NCAA Football News

Alabama Football: Tracking 2015 NFL Combine Results for Former Tide Stars

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — While Nick Saban and Alabama are finishing up some recruiting before they gear up for spring practice, some of the Crimson Tide’s former stars are beginning the next step of their football careers.

Eleven former Alabama players will be in Indianapolis at some point this week for the NFL Scouting Combine, where they will work out for NFL personnel in one of the major landmarks in the buildup to the NFL draft.

It’s shaping up to be another big year for the Crimson Tide in the NFL.

Follow along with all of the action in this post, which will be updated throughout the week as players go through interviews and workouts.

Begin Slideshow

What LSU Must Pitch to Win over No. 1 CB Saivion Smith During Visit

LSU will get a huge opportunity to woo 5-star corner Saivion Smith when the nation's top-rated player at the position visits Baton Rouge this weekend for the Tigers' junior day, according to Shea Dixon of Geaux247.

Smith is a lockdown corner prospect from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, who already has more than 20 offers under his belt.

The Tigers jumped in the race for Smith after offering him last month. 

But what can they pitch to him on his trip this weekend that will place in them in good position to land him in the end?

For starters, the trip will be a benchmark in Smith's recruitment.

"Saivion is looking forward to this trip," Anthony Smith, Saivion's father, told Bleacher Report. "When he gets back from this visit, we plan on narrowing his list."

There are a few things going in LSU's favor with Smith, but there are also a few questions that must be answered.

The best thing it can do is to sell its recent tradition of sending corners to the NFL.

With former corners such as Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne and Tharold Simon being drafted in recent years, LSU's history has to appeal to any corner of Smith's caliber.

However, the Tigers lost the architect of their suffocating defenses in recent years when former defensive coordinator John Chavis moved on to Texas A&M in the offseason. A plus in negating the loss of Chavis is the fact that secondary coach Corey Raymond is still on Les Miles' staff.

Still, it's up to the Tigers' new defensive coordinator, Kevin Steele, to convince Smith that the Tigers' tradition of playing their corners on an island is going to remain the same.

As Smith told Josh Newberg of Noles247 last month, he prefers a scheme that lets him operate as a true lockdown cover man.

"I want to be pressed-up by myself on the outside," Smith said. "That's my island."

Even though the Tigers brought in a pair of touted corners in the 2015 class, including fellow 5-star Floridian Kevin Toliver II, the depth chart isn't a huge negative with the Tigers, as illustrated by Ourlads.

In fact, LSU could pitch Smith on the idea of pairing him with Toliver to form the Tigers' corner duo of the future.

Ironically, Smith's coming-out party during his junior season came during a monster performance against Toliver's Trinity Christian Academy squad in a nationally televised game.

While the Tigers will have a chance to roll out the red carpet for Smith, it will still be tough to pull him away from the Sunshine State.

Programs such as Clemson, Florida, Florida State and Miami are among the schools actively recruiting the nation's No. 6 overall prospect in the 2016 cycle.

Still, given LSU's history with landing elite corners and Smith's willingness to visit them early in his recruitment, the Tigers have a huge opportunity to make a lasting impression on one of the biggest difference-makers in the 2016 class.

 

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

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Position-by-Position Grades for 2015 Recruiting Class

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With the start of spring practice less than two weeks away, let’s take a final look at Notre Dame football’s recruiting class of 2015.

We’ll go position by position and grade Notre Dame’s haul, assessing the class and the players added for quality, quantity and need.

In total, the Irish inked 24 signees, a class that ranks 13th in the nation. Our analysis here will not include the addition of graduate transfer Avery Sebastian, which was made official Wednesday morning.

Begin Slideshow

Early Predictions for the 2015 Big Ten All-Conference Team

The Big Ten returns nine players from last year's all-conference coaches' first team and 10 players from that of the media.

That's a decent amount of continuity for a conference that ended the season on a high note after Wisconsin won the Outback Bowl, Michigan State won the Cotton Bowl and, of course, Ohio State won the College Football Playoff.

Predicting next year's All-Big Ten team included obvious criteria: How have players performed in the past, and how should we expect them to perform in the future? Whether it's because of his own play or the context around him, who will post the biggest numbers?

Sound off below, and let us know what you think.

Begin Slideshow

Michigan Football: Tracking 2015 NFL Combine Results for Former Wolverines Stars

Devin Funchess, Jake Ryan and Frank Clark are getting closer to a shot at the NFL by the day. But before the former Michigan standouts take the next step in their careers, they’ll have to run, jump and lift during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis.

According to the combine’s site, receivers, quarterbacks and running backs arrived on Wednesday and wrap up on Saturday. So that covers Funchess, a 6’5”, 230-pound wideout with early-round potential.

Defensive linemen and linebackers are set to arrive Thursday and finish on Sunday. That covers Jake Ryan, a linebacker with mid-round potential, and Frank Clark, a defensive end with late, late-round potential.

Follow this tracker for the latest updates and news as Funchess, Ryan and Clark attempt to bench, shuttle, dash and vertically leap their way onto a NFL franchise’s draft board. The combine goes all week, so check back frequently to get up to speed. 

 

 

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: Tracking 2015 NFL Combine Results for Former Irish Stars

Usually having just three players invited to the NFL scouting combine would be a concern for the health of a football program. But in Notre Dame's case, it's a sign that the Irish expect big things in 2015. 

Kicker Kyle Brindza, suspended wide receiver DaVaris Daniels and tight end Ben Koyack will all be in Indianapolis this week, hoping to prove to scouts and general managers that they deserve a chance to play on Sundays. 

After being a part of a star-studded 2011 recruiting class, the Irish trio look to join classmates George Atkinson (Raiders), Aaron Lynch (49ers), Troy Niklas (Cardinals) and Stephon Tuitt (Steelers) in the NFL. 

Let's get you prepared for what Brindza, Daniels and Koyack face while updating you as they go through testing and position drills. 

Begin Slideshow

5 Things Bob Stoops Must Do to Get Oklahoma Back to Elite Status

Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops knows 8-5 isn't going to cut it, especially when expectations are closer to a national championship than a pre-New Year's Eve/Day bowl. 

Outside of the program, preseason expectations for Oklahoma could be tempered for 2015. TCU and Baylor should be, perhaps interchangeably, No. 1 and No. 2 in every Big 12 preseason poll out there. Where the Sooners fit in after that remains to be seen. 

However, as Jake Trotter of ESPN.com noted Tuesday, Stoops' team actually isn't that far off of the pace. Yes, staff changes needed to be made, and they were. Yes, there are positions (and players) who must improve. We'll get to those in the following slides. 

But remember—2013 was probably Stoops' best coaching job in Norman. It's not like he forgot what he's doing. If Stoops can orchestrate a turnaround in the following areas, Oklahoma could surpass those lower-than-normal expectations. 

Begin Slideshow

Grading Every 2015 SEC Coordinator Hire

The coaching carousel has finally stopped spinning, and around the SEC, that meant moving companies were busy.

There will be 14 new coordinators around the south, including friendly faces Will Muschamp at Auburn, John Chavis at LSU and Geoff Collins at Florida.

How does each coordinator hire grade out? Our picks based on resume, fit and available options are in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

Ranking College Football's 25 Hardest Schedules for 2015

In the new College Football Playoff era, scheduling is more important than ever. Baylor and TCU found that out the hard way last fall, when the two Big 12 teams combined for 22 wins but found themselves on the outside of the playoff looking in.

A big reason why? Their best nonconference win between the teams came against Minnesota. While the Gophers were improved and an eight-win team, it ultimately wasn’t enough for TCU to make its way into the playoff.

So scheduling matters. If the schedule is too soft, you’ll be punished by college football’s power brokers. If the schedule is too tough, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself out of a job. It’s a fine line, indeed.

Multiple teams face a daunting road to get to the College Football Playoff (or even become bowl-eligible) in 2015. Here’s a look at the 25 toughest schedules in college football. Factors such as nonconference foes, strength of league schedule and difficult home-road balance were all considered for this feature.

Begin Slideshow

Tennessee Football: Vols Who Could Shine at Next Year's NFL Combine

The most recent NFL drafts have come and gone without much of a Tennessee tinge to them, but that won't be the case for long, as the Vols have built a football roster rife with future pros.

Especially head coach Butch Jones' past two recruiting classes feature prospects who have the size, speed and ability to make some noise on the next level. 

Even though most of the talent on Tennessee's roster is either young, unproven or both, it's hard to imagine with the way Jones has recruited that there will be a dearth of orange on draft day from now on.

Beginning with next year's NFL draft, the Vols may have several players who draw the attention of NFL scouts. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that UT could become an NFL factory with all the youngsters who could parlay recruiting rankings into college football stardom and a next-level ticket.

ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper is already trumpeting Tennessee on The Paul Finebaum Show (via UTSports.com), so the Vols are firmly on his radar: "I look at Tennessee, and I'm excited about that football team…The guys that are coming back, you've got star power with some of those kids."

There are no "sure things" when it comes to projecting professional prowess, but it's a fun practice nonetheless. Let's take a look at some Vols who'll be draft-eligible next year and could make some noise in predraft workouts.

 

Begin Slideshow

Recruiting Services Are Tracking 6th-Grader: His Dad Explains Why It's No Biggie

Daron Bryden is regarded as one of the best pro-style quarterbacks of his class. This, in present time, is factual. It’s also necessary to highlight other factual information as it pertains to this recruit, and let’s drop some timely air quotes around the word “recruit.”

Bryden is currently listed at 5'2" and 105 pounds. He is in sixth grade. He is 12. He won’t graduate high school—I repeat, high school—until the year 2021. All of this information can be found on Bryden’s official Rivals page, which is something that actually exists. It's also not something his father is at all concerned about, but we'll get to that.

Bryden and fellow sixth-grader Tyson Thornton, a 170-pound running back, can be found in the Rivals database. Following appearances at NextGen Boston—a live showcase for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, and another surprising thing that exists—Bryden and Thornton were highlighted on Rivals.com.

As impressive as those performances were, there were seven athletes that have had their profiles added to the Rivals.com recruiting database. Tyson Thornton and Daron Bryden will be the first sixth-grade prospects the website will actively monitor. Thornton is a 5-foot-11, 167-pound running back with great explosiveness and surprisingly good body control for a kid his size and age. Bryden, a small quarterback with a big arm, is incredibly composed and very polished—and he can make every throw. And with a father standing nearly 6-foot-7, he may soon have the body to match his arm. Both of these young players were so impressive they were moved up to compete against the eighth-grade prospects.

For further perspective, consider the following: Dylan Moses, the top player in the class of 2017 on 247Sports—and another young athlete who garnered incredible interest and even scholarship offers before ever dominating a high school game—will be out of college by the time Bryden plays his first collegiate game, if he ultimately heads down that path.

That’s where we are with the timeline. I can't help but look at my infant daughter and wonder what she'll be like in 2021. What will I be like? Where will I be living? What will I be doing? It's an eternity.

With this kind of football forecast, there are no guarantees. There are no promises of development. Everything should be left open-ended, and there's a mutual understanding that it is. That won’t change the fact that children are now, at least to a degree, being recognized by major recruiting outlets before puberty knocks down the door and announces its presence.

The very notion of this development was greeted with a tsunami of disgust and outrage. The general reaction was, in many ways, the appropriate reaction: Sixth grade?

We’ve dipped our toes in the notion of early recruits before. (See David Sills, who verbally committed to Lane Kiffin at USC at the age of 13). Moses, as mentioned above, garnered similar buzz before he dominated high school competition. Similar moral conversations regarding early aged recruiting are not new to the sport—they're simply becoming more frequent.

But this is different, or at least it feels different. This is a 12-year-old crashing through a threshold that seems unreasonable, even for a lucrative industry that has been constructed on the unreasonable lionizing of athletes at a young age. Those who follow recruiting accept these general oddities, but this is out of the comfort zone of even the most passionate fans.

Once more, with feeling… sixth grade?

Craig Bryden, Daron’s father, doesn’t view this sudden surge in recruiting interest as a negative. Perhaps this is to be expected. As a father, it’s only natural to be flattered when people—especially professionals—recognize your son for being good at something at any age. For Craig, despite his son’s youth, this flattering stretches back well beyond a few days.

Just last year, Daron appeared on Kids Do the Darndest Things and competed in a throwing competition with NFL QB Matt Hasselbeck.

Generate a scouting report at your own risk.

Appearing on a television show and getting thrust into the recruiting world are two very different matters. One is strictly constructed for entertainment, at least from the guest’s perspective, and the other is a business that has grown teeth over time, which is not something any sixth-grader should ever be concerned with.

But again, Craig Bryden doesn’t interpret this “interest” in the same way many others might.

“While I understand the position of some saying the kids are too young, they aren't done growing and they may not pan out, that is exactly why they call them prospects,” Bryden told Bleacher Report. “Rivals is merely identifying potential future talent. This is Daron’s dream and he works extremely hard at it. And he’s done so while maintaining good grades, being a great kid and a great big brother.”

Daron has already had multiple quarterback coaches. He has also, according to his father, spoken to multiple college coaches and schools about attending college camps. These aren’t intense scholarship-focused conversations or anything beyond simple meet-and-greets.

“They are encouragement to keep grinding,” Bryden said of these talks.

But he’s still 12. We've gone over this, yes? Regardless of the surface-level discussions, it’s difficult to see beyond his age, weight and height.

“Talent is being identified and sometimes even offered as early as eighth and ninth grade,” Bryden said. “Early recruiting already exists for basketball, baseball and gymnastic as well. Football is mirroring the recruiting trends of those sports.”

Pointing to other sports to validate this latest youth movement shouldn’t suddenly transpose your stance from one side to the other, although other athletic avenues—tennis, for example—glorify recruiting and rankings at remarkably young ages, and with much more acceptance.

In fact, if you wanted, you could align yourself with an esteemed tennis coach, toss away hundreds of thousands of dollars and essentially begin the recruiting process far earlier than sixth grade. This is common practice for those with the time, means and desire.

This doesn’t necessarily make it right. Of course it doesn't. There’s equal absurdity in plenty of other sports not as reliant on physical development. This isn’t just a football issue or a Rivals issue, it’s an issue with the way youth is interpreted.

“Sixth-grader draws interest from a recruiting outlet,” is a meaty headline, especially when it involves the meatiest sport. But what, in reality, does it mean? What negatives—beyond the general shock of seeing a sixth-grader on a website with his measurables out in the open—truly come with a ranking-less presence online?

If the child and family have a firm grasp on the situation and understand the obvious infancy of the journey, is that enough? Should they be put in a situation to have to decide? These are the questions that will garner a wide variety of emotional responses.

This online presence won’t suddenly make Bryden a better player. It won’t change his life altogether. He won’t suddenly be swarmed with text messages and phone calls from coaches. He’s barely five feet tall.

Sills didn’t pan out to be the “can’t-miss” quarterback prospect many thought he would be as a 13-year-old, although he still signed and enrolled early at West Virginia in January. His journey to arrive at that moment was long, although the early frenzy surrounding his recruitment and verbal agreement played a role in determining his football fate. It probably helped it. And that's a good thing, right?

This poses a question that should be asked above all: If there is a mutual understanding that scouting sixth-graders doesn't add much value, why do it in the first place?

That's a safe place to start. Although that doesn't mean it's the pure evil it's being billed as, not when all realistic outcomes are taken into consideration. 

Is it odd? Absolutely. Will it become the norm? Likely not, especially considering the feedback it has prompted. It could ultimately be bad for business, which is what this is all about. That's a callous way to approach a delicate situation, but ultimately it will shape how this industry is viewed moving forward.

Outrage isn’t the appropriate emotion for this. This requires something more, something much harder to define. But if this sudden revelation is what finally pushed you over the edge with recruiting—saying the whole thing has finally reached a new intolerable threshold—I have one simple question.

Where have you been?

 

Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Wisconsin Should Worry 4-Star RB Antonio Williams Is Looking at SEC Powers

Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst inherited a commitment from premier 2016 running back Antonio Williams when he arrived on campus in mid-December. Just two months later, it appears the 4-star North Carolina playmaker is wavering in his pledge to the Badgers.

"It's up in the air," he told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

Chryst hasn't managed to recruit many of "his guys" to Madison yet. In part, those efforts haven't been extraordinarily necessary—unlike with other head coaches who took over new teams late in the 2015 cycle.

He retained 15 commitments from the Gary Andersen regime earlier this month on national signing day. Only 25 percent (five athletes) of Wisconsin's incoming class came on board after his arrival, the lowest percentage of any freshly hired FBS head coach.

It seemed Chryst would stay in solid shape with Williams, considering running backs coach Thomas Brown initially remained on staff following a program shakeup.

However, Brown bolted for the same job at Georgia earlier this week. He rushed for 2,646 career yards as a Bulldogs running back from 2004-2007.

Though his NFL career was limited, Brown's rise in the collegiate coaching ranks has been steady.

He helped mentor Badgers star Melvin Gordon, who led the nation with 2,587 rushing yards in 2014 and earned an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Sophomore Corey Clement added 949 yards and nine scores last season, and could be next in line to rise toward stardom.

"I talked to Coach Brown after he left and he explained how he wanted to get his sons near his family back home and by their cousins," Williams said. "He said he will be recruiting me for Georgia now."

That last statement is particularly compelling, considering the coveted running back recruit lives much closer to Athens than Madison. He already holds an offer from the Bulldogs and will now view the coaching staff with a new level of comfort.

Despite allegiances to Brown, Williams would be playing a risky game if he elects to determine his collegiate fate with a position coach as his top priority.

"I tell the recruits all the time about making sure you choose a school for the school," Brown told Jesse Temple of Fox Sports Wisconsin on signing day. "Not just for the coaching staff. We get fired, we get re-hired somewhere else all the time. You want to make sure you're comfortable no matter who comes or goes."

Auburn is another SEC team that could become a factor if Williams reconsiders his recruitment. The Tigers were one of five finalists—along with Wisconsin, North Carolina, Duke and Notre Dame—when he announced a decision Dec. 4.

Head coach Gus Malzahn already holds a pledge from top-rated 2016 wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers and is still searching for a viable option at running back in this cycle.

It isn't a position of great need at this point, but injuries and underwhelming college careers command depth at running back on every successful college roster.

Williams has gained 5,849 yards on the ground as a three-year starter at North Stanly High School, per MaxPreps, accounting for 63 total touchdowns during that span.

He is rated seventh nationally among players at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings.

If he opts to bail on the Badgers—and judging by Bartow's report that "he hasn't heard from anyone on Wisconsin's staff since Brown's departure," that outcome may be most likely—opportunities elsewhere will be plentiful for the 5'11", 210-pound prospect.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top 2016 Texas Recruits Most Likely to Leave the State

The state of Texas is loaded with talent at every position, and the Texases, Texas A&Ms, TCUs, Baylors and Texas Techs of the world would love to keep the in-state talent home.

But as we all know, that doesn't happen often times. In fact, with SEC, Pac-12 and Big Ten schools making their way more and more into the Lone Star State, more elite-level athletes are choosing to play far from home.

Of the top 100 players from 247Sports' 2015 class, 14 were from the state of Texas. Of those 14 players, six chose to sign letters of intent to out-of-state colleges. Among them were 5-star cornerback Kendall Sheffield, who signed with Alabama, and 5-star running back Soso Jamabo, who signed with UCLA.

Here are 10 Texans from the 2016 class, in alphabetical order, who could end up signing with an out-of-state school.

Begin Slideshow

The Rule That College Football Needs to Change to Stop Offenses from Cheating

Proposed rule changes could shape college football next season. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses his favorite rule change and why he thinks it will benefit CFB.

What do you think of the proposed rule changes?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Way-Too-Early Preview of Alabama Crimson Tide 2016 Recruiting Class

The Alabama Crimson Tide have become accustomed to dominating the recruiting scene over the past few years. Things are looking good for the 2016 cycle as well. 

Stephen Nelson was joined by Bleacher Reports' Lead Alabama Writer Marc Torrence to discuss the Crimson Tide's 2016 commits.

Who else should Alabama target? Check out the video and let us know!  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Tracking 2015 NFL Combine Results for Former Bulldog Stars

The NFL Scouting Combine is something of an oddity. A week-long rite of passage featuring no real football will go a long way in determining the professional status of the best football players in the nation. Pads and helmets are not nearly as important this week as stopwatches and orange cones.

For a handful of eager former Georgia Bulldogs, the hope is that a strong showing in a series of physical and mental tests and interviews will result in a favorable draft selection in a few months.

Here's a closer look at Georgia's participants and their performances at the NFL combine. And be sure to check back throughout the week for updates on each player's performance.

Begin Slideshow

CFB Future 100: Top 14 Defensive Backs in Class of 2016

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon SaylesSanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 100 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the class of 2016. Here we present the Top Defensive Backs.

Other Positions 

Three years ago, Vernon Hargreaves III was a rising high school junior, highly touted as one of the best cornerbacks in his class. Now, he's an all-SEC cornerback with NFL dreams.

Members of the 2016 class could be in that same situation three years from now, and there are several defensive backs who could be just as good in 2018 as Hargreaves is now. The 2016 group features a number of elite athletes, but the defensive back class is headlined by 5-star Florida cornerback Saivion Smith, who is the No. 7 player overall in the class.

Bleacher Report's CFB Future 100 series focuses on defensive backs, scoring them on their abilities in four key metrics—coverage (40 points), speed (20), ball skills (20) and run support (20). The cumulative figures from these traits resulted in our overall grade of each prospect. 

Begin Slideshow

How My Bleacher Report Story Helped Me Land a College Football Scholarship

On January 28, Bleacher Report published "The Best Football Prospect Nobody Has Ever Heard Of," the story of Easton Bruere.  At the time of publication, Bruere had zero Division I offers and no idea where he was going to play football in 2015.  This is what happened next, as told by Bruere to Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani.

Next year, I will be playing football at Butler Community College in Kansas.

I thought the recruiting process would take care of itself, but it didn't really work out that way. Honestly, it sucked at times. After you come home from a big win, and you played well and the team played well, and you should be feeling great, deep down in the back of your mind, you are thinking, "Dang, I have to figure out where I'm going to play next year!" I was getting letters from everyone across the country, but no real calls.

I just stopped opening the letters because they were piling up, and they were only interest letters. We sent out emails to everyone across the country during the season. A few people got back just with interest. A few told us they felt I was a Division I guy, but that was about it.

At the end of the season, I didn't have much going on. Then the article came out.

It was crazy. People would come up to me and say, like, "Bro, you're Twitter famous!"

It was great because not only did it open people's eyes about me, but it opened up the schools' eyes about recruiting New Mexico kids. There are plenty of good athletes here that can play at the next level. Our team alone has so many more contacts now. My coach can send out film to, like, 100 more teams than he did in previous years because he actually knows these guys because they have been in contact with him since the article came out.

That's great for schools here in New Mexico, where it's been like a flyover state where most coaches won't stop by unless you're a freak athlete.

The main thing is that it got a lot more people talking, and I appreciate that.

I ended up getting offers from a few Division II schools, and a bunch of junior colleges wanted me as well. There was not a ton coming from Division I schools, and that was what I had my eyes set on. That's every high school kid's dream if they want to play at the next level.

After the article, Butler came back along and invited me out there for a visit. I checked the school out and fell in love with the coaching staff and the tradition of that program. They win, and they send a lot of guys to Division I.

It also seems like the coaches are really involved with the kids. They know every player's name, unlike like a huge Division I school where the coach doesn't know your name if you are a third- or fourth-string guy. Their goal is to help you get a Division I scholarship as soon as possible. I thought that was a big plus.

[Head] Coach [Tim] Schaffner is great. I really enjoyed what he had to say and what he was offering. Plus, they have great facilities.  So I decided to sign with them, and I hope this coming year is a good one.

I'm going to be working hard all spring, summer and into the fall to make sure I don't let everyone down. Hopefully, I have a great year at Butler. I just want to say thanks to everyone for the support, especially to my friends and family. We appreciate all the well-wishes, and I hope this is just the next step in my journey to make my dream of playing Division I football come true.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NFL Combine Roster 2015: Invite List and Top Prospects to Watch

The brief window in each calendar year where the NFL doesn't factor into the broader sports conversation is over.

There's usually a bit of a post-Super Bowl lull when it comes to major NFL news, especially now that the Pro Bowl takes place before the big game. Now, with the official 2015 NFL combine invite list out and some preliminary combine activities having already taken place on Tuesday, it's officially draft season for pro football fans. 

The invite list of NFL hopefuls is exhaustive. It's a who's who of college football stars and studs, along with some small-school sleepers and overlooked prospects vying to make a name for themselves in Indianapolis 

Some players will court much more attention than others over the course of the six-day scouting event, from both franchises and media alike. Let's take a look at three of the top players to watch at this year's combine after a rundown of the complete invite list.


Top Prospects to Watch at Combine

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Much of the fun of following the NFL combine is derived from seeing which players put up eye-popping numbers. It's always nice to follow the athletic freaks, but it can be just as interesting to track a top prospect and see if the perception of him changes at this event. 

Jameis Winston is one such player. He's undoubtedly one of the featured prospects at the combine due to his controversial past and status as a potential No. 1 overall pick, but a month-old photograph adds a bit more intrigue to his combine storyline. 

A photo featuring a portly-looking Winston has worked its way into headlines, which is not a good look for an aspiring top pick.

Fans, scouts and media members will undoubtedly be curious to see whether Winston shows up to the combine in better shape. While the pic may be a cause for concern for some, it hasn't fazed his quarterback coach, George Whitfield Jr.

"He's always had a thing about pushing his stomach out," Whitfield said, per USA Today's Jim Corbett. "I hadn't seen the pic until Saturday. You smile about it because people got it and they jumped on it. When I saw him later, Jameis laughed and said, 'I'm going to be out in front of the world in a couple of days anyway.'"

Indeed, this could just be a case of an unfortunately timed photo, but Winston still has to prove himself at the combine. From the fan's perspective, Winston has plenty of catching up to do with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, per NFL on ESPN:

Perhaps it's a good thing the combine is primarily a scouting event, as Winston's skills and athleticism will be under greater scrutiny than his public perception as compared to Mariota. Whitfield Jr. noted that Winston was still mulling participating in throwing drills at the combine, but it appears the young signal-caller has come to a decision, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:

Keep an eye on Winston. The combine will be his first chance in a pro setting to show that he looks the part of a top-shelf quarterback.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma

Top wideout prospect Dorial Green-Beckham may be coming out of Oklahoma, but scouts will have to go back to his days at Missouri for game film. After being dismissed by Missouri after the 2013 season, Green-Beckham transferred to Oklahoma. However, he had to sit out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer restrictions, although he was allowed to practice with the Sooners.

With such a large gap between the last time he played a collegiate game—four catches for 53 yards on Jan. 3, 2014 against Oklahoma State—the importance of this combine for Green-Beckham is difficult to understate.

Sporting News contributor Eric Galko considers Green-Beckham one of the riskiest players at the combine due to various off-field incidents and notes the current NFL climate may not be conducive to players who may court controversy:

Green-Beckham’s maturity will be the biggest question mark on his scouting report. Talent-wise, outside of getting in the weight room more and learning more of the general nuances of the position, he checks all the boxes.

But in today’s NFL, off-field issues have grown into more than concerns for public relations departments: They’ve begun to be truly intolerable for roster building, forming long-term expectations and creating locker room chemistry. Green-Beckham is a remarkable talent. But every indication of his history paints a career path potentially more disheartening than Gordon’s thus far.

The interviews will be key to securing his future, as the junior wideout could flirt with first-round status.

While it's important Green-Beckham shows that he's ready to handle the scrutiny and responsibility that comes with being a pro, it's just as vital he demonstrates his athleticism at the combine, lest scouts worry he's lost his mojo by having gone so long without playing competitive football. An AFC college scout told NFL.com's Albert Breer that Green-Beckham's athleticism is comparable to that of Calvin Johnson:

He's one of the best receivers I've ever seen. He's special. He's gigantic; he has tremendous body control, balance; he runs like a deer and can leap out of the gym and high-point the ball. He's special. It's impressive. If not for all that stuff, he'd be the best receiver to come out since Calvin Johnson.

Green-Beckham is no doubt supremely talented; the game tape already shows that. But since it's been so long, he may need some fresh numbers to prove himself as a risk worth taking.

 

Shane Ray, DE, Missouri 

If you're looking for a freakish athlete with potential "wow" factor at the NFL combine, look no further than Missouri defensive end Shane Ray. 

His stats from college are impressive enough on their own. As a junior in 2014, the 6'3", 245-pound Ray racked up 65 total tackles (22.5 for a loss), 13 sacks and three forced fumbles. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller likes his first step:

If he can reinforce the perception of him as an athletic marvel capable of collapsing pockets everywhere, Ray could prove himself a shoo-in for a top-10 pick. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah projected the kind of numbers Ray could put up at the combine:

There is some concern about Ray's lack of bulk (Mizzou listed him at 245 pounds), but he makes up for it with rare explosiveness. Ray should record an outstanding 10-yard split in the 40, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him rip off a low-4.5 time in the event. Scouts also expect him to log a vertical leap of close to 40 inches. 

In a draft class loaded with talented pass-rushers such as Dante Fowler Jr., Randy Gregory and Owamagbe Odighizuwa, combine performances will be important for players looking to separate themselves from the crowded pack. Expect Ray to take advantage of this early opportunity to impress.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: Tracking 2015 NFL Combine Results for Former Hurricanes Stars

Eight former Miami Hurricanes are headed to the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine hoping to increase their respective draft stock over the next week.

Duke Johnson, Denzel Perryman, Ereck Flowers, Clive Walford, Phillip Dorsett, Ladarius Gunter, Anthony Chickillo and Jonathan Feliciano will represent "The U" on Feb. 18-23 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Though the combine represents just a small piece of the whole scouting puzzle, players have an excellent opportunity to showcase their athleticism through various drills. While speed, quickness and power are the main focuses, participants will also compete in position-specific workouts.

The tracker is organized alphabetically and will be updated throughout the week. Each athlete is accompanied by the latest draft projections from B/R's Matt Miller.

Begin Slideshow

Pages