NCAA Football News

James Franklin Finally Makes His First Blunder on the Recruiting Trail

In James Franklin's first year as Penn State's head coach, it'd be tough to argue with the job he's done on the recruiting trail.

In the span of just 14 months, he has secured the nation's 24th-ranked recruiting class in 2014 despite dealing with NCAA sanctions, the country's No. 14 class in 2015 while coming off those sanctions and has gotten a head start on what's looking to be another strong class next year.

But while Franklin should be commended for handling the less-than-ideal circumstances he was dealt in Happy Valley, it was inevitable that sooner or later he was going to make a mistake. And finally, that day appears to have come.

Speaking to a gathered group of media during a stop in his caravan tour in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the second-year Nittany Lions head coach shared his thoughts on underclassmen entering the NFL draft. Penn State had three early entrees in last weekend's draft, including defensive end Deion Barnes, who went undrafted.

"To me, were you to come out early, you need to be a first-round draft choice,'' Franklin said, via Bob Flounders of PennLive.com. "If not, you need to go back to school, especially if you haven't gotten your degree yet. That's just my opinion.''

And while Franklin is certainly entitled to his opinion, that doesn't make it one he should have shared for recruiting purposes.

Especially when Urban Meyer is on the verge of producing a potentially historic draft class in 2016 and Jim Harbaugh is selling prospects on his ability to get them to the pros. The fact of the matter is that being able to pitch the possibility of playing in the NFL matters to recruits, and Franklin's comments undermine his ability to deliver that message.

Because while Franklin's "first round or bust" mentality may sound good in theory, it's simply unrealistic and not advantageous to Penn State's recruiting practices.

Take for example the case of Donovan Smith, the former Nittany Lions left tackle who declared for this year's draft and was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the second pick of last weekend's second round. Does the fact that Smith went two picks later than Franklin's arbitrary standard make his decision to enter the draft wrong? Or should Penn State be celebrating—and marketing—having the sixth offensive tackle taken in the NFL draft?

The answer—at least from a recruiting standpoint—is of course the latter, but Franklin's comments make it difficult to do so.

In fairness to Franklin, it's more likely his comments were directed toward the Nittany Lions' two other early entrees, as tight end Jesse James wasn't picked until the fifth round and Barnes ultimately wound up signing an undrafted-free-agent contract with the New York Jets. But while one could argue that both players—each of whom were fourth-year juniors last season—would have been better served returning to State College for their senior seasons, the reality is that Penn State now has two more pro players it can boast about.

"At the end of the day, these guys are going to make decisions that they think are in their best interests and in their family's, based on all the information that they have,'' Franklin conceded. "I think Deion, even today, is confident that he made the right choice.''

Franklin's guarding against players leaving early is understandable, given the amount of talent he's already lost in the past year. The Nittany Lions are also already slated to prematurely lose players to next year's draft as well, with ESPN's Todd McShay projecting quarterback Christian Hackenberg to be 2016's first overall pick.

Franklin declined to discuss Hackenberg's situation specifically but tried to gain ground on the recruiting trail by reiterating that he's OK with projected first-round picks leaving early.

"I'm different than probably a lot of college football coaches,'' he said. "Lot of college football coaches tell all the guys they should come back, and I don't necessarily agree with that."

That might be true, but Franklin's primary rivals on the recruiting trail have accepted that players leaving early—for the first round or not—is a part of today's college game. With the introduction of the rookie wage scale and shorter contracts in the NFL, the reality is that being a first-round pick isn't as important as it used to be and isn't a battle worth fighting at the expense of what's best for recruiting.

 

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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Bold Summer Predictions for 2016 College Football Recruiting Trail

Summer break provides opportunities for prospects across the U.S. to become more involved in their respective recruiting processes. Time away from class creates room for campus visits, camp enrollments and overall assessments of how things are developing as national signing day approaches.

As the final stretch of this school year brings athletes closer to eventual collegiate decisions, we peeked ahead to assess events we foresee taking place this summer. Though we offer no guarantees, keep your eye on the following predictions, as they might just come to fruition before next football season.

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Heisman Handicapper: Ranking the Top 20 Candidates Post-Spring Games

We're only a few days removed from the Kentucky Derby, the most famous horse race in the world and one that has far more anticipation than you'd expect for something dubbed the "fastest two minutes in sports."

But that event has got nothing on the buildup that comes with the competition for college football's most prestigious award, the Heisman Trophy, a race that doesn't officially begin until September when the 2015 season starts but which has been unofficially underway since before last season ended. 

Not long after Marcus Mariota claimed the 2014 Heisman, the discussion began over who would take this season's trophy. Early favorites and contenders were identified, then updated after bowl games and at various other times during the offseason.

Now that spring practice is over and there are no other relevant activities between now and the beginning of preseason camp, it's time for an in-depth look at who this year's top Heisman candidates are. We've ranked them in order of their odds to win, factoring in expected performance as well as historical trends related to Heisman winners and voting.

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Which Ohio State Players Will Step Up to Replace Talent Lost to NFL?

The Ohio State Buckeyes are the defending national champions, but they're losing a lot of elite talent to the NFL and are surely looking for players to step up. 

Stephen Nelson is joined by Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder to pick which his players will step up for Ohio State next season.

Which players will fill the void for those leaving for the pros? Check out the video and let us know!

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Everett Golson Transfer Rumors: Latest News, Speculation on Notre Dame Star

After losing his starting job to Malik Zaire before the Music City Bowl last season and coming into the spring in a battle for Notre Dame's starting quarterback gig, Everett Golson reportedly will transfer to another school.   

Continue for updates. 

South Carolina, Georgia, Florida All Potential Landing Spots for Golson
Thursday, May 7

Clint Brewster of 247Sports reported on Golson's departure from Notre Dame and two of his potential destinations: 

247Sports spoke to sources close to Everett Golson that indicated the Notre Dame transfer is most likely to end up at South Carolina or Georgia. The source said that Golson wants to play his final year of eligibility close to home, as Golson hails from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

ESPN first reported on Thursday the immediately-eligible transfer would seek to transfer out of Notre Dame. Golson confirmed the news to FoxSports.com.

Because Golson was suspended during the 2013 season, for what he called “poor academic judgement,” whichever school he chooses would have to submit a waiver to the league office.

Mark Long of The Associated Press added Florida to the mix, noting, "Gators' Jim McElwain said at recent Gator Club gathering that 'there may be some additions (at QB) as we keep rolling through the summer.'"

Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report had more on the waiver Brewster referenced:

Golson made the following statement after announcing he would transfer earlier on Thursday, via Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

After much thought, prayer and discussion with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to graduate from Notre Dame and transfer to another school effective immediately.

I would like to thank everyone at Notre Dame for the opportunity to compete at the highest level of college football, but most importantly to obtain my degree from one of the finest universities in the country. To all the Fighting Irish fans I want to thank you for your support over the past four years and let you know I truly love Notre Dame! To my former teammates, who I will miss tremendously, I wish much success in the future and will be your biggest fan from afar.

I will have no further comment at this time and ask that you respect my time as I figure out this life changing moment. God has a plan for each of us and I ask for your prayers as I move forward in this new journey in my life!

Golson is coming off a season that saw him throw for 3,445 yards, 29 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also rushed for 283 yards and eight more scores. Still, Dan Wolken of USA Today thinks Golson has as many question marks as he has talent:

Indeed, in Notre Dame's four straight losses to end the team's regular season, Golson threw for seven touchdowns and seven interceptions, including four interceptions against Arizona State and a 7-of-18 performance for 75 yards, no touchdowns and a pick against USC.   

Both Georgia and South Carolina, however, might make sense for Golson, as neither school has an experienced player waiting in the wings at the position, giving him the guaranteed playing time he likely craves. 

 

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Nebraska Football: Reasonable Expectations for the Huskers' 2015 Season

Nebraska football fans do have the capacity to be reasonable (evidence sometimes notwithstanding). So as we settle in for the offseason, let’s take some time to look ahead and think about what we can reasonably expect from Nebraska under new head coach Mike Riley.

 

Nebraska Will Improve on Turnovers, Not Penalties

A smart and particularly handsome analyst has used this table before, but what it reveals about Nebraska under former head coach Bo Pelini is striking. Take a look at where Nebraska ranked under Pelini nationally in terms of penalty yards per game and turnover margin (stats courtesy of CFBStats.com):

Year

Penalty yds/game, nat’l ranking

Turnover margin, nat’l ranking

2008

99

108

2009

102

33

2010

115

61

2011

73

67

2012

95

108

2013

82

119

2014

56

75

The bold italicized numbers, as a refresher, are the times when Nebraska finished in the top half nationally in those statistical categories. In other words, if the number isn’t in bold italics, it means Nebraska was (put charitably) below average.

Put less charitably—especially when the national rankings were in triple digits—Nebraska was regularly atrocious.

How did those numbers look in the same time period under Riley at Oregon State? In comparison, it’s a mixed bag.

Year

Penalty yds/game, nat’l ranking

Turnover margin, nat’l ranking

2008

83

56

2009

87

31

2010

80

35

2011

118

100

2012

78

29

2013

78

42

2014

123

41

 

With regards to penalties, you could argue Riley’s Beavers were worse than Pelini’s Cornhuskers. But with regards to turnover margin, Riley’s teams were far better than Pelini’s.

So you can stop expecting Nebraska to commit fewer penalties because Riley is such a soft touch compared to Pelini. But you can expect Nebraska under Pelini to do a much better job in protecting the football.

 

True Freshmen Will Make an Impact

A combination of talent and lack of depth will likely push a number of true freshmen onto the field in 2015. The clearest path to the field is probably possessed by linebacker Dedrick Young, given Nebraska only has five non-freshman scholarship linebackers on the roster. (You can see a class-by-class breakdown of NU’s roster competition here, courtesy of the Omaha World-Herald.)

Eric Lee and Avery Anderson, two of Nebraska’s highest-rated recruits, according to 247Sports, should be in the mix for playing time even in NU’s crowded and talented secondary. Matt Snyder, a talented offensive weapon at tight end, could be pressed into earlier service if the spring injury to Cethan Carter lingers into the fall. And Jordan Ober looks to come in right away and start for Nebraska at long snapper after losing scholarship snapper Gabriel Miller to injury last year.

 

Nebraska’s Record Will Be About the Same as 2014

Cue the “Then why did we fire a coach who never won fewer than nine games?” shrieking in three, two, one…

Nebraska’s 2015 schedule isn’t the most difficult, but it has some pitfalls. The season opener against BYU is a big challenge, given that Nebraska will be installing a new offense and a new defense. Riley’s first test of his new-look Cornhuskers squad will be against a program with a national championship in its locker, not an FCS directional school coming to Lincoln for a paycheck.

Nebraska also has to travel to Miami to face a Hurricanes squad with more talent on paper than the Cornhuskers. In conference, Nebraska also has to go to Minneapolis to face a Golden Gophers team with a two-game winning streak over NU. (I know, I had to read that a couple of times to let it truly sink in.) Games against Wisconsin and Michigan State (and, to a lesser extent, Iowa and Northwestern) will challenge Nebraska, but they are at Memorial Stadium.

Last year Nebraska went 9-3 in the regular season. Given the two nonconference challenges and the five in-conference contests, combined with the difficulties of transitioning to a new coach and a new system, besting a 9-3 record could be a challenge. It will take a big step up in quarterback play, or a big step back from a number of Nebraska’s conference foes, to comfortably predict an improvement over NU’s 2014 record.

We’ll have a discussion later about whether that can represent progress for Nebraska. Be patient, it’s a long offseason.

 

This column first appeared at The Double Extra Point, which you can follow on Twitter, at @DblExtraPoint.

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Alabama Football: Summer Enrollees Who Could Make Immediate Impact

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Over the next few months, the other 16 members of Alabama’s No. 1-ranked 2015 recruiting class will get to Tuscaloosa.

Some will come in May, some in June and others closer to the start of the fall semester, depending on their high school situation and personal life. By August, Alabama will have its full arsenal of players on campus.

During spring practice, we saw plenty of progress from some of the early enrollees. Safety Ronnie Harrison was consistently praised for his play in the secondary, while Desherrius Flowers jumped right into the running back rotations with all of the hits the Crimson Tide took at that position.

While Alabama’s summer enrollees won’t have the same benefit of an extra semester of work, there are still several who could see the field sooner than later.

Here are three who could make an impact right away.

 

Calvin Ridley

If you’re looking for the next Julio Jones or Amari Cooper, you could do worse than consider the 5-star Ridley, who comes from the same South Florida area that Cooper does.

Ridley stands at just 6’0", 170 pounds, but his speed, quickness and hands made him the No. 1 receiver of the 2015 cycle.

There certainly will be an opportunity for him at wide receiver when he gets to campus.

Alabama's top three is just about set with Robert Foster, ArDarius Stewart and Chris Black, but the picture at receiver becomes murky past that. There is certainly a plethora of talent but no clear hierarchy behind those three as it stands, especially after the knee injury to Cam Sims.

In Cooper’s freshman year, he wasn’t a starter right away. He had certainly shown his flashes, but in the fifth game of the season, he was forced into a bigger role when DeAndrew White went down. He caught eight passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns that night and remained at the top of the depth chart for the rest of his career.

A similar situation could play out with Ridley, as he finds himself behind three established wide receivers but could shine if given the opportunity.

 

Damien Harris

Alabama desperately needs running back depth, and Harris may be its answer.

Right now, behind Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, Alabama has a converted safety coming off knee surgery in Ronnie Clark, early enrollee Flowers and Bo Scarbrough, a 5-star with a torn ACL.

Clark and Flowers are coming along, but neither turned any heads at A-Day. Harris could be the next 5-star to have an impact right away.

Alabama has a definite track record of getting its best running backs on the field as soon as possible. Henry, T.J. Yeldon, Trent Richardson and so on all had big freshman years that kickstarted their careers.

If Harris comes in and shows he can do the things needed to be that No. 3 spell back, he could be the next name on that long list.

 

Daron Payne

For all of the talent that Alabama has on its defensive line, it doesn’t quite have an established run-stuffing nose tackle it can trot out against teams that still want to play a lot of power run.

Jonathan Taylor was supposed to be that piece, but his Alabama career ended three months in after a domestic violence accusation that is still working its way through the legal system.

Payne, a 6’2” 325-pound 5-star tackle from Birmingham, could be that piece.

The Crimson Tide already use a deep rotation that’s prone to getting young players on the field, like it did with Da’Shawn Hand and Josh Frazier last season.

Payne has the size to come in and play a specific but important role for Alabama that could find him on the field as a freshman.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Malik Zaire Will Be Notre Dame Starting QB After Everett Golson Transfer

According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, quarterback Everett Golson is transferring from Notre Dame. With the news, it is now likely Malik Zaire will be the starting quarterback for the 2015 season. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the move and what it means for Zaire.

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Odds on Where Former Notre Dame QB Everett Golson Transfers

According to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, Everett Golson is said to be transferring to a new school. He has yet to announce which school he will be attending.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer discusses the best landing spots for Golson. 

Where do you think Golson will end up next season? Check out the video and let us know!

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2015 Stat Projections for USC's Potential Heisman Contending QB Cody Kessler

After their national championship victory, the Ohio State Buckeyes lost a ton of talent to the NFL draft. How will they replace those stud players? 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder joined Stephen Nelson as they discussed which players are likely to step up and perform for the Buckeyes. 

Will Ohio State repeat as national champions? Check out the video and let us know!

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4-Star Keyshon Camp Names USC No. 1, Hopes to Visit Michigan Soon

Ever since 2016 4-star defensive tackle Keyshon Camp decommitted from an early pledge to Miami in late February, the attention from schools across the country has only increased.

The 6'3", 269-pounder from Lake Gibson (Florida) High School—who has 20 offers to his credit—has picked up offers from the likes of Cincinnati, Michigan and USC since that time.

With the spring evaluation period in full swing, coaches have flocked to his hometown of Lakeland—with Florida, South Carolina and USC already having stopped by his school earlier in the week.

But it's the Trojans who have gotten his attention and made the most significant impression on the nation's No. 20 defensive tackle.

"They [USC] are No. 1," Camp told Bleacher Report recently. "I like them. I love the intensity that the coaches have out there. They make me feel like family and like I'm already on the team. I feel like when I get out there, I will like it even more because of those things. Right now, it's just USC that I've fell in love with right now."

Camp has yet to visit USC, but that will change next month when he visits the Trojans campus for their Rising Stars camp.

Still, he admits that the idea of going to the West Coast for college is attractive to him. The idea of leaving his home state is something that he said he's comfortable with.

"I'm a Florida boy, and I'm not used to the cold weather. So being out in Cali suits me pretty nicely," Camp said. "I could see myself going out there. It's for business. I'm not going out there for the rest of my life. I'm still going to come back, but it's a business trip right now."

In addition to the Trojans, Michigan is a school trying to get in the picture with Camp. Wolverines defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin delivered an offer to Camp last week, and there's a connection to the Wolverines program that intrigues him.

Jim Harbaugh was able to land Camp's former prep teammate at Lake Gibson, 2015 3-star defensive end Reuben Jones, back in February. Camp is planning to make it up to Ann Arbor sometime in the near future.

"I have great interest in them because one of my teammates, Reuben Jones, he's there," Camp said. "I'm just going to get up there and try to visit. I want to see if I feel the same way Reuben felt when he went up there."

As far as in-state schools are concerned, the Hurricanes are not giving up on Camp—who noted that 'Canes coaches are supposed to drop by his school on Thursday.

His last visit was to Florida for one of its practices during the spring. He admits that he's still feeling out new Gators head coach Jim McElwain and his staff.

"I like the Gators," Camp said. "They got a good family vibe. They have a good, well-rounded program. I like the academics, but I'm just waiting until the season starts to look more into the team."

Two schools he said that he hopes to hear from who have yet to offer include Auburn and Ohio State.

Camp said that he's in no hurry to make a final decision, noting that it could come during the season or at an All-American game if he's selected for one.

"Right now, I'm just looking at every school that is interested in me and trying to find out the pros and cons of each school," Camp said. 

In the end, Camp said one factor stands out the most when he's making his final decision.

"Loyalty," Camp said. "Because if a school is showing me loyalty and always checking on me to see how I'm doing, that makes me feel they really want to see what's going on in my life and see how I'm doing."

 

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

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Cardale Jones-Joakim Noah Feud the Latest Chapter in Ohio State-Cavs History

COLUMBUS, Ohio — By now you probably already know the story behind the Cardale Jones-Joakim Noah feud. But just in case you don't, let me catch you up.

As members of Ohio State's national championship team were honored during a timeout in last night's Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls, the Buckeyes quarterback took the microphone. Cheering on his hometown team, Jones encouraged the Cavs to "bring another championship to Ohio," before adding a, "Let's go Cavs!"

Seated nearby on the Bulls bench, Noah—who played his college ball at Florida—took exception, according to 92.3 The Fan's Anthony Lima.

The Chicago center's words apparently got back to Jones, who's never been shy to speak his mind—or have fun with the Twittersphere.

Little will likely come of Jones' tweets to Noah, although it is worth noting that the national champion signal-caller's head coach, Urban Meyer, was also at Florida during the two-time NBA All-Star's time with the Gators. In the grander scheme of things, this is just the latest chapter in what's been a growing connection between Ohio's top two championship contenders.

 

A Kid From Akron, Ohio

Long before he won two NBA titles or returned back to Cleveland to try to help Northeast Ohio capture (at least) one, LeBron James was a budding star at Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, starring on both the hardwood and the gridiron. Then just a wide receiver coach at Notre Dame, Meyer headed to the Rubber City in hopes of wooing the All-State wideout to South Bend.

As opposed to most recruiting jobs Meyer has performed, however, this one was unsuccessful.

"'Thank you very much, I'll consider it,' and his coach started laughing," Meyer recalled of James' reaction to his scholarship offer at Big Ten media day in 2012.

"I didn't know what he was laughing at, so we went down and sat in a room and he said, 'Do you know who that is?' and I said, 'No' and he said, 'LeBron James' and I said, 'Who's LeBron James?' and he said, 'He'll be the next Michael Jordan' and I go, 'Come on.'" 

Whether James has or hasn't lived up his high school coach's prophecy is a debate for another day, but despite LeBron declining, a bond was formed between him and Meyer on that day. The three-time national champion coach has spoken fondly of his former target ever since, even when James didn't have public opinion on his side.

"I took my son down to meet him and he treated him great," Meyer said. "Very articulate guy too. Just very respectful. You know, I love him, when my son met him, I was proud to have my son meet him."

 

An Honorary Alum

Ultimately, James opted to skip the collegiate route altogether, entering the 2003 NBA draft out of high school. Selected first overall by the Cavs, James remained within the Buckeye State, allowing him to follow his favorite college football team.

Having previously formed a friendship with Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett, James made no secret about the fact that he was a big Buckeyes fan. Appearing on the set of ESPN's College Game Day as a guest-picker in 2008, the 11-time All-Star revealed that Columbus is where he would have spent his college career—had he had one.

"Absolutely, I wouldn't have gone nowhere else," James said. "I would have been right here wearing this red and this gray, baby."

Technically, Ohio State's official colors are scarlet and gray. But close enough.

 

Taking His Talents to South Beach

When James left Cleveland for the Miami Heat as a free agent in 2010, he may have underestimated both the backlash and overlap in Cavs and Buckeyes fans. When it was revealed that the NBA star planned to return to his home state for Ohio State's meeting with the Miami Hurricanes just a few months after "The Decision," many fans in Columbus threatened to boo James upon his arrival, against the wishes of then-Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel.

"Sore subjects need to pass," Tressel said during a press conference. "Things are as they are. We all make decisions. You have to respect one another's decisions and move on."

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor also pleaded with fans to welcome James, who he referred to as a "mentor" and a "Buckeye."

After reportedly being denied a full police escort to the game, James ultimately opted to spend the weekend in Akron instead.

 

Coming Home

By 2013, enough time seemed to have passed since James' decision, and it certainly didn't hurt that Meyer was more vocal in his support of LeBron than Tressel was three years prior. That's why when James addressed the crowd at Ohio State's "Skull Session" before delivering a speech to the Buckeyes' Big Ten opener against Wisconsin, it was hardly a big deal as Columbus welcomed James with open arms.

Little did anybody know—at least in Ohio—that the sight of James standing on Ohio State's sideline would soon become a common occurrence.

When James announced in July 2014 that he was returning to the Cavs as a free agent, it sent shock waves throughout the state, including in Central Ohio. Meyer welcomed James back to the Buckeye State just hours after his second decision with a tweet, before issuing an open invitation for James to attend every Ohio State game.

"He means a lot in recruiting,” Meyer said of James at Big Ten media days last July. “You can’t measure the positive feeling of him standing on the sideline for an Ohio State game."

Sure enough, on the Buckeyes' biggest recruiting weekend of the year, there was James, standing just feet away from Meyer as Ohio State took on Virginia Tech. And while James and his entourage wound up leaving before the clocks hit zero on the Buckeyes' lone loss of the season, it wouldn't be the last time the four-time MVP would grace the Ohio State sideline.

 

Championship Connection 

As James' impromptu two-week hiatus from basketball in his first season back in Cleveland neared an end, he found himself on the West Coast while the Buckeyes were in Dallas for their national title game against Oregon.

After sending the entire Ohio State roster a pregame pair of Beats By Dre headphones, James watched the Buckeyes handle the Ducks before moving to the sideline to watch the game's final few minutes. As Ohio State celebrated its national championship, there was James covered in confetti, embracing with Jones and Buckeyes star running back Ezekiel Elliott.

From that moment forward, the Ohio State-Cavs connection was in full force, with Cleveland honoring Meyer and a few area Buckeyes at a game just one week later. Perhaps it wasn't a coincidence that Meyer's visit to the Cavs locker room led to a hot streak in the team's season, with James' team reeling off 10 consecutive wins from that night forward.

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert repaid the favor with a recent visit to Columbus to take part in Meyer's "Real Life Wednesday" program, advising the Buckeyes on their post-football career options.

With Ohio State having already captured a championship, it will now be up to James and the Cavs to follow suit as they head to Chicago tied with Noah's Bulls at one game apiece in their semifinals series.

Whether Cleveland will make good on Jones' hopes for Ohio to be the home of two championship teams in 2015 remains to be seen, but as long as Meyer, James—and now Jones—reside in the Buckeye State, it's safe to say the connection between the Cavs and Buckeyes won't be coming to an end anytime soon.

 

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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Everett Golson to Transfer from Notre Dame: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson reportedly informed head coach Brian Kelly on Thursday of his intention to transfer for his final season of college football.     

Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com passed along the news:

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports confirmed Golson notified the program:

He noted the quarterback will be available to play immediately:

Feldman also provided a statement from Golson:

After much thought, prayer and discussion with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to graduate from Notre Dame and transfer to another school effectively immediately. I would like to thank everyone at Notre Dame for the opportunity to compete at the highest level of college football, but most importantly to obtain my degree from one of the finest universities in the country. To all the Fighting Irish fans, I want to thank you for your support over the past four years and let you know I truly love Notre Dame. To my former teammates, who I will miss tremendously, I wish much success in the future and will be your biggest fan from afar.

Head coach Brian Kelly also provided a statement, via Michael Bertsch, who is the director of football media relations at Notre Dame:

Golson helped lead the Fighting Irish to the BCS National Championship Game in his first year as a starter in 2012. He missed the entire 2013 campaign due to academic issues, however, and he struggled to protect the football last season with 14 interceptions.

As a result, Malik Zaire received more playing time late in the year and ended up starting the team's 31-28 victory over LSU in the Music City Bowl.

The battle for the starting job had already started to heat up in Notre Dame's spring game. Now, it's over with Golson apparently deciding to seek a more stable option.

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer suggests Texas could be interested:

For Notre Dame, the focus now shifts entirely to getting Zaire ready for full-time duty. While the sample size last season was extremely limited, he did show some positive signs. Not having to worry about fighting for the job every week should take some of the pressure away.

Golson didn't put any timetable on making a decision of where to land next. He will probably take his time to survey the landscape and find a team where his grip on the starting spot will be more firm. That's important in his final year of collegiate eligibility.

The situation should become more clear in the weeks ahead.

 

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Texas A&M's Kyler Murray Can Become Next Great Two Sport College Athlete

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones toyed with Ohio State fans on May 1 when he jokingly announced on Twitter that he was transferring to Toledo.

"May fools," Jones wrote, moments after temporarily sending Twitter into a tailspin. 

The tweet sent from Texas A&M quarterback signee Kyler Murray on May 6 was not a joke. For that, Aggie fans, head coach Kevin Sumlin and fans of college football should be thankful.

Murray, a 5-star dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2015 and top tier Major League Baseball prospect, tweeted that he doesn't intend to play professional baseball straight out of high school, and will instead continue his career in College Station.

It's a bold move by Murray.

Guaranteed money and a longer average career as a middle infielder or center fielder in Major League is hard to pass up, especially for a player like Murray who was ranked as the 22nd-best high school baseball prospect in the country in 2015, according to Baseball America.

Pro baseball's loss is college football's gain, because Murray has everything it takes to be college's next two-sport star.

By going to Texas A&M, Murray keeps both of his options open in a place that's perfect to foster that development.

From a football perspective, Murray is with a program that is a perfect fit for his skill set.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin helped Johnny Manziel become the first redshirt freshman in college football history to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012, when the superstar threw for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns, rushed for 1,410 and 21 touchdowns and generally set the college football world on fire both on and off the field.

Murray has similar abilities on the ground and is extremely polished as a passer who can make the throws from sideline to sideline and deep downfield. At 5'10", 180 pounds, it might seem like his height could be a problem when looking downfield over the offensive line.

Maybe not, though.

"Texas A&M works out of a shotgun, so height won't be a problem for him," said Damon Sayles, national recruiting analyst for Bleacher Report. "It wasn't a problem at Allen, and as long as his offensive line does its job, it won't be a problem for him at A&M. All he needs is a couple of seconds to make a great play—and he's made more than his share of great plays."

Sumlin routinely moved the pocket for Manziel, who stands at 6'0". If those two inches do wind up making a world of difference, moving the pocket will open up passing lanes even further. 

Murray threw for 10,386 yards, rushed for 4,139 yards, threw 117 touchdowns and rushed for 69 scores during his three seasons as Allen's starting quarterback. During that time, he compiled a 43-0 record and won three straight state titles.

"Few athletes handle pressure the way he does," Sayles said. "I've watched him multiple times, and in a few occasions, he's had to come from behind to get a win. You never see him rattled; nothing ever fazes him."

There is a road block, though, in the form of former 5-star prospect and rising sophomore pro-style passer Kyle Allen. Allen inherited the starting job in November from Kenny Hill and finished his freshman campaign with 1,322 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a completion percentage of 61.5.

Despite Allen's status as the incumbent, Murray will get a chance to unseat him this summer, according to offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.

"It’s going to be interesting to see how everything plays out," Spavital told the Studio 12 radio show (via: Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle). "I’m always going to give an incoming freshman the opportunity to come in and compete and try and win the starting battle. Kyler will have his opportunities to see if he can beat Kyle out."

On the diamond, Murray is an impact player for a Texas A&M program that is currently ranked fourth in the D1Baseball.com Top 25 and is projected by the website to host a regional in the quest to win the College World Series. 

He was limited by a shoulder injury this season for Allen (Texas) High School according to the Allen American, but his speed, versatility and a ability to put pressure on defenses once on base is viewed as a huge asset to that Aggies by Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball.com.

Because he's playing quarterback for a high-profile football program and baseball for a World Series contender, Murray is the next Jameis Winston—minus the baggage, of course. Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, doubled as a relief pitcher for the Seminoles where he notched nine career saves, posted a 1.94 ERA and a .209 batting average serving as a relief pitcher and outfielder according to his Florida State bio.

Winston gave up baseball after the 2014 season, which was the right move considering he was picked No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the most recent NFL draft.

Could Murray ride both sports to the professional level?

Unlike two-sport stars of the past like former Florida State defensive back/outfielder Deion Sanders and former Auburn running back/outfielder Bo Jackson, it's a lot to ask a professional NFL franchise to allow a quarterback to play play both.

Because of that, Murray will likely have to choose between the two sports at some point. 

"Trying to take it to the next level is a little bit different because of the talent pool on each side," Jackson said prior to Auburn's 2014 spring football game.

Until then, though, the college world is going to get a heavy dose of Murray.

For that, we should be thankful.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Which Oregon Players Will Step Up to Replace Talent Lost to NFL?

The Oregon Ducks are no stranger to sending players to the NFL. The tough job is replacing those pieces that have been so valuable over the past few seasons. 

Stephen Nelson sits down with Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder to discuss who will step up for the Ducks in the absence of the players that went to the draft. 

How will the Ducks handle losing all that NFL talent? Check out the video and let us know!

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Melbourne Bowl 2016: Australia Set to Host Matchup Between Pac-12 and MWC

College football has broadened its horizons in recent years by expanding bowl games across the United States and into Canada, but the NCAA's latest venture is its most ambitious one yet.

According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences have agreed to take part in a bowl game in Melbourne, Australia, starting in 2016:

Per Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a bowl game Down Under has been in the works for quite some time:

According to Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com, MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson revealed that some details were still being hammered out as of Wednesday.

"We have to get down to who's going to give up what," Thompson said. "You can't on this one say, 'What if we don't have enough (bowl-eligible teams),' and then on Dec. 5 you can't send someone to Australia. You're talking about 1,000 passports, 1,200 passports."     

There is no question that the logistics of holding a bowl in Australia are challenging, but the thought of holding a high-profile game there is exciting.

It is unclear if the NCAA has any long-term plans beyond 2016, but if the Melbourne bowl is considered a success, then that could open the door for further bowl expansion across the globe.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Why 3-Star Austrian Import Thomas Schaffer Is 2016's Most Fascinating Recruit

The first time Lake Forest (Illinois) Academy head coach Robin Bowkett talked to his future two-way star lineman Thomas Schaffer, he thought he was in a 1970s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. 

“If you’ve ever seen Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first film, when his English was pretty average, that’s what I felt like I was hearing when I had that first conversation with Thomas,” Bowkett told Bleacher Report as he held back chuckles recalling that first interaction. “You could tell that he had some personality to him. He had a good smile. At the time, he could speak English, but there were some words he didn’t know.”

To this day Schaffer is also frequently stopped by teammates and friends at Lake Forest and asked to do impromptu Schwarzenegger impressions. 

The connection to Bowkett came through Felix Schildorfer—who is Schaffer’s cousin and was a senior at Lake Forest, which is just north of Chicago, at the time. Schaffer picked up the sport with a local club team in Vienna roughly a year before his first conversation with Bowkett but still looked like a college prospect on tape. 

“[Schildorfer] came to me and told me, ‘You should look at my cousin Thomas, here’s his film,’” Bowkett said. “He had size and length, which is what college coaches are looking for.”

Less than three years later, Schaffer is a 6’7”, 260-pound 3-star recruit with 18 offers from schools including Michigan State, Oregon, Stanford and Wisconsin. 

Schaffer has grown in leaps and bounds on and off the field since he arrived in the U.S. in August 2013. He’s now on the cusp of becoming the first football player from Austria to play FBS football. 

But it wasn’t that long ago when he was a lanky kid in Vienna who decided to give football a try at 13 years old, when playing in the States was all just a dream.

Like most kids in Europe, Schaffer grew up primarily playing soccer.

He dabbled in basketball and even judo before his aunt took him and his brother to a tryout for a local club football team in Vienna.

“I played for a small club there, so I had to play both ways,” Schaffer said. “It wasn’t really organized. In Austria, it wasn’t a big deal like it is here with high school football. It was enough to help me fall in love with the game and try to pursue it at a higher level.”

At 15, Schaffer, who was around 6’6” and 220 pounds at the time, rose up to make Austria’s under-19 squad—which traveled to play club teams around Europe on a regular basis. 

He was the youngest player on the team, and a trip in 2012 to play Team USA in Texas pushed him to become serious about pursuing the game at a higher level. 

“I played against an offensive tackle, and I was around 200 pounds, and that guy was committed to Georgia Tech, I believe,” Schaffer recalls. “I just enjoyed playing, even though he was so much stronger and better than me.“ 

He stayed behind and took a trip to the University of Texas. The atmosphere of college life at a big-time football school was mesmerizing to the wide-eyed Schaffer.

“After experiencing that and seeing their stadium, it was gigantic; after experiencing that and seeing what life is like in college and the campus and what football is like in America, I knew then that I just wanted it,” Schaffer said. “I knew in my head that I want to do this.”

Bowkett saw enough on film to be intrigued with Schaffer.

“I saw his film, and I saw that he was raw, but at the time, he was like 6’6”, 220 with decent feet, long arms and a little nasty to him,” Bowkett said.

Admittedly, the transition to the U.S. was tough for Schaffer. He was used to playing against strong guys in Austria.

However, the effect of the climate, speed of the game and competition was another story. 

“It was a big change for me coming over here,” Schaffer said. “It was tough for me to adjust at the beginning. The climate is very moist and hot. That was something that I had to deal with conditioning-wise, but I got over it. The speed here, though, is completely different, so it took a while to adjust and catch up to that.”

Upon arriving at Lake Forest, Bowkett continued to let Thomas play both ways, as he had growing up in Vienna. Bowkett immediately put Schaffer at left tackle, a position he hadn't played in two years prior to his arrival in the U.S., on offense and defensive end on defense.

Bowkett estimates that is was his team’s third or fourth practice before he noticed a moment when he knew that his newest international import had a chance to develop into a special player.

The team was practicing in shells, and he placed Schaffer in a pursuit drill as the “rabbit”—the player who had the football and ran down the sideline as other players tried to tag him to record a stop.

However, it didn’t go exactly as Bowkett initially thought it would.

“When he took that ball the first time as the rabbit, he was moving,” Bowkett said. “That’s when I was like, whoa, that’s a big man moving really fast.”

Although Bowkett notes that he saw flashes of his immense talent early in the 2013 season, Schaffer’s breakthrough on the field didn’t come until the seventh game.

“It was the St. Joseph’s game of his first year, where he must have had like three sacks that game, and he was unblockable,” Bowkett said. “He also played left tackle, and he was driving guys into the safeties. He was cutting guys left and right. It was awesome. That’s when it all started to click for him.”

Bowkett noted that his confidence grew after that performance and that his level of play has maintained that standard of dominance since that point.

While he admits that he’s still learning the finer details of the game at two different positions, his adjustment period from newcomer to big-time recruit has come full circle.

Last July, he earned his first scholarship offer from Illinois. 

“I’ve been developing and getting used to the game, because I’m still raw and new to the game,” Schaffer said. “It’s getting a lot better. I can tell because (of) the schools who are offering me.” 

After a strong 2014 season, Schaffer is likely to head into his senior season with more than 20 offers to his credit.

Some schools like him at left tackle, but he told Bleacher Report that he prefers to play defense at the Adidas Chicago Showcase camp last month.

“I have a passion for playing D-line, but I know that I can be great playing offensive line too, and that’s why I still keep it under consideration to play O-line,” Schaffer said.

Bowkett has an idea on how he would approach Schaffer if he were a coach trying to lure him to his college. It’s a rationale that he says is comprised of his own assessment of Schaffer’s abilities and has since been verified by a majority of the coaches he’s come into contact with regarding Schaffer’s potential at the next level. 

“If I was a college coach, I would tell him to try the defensive side of the ball,” Bowkett said. “If that works out, great. If that doesn’t work out and he’s third-string at defensive end, and if he could move over to offensive line and help the team out that way and possibly make a lot of money on Sundays, then that opportunity would be there for him.” 

Schaffer said that he still doesn’t view himself as a high-profile recruit, simply because that idea seemed far-fetched just a few years ago back in Europe. 

He admits that even considering the move to the United States in the first place was one of his biggest hurdles.

“What I did was risky, because there was no guarantee to get to college or get offers or have a way to further my education,” Schaffer said.

He’s part of a trend that has seen a number of international players come to the U.S. recently.

Last year, fellow international stars such as Arkansas defensive line signee Hjalte Froholdt, Auburn defensive line signee Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. and LSU offensive line signee Chidi Valentine-Okeke saw their recruitment blow up after arriving stateside.

Other international standout defensive linemen in the 2016 cycle include 4-stars Daniel Joseph—Schaffer's teammate at Lake Forest—Prince Sammons and Oluwole Betiku

Bowkett said that he’s received numerous inquiries about players from Austria and other countries who are interested in coming to the United States. While he notes that the process is far from easy, it’s something that he and other coaches will continue to monitor if they can find players who fit with their programs. 

“I think you will see more of those players start to find boarding schools in the States and try to come over here before going to college,” Bowkett said.

Still, Schaffer acknowledges that pursuing the game in a land far away from home comes with a lot of sacrifices.

Despite learning a new language and playing catch-up in the game of football, Schaffer admits his toughest challenge is being away from his family. 

“It’s a really long distance away from home,” Schaffer said. “I’m starting to appreciate them more. It’s more special to spend time with them when I go back home. I love just hanging out with them and going out back home and having dinner with my family. I have to email them a lot because they aren’t comfortable with Skype yet.”

The only way he knows how to pay his family back is by accomplishing the goals he set when he left home in 2013. 

Whatever lies ahead, Schaffer acknowledges that he’s somewhat of a trailblazer for kids in his native Austria and those throughout Europe watching his journey closely.

His success to this point is something that isn’t lost on his loved ones back home. In fact, he notes that he has a younger cousin who has plans on following in his footsteps next year.

“I want to open up the minds for coaches in college about international players,” Schaffer said. “It’s amazing that a kid like me (can) come from Austria and get 18 offers from some of the best programs in the country. I definitely want to be an inspiration for people in different countries in Europe. They can now believe that they can make it happen if they put enough work into it.”

 

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

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Power Ranking College Football's Best 2015 Dual-Threat Quarterbacks

The name says it all. As a dual-threat quarterback, these are players who are so dangerous they can beat you in more than one way, either through the air or on the ground.

Defenses must account for both the passing and running of a dual-threat quarterback, and because of this, they can't overload to stop one without risking getting burned by the other.

The best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football are ones who don't lean too heavily in one direction or the other but rather make it seem like a crapshoot on each and every play. The call might even start out as a pass and quickly become a run, which isn't as difficult to defend with a pocket passer but is a major inconvenience with a dual-threat QB.

Here's our look at the best dual-threat quarterbacks in FBS heading into the 2015 season. They are ranked based on their production from previous years as well as what is expected of them this fall, taking into account how valuable their performance is to their teams' success.

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Odds on Where Former Alabama Commit and No. 1 ATH Demetris Robertson Lands

Demetris Robertson is a 4-star athlete, per 247Sports' composite rankings, who recently decommitted from Alabama, and he is now opening his recruitment again. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer gives his odds on where Robertson will play next season. 

Where do you think Robertson will end up? Check out the video and let us know!

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How Former Baylor Walk-on Silas Nacita Saved His Football Career

On April 8, Bleacher Report reported that former Baylor running back Silas Nacita was ruled officially and permanently ineligible. In the piece, the once-homeless walk-on shared his desire to keep playing football even if it meant playing at an NAIA program. Later that month, Nacita committed to Southwestern Assemblies of God University—an NAIA program in Waxahachie, Texas.

This is the story of how he saved his football career.  All words are his own as told to Bleacher Report's National College Football Lead Writer, Adam Kramer.

 

After the Bleacher Report article hit and news of my ineligibility broke, just about every top NAIA program called me and immediately expressed interest. Places in Iowa, Oregon, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska—there had to be at least 10 programs that called.

It felt good to be wanted. I wasn't recruited to Baylor, and I was always "just a walk-on" there, but at this point, I'm way past the recruiting phase. I've gone through so much; now it's all about just playing football. 

I narrowed it down to two schools: Faulkner University in Alabama and Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas—right up the road.

In the NAIA, they can't do official visits and offer flights, so I really wasn't able to visit any of the schools that called other than SAGU. I didn't want to commit to a school without seeing it. I also know how important community is, so I didn't want to agree to play somewhere blind.

I visited SAGU twice. The first time, I went to their spring game, coming from Baylor. I knew anywhere I went, there would be a major drop-off in facilities, but it was shocking how small it was. I had just come from a new $280 million stadium, and they were playing at a rec field in the back.

Even with that considered, the guys I watched were fired up. They were having fun. They were talking smack. It was football. 

After the spring game, I drove up the following Thursday with the head coach, Frank Tristan, who offered to come pick me up. We talked the whole ride about what had gone on and faith. That man is not just interested in coaching; he's teaching kids about life. That was important for me. He seems like a great coach and a man of God.  

When we arrived at the school, he gave me a tour of campus. My high school was bigger. They told me that I would be a big part of the team next year and that they were all very excited to have me. It's different from where I came from, but they made me feel wanted, and it was close to where I wanted to be. I was sold.

A big part of the reason I decided to transfer up the road to SAGU is because it's only 50 minutes away from Baylor. I can visit often, and that's still the plan. That's important to me. I am already planning to come back during one of the bye weeks to catch a game to support my teammates. I know that I won't be a student or athlete any longer and that my access will be limited. But there are people I care about here.

I'm finishing the semester strong with A's and B's. My last final is Saturday. That will be my last day as a Bear.

It's tough and sad. This is where I always wanted to be. This is the team I dreamed of for so long. This community, the coaching staff, my teammates and everything about the school was amazing. This was the pinnacle of everything I worked for, so of course it's going to be hard to leave.

At least I'll be leaving with a keepsake—a Big 12 Championship ring. To be honest, I wasn't sure I would get one.

It also feels better knowing that my friend, Wyatt Schrepfer, will get the same opportunity I once did. Wyatt came from Colorado School of Mines wanting to play at a bigger program. The day I found out I was off the team was the day he found out he was on it.

I essentially gave him my spot, and I couldn't be happier for him.

As one of my final farewells, we delivered pizzas to the library together.

The plan is to head back to California once finals are done, where the journey began. NAIA is a lot less rigorous, and we're not required to be out here for the summer. Most of the guys go home, so I'm going back to train and hopefully get a job.

I'll be living with my mom back in California. I'm excited because I haven't seen her in some time. I think in the past four years, we've spent maybe a month or two together total. She sacrificed so much when I was younger, and I know we really didn't get along.

But I want to give back. She's been so critical of how she raised us—raising four kids by herself. She did a wonderful job. Other than being in Waco training, there is no better option.

Once I get home, I need to be training. If I were in Waco, I'd be working out two or three hours a day. I want to do the same on my own. I'm not sure what job I will pick up.  It doesn't matter to me as long as I am staying in shape and one step closer to my next goal. 

If I have to, I'll go work at Chipotle. I'm ready.

After I committed to SAGU, I picked up my journal for the first time in a long time. 

I had been writing "2014 Baylor Playmaker" or "2015 Baylor Playmaker" as my goals since 2013, but after I found out I was ineligible, I didn't know what to write. I didn't know what to say. I let it go and stopped writing altogether. I lost it, at least temporarily.

The day after I agreed to join SAGU, I found it again. I was ready to write. I had something to say. The first thing I wrote down was...

NAIA All-American.

Glory to God.

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