NCAA Football News

Early Power Ranking of Best Week 1 Games for 2016 College Football Season

If you're bummed about the end of college football season, especially after national signing day, remember there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

It might be seven months away, but when Week 1 of next season arrives, it will feature the best slate of opening games in recent memory. And even that might be selling it short.

"The best day in college football history is coming," wrote USA Today's Dan Wolken two years ago. Kevin Kelley of FBS Schedules wrote more of the same. The matchups are so compelling they've been hyped since 2014.

So, without further ado, let's break them open. Here are 10 games whose teams and stories make us giddy for fall to arrive.

Sound off below and let us know where you disagree!

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Ranking the 10 Longest-Tenured Coaches in College Football

2015 was a year of change in college football coaching circles. Twenty-eight FBS head coaching positions changed hands, with the final move coming just days before national signing day when Southern Miss’ Jeff Monken left for an assistant coaching position with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

College football head coaching has never been known for its longevity or stability, and this offseason’s coaching carousel was especially harsh. Of the top 10 longest-serving coaches with a single institution, six either retired, were fired or changed jobs (or both). That made for a significant shakeup among coaches deemed to be the most stable. 

For comparison, here's FootballScoop's national coaching tenure list entering 2015. Gone now are names such as Frank Beamer, Steve Spurrier, Mark Richt and Gary Pinkel. 

We have a different group among the nation’s 10 longest-tenured head coaches, and we’re going to break them down for you. A note: Bill Snyder has spent 24 seasons as Kansas State’s head coach, but he is not on this list because he “retired” from 2006 to 2008 before replacing his replacement, Ron Prince, as the Wildcats’ head coach.

Just missing this list of ultimate longevity? Air Force’s Troy Calhoun, Alabama’s Nick Saban, Rice’s David Bailiff, Old Dominion’s Bobby Wilder (with time as an FCS head coach included) and Baylor’s Art Briles. Who made the list? Let’s break it down.

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Can Corey Coleman Transition from Baylor's Offense to NFL?

Baylor football head coach Art Briles has built one of the most potent offenses in college football over the past five years. But he hasn't exactly churned out successful NFL prospects.

Over the past five NFL drafts, Baylor has produced just five top-100 draft picks. That number jumps to six with the inclusion of wide receiver Josh Gordon, a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL supplemental draft.

The skill position players in that group have had moderate success at best. Off-field issues aside, Gordon has established himself as an elite receiver. But the others—Robert Griffin III, Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams—have been either been benched or are role players in their respective NFL offenses.

In most cases, it's best to ignore these apparent trends when evaluating the next top prospect from a given school—in this case, Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman.

Players fail to reach their ceiling at the next level for a wide range of reasons, and to assume those reasons will impact other prospects from the same school is just silly. But Art Briles' offensive scheme creates a unique situation that may tie the NFL failures of his prospects together.

To evaluate Coleman, let's take a look at some of his strengths, weaknesses and role in Baylor's offense impact his chances of succeeding in the NFL.

 

Route-Running

What constitutes a route in Baylor's offense looks more like something drawn up on a playground than anything you'll find in an NFL playbook.

For example, the route Coleman runs below can loosely be described as a stop-and-go route. However, Coleman's movements appear to indicate he's reacting to the quarterback rather than running a designed route.

Coleman's slow stop-and-side shuffle on the sideline isn't fooling Oklahoma State's cornerback, let alone any NFL scouts. His only hope of creating separation on this play is to simply outrun the cornerback once he restarts his route.

No NFL coach will teach this route because you can never assume your quarterback will have enough time in the pocket to complete the pass. For Coleman to run an effective stop-and-go route, he'll need to be crisp in his stop and explosive as he restarts.

Is Coleman capable of adjusting his routes to meet NFL standards? Probably.

He's clearly an elite athlete with exceptional speed. There's no reason to believe he isn't capable of running this route at an NFL level, but the fact that he hasn't done it raises a sliver of doubt.

Even this stop-and-go route is fairly complex for Baylor's offense.

The overwhelming majority of Coleman's targets came on screens, go routes and curl routes, which are routes he usually ad-libs and runs to find soft spots in zone coverage.

Here's an example of Coleman running a go route against Oklahoma State. While it showcases his speed, there's no shortage of receivers in the NFL capable of making these types of plays.

Baylor's spread offense creates these types of wide-open opportunities for Coleman on a regular basis, which severely limited the need for him to develop the nuanced route-running technique to create separation on his own.

One of the most NFL-ready receivers evaluated in recent years was New York Giants star Odell Beckham Jr., due to the incredible suddenness in his movements. Even at LSU, he could lose defensive backs in a single step due to his start-and-stop ability.

This play demonstrate the remarkable route-running technique Beckham displayed at LSU.

Unfortunately, we've never seen this from Coleman at Baylor. Due to the offense Baylor runs, he is rarely locked in tight coverage like this downfield.

It's important to reiterate that this doesn't mean Coleman can't run routes like Beckham. The raw athleticism is there for him to develop into an effective route-runner in the NFL.

But the fact that he hasn't been asked to run these routes will limit his ability to make an immediate impact at the next level.

 

Contested Catches

Unrelated to Baylor's offense, Coleman's ability to compete for contested catches is one of the reasons his game should transition well to the NFL.

Smaller receivers often struggle with this aspect of the game, but Coleman has demonstrated a willingness to battle for the ball and take some hits.

This skill was put on full display against Kansas State when he came down with this remarkable touchdown reception:

Battling for contested catches is an important trait for a receiver to display in college because it's difficult to teach.

These types of receptions require a focus and fearlessness that coaches can't instill in a player. Perhaps a player can improve with more reps, but there's never a surefire way to develop this skill in a young receiver.

The fact that Coleman has already displayed this ability should ease coaches' concerns about his ability to transition to the NFL.

 

Final Projection

So, can Coleman buck the trend and make a smooth transition from Baylor's offense to the NFL?

Based on his speed and all-around athleticism, the answer is definitely yes. But because of his role in Baylor's offense, there's more doubt than there would be if he had experience in a more pro-style system.

Most of the receivers who have made an immediate impact in recent years—Beckham and Amari Cooper are the best examples—have done so due to their remarkably refined route-running skills.

The ability to create separation, even in quick routes and against more athletic defensive backs, is what takes a talented receiver and turns him into an elite receiver. Beckham and Cooper demonstrated those skills from the minute they set foot on an NFL practice field. 

Coleman is far behind those two, and most others, in terms of his development.

So while Coleman's long-term future is more of a projection than a sure thing, he does show traits that should lead to some moments of success.

Receivers who excel in one area can still make an immediate impact. For example, Kelvin Benjamin was perhaps the most fundamentally erratic prospect I've scouted at the receiver position. But due to his 6'5", 240-pound frame and impressive leaping ability at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, the Carolina Panthers found an immediate role for him in their offense. 

Coleman wins with much different traits than Benjamin, but the example still applies. With his speed and ability to compete for contested catches, he should immediately find a role as a deep threat. 

Whether or not he develops into a more well-rounded receiver will be up to him and his willingness to master the technique of creating separation with his footwork rather than simply with his pure speed.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Thomas Tyner Announces Medical Retirement: Latest Details and Reaction

The Oregon Ducks announced running back Thomas Tyner will retire from football due to medical reasons. The 21-year-old missed the 2015 season after undergoing shoulder surgery in August and will finish his career with 1,284 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns in 23 games at Oregon. Andrew Greif of the Oregonian noted he was a former 5-star recruit.

According to Tyson Alger of the Oregonian, Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich said Tyner's future was still up in the air Wednesday.

"I think it just totally depends," Helfrich said. "Guys that are injured I never want to put a cap on that. If a guy is out for the year or done for his career, we'll talk about that."

However, it became clear when Helfrich spoke on the unfortunate situation Friday, per Rob Moseley of GoDucks.com.

“We thank Thomas and wish him well,” Helfrich said. “We will continue to support his efforts to graduate from the University of Oregon.”

Tyner tweeted a message thanking his supporters after the announcement:

The 5'11", 215-pound back showed promise during his freshman season, rushing for 711 yards and nine touchdowns. The next year, he gained 511 yards, including 62 in a 2015 national championship game loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Tyner suffered a shoulder injury in the middle of that season when he took a hit from Washington Huskies linebacker Shaq Thompson. Tyner's father said his son is now dealing with two bad shoulders, per Greif.

It's a tough situation for the Aloha, Oregon, native, but the Ducks must move on. Sophomore Royce Freeman broke the school rushing record with 1,836 yards in Tyner's absence and should remain the starter in 2016. 

The Ducks will be strong in the run game, as a trio of backs, freshmen Taj Griffin and Tony Brooks-James and sophomore Kani Benoit, combined for 1,222 yards on the ground while backing up Freeman last season, per Moseley.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Every Power 5 College Football Team's Top 2016 Recruit

A college football team's recruiting class is judged by the sum of its parts, but there's no denying the player at the top tends to draw the most initial interest.

These are the prospects each Power Five team wanted more than anyone else—the ones who serve as the face of their class and thus head into 2016 with the most notoriety.

Not all of the top recruits will end up contributing this first season, but for the time being, they're drawing the most attention. We've evaluated the top signee—based on their 247Sports composite ranking—for each Power Five conference team (as well as BYU and Notre Dame) and assessed their chances of being a part of the plan for this fall.

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SEC Teams Most Likely to Start True Freshmen in 2016

Anyone who wonders what kind of impact a freshman can have on a team only needs to look at the University of Alabama football program last season.

While many would think the Crimson Tide might probably be the least likely team for a freshman to contribute about half of the 2015 recruiting class, they did with wide receiver Calvin Ridley joining Amari Cooper as the only first-year players in program history to have 1,000-yard seasons.

“Well, he didn’t go into the year replacing a guy like Amari; that’s not our expectation for him,” head coach Nick Saban said. “He was playing, rotating with Robert Foster and ArDarius Stewart and [Richard] Mullaney. Those four guys were sort of playing a lot. Robert Foster got hurt, and that gave Calvin a lot more opportunity to play.

“But I can’t really say that I am surprised. When we recruited him, we thought he was an outstanding talent.”

Ridley and redshirt freshman cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who caught the onside kick against Clemson in the national championship game, ended up named to the Football Writers Association of America's Freshman All-America Team.

They were two of eight Southeastern Conference selections—the most of any league. The others were Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw, LSU offensive lineman Will Clapp, Missouri defensive end Walter Brady and defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr., with Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk named an all-purpose player and Florida’s Antonio Callaway at punt returner. 

With that in mind, here’s a look at the SEC teams most likely starting some true freshmen in 2016:

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College Football Teams That Recruited the Best at Each Position

By looking at 247Sports' team rankings, we know which teams added the most talent by volume this recruiting cycle.

We don't know, necessarily, where they added it.

To fix that, we've graded which team signed the most talent at each position. There are spots where even Alabama, which just won its sixth straight recruiting national title, failed to sign whomever it wanted.

The grades made heavy use of 247Sports' composite ratings, which aggregate four separate recruiting services. From there we compared the quality and quantity of players at each position in each class.

Sound off below and let us know what you think!

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Pac-12 Teams Most Likely to Start True Freshmen in 2016

National signing day is over, and the elation over completing a school’s recruiting class is still echoing around campuses across the Pac-12.

All told, it was a fairly impressive effort from several of the conference’s football programs. Both USC and UCLA finished strong to capture top-15 recruiting classes nationally, and others such as Arizona State, Oregon and Washington faired well in the rankings with top-40 classes despite not having a ton of scholarships to offer this February.

While coaches have barely had time to catch their breath from being out on the recruiting trail, work is no doubt underway to prepare for 2016. With that in mind, let's turn our attention to Pac-12 teams most likely to start their recently signed players as true freshmen or transfers this season.

While every squad will likely see a newcomer wind up as a starter because of either injuries or talent level, here are a few who are already factoring in their new signees. 

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Most Underrated 2016 College Football Recruiting Classes

The big winners of national signing day earlier this week were obvious.

Defending national champion Alabama closed extremely hard to put together another consensus No. 1 class. Texas skyrocketed up the rankings with a big Wednesday haul. Michigan nabbed the nation's top player on a day that featured a one-of-a-kind recruiting event with plenty of celebrities.

Other recruiting powerhouses such as Florida State, LSU, Ohio State, Georgia and Auburn finished once again with top-10 classes. Florida, Tennessee, Notre Dame and Penn State occupied coveted spots in the overall top 20. 

But what about those programs that didn't get much of the spotlight on signing day? Which ones can feel like they signed a haul that was much better than the rankings indicated? 

Here are 10 programs that finished outside the top 20 of 247Sports' composite team rankings with truly underrated recruiting classes, based on the percentage of blue-chip recruits they signed and the needs they filled. True success on the recruiting trail doesn't always come down to who gets the best numbers.

Which 2016 recruiting class outside the top 20 do you believe is the most underrated? Tell us in the comments below.

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Pat Haden to Retire as USC Athletic Director: Latest Comments and Reaction

The University of Southern California announced Friday that athletic director Pat Haden is going to retire from the position effective June 30. 

USC president C. L. Max Nikias passed along the news in a letter to the school community. He also stated Haden agreed to a one-year deal to lead the renovation of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Nikias went on to explain the process school officials are planning to replace Haden:

Going forward, I will be working closely with Nick Brill, principal and co-founder of the Brill Neumann executive search firm, to identify USC's next athletic director. His firm brings valuable experience working with USC, and me directly, on previous executive searches, including senior vice president positions. The process will be national in scope, with all proceedings held in the strictest confidence, for the benefit of USC Athletics and all qualified candidates.

Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times provided further background about the search:

Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer included the names of some potential candidates:

Haden, who played quarterback for the Trojans in the 1970s, returned to the program to serve as athletic director starting in 2010.

His retirement announcement comes after a tumultuous stretch for the football program, which included the firing of Steve Sarkisian in October. The former head coach filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit in December for letting him go while he sought alcohol-rehabilitation treatment, per ESPN.

Research by Paul Pringle and Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times after Sarkisian's departure showed Haden was filling more than a dozen roles aside from his work with USC. He downplayed the issue, however.

"You can't work any more at this job than I do," Haden said. But that didn't stop the criticism directed at the 63-year-old.

In late October, he stepped down from the College Football Playoff selection committee and stated his doctors wanted him to take on less travel burden, as the CFP's official site noted.

Despite the mixed feedback late in Haden's tenure, Nikias applauded his overall efforts with the school's athletic department over the past handful of years, as Greg Beacham of the Associated Press highlighted:

By retiring from the role of athletic director but agreeing to help with the stadium renovations, Haden gets to remain close to the football program without the same level of burden. And USC can begin to move in a new direction once the new AD is hired.

The announcement didn't include a timetable for how long that search is going to last.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big 12 Teams Most Likely to Start True Freshmen in 2016

With national signing day over, the rosters for 2016 are about 99 percent set. Now comes the true offseason when two-deeps are formed, crumpled up, thrown in the trash and then drawn back up. (And then the process is repeated again. Probably a few times.)

With high school football and summer camps creating a year-round sport, incoming freshmen are more prepared than ever to play, and in some cases start, right away. In the following slides are the teams most likely to start key 2016 signees next season. 

The reality is every Big 12 program will play some freshmen—and it's hardly alone in that, too—so where's the fun in projecting that? Rather, we're taking a look at teams that are most likely to start multiple first-year players, whom we identify as well, from Week 1 based on talent and depth-chart needs. 

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Pat Narduzzi Comments on James Conner's Battle with Hodgkin Lymphoma

Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner was one of the shining stars in college football when he won the 2014 ACC Player of the Year, but his world drastically changed in 2015 when he announced he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Pittsburgh received promising news Friday, and its coach reportedly expects the running back to return in 2016. 

Jared Shanker of ESPN confirmed Pat Narduzzi believes Conner will take the field in 2016 and passed along this quote from the coach:

Conner was one of the best running backs in the country in 2014 and tallied 1,765 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. He started the 2015 season in a promising way with 77 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the season opener against Youngstown State, but he injured his MCL and missed the rest of the campaign.

He announced he had Hodgkin lymphoma in December and was optimistic about the future at the time in a press release (via Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com): "I will play football again. I will be at Heinz Field again. I have the best coaches and teammates in the country. I thank God I chose Pitt because now I also have the best doctors in the country, and together we will win. I know this city has my back."

Narduzzi also pledged the support of the football team, via Fortuna:

Know this: James Conner will not face this challenge alone. We are all going to be right beside him every step of the way. And the day that he is declared cancer free, we will all celebrate like we do after one of his patented touchdown runs. James has never backed down from an opponent, and we all know this is a battle he will win.

Jerry DiPaola of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review noted in January Conner “reacted well” to the majority of the chemotherapy treatments and was already back in the Pittsburgh weight room at times.

Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com provided another update and said Conner wouldn’t participate in spring practice but “is targeting a September return.”

The Panthers play Penn State, Oklahoma State and North Carolina in September, so it would be a major boost if they added a game-changing running back to the mix during a daunting portion of their schedule.

If Conner does return, it will be another success story in football for a player dealing with this disease. Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2014, and all he did was make the Pro Bowl this season as an enforcer on the back end of the defense.

The Panthers do have some pieces to fill in for Conner until he is back.

Qadree Ollison played admirably in Conner’s absence in 2015 and topped the 1,000-yard mark with 1,121 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in his freshman season. It is only natural to expect further development with a year of experience under his belt at the collegiate level, and he will certainly be ready to tote the rock until Conner is back (and share the backfield when that happens).

Darrin Hall was another freshman back for the Panthers last season who tallied 257 rushing yards and two touchdowns and adds important depth to the backfield.

Pittsburgh improved from 6-7 in 2014 to 8-5 in Narduzzi’s first season and reached the Military Bowl. The team could be even stronger and continue that ascension in 2016, especially if Conner joins an already talented running back group.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Teams Most Likely to Start True Freshmen in 2016

National signing day is in the books for 2016, and the Big Ten has added a new crop of talent to its core for the coming years.

Overall, it was an impressive day for the conference, with two top-five classes and five top-25 finishes in the 247Sports' national rankings.

Some players will wait longer to develop, while other true freshmen will make an instant impact in the 2016 season. Much of that will be based on the specific needs of each team and the ability of its true freshmen to contribute immediately.

When it comes to the Big Ten, 2016 should be an interesting year, as several of the league's high-profile teams may need to count on true freshmen at one point or another. With that in mind, let's take a look at the Big Ten teams that are most likely to start their recently signed players in 2016.

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2017 4-Star OG Netori Johnson Tweets Decommitment from Alabama

Just two days after closing with yet another No. 1 recruiting class, Alabama's 2017 class is already shifting with a decommitment from 4-star offensive guard Netori Johnson.

On Friday, Johnson tweeted a message stating he was opening up his recruitment again, although Alabama would continue to be one of his top schools:

The 4-star offensive guard from Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood, Georgia, had been committed to Alabama since receiving an offer from the Crimson Tide at a camp last June.

Johnson, a 6'5" and 330-pound junior, is currently rated as the nation's No. 5 offensive guard and No. 121 overall recruit. He was Alabama's fifth-highest-rated commitment for the 2017 class, which is currently ranked No. 2 behind Ohio State.

The news of Johnson's decommitment from the Crimson Tide is a good sign for SEC rivals Auburn and Georgia, who are said to be among his new leaders.

Half of Johnson's four "crystal ball" predictions at 247Sports have him staying in state with the Bulldogs this time next year. 

New Georgia coach Kirby Smart told reporters Wednesday that the offensive line would be a high priority for the Bulldogs in the 2017 class after missing out on several key targets in this past cycle.

"When you go to the offensive line, it's not exactly what we want," Smart said, per Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com. "We want some offensive tackles. If you say what's the number one need going into 2017, it's offensive tackles is what we need. That's the most deficient area on our front."

Although Johnson is listed as a guard on 247Sports, he has the size and the ability to play offensive tackle at the next level.

According to Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports, Auburn could be considered the new No. 1 school for Johnson, who visited the Plains last weekend and said the Tigers "were his No. 2" behind Alabama.

Johnson was high school teammates with 2016 4-star defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson, who enrolled early with the Tigers. He also met new Auburn offensive line coach Herb Hand, formerly of Penn State.

"One, they have one of my players," Johnson said, per Niebuhr. "My coaches like the school and have a great connection. So I’m really liking Auburn night now."

A team outside the SEC that could become a major factor in this 2017 offensive lineman's recruitment is none other than Michigan.

Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh visited Johnson on Jan. 25 and offered him a scholarship, giving him 15 total offers from FBS programs. 

"I'm definitely interested in Michigan," Johnson said, per Steve Lorenz of 247Sports. "I find them to be a very great school and a very great football program. ... Coach Harbaugh is the one who offered me, and I already know he is a great coach that knows how to produce and win games."

Like Auburn, Michigan also has a former Cedar Grove teammate of Johnson's set to join its roster—2016 3-star inside linebacker signee Elysee Mbem-Bosse.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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5-Star Tide Signee Ben Davis 'Shooting For' Father's Alabama Tackles Record

Ben Davis was diligent on the recruiting trail but ultimately found no alternative worth passing on a legacy opportunity at Alabama.

"I went with my heart," the nation's No. 1 overall linebacker recruit told Bleacher Report.

Davis committed to the Crimson Tide on national signing day, following his father's footsteps to Tuscaloosa. He declared those intentions Wednesday morning during a ceremony at Gordo High School in Alabama:

Davis, a 6'3", 240-pound prospect, considered several universities during an expansive recruitment process, displaying perhaps more reciprocated interest elsewhere than many anticipated. His dad, Wayne Davis, is Alabama's all-time tackles leader, recording 327 during a career that spanned 1983 through 1986.

That personal tie with the program provides extra incentive to pile up big plays in Tuscaloosa.

"He's got a great record there, but I'll be shooting for it. I'm gonna try to bust it," Davis said. "I won't be thinking about it. I'm just going to ball out, work hard, and if it happens, it happens. It'd be pretty cool. I'm gonna try to break it."

Davis racked up 119 tackles and seven touchdown receptions in 2015, according to Joey Chandler of the Tuscaloosa News, earning MVP honors at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic. He was also a finalist for the Butkus Award, which is annually handed out to America's premier high school linebacker.

Despite official visits to Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Notre Dame, national recruiting analysts pegged Davis as a 100 percent Crimson Tide lock in his 247Sports Crystal Ball. The decision wasn't nearly that simple, according to Nick Saban's newest blue-chip defender.

"I was really sweating it between Alabama and Auburn," Davis said. "I had such a great visit to Auburn last weekend, but I just woke up and went with my heart."

He didn't finalize a choice until the morning of national signing day, notifying defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and assistant Bo Davis prior to sharing his intentions with a national television audience. He spoke with Saban afterward.

"He's ready to get me down to Tuscaloosa and coach me," Davis said. "It seems like he's already ready for next season. Very business-like, which is what I like. He knows what it takes to win, and I'm ready to be part of the process."

Rated No. 10 among all 2016 recruits in composite rankings, he was considered one of the most coveted uncommitted athletes entering national signing day. Hours after his announcement, fellow in-state 5-star linebacker and Butkus Award finalist Lyndell "Mack" Wilson also signed with the Crimson Tide over Georgia.

Davis and Wilson are close friends and often discussed the possibility of pairing up throughout this process. That plan came to fruition, providing Alabama with a 10-star linebacker duo that helped propel the program to a sixth straight No. 1 recruiting class in composite rankings.

"We talked about it a lot during the past year. We work together in a special way, and we're really like brothers," Davis said. "Our families have bonded, and it kind of feels like family. He and I can help continue a great linebacker tradition at Alabama."

Based on conversations with the Crimson Tide coaching staff, Davis expects to begin his collegiate career at inside linebacker. He will enroll at the university in June.

"Our class can help create another dynasty. But we've got to come in, work hard and strive to be great. It's all about getting better every day and pushing for a national championship," he said.

Coaching staffs across the country invested significant effort in an attempt to sever Davis' ties with the school his father attended. After years of surveying his options, the lauded linebacker officially feels right at home with Alabama.

"My dad was very excited. It means a lot to be able to do this," Davis said. "I get to play the game that I love and continue a legacy at Alabama."

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.

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Why Alabama Had the Best Recruiting Class on National Signing Day

On January 11, the University of Alabama declared itself as the national champion in a 45-40 victory over Clemson in the College Football Playoff.

Less than a month later, the Crimson Tide were at it again. This time, on national signing day.

This past Wednesday, high school seniors and junior college transfers committed their futures to a university to play football at the collegiate level. Since 2011, Alabama has not had a recruiting class rank lower than fourth and has had the top recruiting class in the nation for the second time in the past three years, according to Scout.com

The Crimson Tide closed Wednesday by signing 5-star linebacker Ben Davis, 5-star linebacker Mack Wilson and 4-star cornerbacks Jared Mayden and Shyheim Carter on national signing day to vault themselves to the top of the table.

Alabama was able to land seven top-100 players including three 5-star recruits, 16 4-star recruits and six 3-star recruits for a total of 25 signees.

Although it did finish No. 1 at the end of signing day, going into Wednesday, however, Alabama wasn’t the top-ranked class.

Or in the top five, for that matter.

Head coach Nick Saban’s team barely cracked the top 10, holding onto the No. 9 spot, according to ESPN, before Wednesday’s turnaround. Even though ESPN has Florida State as its No. 1-ranked recruiting class, Alabama signed more impact players who could one day carry on the tradition of winning national championships:

 

SIGNEES

Ben Davis LB, 5-star

Lyndell Wilson LB, 5-star

B.J. Emmons RB, 4-star

Nigel Knott CB, 4-star

Shyheim Carter CB, 4-star

Raekwon Davis DT, 4-star

Scott Lashley T, 4-star

Kendell Jones DT, 4-star

Trevon Diggs ATH, 4-star

Jared Mayden CB, 4-star

Quinnen Williams DT, 4-star

Deonte Brown G, 4-star

Terrell Hall DL, 4-star

Aaron Robinson CB, 3-star

Joshua Jacobs RB, 3-star

Jamar King DE, 3-star

Irvin Smith, TE, 3-star

 

EARLY ENROLLEES

Jonah Williams T, 5-star

Charles Baldwin T, 4-star

Jalen Hurts QB, 4-star

Chris Owens G, 4-star

Miller Forristall TE, 3-star

T.J. Simmons WR, 3-star

Shawn Jennings ATH, 3-star

Christian Bell, DE, 3-star (2015 grayshirt).

Getting Wilson's signature was one of Alabama's best commits in this class, and it didn't hurt that he had one of the best commitment videos either. 

Michigan signed the nation's top player and No. 1 defensive tackle Rashan Gary even with Alabama in the hunt for his signature, but the Crimson Tide were able to reinforce their defensive line with the likes of 4-star defensive end Terrell Hall, who will give Saban and his defense a solid backup behind Jonathan Allen. 

Coming off a national championship, the Crimson Tide didn't need much to show that they'll be around for the foreseeable future, and it just goes to show how Saban and his coaching staff continue to dominate on the field and off of it. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tee Higgins Decommits from Tennessee: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Less than five months after committing to the University of Tennessee, football and basketball star Tee Higgins has decided to reopen his recruiting. 

Higgins made the announcement Thursday on his official Twitter account, adding that he's not ruling Tennessee out:

Higgins originally committed to Tennessee in August, explaining the process to Mike Blackerby of the Knoxville News Sentinel: “I talked to Coach Jones and told him I’ve got some news. It (UT) is right in my backyard and my family can come watch me play. I was just ready to commit.”

It was a boon for Vols head coach Butch Jones, as Higgins is a 4-star prospect, the seventh-ranked wide receiver and the No. 39 overall prospect in the 2017 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

Higgins is also the third-ranked player in the state of Tennessee, so keeping one of the best talents in-state could only help Jones. While Higgins isn't taking the Volunteers off his board entirely, this is a nervous time for the program. 

Making matters even more tense in Tennessee is that Higgins attended Clemson's junior day last weekend, per Cory Fravel of 247Sports.

The defending ACC champion Tigers are ranked second on 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions for Higgins, garnering 31 percent of the vote. Those results have not yet been updated to reflect his decision, but it certainly appears as if Clemson is making noise. 

Richard Daugherty of 1340 WKGN in Knoxville noted that there is a precedent for Jones to entice players back who have decommitted during the recruiting process:

Considering that Higgins has one full year before national signing day, he is under no pressure to make a decision right now. 

His having more time to think about his best interests, both on the field and in the classroom, will be better for all parties involved. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Houston Coaches Parody Scene from Office Space After National Signing Day

Since national signing day is over, the Houston coaching staff no longer needs to keep the ol' fax machine around.

So, some coaches and a member of the Cougars administration went all Office Space on it (Warning: Link contains NSFW language).

Head coach Tom Herman, assistant athletic director Fernando Lovo and director for football sports performance Yancy McKnight brought a bat out to the field and went to town.

That’s how it's done.

[YouTube]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big 12 Commissioner Comments on Likelihood of Championship Game in 2016

Despite many calls for the contrary, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Thursday it is "unlikely" the conference will add a championship game by next season, according to Jake Trotter of ESPN.com.

Bowlsby indicated that any major decisions on the matter would not come for at least a few more months, per George Schroeder of USA Today:

Because it only houses 10 schools, the Big 12 isn’t required to conduct a conference title game. Instead, it relies on regular-season conference standings. Title tiebreakers are determined by head-to-head scheduling and Top 25 rankings under the conference's current round-robin format that pits all 10 teams against each other one time.    

On Jan. 13, the Division I council adopted a proposal that would allow conferences with fewer than 12 members to hold championship games pitting the top two teams in the standings against each other. 

The move was clearly geared to accommodate the Big 12, as it's the lone Power Five conference that doesn’t hold a conference championship game. 

Yet despite the rule change, Bowlsby was noncommittal on if the Big 12 would implement a title game at the end of the regular season, courtesy of Max Olson of ESPN.com: 

I appreciate that what was acted upon today takes into account our unique 10-team, full round-robin scheduling model. However, this vote does not automatically mean the Big 12 will implement a football championship game. 

Our membership will continue to analyze its pros and cons, as we now know the requirements should we decide to go down that path.

Given that Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News noted Bowlsby and the conference bigwigs will be meeting this week to consider items such as a TV network and possible expansion, in addition to a title game, it's not a surprise the commissioner is remaining circumspect on the matter:

The Big 12 hosted a neutral-site title game for its first 15 years of existence, but it was eliminated after Missouri, Texas A&M, Colorado and Nebraska ventured to other conferences, leaving the conference with 10 members and below the requirement for needing a title game. 

Last year’s champion, Oklahoma, reached the College Football Playoff despite not playing in a conference title game like its trio of counterparts—Alabama, Clemson and Michigan State—which all played Top 25 opponents in their respective conference championship games to reach the playoff. 

In fact, Oklahoma was essentially the first playoff team to lock up a spot by winning the Big 12 outright in the final week of the regular season while sitting at No. 3 in the CFP rankings.

But the Sooners’ story contradicted the Big 12’s fate the year prior, when champion TCU tumbled from third to sixth in the final CFP rankings despite winning the conference title in its final regular-season game with a 55-3 shellacking of Iowa State. The CFP committee supplanted the Horned Frogs with eventual champion Ohio State, which won its Big Ten title game, 59-0, over Wisconsin. 

The knocks on TCU were that the committee considered its nonconference schedule a cupcake—the Horned Frogs played unranked Minnesota and Southern Methodist and Samford of the FCS—and that it didn’t have to play an extra game for the Big 12 title the way Ohio State, Alabama and Oregon did to qualify for the 2014 playoff. 

TCU also shared the Big 12 title with Baylor in 2014, a distinction that could’ve been determined outright in a conference title game.

Bowlsby even admitted a year later that he underestimated just how much emphasis the CFP committee would put on what he called a “13th data point,” referring to a 13th game when speaking with Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports:

“The one piece of it that we really didn’t full understand, I think, was the 13th data point, and just how much weight the committee was going to put on that,” Bowlsby said in December of TCU’s exclusion the year prior. "And of course we still are in a situation where we don’t have that 13th data point.”

Here is a look at Bowlsby’s full interview with Gottlieb, which extensively covers the prospect of the Big 12 adding a title game:

The Big 12 will assuredly continue to contend for a playoff spot, but when it comes to tiebreakers, the Power 5 conferences that do play a championship game will have the upper hand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Early Top 25 College Football Recruiting Classes for 2017

We may still be digesting the developments of an exciting 2016 national signing day, but college coaching staffs can't afford to rest on their laurels. Programs across America are well underway with their recruitment of the 2017 class, and America's high school juniors are now thrust into the spotlight as top targets.

It remains extremely early in the 2017 cycle, but several squads have already made big moves. Here's how we size up the nation's top 25 classes one year away from next signing day, with a nod toward talent value or sheer volume.

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