NCAA Football News

Early Predictions of the 2015 ACC All-Conference Team

It's that time of year again.

The time when we all have to deal with the long drought between the end of one college football season and the beginning of the next. While national signing day has officially come and gone, it's on to the predictions for the 2015 season.

Are they slightly early predictions? Come on, it's never too early to look toward the upcoming college football season, especially with the amount of talent the ACC may have in 2015.

Today, we get answers to questions such as "which quarterback will take over the All-ACC quarterback reigns from Jameis Winston?" Also, questions like whether or not players like Pittsburgh's James Conner and Tyler Boyd can repeat their impressive 2014 campaigns.

So, while those questions will be answered, the early predictions for each and every position of the ACC All-Conference team will also be revealed.

Not only will 2014 be factored into these choices, but a few players who have huge opportunities in front of them will also get consideration. Let's start off with some honorable mentions for both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, and then jump right into it.

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Jared Lorenzen Compares Himself to Jameis Winston, Writes 'Bigger' Is Better

Jared Lorenzen knows what it’s like to be a large man among large men. 

The former NFL backup and Kentucky Wildcats quarterback is a hillock of humanity with a mortar for an arm, and for the last decade or so, he quarterbacked professionally at one level or another despite a body type that defies all conventional norms. 

So when a picture of a surprisingly robust looking Jameis Winston emerged on the Internet over the weekend, Lorenzen opted to weigh in on the matter as only he can. 

Writing “#biggerisbetter,” the 6’4”, 315-pound former signal-caller asked his followers who looks better—him or the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner?

As for the photo of Winston, appearances probably don’t line up with reality. 

Winston’s quarterback coach, George Whitfield, cleared the air regarding the picture after it made the rounds on the Internet. Whitfield says Winston has actually lost weight while training to make the jump to the next level.

“He’s lost about 12-15 pounds,” Whitfield told USA Today’s Jim Corbett. “When you hear stuff about Jameis, the weight and he’s getting fat…what do people think, that I’ve been golfing while he’s been playing Call of Duty?”

“He’s been working his butt off the last five weeks to make sure he’s going to make a tough decision for somebody,” Whitfield told Corbett. “He looks good. I like where he is. Focused. Driven. He’s enjoying the process.”

Just remember: The last time we thought a guy had been sneaking extra spare ribs, that person turned out to be an unstoppable monstrosity. Camera angles can lie. That's all I'm saying.

 

Dan is on Twitter. He would like all the spare ribs.

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Every Power 5 College Football Team's Most Important Returning Player for 2015

It's all up to them.

Well, maybe that's a bit much. Very few teams in college football nowadays have their entire seasons riding on the performance of a single player, especially among power-conference schools that have a distinct recruiting advantage on smaller programs. If they do, that's a problem in its own right.

What every power program does have, though, is a most important player, the one who will be counted on more than any other. This player can play any position—though it often ends up being the quarterback, or whoever the offense is centered around—and his role involves both production and leadership.

Looking at what every school has coming back for 2015, we have identified their most important returner and explain how much they mean to success this season.

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Don't Count out J.T. Barrett in Ohio State's Quarterback Controversy

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It's not often that a quarterback competition causes Las Vegas to place odds for three separate competitors.

But one look at Bovada's handicapping (via OddsShark.com) of Ohio State's high-profile position battle shows that what the Buckeyes will face this offseason is far from your typical quarterback derby.

Ohio State hadn't even been the reigning national champion for more than 12 hours before Bovada released its odds for who will be the Buckeyes' starting signal-caller for the first game of the 2015 season. Just how unprecedented is the most-talked-about quarterback battle in recent memory? Look no further than the resume of the player with the third-best odds to start.

Ohio State's single-season total yardage record, the Big Ten's single-season touchdown mark, the Buckeyes' single-season passing touchdowns record, Big Ten Quarterback of the Year, Big Ten Freshman of the Year, CFPA National Freshman of the Year, third-team AP All-American and a fifth-place Heisman  Trophy finish. That would be the work of redshirt sophomore-to-be J.T. Barrett, who, as of Jan. 13, was listed at 2-1 and behind Cardale Jones (6-5) and Braxton Miller (7-4) in Bovada's handicapping of their three-man race.

As the slim margin between Jones, Miller and Barrett indicates, none of the three should be counted out at this point in the offseason.

"It's an interesting group. The little bit I've been around them, great young men, hard-working," new OSU quarterbacks coach Tim Beck said of the quarterback trio vying for the Buckeyes' starting spot. "They compete hard, because they want to win and they want to play."

If all three are fully healthy by the start of the season—and that's the biggest "if" in this whole deal—you could make a compelling case for any of the three to start. But while Jones has the momentum and Miller possesses the star power, Barrett has become an unlikely underdog, despite his stellar debut season.

Filling in for Miller two weeks prior to the start of the season after the two-time Big Ten MVP tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder, Barrett took the Buckeyes from national afterthought to championship contenders. Accumulating an 11-1 record in 12 starts before fracturing his ankle in Ohio State's regular-season finale against Michigan, Barrett rewrote the Buckeyes record books, building quite the trophy case in the process.

"I'm grateful and blessed for the opportunity," Barrett said following his season-ending injury. "I enjoyed all of it. It's just crazy to think about, myself personally, I wasn't trying to go out there and break any records or play outside myself. I was just trying to put my team in the best position to win each and every week."

Barrett, however, managed to do both, totaling 3,772 (2,834 passing, 938 rushing) yards and 45 touchdowns (34 passing, 11 rushing) in his freshman season. Although Miller shined as a one-man wrecking crew under Urban Meyer in 2012 and 2013, Barrett appeared to be a better fit as a distributor in the Buckeyes' spread system, ranking second in the country with a 169.8 passer rating.

"I feel like with this offense that Barrett works better in this offense,” Michigan State linebacker Taiwan Jones said as the Spartans prepared to take on the Buckeyes in November. “I feel like he has a better arm, he’s a way better quarterback than Braxton.”

But while Barrett had the OSU offense firing on all cylinders during his time in the Buckeyes lineup, his injury opened the door for Jones to showcase what he's capable of. In three games against three of OSU's toughest opponents, the strong-armed 6'5", 250-pounder threw for 742 yards and five touchdowns, helping the Buckeyes capture the national championship with wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.

The prevailing thought seems to be that with Jones riding a wave of momentum and being the only of the three healthy for spring practice, he'll have the opportunity to build an insurmountable lead in the quarterback competition. But with Barrett expected to be fully recovered by the start of fall camp, don't be so sure that's the case.

After all, Jones exited Ohio State's spring session a year ago firmly ahead of Barrett on the depth chart after Miller sat out due to his first shoulder injury. Barrett, however, bounced back to surpass Jones in the summer, three days before being named the Buckeyes' starter following Miller's season-ending injury.

"The offense moves more frequently when J.T.'s the quarterback," then-OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman said last offseason. "And that's the sign of a good one."

Barrett's already beaten Jones out once in a competition, and now he may have to do it again. As for Miller, the fifth-year senior claims to have already resumed throwing, but the severity of his injury makes it impossible to predict where his health will stand come summer.

That's just one of the many unknowns that will need to be answered before the dust settles in this unprecedented quarterback competition. With both Jones and Miller intent on heading to the pros the following season, Barrett seems to be a lock to be Ohio State's starter in 2016, but it remains more than possible the Wichita Falls, Texas, native won't have to wait that long to reclaim his starting spot.

"It's special what we have here as far as our quarterback room," Barrett said following the national title game. "There's no wishing bad upon Cardale so I can feel like the team needs me and that's how some places are. It's crazy."

It is, but so is Ohio State's current situation. And despite what the odds say, Barrett may be the Buckeyes' safest bet.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Biggest Early Rivalry Battles on 2016 College Football Recruiting Trail

The battles that play out on the recruiting trail are often an extension of the rivalries that are heated on the gridiron every fall.

It’s not uncommon for Alabama and Auburn to fight over top prospects. Ditto for USC and UCLA, Michigan and Ohio State and the Sunshine State’s big three, to name a few.

Even schools such as Texas and Texas A&M—whose on-field rivalry ended when the Aggies joined the SEC—are still bitter foes when it comes to fighting over top talent.

Which 2016 prospects are already caught up in the tug of war between rival schools?

 

Players listed in alphabetical order.

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5 2016 Recruits Charlie Strong Must Land If He Wants to Turn Texas Around

As it turns out, yes, Texas head coach Charlie Strong can recruit well in-state.  

Texas' 2015 class was defense-heavy and included the No. 1 overall player in the state of Texas, linebacker Malik Jefferson, whereas the '14 class was a patchwork group assembled by Strong and his staff this month with a more personal stamp on it. According to 247Sports composite rankings, the Longhorns had the No. 10 class nationally. 

But as with anything in football, complacency is a killer. That's why Strong is Texas' coach, not Mack Brown

The Texas coaching staff is already looking at the '16 class. Which key players does Strong need to get for next February?

Five of them are listed over the following slides. 

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Alabama vs. Tennessee: Which Team Landed the Better DT in 2015?

The 2015 recruiting class was chock full of great defensive line talent, and two teams that made off with some of the best D-line prospects were Alabama and Tennessee.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder gives his pick for who got the better defensive tackle between Tennessee's Kahlil McKenzie and Alabama's Daron Payne.

Who got the better DT?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Is 5-Star Nick Bosa a Lock to Join His Brother Joey at Ohio State?

Ohio State is hoping Florida 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa follows big brother's footsteps. USC is hoping to score what is shaping up to be a major recruiting upset.

As the nation's No. 2 strong-side defensive end, Bosa is a huge get for any of the dozen schools to offer so far. The 6'3", 250-pound bookend, however, is believed to be a commitment in the future for Ohio State, a place where he'll join his brother, Joey Bosa.

The 247Sports Crystal Ball, as of early Tuesday afternoon, has Bosa confidently going to Ohio State.

How confidently? Of the 44 predictions for Bosa, all 44 say the Buckeyes will get his commitment. Few will disagree.

Bosa admits that Ohio State has a firm lead for the moment. The St. Thomas Aquinas standout told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports that the Buckeyes are "the top program right now," but the recruiting efforts of USC can't go unnoticed.

Bosa told Bartow that USC is recruiting him the hardest, which gives Trojans fans a little hope. Additionally, schools like Auburn, Alabama, Florida and Florida State could get unofficial visits soon.

"I'll figure it out after I take some visits," Bosa told Bartow. "I can't decide until I take some other visits."

Bosa received his Ohio State offer in November of 2012, his freshman year. Since then, he's made multiple trips to Columbus to visit his brother, take in some games and enjoy the campus environment. Bosa also participated in a football camp at Ohio State the summer before his sophomore year.

Bosa knows Ohio State well. He's built great relationships with head coach Urban Meyer and defensive line coach Larry Johnson as well as Mickey Marotti, assistant athletic director for football sports performance.

In short, Bosa is Ohio State's to lose—and while that may seem unlikely, it's possible if other schools impress him and the family in the coming months. They'll have their chance, as Bosa's dad, John Bosa, told Miles Joseph of Rivals that visits will come after his junior season.

"We're going to see Auburn, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford and some other schools," John told Joseph. "[Nick] wants to see a lot of schools. He's very comfortable with the guys in Columbus, but he wants to see a lot of other places, too."

The winning school gets an athlete who provides similar qualities as his older brother. Bosa is a strong, physical defensive end who has an explosive first step off the snap. He has a nose for the football, and while he's a likable guy off the field, he's an offensive lineman's first-rate problem on the field.

The question is: Will these schools have enough of a recruiting edge to bump the leader? Ohio State isn't planning on losing this battle.

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

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Ezekiel Elliott Injury: Updates on Ohio State Star's Wrist Surgery and Recovery

Ezekiel Elliott, the star of this year's College Football Playoff for Ohio State, will need a second surgery on the left wrist he injured over the summer and had surgery on in August.

Elliott tweeted about the surgery:

An unnamed source revealed the following to Dave Biddle of 247Sports:

He went in for his four-week check-up and one part of the bone is healed, but one part isn't, so he's going to have surgery this Thursday morning. The doctors checked it out four weeks ago and were shocked that it had healed as much as it had. So, at that time, they decided to not have surgery. Ezekiel had what they call bone stimulation two times per day over the last four weeks and they thought that might completely heal it. But only part of it healed and they decided they need to do the surgery.

Elliott was excellent for Ohio State this season, rushing for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns while also catching 28 passes for 220 yards. He saved his best for the biggest moments, however, rushing for 220 yards and two touchdowns against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, 230 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinals and 246 yards and four touchdowns against Oregon in the national championship.

Elliott, to his credit, isn't satisfied just yet, as he posted on Instagram on Monday:

He'll probably need to bottle up that motivation for some time if he indeed has another surgery, however, as it seems unlikely he'll be able to participate in any contact drills for quite some time, even as spring practices approach. The Buckeyes aren't about to risk the long-term condition of one of their most important players for next season. 

And one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy next year, too. Elliott took the college football world by storm at the end of last season. Once his wrist is completely healed, it's likely he'll pick up where he left off in that regard.

 

 

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Alabama Latest Team to Offer Keyshawn Johnson's Son, Keyshawn Johnson Jr.

Alabama has offered a scholarship to Keyshawn Johnson Jr., the son of legendary receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

The younger Johnson is a 6'1", 180-pound sophomore from Mission Viejo, California. He is a 4-star recruit, the No. 93 overall player and the No. 19 receiver in the 2017 class.

He told 247Sports the following of his offer:

I talked to Coach Saban on the phone and he offered me personally. That made it very special. It's a great offer. Any offer I would be blessed to have whether it's the best team in the nation or the worst. Any coach that sees me as talented enough to play for their college is something special. But Alabama, that's crazy. I still don't really have a favorite, but they stand as high as anyone else on my list

Alabama is the 18th team to offer Johnson a scholarship, joining such recruiting powers as Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Ohio State, Tennessee and UCLA. Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas and USC have also expressed interest, but have not made official offers as of yet.

The older Johnson played at USC in 1994 and 1995, both years cracking 1,350 receiving yards. He was twice named a consensus All-American and went No. 1 overall to the New York Jets in the 1996 NFL draft.

If and when USC makes Johnson Jr. an offer, one has to assume it's the favorite.

Until they do, though, Alabama has as good a chance as anybody—just like Johnson Jr. said. The Crimson Tide have won five straight recruiting national titles, per the 247Sports composite team rankings, and they've done so for a reason.

The only downside might be competition for playing time. Alabama landed the No. 1 receiver in the 2015 recruiting class (Calvin Ridley) and has sophomores ArDarius Stewart, Robert Foster and Cameron Sims competing for playing time next season—not to mention all the other blue-chip receivers it signs between now and February 2017.

Johnson Jr. caught 41 passes for 572 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore last season, according to MaxPreps.

We'll keep you updated throughout his recruitment.

 

Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports team rankings

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Alabama Football: Signee Lester Cotton Holds Legacy of Central High in His Hands

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.— After Lester Cotton signed his national letter of intent on signing day in the auditorium at Central High School, there was no need for him to send it as a fax.

Cotton could have walked out the front door of Central High School, turned right onto 10th avenue, crossed 15th street and the railroad tracks, gone three more short blocks and personally handed his letter to Nick Saban at Bryant-Denny Stadium in less than a mile.

As the Crimson Tide’s recruiting has become more and more national, Cotton’s signing is notable in that he plays right down the road from UA’s campus. If the sun sets just right, Central is literally in the shadows of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

He’s also one of the top prospects in Alabama’s 2015 haul. Cotton is the highest-rated offensive lineman in Alabama’s class and the No. 4 guard in the country, per 247Sports.

But Cotton’s Alabama legacy has a chance to be so much more even than that.

Cotton represents hope for a community stifled by political injustice. He can be a role model for so many kids who grew up watching Cotton maul helpless defensive linemen on Friday nights and then Alabama do the same to SEC teams on Saturdays.

It’s a lot of weight to put on the shoulders of an 18-year-old, even those of a 6’4”, 325-pound manchild.

Central High School has a dark history in a state known more for its blemishes in social justice than its progress.

Central was once a model school for integration in Tuscaloosa. In 1979, under a federal desegregation order, Central was formed by the merger of two local schools.

But 20 years later, the order was lifted. The result was two new Tuscaloosa County high schools, Northridge and Bryant, instead of building a mega-school that everyone in the county would attend. That left Central with a 100 percent African-American population, despite opposition from citizens, students and teachers.

It wasn’t a stretch at all to call this modern-day segregation.

According to high-schools.com, in 2012-13 school year, just three of the school’s 720 students were white, the rest being African-American. 82 percent of those students were eligible for free lunch with another five qualifying for a reduced price.

This gerrymandering was re-explored last spring, 60 years after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision that resulted in the original integration, most notably in Pro Publica and The Atlantic.

Cotton can help write a positive chapter in Central’s history.

“It's a sense of responsibility to himself,” Central football coach Dennis Conner said shortly after Cotton’s signing ceremony. “Then after that, he takes the responsibility of carrying the legacy of all the young men who have graduated from Central.”

He’s already helping to elevate Central’s story to the national stage.

ESPN spent this past football season with Cotton, Conner and Central to produce a mini-documentary of sorts about the school, its history and its present conditions. ESPN’s Tommy Tomlinson wrote a companion piece that focuses on Cotton and his role in all of this.

“It was real fun,” Cotton said on signing day of working with ESPN. “I got a chance to put my community out and let them see how it really is.”

In his senior year, Central went to the playoffs for just the second time since 2008, getting bounced in the first round.

“It was hard because I had to tone down a little bit. I had to watch some of the things I said because during the whole game you're mic'd up,” Conner said. “I was still able to coach the way I coach. My whole thing in coaching is to get the young men to understand how important it is to be a scholar in the classroom, but also do your very best on the field.”

Cotton projects as either a guard or tackle. He played tackle at Central but was listed by most recruiting services as a guard in college.

It’s unclear when Cotton will see the field at Alabama. Offensive linemen almost always redshirt their first season as they learn the intricacies of one of the more complex positions to play in college.

Still, Alabama will have three openings for starters on the offensive line, two at guard and one at tackle.

“Right now,” Cotton said. “I'm just going in and I'm going to compete.”

But Cotton doesn’t need to play right away to be impactful to his high school. All Cotton needs to do is put in hard work right down the street from the Alabama practice fields, and show what can be achieved when you don’t let barriers put in front of you by others get in your way.

“They're looking up to me a lot,” Cotton said. “They want me to go in and really be something.”

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Ohio State Buckeyes 2016 Dream Recruiting Class

The Ohio State Buckeyes won the CFP National Championship last season, but they are not going to stop there. They are already reloading with the start of a stellar 2016 recruiting class. 

Stephen Nelson sits down with Bleacher Report's Lead Ohio State Writer Ben Axelrod to discuss Ohio State's dream 2016 recruiting class. 

Who are the must-have recruits for OSU in 2016?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Where LSU, USC Turn After 5-Star QB Shea Patterson Commits to Ole Miss

Ole Miss added another prized prospect to its impressive 2016 recruiting class Tuesday afternoon when Shea Patterson pledged to the Rebels:

The 5-star quarterback announced his collegiate intentions during a ceremony at Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, Louisiana. Patterson initially committed to Arizona as a freshman but reopened his recruitment last summer. 

Ole Miss lands a promising passer who threw for 5,083 yards, 72 touchdowns and just seven interceptions during the past two seasons. He is rated third nationally among pro-style quarterbacks and 17th overall in 247Sports' composite rankings. 

Patterson provides Ole Miss with a potentially dominant duo in the passing game. He joins fellow 5-star DeKaylin Metcalf, a wide receiver who committed to the Rebels in 2013 and projects as an immediate impact playmaker in Oxford.

Patterson ultimately picked Ole Miss over a pair of top contenders—USC and LSU.

"I've been to all three schools and to a game at each place," Patterson told Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Damon Sayles. "Whenever I go to a game, I try to visualize myself in their uniform and with their fans. I try to get that sense of can I see myself playing there.

"I only saw it with one school."

Despite extensive efforts from coaching staffs in Los Angeles and Baton Rouge, Patterson will make his impact at Ole Miss. The early decision gives both programs ample time to identify alternative options at quarterback.

LSU is certainly seeking an infusion of talent at the position.

The Tigers finished last among SEC teams in passing yards (162.9 per game) last fall. Sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris both failed to lock down "quarterback of the future" status during an 8-5 season.

Les Miles, who employed Patterson's older brother on his coaching staff last season, is likely looking to land two quarterbacks in this class.

He already secured a commitment from 4-star Florida product Feleipe Franks.

The 6'5", 220-pound prospect is rated No. 1 nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks in composite rankings. He pledged to LSU last June and helps take some of the sting away from losing a top in-state target like Patterson.

If the Tigers continue to seek a second prospect behind center—and our belief is that will be the case—Maryland quarterback Dwayne Haskins is a marquee member of this class worth keeping on your radar.

He received an LSU offer earlier this month and expressed interest in visiting campus shortly after Patterson's announcement:

USC was viewed as a distant third among finalists for Patterson due in large part to proximity and players already in place on the team.

Still, the Trojans remained a member of his final mix down to the wire.

Steve Sarkisian signed a couple of 4-star passers (Ricky Town and Sam Darnold) earlier this month. Neither player will be counted on to contribute immediately at USC, as the roster features depth and experience at quarterback.

Still, don't expect the Trojans staff to rest on its laurels there. 

Southern California standout KJ Costello, rated fourth nationally among pro-style quarterbacks, is the primary concern moving ahead. His skill set features one of the nation's strongest arms and accurate deep-ball touch that few passers in this class can match.

USC and LSU missed on a possible college superstar Tuesday when Patterson opted to become a Rebel, but both programs remain in stable condition at quarterback as the 2016 recruiting cycle rolls forward.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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10 College Football Teams Whose Defense Is Their Calling Card

Offense dominates the national college football conversation, but despite the increased scoring numbers and the frantic pace of play, some teams still make their living on defense.

These teams, while rare, have proved over a sustained length of time that they can take it to opposing offenses. They are physical and disciplined and always give their team a chance to win, even when their own offense struggles.

This list made heavy use of the F/+ ratings at Football Outsiders, an opponent-adjusted metric for efficiency. It also looked for prolonged defensive success as the benchmark of a program.

Teams like Ole Miss and Clemson, for example, fielded top-five defenses last season, but before that, they had not made defense their calling card. Same goes for Florida State and Wisconsin, who have relied as much on offense as on defense.

They are not what we were looking for.

Instead, we looked for programs that have forged a legit defensive identity. We measured F/+ over a five-year sample, but even three straight years of high-level play was enough. Really, we just didn't want to overreact after one or two great seasons.

Sound off below, and let us know what you think.

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5-Star QB Shea Patterson Reveals Why He Committed to Ole Miss in B/R Exclusive

For Shreveport, Louisiana, 5-star quarterback Shea Patterson, the basic art of visual processing made his college recruiting a lot simpler than expected. 

In front of family and friends at Calvary Baptist Academy, Patterson announced his verbal commitment to Ole Miss and became the Rebels' top-ranked pledge and ninth pledge overall. Patterson chose Ole Miss over offers from LSU, USC and a host of other programs.

For Patterson, the decision came down to comfort. As his three favorites—Ole Miss, LSU and USC—all had great campus environments and solid coaching staffs, he made his choice with the help of reminiscing how he felt after each trip.

"I've been to all three schools and to a game at each place," Patterson said of the three schools. "Whenever I go to a game, I try to visualize myself in their uniform and with their fans. I try to get that sense of can I see myself playing there.

"I only saw it with one school."

Patterson has made a couple of trips to Ole Miss, the latest coming the weekend of Jan. 31. He was in Oxford when Ole Miss played Auburn on Nov. 1. It was the game where Laquon Treadwell suffered a gruesome leg injury late in the fourth quarter.

Patterson said there was a different feeling in the air after that game, one that made him feel like he could immediately call Ole Miss home.

"I've been there two or three times, and every time, I've gotten a new sense of being comfortable," Patterson said. "When Treadwell got hurt...I don't know, it was just a different feeling. I was just sitting there and visualizing if I could play there. Watching the crowd after [the injury] happened, I felt so comfortable afterward."

Ole Miss gets the nation's No. 3 pro-style quarterback and the No. 17 overall player in the 247Sports player rankings for the Class of 2016. According to The (Shreveport) Times, Patterson threw for 2,428 yards and 38 touchdowns as a junior, and he led Calvary High School to its second straight Louisiana Division III championship. In two years, he's thrown for 5,083 yards, 72 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.

Recruited by quarterbacks coach Dan Werner, Patterson said the relationships built with the members of the coaching staff also made his decision a fairly easy one. Patterson said he speaks with Werner almost daily.

Patterson's recruiting started early. As a freshman, Patterson received an offer from Arizona, and on Dec. 7, 2012, he verbally committed to the Wildcats. After taking a few months to re-evaluate his process—one that included more than 20 offers—Patterson decommitted from Arizona in July 2014.

One of Patterson's first visits to Ole Miss came in 2013 before entering his sophomore year. His love for the school and his respect for head coach Hugh Freeze have been high ever since.

"Since I first went there, I knew that was a place I could see myself," he said, "but I think I've known pretty solid I wanted to commit there for about two-and-a-half weeks."

Now that the commitment is done, Patterson said he plans on being an ace player-recruiter for the Rebels. He has a few players on his list to help the Rebels ultimately sign, including 4-star wide receiver Mykel Jones, 4-star running back Devin White, 4-star defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence, 4-star receiver Devin Duvernay, 4-star receiver Clyde Leflore and 3-star Arizona running back commit Trevor Speights.

"[Committing] is just the start of my recruiting process," Patterson said. "I'm going to do the best I can to help bring the best class there. Mykel's one of my best friends. We've definitely talked about going to school together. Devin's a Bo Jackson-type, and Rashard's been on my radar.

"A guy like Trevor will be hard to flip, though. I know he really likes Arizona, but I'm going to try and get him, too. Whatever he does, I'm happy with, though."

Patterson said he's planning on participating in the Rivals Quarterback Challenge March 15 in Dallas and the Elite 11 competition March 28 in New Orleans. Patterson has aspirations of graduating in December and becoming an early enrollee for spring 2016. 

 

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

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Shea Patterson Commits to Ole Miss: 5-Star Is QB of the Future for Rebels

Shea Patterson, a 5-star quarterback, according to 247 Sports, has committed to the Ole Miss Rebels. The No. 3-rated pro-style QB will have a great impact for the Rebels in the future.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down his game and what he can bring to the Rebels over the next few years. 

Where will Patterson fit in? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Shea Patterson to Ole Miss: Rebels Land 5-Star QB Prospect

Ole Miss won't have to worry about the quarterback position for the next few years after securing the commitment of one of the top signal-callers in the 2016 recruiting class.  

According to Ben Garrett of Scout.com, Shea Patterson will be heading to Oxford:

Patterson is the No. 3-ranked pro-style quarterback and 17th-best player overall in 247Sports' composite rankings. He's one of only three QBs to earn the 5-star designation on the site.

One of Patterson's biggest drawbacks is his size. At 6'2" and 195 pounds, he lacks the ideal height for the position. As hard as he works, he's not going to make himself any taller.

A few years ago, that might have been a bigger concern. However, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees are the two most prominent examples of QBs who've thrived despite being undersized. They're a testament to the fact that talent shines through no matter what.

And Patterson has talent in abundance.

He's very mobile in the pocket, able to scramble and create some more time for himself. That skill will allow him to thrive in just about any offensive scheme.

Patterson truly shines when coiling back and releasing a perfect spiral. ESPN.com's Derek Tyson captured two Vines, the first in June 2014 and the second the following January, which demonstrate just how polished Patterson is:

Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue also praised Patterson's arm strength, which he felt was one of the reasons Patterson could emerge as the top QB in 2016:

Patterson had originally committed to Arizona before ultimately walking back on that decision in July 2014.

"When I went on a visit to another college, I couldn't really enjoy myself; now I can," he said at the time, per James Smith of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. "He (Rich Rodriguez) was glad that I called him and not anyone else. I called him because he was the one that offered me in the beginning. He told me they are going to continue to recruit me."

Upon un-tethering himself from the Wildcats, Patterson quickly became one of the most sought-after players in the country. The list of schools to offer him a scholarship was a who's who of college football elite.

Hugh Freeze and his staff deserve a ton of credit for building the most compelling case and selling Patterson on Ole Miss.  

There's no limit to what Patterson can accomplish in college.

 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Jim Harbaugh Working with Future NFL QBs Great for Michigan Recruiting

Even quarterbacks from other schools need Jim Harbaugh's help before the NFL Scouting Combine.

How's that for a recruiting pitch?

Michigan's new head coach spent the weekend with Jameis Winston (Florida State) and Bryce Petty (Baylor), prepping the pair of all-conference quarterbacks for what they'll see in Indianapolis.

The Wolverines' official twitter account shared a photo of the group in Ann Arbor:

Winston and Petty were sent to Harbaugh by quarterback tutor George Whitfield, who wanted them to get a head start on the combine. A Michigan spokesman said the intent was "to get acclimated to the time and weather, and throw in an indoor facility before going to Lucas Oil (Stadium)," per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.

And before you start complaining: No, Harbaugh's time could not have been better spent with Shane Morris, Wilton Speight, Alex Malzone, Zach Gentry and the other quarterbacks on Michigan's roster.

The Wolverines don't open spring camp until Feb. 24, at which point Harbaugh can start developing his own signal-callers. But until then, there is no harm in him tutoring Winston and Petty.

In fact, there is something to gain.

The goal of most high school and college players is to get drafted into the NFL. Winston was the No. 1 overall pick in Matt Miller's most recent B/R mock draft, and there's no realistic scenario in which he drops past the first few spots. Getting him in a room with Harbaugh is easy, cheap, risk-free exposure.

If a pair of 7,900-yard college passers can benefit from a weekend with Harbaugh, imagine what you, 5-star prospect, can learn in four years!

This sentiment aligns with what Gentry, the No. 175 overall player in the 2015 recruiting class, said of Harbaugh after flipping from Texas to Michigan in January. "He kind of molded Andrew Luck into what he is today," the 6'7" recruit told Snyder.

"When Jim Harbaugh is calling you, you're excited."

The Wolverines did not tweet this picture on accident.

They and Harbaugh have made a special effort to connect with younger players through social media. Harbaugh, who started his new Twitter account in January, has been trolling Ohio State with passive-aggressive quotes and making Rick Ross references.

"Former coach Brady Hoke didn't tweet and said he could barely figure out technology, making the program feel old and decrepit," wrote Joshua Henschke in a special for the Detroit Free Press"Harbaugh's return to the Twitterverse (he was a big tweeter in his Stanford days) gives the sense that things are already being run differently."

Tuesday's tweet came not from Harbaugh's personal account, but it might as well have. It was less facetious but sent the same message to recruits: Come to Michigan. We care about you. We can help you reach the NFL. Even a former Heisman Trophy winner knows that.

That's a pretty hard pitch to say no to.

 

Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings.

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Can Miami Realistically Hold onto No. 1 Recruiting Class for 2016?

No school is off to a faster start in the 2016 recruiting cycle than the Miami Hurricanes.

Al Golden and his staff are already up to 17 commitments in the ‘Canes 2016 class after landing commitments from 3-star receiver Isaiah Chambers and running back McArthur Bennett on Monday.

Miami’s class is currently far and away the nation’s top rated class.

But can the ‘Canes can stay atop the rankings for the next 11 and a half months? 

Undoubtedly, recruiting powers such as Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and USC are destined to climb the rankings and challenge for the top spot. 

However, the answer to that question primarily depends on a few things—a couple of which are in their control.

Can Miami hold onto the majority of its top-rated commitments, and can they close out strong on a few other highly-rated prospects they are heavily pursuing?

Decommitments plagued Miami’s 2015 class after Golden and his staff got off to another fast start at this time a year ago.

There’s already one early commitment who admits that he’s wavering in his pledge.

Amir Rasul, a 3-star running back who committed to Miami in late January, is keeping his options open to other schools, according to David Lake of InsideTheU.

“I would say my commitment to Miami is not strong,” Rasul told Lake. “I would say it is medium because I still have my options open. I am waiting for more offers to come in.”

Another pair of Hurricane commits in 4-star receiver Sam Bruce and 4-star linebacker Shaquille Quarterman are also being pursued by other powerhouse programs, and both appear to at least be listening to overtures from other schools.

Bruce told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports recently that his recruitment is, “going to go the whole way.” Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State and Oregon are among the schools who are after the nation’s No. 4 receiver and the No. 38 player overall in the 2016 cycle.

New Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is pursuing Quarterman, and according to Clint Brewster of Wolverine247, the nation’s No. 3 inside linebacker prospect is interested and may take a trip to Ann Arbor in the summer.

On the flip side, one of the ‘Canes highest-rated 2016 pledges—4-star receiver Dionte Mullins—remains firm in his commitment despite schools such as Alabama coming after him, according to Bartow.

The ‘Canes have to hold on to that trio of studs who are currently the anchors of their class. What would help their 2016 group have staying power is adding another batch of potential difference-makers to round out the class.

That means landing players such as 5-star defensive end Shavar Manuel—who is the top prospect in the Sunshine State and the nation’s top pass-rushing prospect.

According to Josh Newberg of Noles247, Manuel admits he grew up a fan of the Hurricanes.

"Miami is the school. I've always been a Miami fan since I was a youngin' back in elementary school," Manuel told Newberg. "When I talked to coach (Larry) Scott and he offered I was speechless."

Additionally, the ‘Canes have touted prospects such as 4-star defensive end Patrick Bethel and 4-star receiver Freddie Pinder who are heavily interested in heading to Coral Gables for their college careers.

What could prove to be the biggest help to the ‘Canes recruiting efforts is a strong showing on the field in 2015.

Regardless, Miami has an opportunity to land one of the nation’s premier classes in the 2016 cycle. It’s up to Golden and his staff to maintain the program’s current momentum and seal the deal on signing day next February.

 

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

 

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Alabama's Insane $33 Million Profit from Football Proves Nick Saban's Value

At nearly $7 million annually, Alabama head coach Nick Saban carries the highest price tag for anyone in college football. Consider such check-writing an investment for Alabama. And, boy oh boy, are the Tide getting a return on that investment. 

Michael Casagrande of al.com reported Monday that Alabama athletics generated a surplus of more than $33 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year. That number is nearly $6 million more than the $27 million surplus from the 2012-13 fiscal year:  

The most recent Alabama gains came with a 6.6 percent revenue growth in 2013-14 as football continues to drive the ship. Nick Saban's program had a $53.3 million surplus with revenues of $95.3 million.

The expenses rose by less than a million from 2012-13 but the revenue jumped by nearly $7 million. The biggest football gains came from royalties ($4.5 million from $1.3 million), broadcast, television, radio and Internet rights ($9.1 million from $7.2 million) and contributions ($20.7 million from $18.9 million).

In the conversation about college football's place in the academic arena, Alabama is an example of why it can be both a big business and important to a university's profile. 

How Alabama's on-the-field success has impacted the program is evident. With the exception of Saban's first year in 2007, Alabama has enjoyed at least 10 wins every season since 2008. Under Saban, the Tide have won four SEC West titles, three SEC Championships and three national championships. The program regularly puts players into the NFL. 

More success under Saban has equaled more money. Certainly, football is a driving force there. That's important, because Casagrande's report also shows that the Tide had more than $120 million in expenses for 2013-14. That's a little less than $4 million more than the expenses shown for the previous fiscal year. According to USA Today's 2012-13 database, Alabama is one of the biggest spenders in college athletics. 

It's the classic case of spend money, make money. However, consider what Alabama is doing because it operates comfortably in the black. That's where Saban's success has impacted Alabama as a university. 

Go back two years to 2013 when Saban was profiled on the CBS show 60 Minutes. Alabama Chancellor Dr. Robert Witt told the program, "Nick Saban is best financial investment this university has ever made. We have made an investment that's been returned many fold" (h/t Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com). 

In what ways, though? Chris Smith of Forbes.com expanded on that in 2013: 

That on-field success generates financial prosperity, as detailed below, and also makes Alabama a top choice for students and athletes alike. In 2007, Alabama had an acceptance rate of 77%. Today, rivals like Auburn and LSU are still at that near-80% rate; Alabama now accepts just 53% of applicants.

For the 2012-13 football season, the most recent for which financial data is available, Alabama reported football revenue of $89 million, second only to Texas. The $50 million or so in football profit not only supported non-revenue sports like golf and gymnastics, but it also helped Alabama’s athletic department end the year $34 million in the black. While many athletic departments have to take loans from their parent universities just to break even, Alabama’s athletic department sends money the other way. Last year it contributed around $6.5 million to the university to provide for faculty support and non-athletic scholarships.

Now look at the most recent numbers published by al.com. Just over $9 million of Alabama's 2013-14 surplus was transferred back to the university. As sports business guru Kristi Dosh wrote in 2011 on her site, The Business of College Sports, self-sustaining (and/or lightly subsidized) athletic departments that give back to the university is a small group. 

In short, Alabama is part of it. 

Alabama is the poster child for why major college football gets its unofficial "don't call it a minor league" title relative to the NFL. In fact, Alabama's Sugar Bowl appearance against Ohio State in the first College Football Playoff had viewership that rivaled the NFL's wild-card weekend. Considering that the NFL is far and away America's most popular sport, that's an eye-opening debut. 

And Alabama is part of the reason why college football players could be receiving a payout for name/image/likeness rights due to a judge's ruling in the Ed O'Bannon trial. There's a lot of fuzzy math in college athletics to give off the appearance of financial belt-tightening—see Alabama-Birmingham, which of all places killed off its football program last year—but the numbers from Tuscaloosa are as clear as day. 

Alabama is filthy rich, and Saban plays a huge role in that. In the university's eyes, his enormous salary is worth it.

 

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

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