NCAA Football News

How Jim Harbaugh Is Bringing Bo Schembechler Back to Michigan

Despite his brother being in charge, John Harbaugh felt unwelcome in Ann Arbor.

Harbaugh, the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl-winning head coach, was in town to speak at his younger brother Jim's first high school coaching clinic as Michigan's head coach. But as John watched the Wolverines practice one afternoon, he noticed a familiar anger come over his brother and soon found himself on his way out the door.

"He threw everybody out of practice," John told reporters. "It got a little crazy because there was so many people there visiting. About halfway through he said, 'Hey, everybody out of here!' I turned around, [former Michigan quarterback] Rick Leach turned around, everybody started walking away. He says, 'No, John, you can stay.'"

"He pulled a classic Bo. I know the guys thought Bo was back."

Bo, of course, is legendary Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler, for whom Jim played quarterback in Ann Arbor from 1983-86. Known for his no-nonsense style, Schembechler won 13 Big Ten championships in his 21 seasons with the Wolverines, his iconic personality helping to shape the program into a perennial powerhouse.

But following five largely successful seasons under Gary Moeller and 13 under Lloyd Carr—both Schembechler disciples—Michigan has managed to lose its luster. In succeeding Carr, Rich Rodriguez lasted just three seasons in Ann Arbor, compiling a 15-22 record as the Wolverines' head coach, while Brady Hoke went 31-20 in four seasons that saw his record decline with each passing year.

Under Rodriguez, Michigan's culture declined—players transferred at a rapid race, even to rival Ohio State—and under Hoke, the quality of football being played in The Big House did as well. Save for Hoke's 11-2 Sugar Bowl-winning debut season, the Wolverines haven't been nationally relevant—in a positive way—since losing to FCS program Appalachian State in their season opener in 2007.

Enter Harbaugh, who has consistently kept Michigan in the headlines since taking over the program late last December. But it's not just his crazy recruiting pitches, must-follow Twitter account or highway heroics that have fans in Ann Arbor buzzing as much as it is the tales that have emerged from the Wolverines' first few weeks of spring practice—all of which Jim has coached while wearing the same block "M" hat that Schembechler did.

"It was a Michigan practice," John answered when asked what he saw while watching the Wolverines. "It was physical, the guys really practiced hard. It was demanding. As Jim told the guys, they're building callouses. You callous your football, your character, your football toughness, your body."

It's no secret that Jim's coaching style has been heavily influenced by Schembechler, and not just thanks to his All-American career playing under him in the mid-1980s.

A native of Toledo, Ohio, Harbaugh moved to Ann Arbor in 1973 when his father, Jack Harbaugh, took a job as Schembechler's secondary coach. At his introductory press conference in December, Jim recalled running around the Michigan facility as a child, developing a personal relationship with the Wolverines legend.

"I remember thinking about this as a youngster, nine, 10 years old," Jim said. "There was a time sitting in Coach Schembechler's office. I was sitting in his chair and I had my feet up on the desk, and he walked in and said, 'How are you doing?' and I looked at him and said, 'I'm doing great, Bo, how are you doing?' He said 'What are you doing?' 'I'm sitting in your chair, coach.' I couldn't think of anything better to say.

"There have been times in my life where I've thought and dreamed about it. Now it's time to live it."

Throughout his stops at San Diego, Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers, Harbaugh relied on the lessons he learned from Bo, whether it be the importance he placed on road games or the emphasis he placed on "The Team, The Team, The Team." That obviously won't change now that Harbaugh is back at Michigan, not so much coaching in Schembechler's shadow as recreating it.

The reaction from the Wolverine players has been positive, despite four-hour spring practices filled with a new type of intensity as Harbaugh re-acclimates to the college game after four years in the NFL. Sure, there's been the typical attrition that comes with any head coaching change—most notably in the form of quarterback Russell Bellomy and center Jack Miller—but thus far, Harbaugh has been as good as advertised in Ann Arbor.

Of course, setting a tone is one thing, but in order for Harbaugh to truly emulate his mentor, he's going to have to find success on the field. Rodriguez and Hoke talked a big game early in their tenures too, but when push came to shove, neither managed to win on a consistent basis.

Harbaugh's brother, however, believes Jim is unquestionably the right man for the job.

"There's no doubt that Michigan's going to win," John said. "Obviously the variable's going to be time and how fast they can pick it up and how the ball bounces and those kind of things. He's got a bunch of good players out here who love to practice and love football. There's no question that he's going to make the transition perfectly well."

And as for the ex-players he kicked out of practice?

"The old players were laughing about it," John said. "They were saying, 'That's exactly what Bo would have done."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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ACC Football: 5 Underrated Players to Watch This Spring

The ACC has plenty of talent in football heading into 2015, but talent can be found in more than just the big names. While players like Justin Thomas, Deshaun Watson, James Conner, Brad Kaaya and Tyler Boyd are all high-profile players, let's look at a few of the guys whom you may not know yet.

Now, an "underrated player" doesn't have to be someone you've never heard of—it's simply a player who has yet to meet his full potential to this point in his career but is ready to take that next step. It could possibly be a player who was sitting behind a star who's now gone, or it could be someone brand new to his team.

There are plenty of players to choose from, but these five are specifically intriguing, and you'll want to keep an eye on them in 2015 and beyond.

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Cameron Smith Injury: Updates on ASU WR's Knee and Recovery After Surgery

Big things were going to be expected of wide receiver Cameron Smith in his junior season after a strong sophomore campaign. However, a knee injury is going to cost Smith that opportunity.      

Continue for updates

Smith Out for 2015 SeasonTuesday, March 17

Arizona State received tough news on Tuesday, as wide receiver Cameron Smith is going to be out for the season due to injury. 

Doug Haller of AZCentral.com had the report:

Smith was a solid contributor in his sophomore campaign, catching 41 passes for 596 yards and six scores. With leading receiver Jaelen Strong heading to the NFL, Smith was likely going to take over as the team's top receiving option along with running back D.J. Foster, who caught 62 passes for 688 receiving yards and three touchdowns through the air.  

Now, the Sun Devils will need other players to step up in Smith's stead.   

While Smith will be missing his junior season, the hope will be that he can return at 100 percent in his senior season and continue to progress as he did in his first two seasons. While it was always unlikely he could have replicated Strong's production this year, he certainly would have been a reliable target for the team. 

Unfortunately, that won't be the case due to his injury.

 

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Kenyan Drake Could Be Major Weapon for Alabama Following Incredible Recovery

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For an offense that is tasked with replacing nine starters from a record-setting offense, Alabama got some much-welcome and even surprising news on Friday.

Running back Kenyan Drake was practicing with the team and appeared to go through drills normally just five-and-a-half months after suffering a gruesome leg injury against Ole Miss. You can relive the graphic injury if you so choose here.

Drake’s recovery is remarkable given the severity of the injury and how long it actually took him to do so.

But it’s also a big boost to a Crimson Tide offense in desperate need of playmakers, and Drake was just that last year before his injury.

“Kenyan is really doing better and better,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said after Friday’s spring opener. “He actually ran 4.4 when he timed the guys the other day. He's doing really well, getting his speed back.

“Probably can't sustain it, because he's not been able to do the same level of conditioning. He has done all the conditioning in the offseason program. He just hasn't been able to do it to the level of the other players.

“I think he's going to get more and more confident. We were really, really pleased with the progress that he made and what he was able to do in practice today.”

Drake was arguably offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s favorite toy last year.

Through four games and change—before his injury—he averaged more than five yards per carry and had four touchdowns on the ground. He had also caught five passes for 159 yards and a touchdown, including this beauty against Florida:

That single play defines Drake’s career up to this point, and it’s a good representation of everything he brings to the table.

He was motioned out of the backfield, where the defense had a linebacker assigned to him. Said linebacker followed him out to the flat. Drake put a wide receiver-like double move on him and used his speed to burn the rest of the secondary for an easy touchdown.

Drake is a threat as a running back but is very much versatile enough to be used in a lot of different situations, creating a lot of headaches for defenses.

He gets a lot of comparisons to recent San Francisco 49ers signing Reggie Bush, and in some ways, they are very fair. He has the speed to make you account for him every time he's on the field.

That speed was the question following his injury.

It’s tough to figure out how much stock to put into Saban’s 4.4 comment, but even if he was still in that range, it would be incredibly impressive considering how far he’s come. Players who are staying routinely run pro-day drills after their outgoing counterparts work out for scouts.

If the time is true, or even close, it shows that there won’t be much of a drop-off—if any—in Drake’s speed which made him so dangerous.

“He did good,” center Ryan Kelly said after the first day of spring practice. “That was a pretty serious injury and I never saw him get down on himself or anything like that. It was always positivity. I know he’s been running and practicing, stuff like that. It’s amazing to see how far he’s come.”

Drake likely won’t be able to be 100 percent during all of spring practice, like Saban pointed out. He is still getting back in the groove conditioning-wise after riding around on a scooter for much of his recovery.

Still, it’s very much a positive development. Not only for him, but for an offense that will be happy to showcase him in 2015.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Michigan Football: Biggest Storylines so Far This Offseason

The departure of Jack Miller and suspension of Graham Glasgow have inserted major twists and turns into Michigan football’s spring practice sessions.

This past week, Miller announced that he’d be leaving the team and leaving behind a starting job at center. On Monday, Glasgow, Miller’s perceived successor, was shelved by the Wolverines due to a probation violation, leaving one of the most important positions on the team up for grabs.

There have been positives. It hasn’t been all doom and gloom and heartfelt goodbyes. Continuously in the spotlight since his introduction on Dec. 30, coach Jim Harbaugh’s unique and creative recruiting methods have gained national attention.

So has his affinity to be involved with everything, evidenced by a spring training appearance with the Oakland A’s.

As for the battle for starting quarterback, well, this one’s going to take some time to unfold. Could Harbaugh, who's saving lives and joining the Oakland A's in spring practice, add yet another guy to the rotation? It’s a possibility.

And then there was senior linebacker Joe Bolden, who, this past Thursday, made one of the boldest proclamations of the spring while praising defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and defensive line coach Greg Mattison.

 

No Longer Miller Time

In 2014, Miller emerged as a leader for the Wolverines, and more times than not, he was the one fed to the media after rough games. He handled the wave of critical questions with poise and maturity. Little did he know, he was in the midst of a transformation, evolving from a former reserve lineman to respected spokesperson.

This past season as a fourth-year junior, the 6’4”, 297-pounder started 12 games at center for Michigan, giving plenty of reason to expect him to help anchor the trenches in 2015—but then, after just three practices this spring, he called it quits, opting to pursue business and other personal passions rather than playing the game that ruled his life since childhood.

Why?

Only Miller knows for sure.

Other than it “being time to move on,” he’s yet to really address the subject in full detail. However, during a recent interview, he shed a little light on the subject (more to come on Miller).

 

Sitting Glasgow

In April of 2013, Glasgow was cited for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Months later in July, the up-and-coming lineman pleaded guilty to driving while visibly impaired and was put on probation for one year. He was supposed to abstain from drinking alcohol—but he didn’t and failed a breathalyzer test administered at 9:59 a.m. Sunday, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press

On Monday, Harbaugh promptly released a statement regarding Glasgow, who had just taken over in Miller’s absence.

"We have been made aware of Graham's probation violation and he has been suspended," Harbaugh said, via release. "Graham will be subject to punishment through the judicial system, the student-athlete alcohol policy and the Michigan football program."

As of now, Glasgow’s future with the program is in serious jeopardy. The terms of his suspension are “indefinite”—and that’s usually not a good sign. The center position is also in a peculiar position, as it now appears that offensive coordinator/O-line coach Tim Drevno will have to resort to third- and fourth-stringers for the time being.

Michigan’s offensive line has been the subject of widespread scrutiny for three years. Improvement up front is necessary if the Wolverines are to even think of competing with Big Ten powers such as Ohio State and Michigan State.

Without a proven starter-caliber player to take over for Glasgow, the offensive line—which has a considerable lack of experience—could regress this season. This spring now becomes extra crucial for lineman development. Absolutely, no questions asked, it has to be priority No. 1.

 

Be Harbaugh's

Harbaugh often jokes about being a simple man. He knows football, he’s not a fan of the word “dismayed” and he’s pretty straightforward, in a roundabout, throw-you-for-a-loop sort of way—at least when it comes to talking to the media.

Recruits?!

Well, they’re different.

Evidently, Harbaugh is 100 percent direct with those guys. He’ll even make a sign to show how much he wants a player at Michigan, which he did for Boss Tagaloa, a 4-star defensive tackle out of California. Harbaugh offered on March 2, but according to 247Sports, the 6’3”, 295-pound Tagaloa has “warm” interest in Stanford.

Tagaloa will certainly have a wait-and-see recruitment, which will probably also be the case for Dwayne Haskins. The 4-star pro-style quarterback out of Maryland has been on Michigan’s radar for more than a year, but Harbaugh and Michigan recently took the time to express more interest by sending a customized video to Haskins. 

Take that, Urban Meyer

Per 247Sports, the 6’3”, 195-pounder has “warm” interest in LSU, Maryland, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma.

But Harbaugh has made several charges at other 2016 recruits.

Oh, and don’t worry about Erik Swenson’s offer from Alabama. While flattered by the recognition, Swenson, Michigan’s first 2016 commit, isn’t interested in any school but Michigan. The 4-star offensive tackle likes Harbaugh, has family in the Great Lakes State and grew up loving Wolverines football.

 

QB Flux

This past week, passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch was guarded, yet optimistic, while discussing quarterbacks.

Since joining Michigan, he’s seen a lot of good in his three scholarship players: Shane Morris, who’ll be a junior; Wilton Speight, a redshirt freshman; and Alex Malzone, a true freshman and early enrollee.

However, in passing, he mentioned how “other guys” would later enter and possibly factor into the race. He didn’t specify who or what, but Fisch’s comment came at a time when a report by Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman about Iowa grad Jake Rudock potentially visiting Michigan hit the Web like a ton of bricks. 

At this time, the Wolverines have 10 quarterbacks on their spring roster, including the three scholarship players and an array of walk-ons—plus Ramsey Romano, a current Wolverines baseball player who just so happened to be a star quarterback back in high school.

It’s clear that Michigan isn’t completely satisfied with its quarterback situation. Why else would it bring in seven more to compete with Speight, Morris and Malzone? On top of that, and the slew of quarterback offers for 2016, there is John O’Korn, who transferred from Houston and will be eligible in 2016.

Talk about overkill. But Harbaugh and Fisch are bent on finding the one, not just “a” quarterback, making their load-the-roster approach appear logical and quite reasonable. In all likelihood, they’re testing Speight, Morris and Malzone’s capacity to compete under immense pressure.

That, again, makes a lot of sense.

 

More Power?!

This past Thursday, Bolden, a linebacker, swung for the fences while taking questions from ESPN’s Dan Murphy, who wanted to know about the influence of Durkin and Mattison on Michigan's already stout defense. 

“You got the two best defensive coordinators in the nation on the same staff,” said Bolden, from a mountaintop. “There’s no other team in the nation that has that, and if you find them, let me know.”

Inside, outside, in the middle—Bolden doesn’t care where he plays, he just wants to play. Transitioning from Mattison’s 4-3 to Durkin’s 3-4 hasn’t been an issue, either. Bolden has obvious confidence in the defense, his teammates and in himself. 

The attitude of Michigan’s defense hasn’t changed; it’s just gotten more powerful now that Durkin is paired with Mattison. With Durkin's less vocal and Mattison's more vocal approach, the defensive coaching staff has an ideal balance of grit, technique, experience and potential, said Bolden. 

The defense, once again, is and will be among the top storylines to watch during the offseason.

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or during other media availability. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com

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Georgia Football: Complete 2015 Spring Practice Primer

Over the last two years, Georgia has evolved into one of the most confusing teams in the SEC East.

It's clear that the talent is there for head coach Mark Richt to make a run at the division title and perhaps attain more. But inexplicable losses—last year, one came against Florida—seem to prevent the Bulldogs from breaking through their ceiling.

Will new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer put Georgia over the top, or will the loss of former coordinator Mike Bobo, running back Todd Gurley, wide receivers Michael Bennett and Chris Conley and several key defensive pieces keep Georgia down?

We'll take a look at Georgia in our spring practice primer.

 

What to Watch on Offense

The quarterback battle will undoubtedly dominate headlines this spring, and rightfully so.

Since the spring of Aaron Murray's sophomore season, there hasn't been much concern under center, as Murray shined through his senior season and handed the reigns over to Hutson Mason for the 2014 season. With Mason gone, junior Faton Bauta, redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey and redshirt freshman Jacob Park will contend for the top spot on the depth chart this spring.

Ramsey is the most experienced of the group, but only had 39 pass attempts as a freshman—mostly during mop-up duty after Mason had departed with a big lead. The inexperience across the board has created quite a battle in Athens.

"It's just a lot of work to be done between now and that first game and a lot of competition to happen," Richt said in February, according to Ryan Black of the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Georgia. "You know, the quarterback position is as wide-open as it's ever been since I've been at Georgia probably. It's going to be an interesting battle I would say."

Bauta has that Tim Tebow bruiser quality to him as a dual-threat quarterback, and Park probably has the most upside of the trio. It will be interesting to see how Schottenheimer—who's known as a pro-style coach—handles this battle.

What he doesn't have to worry about is running back, where super sophomore Nick Chubb leads a loaded backfield that includes senior Keith Marshall and fellow sophomore Sony Michel.

The backfield will serve as an insurance policy for the eventual winner at quarterback, because with two new receivers outside, Georgia will incorporate a run-first approach out of desire and necessity early in 2015.

Up front, it's more of the same. Georgia returns three starters along the offensive line, and replicating last season's success shouldn't be too difficult for the group as key pieces, like tackles John Theus and Kolton Houston, stay healthy.

 

What to Watch on Defense

Jeremy Pruitt has been a tremendous upgrade over former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, as Georgia's defense improved from 375.5 yards per game in 2013 to 337.2 yards per game in Pruitt's first year in Athens.

That was the good news. 

The bad news is that several pieces of that defense will be gone in 2015, including linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson, defensive back Damian Swann and defensive linemen Ray Drew and Mike Thornton. 

The most intriguing defensive position for the Bulldogs this spring is linebacker, where Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd passed on the NFL to come back to school. They will be joined by sophomore Lorenzo Carter, who tallied eight tackles in each of Georgia's final two games. Even Jenkins himself knows that Carter is too explosive to keep on the sideline, according to Radi Nabulsi of UGASports.com.

So what will Pruitt do?

Floyd and Carter are too good to keep off the field and Jenkins can drop down and play some defensive line, as he did last year in order to get the trio on the field at the same time. Pruitt has to find a way to make that a permanent solution this spring, because if Georgia can get them all on the field for every down, it would present matchup nightmares to opposing offensive coordinators.

Up front, Sterling Bailey and Chris Mayes will likely lock up defensive end and tackle spots, respectively. But that might not be permanent in Mayes' case, with early enrollee Jonathan Ledbetter already on campus and No. 1 overall prospect Trent Thompson's arrival looming this summer. Bailey and Mayes need to prove that they're leaders and difference-makers this spring.

The battle for the other defensive end spot is wide open and features Josh Dawson, James DeLoach and several others.

Swann's departure is big, but there are still plenty of players in Georgia's defensive backfield who have played a ton of football between the hedges. Cornerbacks Devin Bowman, Aaron Davis, Malkom Parrish and Shattle Fenteng will square off for playing time, while safeties Quincy Mauger, Dominick Sanders and Reggie Wilkerson lead the safeties.

 

Freshman to Keep an Eye On

Defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter.

The 17-year-old early enrollee skipped a grade according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, still enrolled early and won't become a legal adult until the day of Georgia's second game of 2015.

He looks like an adult, though, as Logan Booker of Cox Media Group Athens noted in January.

The Tucker, Georgia, native stands at 6'4", 265 pounds and is a perfect fit to play one of the end spots in Pruitt's 3-4 scheme. What's more, the door is wide open for him to earn playing time.

Ledbetter has the size to play right away, the quickness to be a difference-maker at defensive end and will undoubtedly benefit from spending the entire offseason learning the playbook and working in Georgia's strength and conditioning program.

For a defense to be successful, it needs to have depth across the board, but specifically up front. Ledbetter will start as a rotational defensive lineman, but don't be surprised to see that change as the season goes on.

 

Coach Richt's Toughest Task

Managing the offensive shakeup.

A wide-open quarterback race combined with a new offensive coordinator isn't exactly an ideal situation. Richt is an offensive-minded head coach who will undoubtedly have plenty of say in what goes on with Schottenheimer's offense. He will have to manage how quickly his new coach—who's accustomed to professional football players—gives his inexperienced quarterbacks the playbook. 

Ramsey showed flashes of brilliance last year—particularly in mop-up duty against Kentucky, when he completed all five of his passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. He will likely be the most comfortable of the trio.

Don't be surprised if Richt—who is more of a CEO now—becomes a little more hands on this spring, as he helps the program navigate some important changes.

 

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

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

 

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Nebraska Football: Week 2 Spring Practice Stock Report

Nebraska football fans have been relishing the second week of spring practice, getting a little fix of Husker football before having to settle in for a long summer. Before the spring game on April 11, Nebraska fans will be soaking up as much information as they can get about how the team is performing under new head coach Mike Riley and what they can expect next season.

Here are a few stock-up, stock-down reports on what we’ve learned so far.

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2016 4-Star CB Jared Mayden Wants to Be Remembered as the Smartest Player Ever

Jared Mayden, a 4-star CB per 247Sports, recently participated in the Pylon Athletics 7v7 event in Las Vegas. Bleacher Report caught up with the talented defender to discuss who he models his game after, his favorite play from his highlight reel and how he'd like to be remembered one day.

What is Mayden's ceiling? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Jared Mayden Sets Decision Date: Which Program Is Best Fit for 4-Star CB?

On the heels of a standout performance at the Dallas Nike Opening regional camp in which he earned a trip to The Opening, 4-star corner Jared Mayden told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports that he will announce his commitment at the camp featuring the nation’s top prep talent in the summer. 

The 6’0”, 190-pounder from Sachse (Texas) High School rates as the No. 13 cornerback in the country and the No. 142 player overall in the 2016 class.

Mayden has close to 40 offers under his belt, and as his Crystal Ball page indicates, there doesn’t appear to be a clear favorite in his recruitment. 

Bartow notes that Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Texas Tech and UCLA are schools recruiting Mayden the hardest—with the Buckeyes atop that list.

But which school provides the best fit for Mayden at the college level?

For starters, Mayden has a versatile skill set that makes him a coveted prospect for top programs.

“He’s a guy that blends great size at the cornerback spot,” said Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder. “[He] played corner, played a little at the nickel corner spot on the inside. Great size. Great athleticism. [He has] the ability to understand what the coaches were asking him to do. Great technique from him.” 

Those attributes are part of what make him one of the top corners in the 2016 cycle.

As Joey Helmer of OUInsider noted, Mayden had previously reported a top three of Ohio State, Oregon and TCU before backing off that earlier this month.

While the Buckeyes, Ducks and Horned Frogs are all likely to still be in the picture, schools such as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida State and Texas may have an opening to to become a factor with Mayden. 

Perhaps a key indicator for Mayden will be the itinerary of visits he’s lined up before he will make his choice.

According to Bartow, the Lone Star State standout plans to visit Oregon and Alabama in April. His last visit will be to Florida State in June—with Arkansas mentioned as another school who could get him on campus before his decision date.

Mayden has a game that translates well at many of the schools on his list of suitors because of his versatility. 

In particular, out of state options such as Florida State and Ohio State have both done a good job in moving corners around and letting them play in different positions.

Another school that could be a good fit for Mayden, as Felder points out, is Texas.

“We talked about how he loves football,” Felder said at the Dallas Nike Opening Regional Camp. “To me, that’s a guy that fits in with Charlie Strong.”

However, as Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Damon Sayles notes, it’s fellow in-state power TCU that could prove to be the best fit for Mayden’s game.

“I can also see him a little bit closer to home at TCU,” Sayles said. “Gary Patterson loves those types of athletes. He can learn a lot from Gary Patterson. I wouldn’t be surprised that if he were to go there, he would [also] land some of his teammates from Sacshe High School.”

 

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

 

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Delton Williams Suspended by MSU After Arrest for Road-Rage Incident

Michigan State running back Delton Williams has been suspended indefinitely from the football team after being taken into custody following a road-rage incident.  

According to Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News, Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio announced the suspension for Williams Tuesday and that a statement would be released later in the afternoon:

According to David Harns of isportsweb.com, citing the Michigan State University Police Department, "a person displaying a gun from vehicle at Shaw/Farm in a road rage incident" was taken into custody. Harns cited a "reliable source" as saying that Williams was the person in custody.

This is the second time in three years that Williams has been in trouble with the law. In 2012, as a high school senior, he faced a misdemeanor drug possession charge that was later dropped, per Brian Calloway of Michigan.com. 

Williams has played sparingly in two seasons at Michigan State, carrying the ball 92 times for 554 yards and six touchdowns, but he figured to take on a more prominent role in 2015 with Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill graduating. 

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10 Sack Artists Who Will Terrorize Your Quarterback in 2015

Three of the top six, four of the top nine and nine of the top 15 sackers from 2014 return to college football next season.

That is an unusually high number, as evidenced by last season, when two of the top six, three of the top nine and four of the top 15 sackers returned from 2013.

More than that, 2015 marks the return of Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson, who missed last season with a knee injury, and former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields, who spent last season in junior college and will play next year at Louisville.

Could either of those guys crack our list of the 10 best sack artists? Based on talent alone, of course. But this list also considered health, recent production, the supporting cast around each pass-rusher and whether they're a proven fit within their current scheme.

Sound off below and let us know what you think.

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In the College Football Playoff Era, Is It Time to Ban FCS Opponents?

In a way, Baylor provided free advertising for the University of the Incarnate Word. A year ago on the dot, UIW announced that it had scheduled a game against the Bears in Waco in 2019. 

Be honest: How many of you actually thought that was a real school and not something made up by The Onion? People rushed to their search engines to learn more about the mysterious Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) program in San Antonio, Texas, with the quirky name. 

It also shed light on what has become a running joke: Baylor, despite becoming a Big 12 power, doesn't take on anyone of note in nonconference play. Last season, Baylor played SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo, resulting in three easy wins. At least in part, that cost the Bears a shot at the College Football Playoff, as they never cracked the top four in the CFP standings

Compare that to eventual national champion Ohio State, which rose to the No. 4 spot in the final rankings even though it lost an early-season game to Virginia Tech. The Hokies weren't some powerhouse, either, winning just six regular season games. 

For one year at least, the playoff selection committee showed it would rather a team lose to a Power Five opponent than beat a nobody. Does this mean it's time for a widespread ban, officially or unofficially, on FCS opponents?  

Not necessarily. Though the Big Ten came to such an agreement in 2013, there's no need to over-correct nationally. 

What ultimately hurts teams like Baylor as much as the actual nonconference slate is perceived effort. Baylor isn't the only offender when it comes to scheduling FCS teams. It is, however, the most recognizable and easiest to attack. 

According to FBSchedules.com, the Bears play an FCS opponent in each of the next five years. That isn't the worst thing in the world by itself, but the only respectable nonconference opponent on paper in the next eight years is Duke in 2017 and 2018.

Simply put: There's no balance. 

Is Baylor even trying? According to athletic director Ian McCaw, there have been talks with other nonconference opponents. The specifics of them, however, remain unclear. 

“You have to look at the entire schedule,” McCaw told Max Olson of ESPN.com in November. “The SEC schools, for example, have some of their weaker nonconference opponents late in the season. If you look at their entire nonconference schedule, the teams look very similar to some of the teams we’ve played.” 

Nonconference scheduling is formulaic, though. That's true regardless of conference or number of conference games. As long as there's at least one difficult nonconference game, the rest doesn't matter as much. 

Take Oregon, for example. In 2015, the Ducks will play FCS opponent Eastern Washington—as a side story, Eastern Washington was the former home for new Oregon transfer quarterback Vernon Adams—and Michigan State. 

Yes, scheduling is a risk/reward move, especially when made years in advance. For all anyone knows, Michigan State could be awful next season. Chances are, though, it won't be. If Oregon is in the playoff conversation, it'll be because of that game, not Eastern Washington. 

Perception has weight in the scheduling world, even if it's misplaced. Last year, the ACC and SEC announced they would require members to play at least one nonconference Power Five opponent every year. However, that opponent could be a basement-dweller like Kansas, Purdue or Colorado and still satisfy said requirement. 

Ultimately, what's the difference between those programs and, say, FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, which just won its fourth straight national championship? In fact, the Bison should be considered a more formidable opponent at the moment. 

The point being, not all opponents—whether FBS or FCS, Power Five or mid-major—are created equally. To place them into categories defined by worthiness is a dangerous line to walk. 

Furthermore, games against FCS teams may not always be the most fun to watch, but they have a purpose. Cupcake games provide money for the smaller programs and a valuable seventh (or sometimes eighth) home game for the bigger program. 

There may be a day when games against FCS opponents disappear, but it's not happening anytime soon. That's because they're not a detriment to a team's playoff hopes so long as there is at least one solid nonconference game to balance it out. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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Miami's New Recruiting Strategy Could Make Them a National Power Again

For a coach facing a make-or-break year in 2015 on the field, you wouldn’t be able to tell that Al Golden is feeling any pressure if you take a glance at Miami’s 2016 recruiting class.

The Hurricanes are loading up in a major way on the recruiting trail—with 18 commitments and a class that currently sits atop the 247Sports team rankings.

Golden and his staff have also gotten off to quick starts in the 2017 and 2018 classes.

How have the ‘Canes done it?

The answer lies in the same way the program’s dynasty teams were built.

Of the ‘Canes 18 commitments in the 2016 class, 12 are from players who are from a trio of counties—Dade, Broward and Palm Beach—that are in close proximity to Miami’s campus in Coral Gables.

The nine combined commitments that Miami has in the 2017 and 2018 classes all hail from the same trio of counties in South Florida.

Larry Blustein, who has covered recruiting for 45 years in the South Florida area and currently does so for SouthFloridaHighSchoolSports.com, explains that Miami’s newfound backyard success is due to a combination of factors.

The first thing Golden and his staff have done is to get more support locally from the high school coaches and mentors in the South Florida area.

New Hurricanes receivers coach Kevin Beard, who also played wideout for the Hurricanes from 1999-2003, explained in a radio interview with WQAM 560 (via Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post) that Miami needed to mend the relationship with the South Florida prep football community. 

“I want them to be heard,” Beard told WQAM. “Once that happens, things will definitely start changing a whole lot faster. The community will start getting back to being for us and not against us because of what the record is. They’ll see we’re making moves in the right direction.”

Blustein agrees and said that the vibes toward the program have changed recently.

“What has happened was that there was a little change here in the last two months or so,” Blustein said. “On signing day, a lot of kids were shuffling off to Alabama and FSU and not staying at home. The guys in the community got together and decided to listen more to Miami and hear them out."

Blustein notes that most kids in the nation’s most fertile recruiting territories have grown up fans of The U—which makes staying at home an easy sell in most cases.

However, given Golden’s struggles since taking over the program five years ago, there’s been an exodus in terms of the top talent leaving the area to go to schools such as Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, etc.

Golden drew his share of criticism for that from alums and the people involved with the recruiting scene in the area.

“This year, [Golden] took crap from all of the alumni,” Blustein said. “Jon Beason put it the best when he said that by knocking Al Golden down, what you are doing is hurting your school. If you tell kids don’t go there, you are hurting your alma mater. So why would you do that? You have to back your guy as long as he’s employed by the school. Once he’s not, then we will back the next person. A lot of people took heed to that and took a couple of steps back and realized that he had a point.”

Blustein also said that another thing helping Miami’s cause is the fact that the program’s former stars are still coming back to work out with the current players—something that today’s prep stars notice and look up to.

“One thing that separates Miami from a lot of schools is that the former players aren’t pretenders,” Blustein notes. “They really do come back every year. Jimmy Graham was in the weight room here one day after being traded to Seattle. Lamar Miller is out here with the guys. When the high school kids start seeing that stuff, that’s what the tradition was built on and I think that’s what will eventually get them out of this rut.”

Golden’s staff has also done a better job of getting on top talent early.

“A lot of these kids, like Sam Bruce and Dionte Mullins and the 2017 kids in Waynmon Steed and Tyler Dunning, they are players as good as you will find nationally,” Blustein said. “They are absolute beasts, those type of kids, now they are getting the type of kids that Alabama, USC, Ohio State and FSU are coming down here and getting.”

As for the ‘Canes looking to put a fence around their backyard, Blustein said that it’s a strategy that Golden simply had to master in order to turn things around for the Miami program.

“They have no choice,” Blustein said. “[Golden] is in year five. He hasn’t really won a significant game yet. His best win last year was against Duke. In his situation, it’s like he’s facing a 4th-and-10 with one play left and he has to score. The quickest way to turn things around is by locking up the top talent in your backyard.”

 

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

 

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Legacy Recruit Kare' Lyles Ready to Learn from 'QB Guru' and Star in Big Ten

More than three months after leading his high school squad on a state title run that featured 40 touchdown tosses, quarterback Kare' Lyles was still in search of an FBS offer.

It turns out, all he needed to do was head home.

The 6'1", 215-pound passer picked up an offer last week while on a visit to Wisconsin, a campus that helped create some of his fondest childhood memories.

"I was reminiscing about all the time we spent there when my dad would take us," Lyles said. "I used to run around the field picturing myself being a Badger."

Those imaginative visions came to fruition Thursday when Wisconsin formally extended an offer to the in-state product:

Less than 72 hours later, Lyles became a member of the Badgers' 2016 recruiting class.

Though he's now known as the offensive leader at Arizona powerhouse Saguaro High School, Lyles spent the majority of his upbringing in the Madison area. His father, Kevin Lyles, played for Wisconsin from 1993-1996, lining up alongside current Badgers offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph.

"My mom put together a book filled with stuff from his playing days in Madison, so that gave me a chance to understand the history and tradition there," Lyles said.

His family relocated to the Southwest in April 2012. Instead of making his mark at Middleton High School in Wisconsin, it set the stage for him to rise up with Saguaro in Scottsdale.

Lyles spent his underclassman seasons serving as a backup to eventual Cal signee Luke Rubenzer before stepping up as full-time starter in 2014. 

The results were extremely impressive.

He completed 71 percent of his pass attempts for 3,420 yards, 40 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Lyles capped off a 14-0 campaign with 270 yards and two scores in the state championship game.

Despite the success and constant collegiate attention on his offense, courtesy of 5-star prospect and new Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk, offers alluded the junior quarterback.

"I'll be coming in with a chip on my shoulder because I do feel like I've been overlooked," Lyles said.

He idolizes Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who entered college at N.C. State as a largely unheralded 3-star recruit (a rating Lyles shares). Wilson finished his collegiate career at Wisconsin, where he flourished under the direction of Paul Chryst, who served as offensive coordinator.

Chryst returned to Madison as head coach in December after a three-year stint at Pittsburgh.

"Coach Chryst is a quarterback guru," Lyles said. "He's had a lot of success with the position and you can see the kind of intelligence he provides players with while they're learning the offense and studying film. He's the kind of guy you can trust and someone who motivates you to work hard."

The collection of current NFL quarterbacks who recently worked with Chryst in college includes Wilson, Scott Tolzien (Green Bay Packers) and Tom Savage (Houston Texans).

He inherits a Badgers depth chart with senior Joel Stave as starter, so the void at quarterback will be a key point of interest in Madison this time next year. Lyles, the lone 2016 Wisconsin commit handpicked by this coaching regime, believes he can become an immediate factor.

"I found the right fit for me at Wisconsin," he said. "Based on talking with Coach Chryst, I should have an opportunity to compete in 2016. I'm going to be focused on using my tools and competitiveness to try and take over the starting job. I have a lot of confidence in what I can do at the next level."

His younger brother, Kayden, accompanied him on the trip. The Saguaro sophomore is rated No. 1 nationally among 2017 offensive guards in 247Sports' composite rankings and already holds double-digit offers, including Wisconsin.

"I'd love to have him come up to join me and we'll definitely have those talks," Lyles said. "I feel like it would be a perfect opportunity for him, but he has a lot of options some guys don't have. He's a big-time recruit and I know he'll make the right decision for him."

Another Lyles family member in Madison would certainly boost Chryst's recruiting efforts. He shared an emotional moment with Kare' and his father when the quarterback committed Sunday.

"My dad was thrilled; he pretty much got teary-eyed," Lyles said. "Coach Chyrst was pumped up too. He jumped out of his chair and gave me a hug. It was a great experience. The excitement I felt was something special."

Set to enter a second season as Saguaro's starter, he feels relieved in knowing where his future lies in football. Although Lyles is heading exactly where he wants to be, a lack of interest from other programs will always be a part of his motivation.

"No matter how much I feel overlooked, I tell myself to have a 5-star work ethic and 5-star mentality with everything I do, on the field or in the weight room," he said. "My whole thing is 'Make them notice'. That's what I tell myself. That's what I tell my teammates. That's the mindset I'll bring to Wisconsin."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Notre Dame Football: Complete 2015 Spring Practice Primer

Notre Dame begins spring practice Wednesday with something few thought possible last November: momentum. 

The Irish were improbable winners over LSU in the Music City Bowl. Then the Irish won the offseason by getting potential first-round NFL draft pick Ronnie Stanley to return for his senior season along with veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Day. 

Add in a talented 24-man recruiting class and the graduate transfer of Cal safety Avery Sebastian, and when the Irish take the field, Brian Kelly will have a team that should look more like the group that raced out to a 6-0 start in 2014 than the one that lost five of its final six regular-season contests. 

With a new coaching staff led by the addition of offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, and a quarterback battle between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire sure to take center stage, let's get you ready for spring practice. 

 

What to Watch on Offense

We can talk about changes along the offensive line or the depth chart at tight end, but all eyes will be on Golson and Zaire, the two Irish quarterbacks who will be working with Sanford for the first time.

Serving as both the new coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Sanford will demand perfection from both starting candidates, especially after mistakes and turnovers last season doomed the most prolific Irish offense of the Kelly era in South Bend.

If you're expecting a starter to be named out of spring, you'll be disappointed. There's likely to be a ton of installation this spring, with Kelly's spread offense getting an infusion of new ideas from an outsider for the first time in nearly a decade.

From a pragmatic point of view, declaring a victor doesn't make much sense, either. With Golson capable of transferring after he earns his degree in May, calling the race for Zaire would all but book Golson's one-way ticket out of town. 

Whoever wins the starting job will be piloting an offense that should be one of the best in the country. Even with the transfer of Matt Hegarty, the offensive line looks to be stacked.

Junior running backs Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant will also get a lift from Sanford's arrival, with Folston ready to be a star and Bryant having shown flashes, as well. 

At tight end, the Irish return just one catch for seven yards after Ben Koyack departed. But a deep and explosive receiving corps led by All-American candidate Will Fuller could line up playmakers four or five wide, leaving the tight ends to be, well, tight ends. 

As a coordinator at Boise State, Sanford's offenses averaged 494 yards per game. The personnel he'll be coaching in South Bend is better at just about every position. 

So while the quarterback battle will take up most of the discussion, the Irish are loaded across the entire offense. 

 

What to Watch on Defense

After Notre Dame started the season as one of the premier defensive units in the country, coordinator Brian VanGorder's stock plummeted after a hot start led to seven straight games giving up 30 or more points.

To be clear, injuries played a large part in that fall. But so did some major deficiencies.

The Irish defense couldn't slow down an uptempo offense. After North Carolina torched the Irish for 43 points on Oct. 11, the word was out.

And while Notre Dame's third-down defense succeeded in utilizing exotic sub-packages and specialists early in the season, the Irish were toothless when a team moved too quickly to allow VanGorder to substitute. 

Injuries will still carry over to spring. Team MVP Joe Schmidt is still recovering from a broken fibula suffered against Navy on Nov. 1. Jarron Jones is out as he recovers from Lisfranc surgery. Meanwhile, safety Drue Tranquill is recovering from a torn ACL. 

But after a young group learned on the fly throughout a difficult November, spring should show off a jump-start in development, with unproven players being the beneficiaries of early playing time, even if it produced some ugly results.

The personnel is also a reason for optimism. The entire front four will return, with Isaac Rochell looking like another potential standout. New defensive line coach Keith Gilmore will spend the spring trying to find a pass-rusher out of an inexperienced but talented group. 

The linebacking corps already has a star in Jaylon Smith. Paired with Schmidt (who outplayed Smith when he was healthy), the Irish have a one-two punch that's among the best in the country. And the candidates for the third spot are both talented and varied, with new linebackers coach Mike Elston capable of playing 2013 starter Jarrett Grace, freshman All-American Nyles Morgan or returning starter James Onwualu. 

The depth in the secondary isn't ideal. Safeties Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate have no choice but to perform. Former Irish All-American and NFL Pro Bowler Todd Lyght will take over coaching responsibilities with a fresh start likely needed. VanGorder will spend plenty of time with the back end this spring, as well.

At cornerback, Cole Luke is another ascending player, and he is coming off an excellent season against elite competition. And while the Irish lost fifth-year transfer Cody Riggs, they'll most likely welcome back KeiVarae Russell this spring, an upgrade at a position where Riggs performed very well.

With opposing coaches having a year of tape on VanGorder, Notre Dame's scheme won't surprise anyone like it did last year. So the Irish will have to show that their early success last season wasn't smoke and mirrors.

 

Players to Keep an Eye On

Is this the year that Max Redfield turns into a star? After a mostly anonymous freshman season that only included a start in the Pinstripe Bowl, Redfield's up-and-down sophomore campaign was a disappointment for many. 

But before Harrison Smith turned into a first-round NFL draft pick, he had a permanent place in the doghouse as a first- and second-year player. And while an epic body count didn't allow Redfield to stay in that doghouse last November, a 14-tackle performance against LSU ended his 2014 season on a high note. 

We've looked at the redshirt freshmen who will have a chance to earn a job. They include offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars, who will vie for the open job up front after Matt Hegarty announced his transfer.

On defense, Jonathan Bonner and Jhonny Williams will each have a chance to help an ailing pass rush. 

While he's certainly no newcomer, linebacker Jarrett Grace deserves your attention. After opening the 2013 season as the heir apparent to Manti Te'o, Grace's career was sent off course after a horrific leg injury suffered in the Shamrock Series game against Arizona State. 

Grace broke his leg in multiple places, an injury that looked career-threatening. He suffered a setback when he underwent surgery last spring to relieve some pain. After spending much of last year just learning how to run again, Grace will be back on the field competing for a job.

There would be no better story than Grace's successful return to the field in 2015. 

 

Coach Kelly's Toughest Task

After seeing quarterbacks Dayne Crist, Gunner Kiel and Andrew Hendrix transfer after not winning starting jobs, Kelly knows firsthand what an unscheduled departure does to the most important depth chart on the roster. 

So as a quarterback battle between Golson and Zaire commences, balancing what's best for the team in both the short and long term will be interesting to watch. 

In Golson, Kelly has a quarterback who has spent two seasons in the starting lineup—no quarterback has started three for Kelly.

Golson showed the ability to manage the game and his turnovers as a redshirt freshman in 2012. He was also among the top playmakers in college football last season. But after finishing 101st in turnovers in 2014, it's up to Golson (with Sanford's help) to eradicate those mistakes, or he'll spend the season on the bench. 

In Zaire, Kelly has the leader he's craved at the position. After taking the majority of the snaps against LSU and leading the Irish to an emotional victory, Zaire proved that he could win against an elite SEC defense.

But Zaire still has some rough spots as a passer—playing garbage time against USC and handling a limited playbook against the Tigers was hardly a full course load. 

Crist and Hendrix departed after the writing was already on the wall. Kiel's departure forced Tommy Rees back into the starting lineup in 2013, when Golson was suspended for the season. 

There's a blueprint for the Irish winning with both quarterbacks playing a key role. Urban Meyer, when coaching the Florida Gators, utilized a similar plan with veteran Chris Leak and sledgehammer Tim Tebow. Kelly basically did the same with Tony Pike and Zach Collaros at Cincinnati. 

Even with a difficult schedule, there are great expectations for the 2015 Irish. To reach them, Kelly needs both Golson and Zaire in uniform. 

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South Carolina Football: Complete 2015 Spring Practice Primer

Was South Carolina's 7-6 record in 2014 a sign of impending doom, or just a one-year anomaly that can be corrected with some minor tweaks in the offseason?

That question will begin to be answered on Tuesday when the Gamecocks open spring practice.

Holes litter the roster on both sides of the ball in Columbia, as head coach Steve Spurrier and his staff look to rebuild the offensive line, find a new starting quarterback, replace star running back Mike Davis and fix a defensive line and secondary that were wildly inconsistent a year ago.

What should you look for this spring out of South Carolina?

 

What to Watch on Offense

South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper is a bona fide star who shines as a receiver, returner, running back and changeup quarterback. If you ask him to go shoot a 68 at Augusta National, he could probably do that, too.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that it's the only good news.

Connor Mitch, South Carolina's most experienced quarterback and the No. 1 passer on the pre-spring depth chart according to GoGamecocks.com, only has six career pass attempts. Brandon Wilds and David Williams are talented running backs but have only shown flashes of brilliance throughout their respective careers. Shamier Jeffery is a veteran receiver, but can he become a true threat opposite Cooper and take some pressure off South Carolina's superstar?

There are questions all over the offense, which are compounded by injuries up front that will keep right tackle Brandon Shell and left tackle Mike Matulis out for the spring, according to Josh Kendall and David Cloninger of GoGamecocks.com. Matulis is a versatile veteran who is moving from center to tackle, which further complicates things up front.

As GamecockCentral.com notes, there's a youth movement up front:

Does Spurrier need to name a quarterback this spring? No, but he has to at least develop a rough draft of the pecking order. Does one running back need to step up? No, but at least one contender needs to look like a back who can run for 1,200 yards.

 

What to Watch on Defense

Where should we begin?

Jon Hoke was brought in to supplement Lorenzo Ward as the new co-defensive coordinator of the Gamecocks, and the work that the duo must do this offseason is equivalent to the pile of paperwork on Milton's desk when he moves to the basement in Office Space.

Up front, the defensive line has to do a better job. The Gamecocks finished last season with an SEC-worst 14 sacks, gave up an SEC-worst 6.22 yards per play and finished with the second-worst rush defense in the conference (212.23 yards per game).

Gerald Dixon, Gerald Dixon, Jr. and Phillip Dukes are veterans who enter spring as starters, with newcomer Marquavius Lewis joining them fresh out of junior college. Will Lewis provide the spark off the edge that the Gamecocks so desperately need? If he does this spring, it will help the entire defense play with more consistency.

At the back end, the secondary got torched early and often in 2015, and many of its key members are back. If you're a South Carolina fan, you hope that those players learned lessons from those struggles and take them into consideration during the 2015 offseason. 

T.J. Gurley is an ultra-versatile safety who moved over to play on the strong side this spring, D.J. Smith got plenty of playing time last year as a freshman, corners Wesley Green and Chris Lammons are loaded with potential and Rico McWilliams has one cornerback spot locked down. 

It's a secondary that has potential, and one way to realize it is for the big uglies up front to get pressure and make the secondary's job easier. If those pieces of the puzzle begin to come together this spring, it will be a good sign that 2014 was an anomaly.

 

Freshman to Keep an Eye on

Redshirt freshman cornerback Wesley Green.

The native of Lithonia, Georgia, was a 4-star prospect in the class of 2014, but he sat last season out while adjusting to life as a college football player despite being a contender for playing time early, as Wes Mitchell of GamecockCountry.com noted last summer:

He's contending for playing time this spring with McWilliams and Lammons and has the talent to be a star for the Gamecocks. At 5'10" and 175 pounds, he's a little undersized, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in speed and quickness.

There's definitely a home for him in South Carolina's secondary in some way, if he can earn a starting nod with a solid performance this spring.

 

Coach Spurrier's Toughest Task

Turning the corner, again. 

What Spurrier did from 2010-2013 at South Carolina was nothing short of remarkable. He turned a downtrodden program into an SEC East power, winning the division in 2010 and posting the program's first three 11-win seasons in its history from 2011-2013. 

That window isn't locked, but Missouri's success, Georgia's talent and the rebuilding efforts at Tennessee and Florida have it closed—with perhaps a subtle breeze squeezing through the cracks. 

The window looks like it will become locked in a hurry with Tennessee's consistent recruiting success and the never-ending stream of talented players available for the Gators. 

There's pressure to win now in Columbia, and the quest to do that begins on Tuesday.

 

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

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

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361-Pound DT Kendell 'Hulk' Jones Looking to Become World's Biggest Psychologist

ARLINGTON, Texas — Adjectives that come to mind upon first glance of Kendell Jones Jr.: Massive. Intimidating. Incredible. Unbelievable. Mean.

"Hulk," even, which is why the 4-star defensive tackle's nickname fits so well. At 6'5" and 361 pounds, there aren't many other nicknames better. He said he laughed when he first heard it come from the Texas Longhorns coaches.

But when Jones (first name pronounced ken-DELL) is on the football field, he's every adjective mentioned and more. It's all business. Hulk smash, if you will.

"When I get on that field," Jones said, and then he paused and shook his head.

Jones off the field, however, is business in a different way. He's the big kid, the gentle giant who likes to have fun with friends and is one of the first to defuse conflict. He loves dealing with confrontation in a professional manner.

So it shouldn't be a surprise to some that Jones, the stud lineman from Shoemaker High School in Killeen, Texas, has a major interest in pursuing a career in psychology upon graduation.

It shouldn't be a surprise, but it is in many ways. It's just hard for many to see someone his size as a psychologist or counselor—and not something where he's using his brute strength, explosiveness and a wow factor among like-minded individuals.

"I can see it," Jones said. "Talking to people, giving them motivation and one-on-one talks. ... I'm always doing it at school. Yeah, why not?"

There are no rules against Jones being a stud defensive lineman and an equally talented psychologist, and he's looking to fulfill all of his dreams. For now, goal No. 1 is to graduate high school.

A close second, however, is to dominate the football field. Jones showcased his talent Sunday at The Opening Dallas regional, bullying his way through offensive linemen to not only earn the event's defensive lineman MVP but also earn an invitation to The Opening nationals this summer in Oregon.

"This is my first time [at The Opening regional], so it's cool to get invited to Oregon," Jones said. "I wanted to come out and compete like everyone else. There was a lot of competition."

Jones' father, Kendell Sr., watched his son shine at the regional. A former football player at John McDonogh High School in New Orleans, he wants his only son—and the second of four children—to aim for the stars with his goals.

Whether that involves playing in the NFL or being psychologist of the year doesn't matter.

"I'm taken back by everything," Kendell Sr. said. "To me, it's all coming full circle. I played football and didn't play in college. His granddad played and didn't go to college. With him, I want to make sure that's priority.

"In the next five or 10 years, I'd like to see him doing whatever he likes to do. If it's football, still in school or graduated, it doesn't matter to me. As long as he gets a degree of some sort, he's all right."

At 361 pounds, Kendell Jr. is extremely muscular and slim in the waist. His power alone makes him out to be a primary nose guard candidate for the right schools.

And there are several schools after him. Jones has reported offers from Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Michigan and Miami, but the interest for a player who bench presses 420 pounds, squats 600, deadlifts 610 and power cleans 335 is nationwide.

Jones' 247Sports Crystal Ball Predictions favor Texas, with LSU and Baylor also in the hunt, but he'll be the first to admit that his "options are really wide open" when it comes to recruiting. So what's the first thing the nation's No. 61 player overall and the No. 11 defensive tackle looks for in a winning program?

"Good academics," he said. "That and good leadership."

Jones added that he wants to play for a football team that will persevere, particularly in the fourth quarter. He also wants to see immediate playing time and receive a lot of tutelage in the process.

A degree, he said, is evident. Postgraduate degrees are in his future, too.

"It'd be cool to have that doctor title before my name," he said.

To be huge in stature and within the psychology profession...why not?

 

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

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Dion Dawkins, Haason Reddick Suspended by Temple After Assault Charges

Two Temple University football players have been charged with assault in relation to an incident in Philadelphia two months ago.

According to 6ABC.com, starting left tackle Dion Dawkins and defensive lineman Haason Reddick are accused of attacking a fellow Temple student on Jan. 17 and leaving him with a broken orbital bone and a concussion.

Per Jennifer Joyce of Fox 29, both Dawkins and Reddick have been suspended by the football team:

6ABC.com also passed along a statement from Temple University regarding the situation and the status of the players:

Temple University is aware of allegations of improper conduct by two of its student-athletes at an off-campus location in January. The university has, and will continue, to fully cooperate with the Philadelphia Police Department in its investigation and will take appropriate actions outlined in the Student Conduct Code. The two students have been suspended from football team activities pending further investigation.

Dawkins and Reddick are set to enter their junior seasons with the Owls, but their status for 2015 and beyond is now in question.

Hopes are high for Temple during the upcoming campaign after improving from 2-10 to 6-6 last season, but expectations may be tempered if the program decides to move forward without a pair of key players in Dawkins and Reddick.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Georgia Football: Burning Questions Ahead of Spring Practice

Tuesday marks the beginning of the 2015 season as the Bulldogs begin spring practice. There’s a lot of optimism from fans coming into spring practice, just like any other year. But there will be some questions the Bulldogs will need to address when spring practice begins.

There are a lot of changes with the team this season, and it’s essential that everyone is on the same page so the Bulldogs can reach the goal of winning the SEC in December. But if the Bulldogs don’t have a successful spring, then the fall won’t be as great as it could and should be.

So here are some burning questions ahead of spring practice.

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Texas Football: Burning Questions Ahead of the Longhorns' Spring Practice

Spring practice is about to begin for the Texas Longhorns, who can hopefully answer some of the burning questions about the status of the team.

For Charlie Strong, this spring is all about discovering an offensive identity and finding out what he has in last year's backups. He has a lot of talented freshmen set to join the program, but fielding a team full of first-year players is hardly the way to improve on a 6-7 campaign.

The Horns need a quarterback, a concrete offensive line and some veterans they can trust. And they need all of them to emerge to some degree before summer workouts.

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