NCAA Football News

Big Ten Football: Predicting Every Team's 2016 MVP

The start of the 2016 college football season is nearly two months away, and anticipation for the coming campaign is building with each passing day.

That rings especially true in the Big Ten, which will feature no shortage of established teams and prominent players.

And while football is arguably the ultimate team game, there's no arguing that some players stand out above the rest on each roster. In fact, it's common for programs to name a team MVP at each season's end in order to honor the player who most proved his worth over the course of the season.

Who will earn those honors on each Big Ten team in 2016? That remains to be seen.

But as we count down the days to the coming season, let's predict each team MVP in the conference based on his overall value to his program's success.

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

Following an insane "Orange Carpet Day" recruiting event on June 18 that yielded eight commitments, Tennessee football recruiting has picked up considerably.

The Volunteers now have 17 commitments (though only two 4-star prospects) and currently rank ninth nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings with Sunday night's decommitment of receiver KD Nixon.

Head coach Butch Jones is expected to sign a full class of at least 25, and though that pledge list will change between now and national signing day, it's another solid start.

Plenty of UT's top targets will be on display at The Opening, Nike's premier recruiting event at the company headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, on July 8-10. It's a who's-who of high school star recruits, and the Vols (along with everybody else) are courting several playmakers.

Though Tennessee has just one pledge from a participant thus far in La Vergne, Tennessee, safety Maleik Gray, the Vols are hoping to change that.

Numerous players UT wants in its class will be on display, including running back Cam Akers, cornerback Deangelo Gibbs, receiver Tee Higgins and offensive lineman Trey Smith.

There are many more players with the Vols on the tips of their tongues. If UT goes out and shows out on the field in 2016 (as expected), there's no reason Jones can't add several of these players.

Hopefully for Tennessee, the Vols will land some of these stars to supplement the substance that was provided by Orange Carpet Day, a haul that impressed recruiting analysts such as 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong:

The Vols are now building depth within a program that has been rebuilt by Jones and company into a National Title contender. The roster has been completely overhauled and this 2017 class is on track to supplement what’s been done the previous years where Tennessee signed the No. 14 class in 2016, No. 4 in 2015 and No. 7 in 2014 per the industry-generated 247Sports Composite Rankings.

So, if you're a Tennessee fan, who are the names you should pay attention to at The Opening? Let's take a look at a few who'll be trying to make even bigger names for themselves in Oregon.

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Kameron Martin to Auburn: Tigers Land 4-Star RB Prospect

The Auburn Tigers added another running back Sunday, as 4-star rusher Kameron Martin committed to the program.

Martin, a former Baylor Bears signee, announced the decision on Twitter. He is ranked as the seventh-best all-purpose back in the nation and the 268th-best overall prospect in the 2016 class.

After visiting the campus for the first time this weekend, Martin pulled the trigger and committed to the Tigers.

He emphasized the family atmosphere at Auburn after his visit, per AL.com's Wesley Sinor.

"It was amazing," he said. "They treated me like family. ... The guys really want me and they feel like I can fit real good in their offense. They feel like I can come in there and play running back. My thing is, I just want to go somewhere where I can compete at the highest level. The SEC is the highest level."

With Martin's addition, Auburn now has the ninth-ranked 2016 recruiting class in the nation.

Martin was one of five Baylor signees to be granted releases after former head coach Art Briles' controversial departure, according to ESPN.com's Gerry Hamilton and Mark Schlabach.

Hamilton provided an update on each player:

Per Auburn's official website, head coach Gus Malzahn has produced 12 1,000-yard rushers as a head coach or offensive coordinator. That could be tougher this season, as the team lost last season's top rusher, Peyton Barber, to the NFL draft, and former 5-star recruit Roc Thomas transferred from the program in May.

Jovon Robinson will be the top back moving forward, with versatile sophomore Kerryon Johnson also set for a significant role. Yet Martin should be able to find some time as a change-of-pace runner who can help on third down. He is quick, which could also translate into a role on special teams.

SEC Country's Brandon Marcello echoed those sentiments following the commitment:

Take a look at the highlight reel Baylor posted:

Normally explosive under Malzahn, Auburn finished 80th in total offense last season, so it needs any help it can get. Martin is unlikely to play a major role this fall, but he may show some flashes of brilliance with his blazing speed.

 

Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com.

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KD Nixon Decommits from Tennessee: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The Tennessee Volunteers lost one of their better recruits from the class of 2017 on Sunday, as 4-star wide receiver KD Nixon announced he was no longer committed to the program.  

Nixon was clear that he wanted to reopen his recruiting process without any further inquiries when he posted about the decision on Twitter:

A product of DeSoto High School in Texas, Nixon is the No. 38 wide receiver, the 43rd-rated player out of the Lone Star State and the 290th-best prospect in the nation, per 247Sports' composite rankings.

More to follow.

 

Star rating courtesy of 247Sports.

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Tyshon Fogg to Rutgers: Scarlet Knights Land 4-Star LB Prospect

Tyshon Fogg, a 4-star outside linebacker from Calvert Hall College, committed to Rutgers on Sunday in a Twitter announcement:  

Fogg, who stands 6'2" and weighs 216 pounds, is the No. 6 player in the state of Maryland, the No. 15 player at his position and the No. 236 prospect overall, per 247Sports' composite rankings.

As ESPN noted in its scouting report of Fogg, however, "He's still transitioning to the linebacker position from safety and feel he is far from a finished product."

Brian Dohn of Scout.com added that Fogg "needs to add some strength, but that will come as he matures."

Those are the main areas of improvement for Fogg. But his strengths seem to outweigh his negatives. He's an explosive athlete who moves well sideline to sideline and excels in coverage, given his background as a safety.

He has solid instincts and aggressively attacks blockers and ball-carriers. At his best, he's a downfield rocket who finishes plays.

Because both the college game and the NFL continue to emphasize the passing game, Fogg could even fill the popular hybrid safety-linebacker role at the next level, though his upside appears to be at outside linebacker.

It's that versatility that makes him appealing for Rutgers, however, and one reason why Fogg should carve out a role for himself at the program in the coming years.

 

Star rankings courtesy of 247Sports. You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.  

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Justin Ademilola, Jayson Ademilola Commit to Notre Dame

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish got a boost to their 2018 football recruiting class with a package deal Sunday when brothers Jayson and Justin Ademilola announced their commitments to the program.

The twins took to Twitter to break the news themselves:

The Ademilola brothers hail from St. Peter's Preparatory School in Jersey City, New Jersey. Jayson Ademilola is a defensive tackle, and Justin is an outside linebacker. Both are 4-star prospects, per 247Sports.   

According to 247Sports' recruit rankings, Jayson is the No. 178 overall player in the country, the sixth-best prospect out of New Jersey and the 16th-rated defensive tackle. Justin is one slot ahead of his brother in the New Jersey state rankings, is the No. 170 overall prospect and is the 10th-best outside linebacker.

To project how the twins will fare in South Bend, Indiana, with half their high school careers still remaining is a challenge. But there is enough highlight tape available to make observations about their respective skill sets.

In Jayson's case, he looks every bit of the 6'3", 286 pounds 247Sports lists him as. What stands out is how quick he can be off the ball thanks to a good first step and evident quick-twitch movement for someone his size.

But the bigger Ademilola often leans too heavily on his bull-rushing technique. Although that's common for a young player with the measurables and athleticism Ademilola boasts, he must work on getting his pad level lower when he adjusts to the NCAA game. 

Putting in the work over the next couple of years before he arrives at Notre Dame would behoove Ademilola. His highlight tape is titled "Ballin Like Watt," presumably a reference to NFL superstar J.J. Watt. While the bravado is commendable, he has to refine his technique to win the leverage battle in college. 

As for Justin, he plays at St. Peter's Prep with his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 defensive end. He therefore projects better as a 3-4 edge-rusher at this juncture. It is possible he could eventually line up in the trenches in college if he packs more weight onto his 6'3", 225-pound frame. 

Given how well-rounded and versatile he is at this point in high school, there's plenty of merit to Justin being regarded as the superior prospect over his brother. Both have similar ceilings, though, and could well see their ratings rise to five stars before their time in New Jersey is over.

The only caveat about Sunday's commitment news is that since the Ademilolas are declaring their intentions so early, there's still a chance they could switch.

However, the Fighting Irish should be excited for now to get a two-for-one deal Sunday with two potential cornerstones on their front seven.

 

Star ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Justin Thomas-Thornton to Transfer from Auburn: Latest Comments and Reaction

Auburn Tigers defensive end Justin Thomas-Thornton announced on Sunday through Twitter that he's transferring after two years with the program.  

Thomas-Thornton expressed optimism about his future and gratitude for his time at Auburn in declaring his intentions to move on:

Rated as the No. 6 weak-side defensive end from the high school class of 2014 by 247Sports' composite rankings, Thomas-Thornton didn't pan out as a 4-star recruit and will seek to fulfill his potential elsewhere.

More to follow.

 

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2016 College Football QBs with the Strongest Arms

Arm strength is just one attribute in a huge list of ones that make quarterbacks great, but it's a big-time asset to have.

The ability to fire passes all over the field—short and intermediate ones in tight spaces and the long-range missiles that lead to huge touchdowns—can't be overstated. Accuracy is incredibly important, and the ability to read defenses correctly makes it all possible.

But this countdown is focused solely on the most powerful arms in college football.

Here are a dozen players who could challenge for the title as the strongest arm in the country for the 2016 season. These selections were based on scouting reports, highlight tapes and advanced stats that track how well quarterbacks deliver the longest and toughest throws on the field.

Again, this isn't about the best overall quarterbacks in the country, although some on here are among the top all-around passers. This is about being able to sling the ball with more power than anyone else.

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J.P. Urquidez to Texas: Longhorns 4-Star OT Prospect

The University of Texas received a boost to its incoming freshman class Saturday, as 4-star offensive tackle J.P. Urquidez committed to the Longhorns. 

Urquidez announced his decision on Twitter. He originally signed a letter of intent to play at Baylor, but he backed out of that pledge after the recent fallout involving former head coach Art Briles. The Bears granted Urquidez his release on Thursday, per ESPN.com's Gerry Hamilton.

More to follow.

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Jhamon Ausbon to LSU: Tigers Land 4-Star WR Prospect

LSU bolstered its passing attack Saturday, securing the commitment of wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon, who announced his decision via Twitter:

Ausbon is the No. 11 wideout in the 2017 recruiting class, per 247Sports' composite ranking. He also sits 67th overall nationally and 14th in the state of Florida. 

He originally committed to Baylor in July 2015 before decommitting from the Bears on March 29.

"I just don't really have much to say, other than I'm going to make an impact wherever I go," Ausbon said of the decision, per Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles.

Ausbon isn't an explosive athlete, which isn't much of an issue given his size (6'2 ½", 217 lbs). Of course, that's not to say Ausbon isn't a threat further down the field. He's adept at adjusting his body and leaping to grab the ball out of the air on deeper throws. If he's matched up one-on-one with a defensive back on a lofted pass, chances are he'll come down with the ball.

Ausbon's frame is what makes him such a tantalizing prospect.

Even if he doesn't become demonstrably faster, he'll still be a good possession receiver. Plenty of defensive backs will have a hard time defending him in man coverage because of the size difference.

Outgoing Ohio State wideout Michael Thomas is built similarly (6'3", 209 lbs) to Ausbon and represents where he could be in a few years. Despite a lack of blinding speed—a 4.57-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine—Thomas caught 110 passes for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns.

If anything, Ausbon could potentially exceed Thomas' contributions. He's a better pass-catcher and route-runner than the former Buckeye was at this stage of his career, and he has had the benefit of playing at the IMG Academy for his senior season.

When he transferred to the school, Ausbon mentioned the developmental benefits that would come from making the move, per Matt Clare of Rivals.com:

At the end of the day, it's an opportunity to work with coaches that have NFL and college football coaching experience. These are guys that played your position at the same levels too. The whole focus on preparing athletes for the next level was really my main thing. I'm going to be in college after next year and this experience will help me prepare to play on the next level.

With that kind of specialized tutelage, entering college from IMG should soften Ausbon's transition as he adjusts to the rigors of playing for a team in a Power Five conference.

Ausbon could potentially be a threat inside the red zone from the second he steps onto the field as a true freshman. If he adds some more dynamism to his game, he could develop into one of college football's best receivers if utilized correctly; he wouldn't have a single significant weakness in his game.

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SEC Releases Statement on Twitter Account Hack

The SEC's official Twitter account was hacked Saturday, resulting in images of scarcely clothed women appearing on the account.

According to ESPN.com's Darren Rovell, SEC spokesman Herb Vincent said the conference took action to correct the issue: "We became aware of it when we saw some retweets. The images were removed immediately, our password changed and we notified Twitter. We will, of course, continue to monitor the account closely today."

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey also apologized for the inappropriate photos prior to the conference's account being properly restored:

The SEC hack came just a few weeks after the NFL's Twitter account was hacked and a false tweet was sent out claiming that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had died.

There has not yet been any indication the two hacks are related, but both the SEC and NFL Twitter accounts are now back to normal.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Art Briles, Baylor Release Statement Announcing End of Employment Relationship

Former head football coach Art Briles and Baylor University "have mutually agreed to terminate their employment relationship, effective immediately," according to Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman

Baylor and Briles released a joint statement on the university's official website Friday:

Both parties acknowledge that there were serious shortcomings in the response to reports of sexual violence by some student-athletes, including deficiencies in University processes and the delegation of disciplinary responsibilities with the football program. Baylor is addressing these shortcomings and making ongoing improvements.

On June 17, Bleacher Report's Jason King reported Briles and Baylor had agreed to a contract settlement after the 60-year-old was "suspended indefinitely with intent to terminate according to contractual procedures," per a school release.

Terms of the settlement have not been reported, but USA Today's Dan Wolken noted Briles had eight years and approximately $40 million remaining on his deal at the time of his suspension. 

Shortly after Briles was suspended, school president Kenneth Starr and athletic director Ian McCaw both resigned in the wake of an independent investigation into the school's mishandling of sexual assault accusations.

Baylor has since named Jim Grobe as its acting head football coach. The former Wake Forest boss assumed the position on an interim basis, and he will attempt to reform the program's identity throughout the 2016 season. 

"As a coach, winning is important," he said, per the school's release. "At the same time, I want to assure the Baylor family that every decision we will make in this football program will be made with Baylor University, her students and our student-athletes in mind."

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Wyatt Davis to Ohio State: Buckeyes Land 5-Star OG Prospect

Wyatt Davis, get acquainted with Columbus. The 5-star guard announced his decision to attend Ohio State on Friday, selecting the Buckeyes over offers from Alabama, UCLA and a number of other high-profile schools across the nation, according to Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch.

Listed at 6'5" and 310 pounds, Davis is the No. 14 overall prospect, top-ranked offensive guard and fifth-rated player in the state of California, per 247Sports. He had been projected to go to Alabama early in the process, with 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions giving him an 86 percent chance of landing in Tuscaloosa.

Those numbers swung in Ohio State's favor as his decision came close. The Crystal Ball rankings had him at 70 percent for the Buckeyes before Friday.

"He has the obvious measurables that are going to be as good as anybody out there," Davis' high school head coach, Jason Negro, said of Davis, per Damon Sayles of Bleacher Report. "He's super physical, and he's got tremendous footwork. What I like is that he's extremely unassuming. You would not know he's a 5-star and one of the best offensive linemen in the country."

Davis' decision to make his commitment now, then, comes as a bit of a surprise. While he's a ready-made product with nearly every major offer on the table, offering his verbal before going through his visits runs contrary to his previous plan.

As it stands, Ohio State gets an early boost to its recruiting effort. Davis is big and agile, within a few pounds of muscle of looking ready for the NFL. With more than a full year to get himself into collegiate shape, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him playing on Sundays in a few years.

"He's constantly trying to get better at his game. That's what makes our team go," Negro said, per Sayles. "When our best players work that hard, it's easy to get the other kids to raise their levels of practice play."

For now, he'll have to settle for being among the first major signees for Urban Meyer in 2017. 

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Projecting College Football's Most Entertaining Offenses in 2016

Too often, we spend unreasonable amounts of time worrying about the greatest or the best for this and that. But college football is supposed to be fun. In today's era, uptempo and high-scoring offenses provide weekly entertainment in the fall.

"Yeah, but can these teams play defense?" Doesn't matter!

If you love points, be sure to include one of the following programs on your Saturday schedule this fall. Each offense listed is going to light up the box score on a weekly basis. The teams might not win, but they'll certainly be enjoyable to watch.

The combination of wide-open philosophies, talented (and often dual-threat) quarterbacks, versatile running backs and standout receivers highlight 2016's most entertaining attacks.

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Zachary Carter to Florida: Gators Land 4-Star DE Prospect

Zachary Carter, a 4-star strong-side defensive end prospect from Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida, announced he'll play college football for the Florida Gators.

The 17-year-old broke the news of his decision through Twitter, giving the Gators a boost to their 2017 recruiting class:

Carter is the fourth-best strong-side defensive end, the 20th-ranked player from Florida and the No. 97 overall recruit in the class of 2017, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

Although he had only 8.5 sacks across his sophomore and junior seasons, per his 247Sports profile, Carter's potential is evident. There's something to be desired with regard to technique, but he has undeniable explosiveness off the ball and can often beat blockers with sheer lateral quickness.

What helps Carter is his big frame at 6'4 ½" and 250 pounds. He has a massive reach that allows him to disengage blockers with relative ease, and he shows a capacity for knocking the ball down near the line of scrimmage.

With a listed 40-yard-dash time of 4.90, Carter may be better suited to pack on weight and transform into a 3-4 defensive end or slide inside as a tackle in a 4-3 alignment. There is a chance Carter sticks to what he knows best, but Floridahas a myriad of options for a defensive lineman who has some untapped versatility.

Hillsborough showed a variety of defensive alignments on Carter's highlight reel that saw him function at his position in both a 4-3 and a 3-4 scheme. More often, the team lined up in the former, but those exotic tactics hint at an advanced IQ that may have Carter ahead of the curve compared to some of his peers.

Given his standing in the national-recruit hierarchy, it stands to reason Carter is the type of player who'd benefit from a redshirt season and could easily be a big-time playmaker as a sophomore or junior.

It's reasonable to infer one of the chief reasons 247Sports doesn't rank Carter higher is his lack of elite production as a pass-rusher. He does disrupt plenty of plays with batted balls, though, and is an exceptional run defender, which the Gators can capitalize on as Carter begins his career likely in a situational role.

Florida has a relatively high-end prospect in Carter, so fans should be excited even though he isn't bound to be a difference-maker until his second or third year of college. When he is ready to roll, expect Carter to be a solid all-around starter.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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One Nightmare Scenario for Every Top-25 CFB Recruiting Class

With a little more than seven months left in the 2017 recruiting cycle, there are plenty of reasons for fans to be excited about their teams.

The ones in the top 25 of 247Sports' composite team rankings have gotten out to hot starts by either loading up on a large number of early commitments, landing some of the highest-rated recruits in the country or doing a combination of both.

But in the wild world of recruiting, all that can change in an instant.

Let's take a look at the current top 25 recruiting classes and pick out what the worst-case or "nightmare" scenarios would be for these programs for the rest of the 2017 cycle. These scenarios will be based on realism. Otherwise, "have everyone decommit and have zero signings on the final day" would be the nightmare for all 25 teams.

Here are the tough situations these 25 programs need to avoid in order to have great 2017 classes and build toward huge seasons down the road.

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Alabama Football: 10 Best Players in Crimson Tide History

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The tricky part about trying to name the best players in University of Alabama football history is determining what standard to use.

You're talking about a program that dates back to 1892 and boasts of having 119 players who were named first-team All-American 153 times, and 239 players who landed all-conference honors 319 times.

Alabama has won so many trophies that a couple of years ago the Bryant Museum ran a humorous ad campaign about what the Crimson Tide use some of them for (paper weights, back scratcher, door jam, etc.).

But just how do you define "best"?

Do you base it on statistics? Would a player have had to been named an All-American or to a Hall of Fame to be considered? How do you compare players from different eras?

Would being the biggest icon count? If so, quarterback Joe Namath would have to be included, and probably Kenny Stabler as well, even though neither is in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Most awards? There would have to be a place for offensive lineman Barrett Jones.

Continual success? Quarterback AJ McCarron and linebacker Woodrow Lowe would be right there.

Consequently, if 100 different people did this list, there would be 100 different results. I encourage you to do your own and compare.

For this article, the standard is simple. It's the equivalent of being on a playground picking teams. These are the ones I'd want—the players who have to be considered among the best to ever play for the Crimson Tide.

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Juwon Young Suspended Indefinitely: Latest Details and Reaction on Miami LB

Miami Hurricanes linebacker Juwon Young was "suspended indefinitely for a violation of department rules" Friday amid the school's ongoing investigation of potential NCAA violations. 

Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post reported that Hurricanes athletic director Blake James announced Young's suspension via a press release.

According to Porter, Young is among multiple football and basketball players targeted in Miami's probe. Multiple sources also told Porter that Young could be dismissed outright by the football program.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported further details on Young's situation:

Brian London of 790 The Ticket provided more specifics on the matter:

Young had a fine 2015 campaign with 57 total tackles, a forced fumble and an interception in 11 games, per CFBStats.com.

According to Ourlads.com's depth chart, which was updated Thursday, Young was listed as the primary backup to Shaquille Quarterman, a 4-star recruit from from Oakleaf High School in Orange Park, Florida.

Quarterman is an early enrollee who, along with the other arriving linebackers from the Class of 2016, has made an instant impression on Miami defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Manny Diaz.

"They're all mature beyond their years," said Diaz in April of Quarterman and the true freshmen backers, per the Miami Herald's Susan Miller Degnan. "They've come in and have not been daunted by being on the field with guys three or four years older than them, when you can imagine they should all be in English 12 right now reading The Great Gatsby or something."

Per 247Sports' composite rankings, Quarterman was the fifth-best inside linebacker in the country from the 2016 class. He is evidently living up to the hype thus far in practicing with the first-team defense to compensate for Young's off-field issues.

While the ongoing investigation has to be a point of distraction for new Hurricanes coach Mark Richt, at least his first recruiting class will make up for Young's individual, indefinite absence from the team.

Although Young's suspension was handed down through Miami's compliance office rather than the football team, per Porter, the junior's outlook on the gridiron for 2016 and beyond is cloudy.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Fighting Irish's Most Important Players at Each Position

First-year starters dominate the outlook for 2016 Notre Dame football, but not all of the Fighting Irish's most important talents are guaranteed spots in the lineup.

Since injury troubles plagued Notre Dame last season, a couple of offensive backups logged regular action. The in-game experience is unquestionably valuable, no matter if they're starters.

Plus, the defense must replace several multi-year players who shouldered leadership responsibilities. Before this year, the new starters have only filled reserve roles.

Importance can be measured in a variety of ways, but depth, versatility and projected role factored into the selections.

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New Texas A&M Commit Santino Marchiol's Unique Connection to Von Miller

When IMG Academy 4-star linebacker Santino Marchiol committed to Texas A&M on Tuesday, he filled a void for head coach Kevin Sumlin's 2017 recruiting class. Marchiol is the first linebacker to commit to the Aggies this recruiting cycle.

Marchiol's pledge will also allow him to answer a "what if" question that he's had in the back of his head for months.

What if he could be like the guy down the street?

Before Marchiol was a linebacker for IMG, he lived in the Denver area and was a standout at Cherry Creek High School. He transferred to IMG in January 2015.

While in Colorado, before he committed to Texas A&M, Marchiol had the opportunity to receive periodic advice from someone he called "the cool guy down the street."

Marchiol hopes to one day trade Texas A&M football stories with that guy.

"Von Miller's my neighbor back home," Marchiol said.

Yes, that Von Miller. Denver Broncos All-Pro linebacker. Super Bowl 50 MVP. Four-time Pro Bowl selection. Butkus Award recipient in 2010 as a college athlete and again in 2012 as a professional.

Marchiol and Miller are separated by a few houses in Colorado. Miller moved to Colorado the Broncos drafted him in 2011 as the No. 2 overall pick. Since then, Marchiol said he's not only relied on advice from Miller but done everything he could to mimic Miller's work ethic to become a quality linebacker and better football player.

"I really admire him and want to try and be like him one day," Marchiol said of Miller. "With him coming from A&M, it really made me consider it more because of the influence he's had on my childhood."

Marchiol chose Texas A&M over offers from Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Stanford, Nebraska and others. He became the Aggies' 14th pledge and the fourth 4-star commit of the 2017 class.

Marchiol said he first spoke with Miller when Miller visited Cherry Creek. They began chatting about where they lived and found out they were in the same area.

Marchiol said they also talked about what it took to be better than the competition.

"His house, first of all, is entirely covered by 100 trees, so you can't see into it," Marchiol said. "But I know that he's very laid back, and he's about his work. That's why I admire him so much. He's focused on his craft and wants to be the best at what he does.

"I've asked him what it takes to play at that level. He said to keep away all the distractions, and just be the best you can be. That's really what you've got to do, especially in high school."

Now standing 6'3" and weighing 224 pounds, Marchiol can be an answer for an issue Texas A&M has had in previous years. The Aggies are always on the hunt for big, physical linebackers who can fare well against the ground-and-pound offenses in the SEC.

Playing at IMG has helped Marchiol prepare for the next level. He's lined up at the "Stinger" position, a rover spot, for IMG, and he's expected to see time at weak-side linebacker in IMG's defensive package.

"One of the great things about him is his versatility," IMG coach Kevin Wright said. "I think his primary attribute is that he plays fast and with really good natural instincts. That goes back to the coaching he’s had throughout his career as a player.

"I was excited for him about A&M. I've known Coach Sumlin from way back when he was an assistant at Purdue and I was head coaching in Indiana. I know they do a tremendous job with recruiting, and I thought Santino would be a good fit."

Marchiol said he's "always had a dream" to play SEC football and loved all of his unofficial visits to Texas A&M. His first came as a freshman, and he also visited during his junior season in late March. Marchiol most recently visited Texas A&M two weeks ago and took in a recruiting barbecue.

Marchiol is the son of Ken Marchiol, who saw time at linebacker in the NFL. Ken Marchiol and Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone have known each other for years. Together, Mazzone and defensive coordinator John Chavis worked hard to land Marchiol, a top-300 player nationally and the No. 13 inside linebacker in the 2017 class.

"He's a dependable guy, a guy you won't have to worry about, because he'll get it done," said Michael Fletcher, linebackers coach at The Opening who most recently coached Marchiol at The Opening Charlotte regional in April. "He's a very vocal kid. I think he understands that he has to be. At the end of the day, he can be a stat-sheet stuffer. He'll have checkmarks in every category."

Miller was someone who filled the stat lines for the Aggies from 2007-10. According to his Sports Reference page, he had 181 career tackles (104 solo), 33 sacks and seven forced fumbles for his career. He led the NCAA in sacks in 2009 with 17.

Miller's numbers make for lofty goals for Marchiol, but it's a challenge he isn't afraid to take. Playing against elite talent at IMG has helped him realize there is no such thing as taking plays off, which has helped fuel his drive to become better each day.

"IMG is different. If you like football, it's not the place for you. You've got to live it, love it and breathe it," Marchiol said. " There's meetings, film, practice, workouts ... and it's Monday through Saturday. You've got to be on your stuff every single day, because you're with the best players in the country."

Wright added: "He's able to process quickly and play fast. Being able to do that and having the natural instincts have helped him to become a very good football player. Any time you have a kid with his athleticism, size and football IQ, you have a chance to be special."

Playing in front of 100,000-plus at Kyle Field is something that gets Marchiol excited about college football. Getting the opportunity to be taught by Chavis and Sumlin, he said, is "like a dream."

Marchiol said he likes how Texas A&M's coaching staff gives young talent the opportunity to show themselves worthy early in their playing career. At the linebacker position, a shot to see immediate playing time could work in Marchiol's favor.

Graduating early to join the Aggies for the spring is part of Marchiol's plan. He also said he's working on two IMG teammates to join him in College Station in 4-star quarterback Kellen Mond and 4-star wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon.

And when his college career is over, Marchiol said he hopes to have the same kind of stories that Miller had.

"Him just telling me to stay focused, that motivates me," Marchiol said of Miller. "He's something special. He's that dude."

 

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

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