rush.
"We've put him back in a role where he's doing what he's comfortable doing. That's rushing the passer," Sarkisian said of Powell in November. "We've minimized some of his traditional linebacker role and got him more in the pass rush role, and he's done a nice job at it."
Should Powell hone his run-stopping in the offseason, he'll have a much bigger role in his junior season.
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox should have plenty of options to insert some underrated or under-the-radar Trojans into more prominent positions.
Nelson Agholor and George Farmer forgoing their final year of eligibility opens up opportunities in the wide receiving corps. Steven Mitchell is one candidate to help fill the void.
Mitchell caught just seven passes in 2014, but two were touchdowns. As Mitchell's production proved, quarterback Cody Kessler was committed to distributing the scoring wealth rather evenly.
And Kessler should get some added red-zone support in 2015 with the return of tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick.
Cope-Fitzpatrick turned heads in spring workouts a year ago, but he missed the season due to academic issues.
He made his return to the team earlier this month, participating in throwing sessions.
With Randall Telfer gone, Cope-Fitzpatrick gives USC an experienced player capable of sliding into the other tight end spot along with Bryce Dixon. Telfer and Dixon were the Trojans' only tight ends on scholarship last season.
The continued development of these and other underrated Trojans into impact players could be a cornerstone of USC's pursuit of the Pac-12 title in 2015.
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Georgia commit Trent Thompson, a 313-pound defensive tackle from Albany, Georgia, is the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2015 in the 247Sports composite rankings.
But what exactly does that mean?
The past 10 No. 1 overall recruits have enjoyed varying success since leaving high school. None has failed to reach the NFL—at least not yet; three were still in college this season—but they haven't all panned out as hoped. In fact, not a single one has made a Pro Bowl.
Still, the path of each No. 1 overall player provides a framework for Thompson's career. How they performed in college, where they were drafted and where they are today will help Georgia fans (and anybody else who is interested) form reasonable expectations.
In order to look forward, we must look back.