NCAA Football News

Marlon Davidson Is the Instant-Impact Freshman DE Auburn's Been Waiting for

AUBURN, Ala. — Plenty of Auburn fans expected a true freshman to quickly emerge as a starter at defensive end opposite star pass-rusher Carl Lawson.

Few, if any, expected that defensive end to be Marlon Davidson.

Several months after former 5-star and top-five recruit Byron Cowart opened his Auburn career with just six tackles and zero sacks, the 4-star Davidson enrolled early on the Plains.

A few weeks after his arrival, Davidson found himself lining up with the first team on one of the deepest defensive lines in college football. He made the quick leap that Cowart was expected to make in 2015's fall camp.

"I've been here five years, and as far as freshmen coming in to play—especially in the spring—he's as good as I've ever seen," Auburn left guard Alex Kozan said. "He's got to keep working, keep improving, but he's solid. I think he's ready to play now."

While his classmates at Greenville High School 100 miles away were preparing for their senior prom, Davidson was getting ready to become a potential starter in the SEC.

A few days after Kozan declared him the best true freshman he had ever seen, Davidson got the first of what could be many starts inside Jordan-Hare Stadium at the annual A-Day Game. He matched fellow starter Lawson with four tackles, which were the most of any defensive lineman in the scrimmage.

"Consistency in a young guy is really hard to find, and that's what he's been able to do," Lawson said. "He's been able to be consistent and every day come out here and try to get better. He takes coaching. When he [coach Rodney Garner] gets hard, a lot of young guys don't take it very well. He's been prepped for it."

The coaching that Lawson referred to is the trademark vocal nature of defensive line assistant Rodney Garner, a former Auburn player who has coached for more than 25 years in the SEC. 

Starting defensive tackle Montravius Adams said it takes a while for blue-chip recruits such as Davidson to get adjusted to "Coach G" and the way he runs practices.

Garner isn't normally one for high praise in his interviews, especially with questions about highly touted underclassmen. But this spring, he was positive in his outlook on Davidson.

"I think he's got a chance to have an impact and help our team," Garner said. "Marlon, he continues to get better every day. I think he has very bright future."

As a strong-side defensive end, Davidson brings a different kind of size and versatility to an Auburn defensive line that is loaded with experience. He was listed this spring at 6'3" and 281 pounds, and he has the ability to move inside.

In spring ball, the Tigers used him on the interior during passing situations to provide an extra burst of pressure up the middle.

"He's extremely quick and powerful for a young guy," new Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said.

While some coaches want to slow-play their incoming freshmen and ease them into life at the college level, Steele is the complete opposite.

He sees a potential difference-maker in Davidson, and the veteran coach is pushing him as hard as he can, regardless of his age.

"I don't have brakes. I ain't tapping no brakes," Steele said. "We'll go as full speed and as fast as we can. He is a guy that's very physically, mentally and emotionally mature. ... If you'd watched it and didn't know, you'd think he'd been around for a couple of years, and that's the biggest thing."

Davidson might be a new student on Auburn's campus, but he has been around the program for several years now. 

The defensive end started coming on unofficial visits to Auburn in 2012, when his older brother Kenneth Carter was a starter on the defensive line. Carter now works for Auburn football on its support staff.

Carter was nearly identical to Davidson in size during his Auburn playing days, and he made starts as both an end and a defensive tackle. Lawson even said this spring the best comparison to Davidson's playing style was Carter.

Even when Davidson's recruitment exploded as a junior and he started receiving offers from schools all over the country, Auburn was always a projected leader for his signature.

He committed to Auburn last September and, despite a strong push from Alabama, signed his financial aid agreement with the Tigers in December. 

"The sky is the limit," Carter told Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports last fall. "He can play any spot he wants. That’s the way I feel, by looking at him and the way he moves and how big he is."

A few months later, Davidson has already carved out his own spot on the defensive line, serving as the instant-impact defensive end Auburn fans have been craving for quite some time.

With the amount of rotation Garner likes on his defensive line and the depth the Tigers have built up there, there's still a role for Cowart—the former recruiting star who Davidson has passed in a short amount of time—in 2016. As Garner says, everyone's adjustment to college football is different.

"Some guys are quicker than others," Garner said. "That doesn't equate to success or failure, I don't think. This guy may come in in year one and live up to those expectations. This guy may not live up to those in year two or three. That doesn't equate to whether he was successful or not."

Early in his "year one," Davidson has met and even exceeded the highest expectations set on him by topping the depth chart as an early enrollee. 

The work has to continue throughout the summer and into fall camp, but Davidson's teammates agree that he's well on his way to greatness, echoing his older brother.

"He's a competitor," Adams said. "Everything he does, he competes. In this league, that's just what you have to do. I think with him doing that, he's just going to keep getting better.

"The sky is the limit."

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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Big Ten Q&A: Which Big Ten 1st-Round Pick Will Have the Best NFL Career?

Spring football may be over in Big Ten country, but the conference has still managed to stay at the forefront of the college football world.

Thanks to Thursday night's opening round of the NFL draft, the Big Ten has managed to maintain its national presence, with six of the league's former players being selected in the draft's first 31 picks.

Oh, and then there's that whole satellite camp ban thing, which the NCAA overturned on Thursday—a de facto victory for Jim Harbaugh and other conference coaches in favor of the practice. All things considered, it's been a busy week for the Big Ten in what's supposed to be the start of the quiet period in college football.

With that in mind, let's get to our weekly Big Ten Q&A. This week, we'll tackle last night's opening round of the draft, the conference's breakout defensive player, Ohio State's biggest threat and one of the draft's stranger Big Ten-related controversies.

As always, you can tweet your questions to me each week @BenAxelrod.

Let's get started.

 

When I first got this question, my initial reaction was to go with third overall pick Joey Bosa.

For all of the talk about the former Ohio State defensive end's sliding draft stock—such as from CBS Sports' Benjamin Allbright—I thought that a lot of people were forgetting this was several draft prognosticators' top overall prospect heading into the 2015 season.

But as Thursday's night's first round played out, I found myself focusing more on fit when I had this question in mind.

And when it comes to that, it's hard to find a better blend than Ezekiel Elliott and his new home with the Dallas Cowboys.

After all, the last time the former Buckeyes running back found himself in Arlington's AT&T Stadium, he was rushing for 246 yards and four touchdowns in Ohio State's College Football Playoff National Championship victory over Oregon at the end of the 2014 season.

Now, Elliott will be rushing behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL on a team that typically finds itself in the Super Bowl conversation.

While the Cowboys were able to grab the reigning Big Ten MVP with the fourth overall pick of the draft, Dallas isn't your typical team picking in the top five. After a 12-4 campaign in 2014 resulted in a controversial loss in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Cowboys suffered a 4-12 season in 2015 due to quarterback Tony Romo's injury-plagued year.

Now Romo is back, as is All-Pro wideout Dez Bryant, future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten and an offensive line that's paved the way for top-10 rushing attacks in each of the past two seasons.

Add Elliott to the mix, and you have the rare combination of a potential playoff team adding one of the draft's top-level talents, which could result in a fruitful relationship for years to come.

For the rest of the Big Ten players taken, their respective trajectories will be a little tougher to predict and will be dependent on a number of factors. But for now, Elliott to the Cowboys has all the makings of a home run pick.

 

I'm not sure if it qualifies as a "breakout" per se, because I think he's already pretty good, but I'd be surprised if Illinois defensive end Dawuane Smoot isn't a household name—and potential first-round pick—by the time his senior season comes to a close.

After recording 40 tackles, 15 for a loss and eight sacks in 2015, the 6'3", 265-pounder actually toyed with the idea of entering this year's NFL draft.

Instead, Smoot opted to return to Champaign for his senior season, where he'll unexpectedly find himself playing for an NFL-caliber coaching staff with Lovie Smith's arrival at Illinois.

Remember the way Adewale Ogunleye used to terrorize quarterbacks coming off the edge during Smith's days with the Chicago Bears or Jacquies Smith's breakout seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? That's the type of impact Smoot could have the Fighting Illini defense in 2016.

After being just an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2015, there's no reason Smoot shouldn't be on one of the league's first or second teams, if not competing for conference—or perhaps national—Defensive Player of the Year awards in the coming year.

Other defensive names to keep an eye on throughout the conference include Ohio State's Sam Hubbard, Michigan State's Demetrius Cooper and Penn State's Garrett Sickels.

But Smoot is the one who I have the most confidence in at this point, as the Illinois defensive end has arguably the highest ceiling to reach in 2016.

 

One thing I've found interesting in the couple of months since I started doing these Q&A pieces is that I often get variations of this question, referring to Ohio State as the clear-cut class of the Big Ten despite replacing 16 starters—including five first-round picks—from last year's team.

Meanwhile, Iowa returns a significant portion of production from last year's team that found itself one win away from the College Football Playoff, Michigan State has won two of the past three Big Ten titles and Michigan is only getting better.

But when you look at the way the Buckeyes have recruited under Urban Meyer and the fact that OSU will possess the best quarterback in the conference in J.T. Barrett, it's understandable why some would view the Buckeyes as the Big Ten favorites.

In fact, all things considered, it's probably the correct assessment.

As for the question at hand, the obvious pick is Michigan State, considering the Spartans aren't just the only Big Ten team to beat Ohio State since Meyer took over in 2012, but they've done it twice.

This year, the matchup in the Big Ten's hottest on-field rivalry will take place in East Lansing, where the Buckeyes' fifth-year head coach is actually undefeated (2-0).

But as far as sleeper picks are concerned, one team I'd keep my eye on if I were Ohio State is Nebraska.

While their Nov. 5 showdown will be played in Columbus, Ohio Stadium doesn't necessarily offer the home-field advantage it used to—especially if the game is played during the day, as it very well could be at that point in the season.

Returning 94 percent of their offensive production from a year ago, according to SBNation.com's Bill Connelly, the Cornhuskers should be a well-oiled machine in their second year under Mike Riley and could have playoff aspirations of their own at that point in the season.

Whether or not they'll have enough firepower to beat the Buckeyes remains to be seen, but when it comes to Ohio State's schedule in 2016, that game certainly stands out.

 

For the uninitiated, this question is in reference to an April 26 report regarding former Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple.

According to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinelan unnamed NFL scout had a rather unusual concern about Apple heading into Thursday's draft. "I worry about him because of off-the-field issues," the scout said. "The kid has no life skills. At all. Can't cook. Just a baby."

From there, the quote took on a life of its own, with Apple's mother, Elliott and Eli himself responding on Twitter.

Still, Eli didn't exactly deny it.

Nevertheless, the NFL didn't seem to care—at least not the New York Giants, who took the former Buckeyes corner with the draft's 10th overall pick. That's higher than most prognosticators pinned the New Jersey native, who will now return to Tri-State area, where cooking is, fortunately for him, optional.

So to answer the question, I don't see culinary classes becoming a part of Meyer's regimen for his players any time soon. Especially as long as it doesn't prevent them from landing in the top 10 of the NFL draft.

 

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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Laremy Tunsil Saga Spoils What Should've Been Great Draft Night for Ole Miss

Thursday night was supposed to be a banner night in the history of Ole Miss football.

The program had never sent three players to the NFL through the first round of the NFL draft, but former Rebels Laquon Treadwell, Robert Nkemdiche and Laremy Tunsil were widely considered sure-fire first-round draft picks.

Ole Miss made history.

Treadwell was selected 23rd overall by the Minnesota Vikings, Nkemdiche went 29th to the Arizona Cardinals and Tunsil—who was considered a possible top-five pick—fell to 13th overall to the Miami Dolphins.

Great for the Rebels, right?

Nope. Not even a little bit. 

The reason for Tunsil's fall dominated headlines around the country and turned what was supposed to be an historic night for Ole Miss into an infamous one.

Here's more detail from Bleacher Report's Alec Nathan on everything that went down with Tunsil over a five-hour stretch last night. For the sake of brevity, here's a CliffsNotes version:

  • A video of Tunsil smoking out of a bong with a gas mask on appears on his Twitter account shortly before the start of the draft.
  • Tunsil drops from a potential top-five pick down to the Dolphins at 13, costing him approximately $13 million, according to Spotrac (h/t Bleacher Report).
  • Screenshots appear on Tunsil's Instagram account of text messages allegedly between Tunsil and Ole Miss assistant athletic director for football operations John Miller in which payments for rent are discussed.
  • Tunsil, clearly shaken by all that has gone on during what should have been the happiest night of his life, denies taking money from Ole Miss coaches in the post-draft press conference before then admitting that he did take money from coaches.

"Nah, I wouldn't say all that. I wouldn't say that." Tunsil said when asked if money exchanged hands (2:00 mark).

Later, that changed. When asked at the 2:45 mark of the press conference if money exchanged hands, Tunsil replied, "I'd have to say yeah. Yeah."

What should have been a banner night for the Ole Miss football program turned into a disaster. Not only was one of their own embarrassed publicly by somebody or a group of people with enough pent-up anger and hate to fill the Magnolia State, but the program—which already is under investigation by the NCAA—was accused of cheating on one of the biggest stages in American sports.

"Like we do whenever an allegation is brought to our attention or a potential violation is self-discovered, we will aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC," Ole Miss said in a statement according to Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Confused? Tunsil sure is.

If you watch the video in full, you'll see that he's all over the place when the questions on whether he took money from coaches were asked. 

The night was so bad that Nkemdiche—whose character has been called into question after being arrested in December 2015 for marijuana possession and fell out of an Atlanta hotel room window—was forced to defend his former teammate on his biggest night.

The current investigation into Ole Miss includes violations involving the former staff under head coach Houston Nutt and current head coach Hugh Freeze, some of which are likely to include the events that led to Tunsil's seven-game suspension to start the 2015 season, according to ESPN.com.

According to Ole Miss, that suspension was due to Tunsil taking impermissible benefits including the use of three loaner vehicles, a four-month promissory note for a $3,000 down payment on a car, lodging and an airline ticket. It made no mention of any of those benefits being provided by coaches. 

This only adds fuel to the fire to the notion that Ole Miss is dirty, and that fire blazed on what should have been one of the best nights of Freeze's tenure. 

Instead of Freeze selling his program as one that churns out first-round draft picks, makes the dreams of football players come true and allows players to become millionaires playing the sport that they love; Freeze and Ole Miss are on defense under a spotlight that is suddenly brighter than it ever anticipated.

The 2016 NFL draft won't be remembered as the draft that further launched Ole Miss as a college football superpower, it will be remembered as the one in which Ole Miss turned into a dumpster fire.

 

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

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

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Ole Miss to Investigate Alleged Text Messages Between Laremy Tunsil, John Miller

After alleged text messages between offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and Ole Miss assistant athletic director John Miller emerged on Tunsil's Instagram account Thursday, the University of Mississippi is set to launch an investigation.

According to Ben Garrett of Ole Miss Spirit, the school intends to look into the situation to determine the authenticity and meaning of the messages:

While Tunsil's Instagram account has since been deleted, Chelsea Gates of 120 Sports provided screenshots of the alleged correspondence:

Tunsil also admitted he took money from a coach, per Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:

Although Tunsil was once considered a surefire top-five pick, he fell to the Miami Dolphins at No. 13 Thursday after a video on Twitter allegedly showed him smoking marijuana, costing him millions of dollars.

ESPN's Russillo and Kanell provided a screenshot of the video of Tunsil allegedly smoking after the tweet was deleted:

The 21-year-old was suspended seven games last year for allegedly receiving improper benefits, so NFL teams were already aware of the possibility he had accepted money in college.

He is also being sued by his stepfather for allegedly attacking him in a June 2015 incident, per Daniel Paulling of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Tunsil comes with a great deal of baggage, but his talent is undeniable, and the ability to be a perennial All-Pro is present.

After slipping to No. 13, Tunsil's psyche could potentially be damaged, but if he uses it as motivation and enters the league with the idea that he has something to prove, it could help him reach his immense promise.

The Dolphins may very well have gotten the steal of the draft, but provided his off-field issues continue at the NFL level, then Miami will soon learn why 12 teams decided to pass.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Tennessee Football: 8 Sleepers Who Will Play Key Roles for the Vols in 2016

The top end of the Tennessee Volunteers' talent totem pole is awfully impressive, but few teams ever won anything significant because of a few elite players.

You need a good bit of star power, sure. But role players must emerge for coaches to build championship contenders. UT coach Butch Jones knows this, and this past spring was a great opportunity to find out where some of that depth would come from with more than 20 Volunteers injured.

While some guys such as senior defensive tackle Danny O'Brien and junior receiver Josh Smith could go from fringe players to major contributors, they really don't count as "sleepers." 

To fit that category, a player has to come from virtually nowhere, either in regard to a lack of playing time in the past or as a player who could break out with an extended opportunity.

The way Jones has recruited, there are plenty of options for the Vols. Even one holdover from the Derek Dooley era could blossom.

Last year, the Vols enjoyed surprising seasons from walk-on punter Trevor Daniel and junior nickelback Malik Foreman, who both emerged as serious weapons for UT by the end of the season.

This year, two underclassmen—redshirt freshman Quart'e Sapp and JUCO transfer receiver Jeff George—blew up in spring practice and are candidates to make some noise. A few upperclassmen may get in the mix, too.

Let's take a look at eight Vols "sleepers" who could wake up and shake up the depth chart for Tennessee in 2016.

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NFL Priorities, Odd First Round Lead to Disappointing Draft Night for Alabama

It wasn’t the night that the University of Alabama football program expected.

To Crimson Tide fans it almost felt like a kick in the gut.

With three former players among the 25 to accept invitations and attend the NFL draft in Chicago, it was supposed to be a night of celebration as they were all expected to be among the 31 selections in the first round.

Most thought the worst-case scenario would be maybe one of them might not end up having his moment on stage, hugging the commissioner and holding up a jersey with his name on the back above the number “1.”

But not all three.

When the Seattle Seahawks made the final pick of the first round they were among the six players still waiting in the green room, the others being UCLA linebacker Myles Jack (who is recovering from knee surgery), Mississippi State defensive lineman Chris Jones and Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd.

Notable unselected players who weren’t on-hand included Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith (knee), Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence and Alabama running back Derrick Henry, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

That’s a pretty talented group of unpicked players.

Granted, it was an unusual, albeit fascinating first round, hijacked by the person who posted eye-popping items on Laremy Tunsil’s personal social media accounts, including him smoking from a bong while wearing a gas mask and asking a school official for money—which he confessed to receiving.

After being hailed as the best player available in the draft Tunsil wasn’t selected until No. 13 by Miami while possibly getting Ole Miss into some serious trouble with the NCAA. If that train wreck wasn’t enough, former Rebels defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche similarly dropped all the way to No. 29 and Arizona.

It wasn’t totally disappointing for Alabama either as Ryan Kelly was the 18th pick by the Indianapolis Colts, who view him as a long-term rock in the heart of prized quarterback Andrew Luck's offensive line.

“He was really our targeted player for months now,” Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said at a press conference in Indianapolis.

Yet Alabama fans have seen slides like this before.

Last year safety Landon Collins fell out of the first round and was immediately snatched up with the first pick in the second round by the New York Giants, three selections before running back T.J. Yeldon was taken by Jacksonville.

In 2012, Alabama’s bid to have five first-round picks didn’t pan out when linebacker Courtney Upshaw slid into the second round. He wound up being the third player selected the next day by the Baltimore Ravens, who had traded out of the first round.

Just before Nick Saban arrived at Alabama, linebacker DeMeco Ryans was the first pick of the second round in 2006. To give an idea of how much things have changed since then the Crimson Tide’s streak of not having a first-round selection, which dated back to 2000, continued until 2009 (offensive tackle Andre Smith, sixth overall to Cincinnati).

Anyone looking for an overriding message against Alabama is searching for a mirage, especially when considering that before Thursday night Saban had seen 17 of his players selected in the first round since 2009, more than double any other Bowl Subdivision program during that time span.

Instead, the important factors to keep in mind are the impressive depth of defensive linemen in this draft, which really worked against Reed and Robinson, and the changing landscape of the NFL.

Moments after the first round ended analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said on-air about the Alabama snubs: “What it tells us is that it’s a pass-first league, and defenses value linebackers that can run and defensive tackles who can get up the field.”

Plus, there was also the surprising jolt earlier in the day, when Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that Ragland had been diagnosed with an enlarged aorta, although it’s not expected to impact his career. 

While the seriousness of the report shouldn’t be questioned—nor Rapoport, a top-notch reporter who used to cover Alabama for the Birmingham News—the timing smelled about as bad as rotten fish. It made one wonder if an agent was trying to get a little extra money for his client or a team leaked it in hopes that Ragland might fall to it in the draft.

"I'm good,” was Ragland’s simple response to Michael Casagrande of AL.com.

Only he did drop and kept his former teammates company as the other tables in the green room cleared one by one. It couldn’t have been pleasant to experience, and the one player cameras caught Saban congratulating was someone he recruited and didn't land, Tunsil. 

If the projected rookie salary figures by Spotrac.com are accurate their falling out of the first round will make a big difference financially.

Kelly’s four-year contract could land him roughly $10 million (last year cornerback Marcus Peters signed for $9.58 million including a $5.23 million bonus), and the last pick of the first round is expected to net a deal worth more than $8 million.

The top selection of the second round will probably get a contract for $6.6 million.

At least the decline from there is much less gradual and no one expects any of the three to be around long when the second round starts Friday evening. Henry should also hear his name called, as might his backfield colleague Kenyan Drake and cornerback Cyrus Jones, while a bunch of other players will be paying attention Saturday for Rounds 4-7.

When the draft is all said and done, Alabama will be among the teams with the most players selected and the Southeastern Conference will top all leagues after having the most first-round picks with eight.

Having five players picked in the top 50, or however it works out, will still be impressive and none of those who felt snubbed will ever have to worry about motivation again, as Ragland noted with the right kind of tweet at the end of the night.

Besides, it could have been worse. Just ask Ole Miss.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Meet the Replacement for Every First-Round NFL Draft Pick of 2016

Thursday night was the culmination of years of hard work for college football's top players, who now are headed into the NFL as first-round draft picks. Each leaves behind a great legacy at their former school, not to mention a big void that somehow has to be filled.

It's the cyclical nature of college football, where the best of the best are only around for a few years and teams have to be prepared for their eventual departure. In most cases there's been time to plan for this, since the majority of Thursday's draft selections were players who have been pegged as top picks for quite some time.

Still, that doesn't make the process of having to replace a first-round pick any easier. Here's who stands to inherit their starting jobs—not to mention some lofty expectations—for the 2016 college football season.

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Ohio State Football: Meet the Replacements for the Buckeyes' 5 First-Rounders

Ohio State had five of its former players selected in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night, when defensive end Joey Bosa, running back Ezekiel Elliott, cornerback Eli Apple, left tackle Taylor Decker and linebacker Darron Lee were all off the board within the first 20 selections.

That mass exodus of talent—Decker was the only graduated senior of the group above—has left an enormous void in the Buckeyes' 2016 roster.

Head coach Urban Meyer has already begun the process of reloading for another title run this fall, though. That process started immediately after Ohio State dispatched Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and the underclassmen declared for the draft.

Winter conditioning gave a number of Buckeyes the opportunity to shine, and spring camp is where these five players, in particular, showcased they were ready to step into the spotlight. 

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Lift of Satellite-Camp Ban Proof That Jim Harbaugh Is the Hammer to SEC's Nail

It turns out that Jim Harbaugh isn't just an annoyance after all. He is the perfect coach to fight off a cutthroat, backstabbing era. The power vortex of college football—SEC coaches—thought they were much too big for him. Ha!

When he started holding football camps in their corner of the country and taking a few recruits to Michigan when they had been slated by god-given right for the South, well, it was time to swat Harbaugh away. On Thursday, the SEC found something out:

In this case, they are the mosquitoes and Harbaugh is doing the swatting.

This is really becoming something to admire. It has been just one year since Harbaugh took over at Michigan, and he immediately went right after the SEC. He put his camps on their turf and set up in their backyard. He ripped into them fearlessly on Twitter.

He outsmarted them. And if you're living on tradition and establishment, look out: Harbaugh has a way of cutting right through it all. Let's put this simply—he just kicked the SEC's butt.

Here's what happened: The SEC and ACC were so freaked out by Harbaugh's little tour of football camps, known as satellite camps, off his own campus and in the South that they muscled up and had the NCAA ban the whole practice. That was way back in, well, early this month.

The ban kept teams from having camps off campus and also prevented coaches in general from working at other coaches' camps. The problem was that when those camps had coaches from all over, high school kids would be able to go to one camp and showcase their talents to coaches from all over. Kids would be discovered and get scholarships.

In their panic over Harbaugh, the SEC's coaches accidentally were crushing the hopes of good high school players without a ton of attention or family funds to take them all over the country to multiple camps just so multiple coaches could see them. So, the NCAA lifted the ban Thursday.

Harbaugh outsmarted the establishment. Again. He did it when he was Stanford's coach, too, embarrassing USC's Pete Carroll, who had built his team into the sport's rock stars.

Actually, Harbaugh doesn't get 100 percent of the credit. He was helped by the one force that rivals him...

Football moms. That included Rozlyn Peoples of Detroit, who started a petition to complain about the ban even though her son, Donovan, is a 5-star recruit and didn't really need the camps. She wanted to help others. Her petition has over 14,000 signatures online.

"LOL," Kenthia Morton, one of those moms from Detroit, texted me after hearing that the ban had been lifted. "Us sports moms are something else to deal with.''

And now her son, Jaeveyon Morton, who we wrote about here, is going to be able to go to college.

"There is a God!'' Kenthia texted, with both an exclamation mark and a smiley face.

She wasn't talking about Harbaugh.

I think.

Now, Harbaugh wasn't the first one to run a satellite camp. Penn State did it. Notre Dame did it. But Harbaugh made a whole summer tour of them, and it was his lack of respect for the religion of southeastern football that got to people.

"It seems to be outrage by the SEC and ACC," Harbaugh told Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg after the ban was put in place. "They power-brokered that out...the image that comes to my mind is guys in a back room smoking cigars, doing what they perceive is best for them."

Harbaugh also ripped into Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, suggesting he was just too lazy to run his own satellite camps. On ESPN's Mike & Mike show, he also ridiculed SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey for "fake outrage" in saying that Harbaugh's own team practices over spring break in Florida threatened spring break. He ripped Georgia coach Kirby Smart for suggesting that Michigan's practices threatened to break rules.

And when Tennessee coach Butch Jones joked that he was going to stop in during lunch and watch Harbaugh's practices, Harbaugh fired back on Twitter: "Suggestion to my Rocky Top colleague, rather than lunch in Florida you might spend your time and focus attending to your present team."

Harbaugh uses Twitter as a weapon while making the SEC look like power brokers in black and white in smoke-filled back rooms.

He brings in Tom Brady and makes a production at his signing days. He turned around Stanford in about 15 minutes and then took down USC. He turned around the San Francisco 49ers, one of the worst-run franchises in sports, just as fast.

And now he's heading straight for the heart of college football.

When the NCAA dropped its own ban, that helped a lot of kids who need it most. That's the big thing here.

And the SEC is still winning national championships on the field, but this was an incredible knockout against the establishment. Backstabbing Harbaugh just isn't going to work.

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him at@gregcouch.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: 5 Things We Learned About the Fighting Irish This Spring

Definitive takeaways are rare in spring practice, but Notre Dame Fighting Irish football provided a few significant insights during the recent offseason workouts.

The Fighting Irish completed the first phase of a nationally relevant quarterback competition. Although no winner emerged, the position did manage some separation.

Spring hype doesn't always translate to fall success, yet a couple of breakout players emerged on both sides of the football, while injuries robbed practice reps from several expected contributors.

Not all developments were positive, but Notre Dame's overall 2016 outlook is promising.

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Why the Overturn of the Satellite Camp Ban Is Great for the SEC

In the end, sanity prevailed.

Instead of instating the outright ban on satellite camps that was approved by the NCAA's Division I Council earlier this month—which would have prevented college coaches from guest-coaching at the other schools' camps—the NCAA's Division I board of directors directed the council to conduct a broad assessment of the FBS recruiting environment.

Board of directors chair and University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides commented on the news in a release from the NCAA:

The Board of Directors is interested in a holistic review of the football recruiting environment, and camps are a piece of that puzzle. We share the Council’s interest in improving the camp environment, and we support the Council’s efforts to create a model that emphasizes the scholastic environment as an appropriate place for recruiting future student-athletes.

That means that not only can Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and every other FBS head coach who planned guest-coaching trips scheduled in fertile Southern recruiting grounds keep those plans intact, but the SEC's head coaches will be free to do the same.

Bleacher Report confirmed what was initially reported in March, that without a national ban in place, the conference's ban that prevents its coaches from participating in camps outside of their own state borders and a 50-mile radius from campus will be lifted on May 29.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey issued a statement on the national ban being rescinded in an emailed statement from the conference.

"While we are disappointed with the NCAA governance process result, we respect the board of directors’ decision and are confident SEC football programs will continue to be highly effective in their recruiting efforts," he said.

The summer of SEC satellite camps is around the corner, and that's a good thing.

While the 14 head coaches and athletic directors presented a unified front in order to defend their home turf, the truth is that many SEC programs—if not all of them—will benefit from the ability to guest-coach at satellite camps.

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema—a coach whose program relies heavily on recruiting in other states, including Texas and Florida—told the SEC Network's Paul Finebaum earlier this month that he had tentative plans to head north.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said that, while he'd prefer kids to come to his campus in Athens, he had a plan to go on the road as well, according to Jason Butt of Macon.com.

"Ultimately, every SEC school wants these kids on their campus," Smart said. "I don’t want to have to go to them. But if it gives somebody a competitive advantage to go to them then we may want to do the same thing. We’ve looked into it as a staff. We have a plan ready to kick in if it happens. We’ll be prepared for it."

Different schools will undoubtedly have different plans.

The schools that depend on Texas—Missouri and Arkansas being two of the bigger ones—would likely love to make the trip to the Lone Star State. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has made a point of recruiting heavily in Ohio and could make an even bigger mark in a state that the Big Ten typically dominates.

For the bigger programs such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M, it's a chance to go national.

The Crimson Tide plucked 5-star quarterback Blake Barnett from Corona, California, two recruiting cycles ago. Now, instead of Barnett using his own existing relationships to chat with high schoolers out West, head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin can do it themselves.

The ability to guest-coach outside of a coach's own state borders will add fuel to the fire of white-hot rivalries, as well.

Now Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn can head to Smart's back yard in metro Atlanta and guest-coach in a lush recruiting ground that Georgia depends on. That will add a little more fun to the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry. Will Saban be mad if Butch Jones and the Tennessee staff head to Hoover High School outside of Birmingham to conduct a camp? You bet.

The lifting of the ban is great for the SEC because now its coaches are playing by the same rules as other coaches from around the country, and it will spice up existing rivalries within the conference.

Get your popcorn ready. Things are about to get fun around the South during the dog days of summer.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Every Top 25 College Football Team's Spring Practice MVP

Spring practice stars can be fool's gold in college football. Every year, countless reserve players rise up in public scrimmages and put on MVP-caliber performances—only to be never heard from again when the competitive action starts in the fall.

But there's plenty of real nuggets of improvement still to be found in spring practices, from the young starter looking to take the next step to the rising star looking to take control of a starting job or a specific role on the first team. 

There's always room for improvement, and these players proved that with their progress over the last few weeks of spring practices.

Here are the picks for spring practice MVPs from each team in this year's preseason composite Top 25, which was recently updated with Bleacher Report's freshest rankings and Sporting News' countdown of their programs heading into the 2016 season. 

Whether these spring stars will carry over that success into fall camp and the regular season remains to be seen. But these 25 players are well on their way to strong 2016 campaigns because of their performances in practices and scrimmages.

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2016 College Football Coaches and Players as Superheroes

Us sports fans love to get carried away with our allegiances, and we essentially think of college football players and coaches as men who are changing the universe.

In honor of national superhero day (April 28), we've assembled a list comparing superstars from the field to some memorable comic-book heroes. Physical and mental traits were primary factors in determining the matches.

You won't see these guys saving the word as their respective character does in movies, but Saturdays in the fall will showcase their sport-altering abilities.

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SEC Extra Points: NFL Draft Will Again Prove SEC's Power

The dreams of many will come true this weekend, when football players from around the country will receive phone calls from professional football organizations and offers to play the sport they love for a living.

Many of them have been starring in the SEC for years.

The first round of the NFL draft will be littered with former stars from the nation's deepest football conference, including former Ole Miss stars Laquon Treadwell, Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil; Alabama's Ryan Kelly and Reggie Ragland; Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III; and Georgia's Leonard Floyd—all of whom are listed in Bleacher Report senior NFL draft writer Matt Miller's first-round mock draft. 

What's more interesting—and more telling of the SEC's power—is the number of stars who likely won't hear their names called on Thursday night.

All former Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry did during his junior year in 2015 was set the conference's single-season rushing record with 2,219 yards and become the third running back since 2000 to win the Heisman Trophy. Yeah, he is a one-direction running back who doesn't really create behind the line.

Guess what? He doesn't have to. At 6'3" and 242 pounds with speed, Henry will be a problem at the NFL level just as he was in college.

He isn't the only former star who will have to wait.

Former Florida defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard and safety Keanu Neal are battle-tested, bona fide studs who, while not "first-round material" have the talent to make Pro Bowls—yes, plural. Former LSU standout Jalen Mills played cornerback and safety during his college career, and that versatility will come in handy wherever he lands. Former Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry is a matchup nightmare who has the size and hands to be one of the next great tight ends at the NFL level.

These are just a few of the stars who will hear their names called over the weekend. As John Hayes, producer of the Paul Finebaum Show on SEC Network noted on Twitter, there are former SEC standouts at or near the top of virtually every position.

Prepare for that "S-E-C" chant, because you're going to hear it all weekend.

 

Bret Being Bret

When Bret Bielema was hired by Arkansas, he immediately made waves on the "rubber chicken circuit" while speaking to booster clubs.

"The reason the SEC is talked about all the time is one team, because of their dominance," he said in April of 2013. "But I didn't come here to play Alabama. I came here to beat Alabama. You can take [Nick] Saban's record when he was at Michigan State and when he was a coach in the Big Ten and put it against mine, and he can't compare."

That caused a mini-uproar to the point where he took to Twitter to quell the firestorm.

Compare that to what he said on Tuesday night, according to Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

"I know this: Before we win an SEC title, we've got to beat [Alabama]," he said. "It's on my daily agenda."

How different is the recent quote, really?

Not much. Yes, Bielema has toned it down a bit, but fans of other SEC teams seem to have accepted Bielema for who he is—a quote machine who isn't afraid to tell it like it is and be honest, even if some quotes can be categorized as "shots."

Later in the booster club meeting, Bielema commented on Arkansas' 31-14 win over LSU in November.

"To be at LSU's stadium in the third quarter and see it mostly empty was a hell of a lot of fun," he said.

Four years ago, that would have been front-page news. Today, that's just Bielema "being honest."

In a conference that lost the always fun Steve Spurrier last October, Bielema is in line to take his place. Quotes like this will do the trick.

 

On The Mend

Lost in the jokes pertaining to Auburn's defense last year was that then-freshman defensive back Carlton Davis became a star.

The 6'1", 190-pounder from Miami earned SEC All-Freshman accolades when he picked off three passes, broke up eight and notched 56 tackles for a defense that needed a lockdown corner to step up.

Davis missed the spring game with a finger injury that, according to defensive coordinator Kevin Steele (via Brandon Marcello of SEC Country), won't require surgery. 

"His skill set is high-level, and he improved daily," Steele said according to Marcello. "He probably, if it had been a game, could have played, but it was not something…[there was] no sense on doing surgery on a finger just because of a spring game."

That's important news, because Davis is being counted on to be one of the leaders of a defensive backfield that also includes veteran safeties "Rudy" Ford and Tray Matthews. On top of them, the Tigers defensive backfield also includes seniors Josh Holsey and T.J. Davis—both of whom have played plenty of football over the years. 

Don't sleep on this Tiger defense. 

The front is loaded with stars including Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams, and the back end is littered with talented veterans. That's a recipe for success for new coordinator Kevin Steele.

 

Next-Level Trash Talk

We touched on the ongoing back-and-forth between Florida and Tennessee players last week in Extra Points, which has included Twitter jabs between stars such as Gator defensive back Jalen Tabor and Vol running back Jalen Hurd.

Junior college transfer defensive end Jonathan Kongbo is the latest to jump in.

Kongbo, who has not arrived on Tennessee's campus yet, fired back at Tabor in an interview with Stephen Kasper of RockyTopInsider.com.

"Well I mean, I just kind of laughed at it because I know we’re going to beat Florida," Kongbo said. "I know we’re going to beat Alabama. We’re going to beat all those teams. So I’ll say right now, we’re going to beat every team we play next year."

Well hello, Mr. Kongbo.

While Tabor, Hurd and many of the other players who have taken to Twitter to talk a little trash know what it's like to be in the SEC and how close the Florida-Tennessee rivalry has been over the last couple of years, Kongbo—who hails from Arizona Western College—doesn't.

The shot at Florida and Alabama will get fans fired up, for sure. But this is the kind of quote that will be featured prominently during game weeks in Gainesville and Tuscaloosa. The other stuff? That's nothing compared to this.

 

Saying Goodbye

Former Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott will likely be drafted this weekend, fulfilling his dream of a shot at the NFL as a quarterback.

Before that, though, the Mississippi State community said goodbye to the greatest Bulldog football player in program history.

According to the school, Prescott owns a whopping 38 school records including career records in total offense (11,897 yards), total touchdowns (114), quarterback rushing yards (2,521) and completion percentage (62.8 percent).

He doesn't fit the mold of an NFL quarterback, but if there's anybody capable of changing that mold, it's Prescott. 

After all, he has already changed the perception of Mississippi State football.

 

Quick Outs

  • Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffinhas discovered bitmoji, which makes this the greatest week in Internet history. 
  • Tunsil's stepfather, Lindsey Miller, has filed suit against the former Rebel tackle for the incident last June that led to domestic violence charges for both parties, according to Daniel Paulling of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. 
  • Here's Georgia cornerback commit William Poole III dropping the mic on fellow Class of 2017 players who are upset about their recruiting ranking.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Historic Draft Class Makes Ohio State College Football's Offseason Champion

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer squirmed, the mere mention of all of Ohio State's outgoing talent giving him an apparent rush of anxiety.

So when the Buckeyes head coach went ahead and answered a question about how his team's plentiful presence at Thursday's NFL draft would benefit his program, perhaps it shouldn't have come as a surprise that his mind immediately shifted to his own task at hand.

"How valuable for us?" Meyer asked, repeating the question. "There's no value for us. They're all gone."

Not even on the recruiting trail?

"Oh," Meyer said, quickly and more comfortably.

"Absolutely, we use that for recruiting."

In fact, Ohio State already has been.

It'd be hard to imagine the Buckeyes enjoying a better offseason than they did in 2015, now one year removed from their White House visit following their College Football Playoff championship victory at the end of the 2014 season.

While in Washington, President Obama name-dropped the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller—Ohio State stars from the past still set to return for the future.

And yet, despite the Buckeyes falling short of expectations after becoming the first unanimous preseason No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 and losing 16 starters—including nine underclassmen—to the NFL, Meyer finds himself with as much momentum as ever on the recruiting trail.

In the Buckeyes' sudden presence in the pros, Ohio State didn't just find a replacement for last year's national title sales pitch, but perhaps an upgrade—or, at the very least, the ability to now sell both.

"To see that whole group, they're all over the place," Meyer said, referencing the number of recent ex-Buckeyes who returned to Columbus for Ohio State's spring game earlier this month. "There's nothing better."

Recruiting based on his ability to put players in the pros is nothing new for Meyer. Ever since quarterback Alex Smith was drafted first overall out of Utah in 2005, the three-time national champion head coach has had a ready-made pitch for prospects, one that was only strengthened in six years at Florida thanks to the likes of Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow, Joe Haden, Brandon Spikes, Carlos Dunlap, Reggie Nelson and Maurkice and Mike Pouncey.

But even though the Buckeyes have had a steady presence at the draft since Meyer arrived in Columbus in 2011—Johnathan Hankins, Ryan Shazier, Bradley Roby, Jack Mewhort, Carlos Hyde, Devin Smith and Jeff Heuerman have each been picked in the top three rounds in the past three years—Meyer's yet to experience anything like what he's about to witness in Chicago this weekend.

In fact, given the historic nature of Ohio State's upcoming draft class, the same could be said for the rest of college football.

With the potential to have as many as 16 players picked this weekend—the Buckeyes' nine declared underclassmen plus Taylor Decker, Joshua Perry, Nick Vannett, Adolphus Washington, Miller and a few other less likely seniors—Ohio State could very well match or even surpass its own 2004 record for possessing the most players picked from one school in a single draft.

These won't just be picks filling out the back end of the draft either, as the Buckeyes have a realistic shot at tying or breaking Miami 's 2004 benchmark of having six players selected in the draft's first round.

That's been helpful for OSU assistants like running backs coach Tony Alford, who's been able to sell having coached and helped develop Elliott. The response from recruits, as one might predict, has been strong, thanks in large part to Elliott's status as the draft's top running back and a near-surefire first-round pick.

"Guys know who he is. We don't have to toot that horn," Alford said. "When you can say, 'Here's testimony of what we're doing. It's not theory. This is how we develop our guys.' Listen, none of those 16 [potential draftees] came in NFL-ready. They were developed by [strength coach Mickey Marotti] and his staff and Coach Meyer and his staff."

Pick a position on the OSU roster and there's an NFL-centric recruiting pitch to be found.

Meyer will soon be able to add Cardale Jones to the list of pro QBs he's coach, which already includes Smith, Tebow and Cam Newton. Left tackle Taylor Decker will be Ed Warinner's fourth offensive lineman selected in the last four years. Eli Apple could join Roby as first-round cornerbacks to have been coached by Kerry Coombs, and the Buckeyes will likely see two linebackers and two safeties taken in this draft alone.

And then there's the case of wide receivers coach Zach Smith, who's already produced two starting NFL wideouts in Corey Brown and Devin Smith at Ohio State, in addition to New England Patriots pass-catcher Aaron Dobson during his previous stint at Marshall. This year, the Buckeyes assistant will likely double his NFL player resume, with Miller, Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall each prepared to begin their pro careers.

"That's been a major selling point about this program," said Smith, who also doubles as Ohio State's recruiting coordinator. "That's the standard at receiver: You're going to go start in the NFL. If you aren't going to go start in the NFL, you're not going to start here, so that's really the baseline."

So what sells better: That standard or a national title?

"I don't know that either sells better," said Smith. "They all want both."

Only very few can pitch both.

It's not a coincidence that it's usually Meyer and Alabama's Nick Saban who can be found atop the recruiting rankings each February, given the two coaches' track records on the field and penchants for putting players in the pros off of it. Riding the momentum of last year's national title, Meyer inked the nation's fourth-ranked class for the 2016 cycle and currently lays claim to 2017's top-ranked class.

A big part of the OSU staff's pitch to its upcoming class of prospects has been its current class of soon-to-be pros—something the Buckeyes have been able to sell since the 2015 season came to an end. At each stop on the predraft circuit, Ohio State has been front-and-center, keeping the Buckeyes fresh in the mind of recruits everywhere.

"We've had three of the most incredible moments for recruiting here in the last couple of months," said Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. "From pro day to the actual [NFL Scouting] Combine to 100,000 [fans] at a spring game to possibly 16 guys being drafted in the NFL here.

"It's a testament to the program, but it's also great to get out to recruits to show them this is something special that's going on."

To maximize the program's exposure this weekend, Meyer will also head to the Windy City, where he'll serve as a television analyst for the NFL Network on Friday night. With him will be an OSU recruiting assistant, documenting the latest Buckeyes-turned-pros for all of social media—including Ohio State targets—to see.

"We're pretty creative around here," Meyer said with a smile.

As for the Ohio State assistant coaches, most turned down invites from their former players to attend the draft and take part in their special moments. Instead, they'll be on the recruiting trail, searching for the next crop of Buckeyes Meyer will soon enough have to start worrying about replacing.

And at this point, it's no secret what their recruiting pitch will be.

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kennedy Tulimasealii, Hawaii DL, Arrested for 2nd Time in 2 Weeks

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors defensive lineman Kennedy Tulimasealii—who was already suspended from the team for a prior incident—was reportedly arrested on Monday night.

According to Manolo Morales of KHON2-TV in Honolulu, Tulimasealii was arrested and charged with criminal property damage on Monday. Morales also noted Tulimasealii “was arrested two weeks ago following an altercation with his ex-girlfriend.”

Tulimasealii was suspended from the team because of that first arrest.

The criminal property incident actually occurred in March before his original arrest, but he turned himself in on Monday, per Morales. Tulimasealii posted bail of $20,000 and has a court date set for Thursday.

Morales detailed the incident that led to the property damage charge. Tulimasealii and his ex-girlfriend were in a car when he allegedly punched the dashboard and also damaged the navigation system and radio during an argument. Morales cited police records that said the damage equaled more than $1,500.

Zach Barnett of NBC Sports' College Football Talk also described the initial arrest that led to Tulimasealii’s suspension. The defensive lineman was arrested on two counts of domestic abuse and contempt, resisting arrest and harassment. Barnett said officers had to use pepper spray because Tulimasealii was fighting with them.

As for the latest arrest, Morales said the University of Hawaii will let Tulimasealii go through the legal system before it makes any final decisions on his status with the team. The spokesman Morales cited said Tulimasealii is “technically off the team” for now because he is suspended.

On the field, Tulimasealii turned in an impressive 2015 campaign for the Rainbow Warriors and led the team with 18.5 tackles for loss. He also racked up 3.5 sacks.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

A Round-by-Round Look at Alabama's Best NFL Draft Picks of All Time

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Did you know that the first draft pick to ever play in the National Football League was from the University of Alabama?

Riley Smith was a fullback on the 1933 team but switched to quarterback the following season when head coach Frank Thomas’ team went 10-0 and handily defeated Stanford in the Rose Bowl, 29-13, to claim the national championship.

He was listed as being 6’1”, 195 pounds, and to give an idea of his versatility not only did Smith handle the Crimson Tide’s kicking duties, he won the Jacobs Award as the Southeastern Conference’s best blocker.

When the NFL held its first draft at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia on February 8, 1936, Jay Berwanger, the first Heisman Trophy winner, was the first-overall pick by the hometown Eagles. But Berwanger demanded to be paid $1,000 a game, an unheard of sum then, and didn’t sign with either the Eagles, who selected him, or the Chicago Bears after they traded for his rights. He never played in the NFL.

Riley was selected second by the Boston Redskins.

Because most players could make more money doing other jobs, only 24 of the 81 players selected in that initial draft were on NFL rosters that season. Four more signed the following year and three opted for the American Football League.

Because the substitution rules were different, and players had to play both offense and defense, rosters were limited to a 25-player maximum. Consequently, almost a third of the players were rookies, most of whom signed as free agents.

Smith himself had a short career in the NFL before being sidelined by an injury, and in his first year helped turn the Redskins from the second-to-last team in the league to Eastern Division champions in 1936. With the sixth overall selection in the 1937 draft, the Redskins selected TCU quarterback Sammy Baugh.

Incidentally, Alabama had another high pick in that initial draft, Paul “Bear” Bryant by the Brooklyn Dodgers in the fourth round.

With a little help from the databases at NFL.com and drafthistory.com, here's a round-by-round look at Alabama’s best draft picks of all time.

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Early Predictions for Final Top 10 College Football Recruiting Classes of 2017

Each college football recruiting cycle is a long and winding journey that supplies plenty of surprises along the way. While coaching staffs are now just weeks away from welcoming entire 2016 classes to campuses across America, major strides have already been made toward next national signing day.

An expansive collection of impressive high school juniors declared collegiate intentions early, helping solidify strong 2017 foundations for several marquee programs well in advance of that decisive day in February. Meanwhile, many elite athletes remain undecided and may stretch their respective recruitments deep into winter.

Based on what we've witnessed so far in this latest recruiting cycle and how things appear to be developing as spring seeps into summer, here's how we anticipate top teams faring on signing day in 2017. This early outlook features several familiar head coaches excelling yet again in talent acquisition.

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5 Takeaways from ESPN's Updated 2017 Recruiting Rankings

ESPN on Wednesday released its revised ESPN 300 rankings, and two offensive linemen have taken over the top two spots for the 2017 class.

Less than 10 months away from national signing day, ESPN has 123 of its top 300 players verbally committed. And for the first time this year, fans are seeing a new name as the top-ranked player in the nation.

Here are five takeaways from the updated rankings:

 

OTs shine in rankings, including at No. 1 spot

Running back Najee Harris. Linebacker Dylan Moses. Defensive tackle Marvin Wilson. These are three names—and composite 5-star athletes—whom the majority of the recruiting world has grown used to holding top spots in various national recruiting services. ESPN made noise by declaring Jackson, Tennessee, offensive tackle Trey Smith as its top-ranked player in the 2017 class.

Smith, per 247Sports' composite rankings, is a 4-star player who is ranked among the top 65 players. ESPN said Smith is in the mold of former Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil, who is expected to be a top-10 first-round draft pick on in the 2016 NFL draft. At 6'5" and 302 pounds, Smith has great size, plays with a lot of tenacity and is light on his feet in both running and passing situations.

Offensive tackles dominated the top-20 rankings. Smith is No. 1, and Isaiah Wilson is No. 2. Alabama commit Alex Leatherwood is No. 9. Also cracking the top 20 were Austin Deculus (No. 14), Josh Myers (No. 16) and Auburn commit Calvin Ashley (No. 20).

 

Ohio State, Oklahoma, Alabama rolling with commits

Of the top 300 athletes, 25 have already given verbal commitments to one of three schools—Ohio State, Oklahoma and Alabama. Ohio State leads the charge with 10 commits, including top-50 players in Myers, cornerback Shaun Wade and safety Isaiah Pryor.

Alabama has seven commits, and the reigning national champion is expecting to land several more star-caliber athletes between now and national signing day. Harris and Leatherwood spearhead the Crimson Tide's class, but safety Xavier McKinney also is a top-100 player.

For Ohio State and Alabama, the recruiting race appears to be more of the same. Both teams have a solid job in landing targets early. The story, however, may be the rapid start for Oklahoma, a team that has, in recent years, started slow but ended strong with recruiting.

The Sooners have eight commitments in the ESPN 300. Wide receiver Jalen Reagor is the top-ranked Sooner at No. 75, but guard Tyrese Robinson (No. 90) and cornerback Justin Broiles (No. 119) also are expected to be impact players early.

 

McCaffrey, Narcisse ranked as nation's top QBs

Holding down the top overall quarterback spot is Dylan McCaffrey, a Michigan commit and the younger brother of Stanford's Heisman hopeful Christian McCaffrey. Dylan is ranked No. 19 in the ESPN 300.

McCaffrey also is the nation's top-ranked pocket-passing quarterback. Lowell Narcisse has the top spot among dual-threat quarterbacks. Narcisse, at No. 38, is ranked higher than both Baylor pledge Kellen Mond (No. 48) and Texas A&M pledge Tate Martell (No. 73), the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Clemson commit Hunter Johnson is another top-50 quarterback in the ESPN 300. At No. 50, Johnson is ranked as the No. 2 pocket-passing quarterback.

 

Wide receivers set the tone for new rankings

It's common to see an abundance of defensive linemen on a list of the nation's top-ranked players, no matter which recruiting service puts out the list. On Wednesday, the spotlight belonged to the wide receivers.

Of the 300 players, 44 are ranked as wide receivers by ESPN. Donovan Peoples-Jones is the top-ranked receiver and the No. 12 player overall. Joseph Lewis is right behind him at No. 15. Three more receivers in the top 50 include James Robinson at No. 21, Jerry Jeudy at No. 26 and Tee Higgins at No. 31. Trevon Grimes is right outside the top 50 at No. 51.

While there were 44 receivers in the ESPN 300, 31 offensive tackles made the list. There were also 27 running backs, 26 cornerbacks, 23 athletes, 22 defensive ends and 21 safeties. There were 20 defensive tackles for this class.

 

ESPN high on California QB Lytle 

California's Tyler Lytle is a 3-star quarterback in 247Sports' composite rankings. He's ranked No. 290 in the ESPN 300.

There are high expectations for the Servite High School gunslinger. He has 20 reported offers and has schools like Arizona State, Colorado and Vanderbilt high on his list.

At a shade under 6'5" and 200 pounds, Lytle has prototypical quarterback size and a rocket arm to match. Per ESPN, Lytle plans to announce his verbal commitment before the first week of June.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Teams Best Represented at 2016 NFL Draft

So much goes into college football recruiting, when in reality the process could be so much simpler. Just open the school's media guide, turn to the page that lists all of the NFL draft picks that have played there, say "you could be next" and then wait for the commitment.

It shouldn't be a surprise that the college teams who recruit the best also happen to be the ones that have their names mentioned most often during the NFL draft. While it's not a given that a top high school or junior college prospect will end up getting to the pros, the schools that land those top recruits also tend to be the best at developing players of any talent level into NFL prospects.

This year is no different. When the 2016 NFL draft begins on Thursday, a handful of schools will be far more well-represented than any other. They have the most players listed on Bleacher Report NFL draft expert Matt Miller's big board and figure to make up a large chunk of those selected during the seven rounds.

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