NCAA Football News

Michigan RB Coach Confirms Run Game Will Be 'Very Similar' to Alabama's

Fred Jackson tells it like it is and follows through—that’s how he’s maintained high positions within Michigan’s coaching staff for 23 years.

The guy knows what he’s doing, especially when it comes to coaching running backs and gauging offensive talent. When asked about the addition of new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier—and how his presence impacts the team's style of play—the Wolverines' elder statesman didn’t mince words.

“Well, having Doug Nussmeier—just watch Alabama, and you know we’re going to play very similar,” Jackson recently said in Detroit. “Our offense will be very similar to what’s Alabama’s doing. We’re working our asses off to make sure that we can be successful running the ball.”

Now, overall, the Michigan-Alabama comparison doesn’t fly.

However, when looking at two position groups, it begins to make a little more sense because there are two strong common factors: the offensive line—namely its potential—and the stable of runners.

Like Alabama, Michigan’s been able to pull elite athletes at those respective positions. Now, Michigan has the guy who called the shots for the Tide, a program that put up gaudy numbers while Nussmeier X’d and O’d in Tuscaloosa.

According to’s Bruce Feldman, the Tide set records in offensive touchdowns (68), points (542) and total offense (6,237 yards) in 2012. indicates that Michigan racked up 4,855 total yards (1,634 on the ground) and scored 419 points in 2013.

So, yeah, playing like Alabama—a true pro-style team—would be a good thing...


What Nussmeier Had at ‘Bama

In short, Nussmeier had one of the NCAA’s most punishing backfields for two years running.

Now entering his junior year, T.J. Yeldon has been one of the most feared ball-carriers in the game—and that’s partly due to coaching from his former OC. Derrick Henry (junior), Jalston Fowler (senior) and Kenyan Drake (junior) round out an incredibly deep pool of talent.

Maybe Nussmeier can achieve similar results in Ann Arbor, where has Derrick Green, De’Veon Smith, Drake Johnson, Justice Hayes, Sione Houma waiting for the word “Go.”

“There’s no such thing as too many running backs,” said Jackson. “Whatever you do [as a coach], you take the guys and work them in, and they’ll make sure they get the opportunity to show what they can and can’t do.”

Jackson’s right, and his philosophy is pretty much universal—because there’s also no such thing as too many linemen.

With that being said, it’s only right to mention that Nussmeier benefitted from stout O-lines. In 2013, he had a pair of early first-rounders. Chance Wormack (guard) went at No. 10 to Tennessee while D.J. Fluker (tackle) was picked at No. 11 by San Diego.

In 2014, Cyrus Kouandjio, another tackle, was selected No. 44 overall by Buffalo.

Michigan is in desperate need of assistance up front, and Nussmeier’s recent success with the Tide does more than prompt optimism—it sets the bar extremely high for the upcoming season.

As luck would have it, he’s working without Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, and he’s shuffling in a group with less combined starts than years in college.

But they’re all highly touted recruits, so it shouldn’t be that difficult, right?

In fairness to the comparison, expecting “very similar” efforts would be wiser than expecting “very similar” results from the O-line. There aren’t any Flukers or Wormacks today, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any come Week 4 or 5.

Jackson is confident that Nussmeier will bring that type of magic to Ann Arbor.


What Nussmeier Has at UM

As mentioned, he has a young O-line. However, players such as Kyle Kalis, Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson, among others, have been around for a couple of years. They just haven’t seen the field (redshirts, injury, etc.).

In all likelihood, getting those guys into regular roles will be one of Nussmeier’s top priorities. It should be, anyway.

Now, it’s back to the backfield because Michigan fans would love to see a Yeldon-esque runner in maize and blue each Saturday. Might that be Ty Isaac, a 6’3”, 240-pound USC transfer? He’s nearly the same size, and like Yeldon, he was highly sought-after as a high schooler.

And what about Green and Smith? They’re valuable components to the Wolverines’ all-sophomore trio—a trio that won’t exist if Isaac can’t clear waivers in time to play fall.

Nevertheless, it’s fun to wonder “what if,” isn’t it? And since we’re talking fun, how about this factoid? According to, Alabama was interested in each of them.

Nussmeier knows these guys. They’re not “new” types of talents. They’re the same ones he tried to lure down south. Now he’s up north. There isn’t a whole lot of difference, other than in win totals, between personnel groups.

If Jackson says to expect something like Alabama, expect it. The Tide's now rolling off the Great Lakes and into The Big House.


Quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.

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

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USC Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons

Despite the many changes USC is going through this offseason, the fall promises a fresh start for a team that is expected to be fairly competitive in 2014. Even with a handful of early NFL departures and graduations, the majority of USC's playmakers on both sides of the ball return for Steve Sarkisian's inaugural campaign.

Depth issues aside, the Trojans field several talented athletes guaranteed to dazzle on Saturdays. That said, USC also has its fair share of weak spots that, if not strengthened during fall camp, could really plague the Trojans on their quest to a 10-win season. The influx of freshmen set to join the ranks in August brings the Trojans new stars in the making, and with them are sure to come pleasant surprises.

Let's take a look at what some of those are.



Offensively, USC's biggest assets can be found in the running backs and wide receivers corps. Nelson Agholor is a budding star in the passing lanes, and the bruising duo of Tre Madden and Javorius "Buck" Allen gobbles up yards on the ground. Through the Trojans' shaky quarterback transition last season, these athletes did their part to keep the touchdowns coming.

With former Trojan wide receiver Marqise Lee hampered by injury in 2013, Agholor took on additional responsibilities and had a breakout season.

When quarterback Cody Kessler wasn't targeting Agholor, he was handing the ball off to his stable of running backs and watching them grind through defenses for big gains. Madden and Allen will be back to lead the ground game, with Justin Davis also returning from injury to contribute.

And those stats for Allen reflect the fact that he spent the first half of 2013 still in Lane Kiffin's doghouse. It wasn't until then-interim head coach Ed Orgeron took over that we really got to see what Allen could do for the Trojans.

That said, USC's biggest strength by far is its defense, one that ranked in the top three of nearly every defensive category among the teams in the Pac-12.

With returning starters such as linebacker Hayes Pullard, defensive end Leonard Williams and safety Su'a Cravens leading the pack, the Trojans defense should be able to carry the team through the early stages of the season while the offense is once again sorting itself out.



As impressive as Agholor, Madden and Allen were on an individual basis, USC's overall offensive effort has left much to be desired. The firepower just wasn't there in 2013 for a combination of reasons. First, Cody Kessler was still learning the ropes of being the starting quarterback, and he had to do so behind a shaky, unreliable offensive line.

In 2012, USC's O-line led the Pac-12 in sacks allowed, giving up just 17 on the season. Last season however, the Trojans plummeted to 10th and gave up 34 sacks on the season, averaging 2.43 sacks per game. No quarterback can flourish with a sieve in front of him, and the Trojans' overall offensive statistics reflect that:

Interestingly enough, the only offensive stat where USC finished at the top of the Pac-12 was in red-zone conversions. The Trojans scored on 37 out of 40 trips to the red zone, making 27 touchdowns and nailing 10 other field goals. With a 92.50 percent success rate, the Trojans held down the No. 1 spot.

Sark and offensive line coach Tim Drevno are hard at work giving the O-line a face-lift, and in a few months, we will see how successful that effort has been.

The fusion of experienced talent such as Max Tuerk with that of new and up-and-coming athletes such as Toa Lobendahn and Khaliel Rodgers (not to mention the incoming freshmen) should help restore the integrity of USC's O-line, which used to be one of the Trojans' many strengths during Pete Carroll's tenure.

Beyond the O-line, USC's kicking and punting games have been pretty weak and unreliable the past two seasons. The Trojans finished in the bottom two of the conference in both categories last season, which comes as no surprise, considering how lackluster both Andre Heidari and Kris Albarado were when called upon.

Outside of his game-winner in the upset over Stanford, Heidari couldn't be trusted to give the Trojans points from distance, something he did quite successfully as a freshman. In 2011, he completed 88.2 percent of his field goals, the third-highest percentage in all of college football, and he made all 50 PAT attempts on the season.

The past two seasons, however, he's been on the decline. In his defense, some of that is due to a lingering knee injury, but he will still certainly need to improve not to be viewed as a liability in 2014.


Secret Weapons

How secret they are is up for debate, but the impending addition of Adoree' Jackson and John "JuJu" Smith is sure to bolster USC's playmaking abilities this fall, on whatever side of the ball they see playing time. This wide receiver-defensive back duo is touted as game-ready, and these athletes have yet to line up for a single down at the collegiate level.

The aforementioned Madden is another player to keep an eye on and will be contributing more than ever to the Trojans this fall. He'll be fully healthy come fall camp and will be even more of a threat for opposing defenses. The same could be said for Agholor, who is such a game-changer on offense and special teams that he is always poised to catalyze a momentum swing for the Trojans.

Beyond them, it's hard to really say what the Trojans' secret weapon will be in 2014. Whether it's the re-emergence of a veteran who's previously been hampered by injury or an incoming talent ready to make waves, so many changes are still going on that we don't have any concrete answers about how USC will look once in top form.

Those answers will become more clear once fall camp starts.

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Predicting the Top 25 College Football Programs of the Next 10 Years

With all of this talk of autonomy, breaking off into new divisions, paying players and other off-the-field issues, college football is at a crossroads. We don't know what the future holds for this great game, one that continues to rise in popularity but also has pressing issues that need to be addressed.

Even more uncertain is which teams will be part of the future of college football when it comes to who will reign supreme and dominate this increasingly balanced sport. It might seem like the usual suspects are always on top, but only four schools—Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Oregon—have finished in the Associated Press Top 25 each of the past five years. Eight more have been in there in four of the last five seasons.

Predicting future success is a tricky endeavor, but we've come up with a (completely arbitrary) formula that will surely foretell which programs will be the best over the next 10 years.

Using final AP rankings from the past five years (all unranked teams got listed as No. 26), final rankings from the past five recruiting classes, an assessment of coaching stability and a good helping of assumption and speculation, we've come up with our prediction for the top 25 college football programs of the upcoming decade.

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Big Ten Football Players Who Would Still Be Stars in the SEC

The somewhat tired argument that the SEC is somehow leaps and bounds better than the Big Ten is something about which college football fans south of the Mason-Dixon Line can't stop talking. While the SEC had a marvelous run of seven BCS titles from 2006 to 2012, it doesn't mean there aren't any impressive studs residing in other conferences.

It's important to note that the SEC's seven titles were spread among only four teams, and only two of them—Florida and Alabama—won more than once. So is the entire SEC really that far ahead of everyone else? Would a star from the Big Ten really be lost in the shuffle if he were added to a random SEC roster?

Let's take a look at a few superstars from the Big Ten who we're pretty sure would still be stars—even in the almighty SEC.

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Miami Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons

Unknowns for the upcoming season are continuing to surface, but the Miami Hurricanes have some evident strengths, weaknesses and secret weapons on the roster.

Whether it be individual players and positional units, the 'Canes have a few assets they can lean on when trouble arises. Of course, the hardships are typically a result of exploited units that allow opponents to build or steal an advantage on the scoreboard.

But if the usual suspects cannot rise to the challenge, Miami has a few players who are capable of stepping up to propel either the offense or defense.

The question that will be answered from September to November, however, is if the 2014 Hurricanes are able to consistently overcome any misfortune.



Duke Johnson and Stacy Coley are the type of players every coach wishes he had, and the duo is a paramount reason Miami will be in contention for the Coastal Division.

Out of the backfield, Johnson averaged well over 100 yards per game in eight appearances last season. Then, other than Johnson, Coley was the 'Canes' most explosive talent, though his kick-return duties may be limited this year.

Speedster Phillip Dorsett stretches the field, opening up the underneath routes for his fellow wide receivers and tight end Clive Walford.

The left side of the offensive line—tackle Ereck Flowers, guard Jon Feliciano and center Shane McDermott—has combined to make 73 starts since 2011. The blind side of whichever quarterback is eventually named starter should be well protected.

Defensively, Denzel Perryman is touted as one of the country's best inside linebackers. He has been Miami's most reliable tackler, which the defense as a whole is attempting to emulate in 2014.

The Hurricanes secondary returns all its top players. Plus, Deon Bush will be a more significant contributor, Artie Burns will occupy a larger role and Jamal Carter has emerged as a promising backup.

Add Tracy Howard's projected rise and Rayshawn Jenkins' proven talent to Ladarius Gunter, Antonio Crawford and Dallas Crawford, and Miami will showcase a strong defensive backfield.



The predicament surrounding Miami quarterbacks is not one that will be easily resolved. Ryan Williams' injury complicated the scenario, Kevin Olsen's poor showing threw the 'Canes for a loop and Jake Heaps' transfer made the competition an absolute mess.

That situation is certainly fluid, and personal preferences will probably change about 13 times before the season opener at Louisville.

At risk of beating a long-broken drum, the defensive line represents an obvious concern. Miami has plenty of talent, but results always seem to elude the men in the trenches.

Anthony Chickillo and Olsen Pierre are the veteran leaders, and quite simply, the Hurricanes need their experience to play at a new level. The influx of new bodies is encouraging, but noteworthy production from Chad Thomas, Anthony Moten, Trent Harris and others is at least one year away.

Though loaded with potential, the linebackers are unproven—save for Perryman and Thurston Armbrister in a lesser manner. Raphael Kirby, Alex Figueroa and Jermaine Grace could become solid players on the second level, but again, that's a matter of wait-and-see.


Secret Weapons

Gus Edwards shouldered the first-string responsibilities during spring practice, while Johnson and Joe Yearby recovered from ankle and leg injuries, respectively.

A bruising sophomore, he showed a more explosive burst and much-improved finishing power that had 'Canes fans buzzing after the spring game. While Yearby is projected to earn the second-string role, Edwards is a perfect candidate to enter in short-yardage situations and bully his way to a first down—or a touchdown.

Though wide receiver Malcolm Lewis appeared in 11 games, he managed just seven catches while recovering from ankle and groin surgeries. Lining up alongside Coley and Dorsett, Lewis may be overlooked in a few game plans, giving him a chance to showcase the outstanding agility he showed early in 2012.

Al-Quadin Muhammad is not necessarily a secret by definition, but the defensive end was seldom used as a freshman. This year, it would be shocking if Muhammad is not a full-time starter, where he has an outstanding opportunity to register more sacks than he did total tackles (eight) last year.

Another defensive end, Ufomba Kamalu finished the 2013 campaign strong, tallying a sack against both Duke and Pitt.

Per Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald, Kamalu said "I'm definitely a lot better from a year ago. I'm a lot faster. I feel like I have more understanding of the defense right now."

And a defense that better understands its collective role is something the Hurricanes have been lacking throughout recent seasons.


Note: Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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5 Recruits Who Are Most Likely to Join 4-Star QB Blake Barnett at Alabama

Blake Barnett is a quarterback who committed to Alabama earlier this month. From California, the 4-star passer has a phenomenal skill set.

At 6'3.5" and 195 pounds, he has a strong arm to fire passes to all levels of the field. He also doesn't just sit in the pocket, as he can get out on the move with good speed and mobility. He figures to add a different dimension to the offense in Tuscaloosa.

Now that he's on board, a few other recruits are likely to join Barnett at 'Bama.

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One Commitment Every SEC Team Wishes It Could Get This Summer

Summer is here, and recruiting among SEC teams is getting even more fierce. Each program is working hard to secure more commitments before the season starts.

Every SEC team has at least one prospect it wishes it could lock up this summer. Some targets on this list are unrealistic, and some prospects will even wait until well past the summer to decide, but a few of them could indeed happen.

Tennessee and Auburn both would love to seal the deal with a 5-star quarterback, while Missouri wants to get a pledge from a 4-star receiver. Also, Kentucky dreams of a 5-star in-state running back deciding to stay home this summer.

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Power Ranking the Georgia Bulldogs' Positional Units for 2014

In order for any college team to be successful, they have to be strong at key positions.

The Georgia Bulldogs are like any team, in terms of having strengths and weaknesses at certain positions. The team is very strong at the skill positions on offense, but when it comes to certain positions on defense, they have room for improvement.

But which position is the strongest for the Bulldogs and which one is the weakest?

Here’s a power ranking of the Bulldog’s positional units for the upcoming season.

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Wake Forest Football: The Top 5 Position Battles Heading into the Fall

Yesterday was the first Saturday of summer, but fear not.  The boys of fall will be back on the field for fall practice in just over a month.

The Demon Deacons lose over half of their total production both on the ground and through the air from a year ago.  That means previous backups and incoming freshman alike will have ample opportunity to shine for the new coaching staff.  Not to mention there's added pressure for returning starters to keep their jobs in a completely new system. 

Here's a few position battles Coach Clawson and company will have a close eye on when fall practice starts on August 1.

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Texas A&M Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons

The Texas A&M football team will being fall practice in less than two months. Like any team in college football, the Aggies have areas where they are strong, a couple of major concerns, and a few players on campus who should surprise fans in 2014. 

Whether or not the Aggies have a successful season in 2014 will be determined in large part by how they address their weaknesses. There are areas that will improve with experience as the season goes on, and some areas where the current players are going to simply have to step up and play better. 

The Aggies have enough talent on the roster to compete for an SEC title in 2014. They will compete for a conference and national title if they can emphasize their strengths while minimizing the impact of the weakest positions on the field. 

This is a look at the 2014 Aggies' strengths, weaknesses, and a couple of players who will surprise the average college football fan. 

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Big 12 Football Players Under Most Pressure for 2014 Season

College football is a pressure-packed world, and the Big 12 is by no means an exception. 

Expectations run the gamut throughout the conference. Texas wants Charlie Strong and Co. to start a resurgence, while Paul Rhoads at Iowa State may very well be in a do-or-die season in Ames. 

Ultimately, it's the players who face the most pressure under the lights, as their performances mostly determine wins and losses. 

So, let's check out the players throughout the Big 12 who are facing the most pressure this upcoming season. 

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USC Football Recruiting: 4-Star Recruit Tyler Petite Has Trojans in Top 2

The recruiting trail is getting active for the USC Trojans once again, who have their sights set on 4-star Tyler Petite, the 6'5", 225-pound tight end out of Moraga, California. 

He is a smooth route-runner with reliable hands and has room on his frame to bulk up once he gets to college. 

As far as recruiting is concerned, he has narrowed his options down to USC and Duke and recently told Greg Biggins of that he is close to making a decision.

Petite discussed what he has on the agenda in the coming weeks with Biggins:

I'm going to visit USC next Wednesday. They have their Rising Stars Camp so I'm going to come down for it and meet the coaching staff. I'm not going to work out, I just want to meet the coaches and the guys on the team.

I'm still trying to figure out how much time I'll be there. I'll for sure be there all Wednesday but I might try and get over there Tuesday night too. My plan is to take this last visit and then I should be ready to commit pretty shortly after.

While that last sentence could imply Petite will be ready to commit to USC shortly thereafter, he has yet to indicate that either school has an advantage over the other. He's already visited Duke, and the Blue Devils are recruiting him aggressively:

I love Duke, they definitely have a chance, no matter how the USC visit goes. It's super close between the two, very tight and it's going to be a very hard decision.

I have a great relationship with the coaches and I'm very close with the players. The biggest thing with Duke is I'm comfortable there. That's what I'm looking to see at USC. Both are great very good academically and I like the football program so it comes down to where I think I'll fit in the best.

The Trojans will spend next week trying to convince Petite that Troy is the best fit for him.

Objectively speaking, USC has the clear advantage over Duke due to the program's clout and esteem in college football. Beyond that, there's space on the roster for him, and Steve Sarkisian and his staff are desperate to get their hands on some more quality prospects at tight end.

Veteran Randall Telfer is entering his last season at USC, leaving just Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick and Bryce Dixon behind him. The Trojans' tight end corps is frail and decimated by a lack of depth. Being that the new offense installed in Troy is much more tight end-friendly than was the case with Lane Kiffin, Sarkisian needs as many able bodies as he can get at this position to enhance the passing game.

Petite wouldn't have to wait long to see playing time at USC, and he can expect a fair amount of passes thrown his way. The recent success of Austin Seferian-Jenkins at Washington (146 receptions, 1,840 yards and 21 touchdowns on his career)—where Sarkisian previously coached—could be encouraging to Petite and influence him to sign with USC. 

Offensive coordinator Clay Helton is in charge of the Northern California recruiting region, and he will be heavily pitching to Petite how he would fit into USC's scheme. 

Should the Trojans land him next week, it would be yet another recruiting win for Sarkisian and keep USC ahead of the other Pac-12 schools at this stage in the recruiting cycle. 


Note: Recruiting info courtesy of

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Power Ranking Oklahoma's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Although it’s never wise to look past an opponent, there’s no doubt that some games should be a lot easier than others.

That’s certainly the case when it comes to the Oklahoma Sooners’ 2014 schedule.

On Aug. 30, the Sooners will begin their quest for their eighth national title. Twelve opponents will try to get in the way of that run—both non-conference and Big 12 foes alike.

Join B/R as we take a closer look at each game on Oklahoma's 2014 schedule and rank them from easiest to toughest.

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Michigan Fan Proves Hate for Ohio on License Plate

It's no secret that Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes fans don't like each other. This fan wanted to make sure that his hatred of the Buckeyes was on display at all times.

The Michigan Football Twitter account tweeted a picture of this vanity license plate that says "1H8OHIO," or "I Hate Ohio."

He'll have to be careful if he ever ends up in the state of Ohio, or there's a pretty good chance that his car will be vandalized.

[Twitter, h/t Next Impulse Sports]

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Penn State OL Coach Herb Hand Raps at Junior Elite Football Camp

Penn State offensive line coach Herb Hand was in attendance for the Nittany Lions Junior Elite football camp when he decided to get the players in attendance pumped up before practice got started.

Hand grabbed a microphone and suddenly began to rap. The coaches and players clearly enjoyed it, but the best part of all was the O-line coach dropping the mic after he was done.

[The Patriot-Newsh/t Twitter]

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Power Ranking Arkansas' 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

The Arkansas Razorbacks start the 2014 schedule with a trip to Auburn to face off with the national runner-ups from last season. There's not going to be any time to ease into the season against a weaker opponent by opening the season on the road against the Tigers.

What's even scarier is that the Hogs have many more huge and extremely tough games following their daunting season opener.

Just to give you a little perspective on how tough Arkansas' 2014 slate is, according to the NCAA's strength of schedule method, the Razorbacks have the toughest schedule out of all of the 128 FBS teams. The NCAA's method is based solely on opponents' win-loss records from the previous year, with Arkansas' 2014 opponents combining to go 103-54 (65.6 percent) last season.

While there are flaws with this method, there's no doubt the Hogs' schedule this season is going to be grueling. 

Here is a breakdown of the Razorbacks' games this year in ascending order from the easiest to the toughest matchup they'll have.

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Katherine Webb Poses with AJ McCarron's Rings from Alabama

That's a whole lot of rings.

Former Miss Alabama Katherine Webb decided to post this picture of herself with a number of former Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron's rings from his very successful college career. 

McCarron received all of those rings thanks to three national championships, two SEC titles and one Capital One Bowl.

With so many rings, it looks like Webb is trying to give the likes of Bill Russell and Michael Jordan a run for their money.


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Power Ranking Penn State's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

The college football season is just over two months away, and Penn State predictions are starting to formulate about the 2014 campaign. 

How many can they win? Can they upset the Buckeyes? Will UCF be as good as they were last season?

Here's a look at the 2014 schedule in order from the easiest opponents to the toughest to help you form an opinion of your own!

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Texas Football: Biggest Obstacles Each New Position Coach Faces in 2014

The Texas Longhorns will enter the 2014 season with a brand new face of the program and a revitalized group of assistant coaches. But the obstacles each coach will face cannot be overlooked.

Head coach Charlie Strong put together a solid group of assistants who have the goal of bringing pride back to Texas football. Unfortunately for Texas fans, the challenges that lie ahead may not be the easiest to overcome.



The first obstacle on more than likely every Texas fan's mind is the quarterback. The Longhorns have lacked effective quarterback play since Colt McCoy graduated in 2009. Four years have passed since the Longhorns had a solid option to lead the offense, and those woes could very likely continue in 2014.

Quarterback coach Shawn Watson has three scholarship options to work with: junior David Ash, sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and true freshman Jerrod Heard. The talent among the quarterback trio is there, but the development needs to follow.

One of the best-case scenarios for the Longhorns is that Ash can stay healthy, and Swoopes can learn to develop behind Ash—giving true freshman Heard a redshirt season to adjust to the college game. And the obvious worst-case scenario is Ash cannot stay healthy and either Swoopes or Heard are forced to take over the starting role when either of them may not be ready for it.

It is rare for a true freshman to take over the starting role once they arrive on campus, but it isn't unheard of. In fact, a prime example that comes to mind is former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who Watson coached for his four seasons with the Cardinals.

Does that mean Texas fans should expect Heard to develop at the rate of Bridgewater? Probably not.

All eyes will be on Watson to make something work with the options he has. And this story angle will likely not die down until results are seen from the quarterback position.

Next on the list is the offensive line.

Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Wickline is widely regarded as one of the best O-Line coaches in college football, and he will have his work cut out for him in 2014.

The Longhorns are looking to replace one of the more veteran lines in college football from 2013. But the talent to replace the line may not currently be on the roster.

Aside from center Dominic Espinosa, Texas has a large group of inexperienced linemen. And the inexperience was extremely apparent in the spring game.

Wickline may be the best-of-the-best when it comes to coaching up the big guys, but he has a very limited amount of time to find four other linemen who will be able to protect whichever quarterback Watson puts on the field. 

The running back position is one of the more solid positions for the Longhorns in 2014. 

Between Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray, running back coach Tommie Robinson inherited a loaded roster of backs.

The obstacle Robinson will face is not who's the best option but rather how to split the carries between the trio.

Brown and Gray carried the bulk of the load in 2013, but Gray's Achilles injury has left his status of returning to the field up in the air. If Gray returns to the team in time for the start of the season, Robinson will have to come up with the right solution to effectively distribute the carries among the backs.

Texas alum Les Koenning has a decent group of receivers, but the position remains a question mark as long as the quarterback position is not situated.

Putting the quarterback position aside, one of the bigger obstacles Koenning will face does not have to do with a lack of personnel but rather finding the best options to put on the field. Senior Jaxon Shipley has been one of the more consistent options for the previous three seasons while Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson picked up valuable playing time in 2013.

But Koenning has a decent group of receivers from last season's roster—in addition to the 2014 signing class—which included 4-star prospects Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe.

Koenning will need to help develop Sanders and Johnson and find a solid group of backups to throw into the mix in 2014.



Surprisingly, the Texas defense will enter the season with less concern than the offense, which hasn't been the case in recent history.

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford hit the nail on the head when he explained the defense's biggest issues during spring practice:

The biggest surprise for me is the confidence to go out there and make a play. In the game of football on the defensive side, those who play it safe are going to miss the bus. If you have confidence, you're going to be aggressive, and you're going to win. You don't play it safe.

You don't go to lose, but go to win. We have to get that back here, and that comes with confidence, understanding how to play the game, knowing what your job is, trusting your teammates and going out there and doing that job. When we get to that point of going to win, not just to survive, we will be headed in the right direction.

One of the biggest concerns for the Texas defense over the previous two seasons was with the linebackers. First-year linebacker coach Brian Jean-Mary inherited a distinguished group of talent that has been plagued by injuries.

The three projected starters are likely Jordan Hicks, Steve Edmond and Peter Jinkens. But Hicks is still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered in the Longhorns fourth game of the 2013 season. Hicks was also sidelined for the majority of 2012 with a lingering hip injury.

Considering his injury-prone past makes it difficult to expect a full, healthy season from Hicks, Jean-Mary's biggest obstacle will be to find a decent group of backups who can take over for Hicks if he spends another season on the sidelines.

The remaining defensive position coaches appear to have fewer obstacles to overcome in their first season in Austin, but that does not mean problems couldn't surface.

Bedford and secondary coach Chris Vaughn have a decent amount of talent to work with, led by senior Quandre Diggs. Bedford commended Diggs' attitude during spring practice and said Texas needs other defensive backs to have Diggs' attitude. Diggs plays with a will to win while some of the remaining DBs play timid.

What Bedford and Vaughn have to do is teach the defensive backs to play the game with the confidence that can be seen from Diggs.

That leaves the defensive line.

Similar to Robinson, defensive line coach Chris Rumph has a solid group of linemen to help lead the defense in 2014. Rumph inherited projected top-round 2015 NFL draft pick Cedric Reed and veteran defensive tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson. 

The biggest concern for Rumph will likely be who will play opposite of Reed, but on a scale from one to 10, that concern is probably a two compared to the rest of the issues on the team.

Rumph has options to work with and will add incoming freshman and former 4-star prospect Derick Roberson to the mix.

In other words, Rumph's concerns are far less than some of his fellow position coaches on defense.

It's very obvious that year one under Strong and his staff will not be a breeze. The Longhorns have lacked an identity and consistency for the last four seasons.

But with a new leader at the helm, Texas has the chance to build a new identity and bring pride back to Texas football—which is needed now more than ever.


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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Big Ten Football's Best Candidates to Win 2014 Heisman Trophy

The Big Ten hasn't had a Heisman Trophy winner since Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in 2006. Before that, you would have to stretch back to the end of the last millennium to find another player from the conference—Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne—who claimed the award.

No other "power" conference has had less than two Heisman winners since 2000, but being an underdog is part of the Big Ten's newfound charm. No longer a powerhouse, the conference has taken on the role of the plucky underdog and, in certain spots, played it quite well. 

But even if the league, as a whole, is considered a bit of an underdog, that doesn't mean the players and teams at the top are incapable of national recognition. Ohio State and Michigan State are expected to be Top 10 teams at the start of next season, and even beyond those two stalwarts, there are glimmers of hope throughout the Midwest.

Based on the body of work they have already put forth and the situations they find themselves in next season, at least four Big Ten players stand a realistic shot of contending for the Heisman Trophy.

Behind them, a deep class of dark horses could emerge. Johnny Manziel, after all, was not considered a "realistic" Heisman candidate when he took the reigns at Texas A&M two seasons ago.

Who says the next Johnny Football can't play in the B1G?

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