NCAA Football News

Projecting Every SEC Team's Quarterback for 2015 Season

It wasn't a particularly landmark season for quarterback play in the SEC in 2014. It wasn't horrible, but it fell far short of what we saw from the league's passers in 2013.

What will come from the 2015 SEC quarterback club? It depends on who ends up winning the many open jobs across the conference.

Only half of the quarterbacks who started their teams' final games are back, but not all of those starters are guaranteed to be in the same spot on the depth chart when next season begins in September. We're expecting several wide-open competitions, a few including players who've yet to even practice with their new teams, and are projecting only five repeat starters.

Who will those be, and who will be starting elsewhere in the SEC? Check out our projections for every team's starter, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Senior Bowl Rosters 2015: Team Selections, Top NFL Prospects, Game Time and More

With the college football season officially over, NFL teams now shift their focus to the Senior Bowl as they scout the upcoming draft class. 

Although some of the top stars won't be heading to Mobile, Alabama, this year, plenty of big names will be present. In addition, the practices leading to the game itself are a great time for some of the more overlooked prospects to jump a couple of rounds.

The Senior Bowl is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 24, so fans still have a few more days to read up on some of the players involved.

Here's a look at the full rosters for the North and South teams.

 

Draft Prospects to Watch

Danny Shelton, DT, Washington

If you aren't familiar with Danny Shelton's game, then you will be over the coming weeks and months. The Washington defensive tackle is among the top players in the 2015 draft at any position.

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah listed Shelton as the fifth-best prospect overall yesterday:

In his most recent mock draft, Bleacher Report's NFL draft expert Matt Miller had Shelton going fourth overall to the Oakland Raiders.

Miller also provided an in-depth scouting report of Shelton writing in part that Shelton "shows rare athleticism playing the nose and can move around the defensive line" and "can mix up speed and bull rushes without losing a step."

On the basis of his skill against the run, Shelton is a surefire first-rounder. Put that together with his potential to disrupt the passing game, and you've got an All-Pro defensive tackle in the making.

 

Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor

Beyond Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, the 2015 draft doesn't look to be flush with great quarterbacks. As arguably the best quarterback at the Senior Bowl, Bryce Petty has a chance to really shine.

Petty only started in his final two years at Baylor, but he still managed to rack up 8,195 and 62 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions.

In Mobile, Petty will have a chance—albeit a brief one—to show that he can work in a pro-style offense. Quarterbacks coming back from spread offenses always have a bit of a transition when they hit the NFL. Some eventually work it out, while others can never make the jump.

Derek Carr used last year's Senior Bowl to silence a few of his critics. Although he still went in the second round, he was arguably the most productive rookie quarterback in 2014.

Petty isn't on the same level that Carr was entering the draft, but the Bears star could see his stock rise at the event.

 

T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh

In 2013, Eric Fisher looked great at the Senior Bowl, not only bolstering his first-round status but also setting in motion a chain of events that saw him selected No. 1 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs.

T.J. Clemmings heads to the Senior Bowl as a perceived lock for the first round but still a little rough around the edges given his somewhat recent move to offensive tackle. Because of that conversion, Clemmings is still a work in progress with his technique.

Athletically, Clemmings is a freak for somebody of his size. Because of his combination of strength and agility, he has the most upside of any offensive tackle in this year's draft.

In an interview with the Senior Bowl's website, Clemmings said that he's looking to put some more substance behind all of his first-round hype:

How does it sound? It sounds pretty cool but like you said it’s just a little bit of buzz and I still have to prove myself. So that’s why I’m coming down to the Senior Bowl to play against the best seniors and that’s what I’m looking forward to—to show coaches why that buzz is out there.

CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler listed the Pittsburgh offensive tackle among those players he expects to look good in Mobile:

NBC Sports' Josh Norris added that Clemmings should thrive in strength drills:

Plenty of teams near the top 10 are looking for offensive tackles, and without a can't-miss prospect at the position, Clemmings could easily surge up draft boards as a result of his Senior Bowl performance.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kyle Whittingham, Utah Agree to New Contract: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

Kyle Whittingham won't be leaving Salt Lake City any time soon.

Utah announced on Friday that it agreed to a new four-year contract with its head coach:

NFL.com's Bryan Fischer had the financial breakdown, which involves a starting salary of $2.6 million in 2015 and then a $100,000 raise for each year remaining on the deal:

Fischer believes that the extension is a nice piece of business for both parties:

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman added that securing Whittingham's future now will likely stabilize Utah's recruiting class for the upcoming season:

Whittingham just wrapped up his 10th year with the school. During that time, he's compiled an 84-43 record and taken the Utes to eight bowl games. Utah also finished unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in the country in 2008.

This news comes off the heels of a report by Matthew Piper of The Salt Lake Tribune that outlined a potential issue between Whittingham and Utah athletic director Chris Hill over the contracts for Whittingham's assistant coaches:

The hubbub started after defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and defensive line coach Ilaisa Tuiaki left, when sources told The Tribune and others that Whittingham and Hill were on bad terms, in part due to Hill's decision to limit lower-level assistants to single-year deals going forward.

An email from Hill to Whittingham, received in response to a Tribune records request, indicates that in addition to offering Sitake a three-year, $750,000 per year deal to remain competitive for his services as a defensive coordinator, Hill was willing to give Tuiaki a multiyear deal if Whittingham wanted to instead limit offensive coordinator Dave Christensen to a single year.

That appears to have been a nonstarter. All three coaches left the program — Sitake and Tuiaki to Oregon State, and Christensen to Texas A&M.

Whatever the problem was, Hill and Whittingham appear to have worked out their differences, ensuring that one of the school's most successful coaches will be sticking around for the long term.

Since moving to the Pac-12 in 2011, Utah has failed to win more than nine games in a single season, but the Utes began making progress in 2014 (9-4). With the head coach secured, the school should continue morphing into a legitimate Pac-12 contender over the coming years.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football Recruiting: Why Quarterback Position Is Longhorns' Biggest Need

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the Texas Longhorns have issues at the quarterback position. In fact, if you have working vision and just so happened to catch a Texas football game after the 2009 season, you would know the quarterback position has plagued the Longhorns.

It is somewhat alarming to recap all of the Longhorns quarterbacks who did not work out under center. 

The quarterback position is easily one of the most vital positions on any football team. If a team has an outstanding QB—for example, Vince Young and Colt McCoy—success will likely follow. But the teams with quarterback issues will likely see little success on the football field.

Let's take a look at Ohio State.

Some people may have thought the Buckeyes would be in trouble when Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending injury in fall camp. But little did we know Ohio State had not one, but two viable options behind Miller. The end result was a national championship thanks to the depth at quarterback.

Texas is light-years away from the Buckeyes' situation.

The Longhorns have not had a viable quarterback take the field since McCoy during the 2009 season. Texas has since seen four quarterbacks under center, all of whom did not live up to the Texas standard.

Head coach Charlie Strong inherited a team that was lacking a true starting quarterback in 2014, which ultimately resulted in the Longhorns' 6-7 season record.

Some will say it isn't fair to put all of the blame for the record on the quarterback, and that's probably an accurate assessment. But it's nearly impossible not to pin a lot of the blame on the quarterback when the position got progressively worse throughout the season.

Texas currently has two scholarship quarterbacks on campus: Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard. Swoopes' career record as a starter is 5-7, and Heard has yet to take any snaps for the Longhorns.

The position has less depth than most of the other positions on the field, and that is a major issue.

The Longhorns have one quarterback commit in Zach Gentry, who 247Sports rates as a 4-star prospect. But Gentry will not enroll until after the spring semester.

Texas could only have two quarterback options in 2015 if Gentry needs time to adjust to the college game, similar to the time Heard needed in 2014. Adding another option is almost vital to the Longhorns' success in 2015.

But who would be the addition? Texas fans would love to hear that a highly touted transfer quarterback would pick the Longhorns. But once again, who?

Some speculation has surfaced that Ohio State's Miller may transfer after JT Barrett and Cardale Jones' breakout seasons. But if Miller does choose to leave the Buckeyes, Texas may not be his landing spot, according to Orangebloods.com. (Subscription required.)

Strong and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson may be in a bind if Gentry, Heard and Swoopes are the only options to start in 2015.

There's a possibility all of these questions about the future of the quarterback position could be answered by one of the options currently on campus or entering the program following the spring, particularly Heard.

The redshirt freshman has a lot of hype from his stellar play in high school, where he led Denton Guyer to back-to-back state championships his junior and senior year.

But it never hurts to have options, and Ohio State is the perfect example of that statement.

There may not be an exact answer at this current point but one thing is certain: Texas needs to add depth to its quarterback position sooner rather than later.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Top Rivalry Battles on 2015 College Football Recruiting Trail

College football rivalries contain so much more than what we see take place on the field for 60 minutes. They linger long after the final horn, ramping up on the recruiting trail as years progress.

Whether rivalries are forged through regional proximity or through conference competition, the battle to add more talent than your foe is ongoing. This final stretch of the 2015 recruiting cycle features several compelling program showdowns to monitor, pitting teams against each other for top prospects across the country.

Here's a look at player pursuits that have come down to the wire between rivals.

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Predicting Every 2015 College Football Conference Champion

The 2014 college football season just ended, but it's never too early to look ahead to—actually, you know what: It is too early to look ahead to 2015.

But it's so much fun to do it anyway.

These Way, Way, Way Too Early Conference Predictions will change roughly 1,000 times between today and next season. But now that the deadline to declare for the NFL draft has passed, and rosters across the country are beginning to take shape, we finally have enough information to make a semi-educated guess.

Which defending conference champs will keep the crown next season? Which teams will come from behind to usurp them?

Sound off below and let us know what you think.

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Restoration of Joe Paterno's Wins Sends the Wrong Message to Victims

If you were a victim of Jerry Sandusky, you are still a victim of Jerry Sandusky. His enabler, Joe Paterno, will get his 111 victories back and will now be the winningest coach in major college football. The victims are being victimized again…and again…and again.      

It's a disgrace.

Mike McQueary, the former Penn State assistant coach, said in court, under oath, that he told Paterno he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a Penn State locker room. Paterno should have called the police. He didn't. It was 2002. Sandusky kept his place around the Penn State program for nearly 10 more years.

Paterno was so powerful on campus that he could have snapped his fingers and had Sandusky locked up within an hour. Joe Pa was Penn State. A man close to Paterno molested children, and the Coach as King did nothing. McQueary told Paterno what happened. There was no need for an inquest or due process or anything; he should have told Sandusky, "Get out."

He didn't.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, author of the Freeh Report on the Penn State saga, concluded that Paterno was "an integral part of an active decision to conceal." Paterno knew about Sandusky as early as 1998. He did nothing. He said little.

Paterno deserved to lose those 111 wins, which were taken away by the NCAA as part of Penn State's punishment for not ridding the campus of a predator. There are victims galore because Paterno refused to call the police. Paterno said he told athletic director Tim Curley. That's not good enough if you are the god on campus.

The NCAA punished Penn State for this. The school is a member of an association of its own free will, and it signed a consent decree with the NCAA, which called for a four-year bowl ban, a $60 million fine to fund anti-child abuse causes, stripping the 111 wins and a reduction of scholarships.

But the NCAA, once again, is caving. It is an organization more adept at the hospitality business and selling packages of hotel/airfare around the Final Four than it is policing its members. It should have stuck by its guns and told Penn State's trustees: "You are a member of this organization. Live by the decree."

The NCAA had every right to punish Penn State.

Instead, state officials went to work for Penn State's leadership. They challenged the consent decree, even after the NCAA said the state of Pennsylvania could control the $60 million. Not satisfied, the state of Pennsylvania officials and all their football constituents wanted Paterno's 111 wins restored. So not only was the bowl ban lifted early and the scholarships restored, but the state gets its money and Paterno gets his wins.

It's a disgrace to the victims.

What are the victims thinking today? They are thinking football makes the rules, as usual.

Every day, the lessons of Sandusky and Penn State are eased or brushed away. The bowl ban lifted, scholarships restored early, the wins restored. Soon, the Paterno statue will be rolled back out to its place at the football stadium. It won't be like nothing ever happened. Sandusky, after all, is in jail for a long time, and that won't change.

Still, Joe Pa catches a break. History books will have his name, for the time being, on the top line.

The big message is the victims are discounted. Here is the second message…wait long enough and a scandal's scorn will subside and all will be made well. If that's the case, then Bobby Bowden should get his wins back for the academic scandal at Florida State.

What happened at FSU was nothing compared to what happened with Paterno. What's more, all the college coaches under a show-cause order because of cheating should be cleared and free to get jobs.

The Penn State coach was not the only coward on the job. Administrators did not act. Paterno was never scapegoated; he was punished. The others face felony charges from perjury, to child endangerment, conspiracy and obstruction charges. Paterno is lucky in some ways. He died. These men are going to face trial and public scorn.

I can see, just a little bit, why the bowl ban was lifted on Penn State and the scholarships were restored early. A lot of high school kids who dream of playing for Penn State didn't have anything to do with this. I just wish their parents, or their older brothers and sisters, or aunts and uncles, had not added to the disgrace with their marches through campus supporting the coach after the scandal broke.

Paterno's record will be restored.

His legacy as a great coach, a great man, will not be restored. That's done with. The NCAA and state of Pennsylvania can't remove that stain.

 

Ray Glier covers college football for Bleacher Report.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: 2014 Freshmen Set for Breakout 2015 Seasons

Each new year of recruiting brings new excitement for fans, especially for those following a team like Alabama, which consistently pulls in No. 1 classes featuring some of the top players in the country.

Very few of those players come in and light the world on fire right away, becoming instant stars in the process. Instead, most take a few years to, you know, develop into proper college football players.

The problem, though, is that by the time these players have developed into legitimate talent, fans have moved on to the next batch of superstar, hotshot recruits, who may or may not pan out. So these players can sometimes get lost in the shuffle and get underappreciated compared to a kid who’s never set foot on a college campus yet.

Alabama’s 2014 class produced some of that former group. Punter JK Scott and left tackle Cam Robinson stepped right in and were named to the Football Writers Association of America’s All-Freshman team.

Before Nick Saban and Alabama sign another No. 1 class for the 2015 cycle, let’s take a look at some members of that 2014 class, freshmen last year, who could have their breakout years this year, after a season of development.

 

Rashaan Evans

Alabama will need at least one more edge-rusher in 2015. Xzavier Dickson, who led Alabama with nine sacks, graduated, leaving Denzel Devall and Ryan Anderson as the outside linebackers with the most experience on the team.

But Saban and the Crimson Tide use a rotation at that position, and Evans could be the guy to fill a spot there.

A former 5-star from Auburn with one of the more highly publicized recruitments of 2014, Evans showed promise during the season, appearing in all but one game. He registered a sack and was a regular on kickoff coverage.

"I didn't really dream that I was going to even have a chance to get on the field at all,” Evans told AL.com’s Drew Champlin at Sugar Bowl media day. “I was thinking more realistically about kickoffs or stuff like that but as the season got on, I got a chance to get on the field and do a little bit. Ever since then I've been doing my best to try to get back on it."

Now with more opportunity in front of him, he should get some extended playing time, at least in passing situations, and be able to further show off that ability and be a productive member of Alabama’s pass rush.

 

Cam Sims

With all three starting wide receiver spots up for grabs, there will be ample opportunity for Alabama’s next group of young but talented wide receivers.

Sims seems like a good candidate to fill one of those roles.

As a true freshman, Sims appeared in all but two games and didn’t just get garbage-time snaps. Of Alabama’s returning wide receivers, he ranked third with 62 catches, including a touchdown, on the year.

His 6’4”, 208-pound frame makes him a physical presence in run blocking, a role in which he excelled this season. As D.C. Reeves of the Tuscaloosa News points out, Sims was frequently on the field, even if he wasn’t catching passes.

#Alabama's leading returning WR in snap count: Chris Black 255, Cam Sims 142, ArDarius Stewart 104. For comaprison, Amari had 816 by himself

— D.C. Reeves (@_DCReeves) January 15, 2015

His kind of attention to detail in run blocking can pay dividends in terms of playing time and should be a formula for Sims to get a much bigger role in 2015.

 

Shaun Dion Hamilton

There will be an open middle linebacker spot next to Reggie Ragland this season, and Hamilton has positioned himself well to take hold of it.

Hamilton impressed coaches and teammates enough after he enrolled in January to earn a role on the 2014 team, appearing in all 14 games this season. He mostly played on special teams but saw some defensive snaps in garbage time or filling in for injuries, notching three tackles in the process.

"I just wanted to be able to play on special teams and find me a role where I could help the team,” Hamilton told the Montgomery Advertiser’s Paul Payne at Sugar Bowl media days. “It's been everything that I hoped for. It's been a great experience. I just wanted to be able to come in here and contribute, to do my role to help us become a better team.”

He should see increased defensive snaps next season.

Hamilton and Reuben Foster will be the key candidates for the second middle linebacker position next year. Foster has proved to be a physical specimen, but his playing style lends itself to frequent injury, from which Foster has suffered during his career.

If Foster can’t stay healthy, or even if he can, the door will be open for Hamilton.

 

Dominick Jackson

Jackson was expected to play a big role on the offensive line in 2014. He was a 4-star prospect out of junior college and looked poised to fill Alabama’s need at right guard.

Instead, an injury in fall camp set him back, and he was relegated largely to backup duty, though he did play fullback in Alabama’s goal-line jumbo package a few times.

Now, with three starters to replace on the offensive line, Jackson’s window appears to have opened for his senior season.

He played right tackle at College of San Mateo in San Mateo, California. But his physicality and size could translate into a role at right guard, too. With returning tackle Grant Hill, who has backed up Austin Shepherd at right tackle in the past, guard could be a landing spot for Jackson, with both spots up for grabs.

It’s now or never for Alabama’s highly touted JUCO transfer.

 

Laurence “Hootie” Jones

Alabama’s secondary will see a lot of new faces this season. Hootie Jones should be one of them.

Jones enrolled in January and, like Hamilton and Evans, found a home playing special teams while chipping in occasionally. Jones appeared in seven games, making two tackles.

But with the departure of Alabama’s top three safeties, Jones should be a top candidate to play more defense in some capacity.

At 6’2” 221 pounds, he’s more geared to play strong safety, closer to the line of scrimmage. He has looked every bit the part in practice, showing why he was a 4-star prospect out of high school.

He also could be a candidate for “Star,” the fifth defensive back who typically plays closer to the line of scrimmage.

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

If LSU Goes for Transfer QB, Would Braxton Miller or Everett Golson Be Best Bet?

LSU could use Braxton Miller, Everett Golson and/or somebody else to play quarterback.

The Tigers cannot win the SEC next season if Anthony Jennings returns as the starting quarterback. Jennings' limitations as a passer were evident, as he completed no more than 50 percent of his passes in nine of 13 games in 2014.

That will not cut it.

There is still hope for Brandon Harris, who at times looked like a true freshman sensation. Instead, Harris was just a true freshman.

Harris relieved Jennings against Mississippi State and New Mexico State and was dominant, but he flopped in his only game as a starter on the road against Auburn. Head coach Les Miles would only allow him to throw one pass for the rest of the season.

Despite their troubles, Miles is optimistic about his two gunslingers. He said to expect another close competition during the offseason.

“I think that Brandon Harris will absolutely compete for the job, and I’m not discounting Anthony Jennings, just not going to do it,” Miles said, per Ross Dellenger of The Advocate. “But Brandon Harris is faster, throws the ball harder and really runs hard. Some fundamental things that he will improve on, and he’s ready to do so.”

The bottom line is LSU's quarterback play was the worst in the SEC West. The Tigers could desperately use some fresh blood at the position.

 

The Contenders

Ohio State's Braxton Miller would immediately be the best quarterback on LSU's roster, and possibly the SEC, if he chose to transfer to Baton Rouge. Miller was the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013, but he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury before the 2014 campaign began.

Outside of an upset loss to Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes performed just fine without Miller.

Backups J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones were able to lead Ohio State to its first national championship under head coach Urban Meyer.

WAFB's Steve Schneider has been told by multiple sources there is a "likely scenario" in which Miller leaves for LSU. With ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting Jones will stay in Columbus for another season, this will increase Miller's chances of transferring somewhere.

Notre Dame's Everett Golson led the Fighting Irish to a BCS National Championship berth in 2012. After sitting out 2013 due to a violation of team rules, Golson came back strong to start 2014.

Unfortunately for the Irish, Golson began to fall apart after throwing four interceptions against Arizona State. Notre Dame would go on to lose its final three games of the regular season.

Head coach Brian Kelly decided to start Malik Zaire against the Tigers in the Music City Bowl. Though Golson contributed to the win, it was Zaire who did most of the damage.

The Times-Picayune's Jim Kleinpeter reports Golson contacted LSU about possibly transferring to Baton Rouge. If true, this shows the interest is there.

Miller and Golson could be looking for new jobs opportunities to be student-athletes at a different academic institution. The Tigers could use either of the two, but which one is likelier to come to Baton Rouge?

 

Miller Breakdown

Miller is a better player than Golson. With that said, there will be more competition for his services.

Miller has been linked with nearly every school that needs a quarterback, and rightfully so. His ability to throw and run should make every offensive coordinator in the country drool.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee sees Miller as a perfect fit in Oregon to replace Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. He could also take the reins from another Heisman winner, Florida State's Jameis Winston, in Tallahassee.

ESPN's Travis Haney wonders if Miller's best option is to stay at Ohio State. But beating out Barrett and Jones after a year of sitting out is a tall task.

Fox Sports' Todd Furhman told sports talk show host Bo Mattingly he sees Miller as the third-string quarterback if he stays with the Buckeyes:

Fuhrman: Cardale Jones is the favorite to start for OSU. JT Barrett is 2nd. Braxton Miller’s best chance to play might be a position change.

— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) January 14, 2015

Chances are Miller does not want to sit on the bench or change positions. This means he would have to transfer.

 

Golson Breakdown

It's hard to sugarcoat Golson's final four games. With that said, his entire season was far from a disaster.

Golson has some raw tools offensive coordinator Cam Cameron could tune into an effective starting quarterback yet again. It was clear his confidence faded as the pressure to insert Zaire grew.

Golson's struggles were not entirely his fault. His offensive line crumbled and the Irish defense became plagued with injuries. The pressure on him to make plays was immense.

Like Miller, Golson can make plays with his legs. His arm is above average and he has proved his ability to make plays in big moments in the past.

 

Why They Should Come to LSU

LSU does not have a passing attack to brag about, especially compared to schools like Florida State and Oregon. The Tigers finished an embarrassing 116th in passing yards per game in 2014.

But the main reason why the Tigers' passing attack struggled was because of the quarterback position.

The Tigers' pass protection was good, but not great in 2014. They allowed a rather disappointing 25 sacks, yet plenty of those were due to Jennings or Harris holding on to the football too long. Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes will have his talented group ready to go next season.

A case could be made for LSU having the most talented receivers in the SEC.

Travin Dural burst onto the scene as one of college football's best deep threats last season. Malachi Dupre, the No. 2-rated receiver in the 2014 recruiting class, showed flashes of excellence as a true freshman. John Diarse developed into a potential slot star with a strong close to the season.

Incoming 5-star 2015 commit Tyron Johnson will be an instant playmaker in his first season.

Those young pass-catchers should have quarterbacks across the country salivating at the thought of coming to Baton Rouge. Cameron has already proved he can produce points at a high level. He just needs a capable NFL quarterback to do it.

Above all else, quarterbacks should come to LSU for the treatment they will receive. Sure, signal-callers everywhere are treated like royalty, but Tiger fans are thirstier than ever for better quarterback play.

One good QB season since Matt Flynn. MT @DellengerAdv: AM RT: Miles expects #LSU QB 'misery' to be thing of past http://t.co/EqyZFYvXxA

— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) January 16, 2015

Zach Mettenberger has been LSU's only reasonably good quarterback since Miles had Matt Flynn in 2007. Mettenberger was often referred to as "The Mettsiah" in 2013, as he was the key cog in the most explosive offense Miles has ever had.

Miller and Golson could have the opportunity to play with elite receiving talent and a proven quarterback guru in Cameron for one of the college football's best programs.

All it would take is beating out two average signal-callers.

 

The Verdict

Miller is the likelier of the two to join LSU by a slight margin.

Bleacher Report's Keith Arnold states there are some "huge hurdles" Golson must climb in order to leave South Bend:

Golson doesn't graduate until May, making any decision to explore options now more than a little premature. That means Golson will be on campus—and on the roster—for spring football, 15 very important practices for a team with lofty aspirations in 2015. If Golson is already looking for a way out, that isn't likely to sit well with his head coach, let alone his teammates. 

Also clouding the situation is Golson's actual eligibility to play for LSU. According to The Times-Picayune report, while a ban on allowing graduate transfer players has been lifted, Golson's admission at any SEC school would need to go through a waiver process. 

Arnold is right on both accounts. Golson could easily prove himself in the spring and beat out Zaire for the starting job. Also, the SEC waiver process can truly be a mess. He does not want to miss any potential games, especially considering he had to sit out the entire 2013 season.

Though it is impossible to tell how many schools are asking about him, it is rational to think Golson is not being pursued as heavily as Miller. With that said, he is the less likely of the two to transfer.

Miller could find himself third on the depth chart at the end of Ohio State's spring practice. That alone will likely scare him into packing his bags and going elsewhere.

Miller would immediately make LSU a national championship contender. But the same can be said about Oregon, Florida State and other programs that are potentially pursuing him.

The difference, though, is Miller may not want to be in the shadow of Mariota or Winston. At LSU, he could make a deeper and more impactful legacy of his own.

Unfortunately for LSU fans, Miller or Golson coming to Baton Rouge is unlikely. If that is the case, the Tigers must have faith in Jennings or Harris leading them to the SEC Championship Game next season.

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.comESPN.com and LSUsports.net. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter at @CarterthePower.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Replacements for Top Players to Declare Early for NFL Draft

Both Ohio State and Oregon preached a "next man up" philosophy in their runs to the national title game, with backups stepping right in to replace injured or suspended players. It's a luxury that only a select few teams are able to afford in the middle of a season.

Regardless of the cost, though, it's something that nearly all of them have to splurge on during the offseason. And the price goes up when it's to replace an unexpected departure.

Now, the deadline has passed for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft, with many stars leaving behind a giant hole of production and dependability for their former teams to fill.

Every school figures to have had a contingency plan in place for such early exits, but now that it's become a reality, they'll have to see if the replacements can get the job done.

Here's a look at the most likely successor to some of the top college players who have declared for the NFL draft, along with other potential replacements if the first in line can't cut it.

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Big Ten Future Riding on Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer Rivalry

If you want to know why the Big Ten is really "back," don't look at January 12.

That, of course, is when Ohio State capped an unimaginable run to win the first College Football Playoff National Championship. Rather, look ahead to 10 months from now on November 28. That's when Michigan and Ohio State will meet for the 112th time. But it's when Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer will meet for the first time as head coaches on opposing sidelines. 

The future of the Big Ten doesn't ride on bowl results; those change every year and are hard to predict. Certainly, the Big Ten sought and ultimately received vindication. After being college football's favorite punchline, the conference went 3-1 on New Year's Day bowls and 2-1 against the SEC in the sport's best unofficial rivalry.

It was a great moment for a league previously pronounced dead and then revived in front of our very eyes. But far too much is made about the long-term ramifications of bowl season. You'd think we would have learned this by now, but alas, amnesia tends to run rampant in sports. 

Rather, the future of the Big Ten lies in its new coaching star power: Harbaugh, Meyer and even Mark Dantonio at Michigan State. They're all in the same division, too: the Big Ten East. 

Specifically, the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State has been given new life. This has Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes and the "10-Year War" Part II written all over it. On each sideline stands a coach with a track record of success. On each headset is someone who commands everyone's attention every time he walks into a room and speaks.  

These are coaches that the masses care about. They're praised, criticized, revered and hated. Most importantly, they're relevant—just like the programs they represent.  

As a side note, Big Ten Media Day should be fun. 

Michigan-Ohio State remains one of the best rivalries in any sport, but it has lacked real national significance lately. In the Big 12's best years, Texas-Oklahoma meant something. The Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn has had national championship implications a few times in the past several seasons. 

Even in an unofficial capacity, Harbaugh had meaningful rivalries with Chip Kelly (Oregon) and Pete Carroll (USC) when he was at Stanford. 

The Wolverines have defeated Ohio State just twice since 2001. The Buckeyes' dominance will probably continue for at least one more year. Even with a "throw out the record books" mentality, Michigan is rebuilding, and Ohio State is cruising along. 

Eventually, though, the belief is that Harbaugh can get Michigan turned around. He did it at the University of San Diego, Stanford and then with the San Francisco 49ers. 

"I hope that he can bring them back to (being) a really prominent program," Buckeyes lineman Taylor Decker told Nicole Auerbach of USA Today. "That's just good for our conference, and that's fun for our rivalry. I hope he does end up going there and making them a good team again because that's a fun finale to play in."

Another way to describe what Harbaugh means to the Big Ten came from Dan Wolken of USA Today when Michigan hired Harbaugh in December: 

But this stuff is pretty simple. Always has been and always will be.

For all the administrative failures, booster agendas, laments about how many players grow up in the Rust Belt these days as opposed to the Deep South, never, ever forget that college football is about one thing.

When you combine a great brand name with a great coach, everything else follows and nothing else matters. With one well-timed and perfectly orchestrated push for Jim Harbaugh, Michigan is back and so is the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is back because its two blue-blood programs having coaching firepower. Realistically, few will care if the rest of the Big Ten is average because few actually judge a conference by the fifth or the sixth-best teams. 

As long as Michigan and Ohio State are led by Harbaugh and Meyer, respectively, that's going to garner the most focus. That's a lot of stock to put on two individuals, but there's no doubt they're up to the challenge. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Incoming Freshman Quarterback Will Make the Biggest Impact in 2015?

Freshman quarterbacks are no longer just relegated to benchwarming for a couple of seasons; they're making immediate impacts for their respective teams.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer debate the incoming freshmen who will have the biggest impacts.

Who will have the biggest impact of the incoming freshman QBs?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Restores Joe Paterno's Vacated Wins in Lawsuit Settlement

As part of a settlement between the NCAA and Penn State University, late head coach Joe Paterno will have his victories from 1998 through 2011 restored after they were vacated due to the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal.

According to NCAA.org, Penn State will commit $60 million to programs designed to prevent sexual abuse against children and treat victims. It will also enter into a new Athletics Integrity Agreement, among other things.

Penn State's board of trustees unanimously voted to ratify the settlement, according to Charles Thompson of The Patriot-News:

Relating to Paterno's record, he will now be credited with the 111 wins that the Nittany Lions earned while he was at the helm over a 14-year period, per ESPN.com's Don Van Natta Jr.:

With those wins, Paterno will once again be recognized as the all-time wins leader in major college football, surpassing Bobby Bowden, according to Kevin McGuire of College Football Talk:

Per NCAA.org, NCAA board of governors chair Kirk Schulz believes the settlement is fair for everyone involved:

Today's agreement with Penn State reaffirms our authority to act. The NCAA has a legitimate role when a member's actions threaten the integrity of college sports. We acted in good faith in addressing the failures and subsequent improvements on Penn State's campus. We must acknowledge the continued progress of the university while also maintaining our commitment to supporting the survivors of child sexual abuse.

CBS Sports provided the Paterno family's complete statement:

Ultimately, the NCAA has decided that Penn State has paid its dues over the past few years, and restoring Paterno's wins feels like a good-faith gesture.

Paterno's legacy is extremely important to Penn State football and its fans, and with his wins being vacated no longer, his legacy as a coach has been cemented.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cardale Jones' Decision Is Everything That's Right with College Football

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With all due respect to the reporters in attendance, the most important question of Cardale Jones' Thursday press conference announcing his return to Ohio State for his junior season came when a teacher at Jones' alma mater, Ginn Academy, inquired about his academic goals.

"I'm really proud of you for following the path of education. Without an education, you can't be," the teacher told Jones during his nationally televised press conference. "What are your educational goals? What will you be studying?"

"After life after football, I want to be a financial planner," revealed Jones, who the Ohio State student directory currently lists as an African-American and African Studies major. "After I'm done with football, I still have my whole life to live. That's where I think my education will come in handy."

To most of the sports world, the moment was a footnote, a teacher planted in a sea of sportswriters to maintain the positive PR aspect of Jones' announcement. But it was the most relevant question asked on Thursday of the Buckeyes quarterback, who made the rare decision to put his education before the immediate reward of millions of dollars.

Because, truth be told, if Jones was purely making a football decision, he probably would have been best suited entering the draft. According to research performed by his current coach, Urban Meyer, and high school coach, Ted Ginn Sr., Jones would have likely been drafted in the second round had he entered this spring's draft, with the potential to move into the late-first round.

Even being selected with a high pick in the third round would have netted Jones close to a $1 million in guaranteed salary. As a kid from inner-city Cleveland who became the father of a newborn daughter in November, nobody would have blamed Jones for making a decision that would have stabilized his financial future.

"It's everybody's dream and goal when they play football or any collegiate sport to make it to the next level," Jones said. "But at my point in my career, I feel like it's best for me to go back to school, and one of the most important things for me to do is to graduate. When I make that decision to play in the NFL, I want to be done with school."

Jones is on track to graduate from Ohio State this winter, although that's not to say that he couldn't benefit from another season in Columbus on the field as well.

Given that he's only started three games in his college career, it's unlikely that Jones would have been capable of doing more than sneaking into the back end of the draft's first round. But with a big senior season, the 6'5", 250-pounder could become the first quarterback selected in what's shaping up to be a weak 2016 quarterback class, which would likely land him in the first five overall draft picks.

Of course there's potential risk in Jones' return, especially with third-team All-American J.T. Barrett returning from a fractured ankle and two-time Big Ten MVP Braxton Miller's status still up in the air.

Jones insists that Meyer hasn't guaranteed him—or any other quarterback—Ohio State's starting role, although as the only one of the three who will be healthy for spring football, Jones appears to have a leg up.

Nevertheless, by returning to school with at least one other established quarterback on the Buckeyes' roster, Jones risks losing his starting status, which could potentially lead to his draft stock plummeting. The Cleveland native's small sample size left questions but also fewer games to pick apart, and ultimately could have benefited him, had he entered this spring's draft.

"I thought it all through," Jones insisted. "The chances [of being a first-round draft pick] are slim. Football has always been a stepping stone for my education."

That Jones is even in a position to have his decision to return to school questioned is a victory in and of itself, considering where he stood just two months ago. Barrett's backup until the fourth quarter of Ohio State's regular season finale against Michigan, Jones was eyeing a likely transfer after the season, per SI.com.

But more than revealing himself to be an NFL-quality quarterback, Jones has matured as a man, as evidenced by Thursday's announcement.

That famous tweet he sent more than two years ago about not coming to Columbus to "play school?" That's old news, replaced by the image of a man turning down millions when it may have made the most sense, in order to obtain his college degree as quickly as possible.

In a sport where so much is wrong, Jones has always uniquely been himself, admitting that he "can't say" what he wishes he could to people doubting his decision. "Being a first-round draft pick means nothing to me without my education," he said.

And while that may only be a public relations line to some, Jones' actions prove that he must really mean it.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com, and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Way-Too-Early 2015 SEC Power Rankings

The 2014 season just wrapped up, but it's never too early to start looking ahead to the 2015 season.

A rather lackluster 7-5 bowl record, the absence of a national title for the second straight season and the first national title game without SEC representation for the first time since Vince Young led Texas to a title over USC in January 2006 has created an interesting storyline in the SEC.

No longer is SEC dominance a certainty, and the benefit of the doubt on the national scale has been wiped away by two straight seasons in which the conference has not won a major bowl (BCS/Group of Six).

Will Alabama repeat? There hasn't been a repeat SEC champion since Tennessee did it in 1997 and 1998, and the Crimson Tide will have plenty of talented teams vying for the top prize in the SEC.

Now that NFL draft early entrants have declared whether they're going or staying, let's rank the SEC heading into the offseason based on returning power, momentum and coaching changes.

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CFB Recruiting 200: Top 13 Athletes

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report recruiting analysts Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports Composite Rankings and provided in-depth analysis. As national signing day draws near, Bleacher Report provides a position-by-position breakdown of the best college football recruits. Today, we present the Top Athletes. 

Oftentimes, the nation’s top prep players arrive in college as raw talents who have relied solely on their athleticism to emerge as top prospects.

Others have excelled while playing multiple positions—which led to certain prospects being labeled as athletes entering college. 

A number of standouts in the 2015 class have the ability to play at least two positions in college.

For example, 4-star athlete and current Ohio State commitment Torrance Gibson has the frame to be an elite receiver or defensive back, yet he committed to Urban Meyer’s club for the chance to operate as a dual-threat quarterback.

The latest batch of Bleacher Report’s CFB 200 series will focus on athletes and projecting them at the position we believe they will play on the college level and scoring them on their ability to develop when they focus on one spot full time.

How does the 2015 group of athletes measure up, and where will these standouts line up at the college level?

All analysis provided by B/R National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani

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SEC Recruits with Best NFL Skill Sets

There’s no denying the SEC has had tremendous success producing NFL talent.

A quick glance at the recruiting rankings—team and individual—indicates the league is showing no signs of letting up in terms of adding the nation’s top athletes.

A bevy of prospects who already possess NFL measurables are headed to SEC campuses over the next few months.

Which SEC recruits have the best NFL skill sets?

 

Players listed in alphabetical order.

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Notre Dame Football: Aliz'e Jones Commitment Gives Irish Big Win over UCLA

Notre Dame may have an annual rivalry with USC, but things are heating up between the Irish and UCLA. The flip of 4-star tight end Aliz'e Jones is the latest in a growing battle between Brian Kelly and Jim Mora. 

On Thursday, Jones stepped away from his commitment to UCLA and verbally committed to Notre Dame. The top tight end in the country from Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman High School had been committed to the Bruins for over a year, but he had visited Notre Dame multiple times, most recently for the awards banquet at end of 2014. 

Jones picking Notre Dame is the latest in a battle between the two programs for top talent, with each school winning their fair share. Before Jones, it was defensive lineman Matt Dickerson last year. A longtime Irish pledge who the Irish stuck with through a major injury during his senior season, Dickerson flipped his commitment just weeks before signing day after committing to the Irish in the summer. 

But Dickerson's flip was nothing compared to the saga surrounding Eddie Vanderdoes. After faxing his letter of intent to Notre Dame, the 5-star defensive tackle wanted out within weeks, with more than a few people pointing to his continued recruitment by UCLA defensive line coach Angus McClure.

Kelly allowed Vanderdoes to enroll at UCLA, but refused to release him from his letter of intent. After a lengthy appeal process, Vanderdoes won immediate eligibility, citing a pull to stay closer to his ill grandmother in California among a myriad of reasons. 

Notre Dame and UCLA fighting over players has hardly been limited to Mora and Kelly, though. Former Irish receiver Shaq Evans found success with the Bruins. So did tight end Joseph Fauria. Notre Dame also lost a key recruiting battle for Anthony Barr, who despite family ties to the Irish, chose to play in Westwood. 

Notre Dame's latest victory for Jones heals some of those wounds—assuming it holds. Thanks to a solid recruitment by Scott Booker, the Irish have a versatile athlete who could see the field immediately, a threat as a detached tight end who will be an instant mismatch. 

Nearly as important is the growing connection between Notre Dame and Bishop Gorman. Long one of the best talent producers on the West Coast, the Irish first landed left tackle Ronnie Stanley and have followed it up with Jones and his teammate Nicco Fertitta. 

With Ben Koyack graduating and no other tight ends in the Irish's 2015 recruiting class, Jones is a key cog in a group that should grow by a few more before all is said and done. He's also the latest Notre Dame victory in a recruiting rivalry that's growing with the Bruins. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football's Winners and Losers of 2015 NFL Draft Early Entry Decisions

The Jan. 15 deadline to declare for the NFL draft has passed. As far as we can tell, we have the unofficial list of underclassmen who will leave college early and turn pro.

Maybe as important, we have the list of underclassmen who won't. Like every year, certain players bypassed the draft to return for their junior or senior seasons, putting off a paycheck to remain at school, even though the NFL thought highly of them.

The biggest losers of this process aren't the teams that lost the most players necessarily. It has more to do with context than quantity. Oregon lost Marcus Mariota, but we've known he was going to leave since September. That doesn't count. What counts is losing a surprise player, someone whose future was on the fence.

Sound off with your own winners and losers below.

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Every Power-Conference Team's Best Returning Player for 2015 Season

The deadline has come and gone for the 2015 NFL draft, with stars like Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston headlining a strong group of underclassmen who’ve made themselves eligible for May’s draft.

You might wonder: Who’s left? Who can I focus my attention on next fall? Never fear. There’s plenty of talent remaining in college football’s ranks. That’s the beauty of the game. Talented players always step forward to replace those who’ve graduated and moved on to the NFL, and 2015 is no exception.

Here’s a look at the most talented player on each Power Five roster. We examined the rosters and looked for significant impact, as well as the potential to do more this fall.

Stats were taken from each team’s individual web page.

 

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