NCAA Football News

Tennessee Football Recruiting: 5 Players Who Could Make or Break Vols' Class

As the race to fill the final eight or so spots remaining in Tennessee's 2017 recruiting class heats up, there are a lot of huge names on head coach Butch Jones' big board.

That's excellent news for the Volunteers as their current class of 17 isn't too high on star power despite being ranked 10th by the 247Sports composite team rankings. There are just two 4-star prospects already in the fold for Jones and Co., as many players are taking a wait-and-see approach to whether UT can win big.

The Vols are expected to compete for championships in 2016, and if they do, their recruiting class could wind up being extremely impressive. 

When you toss in all the star power Tennessee is firmly in the mix for, it's easy to see why there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the ceiling of this class. A lot can change between now and June, and the fact is, a lot of movement will happen on both sides.

Players will decommit and look elsewhere, as 4-star receiver KD Nixon elected to do Sunday night, backing off his commitment from the Vols, per 247Sports' Ryan Bartow. Also, some of the players currently in Tennessee's class will be recruited over if better players elect to jump on board.

It's the nature of the game of recruiting.

But, regardless of how many spots are available, there are a handful of guys who'll have a spot no matter what. Tennessee is recruiting a slew of those players, and some such as in-state defensive back JaCoby Stevens may wind up being a long shot.

Taking into consideration where the Vols currently stand with some prospects, proximity to campus and just how prominent UT is in its recruitments, let's take a look at five players who could make or break the class.

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How The Opening Finals Will Shape Ohio State's Future Passing Attack

Ohio State fans could be looking at the future of the Buckeyes' passing attack when The Opening Finals kick off on July 8.

The event—which is Nike's signature high school football camp—annually draws the nation's top high school talent to Beaverton, Oregon, for a series of physical tests to determine the top overall athlete in the country.

But the camp also holds a competitive seven-on-seven competition, and that's where Ohio State's future could be on display.

Four teams are set to compete against one another, and Team Alpha Pro will be led by quarterback Tate Martell, a 5'10 ½", 203-pound blue chip out of Las Vegas.

Rated a 4-star standout and the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback for the class of 2017, Martell is one of the country's most productive signal-callers, combining to throw for 5,145 yards and 72 touchdowns (against just eight interceptions) while running for 1,037 yards and 14 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior seasons.

He's one of the most electrifying players in this year's recruiting cycle, and he announced his intention to bring that playmaking ability to Columbus when he committed to the Buckeyes earlier this month.

Martell will put those skills on display during the highly anticipated seven-on-seven tournament, where fate may be smiling upon head coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. Because lining up on the perimeter for Team Alpha Pro will be Ohio State's top wide receiver targets—5-stars Tyjon Lindsey and Trevon Grimes.

And it's not a leap to assume that Martell will be working hard to establish a chemistry with the 5-star pair on the field while trying to nudge them toward Ohio State off it.

In fact, that's a fair assumption to make because the prized quarterback is already recruiting both for Ohio State via Twitter.

Landing Lindsey would be an absolute coup for the Buckeyes. During the 2016 recruiting cycle, Ohio State signed Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor, the No. 10- and No. 12-ranked receivers, respectively. Both are big (Mack is 6'2", Victor is 6'4") outside receivers who use their length and range to punish a secondary.

Lindsey, a 5'8 ½" blazer from Corona, California, is an ideal slot receiver who can wreak havoc working over the middle of a defense while also having the speed to burn it deep. He'd fit in seamlessly with what Ohio State already has in its wide receiver room.

At 6'3", Grimes falls more into a similar mold to Mack and Victor, but the standout from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, boasts 4.4 speed that would be a invaluable to the Buckeyes' passing attack. He has the long-range speed to grow into a role similar to the one Devin Smith had for Ohio State's national title-winning team. 

With Lindsey and Grimes bringing a unique set of strengths to the field, it'll be easy for Ohio State fans to see why Meyer is recruiting the pair so hard.

And with Martell as their quarterback at The Opening Finals in two weeks, it should be easy for that 5-star tandem to see themselves suiting up for the Buckeyes next year.

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Alabama Football Recruiting: Tide's Top Commits, Targets to Watch at The Opening

While the rest of the college football world starts to gear up for the upcoming season, recruiting will first take center stage by holding one of its premier events on the other side of the country from the University of Alabama.

This year’s finals of The Opening, Nike's three-day signature high school football camp in Beaverton, Oregon, will be July 8-10. It’ll feature 166 of the nation’s best prospects, who first participated in 14 regionals held throughout the spring to land invitations.

Seven are Crimson Tide commitments, making Alabama one of the most represented schools. They’ll participate in various testing and events like what one would see at the NFL combine, in addition to 7-on-7 play and 1-on-1 passing and linemen drills.

The finalists are divided into six separate teams except for the linemen, a group that will include Alabama commitment Alex Leatherwood, a 5-star offensive tackle.

The other six are all together on Team Vaporspeed: running back Najee Harris, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, linebacker VanDarius Cowan, linebacker Markail Benton, safety Xavier McKinney and wide receiver Tyrell Shavers.

247Sports lists Harris, from Antioch, California, as the top player in the class of 2017, just ahead of linebacker Dylan Moses, defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, tackle Josh Myers (Ohio State) and safety Jeffrey Okudah, who are all scheduled to attend.

Except for Myers, all are Alabama targets, as are a number of players on all six teams.

Lunarbeast is second among the teams to keep an eye on, as it includes Moses, along with wide receiver Jeff Thomas and wide receiver Devonta Smith, who are both thought to be at least leaning toward the Crimson Tide.

Moses (6’2”, 220 lbs), who as a senior will play for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, after previously playing at University Lab in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, recently announced his official visits to Alabama, Miami, Texas, Southern California and Ohio State, while LSU is also in the mix. He doesn't plan to make his final decision until December. 

Both Thomas (5’10”, 170 lbs, East Saint Louis, Illinois), and Smith (6’1”, 160 lbs, Amite, Louisiana) are considered to be among the top 4-star prospects.

Vaporspeed is another team to watch, which includes 4-star wide receiver Jerry Jeudy of Deerfield Beach, Florida, another strong possibility for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama has made wide receiver a priority for this recruiting class and is expected to add at least three more to the class on national signing day in February.

Barring any last-minute major changes, Alabama will head into next weekend’s competition second in 247Sports’ composite team rankings, narrowly on the heels of Ohio State. That’s despite two of its 15 commitments being special teams players who bring down the class average.

Specifically, long snapper Thomas Fletcher, also of IMG Academy, is listed as a 2-star prospect, while kicker Brandon Ruiz is considered a 3-star talent even though they’re rated the first- and second-best players at their respective positions.

Consequently, Alabama is still very much in the running to contend for what could be its seventh straight recruiting championship from 247Sports.

Looking at its final open spots from the inside out, Alabama appears to be in good shape with a number of in-state prospects, including wide receiver Nico Collins, defensive end LaBryan Ray, tackle Kendall Randolph and wide receiver Henry Ruggs III. All are considered 4-star talents as it’s a very strong year locally.

Collins (Team Hypercool) and Ray made The Opening finals, as did one of the players for whom Alabama appears to be going toe-to-toe with Auburn, Will Ignont. The linebacker is on Team Mach Speed.

A full roster of participants can be found on The Opening website.

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

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

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Notre Dame Football Recruiting: Irish's Top Targets to Watch at the Opening

Notre Dame football enjoyed a recent surge of commitments, and the program has a chance to keep that recruiting momentum alive during The Opening on Nike's campus in Oregon.

Oddly enough, the Irish don't hold any verbal commitments from prospects attending the showcase. Knowing the world of recruiting, however, that could change quickly.

The Opening is filled with Notre Dame targets on both sides of the football. Although no pledges are official, a few Irish leans could become important recruiters for other top prospects.

 

Offensive Targets to Watch

Though both Donovan Peoples-Jones and Joseph Lewis—the country's top two receivers—are high-priority targets, fellow 5-star Tyjon Lindsey is a more realistic option.

In 2014, Lindsey snagged 34 passes for 884 yards and 15 scores. Last year, the California speedster registered 45 receptions, 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns.

CJ Holmes checks in as the No. 20 athlete but would be a tremendous addition for Notre Dame. He boasts offers from Alabama, Michigan, Tennessee, UCLA and Penn State, among others.

While skill positions often receive the most attention, The Opening's group of offensive linemen is loaded.

Foster Sarell is a 5-star, and Trey Smith is trending that direction. He recently rose to No. 3 on 247Sports' site rankings. Additionally, Jedrick Wills, Andrew Thomas and Robert Hainsey are each 4-star talents.

According to Tom Loy of 247Sports, Holmes and Hainsey are expected to announce their respective college decisions at The Opening. In both cases, Notre Dame is considered the favorite.

 

Defensive Targets to Watch

On the defensive line, the Irish are pursuing 4-stars LaBryan Ray and Joshua Paschal, who recently took an unofficial visit to South Bend.

Another mid-June visitor was Hunter Echols, who called the trip "unbelievable," per Loy. Echols is currently a UCLA commit but plans on returning to campus when Notre Dame hosts Stanford.

Baron Browning would be the gem of the 2017 class, though head coach Brian Kelly and his staff may have an uphill climb against TCU and Ohio State. Still, Browning is an undeniable talent who participated at the Irish Invasion camp.

Justin Foster—the top-rated player from North Carolina—also headed to South Bend for the camp. According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, the 4-star linebacker said Tennessee has an edge but liked how Notre Dame is "big on education" and "all about football."

Defensive backs coach Todd Lyght visited Thomas Graham in May, and the 4-star defensive back is scheduled to take an official visit to campus in September.

Irish fans can track plenty of names, but it's important to remain realistic about the entire list. Each of the following prospects are in the picture yet would be tough pulls.

Leonard Warner, a 4-star linebacker, listed an unofficial top three of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Florida State, per Kipp Adams of 247Sports.

Notre Dame will attempt to snag a couple high-profile defensive backs, too. Hopeful options include Darnay Holmes and Amir RiepJaylen Kelly-Powell, Grant Delpit, Devon HunterShaun Wade and Salvon Ahmed are on the radar.

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Georgia Football Recruiting: Top Commits, Targets to Watch at The Opening

In case you haven't noticed, Georgia is simply on fire in recruiting new head coach Kirby Smart's first full class of future Bulldogs. And now it's time to keep that blaze spreading to Nike's campus in Beaverton, Oregon, next week at The Opening.

Georgia is currently ranked No. 6 nationally by 247Sports for the class of 2017, and the Bulldogs have the fewest commitments—11—in the top eight. That speaks to the overall high quality of the recruits Smart and company have already landed.

The top targets on Georgia's board have the potential to create something special in Athens this cycle, too. For proof of that, look no further than the roster for The Opening next week. The annual recruiting showcase has more than a dozen blue-chip recruits considering the Bulldogs, from elite running backs to a huge number of game-changing defensive backs.

Here are the six current Georgia commitments who will be at The Opening next week, followed by 10 of the top Bulldogs targets who will also be in action. The rankings used here are the 247Sports composite rankings, which combine several of the industry's top ratings into one standard.

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USC Football Recruiting: Trojans' Top Commits, Targets to Watch at the Opening

Southern California's 2017 recruiting is off to a relatively slow start, with only 10 players committed as we near the end of June. But the Trojans are in hot pursuit of some of the nation's top prospects, many of whom will be on display at Nike's The Opening competition next week in Oregon.

A pair of committed players are among those USC will be keeping close tabs on in Beaverton, along with a handful of unattached recruits it hopes to bring to Los Angeles for the 2017 season.

Here's our look at who the Trojans are most interested in from The Opening.

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Michigan Football Recruiting: Top Commits, Targets to Watch at The Opening

While Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff work to reload the Michigan football roster, some of the program's biggest recruiting targets will be on display at The Opening.

And there are certainly more than a few.

Five current verbal commits will represent—and assuredly actively recruit for—the Wolverines during the showcase, which will be held at the Nike World Headquarters from July 5-10.

Although The Opening isn't a major event for the staff itself, there won't be as vast a collection of Michigan targets in one place for the rest of the 2017 cycle.

 

Commits to Watch

The current jewel of the class, 5-star Dylan McCaffrey highlights all commits and targets headed to Beaverton, Oregon. McCaffrey is the No. 2 pro-style quarterback and No. 22 overall.

McCaffrey amassed 5,178 yards and 49 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions during the last two seasons. He also scampered for 888 yards and 19 more scores.

Two of the Wolverines' three pledges at running back—O'maury Samuels and A.J. Dillon—will flank McCaffrey on Team Hypercool. Both Samuels (New Mexico) and Dillon (Massachusetts) are the highest-rated prospects from their states.

On the defensive side, 4-star linebacker Josh Ross earned an invite to The Opening. He's an in-state product and the brother of former Michigan player James Ross.

Rounding out the commits is Benjamin St-Juste, a 3-star cornerback from Montreal. Recently, St-Juste soared from No. 118 at his position and unranked overall to Nos. 47 and 518, respectively.

Note: The "M" in O'maury is not capitalized, according to James Yodice of the Albuquerque Journal.

 

Top Targets to Watch

Donovan Peoples-Jones, a 5-star receiver and the sixth-best prospect in the country, headlines the uncommitted targets for the Wolverines. But Harbaugh and Co. have an added boost.

In addition to 4-star prospects Nico Collins and Jhamon Ausbon (LSU commit), Peoples-Jones will be catching passes from McCaffrey. Those 7-on-7 connections could serve as a valuable recruiting tool.

Plus, McCaffrey will be looking for 4-star tight end Josh Falo—who Isaiah Hole of 247Sports notes said Team Hypercool may as well be called by another name.

"Well that team is basically 'Team Michigan,'" Falo said. "It basically has like five commits to Michigan and the rest are all recruits. So that's 'Team Michigan' right there. So that's great for me and Michigan."

Other Team Hypercool targets include 4-star linebackers Drew Singleton and Jordan Anthony, who will play alongside Ross and St-Juste. In the secondary, Michigan is keeping an eye on Ambry Thomas, Donovan Johnson and Devon Hunter.

Elsewhere at The Opening, the Wolverines are squarely in the picture for 4-star offensive linemen Cesar Ruiz and Kai'Leon-Herbert. They're also pursuing Jordan Reid, a 3-star from nearby Cass Tech.

More notables are defensive linemen Jay Tufele and Hunter Echols (UCLA), defensive backs Jaylen Kelly-Powell and Darnay Holmes and athlete Markquese Bell.

In all likelihood, Michigan will end the 2017 cycle with at least a handful of these targets. A week at The Opening alongside current Wolverines pledges may result in a quick commitment to Harbaugh and Co.

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Could Ohio State's 2017 Recruiting Class End Up as Urban Meyer's Best Ever?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Which of Urban Meyer's recruiting classes you consider to be the best of his coaching career likely depends on where your allegiances lie.

If you're a Florida fan, it's tough to top the Gators' 2006 class, which set the stage for Meyer's historic run in Gainesville. If you favor Ohio State, Meyer's 2013 haul would likely get your vote, considering the pivotal part it played in the Buckeyes' run through the first College Football Playoff a mere year later.

But regardless of whether you're partial to Florida or Ohio State, the discussion may no longer be left to debate in a mere seven months.

With the way the Buckeyes' 2017 class is already shaping up, a new candidate could soon be in play, and it may just possess the pieces to make an undisputed claim as the best in Meyer's storied recruiting career.

Ever since the 2017 recruiting cycle began to take form more than a year ago, Ohio State's upcoming class has stood at the top of the heap. At least that was the case until a week ago, when a commitment from long snapper Thomas Fletcher inched Alabama past the Buckeyes and into the No. 1 spot on the 247Sports composite rankings for the first time in more than a year.

The Crimson Tide's reign wouldn't last long.

Just days after Fletcher gave his pledge to Alabama, Ohio State received a commitment from 5-star offensive guard Wyatt Davis, which catapulted the Buckeyes back into the 2017 rankings' top spot by a full 13 points.

It's been that kind of recruiting year for the Ohio State, and although recruiting rankings aren't the end all, be all—both Meyer's 2007 and 2010 classes scored higher than his 2006 and 2013 hauls—they're often an accurate indicator of the talent a class possesses.

It's not a coincidence either that Meyer's recruiting peak could come at a time when he's had the most to sell on the recruiting trail, between last year's national title and his program's prominent presence in this year's NFL draft.

"I tell people it was like a 30‑day infomercial," Meyer said of the Buckeyes' national title last signing day, a comparison he'd reuse when Ohio State had five players selected in the first round of the NFL draft 15 months later. "Go pay for a positive advertisement for 30 days and see what that looks like."

After landing the nation's fourth-ranked class in 2016, the second return of results are only looking stronger. Despite possessing fewer commitments (14) than any of the first three teams trailing behind them—Alabama, Oklahoma and Michigan—the Buckeyes have a firm hold on the nation's top-ranked class, with highly touted top targets remaining on Meyer's radar.

"Rankings aren't important," Meyer stated this past signing day, before conceding, "as long as you're keeping score, we like to do the best we can. I think that's kind of appealing to me—to know that we're one of the top teams in the country as far as quality of player."

In that case, you won't yet find a 2017 class more impressive than Ohio State's, with Davis joining offensive tackle Josh Myers and cornerback Shaun Wade as 5-star prospects committed to spend their college careers in Columbus. Ohio State also currently lays claim to the nation's top-ranked dual threat quarterback in Tate Martell, who has taken it upon himself to serve as one of the Buckeyes' chief recruiters since giving his verbal pledge to Meyer earlier this month.

The reality, however, is Meyer may not need the help. To this point, 13 of Ohio State's 14 commits possess either a 4- or 5-star rating, the lone exception being the nation's top-ranked kicker, Blake Haubeil.

It remains unclear how many more prospects the Buckeyes will be able to add throughout the 2017 cycle, as they already appear to be in a numbers crunch as far as available scholarships are concerned.

But that won't stop Ohio State from continuing to chase some of the nation's top remaining uncommitted players, including 5-star wideouts Tyjon Lindsey and Trevon Grimes and 4-star corner Lamont Wade, each of whom 247Sports' Crystal Ball projections favor to end up in Columbus.

At the moment, the Buckeyes' 2017 class has earned a score of 267.90, which trails their 2016 class' final total of 289.12, despite the 2016 score factoring in 11 more prospects. According to the 247Sports calculation system, Ohio State's 2017 point total would jump to 297.62 with the entirely possible additions of Lindsey, Grimes and Wade.

From a numbers standpoint, that would already make 2017 Meyer's fourth-highest ranked class before even factoring in the remaining prospects who will round out a class that could theoretically top out in the low 20s.

Based on that limitation alone, the numbers might simply not be there for Meyer's upcoming class to be considered his best from a statistical standpoint. The 323.66 score his 30-man class at Florida registered in 2010 is going to be tough to top—although there may also not be a better example of the imperfect science that recruiting rankings contain, as that class was ultimately received as a relative disappointment.

Much like Meyer's better remembered 2006 and 2013 hauls, the Buckeyes' 2017 class will be judged by the legacy it leaves more than the score it receives upon its arrival. But with a collection of players who possess high-impact ability, Ohio State's upcoming class could potentially score high on both.

Only time will tell how it's remembered historically. But even for all he's already accomplished in his 14-year coaching career, Meyer's never had momentum on the recruiting trail like this.

 

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. Recruiting and class ratings courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

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Auburn Football Recruiting: Tigers' Top Targets to Watch at The Opening

As a recruiting powerhouse in college football, Auburn is naturally going to have an influence on the prospects descending on Nike's campus in Beaverton, Oregon, next week for The Opening.

While none of the Tigers' 10 current commitments for the class of 2017 are headed to the massive recruiting combine on July 8-10, several of their biggest remaining targets will be in Beaverton to showcase their skills. Auburn fans wanting a possible glimpse at the future of the program will want to stay tuned to coverage of The Opening.

Auburn's targets at The Opening Finals include a trio of the highest-rated offensive tackles in the entire country, a handful of recruits from its familiar stomping grounds of Georgia and several players at major positions of need for the current class. Some of these targets will even announce their commitments at the event.

Here are 10 of the top Auburn targets who will be at The Opening next week. The rankings used here are the 247Sports composite rankings, which combine several of the industry's top ratings into one standard.

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SEC Football Q&A: Will the SEC Produce a Second Straight Heisman Trophy Winner?

Former Alabama running back Derrick Henry ran into the SEC record books in 2015 with a single-season record 2,219 yards, which carried him to New York in early December, where he became the first SEC player since former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in 2012 to claim college football's most prestigious award.

With LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly, Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs and several other talented players in the conference, SEC players will rise and fall throughout the three-month journey that culminates in the Big Apple.

Could the SEC make it back-to-back Heisman winners?

That question and more are answered in this week's edition of SEC Q&A.

 

I do think that Dobbs, Kelly and Fournette will be mentioned prominently in the discussion throughout the season; and there will be at least one player from the SEC in New York as a finalist. But no, I don't think that anybody from the SEC will win the award.

It takes a special set of circumstances for a running back to win an award that has been dominated by quarterbacks this century, and Henry benefited from that. A non-quarterback has to have a ridiculously filthy year stat-wise and lead his team to the playoff.

Fournette can provide the former, but I don't think LSU has an offense that's aggressive enough to take pressure off him when teams load the box for him to accomplish the latter. 

Kelly and Dobbs are both ultra-talented dual-threat quarterbacks who can post those video game numbers, and they could end up in New York if either of their teams makes the SEC Championship Game and flirts with the College Football Playoff.

But for my late-June, write-it-in-pencil-in-case-you-have-to-erase-it pick for the 2016 Heisman Trophy, I'm going with Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.

The Buckeyes lost a lot to the draft but will benefit from an offseason in which quarterback issues are in the rearview mirror and Barrett is allowed to grow with an offense under head coach Urban Meyer that's a perfect fit for his skills.

People seem to forget that Barrett threw for 2,834 yards and rushed for 938 essentially in a pinch in place of injured quarterback Braxton Miller in 2014, and that he helped lead the Buckeyes into the thick of the national title picture before his season-ending injury in the regular-season finale against Michigan.

Bri'onte Dunn is a physical back who can help Barrett out, redshirt freshman Mike Weber's upside is huge and Meyer has had success recruiting wide receivers over the last few years including K.J. Hill, Noah Brown, Parris Campbell and the ultra-versatile Torrance Gibson. Throw veterans Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson in the mix, and Barrett will be fine.

The relatively unknown playmakers outside will actually boost Barrett's Heisman case. If he can lead Ohio State to the Big Ten title and the College Football Playoff, the fact that he will have done it in spite of massive roster turnover will push him over the top in the minds of voters.

 

It certainly helps, especially since Auburn announced earlier this month that former 5-star prospect Roc Thomas left and ultimately landed at Jacksonville State.

Kameron Martin, the 4-star former Baylor signee who was granted a release in the wake of the sexual assault scandal in Waco, has tremendous straight-line speed, is dangerous in space and can absolutely be a weapon in any spread offense—especially one like Auburn's (or Baylor's, for that matter) that thrives with multiple running backs filling roles that fit their strengths.

Thomas' departure opens the door for Martin to push for playing time right out of the gate. As Mike Farrell of Rivals.com noted when Martin committed to Baylor, Martin's strength is obvious:

He'll have to contend with former Alabama Mr. Football Kerryon Johnson—who's coming off a shoulder injury but certainly can provide an option or some insurance for head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.

He won't be the No. 1 back at Auburn until he puts on a little more weight. But as a speed sweep option like former Tigers Corey Grant (2013) and Onterio McCalebb (2011), Martin certainly fits the bill. 

 

More of the same would be a huge development in Athens, and I don't think the Bulldogs will match last year's production in Year 1 under new coordinator Mel Tucker and head coach Kirby Smart.

Georgia finished with the nation's seventh-best defense last year at 305.9 yards per game, held opponents to 4.76 yards per play (13th in the nation) and posted the best pass defense in the country (156.5 yards per game). 

"More of the same," roughly translated, means "elite."

Georgia might be "really good," but the inexperience along the defensive line and uncertainty at outside linebacker will prevent the Bulldogs from matching last year's production.

In my post-spring depth-chart projection, there's only one upperclassman on Georgia's two-deep along the defensive line—junior John Atkins. That depth chart is certainly fluid, and other players could make bigger pushes for playing time during fall camp, but the overwhelming lack of experience up front is something that Smart is very concerned about.

"We have to do a great job of getting more physical in all areas, especially up front on the offensive and defensive lines," Smart said after the spring game. "First of all, we're not as big as we need to be, but we don't play as tough and as physical as we need to."

On top of that, the loss of Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd outside, combined with the sophomore slump that Lorenzo Carter endured in 2015, makes it hard to trust Georgia to replicate last season's success, even though Tucker's defense is very similar to the one Jeremy Pruitt ran in Athens.

With that said, if Georgia's offense can be a little more dynamic under first-year coordinator Jim Chaney, it will take a little pressure off Tucker's defense and could vault the Bulldogs back into the SEC East title race. 

 

Yes, although it might not look like it for the first half of the season.

James White and Keith Ford are both very talented running backs who have the capability to top the 1,000-yard mark and will likely enter the season as co-No. 1 running backs for head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.

It won't stay that way for the entire season, though.

Mazzone helped Paul Perkins (2014 and 2015) and Johnathan Franklin (2012) blow past the 1,000-yard mark during his four seasons as the Bruins' offensive coordinator, and his power attack out of the spread is a perfect fit for what Sumlin wants to do (and wanted to do last year, had former offensive coordinator Jake Spavital actually called the plays that fit the philosophy).

Both primary running backs in College Station are true all-purpose backs who can hit the home run and also take the pounding between the tackles, and one will emerge by season's end as the primary back.

Texas A&M will never go fully conservative with a run-heavy offense and certainly shouldn't this year, considering the bevy of wide receivers on the roster. But a more focused rushing attack that looks like a diet version of Malzahn's offense at Auburn will materialize in College Station this year and produce a 1,000-yard back for the Aggies.

 

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

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

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Elite 11 2016: Power Ranking This Year's Finalists

The 2016 Elite 11 class of quarterbacks returns to action July 5 at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. These competitors qualified from a group of 24 passers who attended the Elite 11 Finals from June 3-5, and they will now reunite in the Northwest with greater stakes. 

Elite 11 coaches challenged this collection of coveted recruits to delve into deep playbooks and depart for Beaverton prepared to execute during drills and a star-studded seven-on-seven tournament. The competition continues through The Opening, which ends July 10.

All 12 quarterbacks already earned induction to the Elite 11 fraternity, but only one will claim MVP honors, a feat accomplished in recent years by standouts such as Jameis Winston, Blake Barnett and Shea Patterson. Here's how we break down the top contenders in this class, taking into account past performances in Elite 11 settings and high school film review.

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Will Kirby Smart or Mark Richt Have More Success This Season?

It has happened to almost all of us at one time or another. We go through a bad breakup, mourn for a bit and then move on to a new significant other. We profess happiness but look back from time to time, checking out social media feeds and wondering what our former partners are up to these days.

It happens in college football, too. Increased attention, money and pressure have led to significant turnover in the head coaching ranks. This offseason alone, 27 programs changed coaches for a variety of reasons (Illinois did twice in six months, going from Tim Beckman to Bill Cubit to Lovie Smith). The slightest hint of struggle can leave fans wondering if their program made the right move.

One of the most fascinating cases of that phenomenon will unfold in Athens, Ga., this fall. Mark Richt had an excellent run at Georgia, going 145-51 in 15 seasons with two SEC titles, nine seasons of at least 10 wins and 15 postseason trips. But after failing to reach the SEC title game in three consecutive seasons, he and UGA parted ways.

Georgia made a very good hire in luring alum Kirby Smart, Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator and top lieutenant, away from Alabama to become its new head coach. Meanwhile, Richt landed on his feet at his alma mater, Miami, who wanted a new direction after bottoming out under Al Golden.

Both sides appear headed in the right direction. But which will feel better about their move in 2016? Will Richt or Smart enjoy greater success with their new program? Will Georgia fans feel any regret by December? Let’s take a look.

When Miami joined the ACC in 2004, the Hurricanes were expected to challenge for league titles on a consistent basis alongside bitter in-state rival Florida State. The Seminoles have reemerged as one of the nation’s best programs, but the ‘Canes have yet to make their first ACC title game appearance.

Golden muddled through four-plus mediocre seasons, although he was handcuffed by an NCAA investigation which forced Miami to self-impose bowl bans in each of his first two seasons. A 58-0 program-worst home loss to Clemson finally ended his tenure at 32-25.

Richt is a clear upgrade, but Golden also left him with a solid foundation. The Hurricanes haven’t won a bowl game since 2006, but they do return 16 starters from 2015’s eight-win team. They’re led by junior quarterback Brad Kaaya, one of the nation’s top signal-callers. Entering his third season, he’s already fifth in Miami history in career passing yardage and eighth in touchdowns. That’s impressive, given the program’s strong passing lineage.

Tailback Joseph Yearby is a returning 1,000-yard rusher, and receiver Stacy Coley caught 47 passes for 689 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. He leads a young but talented receiver corps, and the ‘Canes hope for a breakout season from Braxton Berrios and talented sophomore tight end David Njoku.

New defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will run an attacking scheme, and he has some very nice pieces in defensive ends Al-Quadin Muhammad and Chad Thomas, as well as impressive freshman linebacker Shaquille Quarterman.

However, the secondary lost cornerback Artie Burns to the NFL draft as a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and fellow veterans Deon Bush and Tracy Howard graduated. There are serious questions beyond senior cornerback Corn Elder and senior safety Rayshawn Jenkins. Same goes for Miami’s offensive line, which returns five players who started at least eight games but struggled at times to protect Kaaya and open holes for the running game a year ago.

Golden couldn’t get this program over the top, but can Richt work some magic? The schedule has its positives. Following an odd trip to Appalachian State and a visit to Georgia Tech in the first four games, the ‘Canes host Florida State and North Carolina before traveling to Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.
They swap Clemson for N.C. State in the ACC schedule rotation, a big positive, and also host Pitt. With a little improvement, this team could easily challenge for an ACC Coastal Division title.

Richt told Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the move reenergized him.

I think we're on track and implementing the way we're going to go about our business. I think our players have responded well. I think our coaches are all bought in, and I think we're doing all the things that we need to do to give us a chance. It's tough competing against other schools trying to do the same thing, but we're on the right track.

In Athens, the problem wasn’t talent. It was making the most of it. Richt simply didn’t do that in his last three seasons, going a combined 16-8 in a down SEC East. They finished behind Missouri twice, and winding up behind a Florida team led by first-year coach Jim McElwain was the final straw. Smart was hired to maximize that potential.

Doing so means getting the most out of the quarterback position. A year ago, quarterback Greyson Lambert was just average, throwing for 1,959 yards and 12 touchdowns against two interceptions despite being benched against Florida for now-transferred Faton Bauta. This spring, he was part of a three-way battle for the starting role with junior Brice Ramsey and incoming freshman Jacob Eason.

Eason was the prize of Smart’s first UGA recruiting class; he stands 6’5”, 208 pounds and was rated as the nation’s No. 5 overall recruit by 247Sports. He was excellent in UGA’s spring game, completing 19 of 29 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown with a strong touch on deep balls.

Eason is the future. Is he the present? Smart must decide that this fall. The Bulldogs return three offensive line starters but must identify solutions at both tackle spots. Whoever emerges under center has an emerging star to throw to in Terry Godwin surrounded by a talented receiver group.

The true X-factor? Tailback Nick Chubb’s health. The powerful back rushed for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman and was on pace for another huge year in 2015, with 745 yards and five scores through five games. But on his first carry on Oct. 10 against Tennessee, he suffered a serious, season-ending knee injury.

Sony Michel was solid, finishing the season with 1,161 yards and seven scores, but the offense wasn’t the same without Chubb. He is rehabbing, but, per Brad Crawford of Dawgs247, there are no guarantees of his readiness for the season opener against North Carolina or his full health for the beginning of the season.

Smart told Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is not a "subject matter expert" on knee-injury recovery. 

"I don’t know if that guy is going to be back (to start 2016) or not,” Smart said. “Do I want him to be back? Yes. But it’s hard to say with where he is now whether he’ll be back or not.”

If Chubb is healthy and ready, the offense will take on a new dimension in Smart’s first season. Across the ball, the secondary, led by safety Dominick Sanders, will be a big strength. The linebackers lost No. 9 overall pick Leonard Floyd to the NFL draft but shouldn’t miss a step with Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter leading the way.

Although former top overall recruit Trent Thompson is ready to step into a starting role at defensive tackle, the line is highly inexperienced after losing three starters from 2015.

Smart’s first schedule is pretty favorable. The Georgia Dome opener against North Carolina won’t be easy, but UGA does trade an SEC West crossover game against Alabama for a road trip to Ole Miss. Rivals Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia Tech all come to Sanford Stadium. Besides Ole Miss, there isn’t another road game against a returning postseason team.

The Volunteers will be the favorite in the SEC East, but the Bulldogs should push them strongly. Will that be enough to keep Georgia fans from looking longingly toward South Florida?

Both Georgia and Miami could challenge for division titles while playing on the weaker sides of their league. Miami’s schedule might feature slightly more difficult games, but the Bulldogs have the more talented overall roster, especially if Chubb returns healthy.

Let’s put Smart and UGA down for nine wins, with Richt and the Hurricanes clocking in with an eight-win season. Both very solid debuts, but Smart will have slightly more success in Athens. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kellen Mond to Texas A&M: Aggies Land 4-Star QB Prospect

Kellen Mond, a 4-star quarterback recruit out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, announced his commitment to play college football for the Texas A&M Aggies on Monday.

Mond took to Twitter to break the news:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Mond is the third-best dual-threat quarterback in the country, the 17th-best player from Florida and the 78th-best overall prospect in the 2017 class.

As a junior at Ronald Reagan High School in San Antonio, Mond put together an impressive highlight reel, courtesy of Hudl:

Unlike many other dual-threat QBs, the 6'2 ½", 201-pound signal-caller can also function as a pocket passer. Mond doesn't take off at the first sign of trouble, and he has shown the ability to make accurate throws from the pocket as well as on the run.

What pops out on Mond's highlight reel is his downfield accuracy. Time and again, he delivered the ball where it needed to be, and his 57 completion percentage can be somewhat attributed to the numerous long passes he threw.

Mond is also a good decision-maker, having thrown for 24 touchdowns with only three interceptions this past season. He also ran for 918 yards and five scores, showing how he can devastate defenses with his legs.

Thanks to his blend of size, fluid athleticism and arm strength, Mond has the tools to thrive in the Aggies' spread offense. He'd previously withdrawn his commitment to Baylor and thereafter stated he favored Auburn and Ohio State over Texas A&M, so the Aggies did well to sway him.

Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue weighed in, noting just how significant Mond's commitment was for coach Kevin Sumlin's program:

Texas A&M landed the top dual-threat QB in the 2015 class, Kyler Murray, but already saw him transfer to Oklahoma. The Aggies also lost signal-caller Kyle Allen, who transferred to Houston, creating a climate of instability in College Station, Texas, at the most important position.

Sooners transfer Trevor Knight will be the starter for Texas A&M in 2016. Beyond this coming year, though, the competition should be wide-open and create an opportunity for Mond to see the field within his first year or two on campus.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless noted otherwise. Stats courtesy of PointStreak.com.

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Mack Wilson Injury: Updates on Alabama LB's Recovery from Knee Surgery

Alabama's linebacker depth took a hit with incoming 5-star freshman linebacker Lyndell "Mack" Wilson suffering a torn meniscus that will require surgery. It is uncertain when he will be able to return.

Continue for updates.

Wilson Reveals He Needs Surgery Monday, June 27

College Spun's Matt Hladik was able to capture a deleted tweet from Wilson indicating he was set to have surgery on Tuesday after tearing his meniscus. 

Wilson did not announce a timetable for his return, but he later tweeted he would come back strong:

This is not the first major injury Wilson has dealt with. SEC Country's Chris Kirschner reported on May 17 that the linebacker had work done on his shoulder:

Alabama had an opening at linebacker after the Buffalo Bills drafted Reggie Ragland in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft at No. 41 overall. Wilson, who's No. 2 nationally at his position and the 15th-best overall prospect, felt he could make an impact early, per SEC Country's Marq Burnett.

“I feel like personally, I’m probably the most versatile linebacker Alabama has had in a minute because I can do so much,” Wilson said in May. “I feel like as long as I learn the playbook, I’ll be able to play.”

Alabama ranked third nationally in total defense last season, and the Crimson Tide have enough depth from their recruiting success to bear the immediate loss of Wilson. However, this injury will set him back in terms of learning the playbook and getting acclimated with his teammates on the field. His injury history is also concerning, so keep an eye on that moving forward.

 

Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Start the Hype Now, Another Epic Alabama at LSU Showdown Looms

With the Southeastern Conference’s media days less than two weeks away and the 2016 college football season kicking off in approximately two months, fans can start zeroing in on the games they don’t want to miss this fall, especially the ones that will go a long way in determining the eventual national champion. 

The short list includes Clemson at Florida State on Oct. 29 and Michigan at Ohio State on Nov. 26, but neither is quite like the one when the reigning national champions will hear: "It's Saturday night in Death Valley…and here come your Fighting Tigers of LSU.”

Yes, the Alabama Crimson Tide at the LSU Tigers is once again the can’t-miss game of the regular season. It’ll cause a lot of people outside the SEC to say, “Ah, not again,” and “Been there, done that,” but don’t make that mistake.

Both teams are absolutely loaded. Alabama might have its most talented team yet under Nick Saban, while LSU returns 18 of 22 starters.

LSU head coach Les Miles once correctly called this matchup “big-boy football,” and Saban said after the 2009 victory, “Man, those games are fun to be a part of” because they’re so tough and physical.

During Alabama’s ongoing dynasty, no opponent has consistently played the Crimson Tide tougher than LSU, and both sides routinely talk about the hangover effect after. They both recruit at a high level and are arguably the two best programs in the country when it comes to churning out NFL talent.

Despite playing in the same division, they met for the 2011 national championship, months after what was called the latest installment of the Game of the Century. That 2011 regular-season game resulted in a 9-6 overtime victory for LSU, and what it lacked in offensive firepower it more than made up for in pure competition.

There were 45 players from those two teams who would be selected in the NFL draft, including 14 in the first round.

This year’s game could potentially see comparable numbers, as the two teams are expected to finish atop the SEC West again. Phil Steele even predicted in his annual preseason magazine that both Alabama and LSU will make the College Football Playoff, which would be a first for two teams from the same conference.

Specifically, he has:

  • Peach Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
  • Fiesta Bowl: Florida State vs. LSU

That pretty much falls in line with this series. In all nine Miles vs. Saban regular-season matchups, both teams have been ranked, with at least one in the top five. The winner has gone on to play in the SEC Championship Game in eight of the last 11 years, winning that game six out of the eight times and five straight.

Moreover, this year’s game will be played at Tiger Stadium, the toughest venue in college football where, as Miles put it, “dreams come to die.”

The four previous meetings there have all been extremely close.

Two years ago, Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon's fumble gave LSU the ball on the Alabama 6 with the score tied 10-10 and 1:13 remaining on the clock. Not only did the game appear to be over, but announcements were made asking fans not to rush the field.

Only the Tigers didn’t put the Crimson Tide away. Guard Vadal Alexander was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and they had to settle for a field goal. 

Blake Sims, in maybe his finest moment as Alabama’s quarterback, subsequently led the offense 55 yards in 50 seconds for the tying field goal, and threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to DeAndrew White in overtime for a 20-13 victory.

The game also went down to the wire in 2012, with Yeldon taking a screen pass for a 28-yard touchdown with 51 seconds remaining for the 21-17 victory. It ruined an impressive comeback by LSU, which had been down 14-3 at halftime.

When LSU took the lead in the fourth quarter, the eruption by Tigers fans caused the press box to shake. Instead, the sellout crowd so desperate to see the Tigers avenge their 2011 national championship loss saw the longest home winning streak in program history, 22 games, come to an end.

“Those guys played their hearts out,” Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones said at the time, and he was talking about LSU. 

In 2010, Miles, the Mad Hatter, struck with a gutsy call down 14-13 with 9:51 remaining and the ball at Alabama's 26-yard line. On fourth-and-1 Miles called for a reverse, with DeAngelo Peterson gaining 23 yards to set up Stevan Ridley's 1-yard touchdown. LSU went on to win 24-21.

In 2008, Saban’s homecoming game, for lack of a better term, lived up to the hype despite an upset LSU fan burning an effigy of the former Tigers coach. Alabama safety Rashad Johnson picked off three passes, the last in overtime, and John Parker Wilson scored on a 1-yard dive for a 27-21 victory.

All four of those games were decided by a touchdown or less, with two going to overtime.

"This one is bitter. It's painful," Miles said during his postgame press conference after the 2008 loss. "But as a competitor, when you play your tail off, there's a comfort in that."

Miles has obviously had some practice with those kinds of statements after playing Alabama. For example, when LSU was shut out 21-0 in the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans at the end of the 2011 season, he said:

"I told my team that it should hurt. Quality people. We fight like hell, and we finished second. It's not—it's supposed to be painful. And the good news is that there will be more resolve. We've had a nice run here. We won a lot of games. We've got to the back end of the season and won bowl games and won championships, and you cannot enjoy it any more than we have. In the same vein, it was painful as anything we've been through."

So yes, the 2015 Alabama-LSU game was relatively a dud, with the Crimson Tide defense effectively shutting down LSU running back Leonard Fournette (31 rushing yards on 19 carries) en route to a 30-16 victory.

Yes, LSU quarterback Brandon Harris might not exactly strike fear into his opponents, at least not yet.

Yes, Alabama has won five straight against LSU.

The only way those things matter this time is that they'll help motivate the Tigers, especially considering how close Miles came to losing his job at the end of the 2015 season.

History tells us over and over again that the only thing more dangerous than underestimating a quality opponent is to not be extra careful against one who’s desperate as well. 

Alabama should expect nothing less from LSU, resulting in another nail-biting game between the two powerhouses.

  

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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Offseason Transfers That Will Make Biggest Impacts on 2016 Season

Roster turnover is a major part of college football, but programs can plan for most of it. A team knows it will be losing a fraction of its lineup to graduation, as well as a few players who opt to turn pro early, but those losses are usually accounted for through recruiting.

It's the unexpected transfers that throw teams for a loop.

This offseason has seen its fair share of movement, with players who would have either started or been key backups at one school choosing to go elsewhere for a better opportunity. Most of these transfers won't make a major impact on the 2016 season, since many require players to sit out a year, though thanks to college football's graduate transfer rule, some players get to participate right away.

Here's our look at the players who have transferred since the end of the 2015 season who will have the biggest influence on 2016.

Begin Slideshow

SEC Football: Predicting Every Team's 2016 MVP

Ladies and gentlemen, we are under the 70-day mark.

Monday marks 68 days until the first full college football Saturday of the season. When it starts, new stars and unknown players will emerge as the centerpieces for their teams.

Who will be the most valuable player for each of the 14 teams in the SEC? Our picks based on talent, scheme and depth are in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Football Recruiting: Top Commits, Targets to Watch at the Opening

The Ohio State Buckeyes' No. 1-ranked class is absolutely dominating the 2017 recruiting cycle, and on July 8 in Beaverton, Oregon, the group is primed to take over The Opening Finals—Nike's signature high school football camp.

The Buckeyes will have a record and nation-leading 11 commits represented at the event, which showcases the nation's top high school talent. The athletes will undergo a series of events, such as the 40-yard dash, shuttle run and high jump to determine the country's top athlete.

Here's everything Ohio State fans should look for when the three-day event kicks off.

 

Top Commits to Watch

Eleven of Ohio State's 14 verbal pledges will be making the trek to Oregon, and Tate Martell, the 4-star quarterback out of Las Vegas, is one player that Buckeyes fans should pay attention to.

Rated the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country, Martell chose Ohio State over a host of other schools after decommiting from Texas A&M last month. He has the speed and elusiveness to gash a defense, but he brings a pass-first mentality to the game that fueled a remarkable two-year stretch.

During his sophomore and junior seasons, he combined to throw for 5,145 yards and 72 touchdowns against an incredible eight interceptions. He also ran 1,037 yards and 14 touchdowns.

But the biggest reason to keep an eye on Martell won't be his work on the field—it will be his efforts off of it. The talented signal-caller has turned into one of Ohio State's strongest field-level recruiters, and he's working hard to help the coaching staff bring a historic class to Columbus.

Many of Ohio State's top targets will be in attendance, and it's safe to assume Martell will be working his magic on and off the field. 

When the seven-on-seven tournament is underway, Team Lunarbeast will feature a number of future Buckeyes on the defensive side. Five-star cornerback Shaun Wade, 4-star cornerback Antjuan Simmons, 4-star safety Isaiah Pryor, 4-star safety Brendon White and 4-star cornerback Marcus Williamson will give fans a glimpse into the Buckeyes' future back-seven.

On the other side of the ball for Team Lunarbeast, J.K Dobbins, the electrifying all-purpose back who committed to Ohio State in March, will showcase his playmaking ability from the slot.

But this event isn't just exclusive to quarterbacks and perimeter playmakers. The Buckeyes have commitments from the country's top offensive tackle in 5-star Josh Myers, as well as the nation's No. 1 guard in 5-star Wyatt Davis. Those two will be joined by 4-star defensive end Haskell Garrett as the linemen representing Ohio State in Oregon.

Jake Moretti, a 4-star who will join Myers at offensive tackle, was invited to The Opening Finals, but he will be unable to attend while recovering from a knee injury, per Andrew Ellis of Eleven Warriors.

 

Top Targets to Watch

With 14 commitments already in the fold, Ohio State will have to be more selective down the stretch with a class size that's expected to be in the low twenties on national signing day.

But with the recruiting roll Urban Meyer is on right now, he's zeroing in on some of the top remaining players in the country. 

That list is highlighted by some 5-star firepower on the offensive side of the ball. 

The Buckeyes already have a commitment from Dobbins in the backfield, but they're looking to pair him with 5-star Cam Akers, a power back who's rated the No. 2 ball-carrier in the country. 

Team Alpha Pro features Ohio State's top two wide receiver targets in 5-stars Tyjon Lindsey and Trevon Grimes. The Buckeyes are a big favorite to land both pass-catchers, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions, and they'll both get a feel for their potential future quarterback with Martell suiting up for Team Alpha Pro as well.

And of course, 5-star Donovan Peoples-Jones, the No. 1 receiver in the country and a big Buckeye target out of Detroit, Michigan, will be in attendance. Martell will be working hard on that group to join the ranks.

Five of Ohio State's biggest defensive targets will be in Oregon as well, highlighted by 5-star safety and No. 5 overall prospect in the country Jeffrey Okudah. Fellow Texan and 5-star linebacker Baron Browning will be in attendance, as will 5-star defensive end Chase Young and 4-star defensive backs Lamont Wade and Amir Riep.

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

B/R Recruiting Notebook: No. 1 Center Trims List; 4-Star WR Talks Decommitment

The weekend was a busy one for college football recruiting, as followers saw several big-name commits end their processes.

Among those was 5-star offensive lineman Wyatt Davis, who committed to Ohio State Friday afternoon. Davis, who plays tackle for St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California, is ranked by 247Sports as the nation's top guard, as well as the No. 14 overall recruit in the 2017 class.

LSU added two 4-star wide receivers to its 2017 class in Jhamon Ausbon and Mannie Netherly, two athletes who were once committed to Baylor and Texas A&M, respectively. Florida improved its class Friday with the commitment of 4-star defensive end Zachary Carter, and Rutgers scored a key get Sunday in 4-star linebacker Tyshon Fogg, who is the Scarlet Knights' top-ranked defensive pledge.

Several other schools landed 2017 pledges, but there are still plenty of athletes nationwide who remain uncommitted. Here are some updates on a few of the nation's top targets.

 

List goes from 12 to 8 for No. 1 center Ruiz

IMG Academy offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz, the nation's top-ranked center in the 2017 class, took an extra step in finishing his recruiting process. After releasing a top 12 in April, the Camden, New Jersey, native released a video featuring his top eight schools—LSU, Alabama, Michigan, Florida, Oklahoma, Florida State, North Carolina and Auburn.

"I'm now starting to get real serious with everything and do research," said Ruiz, who's now 6'3" and 320 pounds. "I'm still weeding a couple of schools out. In July, maybe by The Opening, I may drop a top five. We'll see."

Ruiz, who claims 35 offers, said he is looking into summer visits to Alabama and Auburn, as well as a potential visit to Florida State. Ruiz is considering all eight schools for potential official visits. Per his 247Sports "crystal ball" predictions, Michigan is the school many are keeping an eye on.

Ruiz said he will use the rest of the summer to weigh his options and make a well-informed decision to benefit him athletically and academically.

"It's an important decision, and I want to make a lifetime decision," he said. "After I graduate, I want to know that I have connections and that my degree holds weight. Of course, I want to play early. I want to have the opportunity as a true freshman to take someone's spot. I'm also looking for a good environment. If I didn't play, I'd want to be at a place where I can live comfortably."

 

Vols decommit Nixon explains decision

A week after Tennessee had one of the best recruiting streaks in all of college football for this recruiting cycle, the Volunteers were dealt a blow in losing their top-ranked offensive player, KD Nixon.

The 4-star wide receiver from DeSoto, Texas, had been considered a soft commit for weeks, and he finally reopened his process Sunday evening. A slot receiver at the next level, Nixon has 18 reported offers.

"I just needed more time," said Nixon, who originally committed to Tennessee on April 16. "At the end of the day, you have to make the best decision, and it takes time. I have to put myself in the best situation possible."

Nixon said he's now focusing on a handful of schools, among those are Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oregon, TCU and SMU. Nixon added that Tennessee is still a school he's considering, and that the Volunteers are still in the running to get an official visit.

Nixon is a top-40 receiver nationally who caught 26 passes for 411 yards and five touchdowns during a junior season that was hampered by injuries. Nixon decommitted after Tenneessee landed eight commitments last week by way of its Orange Carpet Day event.

 

SEC, Pac-12 battle for 4-star LB McBride

Vidalia, Georgia, 4-star linebacker Nate McBride released a top five last week of Georgia, Oregon, Alabama, Auburn and Stanford. McBride said a final decision could come in January during the U.S. Army All-American Game or even earlier, sometime during his senior year.

And while the SEC battles the Pac-12 for the nation's No. 2 inside linebacker, McBride said he's weighing his options to choose the right university.

"Everybody likes to win if you have a competitive side. They're all great schools and love to win," McBride said of his five schools. "There's a lot of great history behind them. The last 10 years, all of the schools have been successful.

"The SEC is supposed to be best conference in the nation, as some people might say. The Pac-12 is a great conference as well, especially with Stanford and Oregon. Stanford has great academics and is a powerhouse program, and Oregon is a great program that's all about speed. I think I can fit in well with any of the schools."

Georgia received McBride's last visit in April. With Athens being roughly 3.5 hours away from Vidalia, McBride is able to drive to campus on occasion for unofficial visits.

McBride, however, said one school in general has been a school to keep close watch on.

"I've always liked Oregon," McBride said. "Oregon's always been a favorite. I like watching them play; they play with a lot of speed. They've been my favorite team for a while."

The 6'2", 230-pound linebacker said he may consider a few more unofficial visits this summer before focusing on setting up official visits. McBride is ranked No. 73 overall in the 2017 class.

 

Top 5 for DB Short; decision date set

July 3 is the big day for Los Angeles 3-star safety Rhedi Short. After decommitting from UCLA on May 8, Short tweeted his top five Sunday and said he's looking forward to making an announcement on July 3, which is his uncle's birthday.

"It's been hard, especially because in this recruiting process, you build great relationships with coaches," Short said. "Knowing that when you drop a top five, you could damage a relationship with a coach you build, that's definitely hard. I don't want to burn any bridges."

The 6'1", 187-pound, Cathedral High School standout has four Pac-12 schools in his top five in Oregon, Arizona, Arizona State and Cal. The fifth school, however, may be the wild card of the group. Penn State made his top five, and it's a school to watch for the next few days.

"I've always been a fan since I was younger," Short said. "I've talked to their corners and safeties coaches (Terry Smith and Tim Banks, respectively), and I really like them both. Of course, with the Penn State tradition of them usually being a good team, that's also a bonus."

Arizona is the trending school in Short's 247Sports crystal ball predictions, and Oregon has been a school to keep an eye on, but he said all five schools are on equal turf.

 

Texas State has monstrous recruiting week

Schools like Ohio State and Alabama are consistently in the news for their impressive recruiting efforts—and rightfully so. The two powerhouses have 29 commits combined and are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the latest 247Sports composite team rankings.

But even Ohio State and Alabama would love to have the run that Texas State had this past week. The Bobcats, under new head coach Everett Withers, have scored 10 commitments since last Monday, the latest being speedy defensive end Jakharious Smith from Grand Prairie, Texas.

Texas State more than doubled its recruiting class in a matter of seven days. The Bobcats now have 17 commits, and the class is headlined by Duncanville, Texas, athlete Jaylin Nelson, who can play wide receiver and quarterback.

The Bobcats are hoping the week's success can help land a few more targets, even though the battles for some of the 5- and 4-star talents will be uphill. A couple of players on the Bobcats' radar include 4-star tight end Kedrick James, a former Baylor commit, and 4-star offensive lineman Stephan Zabie, a top-25 offensive tackle nationally.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

B/R 5th Down: Coach Recruits While Riding Hoverboard and More

Editor's note: Bleacher Report's 5th Down captures the top social media college football stories of the week. As this long, bitter offseason continues, we'll focus on moments from the schools, coaches and players that kept us entertained as we wait for actual college football to make its highly anticipated return.

 

1. Kansas HC David Beaty recruits while hoverboarding

Whenever Kansas' football program is in the headlines, it's usually not for a good reason. The Jayhawks went 0-12 last year in David Beaty's first season, and struggles have been plentiful in Lawrence.

But Beaty is pulling out all the stops to get a new wave of talent to come in and turn things around at Kansas. Sometimes that means recruiting on a hoverboard.

Texas 3-star wide receiver Reggie Roberson, who committed to Kansas last month, tweeted a video of Beaty checking up on him while riding a hoverboard in the middle of a road. While most of us would probably fall flat on our faces trying to do this, Beaty is as smooth as can be:

And Beaty makes a great point in his unique pitch. How many other head coaches have filmed themselves on a hoverboard while talking to recruits? The message seemed to connect with Roberson, too, which is all that matters.

Beaty's work on and off the hoverboard so far in the 2017 recruiting cycle has been impressive by Kansas standards, as the Jayhawks are currently ranked No. 57 nationally and eighth in the Big 12.

So keep doing your thing, big dog.

 

2. Dodgeball: A True Bulldog Story

Before Georgia fans get to see how new head coach Kirby Smart does on the football field for the Bulldogs, he showcased his competitive edge on a completely different type of playing surface.

Last week, Smart and members of Georgia's football team traveled to Camp Sunshine, an in-state program that provides fun opportunities for children who have been diagnosed with cancer. During their trip, the Bulldogs got involved in a gigantic game of dodgeball with the campers.

Radi Nabulsi of UGASports.com captured plenty of footage of Smart, a former defensive back at Georgia, staying light on his feet against a barrage of balls:

Gridiron Now tweeted out a fantastic GIF of Smart evading attacks and making a slick move to keep his signature visor from falling to the ground:

Nabulsi also spotlighted Georgia running back Nick Chubb, who is recovering from a major knee injury suffered last season against Tennessee but still got involved in the action. To the delight of Georgia fans everywhere, Chubb moved around well while trying to drill Smart:

To paraphrase the great Patches O'Houlihan, if you can dodge SEC defenders, you can dodge a ball.

 

3. Cal 5-star WR performs ridiculous box jump

Demetris Robertson didn't announce his surprise commitment to California until the beginning of May. Now that he's in Berkley, the former 5-star wide receiver is showing that he was worth the wait for the Golden Bears.

Cal football posted an insane video to its Instagram account this past weekend of Robertson pulling off what it claims to be a 63-inch box jump:

Whoever filmed Robertson performing this amazing feat spoke for everyone watching the video by telling the wideout, "Oh, no you didn't."

As Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted, Robertson was an incredible athlete in high school, taking home several state track and field championships, including some long jumps.

Cal would love to see Robertson sky that high for some touchdown grabs this fall, as the Golden Bears are looking to replace star quarterback Jared Goff and most of the top receivers from their passing attack.

 

4. LSU offensive linemen practice their TD celebrations

As a pair of offensive linemen, Ethan Pocic and Will Clapp don't get many opportunities to be in the spotlight for LSU. They're more "unsung hero" types for the Tiger offense.

But if Pocic and Clapp get a chance to shine, they're ready to take full advantage of it.

LSU's football program posted a short video last week of Pocic and Clapp practicing their touchdown celebrations during a team photo shoot:

Pocic stole the show as he tried his best to replicate former Bayou Bengal star Odell Beckham Jr.'s now-legendary one-handed touchdown grab from 2014. He then followed it up with an earthshaking spike that would make New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski proud.

It's hard to imagine these two finding the end zone this season, but who knows? Maybe Les Miles will take a page from SEC West rival Bret Bielema.

 

5. Leonard Fournette echoes LeBron James on Twitter

Now let's switch gears to someone from LSU who will probably score a few touchdowns this season.

(Sorry, Ethan and Will.)

LSU superstar running back Leonard Fournette drew inspiration from LeBron James on Instagram this past week. After James posted a photo taking down his many critics, Fournette put up one of his own:

Fournette is gunning for a stronger 2016 after losing his grip on the Heisman Trophy last season when LSU dropped three straight games in SEC play to begin November. Like James, he's looking to prove all of his doubters wrong this fall.

In what may be a good omen for Fournette, his head coach is a big-time Cleveland Cavaliers fan, and he predicted James and his teammates would force a winner-take-all Game 7 in the NBA Finals. Maybe Miles will foresee a similar future for his star player this season.

 

6. Florida State shows off "state champ" rings

Although Florida State didn't win a conference title or a bowl game last season, the Seminoles still got some bling for the 2015 campaign last week.

Florida State beat rivals Florida and Miami for the third straight season in 2015 and also took down in-state foe South Florida in the first month of the campaign. That was enough for the Seminoles to declare themselves state champions:

While it's odd for Florida State to put the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl—a game it lost to Houston—on the side of the rings that drew the ire of some rival fans on social media, the Seminoles were clearly the state champions last fall.

Florida, Miami and USF were the only other Sunshine State teams besides FSU to make it to a bowl game, so the Seminoles beat the best of the best inside the state borders.

Now Jimbo Fisher and his team will look for bigger and better rings to add to their collections in 2016.

 

7. NC State unveils throwback uniforms with awesome video

As you can tell by now, the 5th Down is a fan of new uniforms this offseason, especially ones that throw back to great looks of the past. 

NC State joined the party last week by unveiling a new throwback uniform for its home game against Notre Dame, which will honor the program's 50th season at Carter-Finley Stadium:

The red jerseys don't have much change to their normal look, but the return of the diamond logo on the white helmets and the white pants is what stands out here.

According to Sam Cooper of Yahoo Sports, NC State wore the popular logo from 1986 to 1999, and the Wolfpack highlighted its history with the classic look in a well-done announcement video:

While the block NCSU logo is a fine one, the Wolfpack wouldn't go wrong if they moved back to the diamond on a full-time basis. It's one of the sharpest helmet designs in the game.

 

8. Iowa State assistant takes a nasty spill

Attention, Iowa State coaching staff: Matt Campbell is always watching.

The Cyclones' new head coach shared a video on Twitter last week of Doug Phillips, ISU's director of player personnel, taking a quick fall down the stairs at the football team's complex:

Phillips isn't the only Iowa State assistant to have an issue navigating the stairs in Ames since Campbell took over the Cyclones.

In April, Campbell tweeted a similar security-cam video of director of football operations Greg "Skip" Brabenec taking a more graceful tumble:

By sharing these videos to Twitter, Campbell is making sure all of his coaches stay on their toes. But he better hope he doesn't suffer the same fate, or he'll probably feel the wrath of his assistants on social media.

 

9. And, finally, an Iowa couple want to build a house that looks like Kinnick Stadium

Elsewhere in Iowa, a couple of Hawkeyes fans are looking to show their Iowa pride in an extravagant way.

According to Andy Davis and Jeff Charis-Carlson of the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Reed and Sandy Carlson of Decorah, Iowa, have plans to build a new 7,500-square-foot second home in Iowa City that is shaped like Kinnick Stadium.

The Carlsons want to go all-out with the project, even going so far as building an inner courtyard and a press-box replica inside their new home.

The Press-Citizen published a video that features the blueprint for the Kinnick-inspired house.

The idea wasn't met with enthusiasm from some of the Carlsons' future neighbors, who raised concerns with the city council that the huge structure would become a "party house." The 64-year-old Reed Carlson disagreed, telling Kate Kindelan of ABC News that only his family plans to tailgate for Iowa games inside the house's inner courtyard.

"My stepson suggested that if we’re going to build a house to tailgate at it should mimic the stadium," Carlson told Kindelan. "I'm kind of a theme guy anyways, so I thought that was a great idea."

Davis and Charis-Carlson reported that the city couldn't intervene with the Carlsons' construction of the house, scoring a victory for college football superfans everywhere. 

 

Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report, and he would look like one of those Iowa State assistants if he ever tried to hoverboard like David Beaty. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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