NCAA Football News

Ranking the Top 25 Juniors Heading into the 2016 College Football Season

College football wasn't intended to become a breeding ground for future NFL stars, but there's no doubt it's become this over the years. And nowhere do pro teams spend more time evaluating prospective talent than among the junior class.

With few exceptions, the best juniors in the country tend to make that their last year at the college level. Because they're eligible for the NFL draft after that season, and with the window to make it at the next level growing smaller by the year, the best of the best in college often jump at the chance to get their pro clock started.

Because of this, our list of the 25 best juniors in college football heading into the 2016 season could almost serve as an unofficial 2017 NFL draft big board. Though seniors and even some draft-eligible sophomores will end up getting picked very high next spring, by and large the bulk of those top picks will come from the current junior class.

Scroll our list to see who made the cut, and give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Begin Slideshow

Texas A&M's Aggies Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Football

One has the feeling that Kevin Sumlin is sleeping a little better this week.

Spring practices have already concluded at Texas A&M, which on Saturday held its first Maroon & White Game in three years due to the massive rebuilding of Kyle Field.

It wasn’t perfect—spring games never are—yet it was obvious that the biggest concern from last year has been successfully addressed to the point that Aggies fans can start feeling pretty good about the team’s chances in 2016.

Yes, there is a quarterback in College Station.

In case you missed it, Texas A&M’s 2015 season essentially fell apart after a 5-0 start, with former 5-star quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray both leaving the program.

The departures were seen as giving the Aggies not one black eye but two, and Sumlin’s name subsequently started being mentioned as being on the hot seat.

He has a six-year, $30 million contract and the renovation of Kyle Field cost more than $450 million. Yet the Aggies are coming off back-to-back 8-5 seasons and haven’t been above .500 in Southeastern Conference play since 2012. 

Things weren’t adding up in College Station, and Sumlin had to act quickly to turn them around. 

It began when the school announced that it and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital had “mutually decided to part ways,” and offensive line coach Dave Christensen, who also served as the running game coordinator, was dismissed. 

Two additions started to turn the momentum. Noel Mazzone was lured away from UCLA to be the offensive coordinator, and quarterback Trevor Knight transferred from Oklahoma.

The graduate senior has done nothing but impress during this first three months at Texas A&M, including Saturday. While Jake Hubenak, who started in the Music City Bowl (a 27-21 loss to Louisville), was trying to play while under the weather, Knight was 25-for-36 for 282 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.

More importantly he showed poise, confidence and command. Recognizing he had someone to build the offense around, Sumlin named him the starter on Monday.

That shifted the head coaches’ biggest post-spring concern to making sure that nothing happens to Knight.

With a veteran quarterback running the offense, there’s a lot to like about the Aggies.

The collection of big, talented wide receivers will be a major problem for every opponent. Christian Kirk finished his freshman season with 1,009 receiving yards, and there’s also Ricky Seals-Jones, Damion Ratley, Josh Reynolds and Speedy Noll—if he can curtail his string of off-field issues (Noil was suspended for the Music City Bowl and will miss the opener against UCLA on September 3).

With early enrollee Trayveon Williams having an impressive spring, there’s some depth at running back and players who can be a bigger part of the passing game.

That’ll give Mazzone a lot to play with, and he didn’t give away anything during the final spring scrimmage, as he and Sumlin had the other offensive coaches call the plays.  

“The tempo was not at the point we want it to be, but we were able to change speeds two or three times today,” Sumlin said during the post-scrimmage press conference. “When we’re going to be most effective is being able to dictate the speed of the game, and not just go fast. Be able to change our speeds.”

Meanwhile, the defense is clearly better under second-year year coordinator John Chavis, and the tackling has improved. Led by the likes of Myles Garrett, Daeshon Hall and Daylon Mack, the line should be nothing short of outstanding.

“We’ve all come together, gotten older and had more time to jell,” Garrett said during the presser. “We all know we’re going to get the job done."

“Without a doubt we have more experienced players on defense, and probably a number of NFL players on the defense,” Sumlin said.

That doesn’t mean the Aggies are completely set. A&M will have two new starting cornerbacks, there’s not much depth at linebacker and special teams lost a lot. 

But the season might boil down to the offensive line.

With guard Keaton Sutherland held out due to an injury, Texas A&M had just one returning starter playing during the Maroon & White Game, Avery Gennesy. The coaches are high on right tackle Koda Martin, but check out the overall defensive numbers: six sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles (one recovered) and two interceptions.

Some of that’s going to happen while facing Garrett and Co., but if the Aggies allow that in the fall, it won’t matter who’s playing quarterback.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Baylor Allegedly Took 2 Years to Look into Sexual Assault Claim Against Players

Baylor University reportedly didn't investigate sexual assault claims against two football players for more than two years.  

According to Paula Lavigne of ESPN's Outside the Lines, despite being required under federal law to immediately investigate any allegation of sexual violence, Baylor waited over two years to look into claims made against former tight end Tre'Von Armstead and former practice squad player Myke Chatman. 

Included in Lavigne's report is the police report written by the Waco Police Department from April 20, 2013, in which the officers stated they notified university officials about "an off-campus incident" involving Armstead and Chatman. The university didn’t begin an investigation until September 2015.

Lavigne's report also noted the alleged victim in the case "told Waco police she was too drunk to remember exactly what occurred that night and that she didn't wish to pursue charges against the players, given her state of mind."

As a result of the alleged victim's statement, Armstead and Chatman were not charged in the case. Armstead was dismissed from the Baylor program in September 2015, with head coach Art Briles saying the decision was made for an unspecified violation of team rules, per the Associated Press (via USA Today). 

Per Lavigne's report, the Waco police investigation into the allegations against Armstead and Chatman was suspended in May 2013 without either player being interviewed, and no school officials contacted the alleged victim in the case. 

This is not the first time Baylor has been in the news for problems involving alleged sexual assault. In August, former defensive end Sam Ukwuachu, who transferred to the program from Boise State, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a female student and former Baylor soccer player. 

In September, the university hired the Pepper Hamilton law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the school's handling of its investigation into rape allegations made against Ukwuachu. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big Ten Football: Ranking Every Team by 2016 Coaching Staff

Between Urban Meyer's arrival in 2012 and Jim Harbaugh's return to Ann Arbor, Michigan, just over a year ago, the Big Ten possessed one of the more interesting coaching stables in all of college football in 2015.

And after a trio off offseason head coaching hires that included two in-conference coordinators and a former NFL headman, the conference's coaching roster has only become even more fascinating in 2016.

It's not just the head coaches who matter but also each team's respective coaching staff. A lot of times, a program will get out what it puts into its coaching salary pool, a line of thinking the Big Ten has wrestled with in recent years.

Even if every team isn't on equal footing as far as compensation is concerned, each program's staff will inevitably continue to be measured against its competition in the league.

With that in mind, here's how we rank each Big Ten staff entering 2016, based on its top-to-bottom ability to maximize its program.

Begin Slideshow

SEC Football: Ranking Every Team by 2016 Coaching Staff

A good head coach is only as good as his staff, and the SEC boasts some of the best coaching staffs in the country.

From Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, the conference is loaded with experienced assistants who either have been head coaches before or are on the fast track to running a program.

Which staffs are the best? We rank them based on production, recruiting and success in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

Michigan Football: Summer Arrivals with Best Chance to Earn Playing Time in 2016

Devin Bush Jr. and Ahmir Mitchell have started their push for immediate playing time at Michigan, but several summer arrivals should also make an impact in Ann Arbor in 2016.

Headlined by Rashan Gary, the nation's No. 1 overall recruit, a collection of non-early enrollees have a chance to break into the Wolverines lineup.

The following signees aren't the only incoming freshmen who will see the field, but the depth chart is more favorable for the players mentioned. For example, Michigan is loaded with experience at cornerback, so prospects at that position are less likely to play than linebackers.

While starring roles shouldn't be expected, notable production in limited action has already provided a reasonable amount of hope.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: Players to Watch in Fighting Irish's 2016 Spring Game

The 2016 Blue-Gold game is a chance for Notre Dame supporters—and perhaps detractors—to check out some potential under-the-radar contributors for the coming season.

Although the Irish's quarterback situation is the overwhelming topic of discussion, seeing which players will replenish departed depth is a major storyline to watch.

And it's not limited to one side of the football.

On both offense and defense, Notre Dame has a true freshman already challenging for a starting role—or at least significant playing time. Plus, a few veterans are pushing for additional responsibilities and the right to replace previous team leaders.  

Begin Slideshow

Complete Previews for Top College Football Spring Games This Weekend

If the jam-packed opening weekend of the 2016 college football season is an all-you-can-eat buffet, consider this Friday and Saturday as snacks to help hold everyone over until then.

They might not be the most substantial items on the football menu, but spring games are tastes of what's to come later. And this weekend, college football fans can sample from a large list of televised scrimmages featuring some of the biggest brand names in the sport.

This upcoming weekend will be one of quarterback battles and depth chart dissections all over the country, from some strongholds down in the SEC all the way to a powerhouse in the Pac-12. There will be unofficial debuts for new head coaches at possible contenders. New schemes will be put on full display for the first time.

Here are the full FBS schedules for the busiest spring game weekend of the year—which features the last two national champions—and complete previews for a dozen of the biggest names on the slate.

What is the biggest offseason storyline for each big-name program in action this weekend? Which position battles deserve the closest attention? Who will stand out as the stars of the spring? Let's span the college football landscape and take a look.

Begin Slideshow

How Jim Harbaugh Can Still Benefit from Satellite Camp Ban

After the NCAA announced its ban on satellite camps last Friday, it took Jim Harbaugh a little longer than many expected to respond publicly.

But once the Michigan head coach did let his thoughts on the matter be known, boy, was it worth the wait.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg for a story that ran on CampusRush.com Tuesday, Harbaugh broke his silence—in a fashion only Harbaugh can.

Perhaps the only reason the second-year Wolverines head coach saved his screed against the NCAA from his Twitter account is because he had so much to say, with thoughts that wouldn't have befit 140-characters-or-less segments.

"Knee-jerk," Harbaugh said of the ruling, echoing Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer's comments on the ban earlier this week. "Like somebody was shaving in the morning, cut themselves when they were shaving and said, 'Let's just ban satellite camps.'"

Harbaugh didn't stop there, firing personal shots at Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and the NCAA as a whole. The former Michigan quarterback even went as far as to suggest the idea of amateurism was a sham, pointing out the inconsistencies of promoting "student-athletes" during the NCAA Tournament but abandoning a practice that even Meyer—Harbaugh's chief rival in the Big Ten—estimated led to "hundreds" of scholarships being handed out at the Buckeyes camp alone.

"I suggest we drop the term 'student-athlete' for consistency," Harbaugh told Rosenberg.

Sharp, provocative and to the point. In other words, it was vintage Harbaugh.

It also may have been a glimpse into where the Wolverines plan on going from here, now that their second "Summer Swarm Tour" of satellite camps appears to have been cancelled.

After all, a byproduct of Harbaugh's first Swarm Tour, a 10-day, seven-state string of satellite camps that included stops in Alabama, Florida, Texas and California, was the publicity it helped generate for a Michigan program that was in need of just that at the time.

Whether it was the mere announcement of the innovative tour itself or the images from it that eventually emerged, the Wolverines managed to consistently stay in the headlines during what's typically a dead period for publicity on the college football calendar.

"He's an extremely creative person," Rivals.com National Director of Recruiting Mike Farrell told Bleacher Report. "He knows how to rattle some cages and stay in the media focus, which is always helpful for recruiting and for your program."

Only this time, Harbaugh appears to have public support on his side, at least when it comes to his primary targets in this whole process: high school coaches and their prospects.

Since Friday's ban was revealed, multiple current and future college players have spoken out against the elimination of satellite camps, which not only ends practices like Harbaugh's Swarm Tour but also bans coaches from smaller schools from attending larger schools' camps, as well as the popular Sound Mind Sound Body camp out of Detroit, which was slated to go national this year.

According to Harbaugh, "thousands" of people will be affected by the ruling, the clearest of which are the players who used such camps to audition for scholarship offers.

"For me, personally, it's all about opportunity," Gibsonton (Florida) East Bay head coach Frank LaRosa told Bleacher Report before the ban. "What you see is opportunity for your kids and that's ultimately what's so important for these guys is having that.

"From a competitive standpoint, if you had to coach against Coach Harbaugh, I could see how that would ruffle your feathers. If he's not breaking any rules, then he's doing what he's gotta do for his program."

Only now, such practices are no longer legal, seemingly thanks in large part to the SEC, which has been fighting satellite camps since Penn State's James Franklin held two—one in Georgia and one in Florida—in 2014. One of the camps' more outspoken critics, Freeze even went as far as to state that one reason he was against the practice was that he wanted to preserve his vacation time—which the SEC has insisted it would have taken part of had Harbaugh been allowed to continue to do hold camps.

"I'm selfish with my time," the Ole Miss head coach said, per Daniel Paulling of the Clarion-Ledger. "I'm away from my family enough, and I just did not want to go. I was ready to. We would've jumped in with the rest of them and gone to work. But I'm glad we can have a camp and I can sleep at home."

Unsurprisingly, that line of thinking didn't sit well with a head coach who's previously described himself to the media as a "jackhammer" who doesn't partake in vacations or observing major holidays.

"You've got a guy sitting in a big house, making $5 million a year, saying he does not want to sacrifice his time," Harbaugh told Rosenberg. "What most of these coaches are saying is they don't want to work harder." 

That may be all the ammunition needed by Harbaugh, the symbol of a practice that's clearly in demand with high school coaches and players. With those camps now banned, Harbaugh can position himself as the voice of the people—or more accurately, prospects—against the rival conferences and coaches who served as the camps' loudest critics.

With his comments to Sports Illustrated, that appears to be the route Harbaugh plans on taking, even if his hard-hitting comments don't result in an actual repeal of the ban.

And if his rerouted course of action results in more attention for his program, so be it. But after Tuesday, one thing is clear: Harbaugh won't be quieting down anytime soon.

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star RB Cam Akers Breaks Down Recruitment, Talks Upcoming Visits

NEW ORLEANS — One of the headliners of Sunday’s New Orleans Nike Opening Regional camp was 5-star running back Cam Akers.

The 5’11 ½”, 212-pounder from Clinton High School (Mississippi) didn’t disappoint en route to earning a coveted invitation to The Opening.

The Magnolia State’s top overall prospect didn’t wait long to announce his presence, as he posted eye-popping numbers in the testing portion before the drills began.

Akers ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds and posted a vertical jump a shade under 41 inches. Those numbers helped him also earn the ratings title for Sunday’s event:

“I just want to prove myself," Akers told Bleacher Report. "A lot of people thought I was slow coming into this camp. I had to come out here and prove some people wrong. I just want to earn my stripes.”

The former Alabama pledge has attracted interest from heavyweight programs across the country since reopening his recruitment last month.

“Recruiting can’t pick up much more than it already has,” Akers joked.

Three programs that have been able to get Akers on campus recently include Georgia, Ohio State and Tennessee.

He spoke a bit on each of those visits.

Georgia: “[Head] Coach [Kirby] Smart being a family-oriented man, I like him. I like [running backs] coach Dell McGee and [offensive coordinator] Coach [Jim] Chaney, too. Everybody there is family-oriented, and they produce great backs also.”

Ohio State: “It’s rich in tradition, and they have a great coaching staff. With [Head] Coach [Urban] Meyer, they have a really good tradition with running backs.”

Tennessee: “I have a great relationship with [Running Backs] Coach [Robert] Gillespie and [Head] Coach [Butch] Jones. They have a great situation there and a great school.”

The coming weeks and months should be busy for the nation’s No. 3 running back and the No. 35 player overall in the 2017 cycle. Return trips to Athens and Knoxville are on his agenda, but a powerhouse from the ACC will get the chance to impress him.

“This summer, I’m going back to Georgia, Tennessee and Clemson," Akers said. "I’ll be at Florida State next weekend. I plan to get back to Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and a lot of other places too this summer." 

Despite losing his pledge, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban and his staff aren’t giving up on a player who has accounted for more than 8,000 yards of total offense and 84 touchdowns over the last three seasons.

“I decommitted because I wanted to re-evaluate things, not because [Alabama] did something wrong,” Akers said. “I just wanted to take a step back and make sure it is the best decision for me and my family. The schools on my list, I just want them to recruit me and my family. Everyone is equal.”

With Akers—who reports a 3.1 GPA and plans to major in sports medicine, business or communications—planning to become an early enrollee, the summer visit spree will be critical for each school that is lucky enough to get him on campus.

However, Akers said he’s still in the process of mapping out a firm plan of when a final decision could come.

“I’m not sure," Akers said. "Me and my family will sit down and talk about it soon. I will be an early graduate, so we will talk about whether we want to wait until the end before enrolling or if I want to commit before then.”

 

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

Trey Sermon Discusses Top 6: 4-Star RB Eyeing SEC, Pac-12, Big 12

In many cases, Marietta, Georgia, running back Trey Sermon is like any other running back. He's someone who wants the ball in his hands early and often, and who delivers results when he has the ball.

Sermon's 32 reported offers are a good indication of his talent level. Early Tuesday afternoon, the Sprayberry High School 4-star running back trimmed his list to six schools.

Sermon tweeted that Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Oregon and Oklahoma were his finalists in his recruiting process. He told Bleacher Report that he's looking to turn his top six into a verbal commitment "no later than September."

"Those are all the schools I talk to the most consistently," Sermon said of the half-dozen schools. "I have visited all of them except for Oregon, and I'm visiting there April 26."

Announcing a top six was huge for Sermon. A few months ago, he wondered if he'd be able to play college football because of his health.

During the second game of the 2015 season, Sermon took a shot in the back and dealt with pain for a couple of weeks. He later found out that hit resulted in a fractured bone in his back. He was sidelined indefinitely.

With the help of physical therapy and a never-quit attitude, Sermon is now healthy and ready for his senior season. But first, he's focused on solidifying his college plans.

"My injury scared me once the doctor said I was out for the season," Sermon said. "I was playing on the injury and was never nervous; I just wanted to compete. Now that I am fully healed, I'm confident that I will be even better than I was last year."

In narrowing his list, Sermon said his decision "wasn't too hard" and added that he will use the spring and summer to weigh each school. He likes what each has to offer athletically and academically, and he's a fan of all the head coaches and running back coaches in his top list.

At 6'1", 214 pounds, Sermon has good size, a muscular build and a second gear in open space. His quickness and speed meshes well with his power game. Sermon also sees the field well and uses his elusiveness to make defenders miss on tackles.

As the nation's No. 9 running back and No. 123 player overall in the 2017 class, Sermon is looking for early opportunities to see playing time in college. None of the six schools on his list have a running back committed as of yet.

What will determine a winner for Sermon?

"Just the environment at each school and how well I connect with the coaches," Sermon said. "I'm looking at how well I fit into the program and whoever I have the best relationship with as far as coaches."

All eyes will be on Sermon as he takes his recruitment into September. He said he is looking to enroll early wherever he attends.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Players with Most Pressure Riding on Their Shoulders

By its very nature, college football is defined by pressure. To succeed at the highest levels, the margin for error is incredibly thin. One loss, if suffered at the wrong time or to the wrong team, can derail any hopes of a national title. The four-team College Football Playoff is an exclusive club, and running the table against a quality schedule is the only way to ensure yourself a seat.

Escalating salaries and facility costs, fueled by increasing TV money, only increase the pressure. The level of tolerance for mistakes is lower, both from coaches and boosters writing checks and sitting in luxury suites.

In short, plenty of players will feel the pressure in 2016. Here are 10 players who’ll feel it particularly acutely. They are players who will be stepping into new roles, playing for new coaches or perhaps carrying more responsibility than they did a year ago. Either way, they’ll be under pressure. When you watch these guys this fall, you’ll hear the Queen and David Bowie classic in your head.

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State Football: Players to Watch in Buckeyes' 2016 Spring Game

Ohio State's spring game is set to kick off on April 16 in Ohio Stadium, and a number of new faces will make their first legitimate appearances of their Buckeye careers.

With eight new starters needed on each side of the ball, head coach Urban Meyer is eager to see how his younger players react to playing in front of a big crowd.

"There's nothing like performing in front of 100,000 people and I watch that," Meyer said, according to Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors.

That six-figure fan projection is something Meyer hopes to see with a sunny, cloudless day in Columbus expected for the game. Ohio State's head man also hopes to see some growth from his young team, and he'll have a particularly close eye on the following players because they could end up playing huge roles for the 2016 season.

Begin Slideshow

Jim Harbaugh Comments on Satellite Camp Ban, Calling Players 'Student-Athletes'

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh has been among the most vocal supporters of satellite camps, but a recent NCAA ban of the showcases has the khaki-clad boss steaming. 

In an interview with Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg released Tuesday, Harbaugh said with regard to the newly imposed ban, "The incompetence of the NCAA has reared its ugly head yet again," and added the ruling was "knee-jerk...like somebody was shaving in the morning, cut themselves when they were shaving and said, 'Let's just ban satellite camps.'"

The Southeastern Conference originally proposed the ban after notable Big Ten programs such as Michigan and Penn State held camps "in the South and regions rich in recruiting prospects," according to ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman.  

However, Harbaugh told Rosenberg he didn't agree with the decision, namely because it stripped underprivileged prospects of a chance to showcase their capabilities in front of an audience they ordinarily wouldn't be able to reach.     

"It seems to be outrage by the SEC and ACC," Harbaugh said. "They power-brokered that out...the image that comes to my mind is guys in a back room smoking cigars, doing what they perceive is best for them. It certainly isn't the best thing for the youngsters. It's not the best thing for the student-athletes."

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee was among those who noted proponents and opponents of satellite camps ultimately failed to do right by the athletes:

"This is going to affect thousands and thousands of people," Harbaugh added, per Rosenberg.

Harbaugh also took exception with the term "student-athlete," since he believes the NCAA is shying away from making a commitment to players who commit themselves to upholding positive academic standing as a way to eventually get a foot in the door through camps:

During the NCAA basketball tournament we discuss the term 'student-athlete' ad nauseam in promoting our governing institution and our member institutions. Then, when we have an opportunity to truly promote the 'student-athlete' with a concept shared by educators and football men from all backgrounds, our leadership goes into hiding.

I suggest we drop the term 'student-athlete' for consistency.

Harbaugh's points are compelling, but resistance from high-profile bosses in every Power Five conference but the Big Ten ultimately squashed the camps as a way to limit perceived recruiting edges certain schools gained. 

But even though the camps are a thing of the past for now, one thing's for sure: This won't be the last time we hear Harbaugh's opinion on the topic. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nathan Tilford to Arizona: Wildcats Land 4-Star Athlete Prospect

Arizona picked up a major commitment along the recruiting trail Tuesday, adding Nathan Tilford to its upcoming class, per Zack Rosenblatt of the Tucson Star.

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Tilford is the No. 10 running back and No. 141 overall in the 2017 recruiting class. He's also the 17th-best player in the state of California.

Ever since his freshman year, Tilford has wreaked havoc on opposing teams:

Here's a look at his rushing and receiving totals from his first three seasons, per MaxPreps:

Top schools have been following Tilford for years, with USC—then coached by Lane Kiffin—reportedly offering him a scholarship in 2013 when he was in eighth grade, per Blair Angulo of WeAreSC.com (via ESPN.com). That didn't necessarily give the Trojans an edge, though. Last December, Tilford made it clear he wasn't in any rush to make a decision about his college future.

"I'm not looking at recruiting at all right now," Tilford said, per Michael Luke of Scout's Wildcat Authority. "And I mean that seriously. If I take care of business the way that I know I can I will be fine. I'm not going to be one of these guys who lets things go to their heads. I've got a lot of schools giving me love and I know that I just need to keep improving and doing the things that got me to this point."

The end result will be well worth the wait for the Wildcats. It's not hard to see why Kiffin was so proactive in his recruitment of Tilford nearly four years ago. 

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez has done a fantastic recruiting job for 2017 already. Tilford is Rodriguez's sixth commit for next season and second 4-star athlete after Greg Johnson, per 247Sports

Coming off a disappointing 7-6 season, albeit capped off with a nice win in the New Mexico Bowl, the Wildcats needed to build momentum as the Pac-12 continues to get stronger with Stanford, USC, Oregon, Utah, Washington State and UCLA being formidable. 

The prep standout could play on either side of the ball at the next level. He has made his biggest impact in high school at running back, but he could easily feature at safety or linebacker on a full-time basis. If anything, defense might be his best option.

Tilford is a good athlete but doesn't possess the electrifying speed necessary to break big runs on a regular basis. Listed at 6'2", 190 pounds, he is a capable inside runner who can break tackles and also make defenders miss in space.

Should he transition to safety or linebacker, though, his lack of top-end speed (4.72 40-yard dash) would be much less of an issue. Tilford would have equal success lining up close to the line of scrimmage to pressure the quarterback, stopping the run or dropping back in pass coverage.

Arizona's staff will have plenty of time to figure out how to utilize Tilford next year now that he has committed to the school.

 

Recruiting information and star ratings are courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Satellite Camps Are a Can of Worms College Football Really Shouldn't Reopen

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — It’s been quite a year for Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey, who took the reins from Mike Slive last July.

The issues that’s he’s had to deal with include Ole Miss being investigated by the NCAA, Tennessee getting cited in an embarrassing Title IX lawsuit, Louisiana’s budget crisis and Missouri President Tim Wolfe resigning after an onslaught of student protests including the black football players threatening not to play.

More recently, North Carolina, home of the SEC Network, passed an extremely controversial law that stripped away protections against discrimination of gay and transgender residents, and Georgia now has the Kirby Smart law, allowing schools to delay responding to open records requests.

Last week, though, he got rid of one headache for the conference: satellite camps, which were banned by the NCAA’s Division I Council on Friday. Four of the five power conferences, and six of the 10 FCS leagues, shut the door on football programs holding camps away from campus. 

“It's not as if we simply controlled the outcome,” Sankey said about the perception that the SEC and ACC led the charge during the Associated Press Sports Editors southeast regional meetings on Monday.

Regardless, it obviously wasn’t in his league’s best interest to let them continue. Even the coaches felt the same way.

"I'm really not even thinking that it has that much value,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “What would be a more interesting question for you to research—and I can't answer this—the teams that have done them, what value does it serve? How many players did they get? They had some players commit to them and some of those players decommitted and I know they even wanted to drop some of those players when they found out they could get better players.

“I love the system and the way we do it now. If everybody has a satellite camp, every player will have 62 camps to go to.”

Actually, it would be more.

Imagine for a moment that the NCAA went the opposite direction and took the lid off where camps can be located. Linebacker Dylan Moses is the top uncommitted player, according to the 247Sports’ composite rankings for 2017. How fast would it take IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where he plays, to set up some camps?

How about quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the top 2018 player? And the next guy? And each player after that…

Programs could essentially go on tour. They’d totally revamp the spring, hire new people to run barnstorming events and be looking for more ways to influence recruits.  

It would often lead to less direct involvement between college coaches and their high school equivalents, causing the entire landscape of recruiting to change and not for the better. It wouldn’t just be taking a step toward the mess that exists in men’s basketball, but potentially become even worse.

“We shouldn't be creating ad hoc recruiting events that more and more involve intentional marketing efforts, sponsors involved,” Sankey said.

Think about that for a moment. You could have the Notre Dame Under Armour Tour and everything that would go with it. The possibilities would be almost endless and bring out some of the worst elements in recruiting.

It would start a whole new arms race. Like the NFL, college football is a copycat sport. If one program has success doing something, numerous others quickly follow.

Michigan held satellite camps. It didn’t take long for Ohio State to try to follow suit. The snowball effect could be overwhelming, all to the benefit of the richest programs.

“We already have combines with Nike, we already have The Opening, we already have these things that are great for the players,” Saban said. “How many teams play Division I football? Are they all going to have a satellite camp in every metropolitan area? That means they'll have 113 camps in Atlanta, 113 in Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Dallas, Houston.

“I mean, it sounds like a pretty ridiculous circumstance for me for something that nobody can really determine, did it have any value anyway?"

Supporters of satellite camps claim that they can help create opportunities for recruits, but do they really? Thanks to technology, anyone can shoot and send video to any program in the nation, and there’s always that thing called scouting.

Besides, if Saban is already dominating in recruiting, consider what he would do with a tool like this and Alabama’s resources at his disposal.

In 2008, the NCAA passed what was called the Saban rule, banning head coaches from hitting the road and evaluating recruits in person during the spring. The public spin on it was to prevent “bump-ins” between coaches and recruits on their high school campus, but the real reason behind it was coaches were sick of being outworked during the offseason.

It caused then-USC coach Pete Carroll to tell the Sporting News “I don’t want to sound like a jerk. But other coaches...they're just lazy."

Maybe they are. But the NCAA can’t ban Saban from visiting campuses in the spring and then turn around and let Michigan hold camps in his backyard plus a week of spring practice in Florida. It had to go one way or the other. 

“I give them credit for being creative, but how can you be off campus on a high school campus during a quiet period?” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.

Tip your hat to Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh for taking advantage of the issue and helping create a buzz for his program, but Sankey, who has numerous issues that are lot more serious to deal with, had the correct answer when asked for a word-association response to the coach's name.

“I move on.”

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and his staff are among the handful of programs who recruit the entire country regardless of geography.

As a prime example, the nine prospects already committed in the Irish’s 2017 class hail from five different states. 

Kelly and his staff continued their mission of finding the top talent around the country. Last week, the Irish offered 4-star Louisiana athlete Keldrick Carper

"That was huge. They are instantly in the discussion among the top of my list," Carper told Bleacher Report. "[Irish defensive backs coach] Todd Lyght gave me the offer, and they are recruiting me as a DB. I want to try to make a visit up there this summer."

The 6’3”, 185-pounder—who could play receiver or defensive back on the college level—is the nation’s No. 17 athlete and the No. 254 player overall in the 2017 cycle.

Carper holds more than 25 offers at this stage of his recruitment—with programs such as Georgia, Mississippi State, South Carolina, TCU and Texas A&M among his primary suitors.

Georgia, Tennessee and Vanderbilt are the programs who were most recently able to get Carper on campus.

As a junior, Carper accounted for 1,563 yards of total offense and 20 total touchdowns on offense. He also recorded 22 tackles and three interceptions on defense.

Carper also noted that he could potentially become an early enrollee, which makes that summer visit to South Bend, Indiana, a critical one if he is able to follow on that path.

 

Michigan State After 5-Star California Playmaker

Michigan State is another program that has expanded its recruiting base under head coach Mark Dantonio. 

The defending Big Ten champions hit the state of California last week to offer 5-star receiver Joseph Lewis

The 6’1 ½”, 207-pounder rates as the nation’s No. 4 receiver and the No. 20 player overall in the 2017 cycle. 

Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon and USC are among the programs who are coming after Lewis in the early stages of his recruitment.

 

Texas A&M After Oklahoma WR Pledge

Because of its high-octane spread offense, Texas A&M is a program that is always in need of quality and quantity with its receiver unit.

Last week, Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff offered in-state 4-star receiver CeeDee Lamb.

As a junior, the 6’2 ½”, 172-pounder hauled in 57 receptions for 1,082 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Lamb has been committed to Big 12 power Oklahoma since December, but the Aggies entering the mix could be a turning point in his recruitment if he makes his way to College Station soon.

 

Miami Offers 2018 QB 

Miami has already landed a pair of quarterback pledges in the 2017 cycle, but Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt and his staff are already scouting signal-callers in future classes.

Last week, the Canes offered 4-star rising junior Emory Jones.

Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State Tennessee and West Virginia are among the programs that have already offered the 6’1 ½”, 193-pounder out of Heard County [Georgia] High School.

247Sports rates Jones as the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat passer and the No. 41 player overall in the 2018 cycle.

 

Best of the Rest

2017

 

2018

 

 

 

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

Every Power 5 College Football Conference's Dark-Horse 2016 Player of the Year

The 2016 college football season is still almost five months away, but time has never stopped predictions from being made.

Interested in who might start out in the Top 25 this fall? There is no shortage of way-too-early rankings, including one by Bleacher Report. Wonder who will be the next Heisman winner? Odds Shark has lines for 14 of the most likely candidates. And if you're curious who stands to get named Player of the Year in each power league, the top choices can be gleaned from looking at which athletes remain from last season's all-conference team.

But all these projections and predictions forget about one get category: the breakout stars.

Stanford's Christian McCaffrey was a promising sophomore running back heading into 2015, but no one could have predicted he'd end up the FBS single-season all-purpose yardage leader en route to a landslide victory as the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. If anything, he might have started out last season as a dark-horse candidate before bursting through to become the league's best individual performer.

It could happen again this fall—some good-but-going-to-get-better player erupts for a monster year and picks up a bunch of hardware along the way, including honors for league Player of the Year. We've tried to predict who that might be for each power conference, limiting our choices to players who have started in the past or were at least a top backup.

Begin Slideshow

LSU Football: What to Watch For in Tigers' Spring Game

Whether LSU will end the 2016 season in triumph, tribulation or somewhere between, the road starts this Saturday inside Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers have been under the offseason microscope as much as any major team in college football this offseason, and for good reason. Even after the bizarre hot-seat saga of head coach Les Miles late last season, LSU has the talent to win big in the cutthroat SEC West.

But a veteran-laden team still has plenty of new faces who could be difference-makers in 2016, from early enrollees to new assistant coaches Dave Aranda and Dameyune Craig.

On Saturday, LSU will provide its first glimpse of 2016 in Death Valley with its annual spring game, which will kick off at 3 p.m. local time on the SEC Network. 

Which areas will command the most attention when Miles' Tigers take the field? Here are three things to watch for this weekend.

 

The progress of the passing game

On paper, LSU should be primed for championship contention in 2016. The Tigers are tied for the most returning starters in college football, return the nation's No. 1 rusher from a season ago and are built on a streak of top-10 recruiting classes.

Experience and talent are everywhere for LSU, but all of it seems to hinge this offseason on the development of the passing game—more specifically, quarterback Brandon Harris.

Harris shined at times last season and fell flat at others. The offensive struggles of 2015 proved that even with Leonard Fournette in the backfield, LSU needs to at least be a threat through the air.

This spring, the passing game has been a high priority for Miles and Co. According to Ron Higgins of NOLA.com, Cam Cameron's playbook has been expanded, and offensive practice work has been split 50-50 between passing and running plays.

All that extra emphasis on taking it to the skies has reportedly worked well for Harris, who threw four touchdowns in a recent scrimmage. Miles thinks he's ready to go for 2016.

"Brandon probably had a sharper scrimmage the scrimmage before, but he still threw for [227] and threw for a good percentage," Miles said, per David Ching of ESPN.com. "I just felt like he’s kind of ready to be the quarterback."

Harris could lock up the starting job with another good day of work Saturday, this time in front of thousands of hopeful eyes at Tiger Stadium. Purdue transfer Danny Etling has pushed Harris this spring and could be a valuable backup in case anything happens to Harris this fall.

Both quarterbacks will have plenty of playmakers to spread the ball around to this fall. The receivers, led by returning starters Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, also have pressure to perform at a higher level after last season.

This offseason, LSU snagged former Auburn assistant Craig to be its new wide receivers coach, and fans will be excited to see what kind of effect Craig has had on the likes of Tyron Johnson, D.J. Chark, Jazz Ferguson and Derrick Dillon.

"With so much talent at the position and two receivers coming in that are huge, Jazz is stepping up and doing a good job," Dupre said, per Sam Spiegelman of SEC Country. "As long as we keep improving on it and working on it, I don't see a reason why we shouldn't be one of the best passing offenses in the country."

Expect to see LSU air it out a good bit on Saturday in order to build more confidence in Harris and give some of the younger talents at wide receiver a chance to shine in front of the fans. 

 

New-look offensive line play

LSU's offense is loaded with returning experience everywhere except for two crucial positions: left tackle and right tackle.

According to Ching, sophomore Toby Weathersby is the only Tiger on the roster who has started a single game at offensive tackle. He had a spot start against Ole Miss last season and is the leader for the right tackle job.

Returning left guard starter Maea Teuhema has bounced to the outside at left tackle during spring camp. However, Teauhema could find himself on the inside this fall, depending on the development of Chidi Okeke on the blind side.

Okeke could have the highest ceiling of any LSU offensive lineman currently on the roster. The 6'6", 311-pound redshirt freshman is extremely athletic for his monstrous size, and the tools are there for him to be a dominant left tackle.

However, Okeke is still relatively new to football, having only played two seasons in high school. A native of Nigeria, Okeke was picked up in the Class of 2015 by the Tigers for his raw ability and potential, but he's progressing well in the eyes of Miles.

"He continues to make plays," Miles said earlier this spring, per Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com. "He's exceptionally quick-footed, comes off the ball and he's learning at a real rapid rate, as opposed to being awash with so much information."

If Okeke can impress on Saturday in front of the LSU faithful for the first time, he could move a step closer to locking down a key role in the fall.

But the tackle spots aren't the only ones receiving shakeups this spring. Due to injuries to returning starters Ethan Pocic (center) and William Clapp (right guard), the Tigers have had opportunities to develop more quality depth on the interior.

Andy Dodd will be one to watch Saturday as he takes first-team center snaps, and where K.J. Malone lines up will be an intriguing storyline. Due to the injuries, Malone told Ching he's lined up at guard and both tackles this spring.

LSU won't be full strength across the front four until it hits fall practice, but how well this makeshift line can protect the passers on the edges and open up holes for the powerful rushing attack will be huge boosts for the team in 2016.

 

Lining up the linebackers 

As one of the campuses that proudly proclaims itself as "Defensive Back U," LSU should be just fine in the secondary this season with the return of Tre'Davious White, Jamal Adams, Kevin Toliver and several more emerging stars.

And even though the defensive line is going through a big transition into Aranda's preferred 3-4 scheme, the Tigers have plenty of talent in the trenches. 

The key area under the microscope for this new scheme, though, will be at linebacker—a position that lost a couple of names from last season. The linebackers have even bigger responsibilities now in the new defense and need some new starters.

Tackle machine Kendell Beckwith will be the man in the middle for the Tigers, and running back-turned-linebacker Devin White has been a breakout playmaker this spring with his athleticism. White has repped with Donnie Alexander at times with the first team at inside linebacker.

The outside spots—"F" linebacker and "Buck" linebacker—are a little trickier to figure out in terms of depth.

According to Billy Gomila of And The Valley Shook, Arden Key is the projected leader at Buck, which combines the pass-rushing duties of an outside linebacker and a traditional defensive end. Key had 6.5 tackles for loss last season and has the look of a future star.

Duke Riley, Tashawn Bower and Corey Thompson are experienced seniors who could be leaders for LSU in 2016, but they have to make the same kind of transition to the new scheme as their younger teammates. Early enrollee Michael Divinity has broken through at F-linebacker with the trio.

Right now, Aranda is looking to plug the right players in the right spots, no matter where they played in the past for LSU. He's moved defensive ends and safeties into the linebacker room this spring.

"It will help the team putting people in positions they can perform in and excel at and really getting all of the best guys on the field," Bower said, per Ross Dellenger of the Advocate. "We're trying to fit pieces in certain places to see what we can do and maximize our defense."

What LSU puts out on the field defensively Saturday will be far from a finished product, as the installation process is still going on in Baton Rouge.

Aranda has a puzzle on his hands, but fans and media members alike will get to see how the pieces are starting to come together ahead of what could be a huge 2016 in Death Valley.

 

Stats courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Markail Benton Tweets Top 6: Odds on Where 4-Star LB Lands

As of Monday evening, the race for Phenix City, Alabama, 4-star linebacker Markail Benton will come down to the SEC and ACC.

On Monday, Benton tweeted a top six that included Auburn, Florida State, Alabama, Clemson, LSU and South Carolina. Benton is ranked as the nation's No. 6 outside linebacker and No. 89 overall player.

A 6'2", 237-pound athlete, Benton is considered an Auburn lean, but nothing is set in stone with his process. Alabama's hoping to make a major impression this weekend, as Benton is expected to be in Tuscaloosa for the annual A-Day spring game on Saturday.

An Under Armour All-American, Benton has expressed his desire to announce his verbal commitment at the Under Armour All-America Game in January. Until then, speculation of where he ultimately commits and signs will be high.

All six schools on his list have a great shot at landing him, but here are three schools to keep an eye on as Benton continues to narrow down his recruitment. Odds of where he could end up are included in parentheses.

 

Auburn (2-1)

Location, tradition and opportunity: These are three things that favor Auburn in Benton's recruiting race. Additionally, Benton has a good relationship with the coaching staff—particularly linebackers coach Travis Williams—as he's made multiple trips to the campus for unofficial visits and games.

The Auburn campus is roughly 35 miles from Phenix City, which would make for an easy commute for Benton's family and friends to watch him play. And with Kris Frost and Justin Garrett both completing their senior years this past season, the opportunity for playing time is there for a player of Benton's caliber.

Auburn could use a jolt in recruiting right now, and Benton could be that spark. The Tigers have three commitments in the 2017 class, but haven't landed a pledge since 3-star safety Carlito Gonzalez committed in August 2015. Benton would be Auburn's highest-ranked defensive pledge of the 2017 class if he committed today.

What may be overlooked, however, is the fact that Benton's old teammate at Phenix City's Central High School, defensive back John Broussard, was an early enrollee at Auburn. The Tigers would love to build that pipeline at Central, and landing both Broussard and Benton would be huge for Gus Malzahn and his staff.

 

Alabama (3-1)

Let's be honest: national championships speak volumes. Auburn won a national title in 2010, but Alabama has won four national titles since 2009, including one last January.

It's tough to decline an offer from Nick Saban, and he's even tougher to turn down when he has a player on campus. Benton's trip for A-Day will be a big opportunity for the Crimson Tide coaching staff to sell the program and team philosophy to athletes. Look for Benton to be a primary target, particularly with Alabama's coaching staff wanting to add to a growing linebacker class.

Benton was in Tuscaloosa in February for Alabama's junior day. He's also made a couple of unofficial visits to the campus since his sophomore year. Tuscaloosa isn't too far from home for Benton, as his family and friends would travel roughly 3.5 hours from Phenix City to see him play at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

 

Florida State (5-1)

Benton has said on several occasions that Auburn and Alabama are his top two schools, but Florida State is hoping to do just enough to get the No. 2 player in Alabama out of the state.

Benton visited Florida State in March, and he's compared the campus to Auburn's from an atmosphere perspective. Benton likes the Seminoles defense, and he has a good relationship with defensive coordinator Charles Kelly and outside linebackers coach Brad Lawing.

Florida State has a top-10 nationally ranked class, and Benton would definitely add fuel to it. He would be the team's first 4-star linebacker pledge, joining 3-star linebacker Bradley Jennings Jr. in the class. Benton would also add to a defensive class that already includes 4-star safety Cyrus Fagan and 4-star defensive tackle Ja'len Parks.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages