NCAA Football News

Recruiting Buzz: Which Teams Are Leading to Land Newly Reclassified DE?

With national signing day quickly approaching, the top-level recruits are narrowing down their prospects and zeroing in on which schools they will call home.

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson was joined by 247Sports' JC Shurburtt to discuss all the latest in the college football recruiting world.

Where will these big names land? Check out the video and let us know!    

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Texas A&M Football: How QB Kyle Allen Needs to Improve in 2015

The Texas A&M Aggies have a future star at quarterback in Kyle Allen, but the rising sophomore needs to work on a few key areas before he can be considered an elite quarterback.

With the pending transfer of Kenny Hill, Allen is a clear-cut No. 1 quarterback on the roster. He claimed the job nine games into the 2014 season and has done nothing since that time to relinquish it even if Hill remained on the team.

Allen led the Aggies to a 3-2 record as the starter and displayed poise that is rare for such a young player. If he can fix a few trouble areas, then he will challenge Johnny Manziel's school passing record of 4,114 yards in 2015.

This is a look at some areas Allen needs to improve in order to become a complete quarterback in 2015.

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USC Football: Trojans' Top Remaining Recruiting Targets for NSD 2015

USC football's 2015 recruiting class could be the program's most highly rated group since finishing No. 1 overall in 2006. The Trojans are currently ranked fifth in the nation and climbing.

Should head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff land some of their top remaining targets, USC's first top billing in almost a decade is a very real possibility. 

Working with a full allotment of scholarships for the first time in three years has certainly bolstered USC's recruiting efforts, and Sarkisian will take full advantage in the upcoming final push.

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Oregon Football: Ducks Fall to Ohio State; Mariota Declares for NFL Draft

The Oregon Ducks lost in the first ever College Football Playoff national title game, Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota declared for the NFL draft and fans are rightfully alarmed.

Things are rapidly changing for the Ducks, and their response to an unfortunate week will redefine the program.

In the most-watched cable broadcast of all time, Oregon's weaknesses were exposed by Ohio State and Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes knew exactly what to expect from the Ducks, and while Oregon cut the deficit to just one point in the second half, Ohio State soon ran away with the game.

But if you ask senior linebacker Derrick Malone what it meant to lose a national championship, he’ll tell you the team isn't worried.

"You have to be a man when you win," Malone said after the game, per 247Sports. "And you have to be a man when you are defeated." 

According to 247Sports, Malone found numerous younger players and made sure they congratulated Ohio State on its victory. It was perhaps one of the tougher tasks of the night for many players, but one that embodied an Oregon season defined by resilience and brotherhood—specifically after losing so many stars (e.g. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Pharaoh Brown, Devon Allen and Tyler Johnstone) to injury.

With similar emotional intensity, senior Hroniss Grasu reportedly found every player on the Ducks roster and gave him a hug after the game.

"It's been a crazy year, a historic year,” Grasu said, via GoDucks.com's Rob Moseley. “We're Pac-12 champs, Rose Bowl champs; we just fell one short.”

The one where Oregon fell short this season, however, kept the team from making history—Oregon remains without its first national title. And on Tuesday morning, I found the University of Oregon campus deserted.

Indeed, it seemed there was a shadow cast over the city of Eugene, a much darker place than the day prior.

Meanwhile, Yahoo Sports reported nearly 90 fires in Columbus, and a group of Buckeyes fans even tore town a goalpost at Ohio Stadium. The local police chief is now investigating the use of pepper spray to settle the crowds, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

When I walked to campus in Eugene the morning after the game, it felt more like I was marching toward a funeral than to work at the radio station. I was wearing all black, including a Nike replica of the black (and pink) jersey Oregon wore against Arizona in October 2014, the only other loss of the season.

It was a crushing defeat in the national championship, and we all knew it.

“We didn't play like ourselves,” junior defensive lineman Arik Armstead said, per the Daily Emerald.

 

Armstead isn't wrong.

The Buckeyes offensive line seemed to absolutely handle the Ducks defense all game long. And with the exception of a stellar performance totaling over 170 yards from Byron Marshall, Oregon seemed unable to get anything started on offense—specifically converting on third down or turning defensive turnovers into offensive scores.

Times were changing for Oregon football, and the loss didn’t help. 

The day after the game, Armstead announced he would forego his senior season and his final year of NCAA eligibility to enter the NFL draft.

Mariota, too, unsurprisingly declared for the NFL draft on Tuesday and is now a projected top-five selection; some B/R writers even project him as the first overall pick

His final play as an Oregon Duck was a meaningless interception, down 42-20, as confetti fell on the field to celebrate a victory that belonged to his opponent.

It wasn’t the pretty, storybook ending Eugene had expected for Mariota's career. But his accomplishments—including a Pac-12 title, a Rose Bowl trophy and a Heisman Trophy from this season alone—will last forever.

 

"The support I received from the University, the city of Eugene and Duck fans has been tremendous,” Mariota said in his official statement. “I will always remember the great times and support I received. Once a Duck always a Duck.”

While it didn’t work out on the main stage, Oregon supporters have been lucky during the last few football seasons. Fans had the privilege to watch some incredible football while also witnessing the evolution of a developing program working to solidify an identity.

“It’s unfortunate and a little bit insulting in a lot of ways that whoever loses this game, the word failure comes up as a description for the season,” UO head coach Mark Helfrich said, per OregonLive.com. “That word never exists in these guys vocabularies.”

As always, of course, there were also undeniable positives to take away from a season like the one the Oregon Ducks just completed. As a writer, these silver linings are important to find, as well.

“I'm thinking about what I've been through these last five years—and especially this year," redshirt senior Keanon Lowe said, via GoDucks.com. “We came up short, but we're not ever going to forget this moment or what our season brought us this year."

Lowe, who was a true freshman and redshirting at the time, was on the team that lost in the national championship when I was a senior in high school. During my senior year of college, Lowe scored a huge touchdown in the national championship game.

Once more, however, the Ducks fell short.

Despite crushing losses in the last few years to USC, Stanford (twice) and Arizona (twice) that spoiled championship hopes along the way, it felt like everything was pointed toward my senior year at the University of Oregon culminating with a national championship. I’m not the only one that felt this way.

The dynasty that fans watched develop over the last few years will not look the same next season, and the future of the Oregon Ducks football program is uncertain. But the ride this team has taken, both for themselves and their fans, has been beyond remarkable.

"I love you guys. I love this team,” Helfrich said after the game, according to GoDucks.com. “There's not one man in this room who should feel anything but good about what you guys were able to accomplish.”

Bryan Kalbrosky is the media director for the student section at the University of Oregon and is the editor of uopitcrew.com. His work has also been published by The Huffington Post, ESPN Denver, Yahoo! Sports and various other publications.

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Get Ready for the Madness: College Football Recruiting Dead Period Has Ended

Set common sense aside for next few weeks—we've officially reached college football's crazy season. 

The recruiting "dead period" concluded at midnight Wednesday, allowing coaching staffs to enter a full-throttled frenzy while dealing with targeted prospects. Few things are certain during this 21-day stretch toward national signing day, aside from the fact that America's top senior high school players will probably spend more time speaking with grown men then their girlfriends until Feb. 4.

The dead period places restrictions on in-person contact between coaches and recruits. Whether a meeting were to take place on or off campus, it's off limits.

This stretch, which lasted Dec. 15 to Jan. 14, did permit written and electronic communication.

Given the growth of social media and the simple act of texting, you better believe some semblance of contact was made during the past month. However, now the fun really starts.

An obvious result of the dead period lift is resumed official visit schedules. Prospects will spend the next three weekends traveling across the regions with family and friends to get a final detailed look at universities before cementing their future on signing day.

In the case of coveted cornerback Iman Marshall, four trips on the docket during an upcoming 14-day span. Florida State, Michigan and LSU and Oregon will each welcome the Southern California standout to campus. 

Marshall is one of several 5-star recruits (as per 247Sports) who remain undecided entering the final stretch of their multi-year recruitments. Many of them will be racking up sky mileage in coming weeks.

Of course, those are just the uncommitted prospects. Plenty of players who previously pledged elsewhere are still exploring other options. 

The list of possible high-profile flips includes Ohio State quarterback commit Torrance Gibson (visiting Auburn and LSU), Florida State running back commit Johnny Frasier (visiting Alabama and North Carolina State) and Florida State quarterback commit Deondre Francois (visiting Florida).

We'll be focused on these campus stays, but a bulk of notable recruiting action will take place away from school. Coaches are already being deployed to towns across the nation, attempting to entice recruits with last-ditch sales pitches.

Most began their morning at an airport terminal or in a rental car, en route to small communities far from home.

Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes headed to Apopka High School in Florida to spend time with top-rated tackle Martez Ivey, per Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports (subscription required). New Tigers defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will also be in the Sunshine State to see 5-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson, who he formerly pursued at Florida.

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin is headed to South Florida, where he'll meet with Rutgers cornerback commit Jarius Adams, per Todderick Hunt of NJ.com. Notre Dame plans to dispense assistants to Southern California for an in-home visit with 4-star wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, according to Adam Gorney of Rivals.

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley, hired just six weeks ago, showed off the Cornhuskers' recruiting range Thursday by sharing an eye-opening graphic on Twitter:

Aside from hunting down uncommitted recruits, coaches are also tasked with taking time to sit down with committed players and their families. It's an opportunity to iron out any issues and ensure that pledge stays intact through signing day.

Simply put, if Urban Meyer is sitting across from you at the dinner table and discussing the possible design of his third straight national champion ring, it's going to be much more difficult to decommit during the next few weeks than if he had simply sent you a Facebook message.

It's also worth watching how well Jim McElwain and Jim Harbaugh can revitalize ravaged recruiting classes at Florida and Michigan, respectively. Both coaches have immense work to do and will likely look to lure talent away from other programs in the process.

Some folks spout off about a lack of "ethics" when it comes to recruiting currently committed players, but this annually occurs in every corner of the country. Expect a series of high-profile commitment flips to alter the landscape of this cycle before we turn the page to 2016 prospects.

Coaching changes and the inaugural College Football Playoffs have claimed a spotlight throughout the past month, but recruiting madness now takes center stage.

Prepare for three weeks of the unpredictable.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Leaders and Wild Cards for Every Uncommitted 2015 5-Star Recruit

Less than a month away from national signing day, only a handful of the nation’s 5-star prospects remain uncommitted.

In fact, only eight of the 34 prospects who have earned the pinnacle recruiting rating are still undecided at this point. 

A trio of standouts from the state of Florida—offensive tackle Martez Ivey and defensive ends Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson—headline the list of 5-stars whom top programs are still vigorously pursuing. 

Which schools are sitting pretty, and which schools are lurking in hopes of landing the nation’s uncommitted 5-star prospects in the 2015 cycle?

*Players are listed by the overall 247Sports composite rankings from lowest to highest.

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Which Breakout Freshman RB Is Set to Take over College Football?

2014 was a fantastic year for freshman running backs, with many of these first-year players having breakout seasons.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer debate which freshman running back will have the best college career. 

Which first-year runner will have the best collegiate career?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Georgia Football: 5 Goals for Brian Schottenheimer's Offense in 2015

The arrival of longtime NFL offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has piqued the interest not only of Georgia Bulldog fans, but of fans around the country.  

On one hand, the Dawgs return many components of what was a record-setting offense in 2014.  Most notably, freshman sensation Nick Chubb is back, and he'll be running behind four returning starters along the offensive line.

On the other hand, Schottenheimer is a big name who coached with debatable results at the professional level.  His ability to navigate the college game is somewhere between unproven and unknown.

With these factors in mind, what can be expected out of Schottenheimer in his first season?  Here are five goals for Georgia's offense in 2015.

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Alabama Football: Why Is Nick Saban Letting His Defensive Coaches Leave?

The coaching silly season has been eventful in the SEC and profitable for moving companies.

Assistant coaches have made road trips to find new homes all around the SEC, and this week was particularly big for moving companies in Tuscaloosa.

LSU hired inside linebackers coach Kevin Steele to become the new defensive coordinator of the Tigers, a role once occupied by new Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis. Prior to his time at the Capstone, Steele served as the defensive coordinator of Clemson (2009-2012) and Alabama (2007), and was Baylor's head coach from 1999-2002.

Just one day later, outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson left his post in Tuscaloosa to coach the linebackers for head coach Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp at Auburn.

"I'm excited to have Lance Thompson join our staff. Lance is very familiar with Will having worked with him before," Malzahn said in a release. "He's an outstanding coach and an outstanding recruiter who is very familiar with our state and the Southeastern Conference. Lance will be a great addition to our staff."

Is head coach Nick Saban cleaning house?

Not really. 

Steele left for a better job at LSU, and whether Saban did or didn't give him a slight nudge to walk out the door, he still got a better gig as the head man in charge of one of the most talented defenses in the SEC at LSU.

Thompson, on the other hand, might be a different story, as Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com notes:

An excuse? Probably not.

It's common for Saban—and many other coaches—to fire assistants without actually firing them in order to keep their resumes looking good.

It's unlikely, though, that Saban expected Thompson—who was the third-best recruiter in the country in 2013 and was ranked fifth in 2015, per 247Sports, before the jump to Auburn skewed his ranking—to walk out the door and head 160 miles southeast to Auburn one day before the recruiting dead period ended. 

That's where Thompson and Steele's departures will make the biggest impact.

Saban is left looking to replace two on-field assistants quickly during a time where his focus really should be in the living rooms of high school prospects.

There is a quick fix available, though.

Tosh Lupoi served as an "intern" on Saban's staff last year but was a defensive line coach and defensive run game coordinator at Washington before the two mutually parted ways amidst an NCAA investigation into improper benefits. The NCAA later cleared Lupoi, according to Andrew Gribble formerly of AL.com, but he was left without an on-the-field job.

He finished fifth in the 2010 247Sports recruiter rankings when he was the defensive line coach for Cal and, according to Michael Casagrande of AL.com, worked with Thompson during practices this year at Alabama.

If Saban promotes Lupoi from within, would it be an upgrade? That remains to be seen.

It would, however, be a tweak to a defense that needs more of a tweak than a massive overhaul.

The last time we saw Alabama's defense on the field, it gave up 230 yards on the ground to Ezekiel Elliott in the Allstate Sugar Bowl national semifinal in the 42-35 loss to the Buckeyes. Part of the blame for that debacle does fall on the linebackers, who were out of position and missed tackles on the second level, which allowed Elliott and quarterback Cardale Jones to get yards in chunks.

It also forced safeties to creep down into the box to help out against the run, which played at least a small part in the inconsistencies in the pass defense over the last couple of years.

The timing isn't ideal, but the setup of Alabama's staff—particularly the off-the-field staff—limits the impact of losing on-field coaches during critical points of the year.

Alabama will be fine. It always is.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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CFB Recruiting 200: Top 200 Overall Recruits in Class of 2015

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report recruiting analysts Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports Composite Rankings and provided in-depth analysis. As national signing day draws near, Bleacher Report provides a position-by-position breakdown of the best college football recruits. Today, we present the Overall Top 200

 

The Class of 2015 is loaded with impressive talent. It's perhaps strongest on the defensive side of the ball, but there are still a great deal of offensive players who will be major household names. 

Stud high school players from Florida, Texas and California dominate the top overall rankings, but nearly every state is represented in 247Sports Composite Rankings, which compile ratings listed by the major media recruiting services. 

Some of the players in the top overall rankings will go on to make an immediate impact next season, while others will continue to develop and learn before getting their chance to shine. 

This list provides a glimpse of college football's future stars and how they've arrived at this point. Continue on for our review of the rankings, complete with individual scouting reports and insight on each prospect.

Be sure to sound off in the comments below with your thoughts on overall rankings, scores and recruit projections.

 

Note: 247Sports Composite Rankings are scheduled to update on Monday, Jan. 19. We will update this list accordingly once new rankings are released.

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Georgia Football: Why the Bulldogs Will Win the SEC in 2015

The end of the college football season means fans will have to wait eight months before the new season kicks off. Fortunately, news for the upcoming season is always at their fingertips because various media outlets have already made their early predictions for the 2015 season.

Paul Myerberg of USA Today recently came out with his Top 25 for the upcoming season, and he has the Georgia Bulldogs at No. 14. But Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com has the Bulldogs ranked at No. 8, making them the highest-ranked SEC team in his poll.

The Bulldogs finished ninth in the AP poll, which is the first time they have finished in the Top 10 since 2012, when they finished No. 4. The following year, the Bulldogs struggled with injuries and barely finished in the Top 25.

2015 will be an interesting year for the Bulldogs because they will have 13 starters returning and will play a favorable schedule. And if the Bulldogs are able to stay healthy, they will be the odds-on favorite to win the SEC title.

Winning the SEC is not an easy task, as the Bulldogs have not won the title since 2005. But the team coming back this upcoming season could be the best team head coach Mark Richt has fielded in three years.

It all starts and ends with running back Nick Chubb, who took the college football world by storm with his ability to break tackles play after play. Chubb was second in the conference in rushing, and he was the starter for only half the season.

Georgia Bulldogs & NCAA Football Fans, can you say Nick Chubb for Heisman in 2015? This guy looks like a legitimate NFL RB & he's a Freshman

— ADJ Sports (@ADJSports) December 31, 2014

But Chubb is not the only one to watch on offense. His backup, Sony Michel, was able to be a key contributor when he was healthy. Michel has top-notch speed and has the ability to catch passes out of the backfield.

The offensive line was a big reason Chubb and Michel were able to run with success. They will miss David Andrews, but the line will return Greg Pyke, John Theus, Brandon Kublanow and Kolton Houston. The four returning starters made great strides in 2014, and they will have no issues meshing with the new starters.

But the one question on offense is quarterback. Brice Ramsey will likely be the new starter, and he was able to make some plays in the limited time he saw this season. But 2015 will be the first year Ramsey will have to face a full SEC schedule, which is not easy to get through.

The Bulldogs are hoping new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can utilize his NFL experience to get Ramsey more prepared for what he will face in September.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was in the same boat last season as he tried to get the players up to speed in terms of what he wanted on defense. And while the defense had some growing pains in the early stages of the season, it finished with very solid numbers.

The Bulldogs ranked second in the conference in passing defense, fifth in scoring defense and sixth in total defense. The defense will miss Ray Drew, Mike Thornton, Ramik Wilson, Amarlo Herrera and Damian Swann, but Pruitt will have a talented group of players to work with, including Lorenzo Carter, Jordan Jenkins, Dominick Sanders, Quincy Mauger and Aaron Davis.

Pruitt’s defense is about creating turnovers, and the Bulldogs were able to do that in a big way with a plus-16 turnover margin, which ranked fourth in the country. There is no reason they can’t do the same thing in 2015, especially with the players coming back in the secondary.

As it was mentioned earlier, the Bulldogs have a favorable schedule, which was not the case the last couple of seasons. The Bulldogs have only four true road games, and two of those games take place in the first two months of the season. The Bulldogs do have to face Alabama on October 3, but the game will be played in Athens, and the Crimson Tide will be fielding nine new starters on offense.

The Bulldogs will always have the talent to win the SEC, and as long as Richt is under center, they will always be in the hunt to contend for the conference title. They just can’t have too many slip-ups like they did last season; they must remain focused.

The Bulldogs will have their share of struggles in 2015, but with a guy like Chubb running the football, guys like Jenkins and Carter rushing the quarterback and a guy like Ramsey leading the offense, 2015 could be the season the Bulldogs stand tall at the Georgia Dome in December.

 

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Ranking Which 1st-Year College Football Head Coaches Will Succeed Most in 2015

There's already been a slew of coaching changes around the college football ranks as we now gear up for the second season of the new College Football Playoff—who else can't wait? 

From Jim Harbaugh at Michigan to Mike Riley at Nebraska, there are seven new coaching regimes being implemented at Power Five schools and a total of 15 new head coaches already signed up across the FBS. 

But which new head coaches will have the most success in 2015? Let's find out.

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Isaiah Holland Suspended: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The University of Colorado football team has indefinitely suspended freshman Isaiah Holland, who faces four felony charges after being arrested in October on allegations of sexual assault.

Alex Burness of the Daily Camera reported the news, noting that Holland is no longer enrolled at the school.

"We hold our student athletes to very high standards, and they know that when those are not met, there will be consequences," said athletic director Rick George, via Burness.

Holland was arrested early the morning of October 24. According to the campus police report, he allegedly entered a woman's dorm room uninvited and touched her without consent. He's charged with "sexual assault of an at-risk victim, sexual contact with an at-risk victim and two counts of second-degree burglary."

He has a preliminary hearing on Thursday, Jan. 22.

Holland, a 3-star offensive guard recruit from Littleton, Colorado, redshirted in his first season with the team. According to the school's athletics website, he is the son of Darius Holland, who enjoyed a successful career at Colorado and eventually won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers.

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Revenge of the SEC: College Football's Dominant Conference Won't Be Down Long

ATLANTA — I checked with my sources. The SEC is not surrendering to Urban Meyer.     

Y'all think the Mississippis and the Tide and the Dawgs and the Tigers, both of them, look like potted plants right about now, but their answer to the Urbanator is coming the next three weeks.

SEC coaches are going to roll up the long driveway at Buford High School in Buford, Georgia, and confirm commitments of some of that school's nine Division I prospects. SEC coaches are going to roll a few miles down the road to Grayson, where there are five seniors with D-I ability. They are going to swing around I-285 to Stephenson High in Stone Mountain, which has eight players with D-I offers.

Cedar Grove, also in DeKalb County, has Division I players. So does Archer in Gwinnett. Mays in Atlanta has five seniors committed to Division I schools.

These are schools within 25-32 miles of each other. We're not talking about the talent in the rest of the state, or the rest of the South. We're talking the same neighborhood.

Tom Lemming, a national recruiting analyst, said Gwinnett County, Georgia, in the Atlanta area, is the second-best county in the country for D-I talent, behind Broward in South Florida. Lemming had a seminar for Gwinnett rising seniors last fall, and 30 Division I prospects walked through the door.

Of the 75 players on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's thoroughly researched Super 75 for the state of Georgia, more than half are heading to SEC schools. That's one state.

On ESPN's Top 300, 56 of the top 80 prospects were in the SEC footprint. I stopped counting after 80 because, well, you get the point.

Meanwhile, NFL teams will sign more players from the SEC than those conferences in the Midwest, East, West and Southwest. Per NFL.com's Mike Huguenin, the SEC has had the most players drafted for eight straight years, which proves the conference hauls in talent and develops it.

That casket being lowered into the ground, the one supposed to be full of an SEC corpse, is empty.

There is no question Meyer is back as the best coach in college football, but he's won just a single title at Ohio State. Alabama had three in four years. The SEC just finished a run in which it was in eight straight title games with four different teams. Georgia was on the doorstep in 2012.

Alabama is still the NFL's 33rd franchise, not Ohio State.

This bunk about the SEC shriveling up started in New Orleans. I had a reporter from a national outlet tell me Mike Bobo left Georgia to become head coach at Colorado State because UGA would not take care of its assistant coaches with raises. Two days later, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt got a new deal for $1.3 million.

Let's stay there for a moment, on the subject of money. John Chavis, the veteran defensive coordinator, was snatched away from LSU by Texas A&M for $1.7 million. Will Muschamp, the new DC at Auburn, the old coach at Florida, was just lured in by $1.6 million a year.

Does that look like a white flag fluttering in the breeze? No, it looks like a lot of cash fluttering in the breeze.

The Big Ten just won its first national title since Ohio State beat Miami in 2002, with the help of a late, late flag that is still fluttering in the air. And the Buckeyes are supposed to be all things 'Bama?

Meyer is a terrific coach. I get it. The idea he ran from Nick Saban with some made-up ailments in 2010 is a crock.

I watched from the sidelines in New Orleans as Meyer used motion and formations to get Alabama unbalanced and then ran around the end. It was great scheming, helped by the fact that on Ezekiel Elliott's 85-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, All-American safety Landon Collins and 'Bama's best linebacker, Reggie Ragland, were not on the field because of injuries.

It was interesting to see Ohio State's players up close when the Buckeyes were down 21-6 to Alabama. No panic. That's coaching and leadership. I thought all along that the loss to Virginia Tech, which was tied around the neck of the Buckeyes for two months, was overblown. Tech was riddled with injuries and was not the same team at the end of the season that beat Ohio State at the beginning of the season.

Ohio State has most of its offensive line back, as well as its defensive line and Elliott. That is so Alabama-like. The Buckeyes, I've heard, also have a few quarterbacks to choose from.

An esteemed colleague, Matt Hayes of Sporting News, wrote that Meyer is the new king of college football because he is ruthless and relentless.

You want ruthless desire to win? How about Saban? Last week he welcomed a 340-pound early enrollee, defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor, who was kicked out of Georgia after allegedly committing theft and choking a woman. This is after another defensive end, D.J. Pettway, was brought back to 'Bama even after he allegedly had a role in an on-campus robbery.

Nobody is going to out-ruthless the SEC.

Relentless? Alabama had a ferocious defensive line, and it will welcome into the 2015 rotation the best defensive line prospect from 2014, Da'Shawn Hand. He will team with A'Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen and Pettway to give Alabama a defensive line better than Ohio State's. LSU just hired a superb defensive line coach, Ed Orgeron, who also happens to be a terrific recruiter. Ask around.

How is this for relentless? Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and LSU are relentless for stockpiling talent. They will do it again on national signing day in a few weeks. Eight of the top 20 schools on the Rivals board are SEC schools. Recruiting analysts get their information from college assistant coaches. These rankings are not bunk.

There are some things I detest about the SEC. The number of junior-college players. The number of juniors who leave school too early because they are going nowhere academically, and they want the money for their families.

The fraudulent courses these football players take are abominable. The made-up degrees are insulting. The 40-hour work weeks for football players to help a coach keep his multimillion-dollar job are distasteful. The SEC Network making us pay for things we used to get free every Saturday afternoon aggravates me, too. All that should be troubling to the fan of SEC football.

What should not be troubling is the future. Signing day will affirm the SEC's superiority in college football. Ohio State is still in Ohio. The best football players are still in the South.

 

Ray Glier covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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Clemson Football: Tigers' Top Remaining Recruiting Targets

We’re less than a month away from national signing day, but there isn’t a ton of excitement for the Clemson Tigers on the recruiting trail at this point. The Tigers’ class is almost full, and with the exception of a few names, the 2015 cycle is complete.

Clemson owns the nation’s No. 13 recruiting class, according to Scout.com, and a lot of that can be attributed to success in Georgia and Florida. The Tigers hold a verbal commitment from 5-star offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt as well as 4-star Sunshine State wide receivers Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud.

There are plenty of other 4-star-caliber players in this class, and the Tigers have worked to fill the needs of the team moving forward. The offensive and defensive lines were the priority, and the Tigers have done a solid job of meeting those needs.

Hyatt is the prized recruit, but some may be overlooking how important the addition of Jake Fruhmorgen is. The 4-star offensive tackle from Tampa, Florida, ranks No. 15 at his position, and he was sought after by many top-notch programs around the country.

The most recent commitment for Clemson was 4-star defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Wilkins, the No. 7 overall defensive tackle on Scout.com, has the kind of size (6'4", 290 lbs) to come in and make an impact early in his career. Other defensive line prospects currently committed to Clemson include Albert Huggins, Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell, LaSamuel Davis, Sterling Johnson and Gage Cervenka.

With that being said, there isn’t much more room in this class for prospects. Here are a few of the remaining targets left for Clemson in the 2015 class.

 

Mark Fields, CB

Fields decommited from South Carolina on December 16, and from that point on Clemson has emerged as the perceived favorite to land him. He is a 4-star prospect, and with the loss of Garry Peters, signing a cornerback is important to this class.

Juwuan Briscoe, a 3-star from Waldorf, Maryland, decommited from the Tigers in November, so the slot is open to sign another guy. The Tigers already have a lockdown cornerback in Mackensie Alexander, so signing another quality defensive back could mean big things for the Tigers secondary down the road.

Fields will be in Clemson this weekend, with his official visit date listed as January 16 on 247Sports. He will then visit Texas on January 23 and LSU on January 30. The Gamecocks, the team he was committed to before, also still remain as a potential school for him to sign with.

 

Denzel Johnson, WR/DB

The 3-star from A. C. Flora High School in Columbia, South Carolina, will also be in Clemson this weekend for a visit. Johnson averaged 19.7 yards per catch this season, and per Brandon Rink of orangeandwhite.com, former Clemson receiver Airese Currie was his position coach at A.C. Flora.

N.C. State is also in the picture for Johnson, and he has a visit set there for January 30. With a young group at wide receiver, signing Johnson isn’t a priority, but he could also play defensive back for the Tigers.

 

Kareem Orr, DB

The 3-star from Chattanooga, Tennessee, has been in contact with Clemson as of late, so he could also be a prospect to keep an eye on. If the Tigers receive a verbal commitment from Fields, they may be unlikely to also sign Orr, but he is a good option to have if Fields decides to go elsewhere.

Per Phil Kornblut for orangeandwhite.com, Orr said he “might visit there,” referring to Clemson. Kornblut also states that Orr expects an Ohio State offer soon, and that was one of his favorite schools growing up.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of Scout.com and 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Nebraska Football: Huskers DC Mark Banker Has Right Idea for Blackshirts

When Mark Banker became Nebraska's defensive coordinator, he also become the man in charge of the Blackshirts. It's not a task he plans to take lightly, either.

Part of that is getting the tradition back on track.

He said he's heard from former players who want the tradition to return to what it once was, via the Omaha World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht and Rich Kaipust. Banker would like the same.

“I was like, ‘Well, OK, so exactly how was it? What happened to it?’ ” he said.

The history of the Blackshirts dates back to the 1964 season when Bob Devaney was head coach. Hail Varsity's Mike Babcock compiled all of the information known on the tradition for Huskers.com in 2009.

Essentially, the jerseys were an "accident of availability." Intended to distinguish between offense and defense, the black jerseys were purchased at a bargain because they typically didn't sell well.

As one might say, the rest is history.

When Tom Osborne took over, the jerseys were handed out to the top defensive players at the end of preseason practice. That was a departure from what Devaney did, which was to hand out the jerseys before and after each practice.

Osborne's tradition lasted until 2008. That's when Bo Pelini was hired.

"That’s not part of our philosophy," Pelini said, per Huskers.com.

Instead, Pelini felt his team needed to earn the right to wear the black jerseys. This left fans and the media wondering when, and sometimes if, the jerseys would be distributed.

As Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star wrote in 2012, "He makes it clear he wants competition both in preseason camp and during the season."

And for the seven years Pelini was in charge, that's how it was. Banker is ready for that to change.

"If you’re going to carry on a tradition, let’s carry on the tradition and do it the right way, and don’t make a mockery of it," he said, per the Omaha World-Herald.

Is that the right approach? It absolutely is. 

Linebackers coach Trent Bray believes so, too.

"We're going to do all our research to make sure we do it right, because I know that's been an issue around here," Bray said, per Michael Bruntz of Huskers Illustrated. "Alumni have reached out to us and want it done right, so we're going do our research and make sure that when it's done, it's done right."

Bray was clear he didn't want to be disrespectful to any previous staff, but it's obvious what Pelini was doing will not be how Mike Riley's staff does things.

The defensive coaches want to return to the true Blackshirt tradition.

Fans should be excited. Players should be, too.

Earning a black jersey prior to the season establishes a player as a leader. It puts each person wearing one in a position to step up and be a role model.

Plus, it makes the Blackshirt tradition relevant again. Under Pelini, the Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel asked a simple question: "Has the Blackshirt tradition ever been less relevant?"

Requiring the players to work for a black jersey might have made it more meaningful, as Shatel pointed out, but it strayed from the tradition.

That's ultimately what it all comes down to: What is the tradition truly worth?

For Riley and his staff, it's worth enough to get back to it.

That's why athletic director Shawn Eichorst hired Riley. His attitude is a nod to the past Nebraska loves. That's why it makes sense his staff wants the tradition to return to what it once was.

In a time of change, this shift toward something familiar is exactly what Nebraska needs. The Blackshirts will still need to be earned—they'll just be hanging in the lockers at the end of preseason practices.

And that's how it should be.

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The Uncertain Future of Oregon's QB Situation

It is the one question everyone didn’t want to think about but knew was inevitable: Where do the Ducks go now without Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota?

Mariota, unequivocally the best player in Oregon football history, has officially declared himself eligible for the 2015 NFL draft after four years in Eugene. Though the result of Mariota’s final start as a Duck was a disappointment, his contributions to the program are immeasurable.

The redshirt junior from Hawaii is one of the most decorated quarterbacks in college football history. He set numerous Pac-12 records, NCAA records and led the Ducks to their second-ever national championship appearance. Despite the loss to Ohio State, Mariota will be remembered as one of the finest quarterbacks to ever play at the collegiate level.

Now, without Mariota, the Ducks find themselves in a position of uncertainty.

While Oregon’s motto of “next man up” has served it well over the past couple of seasons, the program has been built upon a foundation of stability. The head coaching position has been passed down to the offensive coordinator for the past two decades, and there are a plethora of assistant coaches who’ve been with the program for two or three decades.

The Ducks like to change up their uniforms, they enjoy shunning tradition; however, Oregon is also a program at its best when its leaders are program staples. No player has ever meant more to the Oregon program than Mariota.

Now, the Ducks must move forward without their leader. But whom will they turn to next?

The general assumption is that redshirt sophomore Jeff Lockie, who took a single snap in the title game versus Ohio State, is the favorite to take over for Mariota in the backfield. In a limited role behind Mariota, Lockie was 21 of 28 for 207 yards and a touchdown this season.

The relationship between Mariota and Lockie has been well documented. The duo is extremely close, and the relationship has been good for both parties, especially for Lockie.

“He helps me learn on the field, off the field, how to manage the game,” Lockie said of Mariota, according to The Associated Press (via SFGate.com). “It’s been a pretty awesome experience.”

According to offensive coordinator Scott Frost, Lockie is smart, coachable and has been a perfect backup for Mariota this season.

"He's been perfect for what we've had," Frost said, according to Paul Myerberf of USA Today Sports. "He's a completely reliable, extremely intelligent, very unselfish kid who's been Marcus' biggest fan in a hundred ways that people don't know about. He's been perfect for that role, and I think he's relished it."

While Lockie will be given every opportunity to win the job, the position is very much up for grabs, and the Ducks will likely hold an open competition for the job.

Since Chip Kelly took over as offensive coordinator in 2007, the Ducks have had three major changes at the quarterback position. In 2008, the quarterback job was open after Dennis Dixon graduated. Instead of going with Justin Roper, who had finished the 2007 season after Dixon tore his ACL late in the season, Kelly and then-head coach Mike Bellotti went with a player who was fifth on the QB depth chart coming into camp: Jeremiah Masoli.

Masoli was the unlikely choice, but he managed to lead the Ducks to the Rose Bowl in 2009 and earned first team All-Pac-12 honors along the way.

When Masoli left the program after the 2009 season, Kelly again held an open competition at quarterback. Once again, the favorite didn’t end up getting the job.

Coming into the 2010 season, it was expected that Nate Costa, a senior, would take over for Masoli and easily beat out his competitor: Darron Thomas. Instead, Thomas surprisingly won the job and led the Ducks to a perfect 12-0 regular-season record in his first year as Oregon’s starter. While the Ducks lost in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game to Auburn, Thomas set a championship game record 363 passing yards.

Thomas, who went 24-3 as a starter at Oregon, threw for 63 touchdowns in two seasons and guided the Ducks to their first Rose Bowl victory in 95 years.

When Thomas left the program after his redshirt junior season to attempt a career in the NFL, the job was once again vacant.

This time, the job was expected to be given to Bryan Bennett, a sophomore who had served as Thomas’ backup in 2011. However, a redshirt freshman from Hawaii came in and blew away the competition.

Now, with the job left vacant again, the Ducks will once again use an open competition to flush out the best quarterback candidate.

If Lockie is thought to be the prohibitive favorite, then it would be wise to get well acquainted with the other contenders considering the favorite is 0-3 in quarterback competitions since 2007.

The Ducks currently have three other quarterbacks on the roster who will vie for a chance to be the starter next season: freshman Morgan Mahalak and redshirt freshmen Taylor Alie and Ty Griffin, who transferred to Oregon from Georgia Tech.

Oregon could also go with Travis Waller, a 6’2” 4-star recruit, according to 247Sports, from Anaheim, California, who is expected to enroll at Oregon in the spring.

Of course, it could be someone from outside the program. As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee explains, Ohio State's Braxton Miller could be the perfect fit in Eugene. 

As a graduate, he can transfer now if he can find a home, and simply getting mental reps during spring practice would help not only him but also the younger players who get actual first-team reps.

Mariota stepped in as a redshirt freshman in place of Darron Thomas, and the offense didn't miss a beat. Thomas stepped in as a sophomore for Jeremiah Masoli and led the Ducks to the 2011 BCS National Championship Game following the 2010 season. 

It's a great system that's designed for simplicity, speed and efficiency—all of which would benefit Miller as he recovers from his shoulder injury.

Whoever gets the job will be tasked with filling Mariota’s shoes. It’s an unenviable task that shouldn’t even really be attempted. Oregon’s starting quarterback in 2015 should go out and try to be their own quarterback. There’s no doubt that whoever the man is, whether it be the Lockie, Waller, Mahalak or someone else, will have the full support of the coaching staff and his teammates.

Oregon’s “next man up” motto is one of the program's tenets and has come in handy more than a few times during the 2014 season. Now, facing one of the most important quarterback competitions in school history, the Ducks will once again rely on that motto.

There’s no replacing Mariota. The school should retire the No. 8. However, one player does not define the Oregon program.

The Ducks should be in a position to succeed in 2015 regardless of who is taking the snaps. Oregon will be flushed with playmakers next season as Thomas Tyner, Royce Freeman, Byron Marshall, Darren Carrington, Pharaoh Brown, Evan Baylis, Charles Nelson and Bralon Addison will all be returning.

If you look at it in that light, Oregon’s next QB may have the easiest job in the country. Just get the ball into all of the playmakers' hands and don’t turn the ball over.

Oregon’s next QB has some big shoes to fill, but the job might be the best in the nation.

 

Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise stated. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.

Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

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Predicting Every All-Conference Team for 2015 College Football Season

The undisputed MVP of Ohio State's run to a national title didn't even make his all-conference team.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott was only an Honorable Mention choice in the Big Ten this season, before he went on to rush for more than 200 yards in each of the Buckeyes' three postseason games to help them claim the championship. Those performances have Elliott among the early front-runners for the Heisman Trophy in 2015, and he'll no doubt make most preseason all-conference and All-America lists.

Who else will end up being among the best of the best next season? To figure that out, first we'll look at who should be the top players in each of the five power conferences.

Here's our predictions for who will be named to the all-conference teams in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. Check these out, then give us your thoughts and picks in the comments section.

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Cardale Jones Would Risk Less Entering 2015 NFL Draft Than Staying at Ohio State

Cardale Jones may not feel he's ready for the NFL just yet. That would be a logical assessment by a reasonable person. Then again, the extraordinary accomplishments Jones has achieved in his brief tenure as Ohio State's starting quarterback have defied reasonable expectations.

Jones led the Buckeyes to victories in the Big Ten title game, the Sugar Bowl and the national championship in his first three college starts. The 6'5", 250-pound instant star has a cannon arm and amazing athletic ability for his size, and he would be turning down a golden opportunity by spurning the 2015 NFL draft.

A convoluted quarterback depth chart looms in Columbus, where Jones isn't even guaranteed a starting spot this next year. SportsCenter's graphic illustrates the situation:

Asked about the possibility of making the improbable leap to the pros on Tuesday following OSU's 42-20 triumph over Oregon, Jones was reluctant to claim he was prepared for the next level, via ESPN.com's Heather Dinich:

I mean, it's very odd. You know, I'm going to be starting three games in three years, and you know, guys play their whole career to have that buildup and have that motivation to play in the NFL. In my personal opinion, I'm not ready for that level yet. I mean, like coach [Urban] Meyer said, it's a conversation me and him will have later down the road. But to me right now, it's far out.

Other than Jones' national championship counterpart, Marcus Mariota, and Florida State's Jameis Winston, there aren't any surefire first-round QB prospects in this 2015 class.

Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey alludes to the lack of alternatives available:

If Jones does require time to sit and learn a pro-style offense, he can do so at the NFL level, rather than lighting up the competition in college for another year.

There is a realistic chance that Jones sits behind either Braxton Miller or J.T. Barrett with the Buckeyes in 2015.

Presuming Miller or Barrett succeed, there would be little chance for Jones to see the field, and he'd lose steam as an NFL prospect and not have any recent, impressive game tape to point to.

That isn't to say Jones would go in the top 32 if he declared himself eligible for the NFL this year. Limited game action and a QB-friendly spread offense make Jones quite a risk the higher he'd be chosen.

But in this era of lesser rookie salaries, which team in need at the most important position wouldn't consider Jones in the second, third or fourth round?

The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre brings up another strong point:

Jones has shown enough innate accuracy and transcendent arm strength to fit the ball into tighter NFL windows, and his knack for delivering the deep ball also bolsters his stock. His feel for climbing the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield are other attractive qualities.

Far removed from his infamous "classes are pointless" tweet, Jones is 22 years old and has a daughter, which has aided his maturation.

"We've had a lot of conversations about the enormity of responsibility that comes from being a father," said Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman of Jones, per ESPN.com's Max Olson. "I think it's really caused him to mature and grow up and have a different perspective on things."

The skill set Jones has brings to mind the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton, two big signal-callers who've had considerable success in the pros.

Conventional wisdom isn't something Jones has adhered to amid his amazing run in leading the Buckeyes to the top of college football. In his aforementioned tweet from October 2012, Jones stated that he really came to Ohio State to thrive on the gridiron. He couldn't have hoped to do much better to date with the opportunities he's had.

A certain degree of naivete harmed Jones' reputation during that Twitter fiasco. Then that quality helped him take the reins of the Buckeyes offense and thrive on the biggest stages imaginable.

Using that logic, it suddenly doesn't seem so unrealistic that Jones could shine in the NFL if he takes the modest risk, marketing his limited experience as a positive to rise above the underwhelming prospects after Mariota and Winston.

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Texas Football: Offseason Goals for the Longhorns Defense

The Longhorns defense was one of the few bright spots on the team in 2014. Head coach Charlie Strong took a unit that was once the worst statistical defense in school history in 2012 and transformed it to the No. 25 total defense in the nation.

The Longhorns' final defensive performance was not what Strong was used to. Texas gave up 351 total yards in the 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl. Strong was not thrilled with his defense's performance and understands he has a challenge ahead of him.

"Defensively, you can't give up the big play. You've got to play better. You've got to play smart. You have to be able to go out and stop. It doesn't matter what happens on offense. Defensively, you have to make plays. We just didn't do that and didn't get off the field," Strong said following the loss.

"We see there's a lot of work to be done, which is great. It's a great challenge. I don't mind it. I don't mind accepting it."

Texas had a lot of veteran players on the defensive side of the ball, and Strong needs to find the right replacements for the talent he has lost.

 

Linebackers

Part of the reason for the Longhorns' success was because of the veteran group of linebackers. Seniors Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond were two of the most consistent players on the team last season, and their absence will be hard to replace in 2015.

The positive news for Texas fans is the Longhorns have a variety of options to replace the duo. The downfall is the lack of experience at the position.

Peter Jinkens is one of the most veteran returning starters at linebacker. Texas also has Dalton Santos, who played as a backup to Edmond in 2014. Aside from those two, the Longhorns have a group of linebackers with little to no experience.

Three names a lot of Texas fans are excited to see are incoming freshmen Malik Jefferson, Cecil Cherry and Anthony Wheeler. The highly touted commits could see playing time immediately, which could fill the void at linebacker.

With a group of inexperienced linebackers on campus, the Longhorns need to utilize this offseason to find viable replacements for Hicks and Edmond.

 

Defensive Line

Two of the highest-profile names on the Longhorns' list of departures are defensive end Cedric Reed and defensive tackle Malcom Brown. Replacing these two players will be difficult, but there is enough talent on the roster to make the drop-off a little less drastic.

Defensive tackles Hassan Ridgeway and Desmond Jackson are two veteran replacements for Brown. The Longhorns also have a variety of options at defensive end.

Shiro Davis and Caleb Bluiett will be back for their senior seasons and Naashon Hughes will return for his redshirt sophomore season. The problem does not lie within the starting defensive ends; the problem is with the inexperienced depth behind the starters. 

The backup defensive ends need to step up in order to continue the progress of the defensive line without Reed in the mix.

 

Defensive Backs

One of the biggest areas of need for Texas is at defensive back. The Longhorns will lose four-year starters Quandre Diggs and Mykkele Thompson. But Texas has a group of defensive backs who could replace the veteran duo.

Duke Thomas, Jason Hall and Dylan Haines return for another season, and the Longhorns have a number of defensive backs who could very well turn into starters in 2015.

But similar to the other positional groups, the issue lies with the lack of experience behind the starting defensive backs. The Longhorns need to determine which players can provide the needed depth for the position.

If you have not noticed, there is a common denominator for all of the defensive positional groups. The Longhorns have a lot of talent on the roster but need to have more depth in 2015.

Will this plague the Longhorns defense? Probably not, but an answer needs to be found during the offseason to continue the progress on the defensive side of the ball.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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