NCAA Football News
For college football fans, summer is a time for hope. Every team is undefeated. New recruits, coaches and schemes will make a difference in the fall. Unproven players will fulfill their potential and lead programs to bowl games, league titles and the College Football Playoff. As fans thumb through preseason magazines, it’s easy for minds to wander and think about fall glory before the first down is played.
That’s the beauty of summer. As players sweat through offseason workouts, fans are free to imagine how those hours in the sun will pay off, for better or worse. That’s what we’ve done here. We’ve examined each program’s 2016 schedule, returning roster and recruits, and determined a best- and worst-case scenario for the Top 25 preseason programs.
The Top 25 we’re using is a composite of available preseason polls, compiled by Bleacher Report. These are not hard and fast predictions but simply an examination of what could happen, for better or worse. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.
In the SEC, road teams run into hostile environments virtually every weekend.
Whether it's Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Tiger Stadium at LSU or the recently renovated Kyle Field at Texas A&M, 18-22-year-old young men must be prepared for the biggest stages in football—pro or college—on virtually a weekly basis.
Which environments are the most hostile?
Our picks based on results, capacity, hostility and more are in this slideshow.
The college football season is just over three months away and certain games on the 2016 slate are already beginning to stand out.
But while it's the teams that often make for interesting matchups in the same way that styles make fights, one point of intrigue that often gets overlooked is where each game is being played. And the Big Ten just happens to lay claim to some of college football's top venues, including the nation's top two stadiums in terms of average attendance.
With that in mind, let's rank the Big Ten's best environments based on the home-field advantages they provide for their respective teams heading into the 2016 season. Attendance figures are via the NCAA, while team records are courtesy of TeamRankings.com.
Having a dynamic quarterback can separate the good teams from the great, and that's a key reason why the Tennessee football program needs capable senior Joshua Dobbs to take a giant leap in 2016.
It's also why the Volunteers should feel pretty strongly about their chances to win a lot of football games at first glance of this season's schedule. There are exactly zero proven star quarterbacks among the 12 opponents UT has on the docket.
It's truly an astounding list.
Normally for these exercises, you've got to look at a body of work and extrapolate expectations from that, but in an examination of the top signal-callers on Tennessee's schedule, potential must be projected. There's simply not enough experience among the opposing quarterbacks.
Among the players on this list, there are three transfers, including a JUCO prospect and another player who couldn't cultivate playing time at Alabama or Oregon State. One of the trio left his school because he couldn't beat out the incumbent.
Then, there's a promising prospect who isn't even guaranteed the starting job at his school in Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason. But his upside is too great to leave off.
Players such as Missouri's Drew Lock, Vanderbilt's Kyle Shurmur and Appalachian State's Taylor Lamb—the reigning Sun Belt Freshman of the Year—just missed the list because there aren't enough quality playmakers around them to make them a real threat to a strong UT team.
That's why new Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and a hungry bunch of Vols pass-rushers must be licking their chops.
Let's take a look at the most unproven list of opposing quarterbacks you're ever likely to see in the SEC and try to come up with a list of those who could give the Vols trouble in '16.
EL SOBRANTE, Calif. — The Nike Opening Regional camp circuit made its latest stop in Oakland as a number of the elite prospects on the West Coast showed up to compete for a spot at the nation’s premier summer camp showcase.
A picturesque backdrop at De Anza High School in El Sobrante with mild and comfortable temperatures greeted the hundreds of athletes in attendance.
In all, nine athletes earned an invite to The Opening while four quarterbacks punched their ticket to the Elite 11 finals in Los Angeles next month.
The number of instant invites was a direct reflection of the amount of talent on hand, which matched up favorably with some of the more loaded fields earlier on this year’s tour.
Which players rose to the occasion and what other news and notes emerged from the Oakland regional?
Let’s get into it.
QB Group Lives Up to Hype
With a field that included quarterbacks committed to schools such as Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Michigan and Washington State, the arm talent on display was evident from the get-go.
Led by head coach Trent Dilfer, The Elite 11 coaching staff were energetic throughout the event in doling out praise and offering tips to the passers in attendance.
Three known quantities lived up to their billing in 5-star Michigan pledge Dylan McCaffrey, 4-star Alabama commit Tua Tagovailoa and 4-star Jack Sears—who is uncommitted and also earned MVP of the quarterback segment. All three consistently performed at a high level and made their selections for the Elite 11 finals a mere formality.
“It feels fantastic. It’s been a dream of mine to get to the Elite 11 since I was little,” McCaffrey told Bleacher Report. “When I heard my name called, my face lit up with a big smile, so I’m really happy right now.”
While those guys were known in recruiting circles, the last recipient of the bunch was 3-star Jake Haener.
The 6’0”, 180-pounder out of Monte Vista High School in Danville, California admitted he entered the event with plenty of incentive to make a name for himself.
“I wasn’t expecting [the Elite 11 invite]. I came in here today just wanting to compete with some of the best guys in the country,” Haener said. “I’ve been working hard for this moment and I’m just happy to see it pay off.”
Haener reports that he has seven offers, but none from Power 5 schools. Of the bigger schools, he mentioned USC, UCLA, Cal, Oregon State and Wake Forest as schools he’s interested in.
For now, he will focus on spring football with his teammates and preparing for the big stage of the Elite 11 finals in Los Angeles next month.
Don’t expect him to enter that event lacking for confidence, either.
“I just wanted to do the best I could. I knew that if I come in and throw the ball the way I know I can throw it, it’s up there with the top guys in the country,” Haener explained. “I’m not scared of competing with them. They are all great guys. I’m just glad I performed well.”
Rising DB Racks Up Awards
There were a handful of elite defensive backs on hand with lengthy offer lists.
However, one rangy defender stole the show: 3-star corner Jaylon Johnson from Central East High School in Fresno, California.
Johnson started his day blowing the doors off the testing period at the beginning of the camp. He won the ratings MVP with a score of 132.42.
He doubled down by winning the camp’s fastest man challenge by running a 4.49 against three other touted defenders.
His day ended with MVP honors for the defensive backs segment and an invite to The Opening.
“It’s a true blessing from God. I know a lot of big-time players have come through this event. It definitely feels good to put my name on that list of guys,” Johnson said.
Furthermore, he made an emphatic statement in his quest to be rated among the nation’s elite defensive backs.
“I think I showed that I’m a competitor,” Johnson said. “I think nobody really knew how good I was, but to come out here and show what I can do, it’s definitely a good feeling and shows that I’m one of the best athletes in the country.”
He’ll get another chance on the biggest of stages in July at The Opening.
DL Segment Shines
It was a banner day for the defensive side of the ball as seven of the nine invites to The Opening came from players on that side of the ball.
Half of that group was represented by players who will line up with their hands in the dirt at the next level.
“It feels really good to get open. I’m really hyped right now,” Rogers exclaimed. “I just wanted to show them what I can do and build on the film I’ve got up. I just came out here to dominate and handle my business and I feel like I did that. I’m glad that it was enough for me to get that invite.”
Joining them in Oregon will be 4-star defensive end and UCLA pledge Hunter Echols.
The 6’4”, 220-pounder, who rates as the nation’s No. 11 weakside defensive end and the No. 154 player overall, was a blur off the edge for offensive linemen to deal with.
“It’s a blessing. I get to rep UCLA at The Opening with my boy Jaelan Phillips. I’m just excited about that opportunity,” Echols said. “I was able to show the coaches my game speed and determination to get to the quarterback. I’m ready to compete against the best offensive linemen in the country in Oregon. I’m looking to make my coaches and family proud out there.”
Stanford TE Pledge Represents Position Segment
One of the more underrated segments in terms of talent on hand was the tight end group.
At the head of that group was 4-star pass catcher and current Stanford commit Colby Parkinson.
The 6’6”, 225-pounder is currently rated as the nation’s No. 2 tight end prospect, but he made his case to challenge for the top spot.
His hard work paid off with an invite to The Opening. In the process, he fulfilled a dream he’s had since he entered the high school level.
“Since my freshman year, I’ve been watching it on TV. I was like, ‘there’s no way I’ll be able to get there one day,’ ” Parkinson said. “Now, I just got the invite and it’s so surreal. I’m really excited about it.”
“It’s so fun. I love those guys. They are a bunch of fools,” Parkinson said. “There’s like five or six guys here who are top of the line tight ends so that’s pretty cool. It was fun competing with all of them.”
Other News and Notes
During the final showcase portion of the camp that pits the best of the best, one prospect made Dilfer peel his eyes away from the quarterbacks: 5-star running back and Alabama pledge Najee Harris.
After a series of impressive catches, Dilfer gushed about his physicality and his ability to make tough catches in space.
Harris lived up to his billing as the nation’s top overall prospect in the 2017 cycle, earning his second straight trip to The Opening in the process.
While Dylan McCaffrey was busy showcasing his skills, most observers entered the event hoping to get their first glance at the youngest of the McCaffrey brothers clan: 2019 quarterback Luke McCaffrey.
However, Dylan confirmed that his younger brother suffered a fractured collarbone recently and was unable to make the trip.
Of course, the brothers are the younger siblings of the McCaffrey clan that includes Stanford running back sensation Christian McCaffrey and former Duke receiver Max McCaffrey.
While most of the campers in attendance had their sights on getting to The Opening, one of the prominent alums from the 2016 class was in attendance to support them: 4-star linebacker and Washington signee Camilo Eifler.
Eifler went public with his commitment to the Huskies at The Opening last year.
With the Oakland camp now in the rear view, this coming weekend’s camp in Seattle represents the final stop of the 14-city Nike Opening Regional circuit.
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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The offseason is the time for optimism, so fans are looking ahead to the 2016 college football season with dreams of at least a conference championship.
But only 10 of the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision programs will eventually hoist their respective league's trophy. We're here to predict which schools will ultimately earn that opportunity, also including the opponent in the conference title game.
Although a championship generally means more nationally for a Power Five faction, Group of Five teams are vying for the spot in a New Year's Six bowl game.
For ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC squads, though, a conference championship is merely a necessary step toward claiming a spot in the College Football Playoff.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For those who have been around the University of Alabama football program for a while, he’s already a familiar face.
Ed Marynowitz has been at the football complex a lot this spring, including during the Crimson Tide’s pro day, and even though he isn’t listed as having a position with the program, no one would be surprised if that changes in the near future.
Marynowitz used to be Alabama’s director of player personnel. Most football fans outside of Tuscaloosa are more familiar with his last job, running the personnel department for the Philadelphia Eagles when Chip Kelly was the head coach.
There’s a reason why Alabama has the reputation of having the best support staff in college football. It’s almost certainly the biggest, yet it is usually in flux because so many people use it as a springboard.
That's normal for a major college football program, although just a quick glance at some of the staff directories in the Southeastern Conference demonstrates how no two are alike.
For example, Arkansas’ athletic department has a director of clinical and sport psychology on staff, Dr. Michael Johnson. The Ole Miss football staff has its own graphic designer. Texas A&M has sports performance coaches, a fancy term for the weight room staff.
When it comes to staff limitations, the NCAA mandates that a football program can have nine coaches and four graduate assistants. There’s no limit on anyone else.
“I think that there is a place for 10 coaches on a staff,” said head coach Nick Saban, who would like to see the maximum raised by one. “The numbers just work out better with a special teams coach, that you could have nine and a special teams coach.”
For 2016, Alabama has tweaked the staff’s responsibilities, with Bobby Williams stepping down and Brent Key being added as an offensive line coach. While he’s overseeing the guards and centers, Mario Cristobal is responsible for the tackles and tight ends.
Although his job title hasn’t changed, running backs coach Burton Burns is overseeing special teams, but he’s getting a lot of help.
"Me and Coach Burns, we'll meet sometimes and just kind of talk about special teams and stuff,” punter JK Scott said. “We really don't meet a lot with Coach Burns just because he's got running backs and stuff. We usually meet with Coach Farrell. But Coach Burns, it's been good so far with him."
If you’re wondering who Coach Farrell is, Scott was referring to Brendan Farrell, who is one of the Crimson Tide’s analysts. Among his previous positions are the assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and tight ends coach at Northwestern State, which competes at the FCS level.
They’re the guys who take care of everything so the coaches can focus on doing just that—coaching. Alabama has eight, and each one sees his time in Tuscaloosa as an investment in his future:
- Dean Altobelli: The former Michigan State player put his legal career on hold to work for the Crimson Tide. The attorney was a principal member at Miller Canfield, a Detroit-based law firm.
- Shea Tierney: Most recently was an analyst for the Philadelphia Eagles.
- Wes Neighbors: A familiar name for Alabama fans, the former defensive back was a third-generation player for the Crimson Tide, and his grandfather, Billy, is in the College Football Hall of Fame.
- William Vlachos: The former Alabama center was a three-year starter who initially rejoined the Crimson Tide as a graduate assistant.
- Charlie Weis Jr.: You may have seen his father celebrating on the field after Alabama won the national championship. Weis held a similar position for him at Kansas.
- Garrett Cox: Former linebackers coach at Texas Southern.
- Mike Locksley: Former Maryland offensive coordinator and head coach at New Mexico from 2009-11.
If you’re thinking Alabama is simply throwing money at them to stack the deck, it’s not. According to figures Jon Solomon of CBS Sports acquired from the University of Alabama Division of Financial Affairs, their positions paid just between $23,462-$47,409 last year.
“We love it that we can have some extra guys around that are young guys that aspire to be coaches, and I think one of the most difficult things about our profession is how do you get experience so that you can grow and develop as a coach,” Saban said.
Despite the low wages, the analyst jobs and other low-level positions in the program are highly sought.
For example, in 2013, Joe Palcic accepted the special teams coordinator job at Miami (Ohio), his alma mater, but resigned for an opportunity to serve as an Alabama analyst. Jake Peetz did that as well. He went from that to joining the Washington Redskins as an offensive quality control coach to quarterbacks assistant with the Oakland Raiders last year.
In 2015, former Kansas offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau was on the Alabama payroll. At the end of last season, he was named Fresno State’s offensive coordinator. On the defensive side, Glenn Schumann followed Kirby Smart, who called him his “right-hand man,” to Georgia to become his linebackers coach.
“Regardless of where they need to start professionally, I think this is a great thing for our profession, to be able to help develop coaches, and I think those guys now have created a role and a niche for themselves that's very important to every program because we all depend on them,” said Saban.
Some even come back to Tuscaloosa.
Before he was hired as a graduate assistant in 2010, Derrick Ansley had five years of coaching experience at Division III Huntingdon College. He left to be the secondary coach at Tennessee (2012) and Kentucky (2013-15), where he was named co-defensive coordinator in January. A month later, he returned to coach the defensive backs.
Similarly, Bill Napier was Alabama’s offensive quality control assistant in 2011 before following Jim McElwain to Colorado State to be his quarterbacks coach. In 2013, Jimbo Fisher hired him to be Florida State’s tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator, but then Saban needed a receivers coach.
As for Marynowitz, he was a scouting assistant for the Miami Dolphins under Bill Parcells, but he joined the Alabama staff in December 2008. He left at age 30 to join the Eagles’ scouting department.
"Ed did an outstanding job for us when he was here and made a great contribution to our program as director of player personnel,” Saban said in a release when Marynowitz was promoted last January. “The thing I was most impressed with was how much he wanted to learn in the area of player evaluation, and his knowledge in that area really expanded during his time at Alabama.”
Marynowitz has the kind of organized football mind that Saban likes to have around, regardless of his position, and is already well-versed in how the coach does things.
When he left, Saban initially hired someone from the outside to replace him, which didn’t work out so well. Paul Gonnella departed after one year, went to South Florida and has since started his own recruiting service named (and I swear I’m not making this up) “The Process.”
The next person to hold that job turned heads, as it was one of Saban’s former defensive coordinators, Kevin Steele.
Needless to say, having worked for Saban in any capacity stands out on a resume.
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.
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The Ohio State football team will be challenged by a number of elite teams this fall, headlined by Oklahoma on the road in Week 3, but the Buckeyes won't have to defend an elite group of quarterbacks.
The departures of Connor Cook from Michigan State, Nate Sudfeld from Indiana, Christian Hackenberg from Penn State and Jake Rudock from Michigan has created a void of experience in the offenses Ohio State will face this year.
All four of those quarterbacks heard their names called in the NFL draft a few weeks ago, so the Buckeyes will be facing a lot of good teams with a new signal-caller behind center.
However, this next group of five quarterbacks should challenge Ohio State the most due to their skill level, experience and/or the coach they're learning from.
The LSU Tigers received a major boost Saturday when they received a commitment from receiver Stephen Guidry.
Guidry, 247Sports' top-ranked junior college receiver, announced his decision on Twitter.
According to Ross Dellenger of the Advocate, Guidry decided to commit after a visit to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Saturday.
Guidry's choice is a bit of surprise after it appeared that Alabama was the favorite for his services. He told SEC Country's Chris Kirschner earlier this week that the Crimson Tide were his top option and that he nearly committed to the school after a visit last weekend.
LSU wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig led the charge for Guidry. Craig was hired away from Auburn's staff in February, and this was a massive recruiting get for him, which was acknowledged by 247Sports' Shea Dixon:
Guidry will be a huge addition to a Tigers program that has struggled with the passing game in recent years.
LSU finished 108th in passing yards in 2015 and 109th in 2014. This is a considerable drop from the dynamic air attack the team featured in 2013 with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Zach Mettenberger.
However, the Tigers have the potential to form one of the SEC's best receivers group in 2017. Guidry will join a position room that already boasts budding star Malachi Dupre. If Dupre, a junior, returns for another year, LSU will have two receivers who are speedy and stand above 6'3".
The full impact of Guidry will depend on the development of LSU's quarterback situation. Junior Brandon Harris is the presumed starter after throwing passes for the team in 2015, but he will need to improve on the 13 touchdowns and 53.8 percent completion rate to lift this offense.
According to Gridiron Now's Tony Barnhart, head coach Les Miles believes in Harris, but until he proves he is a quality quarterback, there will still be questions around LSU's passing game. Guidry's addition should help, though, as he gives the secondary a reason not to double-team Dupre, assuming he is still around.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com.
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Deejay Dallas remains a man without a position, but he has at least sorted out his school of choice for the next few years. Dallas committed to the University of Miami (Fla.) on Saturday, per Chad Simmons of Scout.com.
I have committed to Miami. This is the perfect time for me to commit because I am comfortable with my decision and my family is at ease. I asked my family if I could go through with it, they gave me the green light, so that was that. I had been second-guessing myself since late February and into early March, but this month kind of sealed the deal for me.
According to 247Sports' composite rankings, the Brunswick, Georgia, native is the No. 12 athlete in the 2017 class. He's also the 222nd-best player overall and 27th-best in the state of Georgia.
Dallas originally committed to Georgia in July 2015 but then decommitted in December shortly after the school hired Kirby Smart. In a piece for USA Today on April 11, Dallas wrote how the new coaching staff in Athens wasn't exactly rolling out the red carpet for him:
I have only been on one visit to Georgia since Coach Mark Richt was let go. That one visit was Junior Day, and I was there with all the top prospects in Georgia from the class of 2017. It was a fun day and I got to see a lot of friends that day and it was the first time the new staff was able to make a first impression. That being said, I rarely hear from the staff and they don’t make me feel like a priority, but it is understandable, I guess. It seems as though they have other priorities. I guess I’ll never know though, but I am going to see how the process plays out and I will always consider Athens a place where I can call home. Go Dawgs??
Judging from those comments, the Bulldogs didn't stand a chance at getting Dallas' commitment a second time around.
Richt's first task will be figuring out Dallas' best position. He has had his hand in a little bit of everything offensively for Glynn Academy as a junior, per MaxPreps:
Eliminating quarterback as a possibility would be sensible. Dallas is far more dangerous with his legs than he is with his arm. He could line up under center for a few trick plays to throw off the defense, but putting him at QB on a full-time basis wouldn't get the best out of his dynamic skill set:
According to Hudl, Dallas clocked a 4.52 40-yard dash. Using the phrase "deceptively fast" is somewhat cliche, but it feels appropriate in this situation. Dallas looks quicker on the field than his 40 time would lead one to believe.
In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jeff Sentell, Dallas revealed quarterback would be his personal preference but remains flexible.
"If quarterback isn't in God's plan for me then I am going to listen and see what God's plan is for me," he said. "Wherever I feel comfortable, that is where I am going to end up going. Put me on offense and I'll change a game. Put me on defense and I will control the game and keep the other team's points down so we can win."
With his acceleration and agility, he can be a weapon in the return game immediately upon his arrival in Miami, and over time, he might grow into a versatile two-way star.
Whether safety, cornerback or wide receiver becomes his primary position, Dallas is bound to create some highlight-reel plays at Miami.
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As college football enters the third season of the College Football Playoff, it has become clear that having a strong schedule is as important as it has ever been. The playoff doubles the number of teams with a legit shot at the national title following the regular season (from two to four), but it’s still incredibly tough to make the four-team field.
There is margin for error; after all, in two years, only two teams (Clemson and Florida State) have finished the regular season unbeaten. But when you lose a game, you fall into a pool of similarly accomplished teams. Strength of schedule matters: The College Football Playoff selection committee explicitly lists it as one of three key factors, alongside winning conference championships and head-to-head results, when comparing similar teams.
Getting marquee teams on your schedule makes the road to the playoff tougher, but succeeding in those big moments is a major plus for your resume. That’s why having a tough nonconference slate is crucial. Here’s a look at the toughest nonconference game for every Power Five team.
Year-round followers of the NFL draft are already well aware that Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson is among a handful of prospects in contention to be the No. 1 pick in 2017 NFL draft.
ESPN.com's Mel Kiper recently ranked Watson No. 4 overall on his early big board, and as the only quarterback in Kiper's top 10, that clearly makes him a favorite for the No. 1 pick.
But it's important to remember that this is still an early projection, especially for a 20-year-old quarterback coming off his true-sophomore campaign.
When an early favorite to go No. 1 overall ends up falling in the following draft, we often hear comments along the lines of: "well, if he turned pro last year he would have been a top-10 pick." But these sentiments are almost always complete fiction and solely based off preseason mock-draft positioning.
What gets lost in these hindsight assessments is the fact that early big boards and mock drafts aren't solely about what a player is today—they're about what he will be 11 months from now.
Watson is a legitimate candidate to go No. 1 overall in next year's draft, but there are two distinct factors in this assessment.
The first factor is based on the quarterback Watson is today. He is among the most talented quarterbacks in the country and has already shown some NFL traits. But the second factor—perhaps the most important factor—is about the trajectory of his career path.
As of May 2016, Watson is not ready to play at the NFL level. However, he has shown considerable growth during his first two seasons at Clemson, and we assume that will continue into the 2016 season. So based on where he is today and the trajectory of his career, it's reasonable to assume that by April 2017, Watson will be ready to advance to the pro game as a top pick.
Think of it like a young company's stock. After two steady years of growth, there is optimism for the future. But you wouldn't yet assume it has Google's level of stability based on a small two-year sample. And that's where we stand with Watson. He has the potential, and he's shown the growth, but there's still more to prove.
So rather than break down why Watson is a top prospect, let's focus on what he needs to accomplish this season to ascend to the next level and truly earn his spot atop draft boards in 2017.
When watching Watson during the 2016 college football season, here are a two of the most important areas to focus on to asses his continued development.
Unlike many young quarterbacks with his athleticism, Watson is a pocket passer first. While he does rack up yardage on the ground, a significant percentage comes on designed runs. So when he drops back to pass, Watson is genuinely looking to throw, which is a significant step in a quarterback's development.
Unfortunately, Watson hasn't quite reached the stage where he trusts what he sees from the pocket. Like many young quarterbacks, he's more comfortable throwing to the receiver who is already open, rather than the one who can become open if the throw is placed correctly.
Below is an example from the College Football Playoff National Championship Game against Alabama where Watson passes up an opportunity to throw his receiver open.
This a 3rd-and-4 situation late in the first quarter. Wide receiver Artavis Scott lines up wide and shows a slant route for about five yards, which forces Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland to pass him off to the deep safety in that area of the field. But Scott then cuts back toward the sideline and gets behind Ragland.
At this point, Watson has a clear window to throw over Ragland and lead Scott toward the sideline for a big gain. As the image above shows, Watson sees Scott and is ready to throw but can't bring himself to pull the trigger. He ends up tucking the ball and running himself into pressure, before eventually escaping for a five-yard gain.
These are the types of anticipatory throws that Watson needs to become more comfortable making before he's ready for the NFL. By NFL standards, Scott is wide open based on where he will be when the ball arrives, and Watson will be expected to make this throw every time.
Decisions Under Pressure
As demonstrated above, Watson has a tendency to hesitate when he's in a clean pocket. But when facing pressure, he runs into the opposite issue.
As soon as Watson feels as though his option to tuck and run has been taken away, his decision-making becomes erratic and his movements more panicked.
Perhaps the best example of this came at one of the biggest moments of Clemson's season in 2015.
During the College Football Playoff against Oklahoma, Watson is faced with 3rd-and-8 deep in Sooners territory while trailing 17-16.
Watson sees almost immediate pressure and rolls to his right. At this point, he could throw the ball away or even take a sack, and Clemson would have an opportunity to kick a field goal to take the lead.
Instead, Watson essentially tosses a Hail Mary into the end zone that gets intercepted by Sooners cornerback Zack Sanchez.
These types of poor decisions under pressure were a common theme throughout Watson's 2015 season.
CFB Film Room recently shared Watson's stats under pressure and offered up Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield as a comparison:
Deshaun Watson vs Baker Mayfield under pressure last season pic.twitter.com/uUP0aKZ8wW— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) May 18, 2016
Obviously the two quarterbacks faced different competition, but that doesn't change the fact that Watson's numbers are cause for some concern and an area he will look to improve in 2016.
This assessment of Watson might sound overly negative, but keep in mind the intent is to highlight the areas for improvement. Both of these aspects of Watson's game are related to decision-making—an area in which quarterbacks are constantly working to learn and develop, well into their pro careers.
As a true sophomore in 2015, it would have been unreasonable to expect Watson to consistently display the decision-making ability of a veteran NFL quarterback. And even by the end of his 2016 season, pro scouts won't expect perfection in these areas.
But scouts will be watching closely to see that Watson continues to show growth.
As long as Watson improves in these areas and continues to ascend as a prospect, he should land near the top of the first round when he chooses to enter the NFL draft.
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The LSU Tigers added a marquee piece to their 2017 recruiting class on Friday in the form of offensive lineman Austin Deculus.
Nick Krueger of Rivals.com reported the talented tackle's decision to join the Tigers.
“It’s just always been my dream since I was little,” Deculus said about playing for LSU, per Krueger. “The offense that they run suits me well; they just line up and smash you in the mouth every play.”
Deculus is a 4-star prospect who ranks as the No. 45 overall prospect and No. 10 offensive tackle in the 2017 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. He also checks in as the fifth-best recruit from Texas.
“[Offensive line coach Jeff] Grimes has a good persona, and what I like about him is that he gives freshmen chances and doesn’t hold them back,” Deculus said, per Krueger. “If he has a guy that he thinks can be an All-American, he’ll give him a chance to shine.”
The Cy-Fair High School standout has displayed all the tools college football programs look for in a budding tackle. His combination of size (6'6", 323 pounds), first-step quickness and raw power gives him the look of a future blindside protector.
Gerry Hamilton of ESPN provided a look at Deculus in action:
Deculus' technique could use more polish, and his movement should become more fluid at the collegiate level. Those concerns are of the minor variety, though. The overall outlook is overwhelmingly positive.
Landon Wright of Today's U passed along comments the coveted prospect made in January about some of the things recruiters told him throughout the process.
"They say that for me being my weight, I don't show it," Deculus said. "I'm at 325 right now and in very good shape. I play with a nastiness that they don't see in many players. I have a very quick first step, and footwork-wise they say I'm one of the best."
Ultimately, he decided LSU gave him the best opportunity to further develop those traits. The Tigers edged out several high-profile programs that showed interest in Deculus, including Michigan, Notre Dame and Alabama, per 247Sports.
LSU needed additional depth along the offensive line, and depending on how quickly Deculus can impress the coaching staff, the path to playing time is reasonably clear. With that said, it's probably still going to take some time before he cracks the starting lineup.
“When I went to the game against Texas A&M last year, the atmosphere sold me as much as anything else,” he said, per Krueger. “Right then, I could see myself playing in Death Valley in front of all those people—and the amount of support from all those people was awesome.”
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Last month, Cypress, Texas, 4-star offensive tackle Austin Deculus told Bleacher Report that while he would publicly announce his college plans immediately following his team's spring game, he already knew where he was headed.
Friday was the big day, and at the annual Cy-Fair High School spring game, Deculus ended his recruiting process by verbally committing to LSU. Deculus, the nation's No. 10 offensive tackle in the 2017 class, chose LSU over offers from Michigan and Tennessee.
Deculus is LSU's eighth overall commit and second offensive linemen pledge for the 2017 cycle. He currently is the highest-ranked offensive pledge for LSU. He joins fellow Texan, 4-star guard Edward Ingram, the nation's No. 9 guard, in the class. Jeff Grimes, LSU's offensive line coach, had a major part in recruiting both athletes.
"It feels really good to have that school behind my name," Deculus said. "When people talk about me, they'll think about that. I'm happy that I don't have to be stressed out with making a decision anymore."
Deculus earlier in the spring announced a top five of LSU, Michigan, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers are getting an athletic, 6'6", 323-pound lineman who can play either left tackle or right tackle and is football savvy enough to play guard early if necessary. Deculus plays with solid pad level and lateral agility and is expected to compete for a starting job early in his college career.
Before he heads to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Deculus first will travel to Beaverton, Oregon, in July for The Opening. He qualified for the national competition at The Opening Houston regional.
Deculus showcased his speed and quickness at the regional by running the 40-yard dash in 5.09 seconds. He was the fastest 2017 offensive lineman in the 40 at the camp and one of only three offensive lineman at the event—the others being 2018's Colten Blanton and Casey Phillips—to finish the dash in less than 5.1 seconds.
Deculus, recruited by both Grimes and special teams coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto, reportedly last visited the LSU campus to attend a scrimmage April 9. He also was in Baton Rouge in February for LSU's "Boys From the Boot" junior day. He was originally offered by the Tigers as a sophomore.
"The environment around the campus and game day ... I love how it gets," Deculus said. "The coaching staff was like no other. [Grimes] told me facts; he didn't tell me stuff I knew wasn't true. That's what I like about him. He always gives people chances."
Athletes like Trai Turner, Andrew Whitworth, La'el Collins and Joe Barksdale are recent success stories as LSU offensive lineman alumni who are in the NFL. Deculus is hoping to one day add his name to the long list of Tigers who have had the opportunity to play in the league.
Deculus said he's planning on shutting down his recruiting for good and is excited about helping the Tigers recruit players who will help the program.
"I know some coaches will still try to recruit me," he said. "Even though I'm committed, I know some won't stop. But it feels good to have it come to an end. Going to The Opening and now being able to represent my next school, it feels good."
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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South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Connor Mitch plans to transfer schools this summer once he graduates from the SEC institution.
"Connor and I spoke today," head coach Will Muschamp said, per the State. "Connor has the opportunity to graduate from South Carolina this summer and will look to continue his playing career at another university in the fall. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors."
Mitch was named South Carolina's starter prior to the 2015 season, but shoulder and hip injuries limited him to just two appearances. All told, Mitch completed 15 of 35 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown during his two seasons with the team.
"I have enjoyed my time at South Carolina and will graduate later this summer," Mitch said in the school's official release, according to the State. "I believe it’s in my best interest to continue my playing career at another school. I’d like to thank all the Gamecock fans for their support during my time in Columbia."
Mitch will reportedly have two years of eligibility remaining once he graduates.
All things considered, his decision to transfer makes sense. Mitch was named the starting quarterback under former head coach Steve Spurrier, but Muschamp's arrival signaled a regime change of sorts. Plus, the depth chart at quarterback was already crowded, as the State's Matt Connolly noted:
Mitch will now be afforded time to survey the transfer market and take stock of which schools can offer him the best chance to maximize the eligibility he has left.
And considering Mitch is a former 3-star recruit, per 247Sports, it shouldn't take long for a market for his services to develop.
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There's nothing quite like a college football town. Professional sports teams occupy the country's bigger cities, usually vying for attention in a crowded market. But college football is different.
The link between a football-crazy campus and the town it's located in runs deep. College football games are usually these cities' biggest events year in and year out, with the entire area shutting down on Saturdays when the home team is in town. Few sports experiences on the planet can compare.
As we continue to grind through the offseason and dream of when these locales will be commandeered by a fall Saturday, let's count down the top 15 college football towns in the country. These selections were based on a town's relationship to its college program, passion in terms of fan support, traditions, culture and entertainment options on football weekends.
Some large-city campuses, such as Columbus, Ohio (Ohio State) and Austin, Texas (Texas) are such massive metro areas that they aren't eligible for this list. Instead, this list focuses on the smaller-sized cities and towns that are synonymous with their college football teams.
Of course, this is the opinion of one writer, based on past experiences and reputations from others who have tackled this assignment for other outlets. One could fill up an awesome list of 15 college football towns that didn't make the cut here. So, in the good-natured spirit of college football fandom, feel free to share your own lists and experiences in the comments below.
Making an immediate impact is hard enough. Performing at an All-American level as a freshman shows the elite level of talent a college football player possesses.
Whether due to injury, suspension or a weakness on the roster, hundreds of players will have an opportunity to stand out in 2016.
However, a select bunch of talents will simply rise to the top of a program's depth chart—and that ascent is anything but simple.
Projections for the upcoming season's freshman All-American team include players who redshirted in 2015.
The 2017 college football recruiting cycle reaches a new phase in coming weeks as spring turns into summer. University visits and on-campus camps annually alter the landscape as top prospects work their way toward a verbal pledge.
Commitments and decommitments will occur in bunches before fall arrives and these recruits begin their final high school season. Few recruiting outcomes are assured this far away from national signing day so unexpected twists and turns are a routine part of the process as February approaches.
While many of these surprises are difficult to anticipate, we've assessed several of the recruiting scene's trending storylines to project some possible developments that could command headlines this summer.
Even the best college football teams enter a season with some level of uncertainty. After all, we're dealing with teams made up of 18- to 22-year-olds, a demographic that is brimming with talent and promise but is also still figuring out the whole "responsible adult" thing.
Just look back at last year's four College Football Playoff entrants, and you'll see they managed to make the semifinals despite heading into 2015 with some unanswered questions.
Eventual national champion Alabama had no idea who its quarterback would be, runner-up Clemson had concerns about its rebuilt defense and didn't know how Deshaun Watson would look after knee surgery, Michigan State was searching for a running back and had to replace noted defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, and Oklahoma had overhauled its coaching staff and offensive scheme.
The same is the case this season for college football's top playoff contenders, all of whom have question marks at this point. We've detailed the most pressing one for each of the top 12 candidates, based on Odds Shark's early lines to win the national title.
Former Missouri Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk has signed a financial aid agreement with Eastern Kentucky, per Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Kennedy Hardman of WTVQ in Lexington, Kentucky, first reported that Mauk had committed to joining the team on May 16, though he hadn't signed the financial aid agreement at that time.
Mauk played three years for Missouri, appearing in 28 games and throwing for 4,373 yards, 42 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He ran into trouble during his junior year, with then-head coach Gary Pinkel suspending him twice over the course of the season. The second suspension ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign in November.
In January, current head coach Barry Odom dismissed Mauk from the team altogether shortly after a video surfaced appearing to show Mauk snorting white powder off a table. According to the Kansas City Star's Tod Palmer, Mauk's father Mike said the video was two years old.
Mauk posted a photo of a letter he wrote following his dismissal:
On May 17, he celebrated his graduation from the school:
Mauk will have some competition for Eastern Kentucky's starting job. Bennie Coney threw for 2,471 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2015. In April, head coach Mark Elder talked up the rising senior, per Josh Sullivan of the Lexington Herald-Leader:
There’s no harder position for a transition than the quarterback position. I don’t think the casual fan understands how much has to go into their brain to perform at a high level. We saw Bennie get better and better as the spring went along. I think the first day he threw to the wrong color a few times, as you expect to happen, but to see him progress and get more comfortable was great.
Mauk is more proven at a higher level, though, and Coney isn't necessarily at a big advantage, as the incumbent since Elder just joined the school in December.
If Mauk can return to the level he displayed during his sophomore year with Missouri, the Colonels could be major contenders in the Ohio Valley Conference in 2016.
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