NCAA Football News

Georgia Football: Best Quotes, Key Takeaways from SEC Media Days

The SEC media days have come and gone, and it ended with the Georgia Bulldogs taking the stage in Birmingham.

Head coach Mark Richt along with Malcolm Mitchell, John Theus and Jordan Jenkins were in attendance for the Bulldogs taking questions from media from all over the country. There were a lot of things for Richt and his players to talk about, including the outlook on the season, the quarterback battle and even Richt’s new look. Yes, Richt has a new look, and it was on display on Thursday.

Here are some of the best quotes and takeaways from the Bulldogs' stint at media days.

 

Best Quotes

One of the burning questions the media wanted to ask Richt is the quarterback situation. With the Bulldogs adding Greyson Lambert, it’s now a full-out competition to see who will start on opening weekend. Richt has this to say via John Zenor of the AP (via the Advocate).

“I think it’s going to take a while. We have 29 practice opportunities before the first game, and we’re going to get a rotation where we can see the guys that we want to see compete and then make a decision on who should be the starter.”

But one of the other things that was interesting with Richt is the question was brought up if he was going to retire anytime soon. This is what Richt had to say, via Mark Schlabach:

Richt said he has no plan to retire anytime soon. "I'm going to do it as long as the Lord says to do it."

— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) July 16, 2015

It’s good that Richt is not going anywhere anytime soon, but one of the things that generated the most buzz (literally) is Mark Richt’s new haircut. Jenkins had to take a double take when he saw it for the first time. Here’s what he had to say, via Dayne Young of WALRB:

 

#UGA LB Jordan Jenkins says the players didn't recognize Mark Richt after his buzz cut haircut. #Dawgspic.twitter.com/65Pwx5QV2M

— Dayne Young (@dayneyoung) July 16, 2015

Mitchell was on hand because he’s expected to have a strong season for the Bulldogs after missing all of 2013 with an ACL injury, and he struggled last season because he was still recovering from it. Here’s what he had to say about making his comeback (via Les East of the Advocate).

“I’ve learned patience, I’ve learned persistence, I’ve learned to stay passionate about the things you love. I’ve learned to hold on to a dream long enough to see it through.”

 

Key Takeaways

One of the things that fans learned while reading about and watching the Bulldogs at media days is that it has been a quiet offseason for the Bulldogs. Jake Rowe of 247Sports said that someone asked Theus the question about that, and he said that the overall character of the team is good. He also mentioned the leadership in the locker room, and character development has also played a factor in the quiet offseason.

That is a good thing because the Bulldogs can focus on the task at hand, which is winning the SEC East instead of finding out when and if a certain player can join the team because of what he did during the offseason.

And speaking of the SEC East, the Bulldogs are the heavy favorite to win the division. The media voted on who would win the both divisions and the conference, and the Bulldogs got the most first-place votes with 166, which is well in front of second place Tennessee, who got 36 first-place votes (via Natalie Roe of the Red and Black).

Who the Bulldogs play will be a mystery because Alabama is picked to win the SEC West, but the winner of the conference will be Auburn…Go figure.

One of the reasons the Bulldogs are a favorite to win the SEC East is they could have one of the best offenses in the nation. However, with a new offensive coordinator in Brian Schottenheimer, one would think the offense will be different, right?

That probably won’t be the case because Rowe said that Richt told the media when they were looking for a new offensive coordinator, they were looking for someone who had the same philosophy as himself and former offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Richt also told the media that the plays they will run this season won’t be a lot different than what they ran last season.

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Tennessee Football: Is the Volunteers' Rush Attack Back?

The NCAA released a list of 69 candidates to watch for the 2015 Doak Walker Award given to the nation's top running back this week, and nary a Tennessee football player was to be found.

It's understandable that touted JUCO transfer Alvin Kamara wouldn't be on the list, having never played a Division I down.

But the exclusion of rising sophomore Jalen Hurd is inexplicable, especially considering nine SEC running backs, including Mississippi State's Ashton Shumpert and Vanderbilt's Ralph Webb, were on it.

The snub is one that won't be lost on Hurd, the mammoth runner from Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Last year, he used the whispers that he was too tall to be effective as a running back and the comment from a USC coach on national signing day that he was "so soft and terrible" as fuel for what turned out to be a stellar season.

He finished with 1,120 total yards and seven touchdowns in 2014 running behind a suspect offensive line that had to break in five new starters.

Once quarterback Joshua Dobbs took over against Alabama in the middle of the season, UT's rushing game enjoyed a revival (along with the rest of the offense).

If the ground attack can continue on that upward trajectory, it will bode well for a program that has experienced some major doldrums thanks partly to its inability to run the ball.

Dating back to 2008, Tennessee has ranked no higher than eighth in the league in rushing offense. In what Tennessee head coach Butch Jones referred to at this week's SEC media days as a "line-of-scrimmage league," the Vols have fallen flat.

With that lengthy level of inefficiency, why are Tennessee coaches more optimistic things can change this year? The answer is many-pronged.

Now that the line is a year more mature, and with the addition of Kamara to take some of the load off Hurd, Jones seemed confident when discussing his runners.

Before getting up to the podium to talk to the horde of media members in Hoover, Alabama, he told the SEC Network's Anthony McFarland and Marcus Spears some of the reasons behind his renewed faith in running the ball:

We have much more confidence going into this season with the ability to run the ball. And, as you guys know playing in this great conference, you have to stop the run and you have to be able to run the football effectively. We have much more confidence going in—obviously a year older, a year more in the weight room, the experience, and obviously having two very, very good running backs with Jalen and Alvin is going to help matters, as well.

And then any time you can mix in a quarterback who can make plays with this legs, it helps. We always talk about, to really be an effective offense, you have to have at least three players who can handle the ball. And I think that's really at any level of football. If you have three players that can really handle the ball, you're going to have a chance week in and week out.

The development of Dobbs and the fact that UT has some talented tailbacks in the backfield aren't the only reasons for excitement.

When you go an entire recruiting cycle without signing an offensive lineman the way former Vols coach Derek Dooley did in 2012, it takes years to recover.

Throw in the unfortunate lack of tiered talent throughout UT's line that led to four senior starters in 2013 and Tiny Richardson leaving a year early for the NFL, and that was the perfect recipe for disaster last year. 

Not only was UT 122nd in sacks allowed a season ago with 43, the Vols were also a paltry 92nd in rush offense, getting a shade more than 146 yards per game on the ground.

Dobbs moved the pocket and kept defenses honest, and those numbers crept up toward the end of last year. With more depth and talent along the front this year to go along with three potential senior starters in Kyler Kerbyson, Marcus Jackson and Mack Crowder, UT should only keep trending in the right direction.

All those big boys up front getting better and better certainly won't hurt matters. The Vols must replace former walk-on warrior-turned-starter Jacob Gilliam at right tackle, but Brett Kendrick had a great spring, and UT also welcomed highly touted prospects Drew Richmond and Jack Jones into the mix.

The inconsistent Crowder is being pushed by sophomore Coleman Thomas (who played out of position at tackle a year ago), and there is competition across the entire front.

They've got a big boy to block for in Hurd. Jones noted to the media that his emerging star is 12 pounds heavier than his UTSports.com profile notes.

After dominating the TaxSlayer Bowl victory over Iowa, Hurd had shoulder surgery that kept him out for much of the spring, making it surgeries on both shoulders the past two years. But he looked sharp in limited action in the Orange & White Game and is healthy and ready to roll.

While he was out, Kamara proved why Tennessee was thrilled to get him from Georgia and others out of Hutchinson Community College. Not only did he display the ability to turn up the jets and get to the edge or the second level, he was durable shouldering almost all of the load throughout the spring.

Cincinnati senior transfer Ralph David Abernathy IV and the freshman duo of John Kelly and Joseph Young will provide depth and a varying skill set to complement Hurd and Kamara, so UT has plenty of options. 

The Vols have a dynamic dual-threat quarterback, and they also have an experienced (if unproven) offensive line with a depth chart full of talented youngsters in case the upperclassmen falter.

If UT truly lives up to the expectations surrounding the program this year, it'll be because of a renewed dedication to running the ball and being able to sustain drives by grinding out yards on the ground.

Neither Hurd nor Kamara may be showered with national praise this offseason, but their production on the field will ultimately determine just how good the Vols will be in 2015.

 

All quotes obtained via SEC Network Broadcast unless otherwise noted. All statistics gathered from CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information obtained from 247Sports.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Does Ohio State Have a Shot at Landing 5-Star Offensive Tackle Gregory Little?

Ohio State has a chance to land one of the country's top recruits in Gregory Little, a 5-star offensive tackle who decommitted from Texas A&M on Monday.

Little, rated the top tackle and the No. 2 overall prospect for the class of 2016, reopened his recruitment, per a report from Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles. And while he didn't speak directly about his decommitment, his mother—Terry Lacy-Little—provided the update.

"At the time he committed, he knew that was the place he wanted to be," Little's mother said of Texas A&M, per Sayles. "Fast-forward [to now], he felt it was too early in the process to commit. Because this is such a life-changing event, he feels he has to go through the recruiting process to evaluate where he wants to go."

And fortunately for Urban Meyer, Ohio State is in the running for the standout from Allen, Texas.

That became evident in May, when Little told Greg Powers of Scout.com that he was only "50 percent committed" to the Aggies. He also highlighted the four schools he's considering—and wants to visit—alongside Texas A&M.

"Visits coming up I have Ole Miss, Alabama at the beginning of June," Little said, per Powers. "Also Ohio State, LSU and Texas A&M." 

As expected, Little made those visits to the Rebels and the Crimson Tide in early June, which may have triggered his decommitment. And according to 247 Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions, Nick Saban and Alabama are the favorites to land the stud lineman.

But Meyer and the Buckeyes will do everything they can to become a serious contender for his pledge, and it's easy to see why.

Little has incredible speed despite his 6'5 ½", 305-pound frame, which helps him excel in pass-blocking. He also has the strength to be an effective run-blocker, and as an all-around player, he's one of the most highly recruited prospects in the country with 27 offers to date.

He established himself as the top offensive lineman in the 2016 class last week at The Opening—the premier high school football camp for elite recruits—by winning offensive line MVP honors. He held his own against the top defensive linemen in the country, including No. 1 overall recruit Rashan Gary

"I want to go against the best," Little said of his battles with Gary, per Sayles. "I feel if I don't go against the best, I'm just wasting my time. He's the best, so I want to go against him. We're real close, so it's cool."

But can the Buckeyes go into Texas and steal this marquee recruit from the SEC? Meyer has had success recruiting from the Lone Star State during his time at Ohio State, landing players such as J.T. BarrettDontre WilsonDemetrius Knox and Tristen Wallace, but this battle will be more difficult.

The Buckeyes certainly have a shot with Little, but they'll need to get him on campus for an official visit. From there, Meyer can showcase Ohio State's fantastic work along the offensive line over the last three years. More specifically, he can point to last year, when he and offensive line coach Ed Warinner had to replace four multiyear senior starters yet still managed to build a unit that paved the way to a national title. 

Those four starters Ohio State had to replace? Three of those guys—Jack Mewhort (Indianapolis Colts), Corey Linsley (Green Bay Packers) and Andrew Norwell (Carolina Panthers)—spent their rookie seasons in the NFL as starters for playoff teams.

"I'm still looking around at other options because this is a lifetime choice," Little told Wesley Sinor of AL.com. "So I'm just trying to make the right one."

And if Little makes the trip to Columbus, Meyer will have plenty of selling points to help the Buckeyes.

 

All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Langi Tuifua to Oregon: Ducks Land 4-Star DE Prospect

The Oregon Ducks have already started building their 2017 recruiting class after 4-star defensive end Langi Tuifua announced he'd committed to play college ball in Eugene on Thursday.

Justin Hopkins of 247Sports reported the news of Tuifua's early decision.

"Yes I committed to Oregon," said Tuifua in a simple yet effective statement of declaration.

The Bingham High School prospect from South Jordan, Utah, is the 11th-ranked weak-side defensive end in the class of 2017 according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

Tuifua is listed at 6'3" and 200 pounds, which is a rather stout frame for a young man gearing up for his junior season of high school. He'd previously committed to stay in his home state and suit up for Utah, but he later backed off to weigh his options further.

Now Tuifua will square off against the Utes in the Pac-12 as a Duck.

Oregon runs a 3-4 alignment at the moment under defensive coordinator Don Pellum. If he's meant to play in the trenches, Tuifua will have to bulk up in the years to come in order to fit the scheme.

But there's a chance he can convert to an edge-rushing outside linebacker. Judging off of Tuifua's Hudl footage in Hopkins' report, he has exceptional lateral quickness, closing speed and quick-twitch movement. Those attributes ought to translate to Tuifua pressuring the opposing quarterback and playing in space effectively if need be.

Just halfway through his high school career, there is still plenty of time for Tuifua to improve before he even sets foot on Oregon's campus. The Ducks nevertheless have to be excited about his upside and eventually welcoming him to the fold. 

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Biggest X-Factors in the SEC West in 2015

The SEC West was the most competitive division in college football in 2014, and this upcoming season is shaping up to be no different. 

From Alabama to Arkansas, there's no such thing as an easy win on the SEC West schedule as the division is loaded with quality teams from top to bottom. 

With so many top-notch teams, one weak link for any team could possibly be the difference between competing for a spot in Atlanta or being in the the bottom half of the division. Each team in the West feels like it has a legitimate chance to take the division crown. 

However, each school will also need to have certain players improve, step up and lead their team in order to have a chance at winning the title in college football's deepest division. 

Here are some of the biggest X-factors in the SEC West as the 2015 season approaches. 

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Tennessee Facing Federal Sexual Violence Investigation: Latest Details, Reaction

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is investigating allegations of sexual violence regarding football players at the University of Tennessee.

“While privacy laws prevent the university from disclosing the details of the complaint, I can assure you we will cooperate fully with OCR as it investigates the complaint,” chancellor Jimmy Cheek said in an email, per Anita Wadhwani of the Tennessean.

Tennessee joins Florida State and Vanderbilt among major universities at the center of government probes. With sexual violence long a problem on college campuses, increased social pressure and media coverage have spurred efforts into investigating these claims.

No fewer than six Tennessee players on the 2014 roster—Michael Williams, A.J. Johnson, Von Pearson, Riyahd Jones, Marlin Lane and another unnamed player—have been accused of sexual assault. Williams and Johnson were both allegedly involved in the November sexual assault of another student athlete; Williams has been indicted on charges while Johnson was named a suspect, per Wadhwani.

Jones, Lane and Pearson were all named as suspects in separate attacks. None of the cases has been prosecuted, nor have arrests been made.

Tennessee last August implemented a new sexual assault policy on an interim basis that will be finalized in time for the fall semester. If found guilty of Title IX violations, Tennessee could risk losing some—or even all—of its federal funding, per WSMV.com.     

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Deshaun Watson Injury: Updates on Clemson Star's Recovery from ACL Surgery

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson suffered a torn ACL during a late-November practice last season, but he appears primed to make a return when the Tigers open their 2015 campaign against Wofford on Sept. 5. 

Continue for updates.     

Watson Practicing Without Restrictions Thursday, July 16

According to Tigernet.com's Tony Crumpton, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney discussed the progress Watson's made throughout the rehabilitation process when he met with reporters at a media golf outing Wednesday evening: 

He's been full go since May. He's done everything. He really did a lot in the spring. We're as confident as you can possibly be in a guy. He's done everything and not missed anything. He's been at all of the workouts and skills and drills. He's an above and beyond guy, whatever you tell him he needs to do, he will do above and beyond what he needs to do and go above that. He looks great, great summer and excited to get back there. When we start in a couple of weeks, he'll be leading the charge with no restrictions and he has been doing that and has not missed anything.

According to College Football Talk's John Taylor, Watson was one of 24 quarterbacks named to the Davey O'Brien Award watch list Thursday. Furthermore, the Clemson signal-caller joined Auburn's Jeremy Johnson, Miami's Brad Kaaya, Memphis' Paxton Lynch and Arizona's Anu Solomon as the only sophomores to qualify for the esteemed list.

Watson was horribly banged up during his freshman year, as he dealt with a broken bone in his right hand and a broken collarbone prior to tearing the ligament in his knee.    

But when he was healthy, Watson was among the nation's most polished passers. As a freshman, he completed 67.9 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,466 yards, 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Watson also ran for 200 yards and five scores on 63 carries. 

With Watson presumably back under center at 100 percent, Clemson has every reason to be optimistic as it gears up for a new season. 

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Texas A&M Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from SEC Media Days

Texas A&M's arrival in the SEC in 2012 was a lightning bolt to the top, compliments of Johnny Manziel and a wide-open offense mostly unseen before in the league. But since then, the Aggies have been on a steady downward trend, going from 11 wins that first year to nine in 2013 and then eight last year.

The slide is projected to continue this season, at least in the eyes of the SEC's voting media, as it picked A&M to finish sixth in the seven-team West Division, according to the SEC's official website. Only four of the 225 ballots submitted had A&M finishing first, and two had it claiming the conference title.

Coach Kevin Sumlin seems to be taking these reduced expectations in stride, opting to bring a trio of linemen—but not rising star Myles Garrett—instead of any of his many notable skill-position players.

Senior center Mike Matthews, junior tackle Germain Ifedi and senior defensive lineman Julien Obioha represented the Aggies on Tuesday, giving the team a very lunchpail-and-hard hat vibe that goes against the high-flying persona Sumlin's program has resembled the last few years.

But Sumlin isn't ready to downplay what his team is capable of, however.

"I think we've established ourselves as a team that has high expectations internally," he said, per Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com.

A&M returns 15 starters from last year's team, including defensive end Garrett—who set the SEC freshman sack record previously held by Jadeveon Clowney—and quarterback Kyle Allen. He took over for Kenny Hill midway through last season and threw for 1,058 yards and 13 touchdowns in his five starts, including a 294-yard, four-touchdown effort in the Liberty Bowl win over West Virginia.

Allen figures to hold onto that starting job despite the arrival this summer of 5-star quarterback prospect Kyler Murray, the top-rated dual-threat passer in the 2015 recruiting class, per 247Sports. Sumlin appeared open to the possibility of playing both, however.

"I really haven't done it before; we'll see," Sumlin said, per Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News. "We've never started out that way. That doesn't mean that we won't. We’ll see where we are in fall."

With an offense that returns five players who had at least 29 receptions last season (and brings in standout receiving prospect Christian Kirk), it probably won't matter who plays at quarterback for the Aggies since Sumlin's teams are routinely among the most explosive in the country. Last year's team, which ranked 32nd nationally in total offense, was the only one in his head-coaching career that wasn't among the top 12 in FBS.

 

Fresh blood on defense

A&M returns seven defensive starters, led by Garrett, and has highly touted tackle Daylon Mack coming in this summer. But the biggest addition to the Aggies defense won't ever put on a helmet and pads.

John Chavis takes over as defensive coordinator, the same job he held at LSU from 2009-14. His hiring was the source of much controversy during the offseason, leading to a lawsuit by LSU over Chavis' buyout from his contract at that school, but his track record with the Tigers seems to make him worth the legal headache.

Chavis' LSU defenses ranked 15th or better in each of the past five seasons, and in the three meetings against Sumlin's teams at A&M, he held the Aggies it to 15.3 points per game. A reporter at SEC media days asked Sumlin if he thought the best way to beat Chavis was to hire him away from LSU, and Sumlin didn't dodge the question.

"I didn't kind of," he said, per Kleinpeter. "That's exactly what I did. There's really nothing more to the answer than that."

By stealing a coach away from the team that has become A&M's chief rival in the SEC and whom it ends the regular season against, there's now some added "fire" to the rivalry. 

"I don't know if it can get any more spicier than it is now," Sumlin said, per the Associated Press (via Newsday).

 

The 'fat kids' take center stage

As exciting as Texas A&M's offenses have been under Sumlin, the reality is that he's been most successful at sending top-tier offensive linemen to the NFL. Each of the last three drafts have had an Aggies blocker go in the first round, most recently Cedric Ogbuehi, so it made sense that Sumlin brought along three players from the trenches to media days.

"It's kinda cool because he brought all the fat kids, I like that," Obioha told SB Nation's Good Bull Hunting blog.

A&M's prowess on the defensive line hasn't been as noteworthy as on the other side, though Garrett's play in 2014 at end and the arrival of Mack is putting more emphasis on that unit. The 6'4" Obioha has started since his freshman year, and this offseason he has added 20 pounds in order to convert from an end to a tackle, as Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle recently noted:

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Nebraska Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons

Nebraska football fans are anxiously awaiting the start of fall camp under new head coach Mike Riley. As they wait, they will be looking through the roster and wondering what the secrets to a successful Nebraska season could be in 2015.

What will be Nebraska’s strengths it can exploit? Its weaknesses to avoid? And what secret weapons can Nebraska fans talk about and look smart to their friends about during a late-summer barbecue? Here are a few options to consider.

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Les Miles on Fournette's Outfit: 'Just Short of Throwing Him off the Plane'

Leonard Fournette, LSU's bruising running back, is known for his prowess on the field. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for his fashion sense. 

Watch as Tigers head coach Les Miles comments on Fournette's interesting choice of clothes for SEC media days.

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4-Star Florida Commit Chauncey Gardner Tweets Official Visits Plan

Florida's biggest commit for 2016 remains part of its class, but that isn't stopping him from taking advantage of the benefits of being a highly sought-after recruit.

Chauncey Gardner announced on Twitter Thursday his itinerary for taking official visits to five of the 25 schools that have offered him scholarships. All five trips were scheduled to occur during the 2015 season, each when the school will be hosting one of its biggest games of the year.

Shortly after making that announcement, though, Gardner sent out another tweet indicating he'd have to reschedule his trip to Georgia (originally set for Oct. 3 against Alabama) because of a prior commitment:

Gardner, from Cocoa, Florida, is rated by 247Sports as the No. 152 prospect in the 2016 class. He's considered the 14th-best cornerback, but the 6'0", 194-pound Gardner is also getting looked at as a potential running back at the college level. Last season, he scored seven total touchdowns along with three interceptions, three sacks and 49 tackles on defense for Cocoa High School. 

Gardner committed to Florida in March, marking the second time he had pledged to the Gators. The first time came in June 2014, but after Will Muschamp resigned, Gardner decommitted in January. He re-pledged to Florida and new coach Jim McElwain during the school's Junior Day, and when he showed up at The Opening last week in Oregon, Gardner had shaved his future school's nickname into his hair.

Despite the second commitment, other schools have continued to recruit Gardner quite hard. He picked up offers from Alabama, Auburn and Oregon State in April and from Nebraska in May, and Gardner is also scheduled to attend Ohio State's Friday Night Lights camp on July 24, per 247Sports.

Gardner is one of two 4-star commits Florida has for 2016, along with junior college running back Mark Thompson. The Gators' class currently has 14 commitments and is ranked 22nd by 247Sports.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Ole Miss Football: Could Distractions Derail Rebels' 2015 Season?

HOOVER, Ala. — After his lengthy introductory remarks, the opening question for Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze in the main room at SEC media days was a two-parter, the first of which had to do with shoes. 

That’s right, shoes. As in, after rival coaches Dan Mullen and Bret Bielema drew attention with their shoe war this week, “do you have an entry?”

“I'm a pretty simple guy,” Freeze responded. “I'm going to wear my Johnston Murphys from Williams Brothers, the general store down in Philadelphia, Mississippi. You should try the baloney and bacon there for sure too. It's quite fine.”

While that answer was telling for those who aren’t familiar with Freeze, his reply to the second part was more important regarding this season, about dealing with rising pressure and growing expectations.

“I think it's important that you have a great definition for success, and mine is probably a bit different than what you hear,” said Freeze, who during his first three seasons has led steady growth, as the Rebels went from 7-6 to 8-5 and 9-4.

“I don't know that you can define if I've been successful or not in the time that I've been at Ole Miss. I'm sure it can be argued that we have, but I think the real success would be how are our guys doing 20 years from now? Were we successful then? I mean, there will come a point where people will forget about the wins. I know I get defined about that. That doesn't mean I have to define myself by that.”

Regardless, while the team’s manta for 2015 is “Chasing Greatness,” Freeze didn’t talk a lot about football on Thursday—or at least not enough. From NCAA investigators to the Rebels' nickname, he’s been spending a lot of time dealing with the other things that can occur with rising programs—distractions.

Arrests, transfers and agent issues happen everywhere, but the problems and impacts seem to multiply when you start winning at this level.

“I really have struggled with some of that as we've moved forward,” Freeze said. “Man, I've come to one conclusion. You control what you can control, and you cannot worry about the rest of it.”

Nevertheless, Freeze took time to comment on the Confederate flag controversy that’s again gripping his home state. Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State have issued statements in support of changing the state flag, which has featured the Confederate emblem since 1894, and the NCAA has long maintained it will not hold its championships in states that fly the flag.

Yet it’s hardly a new issue, dating back to before Tommy Tuberville was the football coach and Rob Evans headed the men’s basketball program two decades ago.

“In the late '90s, our school made a move in a direction away from the flag, so our school has kind of made up its mind of where it's at,” Freeze said. “I'm a Mississippian. No one understands the pride of the people of that state and the heritage of that state any better than I do.

"While I'm not a political figure, that symbol has been hijacked somewhat by groups that have meant ill-will toward other people. I think it's time that we move in a different direction with the state flag.”

Freeze also had to talk extensively about Laremy Tunsil’s eligibility, even though there wasn’t anything new. Specifically, the NCAA is looking into allegations made by his stepfather, Lindsey Miller, that the starting left tackle had already had extensive contact with sports agents and whether his recruitment included any improper benefits.

With Tunsil considered one of the best offensive linemen in the nation and a strong preseason candidate for the Outland Trophy, his status could be crucial to the Rebels’ hopes this fall.

Moreover, dealing with such an issue is sort of new territory for Freeze.

“I've heard Coach [Nick] Saban and Coach [Les] Miles and others say, 'guys, we've got an issue brewing with these kids and agents and things,'” he explained. “So now I'm experiencing it, and it is very difficult to manage. You want your kids to be focused on the task at hand, and the fact that you want them to understand that the only thing that can do anything for you right now is your resume that you're going to put on the field.

“You hope that other professionals who are trying to get to them would respect that, and some do. I don't know that I have the exact answer, but it is a concern for sure that that can be a distraction for your kids.”

At this point of the annual media gauntlet, Freeze looked like he would have done almost anything to get a question about the season opener against Tennessee-Martin or the Week 3 rematch with Alabama, the team it knocked off at No. 1 in 2014. Instead, before he could leave the podium there was yet another question about the flag.

Almost completely overshadowed was the good news that wide receiver Laquon Treadwell has recovered well from his horrific injury (broken leg and dislocated ankle) sustained against Auburn last year and the quarterback competition that will continue during training camp.

But that’s what comes with success in the SEC.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer.

Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Georgia Football Recruiting: Previewing UGA's 'Dawg Night' Camp

With the 2015 season kicking off next month, the book is almost closed on the offseason camp circuit.

However, a few schools are still expecting visitors to drop by until the end of this month—with Georgia’s ‘Dawg Night’ camp this weekend being one of the major events left on the calendar.

Head coach Mark Richt and his staff will have a number of the nation’s top prospects on campus this weekend.

As noted by Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247, more than 10 5-stars in the 2016 and 2017 classes are scheduled to be in Athens this weekend—including a trio of current commitments in quarterback Jacob Eason, offensive lineman Ben Cleveland and defensive tackle Julian Rochester.

There will be a few storylines to watch for Bulldogs fans. Let’s delve into a few of them in his preview of ‘Dawg Night.'

 

The Impact

As noted by Bleacher Report’s Andrew Hall, the 2016 class was jump-started at last year’s ‘Dawg Night’ camp when Eason and Cleveland both pulled the trigger and became the first two members of the 2016 class.

It’s not out of the question for the Bulldogs commit list—whether it be for the 2016 class or beyond—to grow in the aftermath of the camp.

The benefits of getting a large number of elite prospects on camp could also prove fruitful down the line.

If Georgia is to make a run at landing a top-five class, this weekend could play a pivotal role in laying the groundwork for the push toward an elite class.

 

Commits Coming in to Work

Eason and Cleveland are just two of the current 2016 Bulldogs commits who are scheduled to attend.

In fact, the majority of Georgia’s 12 commits are expected to be at Dawg Night—with 4-star receiver pledge Darion Anderson the only one who has confirmed he won’t attend due to his desire to rehab from a recent knee surgery, as noted by Jeff Sentell of the AJC.

Aside from getting on campus and working with their future coaches, there’s another added benefit for Georgia in having its current pledges in town over the weekend.

Given the wealth of uncommitted prospects on campus, players such as Eason will undoubtedly lend a helping hand to the coaching staff in pitching the ‘Dawgs to top prospects in attendance.

In particular, at The Opening last week, Eason mentioned his plans to be in the ear of top targets at Dawg Night.

“All the Georgia boys that are going down there, I’m sure there will be a lot of Georgia guys,” Eason told Bleacher Report. “Whoever is down there and whoever I see that I like, I will try to work on them.”

 

Top Targets on Deck

In-state prospects such as 5-star receiver Kyle Davis, 5-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown, 4-star athlete Demetris Robertson and 4-star athlete Mecole Hardman are among the players who Richt and his staff have been aggressively recruiting for quite some time.

Landing those players are pivotal to Georgia’s quest to make a run at landing the SEC’s top class.

However, there are a few heavy-hitters hailing from outside the Peach State that are likely to be wooed by Richt and his staff—headlined by 5-star defensive tackle and No. 1 overall prospect Rashan Gary.

At The Opening last week, Gary spoke on his attraction to the Bulldogs program.

“That’s SEC ball,” Gary told Bleacher Report. “[Georgia] put a lot of players in the NFL with their style of defense. When I went there the first time, we talked about scheme and I like how I fit into their scheme.”

Another interesting player to watch is 5-star tight end and current Florida State pledge Isaac Nauta

Nauta was one of the more vocal recruiters for the Seminoles last week at The Opening, so flipping him may be a long shot. However, as Mansell noted, it is his second trip to Athens in a few weeks time, and he has some connections to the Bulldogs program. 

 

Tracking the Future

While a host of elite rising seniors will make their way to Athens, there will also be a number of touted underclassmen who will also be on campus this weekend.

Leading the crop of prospects from the 2017 class is 5-star in-state corner Deangelo Gibbs.

The 6’2”, 204-pounder was one of the few juniors invited to The Opening, and he was named one of the top corners at the event, according to 247Sports.

Another 2017 defensive back who turned heads at The Opening was 4-star athlete Jamyest Williams—who will be accompanying a few of his prep teammates from Archer High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Williams recently released his list of Top 10 schools, and the homestanding Bulldogs surprisingly came in on the low end of it at No. 9.

As he told Chris Kirschner of the AJC, that’s because he hasn’t been told where Richt and his staff would like him to play, should he choose the Bulldogs.

“To be honest, I really don’t know where Georgia will play me at,” Williams said. “I don’t know if they want me to play offense or defense, so I would like a clear answer from them.”

Another pair of visitors to watch are a pair of out-of-state studs in 5-star running back Anthony McFarland and 5-star safety Jeffrey Okudah.

With quality prospects across the board in different classes bound for Georgia this weekend, the news coming out of Athens in the coming days is sure to send waves throughout the recruiting universe.

 

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

Auburn Football: Why Austin Golson Will Be Tigers' X-Factor in 2015

Replacing an all-time great at the second most important position for the Auburn offense, sophomore center Austin Golson will be the Tigers’ X-factor for the 2015-16 season. 

The Prattville, Alabama native began his career at Ole Miss, where he played in 12 games as a true freshman, mostly at guard. After transferring to Auburn to be closer to home, Golson worked at center for the scout team towards the end of last season, which he had to sit out, per the NCAA’s transfer rules. 

After a strong spring practice, Golson emerged as the likely starter at center for this upcoming season. However, he will have some massive shoes to fill. 

Reese Dismukes had arguably the best career of any center in Auburn’s storied history. A four-year starter, Dismukes started at center for 50 games and missed only one game due to injury. He also was twice named first team all-SEC, and as a senior was named a consensus All-American and winner of the Rimington Award as the nation’s best center. 

In May, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Dismukes, now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, will be the toughest player Auburn has to replace going into this season, according to AL.com’s Mike Herndon

"He was the leader for us up front,” Lashlee said. “He made all the calls. With what we do, playing faster and we still make a lot of calls, that center, he's almost as vital as our quarterback. There was a lot that Reese took on and handled very well." 

Head coach Gus Malzahn also stressed how important the center position is in Auburn’s offense, and he is confident Golson can get the job done, per Ryan Black of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. 

"He looked pretty good, so from a center's standpoint, it's very important to what we do," Malzahn said. "It's almost like another quarterback as far as everything we ask him to do with our no-huddle scheme and the pace that we play, to ID and all that. We're going to give him an opportunity." 

Malzahn then reinforced his confidence in Golson, who measures in at 6’5” and 304 pounds, at SEC Media Day, according to the Clarion Ledger’s Riley Blevins: 

As the center, Golson will be responsible for reading the defense and calling out any changes in the blocking scheme. He will also have to be completely in sync with new quarterback Jeremy Johnson in order to run Auburn’s no-huddle offense correctly. 

Johnson seems very comfortable working with Golson, according to Black. 

“I love all my linemen, but that's one of my closest linemen because he's the center," Johnson said of Golson. "I've been knowing him for a while and he's going to be great at center." 

Johnson better hope Golson can come through, because if the center falters at all this season, the offense may struggle.

In addition to a new quarterback, Auburn must replace its leading rusher in Cameron Artis-Payne, and the team only has one other player, Golson’s backup, senior Xavier Dampeer, with any significant time at the offensive line position. 

Golson showed he has the ability to play the position effectively during Auburn’s spring game. Take a look at the highlights of that game and keep an eye on No. 73, who played the whole game with the starting offense. 

Johnson was very well-protected throwing the ball and finished the game with 252 yards and two touchdowns. The running game was inconsistent, but sophomore Roc Thomas ended up with a pair of touchdowns, including the gorgeous score at the beginning of the tape, which Golson made a key block on. Golson looked strong in that game, and he seems very mobile and strong. 

After the game, Golson said he felt comfortable with where his game is at heading into fall camp, according to Mark Murphy of Inside the Auburn Tigers

“I feel like I have gotten a lot better,” said Golson, who pointed out that Dampeer finished spring with a good performance in the A-Day game, so he isn't assuming that he has won a starting spot. “I know I still have a long way to go, but as far as building chemistry with my teammates and stuff like that I have got a lot better.” 

Judging by his coaches’ and teammates’ confidence in him, along with himself, Golson looks to be ready to rise to the challenge and have a big season. The Tigers also return three starters on the offensive line, which should help Golson acclimate even more to starting center role. 

It will be all about consistency with Golson. If he plays well and steadily keeps his game where it needs to be, Auburn should have a dynamite offensive attack once more. Look for Golson to have a solid year and establish himself as a mainstay for the Tigers up front.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Biggest Winners and Losers of SEC Media Days 2015

SEC media days are all wrapped up as the various head coaches and star players took to the podium to share their thoughts. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee breaks down who the winners and losers were from the week. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jawon Pass Commits to Louisville: 4-Star QB to Reunite with Older Brother

In choosing a college, 4-star quarterback Jawon Pass said three things that were very important last month at the Elite 11 Semifinals in Los Angeles.

First, the Columbus, Georgia, athlete said he wasn't afraid of competition. Second, the school he chose would give him the best chance to "be the guy." Third, and perhaps most important, Pass gave a one-word answer to what he wanted in a winning program. "Family," he said.

On Thursday afternoon, the nation's No. 4-ranked dual-threat quarterback verbally committed to Louisville during a ceremony at Carver High School.

Pass chose the Cardinals over Alabama and Auburn—and he decided against the Crimson Tide despite making a campus visit the day before.

Pass, a 6'5", 220-pound athlete with 22 reported offers, became Louisville's 13th overall pledge of the 2016 class. He also became the Cardinals' second quarterback commit, joining 3-star Tennessee gunslinger Tylin Oden.

Additionally, Pass' commitment means he'll be reunited with his big brother, Khane Pass, a freshman safety at Louisville. According to their mother, Kershena Thomas, how close the brothers are helped to inform the decision.

"They're connected at the hip and the head," Thomas told the Courier-Journal's Steve Jones. "They are extremely close. I thought Jawon was going to need counseling when Khane left [for college]."

Pass told 247Sports' Ryan Bartow that the decision was a "no-brainer" because of his brother.

As Louisville's highest-ranked pledge, Pass won't be throwing passes to his brother, but he will have a pair of solid receivers to target in his class in 4-star Desmond Fitzpatrick and Chris Taylor-Yamanoha. Fitzpatrick is on the outskirts of being a top-300 player nationally. Taylor-Yamanoha is a player who can line up at receiver or play in the secondary if necessary.

Pass' pledge means he will go into Louisville looking to not only win starter's minutes against quarterbacks who are already there but also Oden, a 2016 commit who threw for 1,000 yards, rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and compiled 28 total touchdowns last season for Spring Hill High School in Columbia, Tennessee.

Competition, however, isn't a problem for Pass. His numbers show that he can play the game. Pass accounted for 2,601 total yards and 34 touchdowns last season, 23 of those coming via the pass.

"I'm not afraid. Anywhere I go, there will be competition," Pass told Bleacher Report. "I want to be the guy wherever I go."

Pass has been a rising name among the elite quarterback chatter. He participated in the Elite 11 Finals in Beaverton, Oregon, and showed signs of excellence throughout the week-long experience. He's a big-bodied athlete with a long stride and solid arm.

With offensive-minded coaches like head coach Bobby Petrino and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee providing tutelage, don't be surprised if Pass develops into a star in the ACC.

"He thinks that Coach McGee is a genius," Thomas told Jones. "He thinks he can have him greatly prepared for the next level. ... He thinks their scheme is a great fit for him. He's in love with that staff there."

Having his big brother there to support his objective of being one of the conference's rising quarterbacks happens to be a nice bonus.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Leonard Fournette on Nick Chubb: 'Best Running Back We Have in the SEC'

Leonard Fournette and Nick Chubb are two of the best running backs in both the SEC and the nation. Fournette had some kind words for his SEC running mate during media days. 

Watch what Leonard has to say about Nick Chubb on the podium in the video above. 

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Ultimate Guide to 2015 Big 12 Media Days

With SEC Media Days finishing up, the Big 12 will get its media circus underway at the Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas next week from July 20-21. 

You can see the full schedule and which players are attending HERE

There's no shortage of storylines for Big 12 Media Days, but which ones get the top bill? The conference is in a unique position in both the playoff and realignment/expansion landscapes. Additionally, its two blue-blood programs, Texas and Oklahoma, are looking to bounce back from disappointing seasons. 

When stability isn't the first adjective used to describe your conference, there are going to be a lot of questions as to why. As such, the ultimate guide to Big 12 Media Days has a heavy theme on these types of issues. Which big picture questions will be asked next week in Dallas? Here are five to watch. 

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SEC Media Days 2015: Highlights, Comments and Twitter Reaction from Thursday

The 2015 SEC media days wrapped up Thursday with representatives from Georgia, Ole Miss and LSU. All three programs are going to enter the season with high expectations, which led to more of an on-field focus than the previous three days in Hoover, Alabama.  

One of the biggest questions in the conference is who will start at quarterback for Georgia. The Bulldogs worked through spring ball with the hope of finding the replacement for Hutson Mason, but a clear leader never emerged from the pack.

They are still contenders due to a strong rushing attack and a defense with high-end potential. One of Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta or Greyson Lambert will need to stabilize the key position for them to move into the national title conversation, though.

Unsurprisingly, Georgia coach Mark Richt immediately got asked about the quarterback battle. He didn't have much of an update to provide, as Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com noted:

On the defensive side, Richt praised safety Dominick Sanders for putting in the type of effort it's going to take to make some serious noise this season, per Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

As a whole, Patrick Brown of the Times Free Press pointed out the head coach sounded confident his team is trending in the right direction:

That said, the highest compliment during Georgia's session came from wideout Malcolm Mitchell directed toward one of his teammates, per Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com:

Georgia is far from the only team in the SEC with lofty goals, of course. Ben Garrett of Scout.com noted Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram is setting the bar high for the Rebels:

At the end of the day, that's what we expect of ourselves. We work every day as if we're trying to go win a national championship. That's the goal. You ask anybody here on any other team, they're going to want to go in an SEC championship and a national championship. That's how we work. That's been our expectation since day one. We're definitely looking forward to week one and getting into camp and making plays and bettering ourselves to be able to make that run.

One of the uncertain factors surrounding Mississippi's outlook is the status of Laremy Tunsil. The talented offensive lineman remains an active member of the team but is currently facing allegations related to possible NCAA violations and domestic violence.

Joe Schad of ESPN.com provided coach Hugh Freeze's response to questions about the ongoing situation:

Another issue that's taken center stage this week is the state of recruiting. On Wednesday, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said he didn't pursue some prospects due to social media. Freeze spoke about another angle of the same issue, per Saturday Down South:

Turning back to the on-field discussions, the Rebels coach passed along his take on the team's outlook, as highlighted by Lyons Yellin of WWL-TV:

LSU is another team with a question mark at quarterback. Neither Anthony Jennings nor Brandon Harris played particularly well last season, and Jennings' status still must be determined after getting arrested last month with two other players for unauthorized entry of a dwelling and simple burglary.

Jim Kleinpeter of the Times-Picayune explained that head coach Les Miles expects Jennings will return to the team and battle Harris for the starting job. Regardless of who's taking the snaps under center, the head coach is expecting more production, per the Death Valley Voice:

With that unknown factor in play, Tigers running back Leonard Fournette, who rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 10 touchdowns last season, is a vital piece to the team's success. He gave a simple scouting report for opponents to utilize, as noted by Chase Goodbread of NFL.com:

He also joined the chorus of people giving preseason kudos to Georgia running back Nick Chubb, which Brad Crawford of Saturday Down South spotlighted:

Finally, the SEC Network provided Miles' season overview for LSU:

The SEC also announced the results from media voting Thursday. The projections feature Auburn holding a slight edge over Alabama to win the conference title, but the duo switched places in Western Division voting. Georgia is predicted to win the Eastern Division.

Now that the media days are complete, the focus shifts toward the regular season. Although there were the usual noteworthy anecdotes and verbal jabs during the press conferences, there wasn't much in terms of ground-breaking information over the past handful of days.

Thankfully, the opening week of play is just seven weeks away.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

3 Reasons Why Clemson Commit Tavien Feaster Can Be Future All-ACC RB for Tigers

According to 247Sports, Tavien Feaster is a 5-star all-purpose back who is committed to the Clemson Tigers.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder gives three reasons why Feaster will be a star for the Tigers.

How good can Feaster be for Clemson? Check out the video and let us know!

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