NCAA Football News

LSU Spring Game 2014: Live Score, Top Performers and Analysis

In the form of the 2014 LSU National L-Club Spring Game, football is officially returning to Tiger Stadium and Baton Rouge, La.

Following five weeks of practice, the LSU football team is ending the spring session with the annual intrasquad scrimmage.

The Tigers must replace Zach Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Anthony Jennings and a handful of other key starters next season, so the spring game provides an initial look at how Les Miles and Co. are preparing for the 2014 campaign.

The spring game kicks off at 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. local time), and GeauxZone (subscription needed) is carrying a radio feed of the scrimmage.

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LSU Spring Game 2014: Date, Start Time and More

Even though the LSU Tigers were 10-3 in 2013, the program didn't reach the standards most expect out of Baton Rouge each year. The three regular-season losses were the most the program has had since 2009.

As the spring game approaches, head coach Les Miles and his staff are putting the final touches on the preparation for the upcoming campaign. There's obviously still a lot of moving parts. The current recruiting class will be a factor in the spring game and the season.

Per David Ching of ESPN.com, Miles said:

I think we’re trying make a determination as we design the summer plans that, 'This is where this guy’s going to be, this is where this guy’s going to be’ and how to operate it. 

I think the skill players on offense are going to be musts and I think the skill players on defense, with the safeties stepping in there and being able to play -- I just think the recruiting class will hit us just where we need to be hit.

With uncertainty at quarterback, the team may have to lean on its running game and defense even more than normal. All of the positions will be of interest to fans, but undoubtedly, the quarterback hopefuls will be under a microscope at the spring practice.

What comes of this situation will likely dictate how far the Tigers can go in the rugged SEC.

Here's the date and time for the spring game:

DateLocationTime   Sat, Apr 5 Baton Rouge, La. (Tiger Stadium)   1 p.m.

 

Players to Watch

Anthony Jennings

With Zach Mettenberger moving on to the NFL, the QB torch is being passed in Baton Rouge. Who will carry it? That's exactly what Miles must figure out before the start of the 2014 season.

In relief of an injured Mettenberger, Jennings led a game-winning comeback against Arkansas. He also started the team's 21-14 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl.

With that experience, he should be able to hold off early enrollee Brandon Harris. Miles would probably prefer to hand the ball over to a player who has had some major experience. In the spring game, Jennings needs to show his growth from last year and lock down the position.

 

Maquedius Bain

Bain redshirted last season, but he has the size, strength and quickness to be a major force in the middle of the defensive line.

Carter Bryant of Bleacher Report said this about the 6'3" 303-pound defensive tackle:

"Maquedius Bain has the talent to be the next great LSU defensive tackle." 

The Tigers have a long lineage of dominant defensive tackles. Bain has the physical tools to become another link in the glorious chain. We'll see if he can flash some of his abilities during the spring game.

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Ole Miss Spring Game 2014: Date, Start Time, TV Info and More

In 2013, the Ole Miss Rebels showed some improvement from the previous season. The 8-5 record was the program's best mark since 2009, and the year culminated with a second consecutive bowl appearance and victory.

Looking ahead to the 2014 campaign, the Rebels would love to turn the corner and become one of the upper echelon teams in the SEC. Head coach Hugh Freeze seems to have the long-term mission in mind with this tweet:

That said, every stakeholder would like to see things progress sooner rather than later.

The spring game will give fans their first opportunity to see this year's squad in action. Here's how you can watch:

DateTimeTV Network and Live Stream Sat., April 5 1 p.m. CSS/ESPN3

 

Players to Watch

Bo Wallace

The junior quarterback certainly had his moments in 2013. He nearly out-dueled Johnny Manziel in a 41-38 loss to Texas A&M on October 12. The following week, Wallace helped guide the team to its biggest win of the season.

He threw for 346 yards as the Rebels knocked off No. 6 LSU 27-24. In order for the Rebels to become part of the SEC elite, they need for Wallace to become a star. As an upperclassmen, he must take an even bigger role as a leader of the team.

Jon Cooper of Saturday Down South wrote this about the quarterback's maturation and upcoming campaign:

Wallace made strides and better decisions from 2012 to 2013; still, there’s much more he can improve upon. Wallace is one of the handful of proven veteran returning quarterback starters, and the amount of success the Rebels’ team achieves will be resting on Wallace’s shoulders.

All eyes will be on him during the spring practice as well as during the season.

 

Robert Nkemdiche

The Rebels' prized recruit from 2013 is heading into his sophomore season in Oxford. With Jadeveon Clowney moving on to the NFL, Nkemdiche could make strides toward becoming the SEC's top pass-rusher.

If Nkemdiche can become an elite force on the defensive line, the Rebels can take that next step. His play is to the defense what Wallace's performance is to the offense.

As a freshman, Nkemdiche had just two sacks. He'll need to be close to double digits in 2014 to satisfy critics and pundits.

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Michigan Spring Game 2014: Date, Start Time, TV Info and More

Last season was a major disappointment for the Michigan Wolverines' football program. After starting the year ranked 17th in the AP Top 25, the Wolverines finished the season unranked with a 7-6 record.

They were handled in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl by Kansas State to put a capper on matters last year.

Injuries and inconsistent play were the primary culprits in the issues of 2013. But that was then and hope springs eternal before the annual Michigan Spring Game.

Head coach Brady Hoke will work to have his group better prepared to meet the expectations of the fan base, and the program.

Here's the information needed to catch the first publicized practice of the season for the Wolverines.

DateTime (ET)TV Network and Live Stream Sat., April 5 2 p.m. Big Ten Network/BTN2Go

 

Players to Watch

Devin Gardner

The Wolverines quarterback showed his grit and weaknesses last season. Though he did throw for 2,960 yards and 21 touchdowns, while running for 483 yards and 11 touchdowns, his decision-making was sometimes bewildering.

Some of those poor decisions led to his 11 interceptions and ill-advised scramble attempts. Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com said this about Gardner's struggles:

Gardner had moments of brilliance in 2013, but he also had plenty of struggles. He threw 11 interceptions, had nightmarish showings in losses to Michigan State and Iowa, struggled in wins over UConn and Northwestern (at least in regulation), and had three first-half turnovers in a loss at Penn State.

Perhaps because of some of the issues Gardner has had, Hoke has announced that there will be an open competition for the starting QB position.

That said, Gardner proved to anyone who was watching that he had the heart to lead this football team. Playing with an injured foot that would require offseason surgery, he threw for 451 yards and four touchdowns in the narrow 42-41 loss to Ohio State in the regular season finale.

With that as his last game of the season, he gave Wolverines fans something to look forward to. We'll see if we can see glimpses of his continued maturation in the spring game.

 

Jake Ryan

Moving Ryan to inside linebacker could help the Wolverines' entire defense.

Ryan is one of the team's best playmakers on defense, though he was slowed by the recovery from an ACL injury in 2013.

Placing him in the middle has him acting as one of the unit's leaders. It also puts him in more of a read-and-react situation. Per Brian Bennett of ESPN.com, Ryan seems to like his new role:

“It’s been different, because now I’m blitzing up the middle. And last year I was looking at the tight and now I’m reading the running back. But I like it a lot better because you’re in the mix of everything. It’s cool.” 

In 2012, Ryan had 16 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. The Wolverines are hoping to see him return to that form for the upcoming season. The spring game might give fans their first clue.

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Arkansas Football: Position Battle Tracker for 2014 Season

The Arkansas Razorbacks are in the midst of spring practice. To say that there's a lot of competition going on would be an understatement.

After one of the worst seasons in school history, head coach Bret Bielema and his staff are searching for answers to the laundry list of problems. Because 2013 was such a bad year, there are open battles this offseason for every position in the hope that players will step up and make 2014 much better.

Here we take a look at the five main position battles this offseason. A lot of the players expected to be right in the middle of those battles are incoming freshmen who will not arrive until August, so our look covers the entire offseason leading up to the opener at Auburn on Aug. 30. 

With that said, it's time to go into the battle zone.

Begin Slideshow

Blake Bell Injury: Updates on Sooners TE's Knee and Return

Blake Bell's transition to tight end may take a little longer than first thought. The Oklahoma Sooners senior will miss spring practice after injuring his knee, per The Oklahoman's Jason Kersey.

Carey Murdock of SoonerScoop.com reported that Bell suffered a sprained knee and that he won't require surgery:

For the past three years, Bell has been listed as a quarterback for Oklahoma. He started eight games last season, throwing for 1,648 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. With the emergence of Trevor Knight, though, Bell was pushed to the periphery.

As a result, he will be playing tight end for his final collegiate season. The spring represented a great time for Bell to learn and get a grasp on his new position heading into the 2014 campaign.

Now without that time, it will be slightly harder for Bell to make the switch. He'll need to accelerate his progress come summer time before the season gets underway.

In the end, it shouldn't turn into a major problem, especially considering Bell doesn't need surgery to repair his knee.

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Notre Dame Football: Everett Golson's Reintegration with the Irish

Everett Golson doesn’t see it as rust.

After a semester and a season away, it took time for Golson to reacclimate himself to the offense, due in large part to the almost entirely new cast of pass-catchers to whom he was throwing.

“I’m throwing to a whole different group of guys right now,” Golson said Friday. “I think what we saw in the first couple of practices was getting the timing down, trusting the receivers. I don’t think rust was an issue.”

It’s still relatively early in the process of developing timing with the new receivers. The only players who caught passes in 2012 still currently on the roster are senior tight end Ben Koyack (three receptions in 2012), junior wide receiver Chris Brown (two receptions) and senior running back Cam McDaniel (two receptions). The numbers are even starker when considering who threw the passes (see chart below).

Where chemistry becomes especially important, Golson said, is when plays break down.

“In football there is a lot of times where there’s not a perfect situation—sometimes you’re getting blitzed, you can’t really see the receiver,” Golson said. “You have to trust where he’s going to be. I think that’s where the chemistry comes down, having that confidence that he’s going to be there when I need him to be there.”

Golson said he isn’t using the spring to simply get back to where he was before he left, only to then make major strides in the fall.

“I have that mindset that I do want to be great, so it’s not about just getting back into the flow for me,” Golson said. “Every day you come out, you’re going to work to be the best that you can be.”

And Golson’s best will be needed. Though Irish head coach Brian Kelly has yet to name a starting quarterback, he talked at the beginning of the spring how Golson is going “to be the guy that drives this force.”

“I think we all know college football and where it is,” Kelly said. “The quarterback is really going to be the centerpiece of this offense and the way we run it. And it’s going to fall on him. … We all live in the same world when it comes to the Notre Dame quarterback. We’re going to heap a lot on this kid’s shoulders.

“And he knows that.”

Golson said he doesn’t see it as pressure, but rather as an opportunity, and he thinks he has the supporting cast to lead a potent offense. Golson and the Irish offense likely won’t be able to fall back on a 2012-level defense—at least now, at least on paper—to keep the score in the teens (the Irish allowed 12.8 points per game in 2012, good for second in the nation), and he agreed it does create more urgency to put up points. But urgency is not to be confused with pressure.

“I think what we have in place complements each other very well,” Golson said. “The defense, I think they’re pretty aggressive with their blitzes and stuff like that. I think we have to be aggressive as well on offense. Like I said, it’s no pressure. I think it’s more so an opportunity for us to be really special this season.”

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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B/R CFB Mailbag: Impact Sophomores, Dark-Horse Title Contenders

Our good pal Michael Felder, who normally handles the "Your Best 11" mailbag, is off, so this week's college football mailbag will be operated by yours truly. Have college football questions? Tweet me @BenKercheval or email me at benkerch@gmail.com. Together, we'll make the offseason go by quicker. 

Now, let's get to those questions!

 

Baylor wide receiver Robbie Rhodes was the prize recruit in Baylor's 2013 class and considered one of the top wideout prospects in the country. With all the success the Bears have had with wide receivers coming through the program lately, Rhodes had that next-big-thing vibe to him. 

There was a growing buzz about Rhodes during fall camp, too. However, Rhodes only hauled in 10 catches for 157 yards and no touchdowns. He had some trouble with nagging injuries and Baylor was stacked at wide receiver, so there wasn't a need to push him into significant playing time. With Tevin Reese gone, though, Rhodes' role should expand. 

Defensive back Vonn Bell gave Ohio State a glimpse of what could be toward the end of last season. Like Rhodes, Bell was a blue-chip recruit who many expected could play right away. It didn't quite pan out that way as Bell played in just three games. 

Ohio State's coaching staff indicated at the end of last year that it probably would have been beneficial to get Bell more playing time earlier than they did. Unfortunately, Bell suffered a torn MCL at the beginning of spring practices and is out until preseason camp. Still, he figures to be a major player in the Buckeyes' secondary. 

If you're looking for an under-the-radar guy, try Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens. The Golden Eagles were awful last season, with just one win against UAB to end the year. The bright side, however, is that win snapped a 23-game losing streak—not to mention it was Mullens' best game (370 yards, five touchdowns). Yes, it was against UAB, but it does give Mullens some confidence heading into next year.

Mullens was tossed early into the proverbial fire and made a lot of freshman mistakes. In Todd Monken's offense, though, he has a chance to put up video game numbers.

 

Is it still too cliche to say UCLA? How about Notre Dame?

In all seriousness, the more I read about the Irish, the more I like. It can be easy to dismiss Notre Dame based on a couple of issues: scheduling and returning starters. However, I also believe those hurdles aren't insurmountable. With the exception of an Oct. 18 trip to Florida State, Notre Dame should be favored in most, if not all of its games. Either way, the Irish have a nice-looking schedule. That's something the College Football Playoff selection committee should theoretically appreciate. 

And even though Phil Steele says Notre Dame has five guys returning on defense, mostly in the secondary, Matthew Ehalt of ESPN.com noted that head coach Brian Kelly actually started 19 different players on defense last season. In addition to defensive depth, quarterback Everett Golson returns, though he'll be challenged by Malik Zaire. 

Also, I'm buying into Marshall. The Thundering Herd are coming off a 10-win season with one of the most exciting, yet underappreciated, players in the game: quarterback Rakeem Cato. If you missed it, B/R's Adam Kramer wrote up a great feature on Cato that pushed me over the edge. So, if you're going to be all "Yawn, do it against a real defense in a real conference #ROLLTIDE!" please direct those complaints HERE.

Other teams I'm keeping my eye on: Nebraska, Texas A&M and Utah State. 

 

This is a rather intriguing question, but with a fairly simple answer—which is "no." 

The most obvious example of why that won't happen was the situation at Grambling State last year. In particular, the school's dire problem with facilities and funding made it sound like it couldn't sponsor a football program at all—at any level. 

Not every historically black college and university (HBCU) is in the same boat as Grambling, but it is a common theme for universities that are under-funded and swept under the rug. In fact, Michael Felder wrote a great piece about that very thing last fall. 

These are small-budget program problems. These are problems that affect schools whose alumni bases are too small/unwilling to donate/can't donate. As much as the NCAA may want to lump Division I schools into one big pot, not all programs can function the same. 

The catch-22 is that eliminating football may also eliminate the best chance for exposure/funding/etc. that a school has. 

Lately, a lot of schools have tried to move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision (nee Division 1A), viewing it as some sort of promised land. As UMass will attest, that's not guaranteed to work. There are more head-count scholarships to account for, among other expenses. Those expenses may not be covered, even with lucrative television deals. 

In short, moving up to the FBS for any program does not guarantee future riches or competitiveness.  

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Richie Petitbon Commits to Alabama: 4-Star Vaults Tide to No. 1 Ranking

Alabama added another outstanding offensive lineman to its stockpile with a commitment from 4-star prospect Richie Petitbon. The Washington D.C. recruit pulled the trigger on a pledge Friday, reports Scout.com writer Derek Young.

Petitbon, a 6'4", 301-pound Gonzaga High School junior, joins a Crimson Tide class that now includes nine players. His addition pushed Alabama's class from No. 3 to No. 1 in 247Sports' composite team rankings, leapfrogging Penn State and Texas A&M.

Nick Saban lands a lineman capable of contributing in a variety of capacities. He has significant experience at left tackle but could move inside depending on Alabama's needs along the offensive front.

The Tide have tremendous depth at tackle, so a future within the interior may await him in Tuscaloosa:

Petitbon has an excellent football pedigree. He's the latest member of his family to make a leap to the college level.

His father played at Maryland. Petitbon's name may sound familiar because his grandfather, Richie, was an All-Pro defensive back in the NFL.

He finished his career with the Washington Redskins and served as defensive coordinator under Joe Gibbs. The football lineage makes Petitbon an even more intriguing prospect, given the game knowledge at his disposal while growing up. 

Petitbon is the seventh 4-star prospect to commit to the Tide during this cycle. He is rated No. 4 nationally at offensive guard in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Gonzaga produced 2,400 yards rushing yards last fall with Petitbon paving the way, according to AL.com.

Saban has swiftly taken care of future depth in the trenches. Alabama already holds commitments from fellow 4-star guards Lester Cotton and Dallas Warmack.

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Complete Scouting Report for 4-Star Alabama RB Commit Desherrius Flowers

Alabama running back Desherrius Flowers elected to stay in his home state with a commitment to the Crimson Tide last April. The 4-star prospect aims to be the latest addition to a proud lineage of rushers in Tuscaloosa, exhibiting outstanding skills and physicality.

Flowers, a 6'1", 212-pound junior at Vigor High School (Prichard, Ala.), is rated the nation's No. 4 running back prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings. He's listed at No. 54 among all members of the 2015 class.

His recruitment gained steam after a sophomore season that featured 922 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. A pledge to the Tide quickly shut things down and he remains on track to join the team next year.

Flowers has already drawn comparisons to current Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon, a possible 2014 Heisman Trophy contender who also hails from the Mobile area (Daphne). Expectations will be high from the moment Flowers arrives on campus, especially if Yeldon decides to depart early for the NFL draft after this season.

We examined the game film to discover what puts Flowers in the upper echelon of offensive playmakers.

Positives

Flowers' game is defined by his violent approach as a rusher. He doesn't leave any questions about his tenacity or physicality, attacking opposing defenses without a shred of hesitancy.

Few athletes in this class are a more appropriate fit for the north-south ground game than Flowers. Equipped with a formidable frame, he carries the ball with authority and refuses to sacrifice yards by yielding or stepping out of bounds.

Flowers is quick to get out of the backfield, firing upfield with a burst off his front foot. Once he reaches the line of scrimmage, his aggressiveness shines.

Even while operating within a crowd of defenders and offensive linemen in the trenches, Flowers doesn't delay or waste steps. He charges though and keeps his feet churning through contact.

Opponents might grab a piece of his jersey in the process, but it doesn't matter. Flowers is deliberate and steadfast while moving forward toward daylight.

His efforts require just one cut and then it's a straight-line sprint. He isn't a burner, but this approach allows him to gain chunks of yardage in a hurry while putting pressure on the defensive secondary.

Once he identifies a rushing lane, impressive acceleration allows him to beat defenders to space and he exploits the gap with a low center of gravity. Flowers is a balanced runner who maintains proper pad level, so tackling him is a tough task.

Given his style and size, it's impressive how quickly Flowers is able to gain velocity. He's an absolute load for defensive backs to handle when he reaches the secondary and most of his takedowns in high school require gang-tackling.

Flowers is an ideal candidate to carry the football in short-yardage situations. He's adept at moving the chains and plunging into the end zone, even when dealing with clogged rushing gaps.

 

Negatives

Flowers isn't going to dance his way out of tight spots. Some running backs can wiggle through containment with an array of lateral moves, but that's not a strong suit for him.

His strength is apparent, but so is a slight lack of hip fluidity. Flowers doesn't always look smooth when forced to cut at the second level and usually loses acceleration on those attempts.

He doesn't have the speed to blow by defenders in space, so sure, tacklers will be able to at least slow him down until help arrives. Flowers will find his way into the end zone often in college if he stays healthy, but it would be unfair to anticipate routine touchdown sprints from midfield at the next level.

Like most high school running backs, Flowers is a relatively unknown commodity in the passing game. If his physical demeanor transitions into blocking efforts and he becomes a capable receiving threat out of the backfield, it will encourage Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to steadily increase Flowers' role.

 

Projection

It certainly appears that Nick Saban has his hands on yet another ferocious downhill runner. Flowers fits the mold of what we've recently seen from Tide running backs and Alabama should feel comfortable with him after receiving a commitment almost two years before his signing day.

The offensive backfield is always crowded in Tuscaloosa so Flowers will need to impress early if he hopes to fight his way onto the field as a freshman. He's already quite physically developed, so there isn't necessarily a need to give him time on the sidelines to bulk up.

Expect Flowers to earn carries as an underclassman. If Yeldon is out of the equation in 2015, his chances of immediate playing time increase tremendously with a strong training camp.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Coaches Who Were Great Players Too

When consuming a lot of football, it can be easy—far too easy—to forget just how difficult the sport really is, both as a player and coach. 

Very few end up being good players in major college football. Even fewer end up being good coaches afterward.  

Indeed, being a successful player and coach at the highest level of college football is a unique fraternity to which only a small number belong. 

Which coaches also had distinguished playing careers? The answers, as always, are in the following slides. 

Begin Slideshow

USC Football: Grading Each Early Enrollee's Spring Performance

Newcomers are helping define the new era of USC football.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff welcomed five early enrollees from the Trojans' Pac-12 best 2014 recruiting class, and a few of the additions are making an instant impact. 

The Trojans are getting much needed support on the offensive line from two freshmen parlaying their spring into spots in the rotation. The cast of newcomers should also give Sarkisian depth, once play begins in August. 

 

Recruiting information and rankings via 247Sports.com

Begin Slideshow

Oklahoma vs. Texas Red River Rivalry Showdown Adds AT&T Corporate Sponsorship

The Red River Rivalry is adding some corporate flair.

In a press release from the official website of Texas Athletics, the school announced that, starting in 2014, its annual rivalry game with the University of Oklahoma will be known as the AT&T Red River Rivalry and that it will also be updated with a new game logo and team marks.

Said Texas athletic director Steve Patterson:

As a University of Texas alumnus I have long enjoyed the Texas-Oklahoma series and the great tradition it represents for Texas and Oklahoma fans. We look forward to working with AT&T representatives and the University of Oklahoma to generate excitement for the new name and brand, and continuing our relationships with the State Fair of Texas.

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione gave a statement as well:

The Oklahoma-Texas game played annually at the Cotton Bowl is one of the grandest traditions in all of college football. We will continue striving to make this contest a truly memorable experience for the student-athletes and fans of both the University of Oklahoma and The University of Texas amidst the unique and colorful atmosphere of the State Fair of Texas.

This year's meeting will be the 109th between Texas and Oklahoma. Per the release, the game was first played in 1900 and has been played in Dallas since 1912 and in the Cotton Bowl since 1929. 

The Longhorns lead the all-time series 60-43-5, having also won the most recent meeting in 2013 despite entering the game as substantial underdogs. However, OU had won the previous three meetings before that and still has a 9-5 record since the start of the new millennium.

AT&T Stadium in Arlington—home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and the world's largest video board and affectionately known as "Jerry's World" after Cowboys owner Jerry Jones—will host the championship of the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2015, and the company continues reaching its arm into the biggest stages for the biggest games.

As long as it doesn't interfere with the product on the field (and how could it?), no one should too much mind the corporate partnership. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: Week 4 Spring Practice Stock Report

LSU got to have some fun this week in its final practice of the spring. 

The Tigers hosted their annual "Student Appreciation Day" on Thursday, which allowed current LSU students to observe a practice and participate in drills at its conclusion. 

Now LSU must get ready for the spring game on Saturday. It will be the first glimpse all fans will get of the 2014 Bayou Bengals. 

This week's practice featured a few injured Tigers returning to practice and one leaving the program.  

 

News from This Week

LSU defensive end Jordan Allen will transfer, according to Luke Johnson of Tiger Rag. Allen cited academic reasons, as he was unable to get into LSU's graduate school program.  

The Tigers began Tuesday's practice with the "Big Cat" and goal line drill. Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune has the full results of the players who participated.

Thursday's practice was highlighted by "Student Appreciation Day." LSUSports.net has photos from the post-practice festivities.   

LSU receivers Kevin Spears, John Diarse and Avery Peterson and running back Terrence Magee returned to practice on Tuesday, according to Hunt Palmer of Tiger Rag

 

Update on Position Battles

Les Miles said after practice Thursday that the upcoming spring game will have no effect on the depth chart, via Bryan Lazare of TigerBait.com.

Shea Dixon of Geaux247.com said the versatile Kendell Beckwith is pushing D.J. Welter for the starting middle linebacker job.

LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings told Ben Love of TigerSportsDigest.com that he and Brandon Harris have many similarities. Jennings also said there has been a focus on the running game this spring.  

 

What to Look Forward to in the Spring Game

Despite Miles somewhat downplaying the spring game, it does give him an opportunity to see how players perform in front of a crowd. Harris will be the player everybody wants to see, and he more than likely knows that. Saturday will be the first time he performs in front of fans.  

The LSU defensive ends should not miss a beat without Allen. The Tigers are missing Jermauria Rasco due to injury but are still loaded at the position with Danielle Hunter, Lewis Neal, Frank Herron and M.J. Patterson. The LSU pass rush struggled last season according to The New Orleans Advocate's Matthew Harris.

Will one emerge as a playmaker? Keep an eye on Hunter, who showed flashes of excellence last season.

Hunter is one of many young, talented Tigers with something to prove. Here are five more players to look out for on Saturday.  

 

Other News and Stories

With LSU's lack of depth this spring and talented incoming recruiting class, Miles has had to play the role of fortune teller, according to David Ching of ESPN.com

The Tigers announced they will play UCLA and Arizona State in the distant future. The Advocate's Ross Dellenger caught up with LSU associate athletic director Verge Ausberry on the science of making football schedules. 

Chandler Rome of The Advocate reported on how the young cornerbacks of LSU are having to learn quickly. 

LSU will host its annual pro day next Wednesday, April 9.  

 

*Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower for updates live from the LSU spring game. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Week 5 Spring Practice Stock Report

Welcome back to the weekly Spring Practice Stock Report. We're just over a week away from the Blue-Gold game, as the Irish head down the home stretch of spring practice. 

It's been a big week for Notre Dame football. Some additions, some subtractions and even some Q&As with a few assistant coaches, giving us a rare progress report from position coaches.

Let's get to it.

  

The Dismissal of Rashad Kinlaw Thins Out the Cornerback Depth Chart

Brian Kelly announced Friday morning that rising sophomore cornerback Rashad Kinlaw was dismissed from the football program.  

"From my perspective, from a football perspective, he didn't live up to the rules within our football program," Kelly told the South Bend Tribune. 

The loss of Kinlaw isn't one that the Irish will feel right away, but likely forces the Irish to add another cornerback in this year's recruiting cycle. Seniors Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown aren't likely to return for a fifth year, which made 2013 an important season for Kinlaw's development. 

The New Jersey native was running with the third team for most of spring and likely was going to drop down another rung when Florida transfer Cody Riggs joined the program this summer.

Losing a player each spring has turned into a rite of passage for the Irish, and Kinlaw now joins Justin Ferguson, Davonte Neal, Tee Shepard and Aaron Lynch in a group gone, but certainly not forgotten.

 

Kerry Cooks Continues to Build His Texas Pipeline

Over the past week, Kerry Cooks added two Texas natives to the Irish's 2015 recruiting class. First he landed jumbo safety Prentice McKinney from Dallas and just a few days later received a verbal commitment from Jalen Guyton, a wide receiver from Allen. 

That continues Cooks' string of success in the state of Texas, following up a strong recruiting cycle where the Irish plucked Nick Watkins, Grant Blankenship and Kolin Hill from the Lone Star state, with all three holding offers from Charlie Strong's Texas program. 

In past recruiting cycles, Mack Brown had an early lead on in-state recruits, identifying and offering players well before other programs gave chase. But Strong's recent arrival has pushed back the evaluation process, and it looks like the Irish are taking advantage. 

McKinney brings a jumbo-sized safety to the secondary who the Irish don't have, a big hitter that does significant damage from center field. Guyton is a deep threat for Allen, the back-to-back Texas 5A state champs and one of the best programs in the country. 

Great work by Cooks, who is turning into one of the finest recruiters in the country, and who is already responsible for 2015 commit Jerry Tillery in Louisiana. 

 

In Addition to Recruiting Texas Hard, Irish Are Doubling Down on California

Notre Dame has experienced some heartache lately on the recruiting trail in California, spending significant time and resources recruiting the state only to lose out on some key recruits. But don't expect Brian Kelly to back away, even if the Irish turned out bridesmaids in the chase for John "JuJu" Smith, Matt Dickerson and Michiah Quick. (Let's keep Eddie Vanderdoes out of this group.) 

Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune points out that new quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur will be joining Mike Denbrock out West, bringing another body to an important recruiting territory. 

Kelly handed LaFleur most of what used to be promoted offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock’s old territory. LaFleur has the West Coast from Los Angeles north to Seattle, his home state of Michigan, and Hawaii, where Punahou School in Honolulu has produced another must-have defensive prospect in the mold of former Irish All-American Manti Te’o (defensive end Canton Kaumatule).

Denbrock’s revised territory includes the Southernmost part of California and Chicago.

LaFleur hasn't been on the recruiting trail in awhile. His last college job was with Ashland University in 2007. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to sell Notre Dame, and LaFleur's NFL experience and work with Robert Griffin III should draw plenty of interest from high school prospects. 

 

A Quarterback Competition Doesn't Mean There's Bad Blood

Malik Zaire caused quite a ruckus when he made public his belief that he thinks he's going to be the team's starting quarterback. 

The confidence, understandably, brought a lot of attention, but didn't change the way Zaire and Everett Golson go about their work

"They are competitive, but they do help each other, believe it or not," LaFleur told ESPN's Matt Fortuna on Wednesday. "Just the other day at practice Malik made a mistake and Everett was trying to explain to him why he made that mistake. Yeah, there is a competitiveness but those guys also help each other at game time." 

 

After Struggling to Force Turnovers Under Bob Diaco, Kelly Hopes New Schematic Tweaks Force Offensive Mistakes

If the Irish defense struggled under Bob Diaco, the struggles were getting to the quarterback and causing turnovers. Those two things are often complementary, with a defense pressuring a quarterback into making a bad decision. 

Kelly talked about some of the schematic changes and how, philosophically, they should help create turnovers for his young defense. 

"We want to create more pressure for the quarterback," Kelly told Douglas Farmer of Irish Illustrated. "We want them under more duress. From that standpoint, maybe the net gain there is turnovers, but I think if they're making bad decisions and throwing the ball away, we're gaining downs in that respect, too.

"I think that's been a process for us. We're moving in a new direction for our defensive personnel. It's coming, and they're making progress in that regard, but it will take us some more time."

Not all defenses are built to create pressure. As we saw with the Irish under former defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta's direction, constant blitzing didn't necessarily do anything but let opponents score quicker. 

The personnel on this Irish roster is much stronger than the last few Charlie Weis and Tenuta fielded. But staying sound fundamentally while bringing pressure is key, and that teaching process is ongoing throughout spring. 

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SEC Football Q&A: Most Improved Player, Maty Mauk and Mississippi State

Every Friday, we feature questions from Twitter. Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee.

You have SEC questions, and I have SEC answers. Thank you for your questions. If I didn't get to them this week, they will be saved and used in the future.

And we're off! 

 

@BarrettSallee Who will be the most improved player in the SEC this year?

— Mitchell Tate (@Mitchell_Tate4) April 4, 2014

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel.

I know, I know..."he's terrible, makes bad decisions and can't stretch the field."

Just stop.

Driskel has been a square peg in a round hole for his entire Florida career, and now with offensive coordinator Kurt Roper running the offense, he finally is in a system that suits his dual-threat capabilities.

According to GatorZone.com, Driskel has impressed Roper in the limited time the two have worked together.

"I didn't get to see him much before I got here,'' Roper said last week. "That's a big, powerful, fast-twitch, natural throwing motion. He is talented, folks. We're sitting here talking about a guy who is really, really gifted."

Gifted, with athletes around him. Demarcus Robinson has been impressing the staff this spring at wide receiver, Kelvin Taylor rushed for 508 yards in a part-time role last season when the Gators were incredibly one-dimensional and Matt Jones should join Taylor in the Gator backfield this fall once he returns to 100 percent.

Don't write Driskel off just yet. His best work is still ahead of him.

@BarrettSallee What's your overall opinion on Maty Mauk and how far can he take Mizzou?

— Nash Williams (@NashSports) April 4, 2014

Maty Mauk was a fantastic backup and a viable starter as a redshirt freshman, and this offseason will be all about taking the next step and becoming more efficient.

There's no denying the upside Mauk has. He threw for 1,071 yards, 11 touchdowns and only two picks last season, averaging a whopping 8.1 yards per attempt in the process. But efficiency-wise, he wasn't where he needed to be. He completed just 51.1 percent of his passes (68-of-133), and that's not good enough if Missouri wants to repeat as SEC East champs.

If he can take that next step and become a more consistent passer, he absolutely has the skills and the talent around him to take Missouri back to Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game. If he doesn't take he next step, though, Missouri could drop a game or two that it shouldn't, and that could be the difference in the division title.

For Missouri, it will take consistent quarterback play and a defense that can get pressure with four and capitalize on mistakes to get back to Atlanta. Mauk can be that consistent quarterback, but he will have to progress as a passer.

@BarrettSallee I think Miss. St. has a chance to surprise some people. Would you agree? I'm an Aggie, but I like Dak Prescott.

— Jimmie Snyder (@labayouboy) April 4, 2014

I agree that Mississippi State will be pretty good. With 16 returning starters, the Bulldogs will be competitive.

And I've gone on record about quarterback Dak Prescott and what he brings to the table by going so far as to say that he's a dark horse Heisman candidate.

With that said, the logical next step for Mississippi State isn't just a step, it's a gigantic leap forward.

I recently spoke with head coach Dan Mullen for a one-on-one that will run early next week, and he put that step into perspective better than anybody else could.

"In the last five seasons, six SEC West teams have competed for the national championship," he said. "A lot of times the next step is to build a consistent winner, and then let's go compete for a conference championship. In the SEC West, you skip that step. A conference championship is also a national championship here."

It's the truth. 

The next step for Mississippi State is to win the division and be a national power, and I'm not sure the Bulldogs are there from a roster perspective. Sure, they've got Prescott and a laundry list of returning starters, but is the depth there to make a true run? Not yet.

But I do think Mississippi State will be in more competitive games versus the big boys of the division this year, and could spring an upset or two along the way. 

Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports, and all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

 


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Alabama Football: Lane Kiffin Is Already Influencing the Tide's Offense

Even though the University of Alabama’s first scrimmage of the spring will be closed as usual, and Lane Kiffin hasn’t done a single interview with the local writers since being hired in January, some of his influences as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach are beginning to be seen and felt in Tuscaloosa.

They can be broken down into three categories:

 

1. Recruiting

Kiffin helped the Crimson Tide close out the nation’s top recruiting class.

“He has a lot of relationships built up in recruiting from the various schools he has coached,” coach Nick Saban said. “It's very important to have the kind of offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach you can recruit to, someone young people want to play in that style of offense. That was an asset for us in helping get some of the offensive players we were able to attract.

“He does a really good job of presenting to the players how they are going to be used in the offense. They have a very clear picture of how they are going to be used. It was a real positive asset of him being involved in the short time he was involved recruiting this class.”

 

2. Identifying and developing Alabama’s next starting quarterback

This will obviously take a while to gauge, especially with Jacob Coker transferring from Florida State after graduating next month, but five others, including early enrollee David Cornwell are essentially getting one-on-one instruction this spring.

“It’s going to be a long time in us developing those players, not being so quick to criticize or quick to try to make a judgment or a decision on any one particular player, but to continue to try to have the patience to develop those guys into the kind of guys that can play winning football for us,” Saban said.

 

3. Running the offense

How different will it be under Kiffin?

“It's Saban, so it's going to be the same offense,” explained senior tight end Brian Vogler. “Obviously there's wrinkles. Every coach brings his own wrinkle to it but you're going to see the same stuff.

“Just a little bit more dynamic. (It's) hard to explain.”

Here, in the words of various Alabama players and Saban, is an attempt to do just that, with some of the changes they’ll be experiencing on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium and fans will eventually see from the Crimson Tide offense:

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Georgia Football: Week 4 Spring Practice Stock Report

With Georgia’s annual G-Day just more than a week away, here’s the latest on the Bulldogs' spring practices.

 

News from Week 3 

As the reinvigorated Georgia defense continues to shuffle around under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, one piece of the puzzle removed himself from depth chart consideration this week.  Paris Bostick, a 6'1", 217-pound outside linebacker, elected to transfer. 

Bostick redshirted in 2013 as a freshman and has not yet announced his future destination.  According to Logan Booker of Bulldawg Illustrated, Mark Richt said the player's decision was mutually agreed upon, adding, “He has a positive future in football and we wish him all the best in attaining his goals in football and in education.” 

In other news, senior offensive lineman Watts Dantzler continues to be sidelined following a concussion last week.  His absence is noteworthy as he’s one of a host of players contending for two yet unsettled guard positions.

 

Position Battles 

Along the offensive line, Dantzler, Brandon Kublanow, Greg Pyke and Mark Beard continue to duke it out for starting guard positions.  

According to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald, offensive line coach Will Friend gave a less than glowing assessment of the situation.  “Nobody’s kind of stepped up and said they want to be the guard yet,” Friend said.  “We’re not performing the way we need to inside right now.” 

Meanwhile, the defensive backfield continues to be a revolving door of sorts.  According to Seth Emerson of Macon’s Telegraph, a number of alterations to the depth chart were noticeable—at least for Thursday’s practice. 

Walk-on Aaron Davis, a redshirt freshman, started at the cornerback position opposite Damian Swann (a two-year starter and a senior).  J.J. Green cross-trained with the safeties (as opposed to his normal spot with the cornerbacks), where Brendan Langley (also a cornerback prior to this week) is beginning to excel as well. 

Additionally, sophomore Tray Matthews has reestablished himself as a starter at safety.

 

Storylines for Week 4 

Next week, Georgia holds its annual spring game at Sanford Stadium.  In many ways, that scrimmage will be fans’ first chance to see a new-look defense and a reminder of Georgia’s offensive prowess. 

A few questions that need to be answered on the defensive side of the ball: 

  • How quickly are players adapting to Pruitt’s simplified—but still aggressive—scheme?
  • Who will emerge as a lockdown corner other than Damian Swann?
  • Will J.J. Green settle as a cornerback, safety or at the star position?
  • How fast can Pruitt’s lighter defensive line play?

While the regular season is still a long way off, the more questions that can be answered next week, the better—at least as far as fans are concerned.  After all, the Bulldog faithful want to be encouraged that the volatility caused by former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s departure for Louisville, and the jubilation surrounding Pruitt’s arrival, will ultimately be for the betterment of a struggling defense. 

On the offensive side of the ball, a starting rotation needs to emerge along the line.  Cohesion will be as important to this unit as anything, and chemistry will only be built after a starting lineup is set. 

And of course, the spring game will give fans an opportunity to see Todd Gurley run the football again and watch Hutson Mason distribute the ball to his many weapons.  But no news is good news for this prolific offense as Georgia can ill-afford another rash of injuries.

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Texas Football: Week 3 Spring Practice Stock Report

The Texas Longhorns have reached the midway point of the first spring football session of the Charlie Strong era. 

The Longhorns' first scrimmage of spring did not go the way Strong would have liked. Even though the team started strong, it didn't finish that way, which was not something that pleased the head coach.

"The longer the scrimmage went on some guys just quit competing and that's what we can't have," Strong said. "We're not good enough to go waste practices. That's not who we are and that's not what we're all about."

The Longhorns obviously have a ways to go until the team is ready to play an opponent, but expecting anything different would simply be wishful thinking. Changes are going to be gradual under a new staff with entirely new offensive and defensive schemes.

What Texas fans should expect is gradual progress, and from the sound of it, that progress is taking place.

 

Quarterback Progress

The good news for Texas fans is things might be coming together for some key players. And the first is the quarterback.

Some people may have been concerned that quarterback David Ash would never take the football field again after suffering recurring concussion symptoms throughout the 2013 season. But according to Strong, Ash has shown steady progress through the first half of spring practice.

"The thing about David is he's studying it and working at it. And each practice he has gotten better."

It is still very early to declare Ash as the go-to guy, but his day-by-day progress is a step in the right direction.

 

Diggs Stepping Up

One constant the defense has is defensive back Quandre Diggs, who has been an impact player for his three years at Texas. Diggs' decision to return for his senior season was welcomed with open arms by Texas because of the leadership he brings to the secondary.

"He's coming into his own and showing his leadership ability," Strong said. "He can play at corner and we can move him to the nickel. He's a very smart football player. His size is not what you typically like to see at that position but he knows how good he is and plays within himself."

Diggs' personality would appear to mesh well with the new staff. He has never been one to hide his feelings—good or bad—in press settings and enjoys the toughness Strong and his staff bring to the team.

"These guys don't care what you did in the past," Diggs said. "If you are a leader or a veteran, they're going to expect you to show them that on the field. I respect that because I feel like no guys on this team should be able to just settle. Guys should be hungry to show what type of players they are."

 

Offensive Line

The offensive line took a hit when tackle Kent Perkins went down with a knee injury. Texas released an injury update to the media stating Perkins had successful knee surgery and will miss the remainder of spring practice.

This injury came to an offensive line that is already slim on experience. Aside from Perkins, the Longhorns have three linemen with starting experience. But Perkins' injury isn't all terrible because it has given other players the opportunity to step up and show their skills.

"Losing Perkins hurts us because he was doing so well," Strong said. "But it now gives us a chance to look at the younger guys and watching them compete and making sure they get enough reps."

Strong did not specify which younger guys the staff is watching, so this position will remain one to watch moving into the second half of spring. 

 

The Red River Showdown

Away from Spring football, the Texas-Oklahoma game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas has once again been renamed and rebranded, this time to the AT&T Red River Showdown. The annual showdown, first called the Red River Shootout, was changed to the Red River Rivalry in 2005 in coordination of the 100th meeting.

Regardless of the name, the annual rivalry is arguably one of the greatest atmospheres in college football. When the Longhorns and the Sooners divide at the 50-yard line, an intense competition is almost certain to follow.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. You can follow her on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

12 Major College Football Teams Who Could Throw the Ball Fewer Than 300 Times

Run-pass balance is overrated in today’s college football.

Ask Auburn, which ran its way to an SEC championship in 2013 and came within seconds of scoring the national championship as well.

Sure, many teams aspire to 50-50 run-pass balance, whether that number is derived from play calls or yardage.

Some are more content to utilize a low-risk power game capable of dominating opponents into submission.

Today, we examine 12 college football teams from the power conferences—formerly known as BCS conferences—who could average fewer than 25 passing attempts per regular season game.

Since this list only considers college football teams from major conferences, programs such as Navy, Army, Air Force and New Mexico will not appear.

To determine the likelihood of run-heavy attacks, we take a look at passing attempts and consider the returning skill positions—especially quarterback. Coaching tendencies—from head coaches and offensive coordinators—have also been taken into account.

Here is the list of the 12 major college football teams who could throw the ball fewer than 300 times this season. 

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