NCAA Football News

College Football Teams That Would Be Perfect for Reality TV Shows in 2016

College football and reality television seemingly go hand in hand these days—and I'm not just referring to my Bleacher Reportcolleagues who love to live-tweet The Bachelor.

As Bachelor live-tweeter and SEC football lead writer Barrett Sallee wrote last month, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has a new web-based reality show from in-state radio host Bo Mattingly. Being Bret Bielema already has two trailers on YouTube, including one where Bielema makes the perfect pitch for year-round egg nog.

Bielema isn't the only college football figure to get the reality show treatment recently. Last year, Showtime went in-depth with college football's famous Fighting Irish on its series A Season with Notre Dame.

But why stop there? Here are 10 other college football programs that would be perfect for reality television shows heading into the 2016 season. Some have head coaches who are made for the spotlight, while others are programs with intriguing storylines as they venture into new eras.

Of course, this is by no means a comprehensive list of college football programs that would be great for reality TV. Pitch your own ideas for shows in the comments below.

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Nicholas Turner, Northwest Missouri State Football Player, Found Dead in Dorm

Nicholas Turner, a junior defensive end on the Northwest Missouri State football team, was found dead in his dorm room Sunday, the school announced.

The Nodaway County coroner's office and local authorities are investigating, though no foul play is suspected. According to USA Today's A.J. Perez, the coroner's full autopsy report will be completed in 10 to 12 weeks.

Brendan Welch of the St. Joseph News-Press reported head coach Adam Dorrel informed his players of Turner's death during a celebration honoring Northwest Missouri State's Division II national championship.

Turner appeared in 12 games this past year, making 22 total tackles, including seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He also recorded a sack in the Bearcats' 34-7 victory over the Shepherd Rams in the D-II title game.

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B/R Recruiting Notebook: 5-Star Ready to Announce; 4-Star Choosing Between 2

It's here.

The week of national signing day is upon us, and there are still a few major college football recruiting targets still uncommitted. By Wednesday, the recruiting world will have answers for several athletes who took the recruiting process down to the wire.

Here's the latest on some of the athletes looking to finalize their college futures on Wednesday, as well as some athletes looking to add elite-level teammates to their respective classes.

 

No final official? No regrets for Hardman

This past weekend was the last for 2016 recruits to take official visits. Mecole Hardman Jr. chose to play for his country instead.

Hardman was a member of the U.S. under-19 national team that beat Canada, 33-0, in the International Bowl Sunday afternoon in Arlington, Texas. The Elberton, Georgia, 5-star athlete lined up as a wide receiver for Team USA and caught five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown in the win.

And if he had to choose between playing in the International Bowl or taking an official visit for that weekend, he'd make the same choice all over again.

"You get to represent your country. There's nothing like that," Hardman said. "Anything you can do to give back to the troops and soldiers before you, you try to do it. I think I did everything right. I came out and had some time to myself to think about my upcoming decision. I'm happy with that."

Hardman said playing for Team USA also gave him a chance to put recruiting temporarily on the shelf. Over the next few hours, however, Hardman said his focus is solely on where he'll play college football. In fact, Hardman said he's ready to make a decision.

"This week's been helpful. I definitely know what school is best for me," Hardman said. "Anything can change between now and signing day, but I think I'm about 75 or 80 percent where I know I'm going."

Among the schools that have a shot at Hardman, according to him, are Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State. One school he said has always been a silent contender is Tennessee, a school that Hardman said "has been there from the beginning."

Hardman is expected to announce Wednesday morning.

 

Alabama or Oklahoma for CB Mayden?

For Sachse, Texas, 4-star cornerback Jared Mayden, a decision will come down to which shade of crimson he prefers. It also will come down to whether he wants to continue a legacy or start one of his own.

Mayden, who played for the U.S. U19s, reconfirmed on Sunday what he tweeted on Jan. 24: His top two schools are Oklahoma and Alabama. The one-time Oregon pledge said he'll announce his commitment at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, and that he knows what to look for in a winning program.

"Really, it's all about how comfortable I'll feel going to that school for the next three or four years," Mayden said. "With OU, I know I can go and keep a legacy going. Plus, my parents went there. With Bama, it's a good program with a winning tradition. I can't go wrong with either one."

Mayden said he's built great relationships with both Oklahoma defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks and Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. 

 

Ultimate Decider for LB Jones: Prayer

Orlando, Florida, 3-star linebacker Jonathan Jones, also a member of the U19s, has Notre Dame and Michigan as his top two schools. On Sunday, he admitted that the schools were neck-and-neck as he inches closer to national signing day.

When asked how he planned on choosing the right school, Jones kept his answer short and simple. And spiritual.

"Jesus," Jones said, chuckling but not necessarily joking. "Straight up, wherever God wants me to go, I'll follow."

Jones, who had four tackles and a sack in the International Bowl, said both schools were "50-50" as of Sunday night, and he planned on speaking to mentors for the next couple of days to make the right decision. He visited Notre Dame in September and Michigan in December.

"Right now, I'm just praying on it. I've got a couple more days to pray," Jones said. "I'm going to talk to my pastor and talk to my dad. We're all going to sit and pray about it. We'll see what my family thinks and get a decision from there."

 

Buckeyes pledge Haskins targeting No. 1 ATH

Ohio State quarterback commit Dwayne Haskins Jr. completed 12 of 16 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns for the U19s Sunday and left the International Bowl with the MVP trophy.

Playing in the game was something of a business trip for Haskins—a trip that had two objectives. First, the Gaithersburg, Maryland, 4-star prospect wanted to lead Team USA to a win and represent his country well. Second, he wanted to make sure he did his job as a player-recruiter for the Buckeyes.

"I'm out here recruiting a little bit," Haskins said. "The class is pretty much done, but Coach [Urban Meyer] is trying to get a couple more players."

One of those players high on Ohio State's list is Mecole Hardman Jr. Haskins and Hardman connected on a third-quarter touchdown pass in the International Bowl. Haskins let him know that the play could be something routine at the next level.

"I'm working hard on Mecole. I know he decides pretty soon, but I think we have a good chance with him," Haskins said of Hardman. "That dude is really fast. I've never met somebody so fast. He makes me want to throw the ball deep all the time. That's how fast he is. He really is a special talent."

 

UCLA pledge Alloway: 'I want to get Burton'

Fontana, California, 4-star all-purpose back Damian Alloway committed to UCLA on Friday via Bleacher Report video. Since then, Alloway's taken on the role of player-recruiter and has his eyes set on one player in particular.

"One guy I can name off the top is Brandon Burton," Alloway said. "I've talked to him about all of us trying to bring something special back to L.A."

A 4-star safety from Gardena, California, Burton has UCLA and USC high on his list, as well as out-of-state schools Florida State and Arizona. Burton can also play wide receiver but is ranked as the nation's No. 6 safety in the 2016 class.

Alloway, the nation's No. 3 all-purpose back, said Burton's energy would be a perfect complement to what the UCLA class currently has.

"I'm a passionate guy playing football, and you can tell he has that, too," Alloway said of Burton. "There's a focus and a fire he plays with. I can see myself competing with him in practice and us making each other better."

 

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

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Charlie Strong Must Find Offensive Weapons in Texas' 2016 Recruiting Class

Texas head coach Charlie Strong is entering a pivotal third year with the Longhorns. In short, there are no more excuses. There can be no more losing seasons and no more problems on offense.

Otherwise, the Strong era in Austin could be over rather quickly.

Strong made one big change to rectify the identity crisis on offense when he hired offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert from Tulsa. Now, Strong needs players to run the new scheme.

There are some significant pieces already in place from the 2015 season.

The team's leading passer, Jerrod Heard, was a redshirt freshman. Heard also led the team with 139 rushing attempts, but two of the top three running backs (D'Onta Foreman and Chris Warren III) were a sophomore and freshman, respectively. 

Additionally, the leading receiver, John Burt, was a freshman. So, too, was one of the better linemen on the team, Patrick Vahe.

But with a new OC and time not exactly on Texas' side, the Longhorns need to find the best answers at every position right away. That means jobs should be open again this offseason.

But the question is, which incoming players can make an immediate impact on offense? With just days before national signing day, the Longhorns are lacking blue-chip recruits on offense for the 2016 class.

Below is a table of the offensive players Texas has verbally committed or already enrolled:

There are some standouts, to be sure. Quarterback Shane Buechele is expected to challenge Heard for the starting spot.

Additionally, Strong did an outstanding job at Louisville developing 3-star players into future NFL draftees. To say he couldn't do the same at Texas given the proper amount of time would be to ignore what he's already done.

By and large, though, there's room for the 2016 class to be better on offense. The Horns have the No. 4-ranked class in the Big 12 and No. 34-ranked class overall. That's not where Texas fans are used to seeing their incoming groups.

In addition to offensive players, Texas is in dire need of defensive tackles.

Can Strong close hard in the final couple of days and pick up some additional, much-needed offensive pieces?

As it stands now, Delance, Buechele and Okafor are the only offensive recruits Texas has committed who rank among the Top 50 in-state players. For comparison purposes, Baylor has five, including the No. 4-ranked in-state player, wide receiver Devin Duvernay.

The state of Texas is spread out when it comes to committed blue-chip players. Houston and second-year coach Tom Herman have made a sizable dent by picking up three Top 50 players, including 4-star receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Courtney Lark.

SEC programs Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M have a decent-sized presence in Texas, too, when it comes to top-tier offensive players.

The point being, Texas has some work to do if it's going to land some uncommitted players or flip some previously committed prospects. As SB Nation Recruiting points out, there's a glaring hole for Texas atop the in-state rankings:

The silver lining is Strong is the complete opposite of his predecessor, Mack Brown, when it comes to recruiting.

For years, Brown would establish recruiting classes early and signing days would be relatively drama-free. Strong, on the other hand, tends to start slow and finish, well, "strong."

This was on display in last year's class when players like Malik Jefferson, then the No. 1-ranked player in Texas, committed in December 2014.

So which remaining uncommitted (or even committed) prospects could Strong lock down in the next 48-72 hours? Here are the top targets.

 

Running Back Kyle Porter

The 4-star back from Katy, Texas, is down to Texas, TCU and Arkansas, and he recently took visits to all three schools. The Longhorns' depth chart at running back is solid, but Porter would be a fine addition.

"I believe in the coaching staff," Porter told Gabe Brooks of Scout.com. "If they keep that coaching staff around, they're gonna be pretty good. They got a new OC coming in who's got a good plan for the offense to have a balanced passing and running game."

 

Offensive Lineman Patrick Hudson

Oh, the vague tweets of a high school football player. Hudson is verbally committed to Baylor, and there's been little to suggest he won't end up signing with the Bears.

However, just last week, Hudson tweeted the following:

The Longhorns have a decent O-line class already, but Hudson—the No. 7-ranked in-state player—would be the crown jewel of Texas' class if Strong can flip him.

 

Tight End Irvin Smith

Smith looks like he could be slipping away from the Horns. There was some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel when Smith decommitted from Texas A&M late last month.

However, Smith officially visited Alabama the next day, and 88 percent of 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions are leaning toward the 3-star signing with the Crimson Tide.

There are opportunities for Strong to land a more impressive, balanced class for this year, but the windows are closing. Ideally, Strong will redshirt a majority—if not all—of the incoming O-line players. As for the skill players available, there just aren't many blue-chippers committed to the Longhorns.

Stout defenses are always great, but the key to winning the Big 12 is on offense. In four of the past five years, the Big 12 champion (or co-champion) has averaged at least 40 points a game. In 2012, Kansas State and Oklahoma averaged roughly 38 points per game.

Under Strong, Texas has never averaged more than 26.4.

Texas needs offensive help in the worst way, and the class that's unfolding for 2016—while certainly not bad—definitely lacks top-end skill on that side of the ball.

It's crazy to think Strong's future in Texas could come down to how well he closes in the next few days, but given where the program needs to go in its trajectory, it's not as crazy as you think.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Michigan, Ohio State Raising the Stakes for Big Ten Football Recruiting

With fewer than 48 hours to go until national signing day, the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State has been very much renewed on the recruiting trail as the Wolverines and Buckeyes battle for the right to claim the nation's top-ranked class.

In the case of Michigan, the Wolverines currently tout the country's No. 5 class and are the favorites to land the nation's top prospect, 5-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball projections. Ohio State, meanwhile, possesses the nation's second-ranked class at the moment and could climb as soon as Monday evening with the impending announcements of 4-star athlete Jordan Fuller and 4-star cornerback Damar Hamlin.

It's also a safe bet that the Buckeyes are keeping an eye on their rivals to the north as the final days of the 2016 recruiting cycle approach.

"We do keep score against the rival in everything we do," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said on last year's national signing day, after beating out Michigan for 4-star running back Michael Weber. "They're great recruiters, they always have been."

But regardless of the results that come for both the Buckeyes and Wolverines on Wednesday, the real loser in all of this won't be the school with the lower ranked recruiting class—but rather the rest of the Big Ten.

If the original "Ten Year War" turned the Big Ten into the "Big Two and Little Eight," then a sequel to the most storied chapter in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry—plus conference expansion—could transform the league into the "Big Two and Little 12."

The results on the field may not be there just yet—it was just two months ago the Buckeyes trounced the Wolverines by a score of 42-13 in their regular-season finale—but the recruiting trail currently paints the picture of a conference failing to keep up with its two pillar programs.

While Meyer's arrival in Columbus four years ago changed Big Ten recruiting forever, Jim Harbaugh's presence in Ann Arbor in the past 13 months has only upped the ante. Whereas Meyer seemingly shook the foundation of the league by (legally) recruiting prospects already committed to other programs, Harbaugh has take an an innovative national approach, which included a 10-city satellite camp tour last summer.

Both coaches have been magnets for criticism: Meyer over accusations of oversigning and Harbaugh for unapologetically making room in his class whenever deemed necessary.

"We’re very much out there. We don’t hide how we operate and what we do," the second-year Wolverines head coach told reporters last week, amidst multiple public decommitments from prospects who claimed to have been told their scholarship offers were no longer valid. "We’re going to bring the finest student-athletes and character that we can to the University of Michigan. That process continues for the next three to four days."

The results for both schools speak for themselves. With two days to go until national signing day, no other Big Ten team currently possesses a class ranked higher than Michigan State's No. 12 class.

For Meyer, it's been a matter of success breeding more success, with the Buckeyes' 2014 national championship playing a prominent role in this year's impressive recruiting haul. Since coming to Columbus, Meyer has never signed a class ranked lower than seventh nationally and is currently in line to ink the Big Ten's top-ranked class for a fifth consecutive year.

In Harbaugh, however, Ohio State has found its first legitimate threat to its reign atop the conference's recruiting throne. Should the Wolverines land Gary as expected, Michigan could lay claim to the nation's top-ranked class, with 4-star cornerback Lavert Hill also expected to land in Ann Arbor.

The decision of Fuller, a New Jersey native whom Crystal Ball projections peg to become a Buckeye, could go a long way in determining whether it's Ohio State or Michigan who wind up with the higher ranked of the two.

But while the Buckeyes and Wolverines battle down the stretch, both have separated themselves from the likes of Michigan State and Penn State over the course of the past year.

After possessing the nation's sixth-ranked class as recently as last summer, the Spartans have failed to capitalize on this past season's Big Ten championship and subsequent appearance in the College Football Playoff. The Nittany Lions, likewise, started strong with a 2016 class that ranked fourth nationally in August but have seen a slip to No. 13 that's coincided with a lack of results on the field and a string of offseason departures from James Franklin's coaching staff.

"I don't think there's any doubt that we've been getting a lot of negative recruiting," Franklin said last week. "Has it been a challenge? Yeah, yeah, there's no doubt about it."

Meanwhile in the Big Ten West, no program currently possesses a class ranked higher than Nebraska's 29th-ranked haul.

This isn't merely a one-year sample size, but rather what appears to be both the continuation of one trend along with the start of another. Meyer's resume on the Big Ten recruiting trail has already been well established, while Harbaugh turned in the nation's 37th-ranked class a year ago—which included the addition of two 4-star prospects—in just one month on the job.

With a full recruiting cycle under his belt, Harbaugh's ability to recruit for his alma mater at an elite level is apparent and only strengthened by his flipping of former OSU commit and 4-star running back Kareem Walker. And as far as 2017 is concerned, Michigan already possesses a commitment from 4-star offensive tackle JaRaymond Hall, while Ohio State can lay an early claim to the nation's top-ranked class—possibly for the second straight year.

Of course, a lot can change in the next two days—let alone the next few years. Michigan State's post-playoff bump on the recruiting trail may not appear until a year from now, and Franklin has already shown a prowess for recruiting top-level talent in his two years in Happy Valley.

But for now, it's Meyer and Harbaugh and everybody else when it comes to Big Ten recruiting.

"Big Two, Little 12?" We're not quite there yet.

But it also may not be too far out in the future if these recruiting results are sustained.

 

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

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Former Ole Miss QB Maikhail Miller Dies at 23 in Car Accident

Former Mississippi and Murray State quarterback Maikhail Miller died Saturday after being involved in a single-vehicle accident. He was 23.

The Associated Press (via ESPN) reported authorities found Miller's car overturned near Holly Springs, Mississippi.   

"My heart is so sad tonight when I received the news on Maikhail," former Rebels head coach Houston Nutt, who coached Miller at Ole Miss, said in a text message to John Davis of the Oxford Citizen. "My thoughts and prayers are with the family. I know you are hurting. What a great young man you raised!! Maikhail always did things the RIGHT WAY."

Current Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze also reached out with his condolences:

Miller played in two games during his career at Ole Miss, compiling 23 rushing yards on six attempts. He later transferred to Murray State for one season, throwing for 2,221 yards and 18 touchdowns while adding 429 yards and five scores on the ground. The Ohio Valley Conference named him to its All-Newcomer Team, and he appeared well on his way to a promising career at Murray State before leaving the program for personal reasons.

"The hearts of Racer Nation break tonight for the family of former Racer Maikhail Miller. Our thoughts are with them," Murray State said in a statement released on its Twitter account.

Additional details regarding the crash have not been made publicly available at this time.

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National Signing Day 2016: Date, Top Prospects and TV Schedule for Commitments

When it comes to the world of college football recruiting, the news on top prospects trickles in over months and years, before the news that really matters finally comes rushing in all at once.

This Wednesday is national signing day for the 2016 class. Football fans are eagerly awaiting the announcement of a few top uncommitted prospects while desperately hoping that the verbal commits don't renege on their words.

Great college football programs are of course forged in the crucible of long practices and intense film study sessions, but you have to start with the right materials to have any sort of success. Recruiting the right young athletes is where it all starts.

Here's a look at the TV announcement schedule and top prospects for the big day.

National Signing Day Television Schedule

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 3

TV: ESPNU (8 a.m.-1 p.m. ET); ESPN2 (1-5 p.m. ET); ESPNU (5-7 p.m. ET)

Live Stream: WatchESPN 

Note: ESPNMediaZone.com notes that networks such as the SEC Network and Longhorn Network will provide additional coverage. 

 
Where Will Rashan Gary Land? 

The lucky school that lands No. 1 overall prospect Rashan Gary will be the talk of the nation shortly after his announcement at 1 p.m. ET. Gary is a beast on the field, combining great size, speed and athleticism to consistently terrorize opposing quarterbacks. He racked up 27.5 sacks and forced four fumbles in his junior and senior seasons.

Scouts have no doubt he can continue his exploits at the next level. Gary's been considered a gem since he was an eighth-grader at a Rutgers big-man camp, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.

“It can be dangerous going out there as a younger guy that hasn’t fully developed, but that’s what showed how special Rashan could be,” said NJ Advance Media reporter Todderick Hunt, per Snyder. “He held his own. He competed and certainly looked the part. ... I was definitely intrigued to stumble upon a promising young player like that.”

Michigan is the favorite to land Gary, with 81 percent of experts on 247Sports' crystal ball predictions selecting him to become a Wolverine. Alabama is next on that list at 14 percent. Gary recently chatted with a current Tiger and prized 2015 recruit, per 247Sports' Keith Niebuhr: 

Clemson is very much trying to make a late push for Gary as it looks to restock the defensive line with ends Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson departing for the NFL. Sure, Gary plays up the middle, but it's not like the Tigers are going to miss out on a chance to sway a generational prospect.

Gary will be the prize recruit wherever he lands. Michigan could very well make a monster out of him considering head coach Jim Harbaugh's commitment to building fast, aggressive defenses.


Can Anyone Pry Mique Juarez out of the Golden State?

Mique Juarez is a SoCal stud who ranks No. 1 in the nation at his outside linebacker position. Most experts don't expect him to move far from his hometown of Torrance, California. Per 247Sports, 80 percent believe Juarez will commit to UCLA on Wednesday. 

Juarez would be quite the coup for the Bruins. Juarez ranks 11th in the nation overall, and the Bruins' best prospect currently set to join them in 2016 is wide receiver Theo Howard, who's much farther down the list at No. 102 overall.

A pair of SEC powerhouses in Alabama and Ole Miss are also hot on Juarez, but it's possible that faith, not football, could pry him away from California. Dick Harmon of Deseret News reports Juarez has visited BYU in Provo, Utah, although he doesn't think the Cougars stand much of a chance at landing him:

How does this happen?

Well, not by accident. A major part of the Juarez story is that he is a member of the LDS faith. His mother is Tongan and so is BYU’s new head coach Kalani Sitake. His mother, Nathasha, is very close to the mother of current BYU linebacker Butch Pau’u. Juarez was at the Las Vegas Bowl this past December and Butch’s parents, Tupou and Uepi, posted a photo on Facebook of them with Mique at the Rio Hotel and Casino in front of the famed buffet.

It is unlikely Juarez will sign with BYU next week. He just had a trip to Alabama last week. He was committed to USC before Steve Sarkisian was dismissed. His father is a huge UCLA fan and he has taken recruiting trips to Mississippi, Washington and Oklahoma. Nick Saban was in his home this past week in Torrance, California.

The comfort of playing football with those who share a similar faith cannot be understated, and in any case, it's not like the Cougars are slouches. They finished 9-4 in 2015, including impressive early-season wins over Nebraska and Boise State.

Juarez is rated highly enough that he should have no problem working his way to a big role in any program. However, it appears it's still possible he'll roll with the less-heralded Cougars when it's time to put ink to paper.

 

Stats and player rankings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Michigan Football Recruiting: Predicting All the Recruits Who Will Sign on NSD

A flurry of new verbal pledges and a handful of decommitments have shaken up Michigan football's 2016 recruiting class, but the dust will settle on national signing day.

Prospects will finally be allowed to sign their national letters of intent, and the Wolverines will add those talents to the seven athletes who enrolled early—most notably quarterback Brandon Peters and running back Kareem Walker.

In addition to currently committed recruits, Michigan is looking to secure signatures from a collection of prospects set to announce a decision on signing day.

Note: Projected additions to the class are highlighted in yellow.

 

 

Uncommitted Targets

Though only one program will celebrate when Rashan Gary makes his announcement, Ann Arbor has looked like the No. 1 overall recruit's destination for months. A late unofficial visit likely helped the Wolverines.

Michigan backed off the recruitments of other defensive backs, so the coaching staff must be confident about 4-star corner Lavert Hill. He'll choose between the Wolverines, Michigan State and Penn State.

As long academics are no issue, Connor Murphy would be an excellent take for Michigan. He'd provide depth at defensive end and could join the rotation in 2017.

Quinn Nordin, the first of head coach Jim Harbaugh's "sleepover" visits, backed out of his pledge to Penn State last week. A relationship with former UM special teams coach John Baxter could draw the 3-star kicker to USC, but Michigan is the team to beat.

According to Brandon Justice of Maize n Brew, an unnamed prospect will silently commit to Harbaugh and Co. before announcing on signing day:

Mecole Hardman Jr.Devin AsiasiBoss Tagaloa and Isaiah Simmons come to mind. But if none of those candidates are surprising enough, let your imagination run wild, Wolverines fans.

Additionally, Asiasi and Tagaloa could be a package deal. Distance is often a factor, so Michigan may need to clear that significant hurdle to add the De La Salle (CA) teammates.

The Wolverines won't be 100 percent, of course.

Ohio State appears to be the leader for Jordan Fuller, and Notre Dame is also pursuing the 4-star athlete. He announced on Twitter that he will reveal his decision on Monday, Feb. 1:

For much of the recruiting cycle, the Wolverines were considered the favorite for 3-star linebacker Jonathan Jones. Within the last week, though, Notre Dame has received 15 247Sports crystal ball predictions compared to zero for Michigan.

Jones told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports that the decision is between the two programs, so the Wolverines are in the race. Still, that trend is hard to ignore.

Among other targets, Keyshawn Young and Dontavious Jackson are also likely headed to a top program not located in Ann Arbor.

 

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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National Signing Day 2016: College Football Teams That Could Win Big

Monday officially kicked off a four-day NCAA dead period. The last-minute pitches by college coaches have been made. National signing day is in two days.

For now, with many athletes, we wait and see which college they choose to call home for the immediate future.

Wednesday will be a day when a few teams have the opportunity to shoot up the team recruiting rankings. Wednesday also will be a day when top-ranked recruiting classes can become even more elite by landing some of the best uncommitted players in the 2016 class.

The objective for Wednesday is to sign athletes and score big recruiting victories. Here are eight teams looking to end the recruiting cycle on the highest note possible.

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National Signing Day 2016: Projecting Where Every 5-Star Recruit Will Sign

With hours until national signing day, 11 of the nation's 25 5-star prospects have yet to make their announcement on where they will be attending college.

Included among that group is 5-star defensive tackle and No. 1 overall prospect Rashan Gary.

Gary is just one of the handful of elite prospects fans will be anxiously waiting to hear from on Wednesday. 

Where are the rest of 2016's 5-star prospects heading, and will there be any surprises to watch for in their recruitments? 

Let's take a look and project where every 5-star prospect will sign.

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Ranking Top 25 Recruiting Classes Heading into National Signing Day 2016

We're just days away from the conclusion of another unpredictable college football recruiting cycle. Prospects of the 2016 class will put pen to paper Wednesday when national signing day festivities get underway. 

Most commitments are locked in, and many recruits arrived on campus in January as early enrollees, but intrigue still runs rampant in every corner of the country. Coaching staffs aim to cap off countless hours of investment by sealing the deal with key uncommitted targets.

We took stock in where things currently stand among America's 2016 recruiting classes, ranking the top 25 talent hauls based on assessment of both immediate impact and long-term benefit. Here's a look at how programs stack up heading into the final stretch, with this order expected to change significantly as final pledges arrive.

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11 JUCO Transfers Who Will Be Instant Starters in 2016

It’s almost here. On Wednesday, fans across the nation will celebrate 2016’s national signing day, which will feature football recruits across the nation putting pen to paper and signing national letters of intent. Much of the focus will be on high school seniors who’ll be making their choices, but they aren’t the only players who’ll be signing Wednesday.

Junior college players are also eligible to sign. They’ve taken a different path than their soon-to-be teammates; for some, their initial school didn’t work out for one reason or another, or they were unable to meet initial academic qualification requirements. Some are just late bloomers.

Either way, junior college transfers can have an impact. Look at Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly. After washing out at Clemson, Kelly spent a year at a Mississippi junior college before signing with the Rebels, winning the starting role and leading them to a 10-win season capped by a Sugar Bowl victory.

Here are 11 players who’ll be surefire starters at their new programs.

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Meet the Nigerian Princes of College Football Recruiting

Before he embarked upon a basketball career that ultimately helped him get drafted into the NBA, Ejike Ugboaja’s future resembled one that most of the kids in his home country of Nigeria still face today.

Sports were his way out of a nation that's still grappling with economic and social hardships that leave most children with few options other than avenues full of negative consequences.

One decade after leaving Nigeria, Ugboaja is making it his life’s work to ensure more kids from his homeland get the same opportunity.

“I came from a less fortunate background. For me to do this is something I’ve always wanted to do: to give back to my home country,” Ugboaja told Bleacher Report recently. “When I was drafted into the NBA, one of my main goals was to find a way to give back to Nigeria. When I got that opportunity, I just was fortunate to find a way to make it work.” 

The 6’9”, 225-pound power forward, who was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the 2006 NBA draft, never played a regular-season game in the NBA. Instead, the majority of his career has been spent playing in Europe and for Nigeria’s Olympic national team.

Through the Ejike Ugboaja Foundation—which is a nonprofit organization he started in 2006—he and his brother Henry are helping young athletes in Nigeria find opportunities to play basketball and football in the United States.

In the latter sport, his camp is responsible for establishing Nigeria as the next frontier in college football recruiting.

“The bottom line is that if we see a school that said we have scholarship openings for soccer or another sport, we jump into it,” Henry said. “So for us, sports became the motivating factor to help these kids back home. Most of them, if you hear their stories in terms of finance or family background, you’d be amazed that they have made it here. I think that is what touches us.” 

While his background is in basketball, Ejike and his brother have put together a camp that has seen more than 15 football players sign scholarships to FBS schools since its first run in 2010.

Additionally, hundreds more have been able to attend high schools in the United States thanks to the foundation's efforts. When the athletes do make it to the U.S., the foundation uses its resources to help cover their living expenses.

 

The camp’s foray into football came about almost by accident, with a keen observation by the brothers recognizing traits in Nigerian athletes that could translate favorably into America’s most popular sport.

“As word spread through Nigeria that basically this is your way out and to the United States, they started getting a number of kids to show up to these camps or all-sports tryouts,” explained Erik Richards, who is the national recruiting director of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. “What [Ejike and Henry] noticed is they had a few 6’6”, 300-pound kids showing up. They weren’t tall enough for basketball. They weren’t short and nimble enough for soccer.”

That’s when football entered the equation. 

Over the years, Ugboaja’s camp has been the breeding ground that has produced notable talents such as current LSU offensive lineman Chidi Valentine-Okeke, Florida State offensive lineman Abdul Bello and Auburn defensive lineman Prince Tega Wanogho.

Current USC early enrollee Oluwole Betiku—the nation’s top weak-side defensive end prospect in the 2016 cycle—is another athlete who became a household name in recruiting circles after leaving his hometown of Lagos just two years ago.

As young kids in West Africa are learning more about the game and seeing their former peers find success in America, Ejike and Henry are hoping those gains open the doors for more athletes to find similar opportunities in the future. 

Players such as Valentine-Okeke, Bello and Betiku can thank Sunny Odogwu for helping Ejike and Henry discover the game of football. 

Odogwu left Ejike’s summer camp in 2009 bound for the U.S. to play basketball at Victory Christian Academy in Conyers, Georgia.

According to Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, he bounced around to different schools for basketball until one of his coaches suggested he try out for football.

Ejike vividly remembers the phone call in which Odogwu explained he would switch gears in his athletic career.

“I asked him, ‘are you sure?’ He said, ‘Bro, I think I will do it,’” Ejike explained. “So he gave it a try. For me to see how quick he came around, I was like, ‘damn, this is amazing.’” 

Odogwu eventually landed a scholarship to the University of Miami as an offensive lineman. He will be a redshirt junior this fall and is currently the starting right tackle for the Hurricanes, per Ourlads

Buoyed by the interest in Odogwu from football coaches during his recruitment, Ejike and Henry started the process of attracting football coaches to come and help them teach the game at their annual summer camp. 

Odogwu’s success inspired kids in Nigeria to learn more about the game of football, and Ejike’s camp quickly became the event that helped to bridge that gap. 

“It’s surprising to me because it’s taken off so fast. We never expected it to grow this much this soon,” Ejike said. “I was thinking basketball was the one thing that everyone would warm up to. But when Sunny switched to football, a lot of people saw the progression he made in football. They see that his future is now in the game of football.”

Getting their athletes to the United States is a mission in and of itself.

Henry, who is an adjunct professor at Ohio Mid-Western College and teaches business and marketing classes, also worked as an educator and admissions counselor in Nigeria.

As he explained, he routinely worked hand in hand with the U.S. Embassy in clerical matters—which has aided the brothers in helping kids earn visas for entry into the United States. 

“I started dealing with those [visa and paperwork] issues,” Henry said. “I figure out the details on each kid and what grade they are supposed to be in, and I work with each school in verifying paperwork and figuring out the proper area to place them academically. Sometimes when colleges have trouble figuring out the translation of the transcript, I help them sort that out.” 

Richards notes that because of their typical two-year visa statuses upon entering the country, in most cases, the only way they are eligible to compete in prep sports in the U.S. is for them to attend private schools. In most cases, the school helps locate a host family. In some instances, Henry and Ejike use their resources and connection to find a host family for the kids. 

“The majority [of the Nigerian athletes] that come over have to be enrolled in a charter school. That’s why a lot of them end up at private schools,” Richards explained. “Most of these kids are 16, 17 or 18 years old and starting their junior year of high school. To go through the whole [host] process is strenuous, and by the time they get done, they are already done with high school.”

While eligibility concerns are prevalent with foreign athletes in the recruiting process, the problems that arise have more to do with language and academic classification than the kids’ ability to thrive in a new learning environment.

“These kids are very academically enriched, believe it or not,” Richards said. “Some kids can speak four, five or six different languages. [Most times] when they go to take the test at schools on where to place them [eligibility-wise], they are beyond being a freshman or a sophomore.”

Still, even when kids are able to make it to the United States and graduate to being on the doorstep of making their dreams come true, another set of challenges awaits them.

In addition to having to learn a new sport in a foreign country, the two factors that are often the toughest for these players are the culture gap and being away from their loved ones.

While he was busy racing up the recruiting ranks, Betiku explained the psychological toll that being separated from his family has created for him since he’s been in the U.S. 

“Sometimes, I feel kind of sad,” Betiku said. “[My family] don’t know about the camps and everything. I try my best to explain everything. I try to stay motivated. My school family, they all love me. My coaches, everyone that has supported me to this day, I think about them. They are counting on me to do great. My mom, I just tell her I did really good, so she’s happy. That’s why I do what I do.”

Valentine-Okeke, who is a redshirt freshman and will compete for a starting job at LSU in the spring, admits his journey to Baton Rouge has had its ups and downs. 

Still, he knows he’s one of the fortunate young athletes to have the chance to get a free education at a top university such as LSU.

“I always watched football back home. I didn’t have someone there to coach me or tell me about the game,” Valentine-Okeke said. “But I did have a passion for it when I watched it. It happens to be one of the games that they introduced in Nigeria then. I was lucky to be a part of it.”

Both Ejike and Henry have continued to play a pivotal role in helping him since he’s arrived in the U.S.

In fact, Henry serves as his guardian.

“[Ejike and Henry] know my family back home in Nigeria,” Valentine-Okeke said. “I lived with Ejike when I was going to school in Georgia. When we have breaks, I go to Georgia with him or Ohio with Henry. We have a great relationship, and they have really helped me a lot.”

Richards recalls learning of Valentine-Okeke’s story when the offensive tackle was on the camp circuit as a recruit.

He and Bello, who were both in the 2015 class, were performing well at spring and summer camps against the nation’s top defensive linemen despite minimal experience.

Richards surmises that their inexperience can be turned into a positive by coaches eager help them reach their enormous upside.

“When a coach starts out with them, they are so attentive in wanting to learn the right technique, that you don’t have to unscrew everything,” Richards said. “For these offensive line coaches at these camps, it’s very easy to mold them very quickly because they have nothing. It’s like you are not having to teach an old dog new tricks. They are starting at zero.”

In each of the examples of players such as Bello, Betiku, Wanogho and Valentine-Okeke, their recruitments exploded with offers from top programs from coast to coast. 

Valentine-Okeke said there are plenty of athletes in the West African nation whose talents are comparable to his and the other players' abilities who have found success since taking up the game.

“[There are] a lot of kids like me and even some who are better than me back home,” he said. “I know they have what it takes to make it here. If they believe and work hard, they can come over here and make it to college.”

Ejike and Henry share that belief, which is why they have plans on expanding the camp’s reach.

Ejike notes registration for the camp may reach to over 1,000 athletes, with the foundation’s goal of bringing at least 20 players to the U.S. from this summer’s camp—of course assuming they find enough skilled players and enough schools stateside willing to provide scholarships for them.

From a recruiting standpoint, Richards said there’s a bit of hesitation at first from college coaches because of concerns over eligibility. However, given the success of this first wave of Nigerian imports, he expects the trend and interest to only grow in foreign prospects.

“What I see happening after these guys have some success in the next few years, then the college coaches will come around and start taking chances because with these kids it’s not your typical recruiting cycle where you get to follow him from his freshman year on up,” Richards said.

As the camp’s stature continues to grow, so do the opportunities for young kids who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to attend universities as prestigious as the ones in the United States.

Regardless of whether the players go on to have NFL careers, in the minds of Ejike and Henry, the real gratification comes with helping kids create opportunities that can change the course of their own lives, as well as their families' lives back home.

The two brothers have dedicated their time, resources and energy to helping young athletes from their homeland turn hopes into a new reality. All the while, they haven’t lost focus on giving back to the communities that raised them.

With each athlete who gets a scholarship, the outlook for the next generation of athletes in Nigeria becomes brighter.

“I think the biggest thing the focus needs to be on here are two brothers that were afforded the opportunity to come over here, and they are doing a lot of good for kids hoping for a similar opportunity,” Richards said. “I think that is a testament to them and what they are about. It’s amazing that these guys have made this their calling in life to help these kids live a better life.”

 

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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B/R CFB Recruiting 200: Top 40 Wide Receivers

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon Sayles, Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the class of 2016. Here we present the Top Wide Receivers.

 

Wide receiver recruits account for approximately 20 percent of the 2016 recruiting cycle's top 200 prospects in composite rankings. It's a position packed with playmakers from across America and beyond when you factor in Notre Dame-bound Canadian pass-catcher Chase Claypool.

Years of film study, game-action assessment and in-person camp evaluation have provided us with a clear picture of the overall wide receiver landscape, which features several standouts ready to make an immediate impact on the 2016 college football season.

Here's a breakdown of those who land in the Top 200 composite rankings, including our own B/R scores based on route running, release off the ball, agility, explosiveness, willingness to block and, of course, hands.

 

All prospects scouted by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. Players ordered by appearance in 247Sports' composite rankings.

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Why Cardale Jones Shouldn't Be the Forgotten Quarterback of the 2016 Class

Three starts, three wins, a national championship and a flirtation with the NFL draft; from Dec. 6 2014 through Jan. 12 2015, Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones became the most enigmatic NFL draft prospect in the country.

Between his dominating victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game and his eventual announcement that he’d be returning to school, NFL evaluators and media members wrestled with Jones’ NFL draft value.

After an erratic seven-game start to the 2015 season and a midseason benching, the 6’5, 250-pound passer slipped from Cam Newton comparisons to off-the-radar of those covering the draft. While Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch and Carson Wentz have risen, Jones has faded into “Day 3 consideration” talk.

But quarterbacks like Cardale Jones don’t come around often. His positive attitude, arm talent, athleticism and remarkable upside don’t lend themselves to being pushed aside. And despite recent project passers like Jones slipping to Day 3 (Logan Thomas and Brett Hundley), he is a different, misunderstood NFL draft prospect.

 

Arm Talent vs. Overconfidence

Jones offers elite arm strength, and he knows it. He’s willing to take chances downfield, finish throws with defenders on him and make 20-plus-yard throws. His arm strength allows him to be late on throws and attempt vertical passes despite not being set, a skill set that excites NFL teams because he can get away with mistakes and turn checkdowns into downfield opportunities.

For example, his off-balance rollout throw against Virginia Tech is a pass that few, if any quarterbacks in college (or the NFL) can make. It’s the type of highlight that has the head coach holding his breath until the referee’s arms signal touchdown.

But that “arm talent overconfidence” is also what gets him into trouble.

Some quarterbacks take chances downfield or on the perimeter not only because they have confidence in their arm strength, but also because they trust in their anticipation and reads on defensive alignments. Jones doesn’t fit the “educated gunslinger” mold that Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Joe Flacco use their arm strength for.

Jones is simply overconfident in his arm, especially in his velocity control. One of his biggest areas of concern is that he doesn’t yet have a feel for the throws he can make and the ones that he should play with more control and safeness.

Jones can make every throw, but that doesn’t mean he should try. Jones tries to complete passes across the field with poor footwork and limited anticipation of defensive alignments, leading to obvious mistakes.

In many ways, Cardale Jones is similar to a young, erratic NBA player working to determine when to take a shot, and when to run his team’s offense and play under control. In Jones’ case, his big plays and big-time throws weren’t enough to overcome his bouts of poor placement and indecisiveness, and he began to stifle the Ohio State offense enough that they opted for the far more efficient J.T. Barrett. 

The main concern of Jones’s interception totals (five in his first five games of 2015 before Barrett began earning more snaps in relief) is that they stem from not anticipating coverages. Thanks to the Ohio State offense and the weapons at his disposal, Jones has the luxury of routinely having one-on-one matchups and wide-open throwing lanes to show off his arm strength.

When he’s forced to adjust in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield, Jones doesn’t have the refinement needed for NFL evaluators to be confident in a successful NFL transition. As is the case with many Urban Meyer-coached quarterbacks (and ones in similar offenses), Jones seems slow to adjust off his first read and is asked to use his running ability rather than keep his eyes downfield.

 

Lack of Starting Experience Spurs Optimism

Despite those concerns, one key part of Jones’ scouting report can’t be underappreciated: he’s made just 10 starts in his college career. While a lack of starting experience is a detriment for many quarterback passers, I believe it actually supports Jones’ top-100 draft potential.

Jones’ anticipation and overconfidence concerns don’t appear to be uncorrectable. He merely needs time to work through growing pains with multiple, consistent and confidence-instilling starts. Jones never got that at Ohio State. He entered 2015 not as the unquestioned starter, but with an obvious leash on his job; Meyer even said as much five games into Jones' college starting career. 

As we’ve seen repeatedly at the NFL level, confidence and patience are miracle drugs when trying to get the best version of a team’s starting quarterback. Inflated expectations and a short leash do the exact opposite.

Without making excuses for Jones, it’s apparent that his growth was stunted as the Ohio State quarterback. Between Meyer’s knack for poorly developing NFL quarterbacks to the handling of his collection of top passers, Jones has suffered through one of the most unique quarterback situations in recent college football history.

 

Underdeveloped vs. Raw

There’s a difference between being underdeveloped as a prospect and being raw. For some NFL draft prospects, a lack of growth despite coaching and starting experience lends itself to a fear that a prospect might never reach the ceiling his athleticism indicates. That’s especially concerning for a prospect like Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman, who’s seen ample snaps throughout his college career and has seemingly regressed as a prospect.

But Jones is the epitome of raw. His quarterbacking issues are indecisiveness and overconfidence in his arm talent, two things that most quarterbacks work through early in their careers. But Jones hasn’t had the opportunity to do so. His three starts in the team’s national championship run didn’t allow him to let loose as a growing passer, and his 2015 experience didn’t allow him to work through his issues without fear of losing his starting job.

For Jones, his development is the NFL’s job now. While teams should generally lean away from drafting “project passers” early, Jones is still worth selecting highly. His rare arm talent, body type, athleticism and mental makeup could still allow him to spot start in case of a dire need due to injury. 

But more importantly, it's his promise of potential growth that is worth going head over heels for. Few quarterbacks enter the NFL ranks with Jones’ talent level, and he’s truly an untapped resource oozing with potential. Had he landed in a situation like Cam Newton’s Auburn team, Jones might have emerged as the shoo-in for the top overall pick. 

Now, he’ll be available for a mere second- or third-round pick. It’s just a matter of which team is willing to give him the confidence and patience that Urban Meyer never did. And that team won’t be sorry they did.

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Tennessee Football Recruiting: Predicting All the Recruits Who Will Sign on NSD

Tennessee football coach Butch Jones is trying to stick the landing.

As the final few frames wind down before Wednesday's annual recruiting extravaganza of twists and turns comes to a culmination with 17-year-old future football stars making their ultimate college decisions in the insanity that is national signing day, the Volunteers have some serious momentum.

Major targets Nigel Warrior, Derrick Brown, Landon Dickerson, Tyler Byrd and a few commits were on campus visiting Knoxville this past weekend, so the Vols had the opportunity to make a final, lasting impression on them.

With all those players and the nation's top-ranked JUCO prospect, Jonathan Kongbo, all yet to announce their final destinations, the Vols could have a phenomenal finish.

Throw three or four of those guys into UT's class, and a haul that currently ranks 21st nationally but just eighth in the SEC, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, will shoot up the list noticeably. Considering the small numbers of this year's cycle, the Vols could wind up with a strong smaller class.

They also could crash and burn and have to settle for a class that isn't as strong as the past two years. In the wacky world of recruiting, anything can happen.

One thing's for certain, though: The Vols have set themselves up for a strong finish, and finishing with a bang could definitely be in the cards.

So, just who will Jones wind up signing on Wednesday? These things rarely wind up the way you'd expect, even this close to pen meeting paper and a fax machine making signing papers official. But where's the fun in abstaining from guessing?

Let's predict Tennessee's finish in what could be a week to remember.

 

Nigel Warrior: 6'0", 186-pound 4-Star Defensive Back, Suwanee, Georgia

For nearly two years, Tennessee has recruited Warrior as arguably the top overall target in this year's haul.

On Wednesday morning, all that hard work should pay off with a pledge from the versatile future star.

Warrior—the son of UT legend and All-American safety Dale Carter—will choose between Tennessee, Auburn, LSU and Alabama. The Vols got the final visit, and they've trended with the Peachtree Ridge High School standout recently; they have 67 percent of the 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions.

Jones loaded up on legacies the past three years, and many of those kids are playing prominent roles in Tennessee's return to the national picture. Warrior will fit right in.

He can play anywhere on the back level, and while Tennessee is loaded in the secondary, a player with Warrior's size, athleticism, coverage skills and versatility can certainly carve a niche right away. He'll likely be a special teams weapon and a situational DB from the start.

Warrior isn't one of these prospects who tips his hand easily, so it's certainly possible he decides to go in his own direction on national signing day. But the lure of the legacy is strong.

"I'll say it’s just wherever my heart takes me," Warrior told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan. "It'd be amazing to follow him, but then it'd also be good to be able to open up my own journey at a different school. It is what it is at the end of the day."

In the end, Warrior is just a natural fit for a Vols team that needs safeties.

 

Tyler Byrd: 5'11", 194-pound 4-Star Defensive Back, Naples, Florida

As much as Tennessee tried to convince longtime Miami commitment Byrd to visit Knoxville over the past few months, he seemed strong to the Hurricanes.

That's even with having a Vols commitment living in the same house as him, too.

But Byrd—who has lived with running back pledge Carlin Fils-aime since they were in the eighth grade—became more receptive to UT when the Vols hired former Miami coach Larry Scott. He visited this weekend along with Fils-aime.

Afterward, he may have a difficult decision to make.

"Of course, I would love to (attend the same school as Fils-aime)," Byrd told Callahan. "Being around him, we've grown to really love each other, and playing next to him and knowing he's on my team is reassuring. It gives you a sense of security because…I know, at the end of the day, I can depend on him, and I know I can trust him."

That doesn't sound like a guy who's firm to the Hurricanes, and with them having a new head coach in Mark Richt, the prior relationship can't be as strong with that group of coaches as with Al Golden's staff. So, the Vols likely smell blood in the water here.

For what it's worth, Fils-aime is trying to convince his buddy, tweeting out that he tried to lure Byrd to Knoxville with a sign:

Again, Tennessee is loaded in the secondary, but a player like Byrd is too good to pass up. He's a dynamic playmaker, and his athleticism and versatility could even lead to him playing on the offensive side of the ball, if needed.

The U.S. Army All-American would be an excellent addition to Tennessee's class, and it will be too good of an opportunity for him to pass up playing with Fils-aime.

 

Jonathan Kongbo: 6'5", 264-pound 4-Star Defensive End, Surrey, British Columbia

The one-time UT commitment never really stopped considering the Vols, and while it doesn't normally happen that a player decommits and then recommits to a school, Kongbo could definitely do just that.

He's never really given up on Tennessee.

Though he's gone on visits to USC last weekend and Florida State this weekend and also has Ole Miss as a viable candidate to win his services, Kongbo is an extremely real possibility for UT.

The longstanding relationship could wind up securing his commitment. Several Vols coaches visited him this past week to try to close the deal:

Like a lot of players in this year's target list, Kongbo isn't a chatty type who lets people know what he's thinking. The native of the Republic of Congo whose family lives in British Columbia has gone about the recruiting process professionally.

When he decided to visit other schools, he backed off his commitment. UT continued to recruit other linemen, but it kept the pressure on Kongbo, too. The strong-side defensive end from Arizona Western College continued to reciprocate the interest.

If he winds up in Knoxville, Kongbo is the kind of player who can solidify a defensive line with plenty of star power. With UT in more traditional sets under defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, Kongbo can slide right in and replace Curt Maggitt opposite Derek Barnett. He also could add 15-20 pounds and play inside.

The best part about Kongbo's raw ability is that he has three years to play there, and even though he'll likely stay on the outside, that's where Tennessee probably needs him most, anyway, with 2016 likely being Barnett's final year on Rocky Top.

Kongbo is going to be getting after quarterbacks somewhere. It may as well be at Tennessee.

 

Derrick Brown: 6'4", 317-pound 5-Star Defensive Tackle, Buford, Georgia

While most of the experts on the Crystal Ball think Brown will go to either Georgia or Auburn, an out-of-the-box prediction here is that Brown will choose Tennessee on national signing day.

This is a gamble pick that very well could wind up being a swing and miss.

But every time he goes to Knoxville, Brown comes back gushing. While his relationship with Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner could win out in the end, the Vols are a dark horse not getting enough love.

Brown would step right in to the rotation at Tennessee. His family loves Jones, and Shoop had plenty of opportunities to get to know the Lanier High School star this weekend.

Still, he was mum coming off his visit to Knoxville this past weekend. If the Vols knocked the official visit out of the park, it wouldn't be a stretch to see him wind up signing with Tennessee.

Last year, defensive line coach Steve Stripling proved his recruiting chops by bringing in Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle, two players who immediately found the field as freshmen. Given the fortune UT had with defensive tackles and its need for more bodies at the position, that's a strong pitch to give Brown.

The Vols desperately need Brown, who'd be the only high school defensive tackle taken by them in this year's cycle. At a position so vital to success in an SEC program, that's a virtual guarantee that Brown will be a big piece of the future puzzle, as well as a rotation guy right away.

Many may think this pick is a reach, but when you put everything together, it makes a ton of sense for Brown to play collegiately in Knoxville. The guess here is he signs with the Vols.

 

All quotes and information gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Ohio State Football Recruiting: Predicting All the Recruits Who Will Sign on NSD

Urban Meyer has Ohio State primed to sign one of the nation's top recruiting classes, and with 22 pledges already in the fold, the Buckeyes coaching staff is working hard to close out strong.

Seven members from Ohio State's 2016 recruiting class—all of whom are rated 4-star prospects—have already enrolled and will take part in spring practice. Factoring in the 15 other committed players, Ohio State likely has three scholarships left before reaching full capacity.

Which three recruits will the Buckeyes add before closing the books on the 2016 recruiting cycle?

The Final 3

Ohio State still has a need in the secondary and at defensive tackle, and it'll fill those holes before signing day on Wednesday. 

In the defensive backfield, Ohio State will close out with Jordan Fuller—a 4-star athlete and the No. 130 prospect overall. Fuller has been a longtime Buckeyes lean, and he'll pull the trigger and announce his commitment on Monday. 

Columbus athlete Malik Harrison will follow suit. 

The Buckeyes only offered the two-way prospect a couple of weeks ago, but that's all the time they needed to surge in front of Michigan State in his recruitment. He can either play wide receiver or linebacker at the collegiate level, but it's unclear which side of the ball he'll end up on in Columbus. What is clear, though, is that he'll be suiting up with the Buckeyes for years to come.

The final commitment of the class will come from Jamar King, a coveted JUCO 3-star defensive lineman from Ukiah, California. 

Alabama and Ohio State have an interest in the 6'5", 285-pound standout, and while both schools are running low on space, it appears that Meyer is the one making King a priority, according to Jeremy Birmingham of Eleven Warriors.

That may be because Ohio State has a huge need for a defensive tackle. And while King is currently listed as a strong-side defensive end, he has the size to slide inside in the Buckeyes' 4-3 scheme—similarly to departed senior Adolphus Washington.

King, at 26 years old, will offer the Buckeyes an immediate, experienced presence in the middle of their defense. The Buckeyes will need that boost, too, after the loss of tackles Washington and Tommy Schutt.

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

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

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Clemson Gives Customized Cake to Mom of Nation's Top Prospect

Clemson really wants Rashan Gary.

The 6’5”, 293-pound defensive lineman made an official visit to the school over the weekend, and while there, his mother posted a shot of this customized Tigers cake.

Being that the Paramus Catholic (N.J.) star is ranked No. 1 in the nation by 247sports, Clemson is wise to pull out all the stops in trying to land him.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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25 Best Heisman Trophy Winners of All Time

The Heisman Trophy has had a good offseason.

Cam Newton and Carson Palmer's battle in the NFC Championship Game drew headlines for featuring two former Heisman winners. Newton won't face another Heisman winner in the Super Bowl, but his opponent, Peyton Manning, is notable for not winning the controversial 1997 Heisman, and the person who beat him, defensive back Charles Woodson, enjoyed a fond farewell tour before retiring from the NFL.

How special was Woodson's season to prevent Manning from winning? Where does Cam's undefeated 2010 campaign rank among Heisman-winning quarterbacks?

Let's rank the best Heisman Trophy winners and find out.

But before you read on...a disclaimer. This is a really hard article to write. I've used quantitative data such as stats and records, but there's an obvious element of subjectivity. I also had to account for how "important" a player or season became. That's something you can't stick in a spreadsheet.

So on that note, my apologies for not including your favorite player. Especially with the older guys, whose numbers don't compare because of how the game has changed, I had to make a few tough snubs.

Sound off below and let me know where you disagree!

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Tom Brady, Derek Jeter Reportedly to Attend Michigan National Signing Day Party

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh will be calling on some heavy hitters to celebrate this year's national signing day.

According to Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg, Tom Brady and Derek Jeter will be in attendance in Ann Arbor for the school's signing day party on Feb. 3. The Players' Tribune confirmed the report.

Alejandro Zuniga of SB Nation's Maize N Brew highlighted how star-studded the party is becoming:

Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel thought this stunt fit right in with Michigan's recent approach to appeal to recruits:

Brady is one of Michigan football's most famous alumni. He was a member of the Wolverines' national championship-winning team in 1997 and helped lead the team to an Orange Bowl win over Alabama in the 1999 season.

Since graduating from the school, Brady has become one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, winning four Super Bowls and two MVP awards.

Jeter doesn't have the same kind of deep ties to the university, but he graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School and was offered a scholarship to Michigan before he ultimately entered the MLB draft out of high school.

The former New York Yankees shortstop also has a stake in the event, since the Players' Tribune, which he founded, is hosting a live stream of Michigan's NSD party.

Ever since Harbaugh became Michigan's head coach, he has thought outside the box on the recruiting trail.

He and his coaching staff traveled to seven states in eight days as part of his Summer Swarm tour during the summer of 2015. More recently, he planned a slumber party with one recruit, baked another a cake and even attended a high school class with another of Michigan's targets.

According to 247Sports' composite ranking, the Wolverines have the No. 5 recruiting class in 2016—a significant improvement from last year's 37th-ranked class. Harbaugh's recruiting methods may be unorthodox, but they're delivering big results for Michigan.

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