NCAA Football News

Every Power 5 College Football Team's Top 2017 Recruiting Target This Summer

The 2016 college football season is still almost three months away, but planning for the future never takes a break. FBS teams are hard at work trying to secure recruits for their 2017 rosters, and the summer is a key time to make connections and land commitments.

Only 11 of the 33 players listed by 247Sports as 5-star prospects have pledged to a school at this point, but several figure to come off the board this summer. The same goes for those at the 3- and 4-star level, players who aren't as highly regarded from a national standpoint but might be the key player that makes or breaks a team's 2017 recruiting class.

We've identified an uncommitted player that's considered one of the top recruiting targets for every Power Five conference team, as well as top independents BYU and Notre Dame, and note why he's important to each school (as well as who else wants him).

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Former Baylor Student Dolores Lozano Speaks on Alleged Assault

Former Baylor student Dolores Lozano is reportedly planning to file a Title IX lawsuit against the school because it failed to take sufficient action after she reported a football player assaulted her.

Joe Schad of ESPN reported Tuesday that Lozano came forward to provide him with the details of three separate assaults by former Bears running back Devin Chafin. The alleged incidents occurred between March and April 2014.

Lozano said she alerted several Baylor staff members, including former head coach Art Briles and current passing game coordinator Jeff Lebby, about the alleged assaults. She also told Chafin's mother, who urged her not to take it up with police, according to the report.

She noted Chafin never faced serious discipline. He reportedly "slapped," "kicked" and "slammed" her against a vehicle and "to [the] ground" during the alleged attacks. She provided Schad with a picture that showcased her injuries, including bruising on her arms and back:

Chafin later told Schad he "grabbed" Lozano but did not "choke" or "kick" her.

Lozano said Baylor acrobatics and tumbling head coach LaPrise Williams asked about the bruises and then reported the situation to superiors, counselors and chaplain Wes Yeary. Briles reportedly then told Chafin to "stay away" from her, but he was allowed to continue playing, even after Lozano spoke with Waco police.

"Baylor turned their backs to what was going on," Ricky Patel, Lozano's attorney, told Schad. "The University is a place where people are supposed to feel safe. When something like this happens, it breaks your trust."

Baylor suspended Chafin indefinitely after he was arrested and charged with marijuana possession in March. He was dismissed from the school last week after his name surfaced in a May article from ESPN's Outside the Lines about previously unreported assaults.

At the end of May, the university announced Briles had been suspended with the "intent to terminate." Kenneth Starr was removed as president at the same time and later stepped down as chancellor as a result of the assault scandal, as ESPN.com noted.

Patel told Schad that Lozano decided to come forward because she "believes it's important for others to know they can seek help."

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Notre Dame Football: Recapping the Biggest 2016 Offseason News so Far

Although the offseason can be a lonely time for college football fans, Notre Dame has kept its supporters entertained in 2016.

The Fighting Irish started off by signing their 11th straight top-25 recruiting class, and the coaching staff added more than a handful of prospects to the 2017 group, too.

During spring practice, several players returned to the field after missing most—or sometimes all—of last season due to injury. Others made strides toward locking up a starting role vacated by one of Notre Dame's 13 NFL-bound talents.

 

Early Returns from No. 15 Class, Surge for 2017 and 2018

Head coach Brian Kelly and Co. secured another nationally respected haul that included 10 4-star prospects.

Headlined by a couple top-100 prospects in Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg, the Irish had the No. 15 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Five players enrolled early, but the highest-rated player—Daelin Hayes—was limited in spring practice. Instead, a couple of 3-stars stole the spotlight.

Kevin Stepherson has rare ability at wide receiver, Kelly said, per Nick Ironside of 247Sports. Also, Devin Studstill spent a majority of the workouts as the first-string free safety.

In the meantime, coaches turned their focus to the 2017 cycle. Since signing day, six players have committed to Notre Dame, which currently holds the No. 10 class in the country.

David Adams leads the group of new pledges—five of which announced their non-binding intentions after visiting South Bend, Indiana, in mid-March. Avery Davis, Pete Werner, Drew White and Kurt Hinish fit that bunch, while Isaiah Robertson committed in April.

But the biggest recruiting win happened in mid-May. Phil Jurkovec, a 5-star and the No. 9 overall player for 2018, gave his pledge to the Irish. Although that's a long time to hold a commitment, Jurkovec is a terrific first addition.

 

Injury Updates

Last year, Notre Dame watched a significant contributor at nearly every position miss time because of an injury. Fortunately for the team, most were healthy for the spring.

Malik Zaire (broken right ankle) returned to the quarterback competition with DeShone Kizer. Running back Tarean Folston (torn right ACL) started his push to edge Josh Adams. Tight end Durham Smythe (torn right MCL, shoulder sprain) was cleared.

Defensive tackle Jarron Jones (torn right MCL) participated, though he played a bit tentative, Kelly said, per Mike Vorel of the South Bend Tribune. Safety Drue Tranquill (torn right ACL) and cornerback Shaun Crawford (torn right ACL) were available.

However, not every update brought good news—and as Kelly said according to ESPN's Matt Fortuna, it's not a problem of bad luck.

Wideout Corey Robinson's football future is cloudy because of concussions, which offensive lineman Colin McGovern also battled.

Receivers C.J. Sanders (hip) and Miles Boykin (finger) missed some practices, as well as cornerback Nick Watkins (fractured left humerus). Linebackers Te'von Coney and Greer Martini were sidelined for the entire session.

Hopefully for Notre Dame, the trend of injuries doesn't continue at this rate. But that seems highly unlikely.

 

Identifying Replacements for NFL Departures

Seven players from the 2015 roster heard their name called on draft day, including Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller in the first round. Six more signed contracts as undrafted free agents.

Although this transition won't be easy, the Irish have a respectable understanding of who's next.

Mike McGlinchey will replace Stanley at left tackle. Equanimeous St. Brown should step in for Fuller. Nyles Morgan (Joe Schmidt), Torii Hunter Jr. (Chris Brown) and Sam Mustipher (Nick Martin) all have clear paths to starting roles.

The list goes on with Sanders (Amir Carlisle), Folston or Adams (C.J. Prosise), Jay Hayes (Romeo Okwara), Jerry Tillery (Sheldon Day) and Crawford (KeiVarae Russell), just to name a handful.

Not every new starter will match his predecessor's production—especially on defense. But having a clear-cut favorite at nearly every vacancy is a promising sign for the Irish.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Did Jim Mora Really Deserve a Contract Extension at UCLA?

It's officially "extension season" in college football, and Jim Mora is the latest head coach to cash in on this lucrative time of year.

UCLA announced a two-year extension for Mora on Tuesday, meaning his contract will now run through the 2021 season. 

When the news of Mora's extension broke, Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press summed up Mora's UCLA tenure to date in a single tweet:

That last bullet point from Mora will stand out above the rest. In his four seasons as the Bruins' head coach, Mora has been unable to get over the hump and win a Pac-12 Championship. In fact, his only division title came in his first season, when UCLA lost by three points to Stanford in the conference championship game.

Mora's teams haven't reached the Pac-12 Championship Game in three straight seasons, and he is coming off a season in which he had his lowest win total—eight games. The Bruins finished the 2015 season with three losses out of their final four games, including a 19-point loss to hated rival USC.  

All that may cause some to raise their eyebrows at Tuesday's news. Did Mora really deserve an extension right now?

Absolutely.

Mora has built UCLA into a team that will consistently rank in or around the Top 25, and the Bruins have cracked the Top 10 at least once in the last three seasons. According to UCLA's press release, that hasn't happened since the 1980s. Mora has also tied a school record for most victories in a four-year span.

UCLA has won eight or more games in each of Mora's four seasons with the Bruins. UCLA's previous two head coaches, Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel, combined for only one such season in nine years.

Mora's hire back in 2011 was widelycriticized, but he's led UCLA to one of the best stretches in school history.

And his impact has been evident in more than just the win totals. UCLA is in a position to keep climbing over the next several seasons thanks to its recruiting surge under Mora:

That turnaround in recruiting has netted 5-stars such as quarterback Josh Rosen, running back Soso Jamabo and defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes—all of whom will play key roles in the 2016 campaign. Outside linebacker Mique Juarez and several more blue-chippers will join them on the roster this fall.

In order to compete for championships in today's college football, a team has to be able to recruit at the highest level. Mora hasn't had a class that has finished outside of the Top 20 nationally, and this extension should help with momentum in a currently small 2017 class that is headlined by 5-star defensive end Jaelan Phillips.

As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee wrote Monday in his column on Gus Malzahn's extension at Auburn, contract moves like these are the "cost of doing business" in power conferences.

"Sure, [Malzahn's raise] sounds like a lot of money to most people, but all Auburn is doing with Malzahn's extension is buying a bit of recruiting stability through public relations," Sallee wrote.

The same goes for UCLA, even though the exact financial details haven't been released yet. The sour finish to 2015, combined with offseason rumors about Mora returning to the NFL this offseason, per NBC Sports' John Taylor, may have stalled efforts on the recruiting trail for the Bruins.

Now elite recruits eyeballing UCLA—and there are a lot of them in the talent-rich Southern California area—can see that the school is committed to Mora for the longer haul.

Another key factor to consider is that UCLA shouldn't be worried about money if the program somehow declines rapidly under Mora.

As Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register noted, UCLA's new NCAA-record breaking $280 million deal with Under Armour has given the athletic department more financial muscle for the future: 

Extending Mora's contract around the same time the department is about to come into a massive amount of money is a win-win for UCLA. The football program gets a boost of stability, and a buyout of the now-longer contract would be much easier to swallow.

The 2015 season was frustrating for the Bruins, but it's worth noting the team had to battle through numerous injuries to star defensive players such as standout linebacker Myles Jack, cornerback Fabian Moreau and Vanderdoes.

UCLA also had to adjust to life with true-freshman quarterback Rosen, who will now be an experienced cornerstone for the next two seasons after the ups and downs of his first campaign. Even with those issues, the Bruins were a couple of one-possession games away from reaching the 10-win mark for the third straight season.

The adversities of 2015 should benefit UCLA's roster in the seasons to come.

UCLA has the potential to bounce back in a big way in 2016, with Rosen leading a new-look offense that received rave reviews in spring practices and an experienced defense fitting well into a 4-3 scheme.

The 2015 season might just be a bump in the road for Mora, and his extension is a deserved reward for getting UCLA where it needed to be in order to contend for titles in a cutthroat Pac-12.

 

Recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Former MWSU QB Donny Herron Dies in Home Invasion Shooting

Former Missouri Western State University quarterback Donny Herron was killed during a home invasion early Monday morning. He was 25. 

Molly Balkenbush and Andrew Lynch of Fox 4 KC reported the details of the incident. According to the report, Herron was ambushed after returning home. Jodi Stamback of StJoeChannel.com passed along a statement from Missouri Western athletic director Kurt McGuffin about the situation:

I speak for everyone in Griffon Athletics in offering condolences to Donny's family and friends. It's a tragic loss, especially for someone to be taken so young. We will continue to offer all the support we can to our student-athletes as they deal with the grief of losing a friend and former teammate.

Herron's fiancee, Santana Contreras, told Fox 4 KC somebody "knocked out a window" around 3 a.m. in Grandview, Missouri, and she awoke to three armed men. She stated they demanded money and jewelry before forcing her to call Herron to find out when he would get home.

After being told he was getting close, the men allegedly became quiet and attacked him once he entered the house. Contreras, who was home with their one-year-old son at the time, heard a brief struggle before three gunshots were fired.

She told Fox 4 KC: "When I knew they were gone I was so scared to get up it was so quiet in my house so I was like hello? And then I was like, babe? And then he could actually still get up. He had been shot, but he could still walk into my room, and he was just checking to make sure that me and his son were OK."

The Metro Squad and Grandview police are currently investigating the incident, the report stated.

Missouri Western Athletics confirmed Herron was on the football team during the 2014-15 season before leaving the school for personal reasons. The StJoeChannel.com report also noted head coach Jerry Partridge called him "terrific teammate" who made a "positive impact."

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Trevon Grimes Tweets Top 6: Odds on Which Program Lands 5-Star WR

Florida receiver Trevon Grimes remains one of America's most intriguing uncommitted athletes on the 2017 college football recruiting trail.

A rising senior at Sunshine State powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas High School, this 6'3", 202-pound playmaker announced Monday he is placing his focus on six schools at the start of summer:

Grimes, considered a 5-star talent, identified Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami and Ohio State as universities still squarely in the mix. His recruitment process stretches back into early underclassman days and includes dozens of scholarship offers.

"It has been a childhood dream to be in the position I am in today, and I couldn't be anymore thankful," he tweeted.

Rated No. 4 nationally among receivers in composite rankings, Grimes continues to gather information about potential collegiate landing spots courtesy of campus visits and consistent interaction with coaching staffs. Expectations will be immense this fall, when he'll be counted on to help lead St. Thomas Aquinas to a third straight state title following the graduation of Miami-bound receiver Sam Bruce.

We broke down his skill set in February during Bleacher Report's CFB Future 100 series:

Grimes gives defenders fits with his rare ability to size up with physicality or burst. He can fight off tight coverage at the line and also uses his size as leverage in the end zone, able to box out opponents as the ball approaches. 

He's a precise route-runner who doesn't waste any motion while charging downfield, finding seams and surging toward his quarterback's targeted area. Grimes' instincts set him apart from several top-tier contenders, as he displays adept mid-route adjustments based on the evolving trajectory of a toss.

Given his athleticism, size and high school success, it's no surprise Grimes surged up the recruiting board for various programs during early stages of this cycle. Now that we know which programs are battling for his signature, let's take a closer look at the potential pecking order by assigning odds for each contender.

 

12-1: Georgia Bulldogs and Miami Hurricanes

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart seems to have his program in solid position for nearly every elite receiver talent in the Southeast. That's a testament to the new Bulldogs regime, which has really impressed on the recruiting trail thus far, and it also implies pass-catchers are enthused about an evolving aerial attack in Athens. 

That excitement is directly correlated to the presence of lauded true freshman Jacob Eason and a commitment from Elite 11 finalist Jake Fromm. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney should enter the 2017 season with two blue-chip quarterbacks who hold a combined seven years of eligibility, and the Bulldogs are also in legitimate contention for No. 1 overall 2018 passer Trevor Lawrence.

Miami head coach Mark Richt, who actually landed Eason at Georgia before departing the program in December, aims to revitalize the Hurricanes. His staff fought diligently to keep Bruce on board leading up to national signing day, and any early success he enjoys in Coral Gables could significantly impact Grimes. 

Among these two dark horses, Miami has a shot to emerge as a serious sleeper in this race given proximity to St. Thomas Aquinas. The Hurricanes hold three pledges at the position this cycle, but Grimes is the kind of top-level talent who could send a strong message that Richt has his program's arrow pointing upward.

 

10-1: Alabama Crimson Tide

The reigning national champions plucked emerging national star Calvin Ridley away from South Florida in the 2015 cycle. Prior to Ridley's freshman-season ascension up Alabama's depth chart, Miami product Amari Cooper dominated as the go-to guy in Tuscaloosa en route to his early NFL draft selection. 

Ace Alabama recruiter Mario Cristobal, who previously served as head coach at Florida International, does some of his finest work in the Sunshine State. The Crimson Tide view receiver as a pivotal point of emphasis in this cycle and are in the process of building one of the country's most dynamic young quarterback depth charts, so offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin can certainly sell a compelling outlook.

If Grimes opts to spend his collegiate career in the SEC but chooses to leave state borders, we're betting Alabama is the choice.

 

8-1: Florida State Seminoles

Let's put the Seminoles at No. 2 among in-state options for Grimes, who could also look at the quarterback situation in Tallahassee as motivation to explore this choice further. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has now secured a top-10 pro-style passer in three consecutive recruiting cycles, setting the stage for fierce competition among promising prospects.

Grimes would complement longtime Florida State pledge D.J. Matthews extremely well in the receiver rotation, as his length and physicality can play off Matthews' slipperiness in the open field. He has the attributes to eventually replace rising junior Travis Rudolph as Florida State's primary target, perhaps as early as 2017.

According to Safid Deen of the Tallahassee Democrat, Grimes views the Seminoles as a top-three college destination. He was impressed by his Seminoles spring game experience.

"The biggest things that stood out to me was the atmosphere," Grimes told Deen. "To see all the Noles fans travel to Orlando to pack the stands is just crazy. That just shows how much love the fans have for the team, and that’s a big thing for me. I want to play for a team that fans love the players."

 

4-1: Florida Gators

Antonio Callaway made a major splash in head coach Jim McElwain's offensive attack as a true freshman. Though his status with the Gators is up in the air due to a suspension, that 2015 performance provided evidence that years of underwhelming statistical outputs at the position in Gainesville could come to an end soon.

McElwain will rely on 4-star quarterback commit Jake Allen to provide peer recruiting throughout the process. At this stage, it's clear the St. Thomas Aquinas gunslinger won't be passive about his feelings.

"Of course Tre is somebody I really want with us at Florida," he told B/R this month at Elite 11 finals. "No matter where you throw the ball, he has a really good shot to make the catch. He would bring a lot to the offense, and it would be special."

Grimes acknowledged the two discuss this possibility.

"[Allen is] on me everyday in class about Florida, this and Florida, that," he told B/R's Sanjay Kirpalani in March. "I got to get up there and see what he was talking about, and since then, I was amazed. ... Florida is chasing Ohio State. That’s probably the biggest threat to Ohio State."

Which leads us to...

 

2-1: Ohio State Buckeyes

It's no secret Grimes holds Ohio State in high esteem, as he's repeatedly referred to the program as his favorite. Though he's become a star recruit in Florida, his roots are in Indiana, so a return to Big Ten territory wouldn't result in culture shock.

Like others on this list, Ohio State is in the picture for multiple top-tier pass-catchers in this cycle. Among them, Grimes is viewed as the safest bet to land in Columbus, where he feels comfortable and former high school teammate Nick Bosa is a top freshman.

The Buckeyes emphatically lead his 247Sports crystal ball, carrying 93 percent of experts' commitment predictions. In many circles, Grimes' potential pledge to Ohio State is viewed not as a matter of "if," but "when." 

"I just feel like they don’t look at me like a regular recruit they just want," he told Kirpalani. "They look at me more as like a son, and they want to mentor me in life and help me with my life goals. ... That’s one of the reasons Ohio State is my leader."

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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Jim Mora, UCLA Agree to New Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

Four straight bowl appearances has bought Jim Mora extra job security, as the UCLA Bruins reportedly rewarded their head football coach with a contract extension Tuesday.

Per Bryan Fischer, Mora's extension with UCLA is for two years, which will keep him with the program through 2021. 

The two new years on Mora's contract come less than three years after he signed a six-year deal with the Bruins in December 2013. 

Even though Mora and the Bruins are still seeking to become an elite program on the field, there's no denying better talent has come to Los Angeles since the 54-year-old took over in 2012. 

Per UCLABruins.com, the eight players drafted into the NFL in April were the most by the school since the draft format went to seven rounds in 1994, and the 20 players selected since Mora arrived are the most in a four-year span under the current format.

Mora's new deal caps off a banner two-week stretch for the Bruins' athletic program. On May 24, the school announced a 15-year, $280 million shoe and apparel deal with Under Armour that goes into effect next summer. 

The key for Mora moving forward is getting all of that high-end talent to perform consistently on the field. The Bruins have gone 37-16 since he took over and won at least eight games each year, the first time they have done that since 1984-88 under Terry Donahue. 

Another strong recruiting class is coming to UCLA, with 247Sports ranking the Bruins' 2016 crop as the 12th-best in the nation. The Pac-12 competition is stiff, with Stanford, USC, Oregon and Washington all boasting strong rosters, so the task ahead for Mora is steep. 

By every measure, though, Mora has UCLA moving in the right direction after falling on hard times under Rick Neuheisel. The Bruins' commitment to Mora goes a long way toward ensuring the best is still to come for this football team. 

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Redshirt Freshmen You Need to Know for 2016 College Football Season

Redshirt freshmen will dot the college football landscape in 2016, hoping to make a considerable impact after spending one season learning on the sideline.

Some players were trapped on a full depth chart, while others encountered injury problems or simply needed to develop.

At Ohio State, the upcoming campaign is the year of the redshirt freshman. Elsewhere, second-year talents are stepping into vacated roles—openings often left by longtime starters.

Broken down by positional unit, the list features 21 players who should become weekly contributors, perhaps even stars. Don't be surprised when your hear these names in the fall.

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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Although not many SEC programs are fond of Big Ten power Michigan these days, LSU head coach Les Miles may be one of the few, considering he is a Wolverine alum. 

Current Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh has ruffled some feathers because of his recruiting tactics, which have paid some dividends in territories occupied by schools in SEC country.

Last week, LSU offered 3-star safety and current Wolverines pledge J’Marick Woods, who hails from Florence, Alabama.

The 6’3”, 205-pounder, who has been committed to the Wolverines since March, is currently pegged as the nation’s No. 25 safety and the No. 331 player overall in the 2017 cycle.

Woods took a visit to Ann Arbor in April for Michigan’s spring game, and he left that trip content with his commitment, as detailed by Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247.

"It's a good feeling being a part of the Michigan family," Woods told Lorenz. "I feel great about the recruiting part of football being over. Now I can focus on my senior season and work on getting better for when I get here to play in college."

However, given the Tigers’ history of producing top-flight defensive backs, Woods’ recruitment could get interesting if he decides to give LSU’s program a serious look.

While he seems solid with the Wolverines for now, the critical thing to watch is whether or not he decides to take a trip to Baton Rouge in the near future.

 

Nebraska Offers Rising California DB 

One player who has emerged on the national radar during the spring camp circuit is 3-star corner Jaylon Johnson.

The 6’0.5”, 177-pounder put in a dominant performance at the Nike Opening Regional in Oakland, California, last month after winning the ratings MVP, the fastest man challenge and the MVP for the defensive backs segment.

His offer list figures to get a boost in the coming months, and last week Big Ten member Nebraska joined the short list of schools in pursuit of Johnson.

Among the other schools in the running for Johnson are California, Florida, Oklahoma and USC. 

The Cornhuskers, who have had a good measure of success recently in recruiting the state of California, would do well to secure a visit from Johnson, who admitted he’s pondering his next move in terms of taking trips to see the programs he’s interested in. 

“I haven’t planned any official visits yet. I am in the process of lining up some visits I’ll take in the next few months,” Johnson told Bleacher Report last month. “I want to go to some of the out-of-state schools I’m interested in. I just don’t know them yet.”

 

Stanford Offers In-State WR

Two of Stanford’s five current commitments are from in-state tight ends Colby Parkinson and Tucker Fisk.

Last week, Cardinal head coach David Shaw and his staff offered another talented in-state pass-catcher in 3-star receiver Jamire Calvin.

The Los Angeles product has more than 20 offers to his credit entering the summer, with programs such as Arizona, Arizona State, California and Nebraska among the programs in hot pursuit of his commitment.

However, his recruitment could shift significantly with the Cardinal now officially in the picture for his services.

 

North Carolina After 4-Star ATH

Even though 4-star athlete Jermani Brown now resides in the heart of ACC country, only two of his 11 offers came from ACC schools.

Last week, North Carolina joined fellow ACC members Syracuse and Virginia in tendering the Midlothian High School (Virginia) playmaker. 

The 5’11”, 175-pounder, who could play either receiver or defensive back at the next level, was once committed to Arizona State before reopening his recruitment in April.

As Ross Martin of 247Sports noted, Brown is one of a handful of recruits in the Mid-Atlantic region the Tar Heels are heavily pursuing in the 2017 cycle.

 

Best of the Rest

2017

  • Virginia offered 3-star running back and current James Madison commit PK Kier.

 

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.

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10 Most Anticipated Rematches of the 2016 College Football Season

It's one of the best features of college football—whenever there's a fantastic game with a memorable finish in the regular season, there will most likely be a rematch the next year. 

So while college football fans aren't guaranteed a rematch of last season's incredible finale between Alabama and Clemson this year, everyone can take comfort in the fact the Michigan-Michigan State and Oklahoma-TCU thrillers will get another round in 2016.

Here are the top 10 most anticipated rematches from the 2015 college football season that will take place in the 2016 regular season, from hotly contested rivalry games to major chances at revenge for jaw-dropping endings. (Some of these rematches fit both categories, making for even bigger showdowns.)

These rematches were chosen and ranked by how they played out in the 2015 season and how important they potentially could be in the 2016 season. While we don't know what the exact stakes of these games will be until they actually happen, the composite preseason Top 25 will be our helpful guide. 

Tell us which rematches you're looking forward to the most in 2016 in the comments below.

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Kenric Young Cited with Assault: Latest Details and Reaction on Utah WR

University of Utah wide receiver Kenric Young was cited for assault Saturday night after allegedly punching somebody in the face several times at a pool party in North Salt Lake, Utah. 

Josh Furlong of KSL.com reported Monday that police confirmed a physical confrontation occurred that led to two citations.

A witness stated to KSL.com that Young became aggressive after somebody at the party asked him to pull his pants up because there were women and children around. He allegedly "yelled obscenities" and threw his beer at the person's face, which caused the fight to break out.

The report included a statement from Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham:

When we learned of the accusations against Kenric Young we contacted University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy and asked if he could obtain more information from the North Salt Lake police on what happened. We will cooperate fully with any police investigation and once we learn the facts, we will take any appropriate disciplinary measures.

Assistant chief of police Troy Johnson stated a women was also cited for disorderly conduct as a result of the incident. It's unclear what her role was during the fight, but Johnson said there's no indication she is also an athlete.

Johnson also added "a lot of the witnesses there indicated that some of those guys were athletes at the University of Utah, but I'm not in a position to confirm or deny that."

Young was a 3-star prospect who joined Utah in the Class of 2014, per 247Sports. He made three catches for 17 yards during his sophomore season with the Utes.

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SEC Football Q&A: Who Will Be the Most Improved Team in Each Division?

In 2013, Auburn came out of nowhere to win the SEC.

In 2014, Mississippi State came from a similar place to earn its first No. 1 ranking in program history.

Last year, it was Florida shocking the world to win the SEC East in Jim McElwain's first year as Gators head coach.

What will 2016 have in store? Will there be a surprise team that contends that nobody is talking about this offseason?

That question and more are answered in this week's edition of SEC Q&A:

 

No, South Carolina won't be the most improved team in the SEC East this season.

While I like the foundation first-year head coach Will Muschamp has built with quarterback Brandon McIlwain, receiver Bryan Edwards and a bulked-up defensive front, the Gamecocks are still way too inexperienced to make a major jump and contend for the division title like those teams listed above did.

In fact, I don't think any team in the SEC East is.

It essentially will be a three-team race involving Tennessee, Florida and Georgia in the division, with the other four teams all hovering around bowl eligibility.

With that said, though, don't be surprised to see Vanderbilt make at least a little bit of noise in 2016.

Head coach Derek Mason enters his third season with a proven stud at running back in Ralph Webb, an experienced defense with a star at linebacker in Zach Cunningham and a track record of defensive success that included the nation's fourth-best red-zone touchdown defense (38.78 percent) and sixth-best third-down defense (28.16 percent), according to CFBStats.com.

Vandy isn't going to contend for the division title, but it will make a bowl game and could spring an upset that has a big impact on which team does make it to Atlanta.

Out West, I'll hop on the Texas A&M bandwagon and say the Aggies will have a legitimate shot at the SEC West title when the calendar turns to November.

The Aggies have been hammered with bad news over the last six months that included the departure of former 5-star quarterback prospects Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen. But the addition of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the presence of graduate-transfer quarterback Trevor Knight and a more focused rushing attack should help the Aggies be more consistent.

They won eight regular-season games in 2015 despite a massive quarterback issue that lingered for two months, the conference's second-worst run defense and an offensive line that struggled mightily.

Knight might not win the Heisman Trophy, but he can at least provide the stability Texas A&M needs to be competitive. Another year under defensive coordinator John Chavis coupled with stars Daylon Mack, Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall should help the defense, as will the health of linebacker Otaro Alaka alongside Shaan Washington. New offensive line coach Jim Turner will preach the kind of physicality the Aggies lacked in the trenches, and he's a perfect complement to Mazzone's run-first, tempo-based scheme.

Texas A&M might not win the West, but it'll hang around for a while.

 

The offenses have become more exotic in the SEC, but you have to run the ball effectively in order to win the SEC title.

It's a must.

Seven of the last eight SEC champions have finished in the top four in the SEC in yards per carry, according to CFBStats.com, and the one that didn't was last year's Alabama team that produced Heisman Trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry. Those offenses included the more traditional offenses of the Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers as well as more creative spread attacks of Auburn (2013, 2010) and Florida (2008).

If a team is going to contend for the SEC title, it has to run the ball effectively in some way, shape or form.

This has been what's prevented Ole Miss from breaking through that glass ceiling over the last couple of years. The Rebels have made New Year's Six bowls over that stretch but finished 10th in the conference in rushing in 2014 and seventh in 2015, and their leading rusher in both seasons was Jaylen Walton, who was more of an edge threat than a bruiser.

Can you imagine how explosive those offenses would have been with just a little between-the-tackles rushing threat?

At least one of the two participants in each of the last five SEC Championship Games have finished eighth or worse in the SEC in passing offense, including conference champions Auburn (2013), Alabama (2012) and LSU (2011).

A great passing offense isn't required, but a great rushing offense.

No matter what that rushing offense looks like.

 

I don't think it seems that way at all.

Sure, people are talking about Georgia—and first-year head coach Kirby Smart—quite a bit because the mystery of Smart as a coach and Georgia as a program sans Mark Richt is incredibly intriguing.

The last time Georgia played a game without Richt on the sideline, the panic of "Y2K" had recently subsided, Napster was still a thing and George W. Bush hadn't been sworn into office for his first term as President of the United States yet.

On top of that, Richt's replacement, Smart, is a first-time head coach who has been a hotshot assistant for nearly a decade. Despite that, he is still largely a mystery thanks to Alabama head coach Nick Saban's policy that limits access to assistants to one instance during fall camp and mandatory appearances during bowl games.

Throw in the mystery surrounding the quarterback position and the hype 5-star early enrollee Jacob Eason brought to Athens, and Georgia is—and should be—a hot topic this offseason.

The talk surrounding Florida is centered more around the offense that sputtered down the stretch in 2015 than anything else, but McElwain did win the division in his first year as the head coach of the Gators.

People do respect that, even if McElwain did back into Atlanta.

Curiosity doesn't equal respect.

The curiosity surrounding Georgia exists for a very good reason. Respect is something McElwain earned last year, but he earned a little bit of skepticism in the process thanks to the November quarterback woes.

Smart doesn't have that respect yet.

 

Andrew Jelks is a good pick because Vandy needs offensive line help in a big way. I'm going to go in a different direction, though.

Alaka, Georgia running back Nick Chubb, Ole Miss safety Tony Conner and Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson all played last year and are being discussed heavily.

So if we're going to pick an injured player who isn't being talked about, let's go with Missouri defensive lineman Harold Brantley.

Brantley sat out last season with injuries suffered from a June 2015 car accident and could be back at full speed by fall camp.

He had 54 tackles, seven for loss and five sacks as a sophomore in 2014 for the SEC East champs. If he comes back at 100 percent, Brantley is the best player on a loaded Missouri defensive line that has been the one constant for the Tigers through the highs and lows between 2013 and 2015.

Back in March, defensive line coach Jackie Shipp talked about the progress Brantley had made since the accident, according to David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune:

The progress he's made, would I count him out come fall? No, I'm not counting him out. But for me to say what I think will happen, some people's bodies come back quicker and all those different things. You don't know what might happen. But he's got some special genes to him, I'll tell you that.

Brantley isn't going to solve Missouri's problem because he's not an offensive skill player. But with him on the roster, the Missouri defense will keep games close and at least give the offense a chance.

 

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.

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Gus Malzahn's Contract Extension at Auburn Is Cost of Doing Business in SEC

When the news came across Monday night that Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, fresh off of a 7-6 season and last-place finish in the SEC West, got a contract extension, you laughed.

Perhaps even hysterically.

After all, this was the team that was picked to win the SEC, was in many preseason playoff predictions and was loaded with talent. Instead of living up to those expectations, Malzahn's Tigers spent the postseason in-state, played in the Birmingham Bowl and earned Malzahn a spot on the hot seat.

Despite that hot seat, as James Crepea of AL.com notes, Malzahn signed his new deal on April 1 that pays him $4.725 million per year—up from the $4.35 million he would have earned in 2016 under the previous contract—and gives him an extra year through 2020. The built-in raises reduce, meaning he'll earn $500,000 more than previously scheduled over the next two years and $500,000 less in the next two.

That extra year that athletic director Jay Jacobs added to the end of the contract is the kicker, and would force Auburn to shell out an additional $2,237,500 in buyout money if he's let go prior to the end of the deal.

This isn't a case of Jacobs making a crazy decision, not recognizing that the program has headed south in each year since the Tigers won the SEC and played for the national championship in 2013 or throwing money around like Johnny Manziel in a Las Vegas club.

This is just business as usual in the SEC.

From a financial standpoint during the duration of the previously scheduled contract, the difference is negligible. If Auburn struggles and Jacobs fires Malzahn within the next two years, the extra money on the front end of the contract is roughly the football equivalent of paying a parking ticket.

That extra year on the back end would force Auburn to pay an extra $2,237,500.

Isn't that worth it, though?

Sure, that sounds like a lot of money to most people, but all Auburn is doing with Malzahn's extension is buying a bit of recruiting stability through public relations.

Being on the hook for just under $2.5 million a half-decade from now, knowing that SEC Network money—which helped increase the per team payout from $20.9 million to $31.2 million in 2015—will continue to roll in, is like planning five years in advance for a trip to the grocery store to pick up some milk and eggs. 

It's not a big deal.

Think about what just happened in Auburn over the weekend.

It was the annual recruiting extravaganza known as "Big Cat Weekend," when visitors from all over the country come around to enjoy a weekend on campus. Don't you think that the topic of Malzahn's job status came up quite a bit?

If it didn't, recruits aren't asking the right questions, and other coaches in the SEC aren't doing their jobs and using Malzahn's status on the hot seat against Auburn on the recruiting trail.

This extension combats that. At least, a little bit.

Jacobs told reporters in Destin, Florida, when we were there last week for SEC spring meetings that he expected Malzahn to be around "a long, long time."

"He’s a brilliant offensive mind. Took us to two national championships—once as a coordinator, once as a head coach," Jacobs said (via Crepea). "There’s a bunch of schools in this league that would love to be in our position with a guy like him."

By adding another year to the contract, it ensures that—at least contractually—Malzahn is locked up for the duration of the college careers of the 2017 class.

As Dan Wolken of USA Today noted on Twitter, that matters:

Eyebrows were undoubtedly raised on Monday afternoon when news of Malzahn's extension broke following a season in which his program was considered one of the biggest letdowns in the country.

On paper, it doesn't make a lot of sense if you look solely at results.

But there's more to the business of coaching than basic win-loss records. Jacobs giving Malzahn an extension and restructuring his contract is simply the cost of business in the SEC.

 

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.

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Elliot Baker to Alabama: Crimson Tide Land 4-Star OT Prospect

The Alabama Crimson Tide added some depth to their future offensive line Monday night. 

Offensive tackle Elliot Baker—a 4-star prospect in the 2017 class, per 247Sports’ composite rankings—took to Twitter to announce his decision to commit to Alabama:

The 6’7”, 295-pounder played for City College of San Francisco and is the No. 2-ranked junior college recruit in the nation, the No. 2-ranked junior college offensive tackle and the No. 1-ranked junior college prospect in the state of California for the 2017 class.

Hank South of 247Sports reported Baker decided to join the Crimson Tide while he was on campus for the program’s summer camp.

Baker described why Alabama was his favorite over the likes of Georgia, Oregon and others during the recruiting process, per South: “Besides the winning tradition and the titles, the fact that they’ve been proven to send guys to the NFL. They give their guys the most opportunity and exposure. When you play there, people are going to know who you are. That helps with the NFL.”

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports thought the defending champions landed a “big pick-up,” noting that “some college coaches see this guy as the nation’s top JC OT.”

Hudl shared some of the highlights that helped Baker earn that distinction:

Drew Champlin of AL.com pointed out that Baker “fills a big need at offensive tackle,” as Cam Robinson probably won’t be on the team for the 2017 campaign because he is a highly regarded NFL prospect.

The Crimson Tide also dismissed offensive tackle Charles Baldwin earlier in the offseason, and Robinson is dealing with legal problems.

Robinson was arrested in May “on possession of narcotics” and for “possessing a handgun in the presence of narcotics,” per Michael Casagrande of AL.com. Casagrande noted Robinson “was also charged with felony illegal possession of stolen firearms.”

With Robinson’s immediate future in doubt and Baldwin no longer around the program, there will likely be an opportunity for Baker to play his way into the rotation and potentially fulfill his NFL aspirations.

He has the size to power his way through defensive linemen and create holes for Alabama’s rushing attack, which finished ninth in the nation in total rushing attempts last season. Baker fits into Alabama’s physical style of football and will have a chance to prove as much in 2017.

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Jim Harbaugh Comments on College Football's Rules, Scrutiny Around the Sport

Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh spoke about the modern-day bias against football and NCAA rules at a team satellite camp at Patterson Park in Baltimore on Monday.

"Football gets the majority of the scrutiny and the rules that are intended to hurt the student-athlete, and it makes no sense," he said, per ESPN.com's Heather Dinich. "That's why I'm pointing this out because some of these other sports aren't getting it."

Satellite camps have been a hot-button issue of late since the NCAA initially voted in April to ban them, only to reverse course later in the month.

NCAA oversight has been rampant around Harbaugh's satellite-camp tour, and per Mlive.com's Nick Baumgardner, Harbaugh was told to cease taking pictures and signing autographs in Florida on Saturday.

The rules seem to be changing on a whim. As Harbaugh's son, Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh, was giving an interview, his father stopped him because he was told the staff wasn't allowed to talk to the media.

Hours later, that changed, prompting Jim Harbaugh to respond as follows, per Dinich:

I believe we can do interviews. That's what we've been told. You were there, you saw what's going on with the changing daily rules. It's very interesting. It's very interesting. The NCAA compliance people are here. They've been at every single one. The NCAA has sent at least one or two of their people to each of our camps and we've had one of our compliance people at each one of these camps. That notion that there's not oversight of these camps -- you've seen it with your own eyes, there absolutely is.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban was quoted in late April as saying satellite camps are "bad for college football," per ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy, leading to further controversy.

Harbaugh fired back on Twitter last week:

Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd responded to Saban's position and ultimately sided with Harbaugh when he gave his take on the situation:

Harbaugh cited another heavy-contact sport when explaining how the NCAA rules impact college football, per Dinich:

Let's take lacrosse for example, white sport, rising, affluent sport. Recruit 'em in the eighth grade, dark period for a couple days in August and it's a totally different situation. It bothers us, but if it's a test of wills, we're going to fight for the youngsters and the student-athletes and their families and for the game of football itself.

A relatively new leader of the Wolverines program, Harbaugh has a well-documented ultra-competitive personality. It may have rubbed his former San Francisco 49ers players the wrong way, according to comments offensive lineman Alex Boone made to Real Sports' Andrea Kremer (via ProFootballTalk), but it worked wonders in Harbaugh's first season as Michigan's coach.

Even after losing the 2015 season opener to Utah, Harbaugh guided the Wolverines to a 10-3 record—a massive improvement from their 5-7 mark from the year before. He also brought in a tremendous 2016 recruiting class, led by 247Sports' No. 1 overall prospect, defensive tackle Rashan Gary.

Harbaugh's pro-satellite-camp stance is unlikely to change based on his remarks from Monday.

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Gus Malzahn, Auburn Agree on New Contract: Latest Comments and Reaction

Auburn Tigers head football coach Gus Malzahn reportedly received a contract extension Monday.

“The university released an amendment to Malzahn's contract, which extends the coach through Dec. 31, 2020," according to Dana Sulonen of oanow.com. "The amended contract began on Jan. 1, 2016.”

Sulonen noted the previous contract ran through Dec. 31, 2019, and there weren’t any changes to the $4.725 million per year Malzahn is set to receive.

According to USA Today, Malzahn was the 13th-highest-paid coach in the nation in 2015. Alabama’s Nick Saban ($7,087,481), Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($7,004,000) and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($5,860,000) made up the top three.

Malzahn coached at Arkansas State in 2012 and won the Sun Belt championship before taking the Auburn job. He sports a 36-16 overall record and a 27-13 mark during his three seasons at the helm for the Tigers.

Malzahn’s most notable performance for Auburn came in 2013, when he finished 12-2 and reached the BCS National Championship Game before ultimately losing to quarterback Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles in a 34-31 nail-biter. Malzahn won the Associated Press, SEC, Eddie Robinson, Home Depot and Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year awards for his efforts on the sidelines that season.

Despite the national title game appearance, there has been a downturn in Malzahn’s win-loss record for Auburn on a year-to-year basis following that 2013 campaign:

What’s more, Malzahn is only 1-2 against in-state rivals Alabama (with the one win coming in 2013 when Chris Davis returned a missed field goal for a touchdown on the final play) in another critical measuring stick of success as coach of the Tigers. However, it is important to point out Auburn was a dismal 3-9 in 2012 before Malzahn took over and immediately led it to the national title game in his first season.

The coach—who uses an uptempo offensive attack—also has the program trending in the right direction after landing the No. 9 recruiting class in the nation in the 2016 cycle, per 247Sports' composite team rankings.

If Malzahn can parlay that success on the recruiting trail into more wins on the field, the Tigers will quickly become one of the top contenders in the SEC West—like they were during his first season.

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Alabama's Steady Use of Freshmen Regularly Overlooked

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — You’ve probably heard the rhetoric surrounding each and every recruiting class that head coach Nick Saban has put together for the University of Alabama. 

Freshmen don’t play. “You want playing time? Go elsewhere.” Saying yes to Alabama means sitting and waiting for your chance. “You’ll never play there.”

It all gets used against the Crimson Tide, yet Saban keeps landing top classes, having players named All-Americans and drafted, and winning championships.

Moreover, the numbers don’t quite back those sentiments up.

When Alabama won the national title last season, the leading receiver was a true freshman, as were the two players inserted as extra defensive backs in the nickel and dime packages, which as far as the Crimson Tide are concerned, essentially made them starters.

A key contributor on the defensive line and at tight end were true freshmen, while a starting cornerback and offensive lineman were both redshirt freshmen. 

This isn’t to say that players don’t get frustrated and never transfer due to lack of playing time, they do. Wide receiver Chris Black didn’t crack the starting lineup and will be suiting up for Missouri this season, and it probably played a part in safety Shawn Burgess-Becker’s decision to leave, which was first reported by 247Sports on Monday.

Overall, Alabama played 12 true freshmen (half of last year’s recruiting class) and nine redshirt freshmen, which was about average since Saban arrived in 2007. 

Specifically, the true freshmen who played in 2015 were wide receiver Daylon Charlot, Burgess-Becker, offensive lineman Lester Cotton, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, running back Damien Harris, safety Ronnie Harrison, tight end Hale Hentges, running back Xavian Marks, defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne, wide receiver Calvin Ridley, running back Bo Scarbrough and guard Dallas Warmack.

The redshirt freshmen were offensive lineman Josh Casher, running back Ronnie Clark, defensive lineman Johnny Dwight, linebacker Keith Holcombe, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, wide receiver Derek Kief, linebacker Christian Miller, offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher and defensive lineman O.J. Smith.

The true freshmen combined to start 27 games, with five making stats, most notably Ridley. After taking over Robert Foster’s spot following a shoulder injury, he became just the second wide receiver in Alabama history to have a 1,000-yard season.

"I think we all saw the writing on the wall,” offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said. “Regardless of Robert's injury, Calvin was gonna play a bunch.”

“He sort of ‘gets it.’ He knows what it takes,” Saban said.

That “gets it” has always been sort of the key when it comes to Saban playing young players because not everyone is ready to play when he arrives or even after training camp.

"The big thing with young players is the maturity to be able to grind through the season,” Saban said.

“The season is a grind, but you've got to embrace the grind. The younger guys have a more difficult time being able to do that week in and week out, and I think they go through some ups and downs.”

Tackle D.J. Fluker redshirted his first year because he wasn’t ready to take on SEC pass-rushers. Running back Eddie Lacy did too.

Derrick Henry didn’t but looked lost on the field during his first game against Virginia Tech at the Georgia Dome in 2013. His stat line ended up reading one carry, minus-three yards.

He had a 100-yard game in relief against Arkansas, the first of 16 during his career, but it wasn’t until going through the bowl practices that things really started to click for him. Henry came off the bench to have 100 rushing yards on eight carries and took his first reception for a 61-yard touchdown against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

Position also plays a part.

One of the most impressive things about Alabama’s most recent national championship was the secondary, where cornerback Cyrus Jones had been the only proven player at his position heading into training camp. Safeties Eddie Jackson and Geno Matias-Smith were both converted cornerbacks, and you already know about the other three.

“It’s going to be difficult, you know,” Jackson said about playing in Saban’s scheme as a freshman. “It’s a new system. You can’t learn everything. Even Marlon being here two years as a redshirt freshman, but it’s different. Game time and practice are two different things. You really have to come in and be really focused.”

Additionally, no quarterback has played for Saban at Alabama as a true freshman, although Jalen Hurts hopes to end that streak this year.

When Greg McElroy injured his ribs against Florida in the 2009 SEC Championship Game, AJ McCarron nearly played. Instead, he later had the opportunity to try to win three straight national titles (2011, 2012 and just missing in 2013) and called it the “best thing that ever happened to me in the end.”

“You come to Alabama, you have to compete every day in everything you do,” Hurts said. “Every day here is an evaluation…you’re being evaluated. I have no problem with that. Everything is about competition. You come here, you’re going to do what’s best for the team. That’s being the best player.”

That’s what some people don’t quite get about Saban and Alabama, because he’s proved over and over again that he’s not afraid to play a freshman.

Go back to 2008 and Saban’s first full recruiting class, and 16 of the players he landed played that first season when Alabama reached the SEC Championship Game. Running back Mark Ingram Jr. scored 12 rushing touchdowns that season, and wide receiver Julio Jones was pretty much a starter the day he arrived on campus.

“It’s a constant competition, no one’s spot is safe, you have to go out there and continue to fight,” wide receiver ArDarius Stewart said.

A year after the Football Writers Association of America named linebacker Rolando McClain a Freshman All-American in 2007, the first of 10 for Alabama during the Saban era (which tops the nation), Dont’a Hightower followed suit in 2008.

This year, Alabama landed two linebackers in its recruiting class who may be comparable in terms of talent and potential, Ben Davis and Lyndell Wilson. On paper, its difficult to see where they might fit in for the 2016 season, but no one would be surprised if both played.

Those things have a way of working out.

"We weren't worried about perspective,” Saban said after signing the linebackers. “We like getting good players who can go out on the field and play good. Perception doesn't win any games for us around here, but good players do."

 

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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Michigan Football: Recapping the Biggest 2016 Offseason News So Far

Jim Harbaugh's return to his alma mater reinvigorated Michigan football last year, and that success has helped the program remain in the news during the 2016 offseason.

Michigan is widely considered a leading contender for both the Big Ten championship and the College Football Playoff next season.

But only a brief portion of the offseason headlines actually deal with on-field matters, which came in spring practice. Otherwise, Harbaugh has stirred up reactions that sparked faux controversies, while personnel changes and recruiting news highlight the other significant developments for Michigan.

 

Coaching Changes

Though the offense was productive down the stretch, the defense carried the team in 2015. The Wolverines finished the year with one of the nation's best units.

Major successes can lead to considerable change, however.

Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin accepted his first (and well-deserved) head coaching gig, heading to Maryland. In his place, Harbaugh tabbed Don Brown.

Brown has spent his entire coaching career in the Northeast, including 21 years as a coordinator, his most recent stint at Boston College. Last season, the Eagles managed just a 3-9 record yet boasted the No. 1 defense while allowing a mere 15.3 points per game.

Durkin also oversaw the linebackers, so Michigan promoted Chris Partridge from a player personnel director to position coach. He also replaced special teams coach John Baxter, who returned to USC after spending one year in Ann Arbor.

Safeties coach Greg Jackson initially followed Harbaugh from the San Francisco 49ers but ventured back to the NFL ranks when the Dallas Cowboys reached out.

The Wolverines then hired Brian Smith—who spent 2015 with the Philadelphia Eagles and the previous eight coaching the New York Jets—to complete the game-day staff.

 

Michigan Lands Rashan Gary, No. 5 Class

Heading into national signing day, Michigan had the makings of an excellent haul. Following the commitment of No. 1 overall prospect Rashan Gary, Harbaugh solidified a top-five class.

Rated No. 5 in 247Sports' composite rankings, the Wolverines signed their second-best class since 2005. Only the 2013 group—which finished No. 4 and features a slew of expected starters this year—ranked higher during that span.

Gary—along with 4-stars Lavert Hill and Devin Asiasi—pledged to and signed with Michigan on that day.

Other top-100 talents were Ben Bredeson, Brandon Peters, David Long, Michael Onenwu and Kareem Walker. Seven players—led by Peters and Walker—enrolled early.

While Michigan wrapped up the 2016 class, the 2017 group started taking shape.

Five-star Dylan McCaffrey headlines what is currently the seventh-best class. Eight other prospects committed, including 4-stars Josh Ross, Corey Malone-Hatcher and O'maury Samuels.

The Wolverines are off to a respectable start on the trail.

 

Spring Practice Recap

Harbaugh has been the focal point of both major offseason non-troversies.

First, he took the team to IMG Academy in Florida for a week of spring practice. Coaches—particularly from the ACC and SEC—were essentially upset that Harbaugh held the workouts in a fertile recruiting ground at a powerhouse high school program.

Plus, detractors cited unneeded stresses on student-athletes, who were forced to travel from 32-degree Ann Arbor to 75-degree weather during spring break.

"No one asked us about it," tight end Jake Butt said, according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, later adding, "We're away, we're down here in Florida, beautiful territory, sunshine, not too hot, nice breeze, eating great food with our brothers. I don't have anything negative to say about it."

What happened on the field certainly wasn't as entertaining, but several notable events occurred—or didn't, which is equally as important.

Though no quarterback separated himself completely, Wilton Speight and John O'Korn edged ahead as the leaders in the competition. Two-year starting left tackle Mason Cole shifted to center, and Grant Newsome took over on the outside.

Jabrill Peppers moved from defensive back to outside linebacker. Channing Stribling performed so well that Harbaugh said the cornerback is "set in stone" as a starter, per Josh Henschke of Scout.

Perhaps more importantly, though, no player suffered a long-term injury. Michigan enters the summer with a largely healthy roster, which is an underrated plus.

 

Fun With Satellite Camps

Secondly, Harbaugh and Co. are in the process of completing a tour of satellite camps that is composed of 39 stops, per Snyder.

It almost didn't happen.

After some whining from coaches and administrators—again, particularly from the ACC and SEC—the NCAA banned the camps. Just 20 days later, the governing body rescinded the decision.

So the tour is underway and includes sessions alongside Nick Saban and Alabama as well as Georgia and Kirby Smart, two of several coaches who initially reacted negatively.

The offseason can be a quiet time, but as long as Harbaugh is running around the country throwing on a variety of jerseys—or shade on Twitter—Michigan has a secure place in the headlines.

 

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from CFBStats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Preseason Heisman Candidates Most Likely to Flop in 2016

In college football, there is not a more prestigious individual preseason honor than claiming a spot as a top contender for the Heisman Trophy.

But expectations could be dangerous for some of 2016's highest-regarded players.

Last year, Cardale Jones (Ohio State), Jeremy Johnson (Auburn) and Corey Clement (Wisconsin) plummeted out of the conversation, while Cody Kessler (USC) and Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) were highly productive but not Heisman contenders.

The upcoming season should bring more of the latter—players who assemble solid years but miss the ultimate prize. It's unlikely any of Odds Shark's top 15 preseason options completely flop.

Dropping out of the Heisman picture or not matching expectations is plausible, however, and the following five standouts are most likely to fall short of the award's preseason hype.

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Ranking Top QB Recruits Post Elite 11 Finals

Premier quarterbacks can provide pivotal building blocks for college football recruiting classes, solidifying future offensive efforts and giving coaches a potential leader who can rally other athletes to join them on campus. Just like at the professional and collegiate level, top-tier high school passers command a spotlight that challenges their ability to handle physical and mental scrutiny.

We've grown familiar with the prized playmakers at the position in an impressive 2017 cycle, evaluating prospects through multi-season film review and in-person camp assessment. Bleacher Report was in attendance for the Elite 11 national finals June 3-5 at Redondo Union High School in Los Angeles County, California, checking the pulse of this group.

Here's a look at how America's most impressive prep quarterbacks stack up months shy of their senior high school seasons, placing emphasis on accuracy, arm strength, athleticism, leadership and improvisational skills. 

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