NCAA Football News

Texas Football: 5 Longhorns Who Could Surprise People This Spring

The Texas Longhorns begin spring practice on March 25, hoping some unexpected gems will emerge to fill the gaps on the roster. Without them, Charlie Strong will have to play a lot of inexperienced true freshmen.

Strong's lost 10 starters from last season and has only six of his 28 commits on campus for spring ball. Until the rest arrive on campus, it will be tough to count on the summer enrollees to fill starting roles or even provide quality depth at this stage.

That means Strong and his staff will have to find help elsewhere from guys who are ready to make an impression.

Fortunately, there's some real talent and athletic potential poised to do just that.

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Virginia Tech Football: 5 Hokies Who Could Surprise People This Spring

The Virginia Tech Hokies will open spring practice in just a few short weeks. While the regular season doesn't kick off until about six months from now, the opening of spring practice is viewed by some as the unofficial beginning of the new football season. 

While many Hokies fans were disappointed at last season's 7-6 campaign, it's important to note that Virginia Tech did defeat eventual national champion Ohio State in Columbus. Also, the Hokies won their final two games of the season and ended the 2014 season on a strong note.

The best news for Tech fans: Most of last season's team will return along with an influx of talented freshmen. 

Virginia Tech only needs to replace seven starters combined on both sides of the ball. Three of those starters are along the offensive line, while both safeties on defense will be new. 

Here are five players who could surprise people this spring and be in line for starting gigs in 2015, or make significant moves up the depth chart. 

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Top 50 College Football Players Entering Spring Practice

Spring is in the air, at least from a college football standpoint, as several college football teams have returned to the practice field for offseason workouts in advance of the 2015 season.

Between now and early May, every FBS program will use their allotted practice time to address areas of deficiency from the year before, implement new offensive and defensive strategies and search for replacements for departed stars. It's also a time for the game's top players to get back into shape and gear up for an even better season than what they just produced.

Another stellar crop of stars graduated or turned pro early following the 2014 campaign, but there's no shortage of top performers still around. Here's our list of the 50 best players in college football heading into spring practice.

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Terrell Hall to OSU: Buckeyes Land 4-Star DE Prospect

The Ohio State football machine continues to roll on.

Fresh off a national championship, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes made waves on the recruiting trail Monday when they added defensive end Terrell Hall to their 2016 class. The player himself announced the news on Twitter:

The 6’5” and 250-pound Hall is a 4-star prospect, via 247Sports’ composite rankings, from Washington, D.C. He checks in as the No. 142 player nationally, the No. 9 player at his position and the No. 2 player in the D.C. area and will have the chance to compete for playing time right away in the Ohio State rotation.

The first thing that jumps out about Hall is his size, which helps him swat down passes and pursue running backs in space, but he also brings impressive athleticism and speed to the table. He will use that combination of size, strength and speed to overpower offensive linemen on running plays and blow past them around the edge on passing plays.

Ohio State has a rich tradition of defensive linemen dominating the line of scrimmage. Perhaps Hall will be the next in line.

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Meet 4-Star QB Feleipe Franks, the First Invite to the Elite 11 Finals

One of the bigger names in attendance at the Orlando Nike camp on Sunday was 4-star LSU commitment and quarterback Feleipe Franks.

The 6’5”, 220-pounder from Wakulla (Florida) High School didn’t disappoint, as he put on a show and became the first passer in the 2016 class to earn a prestigious invite to the Elite 11 finals.

As noted by Shea Dixon of 247Sports, Franks earned high praise after flashing a big arm during drills and in the seven-on-seven portions of the camp. 

"The LSU commitment showed a strong arm and did a good job making a variety of throws," according to the 247Sports staff who viewed Franks at the camp. "Franks is a quarterback that continues to progress at a good rate."

What makes Franks a special prospect and why is he poised to become the quarterback of the future in Baton Rouge? 

For starters, he brings an NFL type of frame to the table. 

As his work in Orlando showed, he also has the type of arm talent that makes him one of the more coveted signal-callers in the 2016 class. 

Along with the size, Franks, who is rated as the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback, has the capacity to make big plays happen with his legs when things break down in the pocket. 

Recently, LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron detailed to Ron Higgins of NOLA.com exactly what he is looking for from the quarterback position in his system.

"We want a pocket-mobile guy, but not a run-first guy,” Cameron told Higgins. “We want someone who's tough, smart and can throw the ball like Zach Mettenberger, someone with a strong arm who's innately accurate."

Franks seems to have all of the traits necessary to excel in Cameron’s offense.

According to MaxPreps, as a junior, Franks threw for 2,249 yards with 28 touchdowns and only eight interceptions while racking up another 425 yards and three scores on the ground.

He committed to the Tigers last June over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State and Georgia, among others. As Sonny Shipp of Geaux247 notes, he’s remained firm in his pledge despite other schools still coming after him. 

His high school head coach, Scott Klees, told Shipp that another thing that makes his star pupil special is his competitive drive.

“One thing I really like about him is he is a competitor and really wants to win,” Klees said. “The biggest thing about Feleipe when he goes to LSU is he is going to have all of the tools, but what I think is going to separate him from others is he is such a competitor that he is going to put in the work to win.”

That spirit was on display at the camp, and it helped him take a step forward in proving himself to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the 2016 class.

 

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

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James Franklin Maintains Recruiting Momentum with Penn State Junior Day

Four weeks ago, James Franklin announced Penn State's presence on the recruiting trail by inking the nation's 14th-ranked class—the second-best in the Big Ten.

On Saturday, the second-year Nittany Lions head coach managed to maintain his program's apparent momentum.

That was when Penn State hosted its second junior day under Franklin, an annual recruiting showcase where the Nittany Lions invite several of the country's top underclassmen to come check out State College. Just as last year's junior day played a key role in helping build Franklin's highly anticipated 2015 class, this year's could prove equally crucial in creating an encore.

And if the reviews from the prospects in attendance are any indication, the Penn State program hasn't lost a step.

Per Greg Pickel of PennLive.com, 90 prospects headed to Happy Valley for this year's junior day, with five players receiving offers, including three juniors and two sophomores. As of Monday afternoon, the Nittany Lions were yet to receive a commitment from any of them, but that doesn't mean this past weekend wasn't a success.

With four players already committed to its 2016 class, Penn State aimed big with its weekend offers, extending invitations to a pair of junior defensive tackles and a safety. Charlotte Independence 3-star defensive tackle Christian Colon received the Nittany Lions' first offer of the weekend, which the 6'3", 325-pounder took to Twitter to celebrate.

In addition to Penn State, Colon currently holds offers from North Carolina, Boston College and Louisville, among others. The Nittany Lions, however, appear to be sitting pretty in the race for his services, with Colon telling Pickel that Penn State is "at least" in his top three of potential suitors.

Mike Panasiuk of Roselle, Illinois, was the other 2016 defensive tackle Franklin offered this weekend, and like Colon, the fellow 3-star prospect expressed his excitement via Twitter.

Panasiuk has also been offered by Iowa, Iowa State, Syracuse and Miami (Ohio), but the 44th-ranked defensive tackle in the 2016 class' interest is highest in Penn State, per 247Sports.com.

Rounding out the trio of juniors offered at the Nittany Lions' junior day was Detroit Cass Tech 3-star Demetric Vance. Unlike Colon and Panasiuk, Vance may prove to be a tougher target to land in State College, as the 6'1", 193-pounder already had offers from Big Ten rivals Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa heading into the weekend.

In the class of 2017, Franklin aimed for a pair of inside linebackers in Pittsburgh Central Catholic's David Adams and Wilmington (Delaware) Concord's Avery Roberts. While neither player accepted his offer to Penn State on the spot, each expressed excitement over their respective offers to Pickel, with Roberts taking to Twitter to tease a potential commitment.

The positivity from Penn State's junior day, however, wasn't just limited to the small fraction of players who walked away with offers.

A 4-star quarterback by way of Holmdel, New Jersey, Anthony Brown took the trip to Happy Valley this weekend, as did 4-star wide receiver Aaron Mathews, 3-star cornerback Lonnie Moore, 3-star athlete Delontae Moore, 3-star cornerback Zechariah McPhearson and 3-star cornerback and Virginia Tech commit Myles Wolfolk. A 6'5" wideout with offers from West Virginia and Pitt among others, Mathews was the headliner of the bunch still without offers from Penn State, but he seemed to enjoy his time in Happy Valley nonetheless.

Factor in the players committed to the Nittany Lions in attendance for junior day—4-star running back Miles Sanders and 4-star defensive end Shane Simmons—and it becomes clear that Penn State recruiting is still in a positive place. There are still 11 months to go until next year's signing day, but the Nittany Lions already lay claim to the nation's 16th-ranked class, with events like junior day only continuing to build Franklin's momentum.

 

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

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5-Star Caleb Kelly Tweets Top 10: Odds on Where No. 1 Player in California Lands

Top-ranked California prospect Caleb Kelly provided a glimpse of where his recruitment currently stands Monday afternoon by sharing a top-10 list on Twitter:

Kelly, a junior at Clovis West High School in Fresno, noted that he is ready to reach a new chapter in the process. Though many programs remain in the mix, it's a sizable step for a prospect whose scholarship list is approaching 30 offers.

"I feel it is time to start narrowing down some of these schools," Kelly wrote.

The 6'3", 215-pound player rates third nationally among outside linebackers and 14th overall in 247Sports' composite rankings. He validated his 5-star status last fall, tallying 872 receiving yards and a single-game effort that featured 20 tackles, per MaxPreps.

Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Damon Sayles detailed Kelly's rare skill set as part of our CFB Future 100 Series.

"Kelly's Twitter bio may be a perfect firsthand description: 'Look like a linebacker, move like a DB,'" Sayles wrote. "Kelly has good size, but it's his quickness that makes him an intriguing prospect. His ability to blitz makes him a prime candidate as a nickel in the right defense."

With 10 teams still in the mix for his services, here's how we break down the favorites in this pursuit.

 

1. UCLA

Kelly kept UCLA on his list while leaving off USC and Stanford. It's a great sign for the Bruins, whose top West Coast competition appears to be Oregon. 

Jim Mora led his squad to a fantastic finish last signing day and already has a foundational defensive player in place for this cycle. Los Angeles standout Breland Brandt, the country's top-rated weak-side defensive end, gave UCLA a 5-star pledge last season. 

Bruins' odds: 3-1

 

2. Oregon

The Ducks have grown into a Pac-12 powerhouse due in large part to successful under-the-radar recruiting efforts in California. Oregon flirted with 5-star prospects like Iman Marshall, Josh Sweat and Rasheem Green during the 2015 cycle but was unable to seal the deal despite a growing national reach.

Another strong season and playoff contention in the post-Marcus Mariota era would certainly help the team's case with Kelly. Oregon has seen its fair share of offensive superstars and could take another leap in the college football hierarchy by developing a household name on defense. 

Ducks' odds: 6-1

 

3. Michigan

Jim Harbaugh has yet to secure his own 2016 commitment since taking over the program in late December. Despite a lack of results, his presence has certainly provided intrigue for recruiting targets. 

Michigan made late strides with top-ranked 2015 cornerback Marshall and even landed an official visit. Kelly, a fellow California star, is interested enough to visit campus this spring. He is expected to arrive in Ann Arbor in mid-March, giving Harbaugh and his staff a pivotal opportunity to sell him on a return trip this fall.

Wolverines' odds: 8-1

 

Wild Card: Oklahoma

The Sooners have developed a beneficial pipeline to Northern California and shouldn't be counted out as a long shot in this race by any means. Despite an underwhelming 2014 season, Bob Stoops assembled a quality defensive haul last month on signing day.

Expect Kelly to spend time in Norman before reaching any decision, setting the stage for Oklahoma to send him home impressed and thinking strongly about a future with the Sooners.

Sooners' odds: 12-1

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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5 Heisman Hopefuls from the ACC for 2015 College Football Season

Before Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy in 2013, the last player from the ACC to take home the honor was Chris Weinke back in 2000. As for the last non-Seminole to win the award, that would be Gino Torretta, the Miami quarterback back in 1992.

As we head into the 2015 college football season, the ACC boasts quite a bit of talent. So much talent, there's a belief that a few players may have a real shot at pushing for the Heisman Trophy. It won't be easy, though, as the nation is loaded with talented players who are sure to put together impressive resumes.

The following five players, as well as the honorable mention list, are all likely to have strong resumes of their own when the season comes to an end. Could this be the first time since 1992 where a non-FSU player makes a push for the Heisman Trophy? It very well may be.

This list not only includes the honorable mention choices, but also ranks the top five prospects as well.

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Building Texas A&M's 2016 Dream Recruiting Class

The Texas A&M Aggies may have had a disappointing 2014 season, but Kevin Sumlin and company locked up a top-15 recruiting class, per 247Sports, for the 2015 cycle and now have their sights set on 2016's. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee offers his 2016 Texas A&M dream class, detailing who it should target. 

Who should Texas A&M go after in the 2016 cycle? Check out the video and let us know! 

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4-Star Oklahoma Commit Jean Delance 'Feeling Good About' Texas Offer

Jean Delance was a little disappointed when he didn't get the chance to go to Austin, Texas, for Saturday's Texas Longhorns junior day. Even as an Oklahoma commit.

Because of unfavorable weather conditions, the 4-star offensive tackle chose to stay home. Yet of the three offers the Longhorns gave out Saturday, one went to the player who skipped junior day.

The first one, as a matter of fact.

Delance, the nation's No. 17 offensive tackle and No. 162 player overall, now has a Texas offer that holds as much weight as his Oklahoma one. And because of Delance's interest in Texas, a recruiting battle between the Red River Rivalry participants is expected.

"I can't lie, I'm feeling good about it," Delance told Bleacher Report about his Texas offer. "I made an early decision off an at-the-time moment. Now I'm getting out and seeing other places.

"I try to stay pretty open-minded. I'm still committed [to Oklahoma], but that rivalry is real."

Delance said he was asked to contact offensive line coach Joe Wickline Friday night. Delance made the call Saturday morning and told Wickline he wouldn't make junior day, but the staff was understanding, given the icy road conditions throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Delance, who has bulked up 20 pounds since the end of the 2014 season, then got the news he would have received had he made the trip. He became the seventh offensive tackle to land a Texas offer—and the fourth already committed to another program, according to 247Sports.

The new offer means Delance, now at 6'5" and 278 pounds, has some thinking to do.

"They've been pretty straight-up with everything. They said they're looking for a guy to come in early," Delance said of Texas. "Coach Wick said he's not afraid to play freshmen. He told me the opportunity was mine if I was ready."

Delance added that the Longhorns want to use him at left tackle. He added that he wouldn't be opposed to redshirting if that was the best option.

But there's a bigger question on the table: Can Oklahoma keep him committed?

The team of offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Cale Gundy have done a great job recruiting Delance, one of two Sooners commits in the 2016 class (the other being 3-star defensive end Jon-Michael Terry).

Will Oklahoma sign Delance? Or will Texas prove intriguing enough to flip him in an all-important border battle?

Delance said he will continue to weigh his options and monitor what both programs do in the spring. He added that he's keeping all options open, as he has additional offers from TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas and several other programs.

"I can't even explain it," he said. "I'm trying not to take everything head-on right now. I just want to make sure that I'm making the right choice for me."

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Predicting the Winner of Every Major 2015 Spring QB Battle

There are quarterback battles, and then there are major quarterback battles. And some of college football's most notable programs are going through a major competition this spring. 

Let's say spring practices ended tomorrow and coaches had to pick a winner. Which one would it be. That's what we're here to decipher.  

You'll notice that not every quarterback battle across the country is listed. These are the big storylines, based on who's leaving (think Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston) or who's returning on shaky ground (think Trevor Knight and Everett Golson). In Ohio State's case—spoiler: The Buckeyes are listed—it's about a compelling quarterback race for positive reasons. 

Along those lines, keep in mind that the projected winners of the following competitions aren't guaranteed to be the Week 1 starter.

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Inside the Mindset of Ohio State's National Championship Defense

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Wrapping up a 15-minute non-football interview as Ohio State's de facto—and soon to be, official—captain, Joshua Perry's eyes drifted toward the Buckeyes practice field in front of him.

"You ready to get back out there?" he's asked, eight days in advance of Ohio State's first spring practice of 2015.

"Yeah," the Buckeyes linebacker replied. "That was a quick turnaround."

It sure was.

Just seven weeks ago, Ohio State was in North Texas, defeating Oregon to capture the first-ever College Football Playoff Championship. In the time since, Urban Meyer and his staff have signed the nation's seventh-ranked recruiting class, while the players' preparation has been limited to winter workouts.

But even though the Buckeyes' first spring session won't take place for another a week, that hasn't stopped a certain mindset from starting to develop inside the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Unsurprisingly, Ohio State's attitude relates to its defense of its national championship, although not entirely. The Buckeyes know they now have one giant target on their collective back heading into the 2015 season, but first they must worry about taking care of their own business.

"The thing that can hurt a team like this the most is rock stars," said Perry. "We had some guys who just came along in the blink of an eye. That is hard to handle because everybody's going to be patting you on the back. That's the biggest thing to be able to handle maturity-wise."

Perry didn't mention names, but it's no secret that capturing a national championship can lead to celebrity status in football-crazed Columbus. Every magazine in the city seemingly featured Cardale Jones before the playoff and Ezekiel Elliott after it, while images of Joey Bosa, Jalin Marshall, Eli Apple, Taylor Decker, Vonn Bell and Perry himself have been etched into Ohio State lore, while simultaneously decorating the walls of Columbus collector stores.

Buckeye football is always king in this city. But national championships have a way of elevating Ohio State players from royalty to immortals on their campus.

Only many of those immortals have returned to attempt to defend their national title this season, the Buckeyes having lost just eight starters from last year's team. Ohio State is still loaded and a lock to be college football's top-ranked team in the preseason polls, only increasing the importance of the team's "no rock star" mindset.

"We have to watch for complacency in the program, and we're going to watch that very closely," Meyer said following the Buckeyes' national title win. "This is a very complicated machine, college football."

Complicated indeed, especially when you consider that in a sport full of 18-to-22-year-olds, Ohio State started a combined 13 freshmen and sophomores on last year's team. The Buckeyes have also already found themselves to be one of college football's most-talked-about teams this offseason, not only because of their championship status, but due to a looming quarterback competition between Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller.

So how will the Ohio State staff combat its young celebrity and ability to draw headlines at a rapid rate? According the Perry, with the same approach that led to it here the first place.

"The Grind is everything our program's about," Perry said, referencing the new banner that sits above the Buckeyes' practice field. "It's the friction of the program, it's breaking people down, pulverizing and making people. Shaping and sharpening. In the weight room we have iron—iron sharpens iron. It's everything we're about, it encompasses what our culture's supposed to be."

For now, Perry and his teammates still have a week before that grind takes the field, a national title defense looming, even if unspoken about. The senior linebacker, however, knows the message that will permeate throughout this year's spring practice, because he'll be one of the people sending it.

"The group of leaders that we have this year and the coaches that we have had made it clear," Perry said. "Rock stars will not be tolerated at this program."

 

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

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Odds on Where 4-Star Pro QB Jarrett Guarantano Will Land at Next Level

Jarrett Guarantano is a 4-star pro-style quarterback, per 247Sports, who is still undecided on where he will play at the next level. Guarantano has plenty of options, as many of the top programs in the country have extended offers. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer lays out his odds on where Guarantano could potentially land at the next level. 

Where do you think Guarantano will play in college? Check out the video and let us know!

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Predicting the Winner of Every SEC Quarterback Battle

Pads are already popping around the SEC now that Vanderbilt and Texas A&M have kicked off spring practice, and the rest of the programs will be joining them very soon.

With camps here, nine quarterback battles are officially on in the SEC, including major battles at big-time programs like Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Georgia and Florida. The only teams that have their depth charts set are Kentucky (Patrick Towles), Missouri (Maty Mauk), Tennessee (Joshua Dobbs), Arkansas (Brandon Allen) and Mississippi State (Dak Prescott).

Will Jake Coker be the guy in Tuscaloosa? Will a surprise contender push Auburn's Jeremy Johnson? Will Kyle Allen solidify his job prior to Kyler Murray's arrival at Texas A&M?

Our picks for every SEC offseason quarterback battle based on talent and opportunity are in this slideshow.

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Meet 'Aggressive, Trash-Talking' 4-Star 2016 CB Chauncey Gardner

Chauncey Gardner, a 4-star cornerback, per 247Sports, is still uncommitted on where he will play his college ball. The talented athlete from Cocoa, Florida, has a tough decision to make, as practically every big-name program wants him.

Bleacher Report caught up with Gardner to discuss his favorite parts about each of the schools he's considering as well as which player he models his game after.

Where will Gardner land at the next level? Check out the video and let us know!  

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Is Alabama or Auburn Better Fit for 4-Star QB Woody Barrett?

Florida quarterback Ervin "Woody" Barrett is focused on two out-of-state favorites in a frenzied recruitment. 

The 6'2", 213-pound playmaker named Auburn and Alabama his co-leaders, as per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports. He provided the update this past weekend while competing at a regional Nike camp in Orlando.

Visits to both campuses are set for the second weekend of March, when he'll watch each team take part in spring practice.

Barrett, rated seventh nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings, holds nearly 20 scholarships just months before the conclusion of his junior year. The list includes Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee. 

He named Auburn his leader in mid-February, but a recent offer from Alabama immediately altered that outlook. Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide extended a scholarship on Feb. 26, landing in Barrett's top two just days later. 

"That's big," Barrett told Bartow. "I was like 'wow.' It made me feel great. They don't offer too many people. You have to be special to get that offer."

Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin personally presented the offer to Barrett, who attends West Orange High School near Orlando.

"Coach Kiffin said he's looking forward to recruiting me," Barrett said. "He told me how they train their QBs and told me about Blake Sims. He said how each quarterback has a different style and how I'd have a place there."

Alabama has undergone a noticeable shift in how it evaluates potential quarterback options since Kiffin's arrival.

Title-winning passers AJ McCarron and Greg McElroy combined for a total of five rushing touchdowns from 2009-2013. Sims scored seven times on the ground last season, Kiffin's first on the Crimson Tide sidelines. 

Blake Barnett, a 5-star 2015 signee, offers even more mobility at the position. Though he stands 6'4.5", the California product displays above-average speed in the open field and accounted for 1,174 rushing yards as a high school upperclassman.

"Coach Kiffin and Coach Saban were very fond about the idea of their quarterback being able to run the ball several times in each game," Barnett told Bleacher Report. "It's something they were looking for and it made sense as a fit for me."

It may also make sense for Barrett, who is more dynamic as a rusher than any quarterback on the current Crimson Tide roster. Some teams have offered him as an "athlete" due to his speed and hip fluidity, but quality arm strength should sustain his role under center for years to come. 

"He’s an unbelievable talent," West Orange coach Bob Head told Jamie Newberg of Scout.com. "Woody has a rocket arm and can run. I mean he is a freak kid that can throw the ball a million times and never have a dead arm. And he can run like the wind."

Auburn has enjoyed immense success with quarterbacks who fit that description. Dual-threat weapons Cam Newton and Nick Marshall both led the Tigers to national championship games with Gus Malzahn calling the plays.

Malzahn put his program in the mix for Barrett much earlier in the recruiting process. Barrett received an offer from the Tigers as a sophomore and has an established understanding of how he fits within the scheme.

"I feel like I’m a dual threat, which is just like Nick Marshall,” Barrett told Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports. “The things Nick Marshall can do, I could probably do better. That’s how I feel."

Auburn landed 4-star Georgia quarterback Tyler Queen in the 2015 cycle. Malzahn also attempted to make a late run at compelling dual-threat talent Torrance Gibson before he signed with Ohio State.

Barrett, who earned second-team All-Central Florida honors as a junior, must consider the depth-chart situation at both SEC powerhouses before arriving at a decision. The presence of Barnett—a national Elite 11 champion who has the makings of a multi-year starter—appears to present more of an obstacle than Barrett may encounter at Auburn. 

While we're waiting to see how Kiffin continues to reshape Alabama's offense, the Tigers system is well established when it comes to getting the most out of quarterbacks who can do damage with their legs.

For now, we'll give a slight edge to Auburn in a recruiting battle that may last through next season. Both programs have their sights set on other prospects at the position in this cycle—most notably versatile Georgia talent Jawon Pass—but Barrett is clearly a prospect worth monitoring as we move ahead.

 

Recruit ratings and stats courtesy of 247Sports.

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Texas Junior Day Recap: Longhorns Deal with Bad Weather, Hand Out New Offers

The rain, sleet, snow and icy temperatures surrounding Austin, Texas, didn't damper the Texas Longhorns' junior day on Saturday.

The bad weather kept some players from making the trip to the Texas campus, but there were plenty of athletes who battled the elements to meet with head coach Charlie Strong and his staff and to take part in all the day had to offer.

While no players committed over the weekend, three picked up offers after the junior day—and one of those players didn't make the trip.

 

4-star OT Delance offered—away from campus

Offensive tackle Jean Delance, a 4-star lineman who is committed to Oklahoma, picked up a Texas offer despite missing the trip because of the weather in the Dallas area.

As the nation's No. 17 offensive tackle, Delance is the seventh tackle the Longhorns have offered. Delance committed to Oklahoma on Nov. 25, but he told Bleacher Report on Sunday that a Texas offer is intriguing.

"It's definitely something to think about," Delance said. "I'm still trying to figure out where I'll go, so I don't try to lean too much or give anything, but I'm still an Oklahoma commit."

Delance additionally has offers from Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, LSU, Arkansas and others.

 

DBs wanted: Longhorns offer 3-star Cuffee

The Longhorns signed five defensive backs in the 2015 class, and they're looking to add more. Eric Cuffee, a 3-star cornerback, picked up an offer Saturday, his 14th, according to 247Sports.

Texas is looking for a solid defensive back commit, and Cuffee provides good size and length at 6'0" and 190 pounds. He has additional offers from TCU, Oklahoma and others.

Cuffee, per 247Sports, joins Jared Mayden, Benjie Franklin, Khalil Ladler and LSU commit Saivion Smith as cornerbacks nationwide with Texas offers. Cuffee was in Austin, per 247Sports, last April for Texas' spring game.

 

Another Darius Anderson on Texas' radar

When it comes to high interest from the Longhorns, the odds are in your favor if your name is Darius Anderson. Defensive tackle Darius Anderson (Missouri City, Texas) has heavy interest in the Longhorns. Wide receiver Darius "Dee" Anderson (Mesquite, Texas) is an LSU commit who added a Texas offer last month.

On Saturday, 3-star running back Darius Anderson (Rosenberg, Texas) added a Texas offer to his growing list. A 5'9", 180-pound running back, Anderson now has seven offers, and the Longhorns are the first Big 12 team to extend an offer.

If Strong and his staff wanted, they could go for two other Darius Andersons. Georgia 3-star offensive lineman Darius Anderson committed to East Carolina on Feb. 4. Georgia 3-star receiver Darius Anderson is a top-40 player in the state.

 

Massive DT 'The Hulk' Jones makes the trip

Perhaps the talk of the junior day came when 4-star defensive tackle Kendell Jones arrived. Per Chris Hummer of 247Sports, Jones arrived on campus standing 6'4" and weighing 364 pounds.

Jones has earned the nickname "The Hulk," and the Longhorns are hoping to add the massive lineman to their 2016 class. He can be a brick wall in Strong's defensive scheme.

"Every coach has been bombarding me, everything is happening so fast," Jones told Hummer regarding the recruiting process.

Jones has held a Texas offer since his sophomore year, and he's made a few trips to the campus. He also has offers from Texas A&M, Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma and a host of other programs.

 

Malik Jefferson, player-recruiter, does his part

One of the unwritten responsibilities of a college football player is to serve as a reliable player-recruiter. 2015 early enrollee Malik Jefferson has been on campus less than two months now, but he's making sure he's doing his part with 2016 recruiting.

Jefferson, according to Hummer, hung out with 4-star linebackers Jeffrey McCulloch and Dontavious Jackson during their visits. McCulloch and Jackson are two of five linebackers with Texas offers—the others being 4-star Erick Fowler and 3-stars Demarco Boyd and Jordan Carmouche.

Boyd, the younger brother of 2015 cornerback signee Kris Boyd, committed to Texas in January. Fowler and Carmouche also were in attendance on Saturday.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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USC Commit Isaac Garcia Continues Trend of Physical, Athletic Trojan Defenders

Isaac Garcia, a 4-star defensive end, per 247Sports, who's committed to USC, fills a need for the Trojans and keeps the trend going of speedy, athletic defensive ends. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses Garcia's game and how he'll fit into the Trojan defense in the video above. 

What is Garcia's ceiling? Check out the video and let us know!

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Texas A&M Complete Spring Practice Primer

It was a roller-coaster 2014 for Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin.

His Aggies knocked off South Carolina on the road to open the season, went into an October swoon that saw them drop games to Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama and rebounded for a big road win at Auburn and a bowl win over West Virginia.

The late-season charge was led by freshman quarterback Kyle Allen and a defense that, despite its miserable statistics, showed flashes of what it's capable of with freshman defensive end Myles Garrett and linebacker Otaro Alaka coming on strong as the season progressed.

What's in store for the Aggies this spring? Get to know with our spring practice primer.

 

What to Watch for on Offense

It's the Allen show, as the Scottsdale, Arizona native will take first-team snaps all spring hoping to build off his AutoZone Liberty Bowl performance that saw him score five touchdowns (four passing, one running). The pure pro-style passer is more Case Keenum than Johnny Manziel, which means Sumlin and his staff will likely utilize the small village of wide receivers to go back to the future to Sumlin's Houston days and the Air Raid offense that got him the job in the first place.

Is that the right game plan for Allen and the Aggies, though?

Tra Carson, Brandon Williams and a host of other talented running backs are chomping at the bit to become a bigger part of the offense, and while Sumlin is an air-raid coach at his core, more emphasis on the running game would go a long way toward bringing stability to the offensive side of the ball.

Up front, the Aggies lose offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. A big loss? Sure, both literally and figuratively. But if Sumlin and his staff have proved anything over the last three years, it's that replacing top-flight left tackles is as easy as cutting and pasting a name from somewhere else on the roster.

That bodes well for redshirt juniors Avery Gennesey and Jermaine Eluemunor, as well as redshirt freshman Koda Martin—all of whom will be battling for playing time.

 

What to Watch for on Defense

For new defensive coordinator John Chavis, it's all about consistency.

The Aggies have finished last in the SEC in total defense in each of the last two seasons, but it wasn't due to lack of talent. Garrett was awesome last year, safety Armani Watts looked like a difference-maker at times and several other players showed flashes of brilliance.

Getting all of those pieces to click at the same time is Chavis' most important task, and that process begins this spring. With Alaka nursing a shoulder injury, it will be up to players like Josh Walker to step up and become consistent in the middle of that defense and take control.

Up front, it can't be "Garrett and everybody else.

Whether it's defensive tackle Daylon Mack this summer or somebody else stepping up either inside or outside this spring, finding a playmaker who can take advantage of the attention Garrett will demand and become a difference-maker up front will go a long way toward Texas A&M's defense turning itself around.

 

Freshman to Keep an Eye on

Texas A&M has a small village of talented wide receivers on the roster, but from the moment true freshman Christian Kirk stepped foot on campus in January, he upped the ante.

The 5-star prospect in the class of 2015 has everything that Sumlin wants in a wide receiver. The 5'10" 191-pounder may look like a prototypical slot back on paper, but he has tremendous hands, runs crisp routes, plays taller than he actually is and will provide a nice compliment to a receiving corps that includes Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones, Speedy Noil and others.

Kirk's versatility gives Sumlin options, which is a scary thought for the 13 other defensive coordinators in the SEC.

 

Coach Sumlin's Toughest Task

Balancing the offense. 

Whether it was the way former quarterback Kenny Hill burst onto the scene when he threw for 511 yards in the season-opener vs. South Carolina or part of the plan all along, Texas A&M was way too pass-heavy in 2014. The Aggies called 514 passing plays and only 421 rushing plays, with two inexperienced quarterbacks—Hill and Allen—calling the plays.

That has to change.

Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital have Carson, Williams and a healthy stable of running backs at their disposal, and they need to learn how to use them better. Sure, screen passes are part of the Texas A&M "running game," but a healthy threat between the tackles will go a long way toward opening up the offense even further and taking some pressure off of Chavis.

 

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

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

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Notre Dame Football: New OC Mike Sanford's Job Is to Turn Things Upside Down

When Brian Kelly went out looking to replace Matt LaFleur, he started his search looking for just another quarterback coach. But in hiring former Boise State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, Kelly decided to rebuild the foundation of his offense. 

After some candid conversations with top lieutenant Mike Denbrock—who served as Kelly's offensive coordinator in 2014—the departure of LaFleur, Tony Alford and Kerry Cooks allowed Kelly to revamp his coaching staff.

The biggest move was bringing in Sanford, a bright young star in the profession, who'll coach quarterbacks and coordinate the offense. 

"What we were looking for was somebody who could turn the room upside down," Kelly said during Monday's press conference. "We didn't want somebody to be equal, we wanted somebody who was going to turn this room upside down." 

They believe they found that man in Sanford. 

A grand reorganization is taking place in South Bend. With a head coach best known for his offense getting out of the way.

Denbrock and Sanford take control of a unit that scored more points than any other Kelly offense, but also turned the football over 26 times, good for 101st in the country.

In one of the more unique partnerships we've seen, Denbrock will oversee the offense. Sanford will coordinate it. 

"They're working together collaboratively," Kelly explained. "No egos. Best idea wins. That's really the philosophy that we've used for this offense."

After turning down the Central Michigan head coaching job, many wondered how Denbrock would take the perceived demotion that comes with Sanford taking over the coordinator job. But in naming Denbrock the Associate Head Coach, Kelly is turning over many of his duties to Denbrock, giving this move the feel of an actual promotion, rather than an empty title change. 

"Everybody on this staff has made a commitment that the title that they want the most is a national title," Kelly said, a compliment paid to Denbrock while also maybe serving as a jab to departed running backs coach Tony Alford, who took the same job at Ohio State, but earned an "assistant head coach for offense" title. 

For Sanford, his immediate focus is on the quarterback position. With Everett Golson and Malik Zaire competing this spring, Sanford has two worthy candidates for the starting job, at a position that'll be critical to the success of the Irish offense. 

He'll also likely infuse some new Xs and Os into the playbook. Boise State ran the football 57 percent of the time last season on their way to a Fiesta Bowl victory. Sanford also cut his teeth under David Shaw at Stanford, another run-centric scheme that could transform the Irish offense. 

The plan is still being formed. Kelly deflected questions about playcalling—a job the head coach held until the Music City Bowl (where Denbrock called them)—saying the structure is still coming together. 

But Kelly was also open about his willingness to take a step back from the offense, the opposite of last offseason, where Kelly hoisted more responsibility on himself after Chuck Martin departed for Miami (Ohio).

"I just want to be part of the solution," Kelly said. "I don't have to be the playcaller. I don't have to be the QB coach. I've hired people to do those jobs. If it means at the end of the day that i don't have to be involved in that and it puts us in a better position, I'm 100 percent okay with that." 

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand. 

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