NCAA Football News

Oregon vs. Ohio State: Rapid-Fire Predictions for National Championship

The national championship game is right around the corner, and with it comes the conclusion of this year's college football season. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer debate the biggest headlines heading into the biggest game of the season. 

Who will win the national championship?

Watch the video and let us know!

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New Georgia OC Brian Schottenheimer Is a High Risk, High Reward Hire

In a surprisingly bold move, Georgia hired Brian Schottenheimer as its offensive coordinator on Wednesday afternoon according to GeorgiaDogs.com.

While there are pros and cons to any personnel move, this one was made at great risk in hopes for even greater reward. 

Schottenheimer, whose father coached in the NFL for several decades, has spent the last nine years serving as an offensive coordinator for the New York Jets and the St. Louis Rams. Now, Schottenheimer has been lured to Athens to take over the same role.

Somewhat obviously, the hire is indicative of Georgia's commitment to contending for national championships. After all, Schottenheimer brings a strong football pedigree and NFL coaching experience that should lend itself quite nicely to recruiting the most talented offensive weapons in the country. He fits the "big name hire" qualifications perfectly.

But the future success of Schottenheimer as a collegiate coordinator is unknown primarily because the true measure of his success at the professional level is debatable.

On one hand, Schottenheimer was approaching a full decade of continuous employment as an offensive coordinator at the game's highest level. In and of itself, that presents some semblance of an endorsement. The NFL is certainly not known as an environment defined by patience and prolonged second chances. Accordingly, multi-year stints with two franchises seem to be a testament to Schottenheimer's offensive mind.

On the other hand, his offenses were never great.  Schottenheimer's units ranked among the league's top 10 in points scored just once. Outside of that 2008 season, the results were largely mediocre.

Those numbers certainly aren't great, but they're a far cry from atrocious. His offenses finished an average of 18th in a 32-team league, and given the turnover rate of high-level NFL assistants, it's fair to say Schottenheimer was—at worst—an average offensive coordinator at the professional level.  

And it's worth noting that after he left New York, the Jets offense fell from 13th in the league in scoring to 28th. Conversely, in his first year with the Rams, St. Louis rose from dead-last in points scored to 25th.

Sure, hiring an average NFL offensive coordinator should theoretically be deemed a fantastic hire for a college program. But that's not necessarily the case. Hiring Schottenheimer is still fraught with risks. If he does come up short, two narratives will come to the forefront thanks to revisionist history.

First and foremost, fans will point to former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham who was hired away from the NFL and spent four tumultuous years at Georgia before moving on to Louisville. Most Bulldog fans label Grantham's tenure in Athens as a failure. If Schottenheimer doesn't succeed, his hire will be viewed as the repetition of a previous mistake.

Secondly and more generally, fans will bemoan Georgia for going after a flashy name rather than a proven college coordinator. Mike Bloomgren of Stanford was on the table. Kurt Roper, who worked miracles at Duke and actually improved Florida's offense, was an available option  John Lilly, a dedicated and loyal member of Georgia's coaching staff, performed well in one game calling plays.

But if Schottenheimer works out well, the results could be staggering.  

Just last week Rams coach Jeff Fisher gave Schottenheimer a vote of confidence and in doing so praised his play-calling and his ability to teach players, per Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. If he can truly do those two things while bringing in elite offensive talent, the sky is the limit for an already potent Georgia offense.

Combine that upward trajectory with a defense that is poised for further improvement over the coming years under Jeremy Pruitt and a host of returning talent, and great things—Championship-like things—could be on the table.

According to Seth Emerson of Macon's Telegraph, Georgia head coach Mark Richt expressed excitement over the hire of Schottenheimer and singled out his NFL experience as a point of differentiation. Meanwhile Schottenheimer echoed that excitement saying, "This is a great opportunity to become a Georgia Bulldog for both my career and my family."

Such phrasing is unique coming from a man who just took—at least in theory—a demotion from the NFL level to college football, but it may also be indicative of Schottenheimer's willingness to match Georgia in taking a risk. In other words, he's betting on the Bulldogs just as boldly as they're betting on him.  

Either both gambles hit or both lose, there is no hedge. Will the parlay pay off?

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

 

 

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Alabama and Nick Saban Taking Huge Risk Signing Jonathan Taylor

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Eighteen days ago, as Alabama was in the middle of Sugar Bowl prep for Ohio State, Drew Champlin of AL.com asked Nick Saban a routine question during a routine press conference about D.J. Pettway, the Crimson Tide’s defensive lineman in his second stint in Tuscaloosa after being kicked out of school his freshman year for second-degree robbery.

Saban, unexpectedly, turned his answer into a four-minute mini-speech on second chances, graduating players and not giving up on them.

Here’s video of the impassioned response, per AL.com:

It’s starting to look like Saban’s headline-making answer went deeper than just Pettway.

Alabama announced on Wednesday—the first day of classes for the 2015 semester—the signing of eight early enrollees from its 2015 recruiting class. Included on the list was JUCO defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor, a former Georgia Bulldog who was dismissed after a domestic violence arrest.

Saban’s decision to sign Taylor is not the first time a player has come to Alabama with a troubled past. But none has been quite as brutal as Taylor’s.

It’s a massive risk for the seemingly untouchable Alabama coach, and one that has already drawn widespread criticism from the Crimson Tide fanbase. And it’s a risk that, should it backfire, would be a major black mark for Saban and Alabama.

The details of Taylor’s history are graphic, to say the least.

While at Georgia, Taylor was arrested on an aggravated assault/family violence charge and dismissed shortly thereafter, according to Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Per Towers’ report:

Taylor was placed into the custody of UGA Police at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday in response to a third-party complaint that he had physically assaulted his girlfriend during a domestic dispute at McWhorter Hall dormitory. Police said evidence and witness accounts indicate the 6-foot-4, 340-pound Taylor 'choked' and 'struck with a closed fist' his 5-11, 170-pound female victim.

According to Marc Weiszer of OnlineAthens.com, Taylor was indicted on November 25, and “the felony case remains in the pre-arraignment stage in Clarke County Superior Court.”

And that was already Taylor’s second “strike.”

According to Towers, Taylor had previously been arrested for theft by deception after double-cashing meal reimbursement checks.

TideSports.com’s Andrew Bone first reported Taylor’s enrollment Wednesday night, and AL.com’s Champlin confirmed the news Wednesday morning.

During that time, many Alabama fans took to Twitter to express their frustration and disappointment at the decision by the coaching staff, which has typically been strict in its discipline policies for players who commit violations while on the team.

The outrage is very understandable, given the serious nature of a domestic violence charge and the issue recently coming to the front lines in American sports.

Saban giving a second chance to an alleged domestic violence perpetrator goes against the grain of the current climate of discipline in sports for this type of crime.

Alabama spokesperson Deborah Lane released the following statement to Bleacher Report on Wednesday afternoon:

Jonathan Taylor was admitted to The University of Alabama following the same procedures that the UA Admissions office uses to evaluate any student who has dealt with legal issues. The admissions process includes representatives from academic, legal, student affairs, student conduct, UAPD and counseling. Athletics is not involved in the admissions process. Taylor’s continued enrollment depends on his ability to fulfill all requirements the University has specifically mandated for him during his time as a UA student.

Officials for Nick Saban have not responded for comment from the Alabama coach.

Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com provided further detail on Taylor’s requirements at UA:

1) He'll be required to regularly volunteer at a battered women's shelter. 2) He'll be required to attend weekly anger management counseling sessions. That is not the exhaustive conditions placed upon Taylor, but they are a couple of the main ones.

Saban has earned a reputation for being strict with disciplinary issues for players already on his team. Most notably and recently, he dismissed a quartet of players for an on-campus robbery of two students.

Pettway was one of those players, and after a year in junior college, he was re-admitted to the team and graduated this past December. He has already announced his intentions to return for a final year of eligibility and pursue a master’s degree.

The precedent, as Saban so emphatically reminded everyone 18 days ago, is there for a redemption story. Already facing criticism for his recruitment of Taylor, Saban was given a chance to further plead his case in that December 20 press conference when asked about one that had worked out before.

But domestic violence is a different animal, especially in 2014 (and now 2015), where the issue is finally getting the serious attention it deserves. Allegedly choking and striking a female with a closed fist—a girlfriend literally half your size, who has placed a level of trust in you—is on a very different plane than getting in trouble for making mistakes while hanging around with the wrong crowd.

And even from a purely football perspective, a perspective that should be far down the list of priorities to consider here, the move is a massive risk.

Alabama is already loaded on the defensive line. It is expected to return Jarran Reed, Pettway, A’Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen on a front that will be loaded with talent. Off-field issues aside, Taylor will already face an uphill climb to see the field immediately.

Perhaps this plays out like Saban hopes it will. Perhaps Saban has been given reason to believe Taylor has truly turned a corner. To his credit, Saban, to this point, has not given anyone reason to doubt that he has done his due diligence in this instance. And human instinct naturally wants to root for a genuine turnaround here, to see a person admit his mistakes at a young age and authentically change his life for the better.

But this could also backfire in a big way—for Saban, for the football team and for the Alabama community. As the national conversation on domestic violence and other women’s issues reaches a crescendo, Alabama could find itself taking a step back, rather than in the right direction in terms of public perception, should Taylor step out of line in a similar way.

It’s a risk Saban is, apparently, willing to take. And one he hopes will turn into another redemption story, rather than a huge hit in a time of progress.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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UCLA Football: What Bruins Must Do to Compete in Tougher Pac-12

For UCLA football, the task of competing in a changing Pac-12 landscape is a challenging proposition.

When Jim Mora was hired as head coach before the 2012 season, the conference was in a state of flux. The South Division sent a 6-6 UCLA team to the inaugural conference championship in lieu of a USC team serving NCAA sanctions.

And those sanctions helped weaken the Trojans, presenting an opportunity to take over the Los Angeles football scene, which the Bruins pounced on. 

"I already said it: UCLA runs L.A.," quarterback Brett Hundley said on Nov. 22 following UCLA's third straight win in the series against USC. 

Hundley is on his way out after three excellent seasons, but Mora and his staff remain. And Mora is 28-11 in three seasons with the Bruins, including just completing the program's second straight with 10 wins.

He also returns a veteran, talented roster in 2015, many of whom shined in the Bruins' 10th win of the 2014 season: A 40-35 defeat of Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl. 

"You look at [linebacker] Myles [Jack] here. Myles is a sophomore," Mora said, per ASAPSports.com. "You look at [running back Paul Perkins], and Perk is a sophomore, and so I think the future looks bright for UCLA football."

Linebacker Deon Hollins, who Mora called "our most improved defensive player this year," culminated that improvement with a three-sack Alamo Bowl.     

UCLA has reason to be optimistic, but cautiously so. The Bruins cannot let their historic run of success turn to complacency as the conference gets increasingly more challenging. 

 

Keep Pace Ahead of the South 

UCLA was one of four teams in the league—and three in the division alone—that ousted its head coach and was starting over. Thanks to the solid recruiting of Mora's predecessor, Rick Neuheisel, the new regime inherited a well-stocked program that won a divisional title in the first season. 

South Division competition has been of little consequence for UCLA the last three seasons.

Mora is 2-1 against Arizona State and Todd Graham, 3-0 against Arizona and Rich Rodriguez and 3-0 against USC with two wins head-to-head against Steve Sarkisian, the first coming in Sarkisian's time at Washington. 

But each program has shown growth under its head coach. Arizona and Arizona State each won 10 games this season while USC currently boasts the Pac-12's most highly rated 2015 recruiting class

All three teams finished the regular season ranked in the final College Football Playoff standings, and they will all assuredly be included in next week's final Associated Press Top 25. 

Add Utah, and 20 percent of the national rankings is made up of the Pac-12 South. This division is a far cry from the island of misfit teams it was when Mora and Co. first arrived. 

Remaining in the hunt for conference championships means staying ahead of a curve that keeps getting steeper. 

 

Balancing Speed and Strength 

Stanford's size and physicality and Oregon's speed are on two opposite ends of the football spectrum, yet both have posed UCLA immense trouble under Mora.

UCLA is fast—Mora preaches tempo, and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone obliges with a no-huddle style that produced 992 snaps in the 2014 campaign. 

The Bruins also play physical. After the USC win, linebacker Eric Kendricks said of the current team, "We go hard." 

"When coach Mora came in, we preached a hard-[nosed] mentality," he said. 

But lopsided losses to the Cardinal and Ducks exposed the Bruins' need to get better in both regards.

UCLA's hurry-up offense suffered from stretches of dormancy this season, most recently going nearly 28 minutes without a touchdown in last week's Alamo Bowl.

As far as physicality, the Bruins' deficiencies there were most evident in critical losses to Utah and Stanford. Both bullied UCLA on each line, but especially the Bruins offensive line.

Utah got to Hundley for 10 sacks in its Oct. 4 win at the Rose Bowl while Stanford brought down the UCLA quarterback five times. 

"[Stanford's] defense is always a physical, strong defense. Their strength coach does a good job of building those guys up," UCLA center Jake Brendel said following the loss, the Bruins' fourth to the Cardinal in three seasons. 

Adopting the same philosophy on getting strong without sacrificing emphasis on speed is a key in UCLA taking that next step to title contention. 

 

Stay Aggressive in Recruiting 

With USC charging ahead in the Pac-12's recruiting race, the pressure is on Mora and his staff now more than ever to get aggressive. 

UCLA is doing a fine job with its 2015 class, sitting at No. 2 in the conference and No. 15 in the nation approximately a month ahead of national signing day. 

How UCLA finishes in the coming weeks will set the tone going forward. Mora has favored a national approach, but the Bruins' presence in Southern California will determine the strength of UCLA signing classes in the years to come. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of CFBstats.com. Recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports. 

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The Future of the Ohio State Buckeyes' Backfield

Ohio State fans have enjoyed a remarkable run watching the Buckeyes battle onward despite a pair of devastating injuries at quarterback.

Just one win away from completing the journey with a national championship, there's reason to be excited about what lies well beyond the title bout with Oregon. Ohio State has stocked its 2015 recruiting class with players capable of delivering successful seasons down the line. 

Quarterback Torrance Gibson and running back Michael Weber provide plenty of promise for an offensive backfield that's flaunted its depth throughout the 2014-15 campaign. Both players carry clout in this recruiting cycle and are considered two of the top 100 overall prospects.

The 4-star tandem took part in U.S. Army All-American Bowl festivities last week, getting an opportunity to see each other in action.

Weber started for Team West and went on to lead all players with 48 rushing yards on 10 carries. Gibson, the Team East starter behind center, completed five of eight pass attempts for 47 yards.

"We could do incredible things together," Gibson said. 

The coveted recruits each racked up accomplishments during impressive prep careers.

Weber, rated 13th nationally among running backs in 247Sports' composite rankings, rushed for 2,268 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior at Cass Technical High School in Detroit. He gained at least 1,600 yards on the ground during each of the past three seasons, winning a state title in 2012.

"Mike is a great running back and a great person," Gibson said. "He's the kind of guy you want to be around on and off the field. He has work ethic and strives to be the best. I think that makes him one of the top players in this class."

All-American linebackers Osa Masina and Porter Gustin each pointed out Weber when asked to identify an offensive player who commanded their attention during practice sessions.

"I'm an every-down back," Weber said. "Whatever you need me to do, I'll do it. Blocking, running, catching passes. Leave me on the field for all of that."

He also has a penchant for punishing opponents upon contact. Weber finished off a few plays in the All-American Bowl by driving forward through defenders

"I have the mindset to be better than my opponents by the time we get to the fourth quarter," Weber said. "I hit them hard when they're tired. I'm a closer."

Gibson has also shown the ability to close. He sealed state championship runs at American Heritage High School in Florida in 2013 and 2014, tallying three touchdowns in each title game. 

Still, he has his detractors.

The jury is out among national recruiting analysts about where Gibson fits best in college. He's not listed as a quarterback in 247Sports' composite rankings and instead rates fifth nationally among "athletes."

You'll find plenty of folks who feel his future lies at wide receiver, but don't bother telling Gibson. He's heard the opinions and remains unwavering about where he belongs on the football field.

"Playing the position I love has been important to me throughout this whole process," he said. "I've always viewed myself as a quarterback, and that's how a lot of college coaches feel, too. I think I have what it takes to lead an offense to success at the next level."

Gibson proved he's a dual-threat weapon as an upperclassman, rushing for 2,044 yards and 26 scores, per MaxPreps. His passing mechanics remain a work in progress, and improvement in that department is ultimately the best method to prove doubters wrong.

"I think I've progressed very well during the past year," Gibson said. "My focus is to work on everything I possibly can to prepare me to play the position in college. My footwork, my throwing motion, the way I read defenses—everything."

Despite throwing 21 touchdowns and just three interceptions as a senior, he managed to complete only 47 percent of pass attempts. The shortcoming gives Gibson a focal point during training sessions.

"Accuracy is huge," he said. "It's the toughest thing to work on as a quarterback, and a lot goes into increasing your accuracy. That's my main concern, and I'm doing everything I can to get better every day."

Weber believes Gibson is destined for big things in Columbus.

"That guy is impressive," he said. "Torrance beats teams in different ways and fits in with what Ohio State does."

Ohio State, like Florida and Utah before, has enjoyed immense offensive success with head coach Urban Meyer at the helm. Now aiming for his third national championship and first as a Buckeye, he's kept the attack rolling despite major hurdles. 

Braxton Miller was expected to vie for the Heisman Trophy this season before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury during training camp. Backup quarterback J.T. Barrett stepped up and set a Big Ten Conference record with 45 total touchdowns, but he went down with a fractured ankle in the regular-season finale.

Cardale Jones, slotted as a third-stringer this summer, has thrown for 500 yards and four scores in postseason victories over Wisconsin and Alabama.

"It’s crazy what they've been able to do, and it's all about Urban Meyer," Gibson said. "He does a great job recruiting and putting together a talented roster. It says a lot about Meyer and his recruiting process to be able to replace quarterbacks like that and keep on winning. I respect that a lot and hope to be one of those guys someday."

There are still hurdles to clear between now and national signing day in the Buckeyes' efforts to sign Gibson. He shared plans to visit Auburn and UCF in January, at the request of his No. 1 fan.

"I'm 100 percent committed to Ohio State, but my mom wants me to visit those schools," Gibson said. "It's important to her that I check everything out."

News also surfaced this week that he'll spend an official visit at LSU. The trip to Baton Rouge is set for Jan. 23, per Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

Some also wonder whether Weber will ultimately become a Buckeye. He was previously committed to Michigan and is considered a top target for new Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh, according to Bill Kurelic of 247Sports.

"Jim Harbaugh is a great coach. I think he’s going to change things around there a bit with how the team approaches games," Weber said. "But I'm all about Ohio State now."

If Meyer manages to retain commitments from Weber and Gibson, the Buckeyes should finish with another top-five recruiting class. The duo would provide a reason to celebrate on signing day and establish high expectations in Columbus for years to come. 

"We can make something special happen at Ohio State," Weber said. "We could both become Heisman Trophy candidates and compete for titles. I helped lead my team to state championships in high school, and I know Torrance did too. We both know what it takes to win, and that's what Coach Meyer has done everywhere he’s been."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue.

Recruit ratings and info courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Brian Schottenheimer Named Georgia OC: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Georgia shocked both the college football and NFL worlds on Wednesday, announcing it had hired Brian Schottenheimer to be its offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph had the report:

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee was one of many folks surprised to hear the news:

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com offered one possible impetus for Schottenheimer's move:

Mike Sando of ESPN.com, meanwhile, broke down Schottenheimer's record as an offensive coordinator with the different quarterbacks he coached while defending the oft-criticized coordinator in the process:

Schottenheimer spent the past three seasons as the offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, a role he also held for the New York Jets from 2006-11.

That experience should translate well to Georgia, though Bulldogs fans are aware of some of the critiques that follow Schottenheimer to Athens, like an inability at times to find creative ways to involve potential playmakers (see: Tavon Austin) or an occasionally rigid adherence to his preferred philosophy, the West Coast offense.

At Georgia, he'll have the opportunity to build and mold his scheme by helping to recruit players that fit within it. It will certainly be interesting to see how his philosophy translates a level down in the SEC.

 

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How Urban Meyer Fixed O​hio State

It started with disrespect. Ohio State lost the Gator Bowl to finish a year with more losses than it had had in one season since the 1800s, and the team flew back late at night. New coach Urban Meyer had already called his first meeting, for early in the morning. A bunch of players didn't bother to show up on time.    

A few days later, another meeting. Players were late again. Offseason workouts were set to start the following week, but Meyer "turned to Mickey Marotti (his right-hand man) and said 'F--k it. Start now. Now!'" said Bill Rabinowitz, whose book, Buckeye Rebirth. Urban Meyer, An Inspired Team and a New Era at Ohio State chronicled the 2012 season. It was Meyer's first year at Ohio State.

"They thought they were going to work out indoors, but he made them do it outside," Rabinowitz told Bleacher Report. "It was like 20 degrees and they didn't have any gear. They were wearing socks on their head to stay warm. They were doing crazy drills, trying to weed them out. He kicked them out of the locker room, and they were dressing in the cafeteria and the halls. He wouldn't let them wear Ohio State clothes. 'Now you understand how hard you have to work.' He absolutely erased any sense of entitlement."

Meyer has turned around Ohio State at an incredible pace.

It's a huge overstatement to portray this like the Bad News Bears. Ohio State has all the money and all the tradition in the world, and it had come off only one bad year when Meyer arrived. Still, we've seen national powerhouses teeter and then fall off a cliff. Like Nebraska. Like Michigan. Ohio State very well could have been another one. Instead, in just three years, Meyer has the Buckeyes in the national championship game against Oregon.

He picks his jobs well, as his former assistant and current Illinois head coach Tim Beckman told me. But Ohio State had lost coach Jim Tressel to scandal, was facing NCAA probation and had just finished a 6-7 season under interim coach Luke Fickell.

"At a school like Ohio State…you should be able to rally back pretty quick," Meyer told reporters Tuesday. "Any time there's transition or issues you have to deal with, sometimes you get a little bit of a void in a recruiting class and it's amazing nowadays, (how it takes) one year.

"But we have a really a [sic] motto around here: There's no excuses from the coaches or players, and I don't want to hear about this, we don't have this, we don't have this, the previous staff—no, no, no. We are good, they are your players now and our players now and do the best you can with them."

Meyer said Ohio State avoided the void thanks to the seniors in 2012. They could have left Ohio State when the NCAA announced sanctions that included a ban from bowl games. Meyer said every last senior stayed, and that staved off another bad year or two.

You'd expect at least a little trouble, though. Some hard times. And even though the Buckeyes finished undefeated in his first year and couldn't play in a bowl game, Meyer did have trouble. He'd won two national titles at Florida and spent a year on ESPN, and you probably think that meant instant respect among the players.

Rabinowitz described Meyer's troubles in getting players on his side. Tressel had been the guy who hugged his players, made them feel like part of the family. But when everyone's favorite uncle left, Meyer came in as all business. In Meyer's business, that includes cracking heads.

"He's done it everywhere to be honest," said Beckman, who has known Meyer since his college days and was his defensive coordinator at Bowling Green for two seasons. "He came in and we had a very good group coming back, and he brought his discipline and his philosophy and next thing I knew we were winning eight games, nine games right away. He did it at Utah, Florida. The same thing.

"He had some talent at Ohio State. But I think he brought that all together and incorporated a vision. And he'll let them know; he's not bashful. He'll let them know how it's going to be done. That creates change right away. No, he's not bashful."

Not bashful. According to Rabinowitz, Meyer started in right away with mat drills. Put it this way: If you were in a mat drill, you'd have a football player standing in front of you—and a line on the floor eight yards behind him. You have eight seconds to cross that line.

He has eight seconds to stop you.

Rabinowitz said plenty of players weren't buying into the change in philosophy at Ohio State and weren't buying into Meyer. The Buckeyes looked bad for the first four games in 2012 but won anyway. And when they were going to play Michigan State in the Big Ten opener, Meyer figured they were going to lose.

He told the team, according to Rabinowitz, to stop evaluating and second-guessing coaches and they'd see it pay off. Ohio State won that game, and everything turned. Also, the Big Ten was awful that year, making it easier for the Buckeyes to roll.

In the long run, Meyer changed things not only by turning everything into a competition and by removing entitlement through bootcamp, but also by modernizing the offense. That, mixed with his big name, brought something that the Big Ten wasn't used to: top, speedy, skill-position recruits from all over the country. He wins everywhere he goes.

So a big-time coach fixing a blue-blood program in a hurry isn't your usual feel-good kind of story. But it started by reminding a tough program how to get its hands dirty. Hey, royalty has its problems, too.

 

Greg Couch covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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Oregon vs. Ohio State: Storylines to Watch in College Football Championship 2015

Oregon and Ohio State have yet to slip.

Oregon, the team led by Marcus Mariota that usually hits a late-season hiccup that ruins everything, is through to the title game. Not only did the Ducks quell past demons against teams such as Stanford, they took down Florida State.

Ohio State, a new-look squad under Urban Meyer, is a far cry from the one that annually lost at the hands of the SEC. Despite a third-string quarterback, the Buckeyes took down Alabama.

The storylines for a title game that would never work under the watchful eye of the BCS are bountiful. Talking points are critical to any matchup, but these have a way of writing themselves.

It all comes to a head January 12.

 

College Football Playoff National Championship Odds and Schedule

 

Latest Storylines to Watch

Marcus Mariota's Legs

The book on Marcus Mariota is widely available.

Heisman winner. Eye-popping statistics, including a 40-3 touchdowns-interceptions ratio. Conqueror of the Pac-12 and defending champions. Surefire NFL first-round pick, potential No. 1 overall.

What is lost a bit in the limelight is Mariota's ability with his legs. Not in a stereotypical "he's a dual-threat quarterback" sense, either, considering so many like to point out his 731 yards and 15 scores as a rusher this season.

No, this focuses more on his ability to not only extend plays with his feet, but also remain aware enough to find the open target down the field. This ability is a major reason he was able to complete 68.6 percent of his passes so far despite injuries to starters along the offensive line such as Tyler Johnstone.

Mariota's ability to pretend he is a more agile Ben Roethlisberger is key against the Buckeyes. Defensive end Joey Bosa leads one of the nation's most feared rushes, headlined by his 14 sacks.

Said rush flustered Alabama's Blake Sims into three interceptions and helped to limit him to 29 rushing yards. Oregon players understand the task at hand, too, as comments by center Hroniss Grasu illustrate, per Paul Myerberg ofUSA Today:

They're the most talented defensive line we've faced all season long. The most talented defense. They've got some young guys in there who can really play. They're just very active. They won't quit on a play. Florida State, they'd stop after one move. These guys, they won't quit on a play.

Obviously, Mariota is not prone to turnovers. Yet he rarely encounters defenses such as Ohio State. Really, even Florida State's unit in the semifinal entered as one of the most criticized points of the matchup.

It only seems right that Mariota's final collegiate test comes against such a stellar unit. Ditto for Oregon's final ascension after years of coming up short.

 

Cardale Jones' Pursuit of Perfection

Cardale Jones makes being a third-string quarterback look so easy.

Just don't tell that to Ryan Lindley.

Humor aside, nobody should discredit what the sophomore has accomplished in such a short period after J.T. Barrett's injury. Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin? No problem, Jones just throws for 257 yards and a trio of scores.

Leading the Buckeyes to a win against Alabama is not a bad footnote on the resume, either. Especially after helping to orchestrate a serious comeback in the process—not that Jones understands how he pulled it off, either.

"I have no clue," Jones said, per ESPN.com's Brian Bennett. "I think I'm just naturally a calm person. I never get too excited or too down. I never started pressing when we were down two scores."

That said, Jones will need to be better than his 18-of-35 mark for 243 yards with a touchdown and interception against the Crimson Tide. The same goes for his 43 yards on a 2.5 per-carry average.

The honeymoon is over for Jones. Next up is an Oregon defense that does not get enough credit, even after holding Jameis Winston to 348 yards, one touchdown and interception and 20 total points—without top corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

As great as Ezekiel Elliott can be, it is ridiculous to expect another 230 yards and two scores from the star back. The title game sure feels like a final exclamation point on the debut story of one of college football's next big things, but Oregon has the talent to ruin things to the point where Jones' three-game run is nothing more than an asterisk.

 

Betting information courtesy of Odds Shark. Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Conference Champs with the Best Chance to Repeat in 2015

Only three conference champions repeated in 2014, and two of those three—Baylor in the Big 12 and Central Florida in the American—needed co-championships to get there. The only outright repeat champion was Florida State in the ACC.

But can anyone follow in FSU's footsteps next season?

Doing so is harder than it sounds, and if this past season was any indication, almost every team I pick on this list will be wrong. But there are a few teams that look poised to defend their title in 2015.

Ranking the contenders included obvious criteria: how much talent each champion returns, how much talent the rest of the conference returns, coaching continuity, schedule favorability, etc.

A whole lot can change between now and August, but for the time being, here are the top candidates to go back-to-back in 2015.

Begin Slideshow

Who Will Replace Jameis Winston as the Face of College Football in 2015?

Jameis Winston has been the face of college football ever since he won the 2014 Heisman Trophy. Winston is moving on to the NFL, so who will take his place?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee gives his pick for the next face of college football. 

Do you think J.T. Barrett is the next face of CFB?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ryan Newsome Sets Decision Date: Where Will 4-Star WR Land?

One of the top available wide receiver recruits will be off the board in a little over two weeks, as 4-star prospect Ryan Newsome announced he'll make his commitment on Jan. 23.

The Aledo, Texas star, who is rated by 247Sports as the No. 230 overall player in the 2015 class and the 25th-best wide receiver, unveiled his commitment plans Tuesday night via Twitter:

At 5'8" and 170 pounds, Newsome is among the smallest wideout prospects out there. But what he lacks in size he's made up for in speed and elusiveness, which enabled him to catch 54 passes for 1,073 yards and 12 touchdowns this past season. He also returned two punts for TDs, following up a junior year in 2013 when he tied a national prep record with seven punt-return scores, according to 247Sports.

"He is deceptively strong for his size and does a nice job of finishing runs by getting low and delivering the hit instead of receiving it," according to RockyTopInsider.com.

Newsome made visits in the fall to Ole Miss, Tennessee, UCLA, Oklahoma and Texas, with 247Sports' Crystal Ball tracker listing Texas as the favorite with an 80 percent chance to land the in-state product. He'd make for a nice replacement in the 2015 class for 4-star wideout John Burt, who decommitted from the Longhorns on Tuesday.

Texas already has commitments from 4-star athletes Tim Irvin and DeAndre McNeal, 3-star athlete Louis Brown and 3-star wideout Gilbert Johnson, but with the Longhorns offense struggling mightily all season—and the team graduating receivers John Harris and Jaxon Shipley—there's a definite need for depth at that position.

Newsome's other top destinations are Tennessee and UCLA, according to Bleacher Report recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue. Tennessee has a commitment from 5-star prospect Preston Williams, who at 6'4" fits more as an outside receiver compared to Newsome looking more like a slot option. It's a similar situation at UCLA, where the Bruins' lone wideout commit to this point, 4-star L.J. Reed, comes in at 6'3".

With his ability to play receiver and return kicks, Newsome has a chance to make an immediate impact where he ends up because of that versatility.

Where do you think Newsome will end up? Give us your thoughts in the comments section.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which 2015 Wide Receiver Will Make the Biggest Impact Freshman Year?

The 2015 recruiting class is full of big-time athletes on all sides of the ball, but the wide receiver position is especially stacked. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer dish out which wide receiver will make the biggest impact in 2015.

Which wideout will make the biggest splash at his school? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Miller, Golson Transfer Rumors Abound

What to Make of the Transfer Rumors

We are potentially entering one of the most prolific offseasons of quarterback free-agent transfers in college football history. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson were both mentioned in Heisman Trophy discussions during the last calendar year, and have both been connected to LSU over the last week. Both players have done their best to quell transfer rumors, but that won't make them go away.

Are there any other possible destinations other than LSU within the SEC? 

Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Ole Miss and Florida could all wade into the quarterback free-agent market if they so choose.

Would any of those schools go down that road? Rebels' head coach Hugh Freeze wouldn't rule out adding another quarterback, even though DeVante Kincade, Ryan Buchanan and junior college signee Chad Kelly will all be in the mix to replace Bo Wallace.

"You're going to consider anyone you feel like helps your football team move another step forward," Freeze said after the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. "I'm anxious to see both of those guys [Kincade and Buchanan] go to work, and whoever else we decided to bring in during the spring...we've got a lot of kids returning too."

If Miller transfers, whichever program lands him is getting a bona fide superstar who will make an immediate impact.

Golson would be an upgrade from current situations, but his 14 interceptions and 12 fumbles (eight lost) should be very concerning to any team who takes a chance on him. On top of that, he won't graduate from Notre Dame till May, and the SEC's new rule on graduate transfers could make it hard for Golson, who admitted that his 2013 expulsion was due to cheating, according to Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated.

SEC Bylaw 14.1.15.1 (d) of the Graduate Student Exception, which was sent to B/R from the SEC, could stand in the way.

(d) The student-athlete has not been subject to official university or athletics department disciplinary action at any time during enrollment at any previous collegiate institution (excluding limited discipline applied by a sports team).

There is an appeal/waiver process in place for any team in the SEC to take Golson. Would it apply? The conference did block basketball player Eric McKnight's potential transfer to Tennessee this summer, and as Ben Fredrickson of the KnoxNews.com reported this summer, that rule could have played a part.

There will be a huge market if one or both decide to transfer, which will make this offseason a lot of fun.

 

Big News for Auburn's Defense

Auburn's defense has been more of a joke than a juggernaut ever since Tommy Tuberville moved on after the 2008 season, but head coach Gus Malzahn has taken it upon himself to fix the problem. Malzahn signed former Florida head coach Will Muschamp to coordinate his defense last month, and the duo got great news on Tuesday. 

Linebacker Cassanova McKinzy announced on Twitter that he's coming back to the Plains for his senior season.

McKinzy finished second on the Tigers with 91 tackles, and ever since the middle of the 2013 season, he has evolved into a force in the middle of the Tigers defense. With Muschamp calling the shots, his performance, draft stock and Auburn's defense will all benefit from another go-round in the orange and blue—as USA Today's Dan Wolken notes.

McKinzy will anchor a linebacking corps that could include veteran Kris Frost, rising sophomore Tre' Williams, veterans Anthony Swain and Justin Garrett and perhaps several talented incoming freshman. They'll be playing for a coach in Muschamp who's well schooled on not only coaching versatile and successful linebackers, but getting new pieces up to speed in a hurry.

McKinzy is a proven leader and fundamentally sound tackler, which isn't the norm in Auburn's defense. He and Auburn will mutually benefit from his return in 2015.

 

Class Crumbling?

South Carolina already saw 4-star cornerback Mark Fields decommit from the program in December, and now another key piece of the recruiting class in a position of need could be headed elsewhere.

Arden Key, a 4-star defensive lineman from Lithonia, Georgia and a longtime commitment, announced on Twitter on Tuesday that he is opening up his recruitment.

Being No. 1 on his board is nice, but certainly is more perilous than it was when he was committed to the Gamecocks.

The news dropped South Carolina down four spots to No. 16 in the most recent 247Sports team recruiting rankings, which is a far cry from the top five—which is where South Carolina was hovering just a few months ago.

A sign of more struggles for South Carolina? You bet.

The 7-6 season was a disappointment, and now key pieces of the recruiting class who were being counted on to fix the primary problems in Columbia are jumping ship.

 

Putting the Coaching Hat on

By now, you already know a little bit about 4-star wide receiver prospect Cordell Broadus. The 6'2", 195-pounder from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas is the son of music mogul Snoop Dogg, and he has earned offers from several high-profile programs, including UCLA, USC, LSU and Arizona State.

Broadus' dad is his harshest critic.

Snoop Dogg was in Atlanta this week for the world premiere of his new ESPN documentary Snoop & Son: A Dad's Dream at the College Football Hall of Fame. Snoop—who also serves as a coach in his Snoop Youth Football League, gave a scouting report on what Broadus needs to work on to become a star at the collegiate level.

"He's really good at blocking," Snoop said. "He has great blocking technique. He can position his body to make great catches and he has soft hands."

As is the case in the documentary, which debuts on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET on Jan. 14, Snoop put his "coaching hat" on and offered constructive criticism on what his son needs to improve upon to become a star.

"He needs to work on attacking the ball at its highest point, and be a little bit more aggressive as a receiver and not as timid," Snoop said. "I've seen him grow as a receiver and grow into the beast that I want him to be, but I feel like there's still a lot of room to grow. I feel like the next coach and the next program that gets him will get a guy with a lot of upside."

Where will Broadus end up? 

A common theme during the first two episodes that were screened during the premiere was Broadus getting out of Snoop's shadow, which, in part, is a reason the family moved to Las Vegas in the first place. Broadus says during the show that it might be a better idea to stay away from USC due its location and his dad's unwavering support for the Trojans.

If that were to happen, Snoop wouldn't care.

"I'm an SC guy," Snoop said. "Regardless of where he goes, I will have on my SC drawers and socks. If he picks another university, I'll have on that university's sweatshirt with SC drawers and socks."

 

Quick Outs

  • LSU has become synonymous with early departures, but that could be changing. As Shea Dixon of 247Sports points out, news has trickled out that safety Jalen Mills and offensive linemen Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins all could come back. That'd be huge for a program that's in desperate need of good news after sputtering to an 8-5 record and 4-4 conference mark.
  • John Burt, a 4-star wide receiver from Tallahassee, Florida, just decommitted from Texas, and has Auburn in the mix. At 6'3", 180 pounds, Burt has the potential to grow into his frame in a college strength and conditioning program, and be a force over the middle and deep for the Tigers if he lands on the Plains.
  • Jim McElwain met with the media on Wednesday, and for the most part, he had the CEO role down, confirming the dismissal of defensive tackle and former hot-shot recruit Gerald Willis, according to Richard Johnson of The Alligator. More importantly, McElwain out of context is fun.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State QB Jameis Winston Made Right Call Declaring for 2015 NFL Draft

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston's decision to go pro was long awaited—and, in the end, it was the right one. 

On Wednesday afternoon, the worst-kept secret in college football became official: Winston is declaring for the 2015 NFL draft. The announcement came after Winston's father told David M. Hale of ESPN.com that his son intends to forgo another two seasons at Florida State. 

Simply put, Winston is ready to take on the challenges of being an NFL player. He's been ready for a while, which is a great place to be; few people are that good, and therefore, that fortunate. According to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, Winston is the best player in the 2015 draft pool. 

The decision was undoubtedly a difficult one. As of Tuesday, Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports reported that Winston was "seriously considering" staying in school.

"I reached this very difficult decision after careful consideration and long thought, realizing how difficult it would be to say goodbye to my family at Florida State," Winston said in a statement published by ESPN.com. "I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to wear the garnet and gold and have greatly enjoyed my time as a Seminole, both as an athlete and a student in the classroom."

However, there are several advantages to Winston declaring for the draft now that shouldn't be overlooked. 

The first, and most obvious, is money. Whether Winston is selected No. 1 overall or signed to a practice squad somewhere, he's going to receive something he didn't at Florida State: a salary. 

The question every college football player has to ask themselves when they become draft-eligible is whether they want to keep playing for free. Many don't, even the ones who aren't projected to be drafted high—if at all. As B/R's Adam Kramer wrote last January, going pro is one of the safest risks a college football player can make. 

Winston is different from many of those players, though, because he's all but officially guaranteed to sign a rookie deal. Even the most selfish Florida State fans who want to see Winston back for another season should have a hard time disagreeing with this decision. Winston's life is about to change forever. He'll be able to provide for himself and his family in a way he's never been able to before. 

Along the same lines, the sooner he enters the league, the closer he gets to the possibility of a second contract. Because of the NFL rookie-wage scale implemented in 2011, which gives first-year players a low, predetermined salary for up to four years, that's where the real money is made.  

There's also the ever-present injury risk. Winston could decide he's returning to school only to tear his ACL next August, forcing him to miss the entire 2015 season while, again, playing for free. Or, even worse, he could sustain a career-ending injury. 

Matt Barkley, the former USC quarterback from 2009-12, saw firsthand the ramifications that injuries can have on draft stock. A potential top-10 pick in the 2012 draft, Barkley instead tumbled to the fourth round (98th pick) in the 2013 draft. That's not to compare Barkley to Winston as prospects, but the former is nevertheless a cautionary tale for coming back for another year of school. 

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for Winston to come out now, though, is that in many ways, he's hit his ceiling in the college game. "After three years under Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher, he's maxed out what he's going to learn," B/R draft guru Matt Miller said. 

More collegiate-level snaps could be good for Winston's development in theory, especially after throwing 18 interceptions in 2014, but he isn't picking up heaps of knowledge during practice. He has complete command of the Seminoles offense by now. In fact, Winston would shoulder even more responsibility for the offense in 2015. Florida State replaces most of its starting offensive line and two biggest receiving weapons, receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O'Leary. 

The timing is right for Winston, and he grades out well. Miller has Winston as the fourth-best player and second-best quarterback behind Oregon's Marcus Mariota in this year's draft. Similarly, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Winston as the second-best quarterback and sixth overall player. When you receive those types of grades, it's tough to pass up the opportunity. 

The compelling part of Winston's decision will come in the next several months as his game, and his character, are picked apart. It happens to everyone, but this draft season should be especially riveting because Winston is so polarizing. 

It's difficult for a lot of people to view Winston through the lens of a football player and only a football player. That's how powerful the rape allegation was against him, even though there was never enough evidence to incriminate the 21-year-old. (Winston's accuser just filed a federal civil lawsuit against FSU trustees, according to Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel.) 

Whether people think Winston is guilty, innocent or are undecided, his personal life and his football performance have become virtually intertwined. 

As a fallout, more frivolous off-the-field issues—like "Crab-Gate," the BB gun incident and shouting an obscene (and NSFW) Internet meme in public—have become further indictments on his reputation. B/R's Mike Freeman explained this in his 10-point stance: 

Second, and most interesting, is that some scouts believe he'd be ranked ahead of Mariota—by far—if it wasn't for his maturity (or lack thereof) and off-field issues. 'He's the best pro-ready quarterback in the country,' said one scout, 'but he's also extremely immature.'

'If I picked him first in this draft,' the scout explained, 'I'd cross my fingers on both hands. If he stayed in college, stayed out of trouble and grew up, I'd draft him and only cross the fingers on one hand.'

Here's the counterpoint, though: Someone is going to draft Winston, probably in the first round, despite all of that. 

It only takes one team to fall in love with Winston. Given the lengths some franchises will go to pick up a quarterback early, Winston's odds seem favorable. Who knows? Maybe a change of scenery and coaching will keep him on the straight and narrow. 

The average college football fan that dislikes Winston and Florida State—and there are many—wants Winston gone because they feel he's somehow polluting the sport. However, Winston doesn't owe college football, its fans or media a departure. He only owes it to himself to get better. The best place for him to do that is in the NFL, where he can concentrate on his future full time and get paid for it.

Go earn, Winston. 

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State Shouldn't Panic About the Loss of Jameis Winston for 2015

Jameis Winston has played his final game in a Florida State uniform, leaving the program without an immediate answer at quarterback. But the Seminoles will be just fine without him.

Winston announced the news Wednesday in a statement through his agency, The Legacy Agency (via ESPN.com):

After weighing this decision with my family and friends, I have decided to declare for the 2015 NFL draft and forgo my remaining eligibility at Florida State. I reached this very difficult decision after careful consideration and long thought, realizing how difficult it would be to say goodbye to my family at Florida State. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to wear the garnet and gold and have greatly enjoyed my time as a Seminole, both as an athlete and a student in the classroom.

… As I embark in the next challenge of playing in the NFL, I look forward to contributing to a long line of successful alumni at the next level. I want you all to know that I will make Seminole Nation proud and continue to bring the passion and love for the game you all have seen in Doak Campbell since my first day as a 'Nole. Thank you for making my time in Tallahassee some of the best years of my life.

Winston won the Heisman Trophy and the national title in 2013 and hadn't lost a game until his 27th career start against Oregon in the College Football Playoff. The way Florida State lost the Rose Bowl, 59-20, left an indelible mark on Winston's legacy but will not destroy the memories of the magical run he had the past two seasons.

Still, the way Winston's departure fits the "Ewing Theory"—Bill Simmons' long-running belief that certain teams improve after losing certain star players—is too spot-on perfect to ignore. The off-field headache he created was only worth it because the 'Noles kept winning; otherwise, the media attention was unbearable.

In many respects, this team will be better off without it.

To clarify: This team will be better off without the headache of Jameis Winston, not without the performance of Jameis Winston.

Even though his decision-making regressed in 2014, manifesting itself in 18 interceptions, Winston still made NFL throws in big moments and led FSU to a 13-1 record and an ACC championship. He played well in the Rose Bowl, too—or at least he did until that Yakety Sax fumble and the meltdown that followed thereafter.

Sean Maguire started but failed to impress when Winston was suspended for yelling obscenities on campus against Clemson. He is a rising junior and the tentative favorite to start next season—a safe albeit underwhelming option.

Behind him, J.J. Cosentino took a redshirt in 2014, and freshmen Deondre Francois (the No. 100 overall player on the 247Sports composite rankings), Kai Locksley and De'Andre Johnson will join the fray this fall.

But the real wild card is the so-called quarterback "free agents," a group Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report called "one of the best crops of graduate transfers we've ever seen in college football." Braxton Miller might be on the market. Everett Golson might be on the market. Combined, those two went 23-0 as starters in the 2012 regular season.

If Florida State could land either, it would be golden.

Even if it can't, however, the presence of Jimbo Fisher provides comfort. Is there any head coach in the country—sans, maybe, Duke's David Cutcliffe—one would rather have developing quarterbacks?

Assuming Winston doesn't take a free fall, the last three passers Fisher has developed will all have been first-round draft picks:

*Note: Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has Winston going No. 6 overall to the New York Jets in his first official postseason mock draft.

But this article has less to do with how the 'Noles will replace Winston under center than it does with the rest of the offense. The point being that, regardless of who plays quarterback, there is enough talent on this roster for FSU to score points with efficiency.

Running back Dalvin Cook and receivers Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane were all blue-chip recruits in 2014 and played meaningful snaps as true freshmen. You think that experience might help them? With 5-star receiver George Campbell enrolled for spring practice, this young group of skill players can rival that of any team in the country.

All the quarterback would need to do is be a game manager—the type of QB Fisher coached as the offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at LSU. Take care of the football, deliver your throws on time, don't try to make too much happen, let your teammates go win the game.

If Matt Mauck could do it, Maguire can too.

"These freshmen, they’re going to be the old guys," FSU receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey said of next year's team, per Tim Linafelt of Seminoles.com. "As [last] season went on and [Travis Rudolph] started making plays and then [Ermon] Lane started making plays like that, they both just got more confident."

"With all the talent we’ve got on this team, all the heart we’ve got on this team—we’re definitely going to make another push for it," added star defensive back Jalen Ramsey. "You can believe that."

The urgency in Ramsey's comment speaks to a key tenet of the "Ewing Theory." The Seminoles seemed a tad overconfident in 2014, and they had every right to be after a 14-0 national championship season in which they flattened pretty much every team they played. What they needed, more than anything, was a moment of humility.

Suffice it to say they got it.

The loss of Winston hurts for obvious reasons—quarterback is the most important position on the field, and anyone who takes over for Winston will almost certainly be a downgrade—but it helps because it puts the impetus back on this team to play like…well, a team.

With Clemson and Georgia Tech both finishing the season strong and returning a ton of offensive pieces—chief among them QBs Deshaun Watson and Justin Thomas—there's a chance some experts even peg the 'Noles as underdogs to win the ACC.

Weird as it sounds, that might be just what this program needs.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeigh35

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jameis Winston's Accuser Sues FSU: Latest Details and Comments

A federal lawsuit was filed against Florida State University trustees by the woman who accused Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston of rape in 2012.

Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel reports the woman, who's listed as Jane Doe in the complaint, is seeking unspecified damages for Title IX violations. She states the school didn't provide the necessary response to the alleged incident.

The complaint also argues Florida State purposely hindered an investigation by the Tallahassee Police Department to protect the football player, according to Sonnone:

The complaint states FSU intentionally hindered TPD's investigation 'so that Winston's FSU football career would be unaffected.' The FSU athletics department, according to the complaint, was in contact with TPD in January 2013 while senior associate director of athletic Monk Bonasorte and football coach Jimbo Fisher had knowledge of the rape accusation.

Winston's accuser is seeking a jury trial in the case. The report states she is seeking compensation including, but not limited to, education reimbursement, the expenses associated with the sexual assault, pain and suffering and a loss of future earnings.

The complaint does not list Winston or the TPD as defendants. The case is solely based on FSU failing to comply to the Title IX standards. From Sonnone:

'FSU became a sexually hostile environment where her rapist roamed free and could turn up at any moment, where she became the target of death threats and vilification campaigns,' the complaint states.

The lawsuit alleges the university violated two counts of Title IX federal statutes, providing a 'clearly unreasonable response' and creating a 'hostile education environment.'

Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com reported in December 2013 that state attorney Willie Meggs decided Winston would not be charged in the case. He faced potential felony charges, but the state attorney said there wasn't enough evidence to have a "reasonable likelihood of conviction."

Last month, Rachel Axon of USA Today noted Winston, who has maintained the encounter was consensual, was cleared of any student conduct code violations. Retired Florida Supreme Court justice Major Harding heard the case.

The latest complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court in Orlando on Wednesday. Florida State officials have yet to make any comment about the latest news.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Team Will Close the Strongest Heading into National Signing Day?

The 2015 recruiting season is coming to a close, and many of the top recruits are still undecided. The top programs in the country are looking to close strong before national signing day.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee debate which team will close the strongest before national signing day. 

Which team will have the strongest close to the recruiting season?

Watch the video and let us know!

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: 5 Takeaways from the Vols' Bowl Game

For the first time since January 2008, the Tennessee Volunteers enter the offseason with optimism and hope after a resounding 45-28 bowl victory over a solid opponent.

When the Vols found out they were playing in the TaxSlayer Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes, it looked like they might have lucked out given that their previously projected opponents included the Louisville Cardinals, the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Texas Longhorns.

However, after closer inspection, the Hawkeyes seemed to have everything the Vols didn't, including senior-led offensive and defensive lines. Common football knowledge dictates that the team that controls the line of scrimmage usually wins the game—and it looked like Tennessee would be on the losing end of that battle.

But it didn't take long for the Vols to completely take over the game. The defensive line constantly pressured Iowa's quarterbacks, and the offensive line played its best game of the season.

Ultimately, the Vols led 42-7 before allowing the Hawkeyes to add three touchdowns late in the game against their backup defensive unit. 

Tennessee's dismantling of Iowa showed that the Vols may be the SEC's most improved team in 2014, but what does it mean for the squad as it looks toward the 2015 season?

Here are five takeaways for Tennessee's future after its big win at the TaxSlayer Bowl. 

Begin Slideshow

Miami Football: 5 Recruits Who Fill Hurricanes' Biggest Needs

College football programs have less than one month until the most important recruiting time of the year—national signing day—which falls on Feb. 4.

The Miami Hurricanes are targeting five prospects who fit needs on the roster, hoping to receive commitments from the talented players in the class of 2015.

Al Golden and his coaching staff must address holes at the wide receiver position and at every level of the defense in order to replenish a team that underperformed last season.

Each player listed is a legitimate candidate to commit to the school, not simply a prospect who fits the Canes system.

Begin Slideshow

John Burt Decommits from Texas: What's Next for Longhorns, 4-Star WR?

Texas seemed hard-pressed to keep 2015 pledge John Burt on board through national signing day. The 4-star wide receiver confirmed those sentiments by cutting ties with the team Tuesday, per Colt Barber of 247Sports.

The 6'3", 180-pound Florida prospect initially committed to Texas in late July. He was one of Charlie Strong's earliest offers and grew up admiring the Longhorns. 

"Having an opportunity to go to college at Texas is surreal," Burt told Bleacher Report before his senior season. "I’ve been following the team for most of my life. I have family in Austin. My aunt works at the university and my grandmother was involved in the administration department there."

Despite his long-term verbal pact, speculation mounted during recent months that Burt was ready to explore other options.

He traveled to Auburn and Florida State multiple times during the season. The past 17 expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball projected him to flip before signing day.

Each of those picks have him landing at Auburn, where Burt spent an official visit in October. The Tigers have been at the forefront of his thought process since the early stages of this recruitment.

"I like Auburn a lot," he said last April. "(Wide receivers coach Dameyune) Craig talks with me a lot about what I could do there. The campus is small and the community really supports Auburn, which I like.”

Burt, a Tallahassee resident, could also revisit the possibility of staying home as a Seminole. He attended a few games at Florida State this past fall and could add to an impressive collection of pass targets. 

“I don’t have a problem with staying so close, but I need to figure out where I want to spend my college years," Burt said. "Whether I want to stay nearby or leave the area."

Of course, there remains a chance at reconciliation between Burt and Texas. Strong and company will continue to keep close tabs on him during the final stretch, though Barber points out he expressed concerns to the Longhorns staff about its vacant receivers coach position and quarterback situation.

Texas will certainly search elsewhere for options at the position. 

The Longhorns are a finalist for speedy in-state slot receiver Ryan Newsome, who announces his decision Jan. 23. Fellow 4-star Texan Damarkus Lodge, who decommitted from Texas A&M as a senior, is also a primary target.

Burt is rated 10th nationally among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings. He caught 61 passes for 1,286 yards and 17 touchdowns as an upperclassman, per MaxPreps.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue. 

Recruit ratings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

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