NCAA Football News

Diddy Says He Has Been Banned from UCLA Football Practices After Arrest

After he allegedly swung a kettlebell at the team's strength and conditioning coach, Diddy has apparently been banned from attending UCLA Bruins practices.

"As I know right now I'm not allowed," Diddy said when asked on Power 105's The Breakfast Club whether he would watch his son, Justin Combs, practice (h/t Arlene Washington of the Hollywood Reporter).

He didn't elaborate about when that decision was made, as he posted a photo of his son at practice on Instagram four days ago:            

The 45-year-old rap mogul was arrested and charged with assault for reportedly attacking Sal Alosi at UCLA's athletic facility after Alosi was "screaming intensely" at Justin during practice, per Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office declined to pursue felony charges against Diddy. TMZ reported in June that Bruins head coach Jim Mora and members of his staff just hoped to move on and didn't want to see Diddy facing any charges stemming from the incident.

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Notre Dame Football: Week 2 Fall Camp Stock Report

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As fall camp continues back on campus, Notre Dame football is now within three weeks of its season opener against Texas under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium.

More than midway through camp, let’s take a look at the past week of practice, and comments from head coach Brian Kelly and the Irish.

 

Injuries

While much of the news surrounding the Irish in 2015 deals with returns—whether from injury or academic issues—Notre Dame must now move forward with a major personnel loss, as defensive tackle Jarron Jones is out for the season with an MCL injury.

During an 11-on-11 situation at practice last week, Jones was rolled up on—“kind of a freak deal,” Kelly said—and suffered the injury. Jones is scheduled for surgery this week. The 6’5”, 315-pounder from Rochester, New York, logged 11 starts last season before enduring a Lisfranc injury that finished his campaign. Jones racked up 40 tackles, including 7.5 for a loss, in 2014.

“Just one of those things you can never prepare for,” said Kelly, who added that Jones will return next year.

Kelly said true freshman Jerry Tillery and sophomore Daniel Cage are expected to fill Jones’ void, while true freshman Elijah Taylor will likely be active rather than redshirted. Junior Isaac Rochell will not slide inside in Notre Dame’s base defense, Kelly said.

Tillery enrolled early at Notre Dame and was one of the spring standouts.

“Invaluable to have him here in the spring given the fact that obviously he’s gonna have a pretty prominent role for us on the defensive side of the ball,” Kelly said of Tillery. “That obviously is a big plus for us. He knows the defense pretty well.”

Jones will remain around the team and travel with the squad, Kelly said.

Irish fifth-year linebacker Jarrett Grace, who missed the 2014 season and the second half of the 2013 circuit with a leg injury, said Saturday he had spoken with Jones.

“I told Jarron, I said, ‘Look, man. You can contribute to this team so much still. Just because you’re sidelined, it doesn’t minimize your role. You can really reach out to all these young guys, offer insights to the guys who are gonna be filling in for you,’” Grace said.

For his part, Grace said he truly feels like an athlete again, past the pain that still surfaced in the spring.

“It’s really good,” Grace said of his health. “The spring was awesome just to get my feet wet, but I was working through a lot of pain. But now I feel I can really contribute to this team.”

Senior running back C.J. Prosise is dealing with a hip flexor and missed Saturday’s practice. Kelly said Prosise will start moving around Monday and should be close to 100 percent by Saturday.

Freshman linebacker Josh Barajas (pulled hamstring) is likely out for two weeks, per Kelly.

 

Malik Zaire

As his second career start nears, Irish junior quarterback Malik Zaire has impressed Kelly.

“What I like about him is [he’s] extremely coachable,” Kelly said Saturday. “I like that he’s focusing in on some of the detail areas that are so important at the quarterback position.”

Zaire and the Notre Dame offense logged plenty of red-zone and situational work in practices open to the media in the past week. Kelly praised Zaire’s overall offensive management, red-zone functionality and communication.

 

Freshmen

Notre Dame’s freshman class ranks highly among Kelly’s list of key takeaways through the first bulk of fall practices.

“We’ve got great competition,” Kelly said. “That’s the biggest difference with this team compared to any of the other teams that I’ve had here at Notre Dame. We’ve got great competition. A lot of it is built up from last year. Then this freshman class has added a lot to the competition as well.”

Even as far back as national signing day, Kelly has touted the incoming cornerbacks: Shaun Crawford, Nick Coleman and Ashton White. All three have flashed in the fall, and Crawford and Coleman have staked their claim to first-team practice reps.

Crawford struck Kelly as a “football player” for his work on special teams in high school, not to mention his ability at corner. Coleman, meanwhile, possesses “great make-up speed,” according to the head coach.

In addition to Crawford, Coleman and Tillery, Kelly tabbed linebacker Te'von Coney, another early enrollee, as a potential rookie contributor.

On the offensive side, Notre Dame’s depth at wide receiver is impossible to ignore. Slot man C.J. Sanders brings elusiveness and an ability to cut at full speed that Kelly said the Irish “haven’t had … in my time here.” Equanimeous St. Brown is ahead of schedule, per Kelly, and “runs like a deer,” coupling such natural ability with the toughness to return to practice within 24 hours of two separate sprained ankles.

 

Josh Anderson

When walk-on senior running back Josh Anderson met with head football equipment manager Ryan Grooms on Wednesday, he had no idea how his life was about to change.

“Look, we want you to model this uniform,” Grooms told Anderson. “You’d fit the uniform, and it’d be funny.”

So Anderson agreed to don the Shamrock Series uniform, set to be unveiled Thursday morning.

“OK. I like that,” Anderson replied. “The next morning I put on the uniform.”

What followed?

As shown in the video that has since gone viral, Kelly announced Anderson had earned a scholarship.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Anderson said Saturday. “It was amazing. Oh, man. I can’t even tell you how great I feel.”

Growing up in California, Anderson loved Notre Dame and wanted to attend the university in South Bend, Indiana, just like his father had. A two-time letterwinner at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California, Anderson could have played collegiately at the Division II, Division III or FCS levels. He was also accepted to Navy.

But Anderson was admitted to Notre Dame, contacted assistant coach Mike Denbrock and toured campus with the now-associate head coach while visiting South Bend as an accepted student. Anderson joined the team as a preferred walk-on.

After many practices and countless hits from his time on the scout team, all while balancing a pre-med course load, Anderson landed a scholarship.

“I can’t even believe it,” Anderson said. “My parents are still kind of in shock. It’s like life hasn’t been real the past few days. It’s just unbelievable. I have so much great support around me—friends and family. I’m so blessed, so thankful. God is so good. That’s all I can say.”

Anderson called his parents Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET. His father, Joe, back in California, picked up the phone at 5:30 local time. Joe put Josh on speakerphone so his wife, Darlene, could hear the news. Josh called back a few hours later to ensure his parents of the news.

Since the video circulated, Anderson’s phone has been active.

“Friends and family, just about everybody I met ever in my entire life is telling me congratulations and that they’re happy for me,” Anderson said.

 

Quick Hits

Kelly said Thursday that senior cornerback KeiVarae Russell passed one NCAA hurdle and still has one more to go. Ishaq Williams’ situation, Kelly added, is still pending. The head coach had no updates as of Saturday afternoon.

In addition to Notre Dame’s leadership and the play of the Irish freshmen, Kelly singled out linebacker Jaylon Smith as one of the biggest positives.

“Jaylon Smith is remarkable in terms of what he’s doing on the field,” Kelly said. “He is on his game.”

Kelly said junior wide receiver Will Fuller is the leading option at punt returner, though Sanders wowed the crowd Saturday with a length punt-return score. Kelly said he doesn’t necessarily prefer Sanders as the top return man, but the Irish would be fine with the freshman if he emerged as the go-to guy.

Graduate student safety Avery Sebastian, who’s using his fifth year at Notre Dame after arriving from Cal, has earned first-team reps so far this fall.

“We’re pleased with him,” Kelly said. “I thought we were gonna get more of a situational guy, option, box safety, but he’s shown himself to know our defense pretty good. He picks up things very well, pretty smart guy.”

Sebastian said Notre Dame has already exceeded his expectations since the summer transition.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Alabama Football: Week 2 Fall Camp Stock Report

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Although the University of Alabama held its first scrimmage of the fall on Saturday, the big news from it didn’t emerge until Monday morning when senior quarterback Jake Coker wasn’t on the field for the first practice of a two-a-day.

Just after noon Alabama released the following statement from Nick Saban: “Jake Coker has a minor foot injury that we think will keep him out of practice for several days. Our physicians anticipate a full recovery.”

Although the prognosis was mostly good news in that Coker appears to have avoided a potentially serious setback, the timing couldn’t have been worse, as this is the most important week of training camp for the quarterback competition.

Last year Blake Sims won the starting job with his performance in the second camp scrimmage. This camp’s version will be held this upcoming Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The coach will likely discuss the team’s approach at the position during his next press conference on Wednesday afternoon. Coker is competing with junior Alec Morris, sophomore Cooper Bateman, redshirt freshman David Cornwell and true freshman Blake Barnett but is the only one of the five to have attempted a pass in a game.

Morris doubles as the backup punter, while Bateman is the holder for the kickers.

To give an idea of how unusual the situation is: Alabama hasn’t had a starting quarterback miss a start since Saban arrived in 2007.

Alabama didn’t release any statistics from the first scrimmage, and afterward Saban said, “I can’t really say that one guy was better than another.” He also didn’t mention Coker’s injury, making it likely that it was discovered after the scrimmage.

“Offensively, I think we got better as the day went on in terms of how we competed, how we played,” Saban said. “A lot of the success that we had in the scrimmage offensively came toward the end of the scrimmage. We made some plays, got some confidence and that kind of got people going. Which, I think when you have young players and a lot of new players that’s something that is really important for them to be able to gain.”

Otherwise, Alabama appears to have avoided any major injury setbacks during training camp:

  • Coaches are being cautious with senior running back Kenyan Drake (hamstring), and freshman Bo Scarbrough (knee) has been limited. Scarbrough will also serve a four-game eligibility suspension in September.
  • Junior wide receiver Chris Black is close to returning from a sprained ankle. Sophomore Robert Foster suffered a sprained knee in the scrimmage but was back practicing on Monday. Alabama is already without sophomore Cam Sims (knee) and junior Raheem Falkins (leg).
  • Redshirt freshman cornerback Marlon Humphrey (“pulled muscle”) is still limited.
  • Reserve redshirt freshman offensive lineman Josh Casher (torn pectoral) remains out. Freshman tackle Lester Cotton missed some practice time with an undisclosed injury. Freshman defensive lineman Anfernee Jennings (back) has yet to start practicing with the team.

 

Taking it easy on the running backs

With Alabama having some depth concerns at running back, in addition to the quarterback competition, the focus during the first scrimmage was on the passing game.

“I didn’t really want to see anything from the running backs, if you want to know the truth about it,” Saban said. “We wanted Derrick Henry to carry the ball six times. I’ve seen him carry the ball enough not to make him go out and prove himself in a scrimmage that means nothing to no one.”

Instead, younger players like true freshman Damien Harris, who could be pressed into service early, and redshirt freshman Ronnie Clark have been getting extra reps.

“I think he learned today what it takes to play college football, which is a good thing, and he had some production,” Saban said about Davis. “Ronnie same thing. Some of the young guys really got an opportunity and I think that’s a good thing.

 

The name is Minkah

The surprise of camp has been cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, who hasn’t been playing like a true freshman. 

“Minkah’s done a really, really good job,” Saban said. “He’s very instinctive and learns quickly, understands concepts. He’s probably going to a be a guy that, if he continues to progress, could make some contribution for us this year.”

Fitzpatrick, who enrolled early, was rated a 5-star prospect in the Class of 2015 by 247Sports but 4-star in its composite rankings. Regardless, the prospect out of St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, New Jersey, was considered one of the top 50 players in the nation.

“You can tell he’s focused in,” senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “Most freshmen hit that wall when they first get into camp and he hasn’t hit that wall yet. He’s still out there focused in, looking good, moving around like he’s been doing that for years.”

 

Crimson Tide bits

• Ragland has been getting some work in at outside linebacker to be a pass-rusher in certain situations. “I can do more than play inside linebacker,” he said. “If I can show that I can pass-rush and get to the quarterback, we can do a bunch of other stuff too.”

• Prior to his hamstring injury Drake was also trying his hand at kick returner: “I feel pretty comfortable,” he said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since coming here, but obviously we had a pretty seasoned veteran at kick return in Christion Jones before. So just having the opportunity to do that now, as long as—the most important thing is ball security—so as long as you can maintain the ball and make plays at the same time, you can be successful.”

• Saban called sophomore ArDarius Stewart the offense’s most consistent wide receiver. “I think he's the next guy that we need to sort of be the man when it comes to playing receiver and playing with consistency.” True freshman Calvin Ridley appears to be on pace to land a rotation spot.

• Fall semester classes begin on the Alabama campus on Wednesday.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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SEC Football: Biggest Surprises Midway Through Fall Camp

We've reached the midway point of fall camp, and that means there's depth-chart movement across the South.

Who's leading the quarterback battles? Which running backs are taking charge? Which true freshmen are pushing for playing time?

Some of those questions are starting to get answered. The most surprising fall camp storylines based on depth and scheme are in this slideshow.

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No. 1 WR Nate Craig-Myers Updates Recruitment Status, Schools He Hopes to Visit

While Florida State has long been the perceived favorite for 5-star receiver Nate Craig-Myers, it’s the rival Florida Gators who appear to be trending him in the days leading up to beginning of his senior season.

Most observers would make the connection that the sudden change is due to his brother—3-star corner Jayvaughn Myers—committing to the Gators earlier this month.

However, Craig-Myers said that is not entirely the case.

“They were recruiting me hard before my brother committed,” Craig-Myers told Bleacher Report. “Now, I feel like they are really trying to make me a top priority.”

Throughout his recruitment, Craig-Myers has been consistent in stating that both players are not a package deal.

Jayvaughn echoed that sentiment after the brothers attended a Gators summer camp last month, as noted by GatorBait’s Luke Stampini.

“It’s possible, but we ain’t really focusing on [playing together in college],” Myers told Stampini. “It’s possible though. We’re doing it separate.”

Still, the Gators have been slowly building momentum with the nation’s top-rated receiver and No. 19 player overall in the 2016 class.

Nate said his last visit was beneficial in helping him get to know new head coach Jim McElwain and his staff.

“It was a good experience. It was fun to sit down and talk with the new coaching staff and get a feel for them,” Craig-Myers said. “I just feel like [McElwain] is going to take this program in the right direction. He’s a great guy. He’s a very down-to-earth person, and I like that about him.”

As for the Seminoles, Craig-Myers notes that while FSU is still in the picture, the dialogue between the two sides has tapered off recently.

“Really, we haven’t been talking that much lately,” Craig-Myers said. “There’s no reason for it. It’s just we haven’t been communicating as much.”

Still, the race to land the 6’2”, 205-pound Tampa product has a long way to go before he makes a decision.

Along with Florida, Alabama and Miami are two other programs he said are recruiting him the hardest.

The next item on his agenda is lining up his official visit schedule. He said some trips could take place later in the season or after his season concludes.

“I don’t have my official visits set up yet,” Craig-Myers said. “I just want to get out to a few schools and see what they have to offer. Notre Dame, Alabama, Miami, Ohio State and North Carolina are some of those schools.”

As for what he is looking for in a home at the next level, a few traits will take precedent in his search for the perfect fit.

“I want to find a place that fits me the best and feels like home away from home,” Craig-Myers said. “Just somewhere I feel comfortable on and off the field, and somewhere I can compete for a chance to play right away.”

 

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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Florida Football: 2015 Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions

A new era of Florida football will officially begin in a few weeks as Jim McElwain starts to rebuild the Gators toward title contention in the near future.

Florida has plenty of reasons for optimism under McElwain, an offensive-minded head coach who had championship-level success as a coordinator in the SEC before a pair of bowl trips in three seasons at Colorado State.

The Gators return seven starters from a fierce defense, including an elite secondary that features star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.

But there are plenty of question marks in Gainesville, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The Gators still have position battles to solve, and an offensive line that was ravaged by injury in spring practice only returns one starter.

With the 2015 kickoff less than three weeks away, let's take a game-by-game look at the Florida schedule and post some predictions for the Gators' first season under McElwain and his new staff. 

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College Football 2015: Who Will Win the Heisman Trophy?

With the 2015 season nearly underway, it is high time to discuss potential Heisman candidates. Bleacher Report's Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down which top contenders could win the coveted award this December.

Who do you think should win the Heisman Trophy? Hit the comment section below.

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Jake Coker's Minor Injury Opens Door for David Cornwell to Seize Alabama QB Job

The panic of August was felt in full force by Alabama fans on Monday morning when one of the primary contenders for the quarterback job and last season's primary backup went missing during the Crimson Tide's morning practice.

Senior Jake Coker, the former Florida State signal-caller and presumed No. 1 in the battle to replace Blake Sims for the defending SEC champs, wasn't present during the open portion of practice, according to Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com.

It turns out there's a reason for his absence.

"Jake Coker has a minor foot injury that we think will keep him out of practice for several days," head coach Nick Saban said in a statement emailed by Alabama. "Our physicians anticipate a full recovery."

The good news is that Coker's injury doesn't appear to be too serious, but missing several days of practice at this point during fall camp could dramatically change the landscape of the Alabama quarterback battle. 

Coker, junior Alec Morris, sophomore Cooper Bateman, redshirt freshman David Cornwell and true freshman Blake Barnett are all vying for the top spot on the depth chart. 

As ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough notes, that battle is wide open.

Alabama entered Saturday's scrimmage—the first of the fall—with a rough outline of the depth chart, with specific players being tabbed as first-, second- and third-string quarterbacks, according to Matt Zenitz of AL.com. It's safe to assume Coker was either the first- or second-teamer heading in and Cornwell, who entered fall camp as the No. 2, is likely in the mix after taking many of the second-team snaps early in fall camp.

Coker's absence is going to be huge for Cornwell because while others have been the buzz of fall camp—including the true freshman Barnett—Cornwell still has the talent and some rather significant time this offseason as Coker's primary competition to fall back on in the race to be the No. 1.

The 6'5" 240-pounder from Norman, Oklahoma, came to Alabama in January 2014 as a 4-star prospect. But a torn ACL suffered during his senior season in high school and an ankle injury suffered last spring prevented him from showing the staff what he's made of until spring practice 2015.

During that session, Cornwell elevated himself into the clear-cut No. 2 midway through spring, which speaks volumes about how much he impressed the staff.

Whether he's fallen off, stayed steady at No. 2 or was pushing to be No. 1 during fall camp, now's the time to make a statement and make a strong case for the starting job prior to the neutral-site showdown with Wisconsin at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Prolonged, significant work with the "ones"—however much he gets—will allow Cornwell to earn (or perhaps regain) the trust of the staff and the rest of this teammates. Plus, when he goes against the Tide's first-team defense, he'll get a good look at one of the nation's best units with Alabama's best players around him.

As ESPN.com's Chris Low notes, the second scrimmage was the one in which Sims essentially solidified the job last year.

That makes it the time for Cornwell to shine, whether Coker is out, limited or a "full go."

Coker's injury has transformed the Alabama quarterback battle from a marathon into a sprint. If Cornwell can hit full stride now, he could win the job by the end of the week.

If he doesn't—or even worse, can't—it'd be an indication that the quarterback play in Tuscaloosa is mess.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.comBarrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93 XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter: @BarrettSallee.

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Notre Dame Football: Why Jerry Tillery Could Be Biggest Impact Freshman in 2015

Welcome to college football, Jerry Tillery. Your time to shine has arrived just months after arriving on Notre Dame's campus as an early enrollee. 

Unfortunately, Tillery's increased role in the Irish's 2015 defense comes at the expense of defensive tackle Jarron Jones, who sustained a season-ending MCL injury requiring surgery. Following numerous reports, head coach Brian Kelly confirmed the injury in a press conference

It's a tough blow for Jones, who missed what amounted to the final few games of last season with a foot injury. He'll be able to redshirt and return for 2016, but you have to feel for the guy all the same. 

But as Kelly undoubtedly believes, the next man up has to take over. And the next man up for the interior of the defensive line is Tillery and Daniel Cage. 

"Jerry will be in there. Cage will be in there," Kelly said in the press conference. "Those two guys will play the 1-technique." 

Given Notre Dame's expectations for the '15 season and how poorly the defense played down the stretch last year, Tillery becomes one of college football's most important freshmen. But what he lacks in experience, he more than makes up for in talent and potential. 

Tillery began his Notre Dame career as an offensive lineman, but he quickly moved to the defensive tackle spot and took snaps with the No. 1 defense while Jones recovered from his foot injury. For an early-enrollee freshman at a new position, Tillery exited spring as one of the Irish's more impressive players.  

"He knows the defense pretty well," Kelly told JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago. "And the more he's here, the more he's comfortable with being put in that role of going out and playing as a freshman. So (it was) real big for us."

Indeed, that practice time and trust could prove to be invaluable, as Tillery will be asked to take heavy reps right away with Cage. There are few breaks in the schedule, as well. Texas and veteran running back Johnathan Gray come to South Bend in Week 1. Georgia Tech's option attack is in Week 3. Clemson and Navy are in back-to-back weeks in early October. 

That's a lot to throw at a young player right away. Not surprisingly, the Yellow Jackets and Midshipmen finished No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, last year in rushing. Clemson should have one of the top offenses in the country this season. 

Notre Dame's rushing defense went downhill last season once November rolled around. The Irish gave up 12 touchdowns on the ground during that month, tied for 115th in college football, and allowed 4.77 yards per carry. Not coincidentally, Notre Dame was giving up more than 43 points per game, cementing itself as one of the worst defenses in college football. 

Stuffing the run begins up front. While the nose tackle isn't usually going to put up a bunch of sacks, their job is to clog lanes and be disruptive. 

All signs indicate that Tillery can be that guy, but the margin for error is smaller, and the learning curve happens on the fly. As last year proved, Notre Dame isn't at its best when trying to win high-scoring games. His responsibility cannot be overstated. 

One of the trendy favorites to make a playoff run, according to Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel, Notre Dame has been taking hits with the injury to Jones and the academic suspension of running back Greg Bryant. At the very least, it's not the kind of start Notre Dame wants before even playing a game. 

The silver lining is that the Irish have skill at both of those positions on the depth chart to make up for the losses. Tillery was one of the most impressive players for Notre Dame this spring, freshman or otherwise. But with that comes high expectations, not unlike Notre Dame itself. 

Like the Irish as a whole, Tillery will be asked to deliver right away. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

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NLRB Rules Northwestern Football Players Cannot Unionize

In a surprising decision, the National Labor Relations Board issued a unanimous decision Monday that denies Northwestern football players the right to unionize.

The decision overturns a ruling from the NLRB's Chicago office, which said scholarship athletes of private institutions were university employees and had the right to unionize. Monday's decision does not make an official ruling on whether student-athletes are employees; it merely dismisses the NLRB's jurisdiction and thus the players' right to unionize. 

In making its "narrowly focused" decision, the labor board stated it did not believe allowing private institutions the right to unionize would create a more uniform working environment. All but 17 of the FBS' 125 teams are state-run institutions, which are not bound by NLRB rulings. 

"As the NCAA and conference maintain substantial control over individual teams, the Board held that asserting jurisdiction over a single team would not promote stability in labor relations across the league," a statement read. "This decision is narrowly focused to apply only to the players in this case and does not preclude reconsideration of this issue in the future."

Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated noted the crux of the argument has not been commented on:

The ruling will not be subject for appeal. Northwestern players, who voted last year on whether to unionize, will have those votes thrown out. Though reporters indicated players voted against unionization, those results will not be publicized. 

Other notable institutions that could have been subject to unionization include Notre Dame, USC, Stanford and Boston College. This ruling prohibits those players from voting on the national level. However, as noted by Kevin Trahan of SB Nation, it is possible (albeit unlikely) for state or city governments to offer players the right to unionize.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter 

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USC Football: Ricky Town's Transfer Shows Importance of Recruiting QB Depth

Some were surprised last summer when 4-star Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold joined a 2015 USC recruiting class that already included prized passer Ricky Town. A year later, only the less publicized prospect will spend a collegiate season in Los Angeles.

Town's intentions to transfer less than two weeks into his first Trojans training camp were confirmed by head coach Steve Sarkisian.

"We wish him the best of luck," he said, via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. "He's worked extremely hard, he's been a great member of our program and I'm sure wherever he decides to go, he'll be a good member of that program as well."

Town, a 2014 Elite 11 finalist, rated sixth nationally among pro-style quarterbacks in 247Sports' 2015 composite recruiting rankings. The former St. Bonaventure (Ventura, California) High School standout initially committed to Alabama before his junior season but flipped to USC shortly after Sarkisian arrived.

Instead of setting the tone for a supremely impressive and potentially program-altering 2015 Trojans class, Town will continue his college career on another campus. 

This development would devastate depth charts at plenty of other programs. Most coaching staffs can't afford to lose a blue-chip recruit before his freshman campaign and still move confidently forward into the future at quarterback.

USC can.

Senior Cody Kessler, a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, handles duties behind center now, but plenty of promise lies ahead. The Trojans roster still features four passers who were rated top-five talents at their position, including redshirt sophomore and top-overall Class of 2013 quarterback Max Browne.

Browne is likely to replace Kessler next year and holds eligibility through the 2017 season. Darnold, ranked fifth nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2015 class, is left as the lone newcomer at quarterback in Town's absence.

Jalen Greene, signed in 2014, shifted from quarterback to wide receiver during the offseason. He could be asked to reverse course and return to his high school position, but that move probably isn't necessary.

Darnold was a relative mystery man at the 2014 national Elite 11 in Oregon. Though he held offers from Oregon, USC and others, the San Clemente High School product missed most of his junior season due to an injury and didn't carry the national notoriety of other quarterbacks in attendance.

Darnold dispelled doubts last fall when he collected 3,770 total yards and 52 touchdowns. He arrived at USC this summer, months after Town enrolled early.

Suddenly, he's the only scholarship quarterback in a two-year span.

"He has some really cool flashes where he's making plays and some other plays where we've got to coach him," Sarkisian said via Klein.

The Trojans are in no rush to use Darnold, and if things go according to plan he is undoubtedly destined for redshirt status this year. If Browne transitions into the starting role after Kessler's departure it could mean three seasons of preparation for Darnold, who is far from a polished passer at this point.

USC is also set to welcome 4-star quarterback Matt Fink to campus next year. The Los Angeles County prospect, rated 10th nationally among dual-threat talents entering their senior high school seasons, committed in May.

The Trojans may soon add another intriguing athlete to this equation. Tate Martell, a 5-star 2017 quarterback, will announce his decision in August. USC is one of five finalists, along with Alabama, Michigan, Texas A&M and Washington.

"There's no doubt USC is going to be one of my top schools. If it's not the choice, it will probably be second or third on my list at the most," Martell told Bleacher Report. "The program had a ton of stars when it was winning championships, and now it feels like they're reloading."

This sentiment rings especially true at quarterback, where the Trojans featured eventual NFL talents Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, John David Booty, Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley during Pete Carroll's overwhelmingly successful tenure.

Cassel, a 10-year NFL veteran and former Pro Bowl selection, never actually started a game at USC due to depth. As Sarkisian attempts to return the Trojans to prominence, it appears this new era could include a similar storyline behind center.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

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4-Star WR Stephen Sullivan Discusses LSU Decommitment, What's Next

As the first pledge of LSU's 2016 class, Donaldsonville, Louisiana, wide receiver Stephen Sullivan was expected to be a recruiting keystone for head coach Les Miles.

Sunday evening, the 4-star standout announced via Twitter that he has reopened his recruitment. Despite decommitting, Sullivan said that he still has LSU high on his list of schools:

The decision, Sullivan said, wasn't a sudden one.

"It's something I've been thinking about since May," Sullivan told Bleacher Report Monday. "I thought about it for a long time. I decommitted to make sure I pick the right school for me."

Sullivan is a big loss for LSU, figuratively and literally, at 6'5" and 230 pounds. He's a big-bodied playmaker who takes advantage of his size and hands against smaller defenders. Sullivan showed his ability over the summer at The Opening in Oregon.

As a junior, he was a reliable target in Donaldsonville's passing game. He caught 57 passes for 987 yards and 11 touchdowns. Sullivan, the nation's No. 12 wide receiver, averaged better than 17 yards per catch.

Sullivan, as he tweeted Sunday, reiterated on Monday that he's still a big fan of what LSU has to offer. He has a great relationship with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, as well as Miles and receivers coach Tony Ball.

LSU was his first FBS offer; he now has nine reported offers and a growing list of schools interested. To Sullivan, decommitting meant two things—giving all schools a chance to recruit him and being emphatically sure that he's making the right choice for his future.

"I'm not saying LSU isn't a great school," Sullivan said. "I'm just making sure I find the school that fits me, because at the end of the day, it's going to be me at practice and in the classroom. I'm just making sure I'm doing the right thing."

Among the schools considered to be in the mix for Sullivan outside of LSU are TCU and Auburn. Sullivan is being heavily recruited by both schools, and he has interest in them. He has made stops to both schools on unofficial visits.

Sullivan said he is taking his time with the process to ensure he makes the right decision. LSU is still considered a favorite to win him over, but the other interested schools have a legitimate chance at earning his commitment and, ultimately, his signature on a letter of intent.

As for announcing other potential favorites, Sullivan decided not to tip his hat.

"Every school that's considering me," he said. "My arms are open."

 

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

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Is Steve Sarkisian the Next Pete Carroll or the Next Lane Kiffin?

We've been here before with USC football, with Heisman Trophy candidates and with top 10 rankings. The fans can feel it. The media wants it. History always seems to be repeating itself with the Trojans. But the question is this: Which moment in history is this?

Is it the Pete Carroll national title era USC is so desperate to re-create? Or is it the Lane Kiffin era of baseless high hopes, of being set up to fail and doing it masterfully.

This is the year we find out of USC's current coach, Steve Sarkisian, is the next Carroll or the next Kiffin.

USC fans know this is true. They aren't stupid. What they don't know is that their expectations are too high for Sarkisian, or "Seven-Win Sark," as they were calling him at Washington. In no time, he took the Huskies from terrible to solid. And then they stayed right there.

USC isn't going to accept solid.

"We came here to win championships," Sarkisian told reporters at Pac-12 media day recently. "At some point, those expectations were going to be what they were. How quickly, we didn't know. But if the expectations were going to be too big, this wasn't going to be the place for you."

Everything is set up so well, from star quarterback Cody Kessler to the hype, from the depth that had been missing through the years of probation to questions about the top Pac-12 opponents.

Still, these expectations aren't forward-looking. They are looking back at Carroll. And they aren't fair to Sarkisian, just like they weren't fair to Kiffin. We've been here before with USC.

It was ranked No. 1 in 2012. No. 1! For a team that was on probation! That team had a handful of stars, such as QB Matt Barkley, but hardly enough players to fill out the rest of the roster. Kiffin told me a few years ago that he was so worried about the lack of depth that year that he didn't have the players hit each other in practice. They couldn't afford the injuries.

As a result, the team wasn't tough enough, so he started having them hit. Then injuries depleted the roster more. So yes, when you're expected to win the national title and you go 7-6, that's disappointment.

Kiffin talked about it with me that day on the little terrace area at the football offices. He pointed to a huge picture of Carroll hovering over him on the wall, saying that he could never have Carroll's flair.

Carroll is hovering over Sarkisian, too. If it works out, then eight or nine weeks from now, Sarkisian might be the hottest coach in the country. This year might be the re-emergence. But the truth is that it might be a setup, too. It's about fans—and the media, frankly—remembering how great the Pete Carroll party was and trying to recreate it, like all those Woodstock re-incarnations they kept putting on. (Really? Rage Against the Machine to recreate Peace, Love and Music?)

Kiffin told me that day that Carroll would go surfing in the morning, come back to his office, shower and then show up at a press conference in flip-flops. How cool is that? Kiffin never had that relaxed air. He always seemed to be bickering with the media. Sarkisian is likable, but is he Carroll?

We've been here before with USC. It's lined up better now, if only because the Trojans won't take the field with just 48 players on scholarship, as they did a few times last year. Now, they're up into the 70s.

And USC did win nine games last year under Seven-Win Sark, the most he's ever won as a head coach. And he did run some of those high-powered USC offenses under Carroll.

But Sarkisian said something so telling during Pac-12 media day, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today:

It was a shot at Oregon and all of its wild attire. At the feeling that a team that wears glow-in-the-dark uniforms can't be permanent. Not like USC.

The Pac-12 media even picked USC to be conference champs this year over Oregon.

The conference does line up right for Sarkisian. Stanford had an off year last season. UCLA lost quarterback Brett Hundley. And Oregon, coming off a national title game loss to Ohio State, has lost QB Marcus Mariota.

But it's incredible that some people still aren't sure that Oregon is real, that there are people who still think it's just a fluke. It beat Florida State in the national semifinal game with its hurry-up, wacky offense. But with Mariota gone, with QB replacement Vernon Adams struggling to remain eligible, and with questions apparently still unanswered about coach Mark Helfrich's ability, some people seem to think the Ducks' ride is over.

Momentum is an underrated thing in college football. Notre Dame had it a few years ago until Alabama stuffed it in the national title game, and the Irish haven't been the same since. Oregon has it now, unless you think Ohio State beat it out of the Ducks.

And USC simply doesn't have it, not after Carroll left the place on fire, with Reggie Bush's agent and Kiffin just stomping around in the ashes.

But maybe it's about to get the momentum back. The setup is ready for a Kessler Heisman run. The coaches poll has USC ranked No. 10, meaning it is situated well for a dash toward the College Football Playoff.

It's on Sarkisian now to be Carroll or to flame out.

This is going to be a repeat of history, all right. But which version of history?

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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LSU Football: It's Time to Name Brandon Harris the 2015 Starting Quarterback

BATON ROUGE, La. — When their players come off the field, LSU head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron can often tell a lot just from the look in the quarterback’s eyes.

Sometimes they see how little he understands about what had just occurred. Much more desirable is poise and confidence, even when things didn’t go as well as planned.

They’re beginning to see that from a quarterback during training camp this fall, only it’s not the guy who started all but one game last season.

“It really doesn’t matter if they make a decision the day of the game, tomorrow, it doesn’t matter,” sophomore Brandon Harris said about his quarterback competition with junior Anthony Jennings. “You’ve got to go out there and perform to keep your spot, and if you don’t you’ll be sitting on the sideline when somebody else is playing.”

That’s the kind of thing a player who’s figured some things out would say, and Harris clearly has.

While Miles called Harris “a little bit more explosive,” Jennings “a little more veteran” and might soon be calling freshman Justin McMillan a little bit of a phenom, it’s becoming more and more obvious who’s going to be behind center for the opener against McNeese State on Sept. 5 (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).

Harris, who is beginning to fulfill his potential as a big, mobile quarterback with a strong arm, has earned it—or at least is well on his way to doing so.

Considering LSU’s schedule, with a Week 2 visit to Mississippi State followed by Auburn visiting Tiger Stadium, and how every practice can only help him and build the confidence of the other players, the sooner the better. Unless something dramatic happens during the next few days, the latest Miles ought to tell Harris is after the next scrimmage.

“Great improvement” was how Cameron described Harris since the end of last season, while Miles said the difference was “night and day” from last year’s Auburn game, when Harris’ first career start was a game he’d like to forget. 

The week before, the then-freshman had come off the bench to lead the offense to touchdowns on seven straight possessions against New Mexico State, but during the 41-7 loss to Auburn completed just three of 14 passes for 58 yards before getting pulled early in the second half.

“You have to realize this, Brandon came from a system in high school that had him primarily in the shotgun, and second they were running 100 plays a game,” Cameron said. “They were the equivalent of a guy going to the driving range and firing bucket after bucket of balls. ‘If I miss one I’ll fire another one.’ An incompletion really didn’t have any value.

“I can’t tell you how many times I saw Brandon Harris complete 4th-and-10. Multiple times. So now after the Auburn experience you throw one incompletion and you punt, and you sit over there and then you throw a second incompletion and punt...the next thing you know you’re playing from behind. I think he has a greater appreciation of how important each rep is, and that’s a young-guy thing.”

The knock on Harris in 2014 was his youth and not fully understanding the offseason, causing Cameron to scale the playbook way down for him. He played sparingly the rest of the season and finished completing 25 of 45 attempts for 452 yards, with six touchdowns and two interceptions in nine games.

Jennings was 111-of-227 (48.9 percent) for 1,611 yards, with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions, for a passer-efficiency rating of 118.3 that ranked 12th among Southeastern Conference starters and 83rd in the nation. The lack of consistency at the position was a huge reason why LSU finished 8-5 and tied for fourth in the SEC West.

Consequently, the quarterback competition resumed in the spring and they were considered neck-and-neck when Jennings was suspended following a June arrest for alleged breaking and entering. Because he wasn’t reinstated until just before the start of training camp, Harris led the 7-on-7 drills during the summer.

“The guys really bought in,” Harris said. “The receivers fought hard this summer. I was tough on them by asking a lot of things, getting them up and having them catch passes with me every chance I got.

“They’ve had a great summer as well as fall camp.”

During Sunday’s media day at the LSU football complex Harris was one of the first players to walk in and was immediately swarmed by the majority of reporters on hand. More than 45 minutes later, after every one of his teammates had already left, a school official finally pulled him out.

Harris answered every question, even the loaded ones. He talked about adding 18 pounds to get his weight up near 210, working with a quarterback coach on his own time and how he was completely staying away from the distractions of social media. Just about every time Harris could have answered a question with the word “I” he instead used “we.”

In short, Harris hasn’t been waiting for the coaches to tell him he’s the starting quarterback. He’s acting as if he already has the job. 

Harris has been getting more snaps with the first unit during practices and, according to James Smith of the Times-Picayune, even addressed the offense at Saturday’s scrimmage.

Miles would only state that the quarterbacks as a whole completed 20 of 34 attempts, with five passes dropped, but Cameron’s description of Harris’ performance was: “Nice first series and then had to go over and stand for about eight plays. Came out and was right on rhythm starting the second series, was completion, completion, got his eight-play series in and threw a touchdown.”

Harris said he was pleased with “not trying to look for home run shots down the field every play,” using his checkdowns and getting the ball to his running backs in open space.

Those are all signs of a quarterback beginning to come of age, which with LSU’s talent at all of the other playmaker positions could make a tremendous difference this season.

That doesn’t mean that Cameron won’t continue to get all three of his quarterbacks ready to play, even McMillan, who has already shown a knack for making big plays.

“Justin McMillan stepped in last night and—bam—touchdown,” Cameron said about the scrimmage. “Two plays later—bam—touchdown. He’s improving. He’s learning.”

Yet for now he’s playing the role of the promising skinny freshman, the quarterback of tomorrow, similar to what Harris was this time a year ago.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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B/R 5th Down: Jim Harbaugh's Khaki Tour Bus, Baylor Trolls TCU in Team Photo

Editor's Note: The 5th Down captures the top social college football stories of the week. Because the long, grueling offseason is underway, we'll focus on things that make us laugh, think or maybe cry, but mostly laugh.

 

1. ALERT: Jim Harbaugh's Khakis Have Their Own Bus

That's right, there's going to be a bus—a Fox Sports bus, to be specific—that will sport Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh's famous khakis. The bus will travel the country to promote Michigan's season opener at Utah (the game is being played on Fox Sports 1), per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press:

"Once it became official that Harbaugh was going to return to coach, it became a huge, huge priority for us, from a production standpoint and a marketing standpoint," said Robert Gottlieb, executive vice president and head of marketing for Fox Sports Media Group. "There's a lot of traditional media we're going to do around the game: TV commercials and radio commercials. But it was so special, and the appeal and the interest in Harbaugh and the program is so intensified, that we definitely wanted to do something that was a little out of the ordinary that would help drive home the message that this game is coming." 

Never before has there been so much fashion focus on something so...unfashionable. But hey, #brands and whatnot. I mean, they even have their own fake Twitter account

But let us never forget the best commercial of all time involving khakis: 

 

2. Your (Un)Intentional College Football Burn of the Week

Oh, sure. It was total coincidence that Baylor's Jarell Broxton (No. 61) and Spencer Drango (No. 58) just so happened to sit next to each other for a team photo. It had absolutely nothing to Baylor's 61-58 come-from-behind victory over TCU last year. Nope, none at all. 

"Weird coincidence," Baylor spokesman Heath Nielsen told The Associated Press. "Hard to believe, I know."

Just a reminder, TCU hosts Baylor on Nov. 27. Not that you didn't already have it circled on your calendar. 

 

3. Long Snappers Can Make Trick Shot Videos Too 

Our pal Ralph Russo from The Associated Press is no longer impressed with trick shot videos of the football variety. To his defense, there's a certain degree of truth that stems from the fact that, if you watch something long enough, the shine tends to wear off. 

But we can't speak for Russo. All we can do here at 5th Down is show you videos of long snappers—who, lest we remind you, get even less attention than kickers—hitting barrels while snapping footballs from the tops of their respective stadiums. 

For instance, here's Baylor long snapper Jimmy Landes:

And Western Kentucky long snapper Nolan Dowling: 

When watching these clips, we suggest thinking about the 99 percent. By that, we mean, "If 99 percent of the people in the world attempted this very thing, the odds of it going hilariously wrong are almost guaranteed." Someone would get hit in the face with the football or something. 

So while trick shot videos have been a fad over the summer—what else is everyone going to do?—there's still a level of impressiveness to them. Even if the novelty has worn off. 

 

4. Here's Penn State and Coach James Franklin Going Insane

Penn State head coach James Franklin is an emotional guy. That's a big part of why recruits and players love him so much. When you have an emotional coach, players feed off of that. 

So when the Nittany Lions were visited by members of the school's marching band during a team meeting, it was only natural that the roof on the place was barely contained in place: 

Just imagine what the place would have been like with the entire band. 

 

5. Special Teams Fun in Practice is Yielding Amazing Results 

Preseason practice isn't all business. Yes, we have just a few weeks remaining before the start of the season, so there's a sense of urgency to them. But what's practice without a little fun? 

Here we have two separate "punt returns" involving a Kansas defensive lineman and Miami's sports information director, Tom Symonds. One goes really well. The other...um...:

The reactions in both videos are priceless. Miami's players and coaches going wild over Symonds is amazing, but Kansas players nearly keeling over from laughter is even better.  

  

6. Presenting the Best Offseason Video of the Year

It's been noted before that Arizona's video crew does an amazing job with its athletics program. It should come as no surprise then that Arizona is back at it with this incredible James Bond spoof video. It also doesn't hurt when you have a coach like Rich Rodriguez, who thrives in these kinds of things. 

Come for the James Bond video, stay for the behind-the-scenes look from linebacker Scooby Wright III (below): 

 

7. From the Archives (Part I)

As you've probably heard by now, Frank Gifford sadly passed away earlier this month at the age of 84. The former New York Giant and Monday Night Football broadcaster was a voice for an entire generation of football lovers.

However, Gifford was at one time a star at the University of Southern California. Thanks to Inside USC, here's a photo of Gifford (No. 16) from his Trojan days: 

 

8. From the Archives (Part II)

E.J. Borghetti, Pitt's ace SID, was kind enough to share this vintage photo from 1960 on Twitter last week. From left to right, we have Mike Ditka, former SID and ESPN college football analyst Beano Cook and former All-American Larry Vignali: 

That's a lot of star power in one photo. 

 

9. From the Archives (Part III) 

All right, all right, all right. It's a young Mark Richt, whose hair, now practically nonexistent, used to be a long, flowing mane: 

The only acceptable reaction to seeing the Georgia coach in his youthful years is to keep making Dazed and Confused Wooderson references. 

"Do you have any more photos of Richt when he was younger?" 

"No."

"It'd be a lot cooler if you did! Hee heeeee." 

  

10. The Clint Trickett Immaculate Hair of the Week Award Winner: Texas A&M C Mike Matthews

Wearing a helmet all day can cause serious problems for football players. Nobody understands this condition more than Eli Manning. So for Matthews to have such immaculate hair that it catches the attention of head coach Kevin Sumlin is award-worthy indeed. 

For reference: 

 

11. Your Pop Culture Tweet of the Week 

The Internet, as it often does in these situations, had a field day with the Tom Brady courtroom sketch from last week. But no one in the college football world had a better reaction than LSU head coach Les Miles, who, despite what the picture might say, was not in attendance for the Deflategate hearing: 

 

12. Finally, Let's Run Through a Wall Together, Shall We?

Given that everyone reading this is (probably) a college football fan, the following sentence might be offensive: The offseason is actually pretty great.

It's summer and probably beautiful out. Go outside and do things. Walk your dog. (Or cat. People walk cats, too.) Throw a Frisbee. Ride a bike. Go camping. Take a trip. The season doesn't actually arrive any faster regardless, so you're better off occupying your time doing something productive anyway. 

All that said—college football is almost here, y'all. To help us get amped, here's a teaser for the 2015 season courtesy of ESPN:  

Oh, I'm sorry. You've caught me putting on pads and a helmet. Almost done.

There we go.

So, who's ready to run through a wall for the college football season? Or, more likely, who's ready to smoke a pork butt for 17 hours, fill a cooler full of adult beverages and then veg out on the couch all day. That works, too. 

College football may not love you back in the traditional sense, but it doesn't judge you, either. And that's good enough. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. He's tweeting the entire script from "Dazed and Confused" on Twitter @BenKercheval

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Auburn Football: Week 2 Fall Camp Stock Report

The midway point of August is here, meaning the Auburn Tigers are about halfway through their fall-camp preparations for the 2015 season and the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic against Louisville in the Georgia Dome.

Week 1 of fall camp featured a dominant performance by the Tigers defense and the biggest story of the preseason so far—a few absences from practice for Auburn's top wide receiver.

The second week of fall camp was marked by more separation at several key position battles during the upcoming season and a big-time response from Auburn's offense. 

As the Tigers start classes Monday and prepare for their third week of fall camp, let's recap the highlights of Week 2 on the Plains:

 

Offense answers back in second scrimmage

In last Monday's scrimmage, the first of fall camp for the Tigers, the defense had what Gus Malzahn called its best performance during his time as a head coach. Auburn's offense didn't score a single touchdown during its first visit of the fall to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

But the offense got its revenge on Saturday in the second scrimmage of camp.

"The emphasis was a little more throwing than it was [during Monday's scrimmage]," Malzahn said Saturday, per James Crepea of AL.com. "I think it was more close today. I think there was some good things on defense and I think the offense came out and executed and performed better."

The Tigers' emphasis on throwing was more than just "a little."

According to Crepea, "close to 65-70 percent" of Auburn's 100 plays in the scrimmage were passes, and the two biggest plays of the day came on quarterback Jeremy Johnson's connections with Ricardo Louis for a long touchdown and Peyton Barber on a wheel route.

The high percentage of passes in Saturday's scrimmage could be a signal of things to come for Auburn with an established pocket presence like Johnson. As Auburn blogger War Room Eagle noted on Twitter, Malzahn's offense has its roots in a pass-first scheme:

While Johnson and the passing attack featured prominently in the scrimmage, star wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams did not.

Malzahn said Williams did not practice with the first team, as he said following Williams' reinstatement to the team last Thursday. Williams left the scrimmage early after he "tweaked" his ankle.

"We took him out," Malzahn said, per Tom Green of the Opelika-Auburn News. "He was out there. He got to play some."

 

Some early separation at running back

Last week, Malzahn said there weren't any favorites in the running back battle between JUCO transfer Jovon Robinson, true sophomore Roc Thomas, redshirt sophomore Peyton Barber and true freshman Kerryon Johnson.

But when Auburn's position coaches met with reporters for their only availability of the fall, running backs coach Tim Horton provided a surprising look at the current running back depth chart.

"Right now I would say that Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber have earned the right to play and so they're both going to play," Horton told Brandon Marcello of AL.com. "Now, who is going to be in there first, I couldn't tell you to be honest. I don't know that's really important, but both of those guys have earned that right and they'll both play."

The biggest shocker in that list is Robinson, who has fallen from the projected favorite to win the starting job to now the No. 3 running back on the roster. 

"He had the worst start of those four initially, but he's starting to come on," Horton said. "I'm real pleased with the group and I think ultimately it'll be one of the strengths of our team."

Thomas continues to receive the highest praise of any Tigers running back during fall camp, and he's the perceived favorite right now among the contenders.

Coaches have raved about his willingness to do more north-south running, which was a criticism of his style last season.

"Roc has probably been the most consistent and the steadiest," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said last week, per Green. "I think I may have said this last time, but I’ve just been really pleased with his toughness, his ability to pass protect, his ability to get north-south and really, hey, if it’s 3rd-and-1 to 2, really hammer it in there.

"And then when there’s chances for those electric plays, do that. He’s been very steady."

 

Freshman focus

In addition to Kerryon Johnson, several of Auburn's top defensive freshmen are continuing to make major strides in fall camp and fight for coveted playing time during the regular season.

The spotlight is shining the brightest on 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart, who was one of the best players in the country for the class of 2015.

Defensive line coach Rodney Garner told Marcello the heavily hyped Cowart struggled at first due to the overwhelming workload placed on him, but he's still in line to play this fall for the Tigers.

"Oh, yeah, he's going to contribute," Garner said. "We have him on an accelerated plan. He's going to help us and he's going to be a really good player."

One of the brightest young stars on the defense is 4-star linebacker Jeff Holland. Defensive tackle Montravius Adams said Holland had a stronger start to fall camp and looks like a natural for the Tigers.

"[Defensive coordinator Will] Muschamp cusses and fusses at Jeff like every day, but Jeff always goes 110 percent," Adams told Marcello. "That's going to keep him out there playing."

Elsewhere, the true freshman cornerback trio of Jeremiah Dinson, Carlton Davis and Javaris Davis has stood out to Muschamp early in spring practice.

The Tigers will need their contributions for depth this season, especially after the offseason's large volume of transfers from the secondary.

"The young secondary guys … are all guys that have exhibited the ability to play on the edges in the Southeastern Conference," Muschamp said last Tuesday, per Green. "I’m very pleased with that."

 

Quick hits

- Special teams coordinator Scott Fountain told Wesley Sinor of AL.com that Johnathan "Rudy" Ford, Ricardo Louis and Thomas are the top three candidates at kick returner.

- Horton also told Marcello that junior wide receiver Marcus Davis was the No. 1 man at punt returner at this point in fall camp.

- According to Green, Lashlee said true freshman tight end Jalen Harris is impressing during his first practices with Auburn and is now up to around 260 pounds.

- Sophomore pass-rushing star Carl Lawson sat out Saturday's scrimmage, but there's a chance it was only a precautionary measure in Lawson's return from an ACL injury that cost him the entire 2014 season.

- One of the most interesting soundbites from the media's time with Auburn's position coaches was outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson saying he hasn't talked to former boss Nick Saban since his departure from Alabama this offseason.

 

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Notre Dame Football Star Players' Transformative Trip to South Africa

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — When Notre Dame football returned to campus at the beginning of June for the start of summer workouts, seven players were absent.

Instead of enduring squats and cleans in the heat of northwest Indiana, linebacker Jaylon Smith, wide receiver Corey Robinson, defensive tackle Jerry Tillery and four other Irish football players were nearly 9,000 miles away in South Africa, trading in their customary campus comforts for safari hats, bandanas and weeks without Wi-Fi.

Smith headlined the group of seven football players and, in total, 16 Notre Dame student-athletes who traveled to South Africa for three weeks at the beginning of the summer to experience a pioneering study-abroad program for Irish student-athletes.

Smith—an AP second-team All-American in 2014 and the prized chess piece of head coach Brian Kelly’s defense—and company missed the first week of summer workouts.

“I sent two trainers with him,” Kelly joked. “I felt a little bit better.”

Often unable to pursue standard study-abroad options like other students, the Irish athletes toured apartheid museums, visited orphanages, scaled Table Mountain and went on a two-day safari, fitting such tourist activities around morning workouts, afternoon classes and service projects in the local townships.

“South Africa was life-changing,” said Robinson, Notre Dame’s second-leading receiver in 2014 with 40 receptions and five touchdowns. “I’d put it in that category. You understand your position as a student-athlete in a whole new light. It’s not just about scoring touchdowns at that point. It’s about changing people’s lives.”

In recent years, Kelly said, Notre Dame has sought, unsuccessfully, a study-abroad option for student-athletes. This year, three weeks in South Africa were borne form months of planning.

Program leader Anre Venter, a Notre Dame psychology professor and 1980 graduate of the University of Cape Town, was approached by Notre Dame International in the fall. Meanwhile, Ruth Riley, the former Notre Dame women’s basketball star, 2001 national champion and eventual WNBA standout, returned to campus in the fall for graduate school and served as the intermediary between the study-abroad department and the athletic department. Venter led study-abroad trips to South Africa with non-athletes in 2009 and 2010, while Riley logs loads of service time in Africa.

“Anytime you step outside the box and experience life from a different perspective, it definitely changes you,” Riley said. “I felt like my experiences throughout Africa completely changed my worldview, my paradigm, how I saw myself in it and what my role and purpose was. I felt like our student-athletes could really benefit from that.”

So Smith, Robinson, Tillery, long snapper Scott Daly, offensive lineman Mark Harrell, defensive lineman Doug Randolph and walk-on running back Josh Anderson, along with athletes from the Irish women’s basketball, volleyball, women’s soccer, women’s swimming, women’s fencing and men’s golf teams, set out for Johannesburg from Washington Dulles International Airport in mid-May—an 18-hour flight that had Smith nervous.

One problem: Tillery, a true freshman, missed his connecting flight from Louisiana to Dulles.

“Jerry always gets left behind,” said Robinson, laughing.

Once Tillery and a few other late arrivals met the group in South Africa, they all spent a few days in Johannesburg visiting historical sites and gaining exposure to recent apartheid stories, for instance. A two-day safari at Kruger National Park followed, before two full weeks in Cape Town.

“The whole intention behind these programs, especially the study abroad South Africa, is to expose kids to a different culture, to put them out of their comfort zone,” Venter said.

Robinson, who missed a week of summer practice in 2014 while on a missionary trip in Brazil and who visited Japan in late July, had never before been to Africa, for example.

“It’s an incredible country,” Robinson said. “It’s a diverse melting pot of all these cultures.”

While in Cape Town, the athletes met with Chester Williams, a star winger on South Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup team, the subject of Clint Eastwood’s Invictus. South Africa hosted and won that 1995 Rugby World Cup, mere months after the end of apartheid in 1994. Riley called Williams “one of the most inspirational athletes” she’s ever heard speak.

“Seeing how he used sports to break down racism in South Africa, the power of sports was really made evident to me,” Robinson said.

Williams even extended Smith, who led the Irish with 112 tackles in 2014, some pointers on form tackling.

Unlike Venter’s previous study-abroad trips to South Africa, Notre Dame did not enlist a third-party provider for housing, transportation and field trips. Venter traveled to South Africa during the first week of the spring semester to make preliminary arrangements and assess costs.

The athletes worked out from 8-10 a.m. at the University of Cape Town Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine under the direction of Irish associate director of strength and conditioning Elisa “E” Angeles. In addition to training at the same facility as South Africa’s rugby players, the Notre Dame athletes could receive any necessary treatment from the local trainers and physiotherapists. After workouts and breakfast, the 16 athletes had two to three hours of class—regular meetings that actually began back in South Bend before the trip and continued on campus after the return to the States in June.

Following class, the group had time for tours and service. Through Riley’s work with Hoops 4 Hope, a global not-for-profit organization focused on youth development through sports in southern Africa, the Irish athletes connected with the local youth.

“They were all astounded by the poverty that they were faced [with], especially when you were looking at these kids in the schools and the townships who were very happy and smiling and living in positions that in America we would consider atrocious,” Venter said. “I think they were touched by that.”

Robinson stressed how sports “can literally save lives” by educating kids on preventative measures or compelling them to pursue higher education.

“That’s unbelievable to me,” Robinson said.

Following their three weeks in South Africa, the football players returned to campus and joined their teammates a week into the workouts directed by director of football strength and conditioning Paul Longo, who was more than happy to oblige to the trip, Robinson said.

“I just think it shows a piece of what we can do in balancing both academics and athletics here and making it work,” Kelly said.

The head coach received a healthy Smith, who arrived with a fresh perspective heading into 2015.

“I really don’t even know how to explain it, just the culture, the togetherness over there, being able to see the wild, going to the two-day safari,” Smith said. “It was just eye-opening.”

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Schools to Watch After 4-Star WR Theo Howard Decommits from Oregon

California playmaker Theo Howard ended a five-month pledge to Oregon on Sunday night, announcing his decommitment on Twitter.

The 6'0", 170-pound prospect, previously considered the Ducks' top-rated commit, reopens the recruitment process prior to this season's start. The Westlake High School standout will presumably explore multiple collegiate opportunities during his senior campaign.

Howard, a 4-star talent, is listed 16th nationally among wide receivers in composite recruiting rankings. He caught 52 passes for 869 yards and seven touchdowns in 2014, serving as a primary target for Florida State quarterback commit Malik Henry.

His athleticism shines in space, where Howard exhibits some of the best lateral agility you'll locate in this class. He gains separation in limited real estate and can make defenders miss if their angles aren't precise. 

Expect other Pac-12 contenders to pursue Howard now that he's back on the market. UCLA and USC present in-state possibilities in star-studded offensive attacks.

Oregon, already deep at several skill positions on offense, likely could have created a role for him next fall. There's no reason to think the potential for early playing time wouldn't exist in Los Angeles. 

The Trojans were viewed as a favorite for Howard's commitment earlier this year before his Oregon announcement. USC's current situation at receiver is certainly different.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian has claimed pledges from pass targets Trevon SidneyJosh ImatorbhebheVelus Jones Jr. and Michael Pittman since then. It's a group set to join several promising quarterbacks on campus in coming years. 

The Trojans offered Howard last fall, so he clearly sits rather high on USC's receiver board. Anticipate immediate mutual interest between the two parties moving forward, and expect analysts to deem USC a substantial favorite in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

Rival UCLA should also emerge as a viable landing spot for the in-state talent. Bruins head coach Jim Mora lost Pittman's pledge to USC earlier this summer but still holds a pair of 4-star commitments at the position with Dymond Lee and Darian Owens.

UCLA landed the top-ranked 2015 quarterback in Josh Rosen and continues to build a dynamic collection of running backs. Howard could become a crucial perimeter weapon in a well-balanced Bruins attack that will grow together during the next two to three years. 

Howard is no longer affiliated with reigning conference champion Oregon, but expect him to end up in Pac-12 action. This recruitment has the makings of another cross-city battle between USC and UCLA.

 

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

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Michigan Football: Week 2 Fall Camp Stock Report

The Michigan Wolverines experienced the good, the bad and the ugly during the second week of fall camp, and it offered a subtle reminder that the football team has much to improve.

Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff must help the returning offensive talent develop, but one position needs the most help. Although a couple veterans can offset some of that unit's struggles, Michigan has a variety of receivers who hold an opportunity to earn a regular spot in the lineup.

As an assistant coach said, though, now it's time for lip service to translate into on-field performance, especially since the 2015 season opener against Utah draws nearer every day.

 

The Good

Every quarterback needs a safety blanket. For the Wolverines, it seems most likely their tight end will establish himself as that guy.

"Jake Butt is as good a prospect as we've coached at the college level," Harbaugh said recently, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. "I'm excited to watch him compete. I'm excited to watch his development."

That's certainly high praise for the junior who will serve as a much-needed piece of the 2015 offense. Last season, he missed the better part of the year due to an ACL injury, sat out a game due to a suspension and underwent a minor knee procedure in January.

Nevertheless, Butt has showed he can be a difference-maker on the field. The 6'6", 248-pounder has accrued at least 20 receptions, 200 yards and two touchdowns during his two years at Michigan so far.

With a clean bill of health in 2015, though, Butt should be ready to double his pass-catching numbers.

 

The Bad

Butt will be a larger part of the offense, but he and Amara Darboh cannot be the only reliable targets for Jake Rudock or Shane Morris. The other wide receivers need to step up.

Jehu Chesson, Freddy Canteen, Brian Cole, Grant Perry, Drake Harris and others will compete for playing time, but a majority of the wideouts haven't logged significant snaps during the regular season.

Passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch admitted to MLive's Nick Baumgardner the competition is "wide open" and that the receivers must prove they want to be great:

Guys that want to be great, they can say they want to be great. It's like the guy who says he wants to lose weight. 'OK, then why are you eating a cheeseburger instead of working out?' ... If you really want to be great (you figure it out). We want to get rid of all the lip service and just become guys that absolutely grind it out.

Last season, Darboh snagged 36 catches for 473 yards and two touchdowns, while Chesson tallied 14 catches for 154 yards. Any other wideout managed five receptions or fewer.

While the receivers aren't expected to be the focal point of the offense, they can't disappear on game day—and excelling in camp would help minimize letdowns.

 

The Ugly

The roster turnover since Harbaugh accepted the job continued last week. Though only one was anticipated to be a contributor in 2015, Michigan lost three players.

Offensive lineman Dan Samuelson shared on his Facebook account that he has decided to transfer, citing playing time as a key factor. Baumgardner notes Samuelson said of the decision:

It had been a tough two years, not seeing the field and really not ever hitting the two-deep spot. I just realized, this is my third season, my chances of playing still aren't very good. I decided it was time to make a change and head somewhere where my chances were a little better. ... I just felt like it wasn't the best fit for me anymore.

Senior Bo Dever, a walk-on receiver from Illinois, ended his playing career due to medical reasons, he announced on Instagram. Dever appeared in 11 games, recording one catch for 26 yards.

It was supposed to be Bryan Mone's breakout year, but an injury derailed that hope. According to Scout's Andrew Gorringe, the sophomore defensive tackle sustained a broken ankle in practice and will likely miss the season.

Expectations were slowly surging for Mone, who entered each contest as a true freshman. Alas, without Mone in the competition, returning starter Ryan Glasgow is the favorite to lock down his 2014 role.

Mone can take a redshirt and keep a year of eligibility, but his injury is a disappointing part of what several Michigan fans hoped would be a sterling season.

 

All recruiting information via 247SportsStats from cfbstats.com. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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South Carolina Football: Should Gamecock Fans Worry About the QB Battle?

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier has always been known to play a little loose with his quarterbacks. 

He routinely swapped out signal-callers to try to find the hot hand during his magical run with Florida in the 1990s but has toned it down a bit since becoming the South Carolina head coach in 2005. 

Midway through fall camp, the four-way battle for the top spot on the depth chart in Columbia doesn't appear to be breaking any time soon.

There was no separation between Perry Orth, Connor Mitch, Michael Scarnecchia and true freshman dual-threat Lorenzo Nunez during Saturday's scrimmage at Williams-Brice Stadium, and Spurrier doesn't appear happy with the progress of his quarterbacks.

"We’re too slow. We just too slow. Our quarterbacks don’t move their feet and fire the ball," Spurrier said according to Josh Kendall of The State. "The thing all quarterbacks have to do is get the ball out of their hands."

Cause for concern? 

It certainly isn't ideal, because Spurrier and quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus would likely prefer one man to step to the forefront right now. 

Is it something that should send Gamecock fans scurrying to message boards and writing posts warning of impending doom? 

Hardly.

As David Caraviello of the Charleston Post and Courier noted, Mitch, who has six career passes and is the most experienced of the group, was the first man out on Saturday.

He's likely still the front-runner, but that's hardly settled after Saturday's scrimmage.

South Carolina's offense is loaded with moving parts and a lot of youth, so some struggles and growing pains early in fall camp should be expected.

With that said, though, the rubber should meet the road this week.

The Gamecocks are scheduled to scrimmage on Saturday morning, and if there's any week that should feel like a game week for the quarterbacks, it's this one.

According to Kendall, the coaching staff is sketching out a rough draft of the quarterback pecking order this week.

"We have to stop training four, we do know that, so we’ll start training two and a half, maybe three and a half," Spurrier said.

Now, though, shouldn't be the time to panic. The season opener against North Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte is two weeks from Thursday, and as long as Spurrier and the staff settle on a primary signal-caller after Saturday's scrimmage, that's plenty of time to get the eventual winner prepared for the showdown with the Tar Heels.

Plan A was likely to have somebody step forward before this point in fall camp, but Plan B—which is where the Gamecocks are right now—won't derail the season.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.comBarrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93 XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter: @BarrettSallee.

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