NCAA Football News

Why Alabama Redshirt Freshman DB Marlon Humphrey Will Set SEC on Fire in 2015

While Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany spins his wheels with the preposterous idea of reinstituting freshman ineligibility, the college football version of endangered species are preparing for their first seasons in competitive college football.

Redshirt freshmen used to litter rosters across the Southeast, but as more and more true freshman phenoms find the field across the SEC, redshirt freshmen are going the way of the dodo bird.

If you're looking for a redshirt freshman in the SEC who's going to explode onto the scene in 2015, look no further than Alabama defensive back Marlon Humphrey.

The son of former Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey, Marlon Humphrey signed with the Crimson Tide in the class of 2014 as part of a dynamic defensive back duo with fellow 5-star prospect Tony Brown.

At 6'1", 186 pounds, Humphrey is a taller defensive back who can go one-on-one with bigger wide receivers and bump them off routes at the line of scrimmage. He's got tremendous recovery and ball skills, is good in coverage and has everything it takes to be a star—including the speed of a track star.

Humphrey is spending his offseason on the Crimson Tide track team, where he's busy setting records in the 4X400-meter relay according to Drew Champlin of AL.com.

"He was already so much faster than everybody else in high school so he was able to transition pretty smoothly," assistant track coach Matt Kane told Champlin. "He looks like a man as opposed to a college freshman, but he's not too bulky. People worry about that, but he's really got good football weight and everything."

Everything.

As in, everything he needs to be a superstar.

The former Hoover (Alabama) High School standout was brought to Tuscaloosa to be an instant impact defender but instead had to adjust to working with the scout team. According to Michael Casagrande of AL.com, Humphrey did fine with that transition.

"It wasn't too hard," Humphrey said. "Once you get over the fact, it's not too bad."

That hard work might pay off in a hurry, because aside from Cyrus Jones occupying one cornerback spot, the rest of the defensive rotation at corner is wide open. Eddie Jackson and Bradley Sylve were inconsistent last year, Tony Brown was relegated to a reserve role, and the Tide finished the year ranked 11th in the SEC in pass defense (226.0 yards per game) and opponent passing plays of 20 or more yards (43).

Inconsistency against the pass has been a problem that's lingered for two years in Tuscaloosa, and Mel Tucker was brought in to coach defensive backs in an effort to fix it.

That means a clean slate for everybody, which is huge news for Humphrey.

Jones' improvement from Game 1 through Game 14 last year was an indicator that the light bulb went off in his head. So, barring any unforeseen injuries or problems, it's safe to assume that he's going to build off of that in the offseason.

For everybody else, the race is wide open.

Since nickel packages have evolved into more of the base defense in college football, that means there's even more of a chance for Humphrey to earn playing time and become a star.

Humphrey has the talent, is at a school that needs help and has the opportunity to shine thanks to a new position coach.

That's a recipe for redshirt success.

 

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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10 College Football Seniors with Most to Prove in 2015

Senior leadership is a valuable commodity in college football, especially if it comes from a team's best players.

This is a rarity, though, as most of the game's top performers leave school after their junior years to pursue an NFL career. For those who stick around, that final season is one where they get the opportunity to make one last impact while also trying to show they've got what it takes to play in the pros.

That's one of many things that some of the nation's top seniors have to prove in 2015.

Beyond pro value, there are other motivating factors that come into play. Some are trying to rebound from disappointing 2014 seasons, while others hope to lift their teams over that last hurdle and battle for a championship.

Check out what's at stake and what will drive some of college football's top seniors this fall.

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Play Him or Redshirt Him Decisions for Top 50 Signees in Class of 2015

The faxes are in. The ink is dry. College football’s 2015 recruiting cycle is over. With players across the nation signed to national letters of intent and committed to their programs of choice, recruiting followers have moved on to 2016.

But for college football coaches and fans of on-the-field action, the fun is just getting started. Numerous 2015 players have already enrolled in college and will go through spring practice with their new teams, and many more will follow early this summer. We’ve moved on from “Where will he sign?” to “Will he play?” That’s what this feature is all about. We’ve taken the top 50 recruits of 2015, per 247Sports, and examined their chances of immediate playing time this fall.

Will they redshirt? Will they star immediately? We’ll see. Team depth charts and needs, as well as the player’s overall ability, were all considered for this feature. Rankings throughout the feature are per 247Sports’ composite ranks.

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Why College Football Needs to Keep Its Title Games in College Stadiums

When it comes to the Super Bowl, the adage "If you build it, they will come" applies. In college football, it's a similar story. 

It doesn't have to be, though.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the San Francisco 49ers are planning to bid to host the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at their new palace, Levi's Stadium: 

A person with knowledge of the plans told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the team will seek to host either the 2018, '19 or '20 title game when they come up for bid later this year. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because there has been no announcement about the plans.

Cities interested in hosting one of those three title games have until May to bid. A decision on the winners is expected in the fall.

The bid, whether it succeeds or not, checks off the important boxes: a new and fancy stadium, solid location (Santa Clara, California, just south of San Francisco) and decent January weather. 

Here's something to consider: Why doesn't college football take back its own title game? Put the national championship on campus. You want tradition? You got it. And, yes, tradition is an important part of the postseason. 

When the idea of the College Football Playoff was in its infancy, a chief concern among college admins was how the bowl system would play into it. Question the business model of bowl games all you want—Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports successfully did in 2010 with his book Death to the BCS—but the long-standing relationships between bowls and conferences was too deep to cast aside. 

College power brokers made sure the bowls remained a part of the sport's postseason by incorporating the six biggest ones—the Cotton, Fiesta, Peach, Fiesta, Rose and Sugar, now called the New Year's Six—into the semifinal games. Only the national championship game is up for bid to a neutral-site location. 

Basically, the playoff became an altered version of bowl season with an extra game tacked on the end.

So why does that extra game have to be played at an NFL location? Imagine college football's national championship game being held in Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, or in Death Valley at LSU. There could still be a national championship at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles or other big-market college stadiums.

Have a college football stadium bucket list? This would be a dream come true. 

Why can't host committees, with the approval of the appropriate college football program, bid on that right, just like in the NFL? 

OK, so it wouldn't be just like the NFL. Mike Kaszuba and Rochelle Olson of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune uncovered the NFL's lengthy list of demands for hosting the 2018 Super Bowl. The College Football Playoff National Championship was big, but it wasn't Super Bowl big. Nothing else in America is. 

Schools already wine and dine bowl reps, so this would just be an extended version of that. A more expensive version, of course, but nothing they wouldn't be willing to do. Maybe it kick-starts that stadium/press box expansion project that's been on the table for a couple of years. 

After all, getting the playoff folks to share that willingness is the challenge. 

The No. 1 excuse by then-BCS executive director Bill Hancock—who now holds the same title with the CFP—was that college football stadiums/towns/etc. logistically couldn't handle a semifinal game, let alone a national championship. 

The program sacrificed to this logic a few years ago was Kansas State when Hancock pondered, via Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, "Can Manhattan, Kansas, take care of 1,200 media? Where will people stay?" 

However, there's a fallacy in that, as Staples pointed out in 2012:

Well, Bill, I say this as a media member who routinely stays two hours from a game site because of outrageously priced or unavailable hotel rooms. In your hypothetical, there is this magical place called Kansas City. They have great barbecue there. You should know. You live there.

Now, would there be an uphill battle to climb for Kansas State to land the hosting rights? Absolutely. The playoff would simply select the most desirable option every year. Guess what, that already happens. 

Besides, with advertising revenue and television rights being what they are, seating/press box capacity should be a few rungs down on the list of priorities (and they are). 

But wait. What if perennial championship contenders like Alabama land the bid and get another home game? That's a possibility, but it also exists in the NFL. 

There are complications in every plan. Budgets have to be made, plans have to be secured years in advance. However, with media rights contracts for Power Five conferences being what they are, and with more money coming in through the playoff, there's a lot of green to be spent. 

Schools would love nothing more than to showcase their facilities and town. It's an economic boost and a recruiting tool. Fans would get to experience a college football trip they might not have otherwise taken. 

So, to college football admins: Let's bring the national championship game on campus and have some fun with it. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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5-Star Alabama Legacy Ben Davis Breaks Down Top 7 in B/R Exclusive

Ben Davis may be the son of Roll Tide royalty, but his list of collegiate favorites extends well beyond Tuscaloosa. Interests lie as far as California and as close as rival Auburn.

The 5-star linebacker, rated 24th overall in 247Sports' composite rankings, named his top seven options Wednesday on Twitter:

Davis, whose father Wayne is Alabama's all-time leader in tackles, discussed his announcement in further detail Thursday evening during a conversation with Bleacher Report.

The 6'4", 230-pound prospect plays at Gordo High School, located approximately 25 miles northwest of Bryant–Denny Stadium. 

"We're pretty close to Tuscaloosa, but there are actually a lot of Auburn fans around here and they want me to go to there," Davis said. "I don't feel the pressure either way, though. People try to talk you into playing for their favorite team, but it's my choice and I haven't made it yet."

He appreciates his family's close ties to the Crimson Tide, though Davis is happy to have unconditional support.

"My dad will support whatever decision I make 110 percent," Davis said. "He hasn't really pushed me toward one school or another. He just wants to make sure I'm comfortable with the situation wherever I go."

Nick Saban sought out the legacy recruit early, extending an offer last spring. Davis has spent substantial time at Alabama, developing a solid rapport with the program's iconic leader.

"Coach Saban is fun to be around," Davis said. "People who don't know him might not expect him to be like that. He's a cool guy to spend time with. But when it's time for business, he's about his business. He's one of the greatest."

His latest campus visit occurred last weekend. At this stage, Davis possesses a strong understanding of what the team stands for and how he would fit within its scheme.

"They have all the national championships, an excellent coaching staff and very good structure," Davis said. "Alabama always has one of the best recruiting classes every year, so I'm interested to see what kind of class they put together this year too."

Auburn will welcome him to its facilities next weekend, and he expressed enthusiasm about the upcoming visit.

"I can't wait to get down there on the Plains," Davis said.

His interest in the program increased earlier this winter when head coach Gus Malzahn hired Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator. The move paid immediate dividends on signing day and certainly seemed to impact top 2016 targets.

"I love Coach Muschamp," Davis said. "He recruited me at Florida first, and now he's recruiting me really hard at Auburn."

The Gators remain in the mix despite dumping Muschamp. Count Davis among fans of new Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, who became known as the "Minister of Mayhem" at his last stop.

"My relationship with Coach Collins is pretty strong since he was at Mississippi State last year," he said. "Florida is a top-notch program and school. I need to get down to The Swamp to see more about it."

Davis also expressed interest in visiting Georgia. Again, confidence in the defensive coordinator is a large part of that appeal.

"Coach Jeremy Pruitt gave me an offer last summer at a seven-on-seven tournament in Birmingham," he said. "I like the way he coaches up that defense and the linebackers look good."

Ole Miss is another SEC squad that stands out to Davis based on the way it shines defensively. He admires the way Rebels players consistently dish out pain.

"I've watched a lot of their games and I like the way they hit," Davis said. "A lot of those guys on defense have a mean streak. I like their style."

It may come as a surprise, but Davis grew up a fan of both Alabama and LSU. 

The bitter rivals have each commanded his attention as a coveted recruit.

"I have a really good relationship with the LSU coaches," he said. "(Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele) and I know each other really well from when he was coaching linebackers at Alabama, so him going to LSU makes it even better there. I can't wait to get to a game and see what they have to offer."

USC is the outlier among this group, as the lone non-SEC squad. However, his background provides a glimpse of why the Trojans remain an attractive possibility.

"A lot of people don't know this, but I was actually born out in Arizona," Davis said. "I didn't move to Alabama until I was 10. So my experience and relationships on the West Coast are part of the reason why I'm considering USC."

He anticipates going on an official visit to the university. USC loaded up on elite defensive talent during the 2015 cycle, so Steve Sarkisian's staff should be psyched about sustained interest from Davis.

"They have a great history and tradition of putting guys in the NFL," he said. "It's been a powerhouse program. I'm definitely excited to see what they have going on at that campus."

USC signed four top-tier linebackers in February. Davis would encounter similarly stocked depth charts at several of his top options, but that's an aspect he embraces.

"I'm going to enjoy the competition," Davis said. "It reminds me of freshman year in high school. You have to earn your spot by getting better every day and showing you have what it takes. That's the only way to get onto the field."

Despite establishing a top-seven list, things are certainly subject to change.

Davis mentioned Michigan, Clemson, Florida State, Michigan State, Oregon and Ohio State as programs with whom he would appreciate increased communication. He seemed specifically interested in the Buckeyes, adding there is "a lot of family" in Ohio.

"Urban Meyer gets his team fired up for every game," Davis said. "He looks like a great guy to play for. They're the national champs so you have to respect that."

Though he doesn't yet have firm visit dates in place, Davis expects to stay busy on the recruiting trail in coming months. His goal is to announce a commitment before the start of his senior season, though he isn't setting a deadline.

"I want to have my mind totally focused on my team and trying to win a state championship," Davis said. "But it depends on how me and my folks feel when we sit down and go over all the options. It could take longer and last until the end of the season."

He may have crimson pumping through his veins, but Davis remains very much open to the idea of exploring several opportunities elsewhere.

Whether he ultimately follows in his father's footsteps and lands in an Alabama uniform or returns to Tuscaloosa on the visitor sidelines, it seems likely Davis will make a mark in the SEC.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Top College Football Defenses with Biggest Holes to Fill in Spring Practice

Even the top defenses in college football have holes to fill next season—and some more desperately than others.

The first step to filling those holes is developing players in spring camp. Now is when promising youngsters or veteran career backups are asked to make the leap into something more. It's when coaches do the most actual coaching. 

The following teams finished with a top-15 defense last season, per the F/+ ratings at Football Outsiders, but have at least one glaring hole to fill this spring. In most cases, that hole is the product of attrition, as the players responsible for earning a top-15 ranking have departed for the NFL. But in some cases, returning players simply underperformed.

The seven top-15 defenses that didn't make this list (Ohio State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Marshall, Virginia Tech, Florida and Penn State) have losses to deal with also, but their problems have clearer answers than those of the eight listed teams.

Sound off below and let us know what you think.

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Brady Hoke's Recruiting Legacy Setting Jim Harbaugh Up for Success at Michigan

Brady Hoke was far from a perfect coach during his time at Michigan.

Players didn't develop at the rate they were expected to, the Wolverines lost to less-talented teams and truth be told, he probably should have been wearing a headset.

But one thing Hoke did do well during his four-year stint in Ann Arbor was recruit. And in his first season in succeeding Hoke, Jim Harbaugh could reap the benefits.

Particularly on the offensive line, where the former Michigan head coach consistently attracted some of the nation's top talents. They may not have developed into the players recruiting services projected them to turn into under Hoke, but that could all change next season.

"There's something special in there," new Wolverines offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Tim Drevno said following Michigan's Thursday spring practice session. "I'm excited about it."

And for good reason.

Despite all of the uncertainty surrounding the Wolverines heading into the 2015 season—particularly at the quarterback position—one unit that already has some stability is Michigan's front five. The Wolverines will bring back all five starters on their offensive line from a season ago, as well as the versatile Erik Magnuson, who started five games in 2014.

You wouldn't know it from the numbers—Michigan ranked 64th nationally in rushing a season ago with 162.8 yards per game and 63rd with 26 sacks allowed—but the talent on its starting line is there.

Left tackle Mason Cole arrived in Ann Arbor a year ago as a 4-star prospect and U.S. Army All-American, before going on to start all 12 games in his freshman campaign. Cole was joined in starting every game last season by Ben Braden, a former 3-star prospect and the 47th-ranked offensive tackle in the 2012 class.

The interior of the Wolverines' offensive line saw less stability, but still possesses plenty of promise, most notably in former 4-star prospect and U.S. Army All-American Kyle Kalis. After getting off to a rocky start in the first two years of his college career, the Lakewood, Ohio, native bounced back to start the final seven games of the 2014 campaign at right guard and began to live up to the promise that made him such a coveted prospect coming out of high school.

Starting next to Kalis was center Jack Miller, a fifth-year-senior-to-be who has started 16 games in his college career, including all 12 last season Left guard Graham Glasgow started 11 games in 2014, while Magnuson, a former 4-star prospect, has the ability to play both tackle and guard.

Between Cole, Braden, Kalis, Miller, Glasgow and Magnuson, Michigan will bring back a combined 93 starts on its offensive line in 2015. Of course stability is one thing, but what good is it if it's from a unit that's struggled in each of the past two seasons?

The Wolverines won't find out for sure until this fall, but they already seem to be headed in the right direction. After a historically bad 2013 that included a nation's worst 113 tackles-for-loss allowed, 36 sacks (109th in the nation) and 125.7 rushing yards per game (103rd in the country), Michigan improved in all three offensive line-indicating statistics in 2014, although not to the standards that have been set in Ann Arbor.

Enter Drevno, who coached under Harbaugh from 2004-2013 during stints at San Diego, Stanford and the 49ers, before serving as USC's offensive line coach and running game coordinator in 2014. After just two days of spring practice—neither of which have been in pads—Drevno's still not quite sure what he has in his new unit, but so far, he likes what he sees.

"It's a slow burn, but I'm feeling it," Drevno said. "These kids are great kids. They've got the want-to, they want to be coached. There's nobody resisting what we're doing."

Drevno is not only aware of the criticism that Michigan's offensive line has recently received, but the talent that it possesses. And having coached some of the best offensive lines in the NFL and college football in recent years, he believes he's the man who can bring it out of them.

"I don't worry about the past. I've made mistakes as a coach, players make mistakes," he said. "But the great competitors I've been around, at the highest level, like [four-time Pro Bowl tackle] Joe Staley, some of those NFL guys I've coached, they have short-term memory. They make a mistake, they forget about it and they push on. That is a true competitor."

Drevno knows it will be a process to bring the best out of Michigan's much-maligned offensive line, one he's been through before. But he also knows the results he can yield, especially from a group as talented as the one Hoke recruited before he and Harbaugh arrived.

"It's pretty cool when it happens," Drevno said. "You get that group inside there to believe in one another and the brotherhood about the want-to and how we lead this football team. That's pretty cool."

 

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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Michigan CB Blake Countess Shows Up Teammate Jabrill Peppers in Backflip Contest

Earlier this week, Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers shared a video of him performing a backflip during a practice drill. He took a running start and performed the flip with a helmet on...not too shabby.

Fellow Wolverines defensive back Blake Countess decided to one-up his teammate. Here he is performing multiple back handsprings leading into consecutive backflips.

Which do you find more impressive?

Of course, while these two players are clearly athletically gifted, the bar for college football players remains sky-high, set by South Florida's Jason Pierre-Paul in 2009 when he engaged in a similar contest with a teammate:

[Blake Countess, Jabrill Peppers, YouTube]

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Does UNC Have a Legit Shot Against Alabama for 4-Star QB Jawon Pass?

One of the nation’s most sought-after quarterbacks in the 2016 cycle is 4-star dual-threat passer Jawon Pass.

According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, Pass has two programs—Alabama and North Carolina—tied at the top of his list.

While Pass mentioned Notre Dame and Penn State as other schools who he consistently communicates with, at the moment, the Tide and the Tar Heels are set to battle it out for the 6’5”, 220-pounder.

But does North Carolina have what it takes to beat out Alabama for a potential impact player such as Pass?

There are a few reasons that Larry Fedora’s program has a legit shot in this early tug-of-war.

For starters, Fedora’s offense appears to be a more natural fit for a stud such as Pass who can break down defenses with his arm and his legs.

Alabama, by comparison, has run more of a traditional pro-style set during head coach Nick Saban’s tenure—although it altered that a bit last season with Blake Sims at the helm.

Also, the Tide just brought in 5-star passer and 2015 early enrollee Blake Barnett—who was the crown jewel of the Tide's top-rated 2015 class. Additionally, the Tide already have former touted recruits such as David Cornwell and Cooper Bateman on campus who are talented underclassmen capable of competing for the Tide’s vacancy at quarterback.

Even though Fedora has signed at least one passer in each of his four recruiting classes since arriving in Chapel Hill, there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut successor to rising senior Marquise Williams—at least not yet.

The current backup, Mitch Trubisky, completed less than 54 percent of his passes while throwing for 459 yards and five touchdowns with four interceptions last season.

Should Pass opt to head to Chapel Hill, he would give Fedora a similar, and perhaps a more polished, version of Williams—who accounted for 3,856 yards of total offense and 34 touchdowns in his first year as a starter.

As a junior at Carver High School in Columbus, Georgia, Pass accounted for 2,601 yards of total offense with 23 touchdown passes and another 11 scores coming on the ground.

Pass will visit both schools in the near future.

Bartow reports that the Columbus, Georgia, native plans to visit North Carolina for almost an entire week, beginning next week, while Alabama will host him the following weekend:

“I want to see how the players are there and I want my mom to meet the coaches and see the campus,” Pass told Bartow on his thoughts about his visit to Chapel Hill. “(Tar Heels) coach (Larry) Fedora is a great guy. They run a fast-paced offense. It’s more throwing than running but they said they can do a lot of things with me because I can run and throw. It’s like Carver’s offense.”

His familiarity with Fedora’s system is another plus that could ensure a seamless transition to the college level.

While Alabama is a recruiting heavyweight that can never be counted out when they are aggressively pursuing a top target, North Carolina appears to have enough ammunition to win out for Pass’ services in the end.

 

Collegiate stats via CFBstats.com unless otherwise noted.

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

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De'Andre Johnson's Brother, Elite 2018 CB Tyreke: 'Jimbo Fisher Is Family to Me'

Tyreke Johnson, a talented athlete and younger brother of Florida State QB De'Andre Johnson, is a class of 2018 standout ready to make his mark. 

In the video above, Tyreke shares his recruiting stories, his memories from attending Seminoles games, as well as his relationship with Jimbo Fisher.

Which school will Johnson commit to? Check out the video and let us know!

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Pitt Football Coach Pat Narduzzi Tweets Video of Epic Team Tug-of-War Drill

Much has been made of how new Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi has upped the social media and recruiting game for the Panthers.

This latest gem should get all football fans quite hyped (considering they've been scraping combine results to get their fixes in the offseason).

In the video, two Pitt players battle in a tug-of-war match, using every muscle. Everything is on the line, and the team is positively raucous. An exercise like this can go a long way toward impacting team morale.

Narduzzi's caption seems fitting: "Word of the day: Team."

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Meet 'The Shark': 4-Star LB Jeffrey McCulloch Earning His Nickname, Big Offers

It all started as a joke.

Jeffrey McCulloch and his Davis High School teammates and friends were watching videos of game film. McCulloch, a 4-star linebacker, made a jarring hit on an opposing player.

And then another one. And another one. And another. Every play finishing with the same result: McCulloch racing full speed to a quarterback or running back and appearing to make a tackle with the impact of a minor car crash.

And then, McCulloch said, one of his teammates—2015 defensive back Kenneth Lathan, the one McCulloch called "the jokester of the team"—said something matter-of-factly that's happened to become something of a budding phenomenon.

"He said, "Man, you're out there like a shark," McCulloch said. "I would always run down the field, always going forward. Before the quarterback would get the pass off, I was hitting him."

"It was funny, because the team we were playing was in red. What do they say about sharks smelling blood?"

The nickname stuck. And now, "The Shark" is preparing for the spring, the upcoming 2015 regular season at Davis and the future—college football. He's the No. 78 player in 247Sports' composite rankings and the No. 6 outside linebacker in the nation.

At 6'2" and 230 pounds, McCulloch is the type of outside linebacker every coach wants. He's a strong, physical athlete who plays each down as if it was his last. McCulloch added that he's been clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.48 seconds.

Imagine a player with his size and aggressiveness running full speed into an unsuspecting player.

Shark tactics.

"I just try to be an aggressive pass rusher who can cover anybody down the field," McCulloch said. "Honestly, I didn't think [the nickname] would stick. I thought it was just us being silly at first. Then after a while, I heard teammates saying it, then friends were saying it, then teachers were saying it."

Angel Verdejo of the Houston Chronicle told Bleacher Report that McCulloch recorded 59 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 11 quarterback hurries, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries during his junior year. Of those 59 tackles, 18.5 were tackles for loss. He also has eight batted passes and six pass breakups, showing off his coverage skills.

Because of his play, McCulloch has landed over 20 offers and could be at 30-plus by the end of the spring. And because of his nickname, he's also been able to get some pretty cool social media edits from fans of schools interested.

McCulloch said he has a top-seven list of schools but has chosen to keep the list a secret until the spring. Currently, 247Sports has Texas, LSU, Alabama, Oregon, Michigan and Auburn as potential destinations for him. Auburn was his last offer.

"Everything is just crazy right now," he said. "My head is on a constant spin every day, but I'm just taking it day by day."

Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Baylor and Arkansas also should be considered in the running for McCulloch. He went to Texas A&M's junior day last month. On Saturday, McCullouch will be at Texas' junior day. He camped at Texas last summer.

And what will the winning school get, aside from a player who thrives on living up to his nickname?

"Whoever gets The Shark will get someone who'll play for four years and carry on the name of the program hopefully in the NFL," McCulloch said. "Some of the coaches are saying I have next-level talent and talent after that. I try to be explosive and a player who can do it all—play safety, outside linebacker, middle linebacker, defensive end, whatever."

"I just try to be relentless. I'll never stop until we have a championship. Multiple championships."

It's the perfect attitude to have for an athlete on a mission, a shark looking to make an impact in bigger waters.

 

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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Michigan Football: Top Candidates for Wolverines' Open Starting Jobs

Michigan has taken the plunge into spring, so finding replacements for six of its top departed starters is of the utmost importance.

On Tuesday, first-year Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh gave a brief and fuzzy update on recent events. Then again, he only had one practice to reference, so he really didn’t have much to talk about.

He knows that he has to replace quarterback Devin Gardner, but he doesn’t know with whom.

He’ll have to find someone to take wide receiver Devin Funchess’ spot as well, but again, Harbaugh doesn’t know which player will end up doing so. It’s just too early to make that call.

Due to the departure of Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer, Michigan is now looking for a pair to bookend the defensive line. And now that Ray Taylor’s gone, there’s a hole to fill in the secondary too.

Finding the next Jake Ryan could take time, but there are enough linebackers to bridge the gap.

Replacing two offensive weapons and four defensive starters should be relatively painless for Harbaugh, who—relatively speaking—has it easy when compared to other coaches around the Big Ten.

Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer lost a lot of talent to the NFL draft pool and graduation, so they’ll be seeking to replenish their wells this spring as well. And they need to do a lot more than tinker with a few positions.

The spring game is on April 4, which means Harbaugh has roughly a month to get his ducks in a row before the real test comes this fall. Time is of the essence, and Harbaugh has none to waste.

 

Who’s the Next QB?

Wilton Speight, Shane Morris and Alex Malzone seem to be the top three candidates to replace Gardner, but Harbaugh wouldn’t hint either way during his media availability on Tuesday.

The best one will win the job, which is the case for every position.

Morris, a former Warren De La Salle star, has the experience card, but Speight, who’ll be a redshirt frosh this fall, has become a more popular pick among fans and media. The 6’6”, 234-pounder out of Richmond Collegiate (Virginia) has an arm that can wow the masses and possesses ideal size.

Morris’ two starts and time in the program are pluses, but they’re not enough to guarantee him the job.

As for Malzone, well, the idea of a true freshman starting at quarterback is almost ridiculous. That’s not Michigan’s style, so it’s highly unlikely that the 6’1.5”, 200-pounder out of Birmingham Brother Rice gets the nod—unless, of course, he blows the doors off the competition this spring.

Zach Gentry arrives this fall, but the 6’7”, 230-pounder out of Albuquerque Eldorado (New Mexico) will face the same set of circumstances as Malzone, and the lack of reps this spring could put him behind the pace—at least for this year.

Today, until someone says otherwise, Morris and Speight are top two. Speight could be the one to emerge and earn the No. 1 role. The spring game will decide that.

 

Replacing Funchess

Losing Funchess isn’t a killer, but it doesn’t make matters easier for the Wolverines, who have just three receivers returning with 15 more catches.

One of the pass-catchers is tight end Jake Butt, who is also rehabbing an ACL injury.

At 6’6” and 250 pounds, Butt could theoretically fill the void of No. 1 target left by Funchess. His size makes him the obvious successor in the weaponry department.

As far as pure receivers go, Amara Darboh is the successor to the No. 1 role. That’s different than being the No. 1 target, which will probably end up being Butt’s duty.

Darboh has hands, but the 6’2”, 216-pound redshirt-junior-to-be lacks elite speed. However, he can absorb contact, grab and go over the middle and fly down the sideline for the deep ball.

Michigan has a stable of receivers who are 6’2”, 200 pounds or heavier: Jehu Chesson, Jaron Dukes, Maurice Ways and early enrollee Brian Cole could each at least compete for the primary role.

Nothing is set in stone at any position, Harbaugh said on Tuesday.

 

The Bookends

Taco Charlton, Mario Ojemudia, Henry Poggi and Chris Wormley are arguably the top four ends heading into spring ball.

Charlton, a 6’6”, 273-pound junior-to-be, has appeared in 21 games during his time in Ann Arbor. His praises had been sung by former coach Brady Hoke for two years, so it’s time that he emerges as the potential impact player everyone expects.

That should be easier now that Clark and Beyer are out of the picture.

Ojemudia has been an unheralded cog of the defense. The 6’3”, 252-pound senior-to-be has seen action in 33 games, but he’s started just thrice.

This spring is crucial for the former Farmington Hills Harrison star, as he’s in danger of being surpassed by the likes of Poggi, who was supposed to be one of the gems of Hoke’s 2013 class. However, the 6’4”, 273-pounder redshirted that year and has played in just six games.

Wormley’s been in the mix for two years, and he’s a player whom D-line coach Greg Mattison absolutely loves. At 6’5” and 300 pounds, the soon-to-be junior seems like a better fit for the inside. But an offseason of conditioning could reveal a leaner, faster Wormley who’d better serve as an end than a tackle.

It all depends on Mattison and new defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. They’ll run a mix of the 4-3 and 3-4, so Wormley could easily slide inside and outside.

This past season, Beyer had 5.5 sacks and Clark had 4.5. Mattison and Durkin have enough knowhow and resources to manufacture at least 10 sacks from the DE position this fall. Replacing Beyer and Clark’s numbers shouldn’t be too tough of a task.

 

Step up for Ryan

Ryan’s senior year left a little to be desired, but he still managed to finish second in the Big Ten with 112 tackles. He averaged 1.17 tackles for a loss, the fifth-best mark in the conference, and consistently found a way to influence nearly every play on the field.

He played both inside and outside linebacker during his four-year tenure.

While in the middle, Ryan was often one of the first to meet the ball-carrier. His speed—he ran an impressive 4.65-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine—allowed him to make life difficult for tight ends and receivers too.

As it was last year, the linebacker position could end up being one of the most competitive during workouts. That’s not a bad thing, either.

Joe Bolden, a senior-to-be, stands out as Ryan’s successor. At 6’3” and 232 pounds, he packs a punch. However, he must improve on wrapping up running backs. That was one of his weaknesses in 2014.

Desmond Morgan will return for a fifth year, so it’s fair to assume that he’ll be a guy to beat. The 6’1”, 236-pounder has 31 starts to his credit, making him ideal to assume the lead role in Ryan’s absence.

 

Peppers for Ray

If not for a lower leg/ankle injury, Jabrill Peppers would have been the starting nickelback for the Wolverines. He would have also started at corner—and wherever else he wanted, really.

The 6’1”, 205-pounder is fully healthy now, evidenced by a recent spree of backflips, so it’s safe to assume that he’ll get Taylor’s job—or take someone else’s job. Either/or.

 

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. Stats were pulled from Michigan’s ESPN team page, MGoBlue.com and BigTen.org. Recruiting info via 247Sports.

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4-Star Buckeye Commit: 'My Recruitment Is Still Open, but My Heart Is with OSU'

Bruce Judson, a 4-star dual-threat quarterback, per 247Sports, is committed to Ohio State. The talented athlete will be sure to bring his all-around game to the storied Buckeyes program.

Watch as he shares his earliest football memories, his interactions with Urban Meyer and what he loves about the Ohio State campus.

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Rapid-Fire Predictions for College Football's Biggest Spring Practice Storylines

As we inch closer toward the month of March, it's almost time for spring practices. There are a ton of storylines brewing as the Ohio State Buckeyes have a three-headed quarterback battle, the Oregon Ducks begin their search for Marcus Mariota's replacement, and head coach Jim Harbaugh begins his Michigan reign. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee dish out their headlines in anticipation for spring practices. 

Who will emerge as the Ohio State quarterback? Check out the video, and let us know! 

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Tennessee's Butch Jones on Vols Offseason Hype: 'We're Still a Work in Progress'

Tennessee coach Butch Jones presides over a Volunteers program that is a trendy pick to make a lot of noise throughout the college football landscape in 2015.

They've now got the playmakers to do it.

Already, the Vols' name is peppered all over way-too-early top-25 rankings across the Internet—from ESPN.com to Fox Sports to NFL.com.

Oddsshark.com includes Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd toward the bottom of its early Heisman Trophy candidates. According to college football guru Phil Steele, Vols quarterback Joshua Dobbs is also on a Heisman odds board.

There's nowhere for the Vols to hide any longer. The expectations have arrived. But is UT ready to win big?

"We're ready to continue to develop," Jones told B/R in an exclusive interview.

"Obviously, when you win, expectations are placed upon you, and we understand that. You want to be in a program where you have high expectations, but also I deal in realism. Like we spoke about, we're still not there yet from a competitive depth standpoint. But what I've told our football team is in terms of total development, we can't just be a year older; we have to be a year better."

Yes, UT's roster still has some holes, but it also has some areas that absolutely could shine.

Dobbs and Hurd are stars in the making. JUCO running back transfer Alvin Kamara really should bolster the running game, and there is a wealth of talent in the receiving corps. If the offensive line improves, the Vols could be explosive on offense.

Defensively, they already return a lot of talent in nine starters. When you throw in high-profile defensive linemen such as Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle, as well as potential stars throughout the unit, that side of the ball carries a lot of excitement as well.

For the first time in many years, there aren't any guaranteed losses on the schedule. Tennessee gets Georgia, Oklahoma, Arkansas and South Carolina all at home. It has to travel to Alabama, Florida and Missouri, but the slate of games doesn't look as daunting anymore considering UT's talent.

Another big, stacked recruiting class, on top of the one from 2014, has restocked the shelves of players on Rocky Top. Talented commitments from offensive linemen, defensive linemen, quarterbacks, running backs and at middle linebacker have strengthened some areas where Tennessee lacked depth.

Even all the transfers UT has dealt with this offseason can't be considered too detrimental. Despite eight defections from last year's class, the Vols still have 53 players on the roster from the previous two recruiting cycles.

UT is still equipped with enough depth and talent to win right now.

Though Jones still doesn't see a finished product, he commended his players' work in the weight room, how much they've taken to new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord and how the defensive players remain dedicated to improve under coordinator John Jancek.

All those things—along with a ho-hum offseason devoid of trouble thus far—are indicators UT has the leadership to handle the hype.

Jones preaches focusing on getting better every day, and that's why he doesn't worry about the Vols becoming too arrogant. They're only coming off of a 7-6 season in which they had to fight just to become bowl-eligible, after all.

To go from that point to competing for an SEC East title in one year is a tall order.

"We're still a work in progress," Jones said. "Now, you understand there are great expectations and you want that, but all we have to do is not take our eyes off the bull's-eye. We have to work to become better individually and collectively as a football team as well.

"What individuals can see now is they can see that vision starting to shape and take place. To me, it's all about timing, being at the right place at the right time, and Tennessee football is the right place at the right time. It's about leaving your legacy and helping put Tennessee football back to where it belongs."

It's a mantra Jones preaches in recruiting and to his players once they become Vols. He wants to see an ownership of the program, and when that happens, the wins will come.

From the day he arrived in Knoxville, he said, losing hasn't been acceptable, even if it was always understood it wouldn't be an overnight fix.

With a winning record capped by a bowl victory last year, the Vols took an important step—one that the public relations department showcased with a video that further fuels the hype machine.

Even so, Jones knows that TaxSlayer Bowls won't be celebrated quite so fondly in a future expected to hold bigger and better things, beginning now.

Recruiting buzz mixed with last season's success on the field equal an urgency to produce in the win column. Jones knows it, the players already at UT know it and recruits are groomed to expect more.

"My goals are to help the University of Tennessee win the national championship, and every other one of my personal goals and everything like that fall under that category," the 5-star Kahlil McKenzie told B/R last week. "The coaches told me what I need to do, and it's just all about me going out there, putting my nose down and getting to work and trying to be the best football player I can be to help Tennessee win a national championship. That'll be my main goal all four years I'm there."

According to Rocky Top Talk's Will Shelton, UT will be trotting out its most talented lineup since 2008, with a projected 22 starters that have a total of 81 stars from recruiting rankings. Sure, that talent is still young, but it's an impressive group of players.

With the way Jones continues to recruit and with dynamic players in key roles, there's no wonder the Vols are being talked about as a program on the rise.

It's good publicity, but it's also important to note that Jones' mentality hasn't changed, even if it's obvious from talking to him that he seems much more confident in his roster than a season ago.

"We always have championship expectations. That’s part of our culture; that’s part of the DNA of Tennessee football," Jones said. "We expect to win, and we expect to compete to win championships: bowl championships, SEC championships and then eventually the national championships, but that’s all a process.

"I'm very excited, but that excitement factor has not changed. This is a very, very special place. It's an honor and privilege to play here and an honor and privilege to coach here. I’m excited for our fans. I have that excitement each and every day I come to work."

 

All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted. All quotes obtained firsthand, 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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Georgia Football: Mark Richt's Toughest Task This Spring

Evolved as college football may be, some things haven't changed. One of those pillars of continuity is the importance of the quarterback position. Put plainly: You still need a solid quarterback to be successful.

Unfortunately for the Georgia Bulldogs, they've somehow managed to find poverty in their abundance.

There's an old football mantra that says teams who claim to have two quarterbacks really don't have one quarterback. If that's true, then what do teams with three quarterbacks have?

The short answer: a problem.

The slightly longer answer for Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt: a tough task that must be tackled this spring.

Richt appeared on the SEC Network's Paul Finebaum Show earlier this week. During the segment, Finebaum mistakenly referred to former Georgia starter Hutson Mason as "Hunter," but Richt fumbled his way through the 2015 depth chart with equally unconvincing posturing.

After listing the parties contending for the starting spot, Richt concluded (video above), "We've got three guys right now that are on scholarship that are going to be battling away for that job. I don't really see a front-runner right now."

Some of that inexact prognostication was likely coy coachspeak. But there's some truth to the notion that everyone playing the quarterback position at Georgia is in contention for the job.

Granted, each player brings something different to the table.

Faton Bauta, a junior in 2015, is the most agile and mobile option. Brice Ramsey, a rising sophomore, has the biggest arm. Jacob Park, who will be a freshman, may be the most versatile of the three potential starters.

But these traits aren't newfound intricacies and shouldn't require too much further evaluation from Richt and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

After all, Bauta, Ramsey and Park all enrolled early as freshmen and each player took a redshirt season. In total, the three signal-callers have been enrolled at the university for 15 combined semesters (not including summers).

So while Georgia is looking for a "new" starter to replace Mason, those vying for the coveted spot as top Dawg aren't new themselves.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Ramsey is the man for the job. Thanks to a cannon-like arm, he's also the likeliest to shake the "system quarterback" label that hung over Mason.

But when Mason went down with an injury in the Belk Bowl, the transfer of power was hardly that of a Hollywood production. Ramsey completed just four of nine passes and tossed an interception while generally resembling a frazzled Matt Saracen thrust prematurely into action in Friday Night Lights. 

It wasn't the script that Bulldog fans had envisioned.

But it's still telling that it was his name called and not Bauta's. Even more indicative of Ramsey's front-runner status is the fact that Bauta, who arrived on campus in January of 2012, has attempted just five career passes.

Meanwhile, Park remains an unknown quantity despite rave reviews from his season as the scout squad's quarterback. As former Bulldog defensive back Damian Swann told Gentry Estes of Dawgs247, "The kid has a bright future, athletic, strong arm, can make every throw."

But the time for hypothesizing and passive conjecture is drawing to a close for Richt and fans alike.

Though open competition should foster improvement for Ramsey, Bauta and Park, it's not like the trio hasn't already had an opportunity to demonstrate value. And to be fair, it's not necessarily true that they've failed to do so.

But the need for differentiation is urgent and ultimately the decision-making process will fall on Richt and Schottenheimer. Their work is cut out for them—even schematically.

Even if the talent level between the three quarterbacks is equal, some delineation needs to be made based on playing style.

Ramsey seems best suited for a big-play, pro-style offense given his arm strength and pocket presence. But is that what Georgia wants? It's what the Bulldogs had with Matthew Stafford and later Aaron Murray. However, neither player won an SEC Championship.

Recently, Georgia hasn't placed a large emphasis on quarterback mobility. Though Murray was more adept at running than he was given credit for, Mason's scrambles were more recognizable for their awkward slides than their elusiveness.

One would think Bauta, a dual-threat commodity, was recruited for a reason. If Georgia wants to stay run-heavy and explore read-option attacks, he could be the man.

And if Park really can do a little bit of everything, then perhaps his versatility will be valuable enough to negate his youth.

In any event, Georgia must leave spring practice with one starting quarterback—not three. If Richt and Schottenheimer fail to prioritize skill sets and evaluate players with conviction, offseason development of the offense will be stunted.

That could be a bad thing for Schottenheimer and a worse thing for Richt, who persuaded the athletic department into spending big dollars on Schottenheimer and other assistants.

If Richt doesn't find a winning passer, winning may pass him by.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

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Mississippi State HC Dan Mullen Latest to Benefit in Salary Arms Race

It wasn't a matter of "if," it was a matter of "when" Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen would receive a raise and contract extension.

"When" came on Thursday, when the school announced that Mullen would receive $4.275 million over the next four years—four years being the maximum duration allowed under state law.

"It’s a privilege to represent our university, our program and our fans here at Mississippi State," said Mullen in a release from the school. "I appreciate Scott Stricklin and our administration who have given us the tools and resources to be successful and develop Bulldog football into a national brand over the last six years."

Is it appropriate? You bet it is, given the current landscape of college football.

It may seem like Mullen is being rewarded for one good season—one in which his Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 for the first time ever, won 10 or more games for just the third time in history and earned an Orange Bowl bid for the first time since 1941.

To a point, that's accurate, but everything is relative. Relatively speaking, the fact that Mullen can say the program is even in the ballpark of becoming a "national brand" is nothing short of a miracle.

Prior to Mullen's arrival, Mississippi State had gone to just 13 bowl games in its existence (1895-2008). Since his arrival, it's gone to five straight bowl games (2010-2014) for the first time in program history.

Up until his arrival, Mississippi State being an average SEC football team was the college football equivalent of the Washington Generals beating the Harlem Globetrotters twice in a row. It was mythical.

Not only did Mullen make it reality, he built on the foundation he constructed with 2014's magical run.

Mullen said in the release:

We spent five weeks ranked No. 1 last season for the first time, but we have only scratched the surface on what we can accomplish here. We have created a winning culture both on and off the field and built a program that has sustained success in the nation’s toughest conference. I’ve always said we are going to win a championship here, and I firmly believe that.

Stability helps sustain success, and Mullen's new contract announces to the college football world that Mississippi State is stable.

Is that a mirage, or is that reality?

Nobody knows until the Bulldogs go out and prove it, but the college football's newest $4 million man furthers that perception, and perception is reality in every aspect of college football.

From the way teams are perceived by the College Football Playoff selection committee, to the things coaches say to prospects in living rooms around the country, to the Heisman Trophy, everything is about public relations, and that's why Mullen's extension is important.

This is nothing new.

"It’s a salary race," former Georgia head coach and athletics director Vince Dooley told Bleacher Report. "I don’t know where it’s going to stop. It’s always been a race. When we came to Georgia, we had the worst facilities in the world. We changed that, but before we knew it, we were getting passed again. It’s constant, and you have that with salaries now."

Is Mississippi State athletics director Scott Stricklin taking a chance by backing up the Brinks truck to Mullen's house based on "one good season?"

Maybe.

But not doing it is much more of a risk, because it would signal to the rest of the world that the administration felt that 2014 was just one good season.

That's far more detrimental than a few million bucks.

 

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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Are LSU's Recruiting Sanctions Indicative of a Bigger Problem in Baton Rouge?

It's never truly the offseason unless there's some kind of scandal, and LSU is now embroiled in a scandal.

Well, a "mini-scandal," anyway.

The school was banned from signing early enrollees to financial aid agreements for two years and docked 10 percent of its recruiting evaluation days in 2015, according to Ross Dellenger of The Advocate.

The sanctions from the SEC stem from the financial aid agreement that 3-star class of 2015 offensive line prospect Matt Womack signed with LSU prior to signing a national letter of intent with Alabama.

Womack's reaction?

As B/R national recruiting writer Damon Sayles noted, LSU will be just fine on the recruiting trail. 

On the bigger scale, it will be more of the same.

This is not a sign of impending doom, a sign that head coach Les Miles is losing control or that the foundation of the LSU program is crumbling. 

This is not a sign that college football is dirty, programs are out of control or that there needs to be a massive regulatory overhaul.

It's just proof of what we already knew—the financial aid agreement process, which was instituted two years ago, is heavily slanted in favor of the prospect.

Unlike the national letter of intent, which prospects sign and fax in to their schools on national signing day, the financial aid agreement binds the school to the player, but not the other way around. They are typically signed to unlock different rules that allow coaches to have unlimited contact with players even during times in which only limited contact is allowed.

Even after signing the financial aid agreement, the Womack family wasn't convinced that LSU was actually using it, according to Courtney Cronin of The (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger

If it was signed, though, and some contact was made that otherwise wouldn't be allowed under normal recruiting rules, then LSU did, technically, break the rules.

That's the problem—the rules.

Basically, the whim of a teenager cost LSU quite a bit of evaluation time and two years of financial aid agreements.

Toss the two-year financial aid agreement ban out the window. It's meaningless.

After this fiasco, programs should be much more reluctant to offer them, with LSU leading the charge. This ruling doesn't prevent the Tigers from having early enrollees, it just prevents those early enrollees from signing financial aid agreements.

All this will do is force programs to be smarter when handing out financial aid agreements in the future, especially early in the recruiting cycle.

Maybe, just maybe, 3-star prospects won't get them anymore.

 

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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Michigan Football: Predictions for Spring Practice

Jim Harbaugh is known for brutal honesty, whether tweaking opposing coaches or his own players. Fans and media have diligently waited for Harbaugh to unload on rivals Ohio State and Michigan State or perhaps take a shot at former collegiate and NFL rival Pete Carroll for falling short of the Super Bowl.

But Harbaugh has been remarkably restrained. Since his opening press conference he has resisted the urge to be controversial, choosing rather to defer to coach speak rather than provide grist for the media or bulletin-board material for a future opponent.

So far at Michigan he's remained in check, but things are about to get very interesting now that practice has begun in Ann Arbor.

Harbaugh made his intentions clear on ESPN Radio last month:

There's a great saying: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. I’m going into this not watching a lot of tape of the current team, because I want to make our own evaluation and have everybody make a clean slate and a fresh start. They're my guys. They're going to know that I'm in their corner and they're in my corner and we're in each other's corner.

Whatever these players did good or bad before now has been wiped away. This approach was also mentioned by defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin after the second day of practice:

What I want to do is make sure all these guys, and I told them this when I met with them, that they have a clean slate to start from. In terms of individuals, I want these guys to know, maybe you’re a guy who hasn't played much, you have a new opportunity to do that…You gotta go earn it.

When Harbaugh faced the media after his first practice, there were points where you could sense him churning through potential responses before doling out some coach speak, but Mount Harbaugh is going to erupt sooner rather than later.

He may not have watched a lot of tape on his team from last season, but he’s sure to repeatedly watch every second of practice from now on. And when he’s comfortable that he has a good sample size, he’ll begin to talk about his team.

The quarterbacks will be the first to bear the brunt of his honesty. Even with the transfer of Russell Bellomy, Michigan has a surplus at the position with two more are on the way in the fall. Some may choose to transfer or change positions to help the team.

Former Wolverine Devin Gardner switched to wide receiver (and perhaps should have stayed there), and tight ends Andy Mignery and Jay Riemersma both started as quarterbacks.

Harbaugh won’t be shy about letting players know were they stand. And everyone from top recruit to returning starter will need to compete every day.

For now, Harbaugh is exhibiting the restraint he’s developed during his time in the NFL, when every utterance could become a distraction to his team.

But the relative quiet won’t last forever.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

Follow @PCallihan

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