NCAA Football News

Ohio State Football: Will This Be the Year OSU Finally Unleashes Its Freshmen?

It seems like an annual tradition at Ohio State for the hype train to gain momentum for a breakout freshman in the offseason, only to lose steam just as the real football gets underway.

In 2013, the first-year player destined for stardom was Dontre Wilson, the speedy playmaker from DeSoto, Texas, who some pegged as the second coming of Percy Harvin. Teammates, highlighted by quarterback Braxton Miller, raved about Wilson's speed and playmaking ability and expected him to do big things in his first year with Ohio State.

That never materialized, though, as the Buckeyes utilized Wilson mainly as a decoy, and he accumulated just 460 total yards and three touchdowns in 2013.

A year later, it was Curtis Samuel's turn to make the preseason noise.

The blazing all-purpose back was turning heads in fall camp, and he had head coach Urban Meyer openly wondering if he was the team's best ball-carrier. In that backfield, though, was sophomore Ezekiel Elliott, who went on to have a historic season as he carried the Buckeyes to a national title, and Samuel was relegated to backup duty.

Last year, true freshmen Mike Weber (running back) and Torrance Gibson (wide receiver) made waves in fall camp, but both ultimately took a redshirt and sat out the entire 2015 season.

It's an alarming trend that Ohio State can't afford to continue in 2016 after the departure of superstars Elliott, defensive end Joey Bosa, linebacker Darron Lee and 13 other starters. 

And fortunately for Meyer and the Buckeyes, there's no reason for history to repeat itself.

The Buckeyes already have a pair of freshmen who enrolled early and proved that they're ready to make an instant impact.

Austin Mack, the high 4-star wide receiver from Fort Wayne, Indiana, turned heads early during winter conditioning by showing a strong work ethic in the weight room. 

"He's got a little fight in him," quarterback J.T. Barrett said, according to Tim Moody of Buckeye Sports. "That's the thing, when things are hard in our workouts, those are the times you see you're like all right, he's got a little dog in him."

Mack carried that momentum into spring practice and left quite the impression on the coaching staff. He was one of seven freshmen from Ohio State's 2016 recruiting class to graduate and enroll early, but he was the first one to lose his "black stripe," something the Buckeyes do to signify a player officially joining the team.

"He just plays, he plays fast," running backs coach Tony Alford said of Mack, via Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com. "He's hungry, he's not taking plays off. Even if he's wrong, he goes 100 miles an hour. We can fix a mistake. Effort, that is from within. And he goes."

The Buckeyes need help at wide receiver after the departures of starters Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Braxton Miller. If Mack is able to make the leap that Wilson and Gibson weren't able to before him, he should see plenty of time—and passes from Barrett—this fall.

But Mack wasn't the only early enrollee to make waves this spring.

Ohio State's offensive line needed to identify three new starters to pair with center Pat Elflein and guard Billy Price. The tackle positions have all but been secured by Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Prince, and the other guard spot was expected to be occupied by Demetrius Knox, but Michael Jordan, the 4-star stud that Ohio State stole from Michigan, made a huge surge in camp.

Jordan's quick ascension surprised offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, according to Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com.

That speaks volumes. I don't know how to put that in words, because I wouldn't have expected that. We knew [Jordan] was a talented young man, but until you get out here and the speed of the game, and how he adjusts to the speed of the game, he's adjusted really quickly.

For a freshman who should still be in high school, who graduated early to be here at this level of football, doing the things he's doing? I'm surprised and impressed at that.

Jordan was taking a good share of first-team reps by the end of camp, and there's a good chance he can lock down a starting spot before the season opener against Bowling Green.

And in just a few short months, the other 18 members of Ohio State's fourth-ranked recruiting class will report to campus. That group will be highlighted by 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa and high 4-stars Demario McCall (all-purpose back) and Binjimen Victor (wide receiver).

When Ohio State received the letters of intent for its 2016 class, Meyer spoke about the need for these freshmen to come in ready to play.

"I say this every year. I don't want to redshirt," Meyer said on national signing day in February, according to Bill Landis of Cleveland.com. "It's not our plan. We don't recruit you and say let's sit them down for a while. We want to play them immediately."

Meyer does say that every year, but looking at the roster, there are a lot of players who took a redshirt their freshman year. But with the mass exodus of talent that's heading to the NFL, Ohio State can't afford to do that in 2016.

 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Why Ole Miss Football Won't Be a 1-Hit NFL Draft Wonder

Football fans better get used to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talking about Ole Miss because he's going to talk about the Rebels quite a bit on Thursday night.

Three former Ole Miss players are projected to be selected in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft by Bleacher Report NFL draft analyst Matt Miller—offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (sixth to Baltimore), defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (14th to Oakland) and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (28th to Kansas City). 

The trio of stud underclassmen will make head coach Hugh Freeze's program the talk of the football world on Friday morning.

Get used to it because this program is far from a one-hit draft wonder.

The dirty little secret in Oxford is that, while the 2013 recruiting class that included those three studs set the tone for Freeze's program, the staff has been collecting plenty of talented players who should keep the program in the thick of the draft for years to come.

The most notable name in that respect is nickel Tony Conner.

Also a member of the class of 2013, Conner finished second on the team in tackles in 2014 with 69. But a knee injury and subsequent surgeries hampered his true junior season, which prevented him from joining his classmates in the draft pool in 2016.

Make no mistake, though: He has first-round potential as well.

"Conner doesn't get the spotlight he deserves, but it wouldn't surprise if he's in the conversation with Su'a Cravens (USC) and Jalen Ramsey (Florida State) at season's end," Miller told me last April after scouting 2016 prospects. "He's very physical at 6'0" and 217 pounds, and has the instincts to make plays in the box or bail in coverage."

Think about that for a second. 

Miller tabs Ramsey as the third overall selection, while Cravens is tabbed as a second- or third-rounder by NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. Of course, that was prior to his knee injury. But even if he doesn't come back at 100 percent, the 90 percent version of Conner is still impressive.

Under center, Chad Kelly will be one of the highest-profile quarterbacks in next year's draft class—and the scrutiny placed on quarterbacks throughout the draft process gets brighter every year.

Kelly's draft grade was below the second round prior to his performance against Oklahoma State (375 total yards) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, according to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News. He posted the SEC's third-most prolific individual season in history last year with 4,542 total yards, but the 13 interceptions has scouts questioning his decision-making.

As Daniel Paulling of the Clarion-Ledger noted in November, those interceptions haunted Kelly even during the season.

If he solves that issue, it will be hard for scouts to ignore his arm strength and ability to avoid pressure with his legs. Yes, there are off-the-field concerns. But he has stayed out of trouble since arriving at Ole Miss last January, and two years of success in that department should calm what once were legitimate fears.

Marquis Haynes is another prospect who could make waves in NFL circles whenever he decides to move on.

According to his Ole Miss bio, the 6'3", 220-pound pass-rushing specialist was named a freshman All-American by several outlets following a 2014 season in which he tallied a team-high 7.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss. He followed that up in 2015 by leading the team in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (16.5).

A true junior who was named to the All-SEC second team by the coaches in 2015 and could declare after the 2016 season, Haynes is a perfect fit to stand up in a 3-4 scheme at the next level and provide the pressure that teams in the pass-happy NFL need.

DeMarquis Gates led the Rebels in tackles after taking on more of a role at linebacker in 2015, notching 76 stops and forcing two fumbles. At 6'2", 217 pounds, he's a little undersized to be a linebacker at the NFL level but is a perfect fit as a run-stopping "big nickel" who isn't a liability in coverage.

The Rebels are loaded with potential wide receiver draftees not just in 2017 but beyond.

Damore'ea Stringfellow has the size (6'2", 220 lbs) and speed to be a weapon deep and as a possession receiver over the middle. Quincy Adeboyejo's 6'3" frame makes him a matchup problem.

Youngsters Van Jefferson and Damarkus Lodge don't have the experience in college yet, but don't be surprised if either or both become household names over the next couple of years and state their cases for the next level.

Throw in pass-catching tight end Evan Engram at 6'3", 227 pounds into the mix, and Ole Miss is absolutely loaded with weapons that will raise the eyebrows of scouts for the next half-decade. 

Oh, and of course, there are the stud class of 2016 signees who could follow in the footsteps of their 2013 counterparts, like early enrollee 5-star pro-style passer Shea Patterson and 5-star offensive tackle Greg Little.

In a league starved for proven, established and elite pro-style passers coming out of college, Patterson's arm strength and accuracy will have scouts salivating over him once he decides to move on. Little, a 6'5", 305-pounder, has the size and technique to step in for Tunsil at left tackle as a true freshman.

Ole Miss has players who can not only keep it in the mix in the SEC West but continue the trend that it's likely to establish on Thursday night when several former Rebels realize their professional football dreams.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

Another year, another loaded NFL draft class for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Head coach Nick Saban led the Tide to his fourth national championship at the school this season, and now he will say goodbye to another crop of NFL talent. 

Let's break down each projected draft choice for the Crimson Tide, as well as discuss the replacements for those players at Alabama next season. 

 

Note: This NFL draft tracker will be updated as players are selected. 

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Notre Dame Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have always been known for putting talent into the NFL, but this year's class may be even better than usual. Ronnie Stanley, Jaylon Smith and Will Fuller all have first-round potential, while there are also some talented prospects projected to go in the later rounds. 

We will break down each projected player for the 2016 NFL draft and also discuss replacements for these 10 players leaving school. 

Note: This NFL draft tracker will be updated as the players are selected.

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Florida Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

It was a successful first season at Florida for head coach Jim McElwain, but now he must regroup and endure his first string of losses. He will likely lose nine players to the NFL draft, with six of those being on defense. 

We will break down each projected pick for the 2016 NFL draft and also discuss which players will replace these nine guys who are off to the NFL.

Note: This NFL draft tracker will be updated as the players are selected.

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Auburn Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

The Auburn Tigers didn't have the kind of season they had hoped for in 2015, but they now have a handful of 2016 NFL draft prospects to show for it. Six Auburn Tigers are projected to get drafted this weekend, and that number could rise to seven if someone selects Cassanova McKinzy, who is projected as an undrafted free agent. 

While we celebrate the accomplishments and futures of these seven prospects, draft season is also a time to look forward to the replacements for this bunch. We will break down each NFL hopeful and also tell you a little bit about the next man up behind each of these players.

Note: This NFL draft tracker will be updated as the players are selected.

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Clemson Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

The Clemson Tigers are coming off a national championship run that fell just short in January, and head coach Dabo Swinney will have to deal with the loss of many of his key players to the 2016 NFL draft. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables will have to look for replacements for many of his defensive starters from last season, including defensive end Shaq Lawson and cornerback Mackensie Alexander.

We will breakdown each Clemson player who is projected to be drafted and also discuss the players who will replace them this fall. 

Note: This NFL draft tracker will be updated as the players are selected.

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Oregon Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

Last season was not the kind that the Oregon Ducks had grown accustomed to over the past several seasons. They still finished the season strong at 9-4, and these seven NFL draft prospects are a big reason for that.

DeForest Buckner figures to be one of the first names called on Thursday night, but where will the others fall? We will break down every projected draft choice for the Ducks and also provide some potential replacements for these players.

Note: This NFL draft tracker will be updated as the players are selected. 

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Michigan Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

With the Jim Harbaugh era still establishing roots in Ann Arbor, the Michigan Wolverines aren't expected to have a boatload of prospects selected in this year's NFL draft. 

Willie Henry has seen his stock rise, but the defensive tackle may still be a Day 3 pickup. 

The days of Michigan producing first-round picks on the regular are sure to return soon under Harbaugh, but just not this spring. 

Stay plugged into this piece for updates and to track Wolverines players who are selected in the 2016 draft, as well as to learn more about their replacements at Michigan. 

 

Note: All draft projections are based on Matt Miller's NFL Draft 400 series unless otherwise noted. 

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Texas A&M Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

The Texas A&M Aggies will likely have at least a second-round pick in tackle Germain Ifedi, but the NFL draft pool from College Station dips off from there. 

One interesting candidate to watch will be punter Drew Kaser, who could go undrafted or as high as early in the third day. 

Stay plugged into this piece to track each and every Texas A&M player selected to play on Sundays, as well as who their replacements will be on the 2016 Aggies squad. 

 

Note: All draft projections are based on Matt Miller's NFL Draft 400 series unless otherwise noted. 

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Texas Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

As the Texas Longhorns continue to rebuild and return to the prestige of the Big 12, their efforts will be no more apparent than in this year's NFL draft.

Traditionally one of the schools with perennial NFL talent, the Longhorns' recent slide has translated into fewer players making the jump to the pros. This year, only Hassan Ridgeway is a virtual lock to be selected. 

Stay plugged into this piece as we track all the Longhorns that are selected in this week's NFL draft, as well as their replacements in Austin. 

 

Note: All draft projections are based on Matt Miller's NFL Draft 400 series, unless otherwise noted. 

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FSU Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

The Florida State Seminoles are projected to have roughly four to five players selected in this week's NFL draft, headlined by projected first-round pick Jalen Ramsey.

This piece will track each and every Seminoles star who hears his name called to take his talents to Sundays, analyzing how he fits into the NFL, as well as who his replacement will be back at FSU.

Stay plugged into this tracker as the NFL draft is upon us.  

 

Note: All draft projections are based on Matt Miller's NFL Draft 400 series unless otherwise noted. 

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The Top 25 1st-Round Picks If College Football Held a 2016 Draft

With spring football almost completely over and draft talk taking over the week, this is the time of the year when college football takes a backseat to the NFL—even for the most diehard college fans.

The NFL draft can be quite entertaining and perhaps a bit frustrating for college football fans as they see where these franchises value some of the best players from the 2015 season. College production doesn't necessarily translate into better draft positions, for better or for worse.

All the week's draft talk and the long, dismal offseason prompted some thinking about a hypothetical draft process for college football. If all the returning players for the 2016 season were thrown into a draft pool and nameless teams were to pick them one by one, who would go in the top spots?

Here is how the first round of such a draft would operate, with the selections based on 2015 production, potential for 2016 and any past injury issues. And while the NFL draft has 32 teams, let's go with a number that is nearer and dearer to the heart of college football—25.

Of course, the selections and the order for them are sure to generate a firestorm of comments. Everyone has their own unique opinion of how the all-college football draft board should look, and some could easily come up with a list of 25 snubs from this group. Share your own selections in the comments below.

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Florida to Play Miami in Orlando in 2019: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The Florida Gators announced Tuesday they're officially renewing their football rivalry with the Miami Hurricanes. 

The two teams will face off in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, to begin the 2019 season. The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi originally reported in October that Florida and Miami were in negotiations for a potential game.

"We are pleased to have partnered with Florida Citrus Sports and ESPN Events to kick off the 2019 season against Miami," said Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley in the school's press release. "Orlando is a great Gator city and we look forward to playing in front of our fans from all over the state of Florida and beyond."

The Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter noted a number of particulars remain unknown:

Billy Corben, who directed both of the Hurricanes-centric ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries, is already antagonizing the opposition:

According to Sports-Reference.com, the Gators and Hurricanes have played 55 times, with the latter owning a slim 29-26 edge. As an annual event, the rivalry essentially ceased in 1987, and the schools have only met on a handful of occasions since:

The allure of Florida vs. Miami has lessened somewhat with the Hurricanes' fall from the nation's elite. The Gators also looked to be stagnating as a program until head coach Jim McElwain arrived last year. With Mark Richt taking over at Miami, the school is in a good position to return to a level closer to its peak in the 1980s and late 1990s-early 2000s.

By the time 2019 rolls around, the Gators and Hurricanes' clash will likely be one of the most highly anticipated on the college football calendar.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: 5 Things We Learned About the Wolverines This Spring

Spring practice provided an initial look at the Michigan Wolverines football team, and the takeaways were promising.

While the quarterback competition commanded the nation's attention, the strength of Jim Harbaugh's 2016 roster—the defense—showed how special it could be.

But that wasn't simply a product of depth emerging at every spot. The coaching staff used some creative thinking to address a weakness.

Early prognostications loved Michigan. After a terrific spring, the mid-summer round of predictions will too.

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Adonis Alexander, Houshun Gaines Arrested: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander and defensive end Houshun Gaines were arrested on Sunday. 

Per Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, citing Montgomery County General District Court records, Alexander was charged with possession of marijuana. Per Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times, citing the Virginia Courts' online database, Gaines was charged with underage possession of alcohol and marijuana possession.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

B/R Recruiting Notebook: 5-Star WR Discusses Process, Keeping All Options Open

The last week of April is here, and more and more athletes are announcing their plans to play college football. The month of May could be a busy one recruiting-wise, as multiple athletes have discussed upcoming unofficial visits.

Many of those athletes were at Sunday's The Opening regional in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here are a few recruiting updates on some of the nation's top athletes.

 

No rush for coveted 5-star WR Higgins

There were times during The Opening Charlotte regional when Oak Ridge, Tennessee's Tee Higgins made being a wide receiver look easier than it is. But then again, there's a reason why he's a 5-star prospect and the nation's No. 2 receiver in the 2017 class.

With 22 reported offers, Higgins said he's taking his recruiting process slowly and simply "taking it all in" as he prepares for his upcoming senior season.

"The process has been great," he said. "It started about two years ago. It was crazy then, but I'm used to it now. I understand how it goes."

Higgins doesn't have a public list of top schools at the present time but said he has a few schools he's considering visiting before the end of the summer, including Florida State, Michigan and, possibly, Clemson and Tennessee.

Higgins, who earned an invitation to The Opening finals in July in Beaverton, Oregon, with his Charlotte performance, is a 6'5", 190-pound athlete with great speed for a big receiver. He said coaches have discussed plans for him to be an outside receiver who can use his speed and size to win multiple go routes.

Wherever he ends up, Higgins said he's looking for the best opportunity to benefit both athletically and academically.

"I'm thinking of what I want to major in, to be honest. I want to get a good communications degree," he said. "I'm not sure yet about when a decision will come, but I know I want a good communications school. That's important to me. Right now, I'm just taking my time with everything and having fun with it."

 

A shot at playing defense for 4-star OT prospect Ealy?

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 4-star offensive tackle Adrian Ealy is expecting to have a busy summer. He's hoping to make unofficial visits to LSU, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida and Texas.

At 6'7" and 300 pounds, Ealy is a wanted athlete who has a frame that can add weight without any concern thanks to his height. At The Opening New Orleans regional, he said he doesn't have a leader as of yet, but schools like Miami, Oklahoma, Michigan, Tennessee, LSU, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Florida State have been showing high interest of late.

Almost every school on his offer list (14 schools and growing) is recruiting Ealy as an offensive tackle. Ealy, however, said one school may consider trying him on the other side of the ball.

"LSU is looking at me at D-tackle, as well," he said. "I've played it all my life; I play both ways, so I'm used to it. I think my athleticism and strength is good for it. I wouldn't mind playing D-tackle."

Ealy doesn't have a timetable for a decision but said he'll look to attend a school that will put him in a great position after football. He said alumni relations are important as well.

"The first thing I'm thinking about is my education and trying to live on when football ends," he said. "I want to go where I can start as a freshman and be a role player, but I also need a good education. Football doesn't last forever."

 

Never mind the hoodie: 4-star ATH Smith still open

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, 4-star athlete OrTre Smith came to The Opening Charlotte regional wearing gray sweatpants and a black, Georgia Bulldogs hoodie.

Foreshadowing, perhaps?

"No, not quite," Smith said, laughing. "I wore gray pants today and wanted to wear a black hoodie. This one was the only one I had."

The good news for Bulldogs fans is that Georgia is very much a contender in the race for Smith, the nation's No. 5 athlete. Smith, however, also said schools like Clemson, Wake Forest, USC, North Carolina and North Carolina State also are high on his list. He added that, recently, Oklahoma and Ole Miss have been recruiting him hard.

Smith said he's hoping to make a return trip to Georgia this summer, as well as other places still to be determined. He's made multiple visits to South Carolina and has also taken in Clemson and Florida State visits.

"I want to go somewhere this summer where I've never been before," Smith said. "I'm trying to find a place that fits me and my family, a place where I can put in the effort and see time on the field early. I want it to be the right feel."

 

Wanted: an RB for Virginia Tech, QB commit says

Virginia Tech quarterback commit Hendon Hooker had a goal during The Opening Charlotte regional: to find a backfield mate.

"We're looking for a running back right now," he said. "We have a strong defense, and we need someone with size and who's a people person."

Virginia Tech has its eyes on a few backs who could fit the bill, including 4-star Khalan Laborn and 3-stars Trace Christian, Jalen Holston and Travis Etienne. All four backs are in or near the 200-pound range and bring quickness and great field vision to the field.

And while Virginia Tech builds its offensive class, Hooker, a 3-star quarterback from Greensboro, North Carolina, said he'll continue taking the proper steps to become the team's leader of the future. He's looking to connect with Caleb Farley, a Hokies pledge who can play quarterback but is listed as an athlete.

"He's recruited as an athlete, and I think he may be playing receiver," Hooker said of Farley. "He's a speedster. He can really move."

Hooker said his commitment to Virginia Tech is strong but added that he does plan on taking all five of his official visits during the fall and winter.

 

Off-field X-factor for 4-star OT Moore

The Opening Charlotte regional was held at Mallard Creek High School, the home of 4-star offensive lineman T.J. Moore. With 14 offers, Moore said he's seen a lot and has a lot to consider as he inches closer to making a verbal commitment.

Moore, a versatile lineman expecting to line up as a guard in college, went to Florida State and Tennessee spring games and spoke highly of the atmospheres at both venues. He also said schools like South Carolina, North Carolina and North Carolina State have been very good at staying in touch and are showing tons of enthusiasm.

"It's been crazy these past few months, but I'm having a lot of fun with it," Moore said. "Really, I'm just going to let everything play out. My dad wants me to see what all comes before making a decision."

One major X-factor in Moore's decision will involves academics. Moore said he wants to major in mechanical engineering, which means he's paying attention to the schools with noteworthy engineering programs.

"That's very important," he said of a school with his degree. "I'm looking for good coaches, good family and a good community, but I know I want to go somewhere that'll lead me to big things after college. I want to get a good engineering degree."

 

"An opportunity" is all The Opening NOLA LB MVP wants

After being named the MVP of The Opening New Orleans regional two weeks ago, Sugar Land, Texas, linebacker Terrance Williams hoped recruiting would have picked up for him.

But like many other athletes in the 2017 class, Williams still finds himself in a struggle for his first offer. The 5'10", 196-pound linebacker said he has received some interest from USC, SMU and Tulane, but no offers have been extended.

Williams is hoping things turn around soon.

"After winning MVP, I was put on a higher stage," Williams said. "Now all I need is my name in a higher setting. Athletes like me are considered under-recruited, and all I need is an opportunity."

He might be slightly undersized at the linebacker position,but Williams isn't a stranger to being effective. According to MaxPreps, he averaged right around seven tackles per game and also had four sacks. He showed his ability to pursue and attack at The Opening New Orleans.

All he wants is for one college to take a shot on him.

"If given the opportunity, I will be the most dedicated, well-rounded athlete at their facility," he said.

 

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

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Meet Alabama's Next Great Defensive Line Duo, Da'Ron Payne and Da'Shawn Hand

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The switch was difficult enough, but what happened next was borderline unfair.

Coming off a successful redshirt freshmen year, when despite his age he landed a starting job at left guard on the University of Alabama’s offensive line, Ross Pierschbacher was moved to center to see if he could handle the position during the spring.

That first practice he lined up across a 6’2”, 319-pound player who wouldn’t be holding back anything. It was the perfect football example of baptism under fire.

“It’s been frustrating,” Pierschbacher said a few days later. “It’s different. I’ve got Da’Ron Payne in my face right here and I’m trying to get the ball back and he’s got his hands on me.

“I’m trying to work on it.”

Such is the luxury of being Alabama these days because the coaches know if Pierschbacher could hold his own against Payne, he can do so against anyone in college football. Most teams have to find out the hard way during the regular season.

The Crimson Tide continues to hold that distinction even though a big part of the defensive-line rotation from 2015 is no longer on the roster. Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson are hoping to be selected in the first round this week’s NFL draft, D.J. Pettway will probably be picked during a later round and Darren Lake has moved on as well.

Now comes the next wave, led by Payne and Da'Shawn Hand, who would like nothing more than to be the next Reed and Robinson.

“Technique, man,” Hand said was the biggest thing he learned from his predecessors. “Man, when I got out of high school, it was like one little step and the whole play can go by you.

“That was the biggest thing. Keeping your feet set and striking out first. Hips and hands and your feet will follow. In high school you could run and make a play because you were bigger and faster, but now everyone is bigger and faster.”

When the reigning national champions regroup for training camp in August, the defensive line is expected to feature seniors Jonathan Allen and Dalvin Tomlinson, who have 71 games of experience between them, in addition to 145 tackles and 11 passes knocked down.

Although Tomlinson has never started a game for the Crimson Tide, both the coaches and fans are confident about what the veterans can do. They’re proven commodities.

It’s the players coming up who worked with the first-team defense all spring that figure to turn the most heads.

“We're not really rotating anybody else in there with those two guys,” Saban said during the spring, before adding about Hand: “He's made a tremendous amount of progress. He's gotten bigger and stronger. He can still run. He's still a good pass-rusher.

“We're trying to develop him as an inside rusher as well for third downs.”

Hand is still listed on the Crimson Tide roster as being 6’4”, 278 lbs, but he both looks the part and appears poised to fulfill his potential.

When recruited out of Woodbridge, Virginia in the class of 2014, he was tabbed by the 247Sports composite rankings as the top strong-side defensive end prospect and the No. 5 player in the nation.

As a reserve in 2015 he played in all 15 games and was credited with 16 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, and two quarterback hurries.

“Every now and then he will just shock the offensive lineman and [push him] back a couple yards when he isn't expecting it,” Tomlinson said.

“I feel like it is pretty rare to have that speed and power at multiple positions across the front.”

Meanwhile, Payne started three games as a true freshman when Alabama wanted a little more bulk against Arkansas, LSU and Florida in the SEC championship game.

He too had been a consensus 5-star prospect, seventh among defensive tackles and No. 29 overall out of Shades Valley High School in nearby Birmingham.

Payne played in all 15 games, with 13 tackles, a half-sack, with a broken-up pass, forced fumble and a hurry last season, but cracking the lineup with that group of deep defensive linemen was more impressive than any statistic he could post.

“He’s a freak,” Pierschbacher said about Payne. “He ran something like a 4.9-something and he weighs more than me and he’s a stud in the weight room.

“We’ve seen guys like that. A’Shawn, I went up against him every play last year, so I haven’t had it very easy here the last couple of years. But, you know, it makes me better.”

In many ways it’s nothing new for Alabama, which is the way head coach Nick Saban wants it. With these two, fans also cheer for the line to show the Hand and bring the Payne.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football 2016 NFL Draft Tracker, Analysis and Results

The Ohio State Buckeyes are loaded with prospects for the 2016 NFL draft, and it should come as no surprise that head coach Urban Meyer's group has lost only four games combined over the last three seasons.

Per Mark Podolski of the News-Herald, the Buckeyes could potentially set an NFL draft record with seven first-round selections. Even if they do not reach that mark, this group is very talented and expected to tie the school record with 14 selections overall. With so many losses, it's also important that we take a look at the guys who will replace these stars and be counted on in 2016.

Note: This NFL Draft tracker will be updated as the players are selected.

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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Alabama has made a living recruiting the state of Texas in recent years. 

For Lone Star State power Texas, however, they have rarely returned the favor in venturing into the backyard of the Crimson Tide.

Last week, Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong and his staff did just that when they offered 4-star defensive end LaBryan Ray.

The 6’5”, 283-pounder out of James Clemens High School in Madison, Alabama—who is approaching 30 offers—rates as the nation’s No. 5 strong-side defensive end and the No. 173 player overall in the 2017 class.

According to EJ Holland of Horns247, the offer is one that definitely got Ray’s attention.

“I’m definitely interested,” Ray told Holland. “I grew up watching Vince Young and guys like that. They have a lot of tradition. I know Coach (Charlie) Strong has had success in the past and what he’s doing now is eye-opening.”

Among the programs that Ray has visited in recent months include Alabama, Florida State, Mississippi State and Tennessee.

Battling the Crimson Tide for an in-state prospect they covet won’t be easy. However, Strong and his staff have a reputation of grooming elite defensive talents dating back to his days at Louisville. 

The next step for the Longhorns will be arranging a visit to get Ray on campus, which could help them make a serious push for one of the nation’s elite defensive linemen.

 

Michigan After Texas WR

The state of Texas is one area that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff have aggressively recruited since he took over in Ann Arbor.

Last week, the Wolverines continued that theme by offering 4-star receiver Omar Manning.

The 6’3”, 203-pounder ranks as the nation’s No. 21 receiver and the No. 151 player overall in the 2017 cycle.

Among the programs in the mix with Manning early include Alabama, Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU and Texas.

However, the Wolverines will work to make a push with one of the nation’s top skill players.

 

Florida Offers Ohio State Pledge

Considering his successful stints with both Florida and Ohio State, current Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer will always be a link between both powerhouse programs.

Last week, Gators head coach Jim McElwain and his staff tendered 4-star running back JK Dobbins—who is currently committed to the Buckeyes.

The standout from LaGrange High School in Texas has been committed to the Buckeyes since early March.

However, the Gators will try to make a run at the nation’s No. 4 all-purpose back and the No. 54 player overall in the 2017 cycle.

 

UCLA Offers Midwest DB

One of the elite defensive players in the Midwest in the current cycle is 4-star corner Amir Riep.

Last week, the 6’0”, 180-pounder from Colerain High School in Cincinnati, Ohio picked up an offer from Pac-12 power UCLA.

Riep, who visited Michigan State last weekend and has plans on taking a trip to see Oregon this weekend, has more than 40 offers to his credit.

Kentucky, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State are among the other programs in the mix with Riep at this stage of his recruitment. The Bruins are hoping to get in the mix with the nation’s No. 14 corner and No. 132 player overall in the 2017 cycle.

 

Best of the Rest

2016

 

2017

 

2018

 

2019

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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