NCAA Football News

Top 5 Instant-Impact Recruits in 2016 Class

The 2016 recruiting class is full of studs and big-time players. From talented quarterbacks to shutdown defenders, these young ballers have all the goods. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down which players from the 2016 recruiting class he believes will make an immediate impact at the next level.

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Ranking the Top 25 Sophomores Heading into the 2015 College Football Season

He was talking about basketball players, but the famous line from longtime coach and commentator Al McGuire applies just as well to college football: "The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores."

It's even more applicable to football, where players must spend three years in school before becoming draft-eligible instead of being able to turn pro after one season. This allows for plenty of year-over-year improvement, and one of the biggest jumps comes between the freshman and sophomore year.

This means the best first-year players in the country from 2014 have only just scratched the surface of what they can accomplish.

Last season saw a bumper crop of standout freshmen in college football, and as they enter their sophomore years, the expectations go way up. It might seem difficult for some to top what they've already accomplished, but if they're able to perform even better this fall, they'll likely be pushing their teams toward great seasons.

Check out our list of the top 25 sophomores heading into the 2015 season, ranked by their past performance and what is expected from them this coming year.

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Under-the-Radar 2015 Safety Duo Can Help Georgia 'Restore Defensive Dominance'

The Georgia Bulldogs are a team that consistently recruits well and enjoys success on the field but ultimately finds itself coming up just short of elite status. Head coach Mark Richt is doing his all to get the Bulldogs over the top, beginning with defense. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down two under-the-radar defensive recruits who show that the Bulldogs are focusing on defense. 

How will the Bulldogs fare in 2015? Check out the video and let us know!

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Ohio State WR Jeff Greene Jokingly Burns Student Who Thought He Was J.T. Barrett

Be sure you know who you're taking a picture with before putting it on social media.

That's a lesson an Ohio State student learned the hard way.

The student assumed he took a photo with Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett. Unfortunately for him, it was wide receiver Jeff Greene.

Greene humorously called out the student's mistake on Twitter:

As embarrassing as it might have been for the student, he managed to make light of the situation and redeem himself with this very funny comeback:

Well played.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Insider Buzz: Harbaugh Leading an 'Overhaul of the Culture in Ann Arbor'

After a tumultuous offseason, the Michigan Wolverines held their first spring game under new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson was joined by Bleacher Report's Lead Big Ten College Football Writer Ben Axelrod to get his overall impressions from the spring game. 

Will Jim Harbaugh turn things around in Ann Arbor? Check out the video and let us know!     

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Ohio State Football: Week 3 Spring-Practice Stock Report

COLUMBUS, Ohio — One week after revealing that his team hardly looked like a defending national champion, Urban Meyer admitted that spring practice hadn't gotten much better for Ohio State at the start of its third week.

There's plenty of excuses built in for the Buckeyes, who admittedly are resting many of their key players after a 15-game season that came to an end just three months ago. Each spring is different for each team, and for Ohio State, this year is about getting back to full strength and giving younger players reps more than it is about looking like the first-ever College Football Playoff champion.

"Nine or 10 offensive linemen that will be here in August aren't here right now," Meyer said of the Buckeyes' depleted depth chart last Tuesday. "That's obviously a big influx of people. If you want to have a bad practice, have a bad offensive line."

But while Ohio State's practices may not have run smoothly, that hasn't stopped key performers from stepping to the forefront with their individual performances. Spring practice may not be perfect in Columbus, but there still is plenty of optimism as the Buckeyes hit the midway point of their spring session.

 

Samuel Shining

In Ohio State's two spring practices that have been open to the media this year, perhaps the biggest non-quarterback takeaway has been the positioning of Curtis Samuel. Rather than lining up at running back, where he played throughout his freshman season, the sophomore-to-be could be found at wide receiver, playing the same slot position Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson occupied a year ago.

As Meyer explained, Samuel's move was made with the intent of giving him a starring role in the OSU offense.

"We're taking a look at Curtis Samuel as a receiver/H-back/running back," Meyer revealed. "He's a guy that we've ID'd as a top-five playmaker right now in our program. The days of Curtis Samuel playing 10 plays are over. It's our job to get him on the field for 40 or 50 plays."

That wouldn't have been possible at running back, where Heisman Trophy front-runner Ezekiel Elliott will reclaim his starting role in the fall after sitting out the spring due to wrist surgery. That's why the fourth-year Buckeyes head coach is already preparing Samuel, who rushed for 383 yards and six touchdowns in 2014, to play alongside and not behind Ohio State's star running back.

"With Zeke coming back healthy, to see him stand on the sideline and watch Zeke play a bunch is not right," Meyer said. "[Samuel]'s a really good one."

As for where Elliott and Samuel each fall on Meyer's list of playmakers, right now the pecking order is clear. But that won't stop Samuel from getting opportunities, as the Brooklyn, New York, native appears poised for a breakout year.

"Obviously Zeke Elliott's way high on the list, but Curtis Samuel is not far behind," Meyer said. "So we have to find ways to get him the ball in his hands."

 

Dunn Doing Work

With Samuel moving to the H-Back/'Pivot' position and Elliott recuperating on the sideline, the door has been opened up for Bri'onte Dunn to receive first-team reps at running back with the Buckeyes offense. A former 4-star prospect, Dunn has done little in the first three years of his college career, accumulating just 196 rushing yards and two touchdowns while being buried on the OSU depth chart.

According to Meyer, the Canton, Ohio, native has turned a corner this spring, however, and appears to be making the most of his opportunity. The redshirt junior won't be able to jump Elliott on the depth chart, but he could provide valuable carries this fall if he continues on his current pace.

“Bri’onte Dunn has a little momentum going on in his world right now," Meyer said. "That started with his special teams contributions last year. By the end of the year, he was outstanding. He floated around here for a couple of years and did nothing—and I mean nothing. We’re getting good progress reports in the classroom."

On the field, Dunn is getting rave reviews too, as the 6'0", 216-pounder receives the most playing time that he has in his college career. Just as he shone on special teams, the former blue chip prospect has taken pride in doing the little things on offense, in addition to carrying the ball.

“The biggest thing a player has to prove is on offense, you’ve got to make plays,” Dunn said. “And you’ve got to be able to block. So that’s what I’ve been working on.”

Whether Dunn's positive momentum in the spring carries over into the fall remains to be seen. But adding another viable running back to the backfield would certainly be big for the Buckeyes as they embark on their national title defense.

 

Success in the Secondary

After instability on defense cost Ohio State a chance to play for the national championship in 2013, Meyer knew his unit was in need of an overhaul.

Enter Chris Ash, who took over as the Buckeyes defensive coordinator and oversaw an overhaul to the way Ohio State approached its pass defense. Rather than working from the front and going back, Ash implemented a back-to-front system that was reminiscent of the Seattle Seahawks' approach in the NFL.

The results spoke for themselves, as the Buckeyes not only greatly improved their pass defense, but their tackling as well. But despite the success that the OSU secondary enjoyed last season, Ash isn't satisfied, as he looks to pick up where he left off this spring.

"We didn't play to our full potential all of the time. We made some plays, we did some good things but we really want to go another level," Ash said. "That is really the challenge, as soon as we were done with that championship game the mind was, 'How do we do that? How do we get better? How do we enhance it?, what do we have to do?' I think we have been working on that hard."

The Buckeyes have benefited from the return of starting safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell, although Ash noted that he would like to see the latter improve his tackling. The Ohio State staff is also high on hard-hitting sophomore Erick Smith, who stood out as a freshman on special teams a year ago.

While the Buckeyes defense did enough to help win a national title a year ago, it will be interesting to see what Ohio State is capable of with a truly dominant unit. That's the goal for Ash, who has already left his mark on the Buckeyes program but isn't ready to rest on his laurels just yet.

"The whole unit, in my mind, is working hard every single day," Ash said. "They have shown up to try and get better. They really have bought into the culture that we are trying to have in the room and that has been great."

 

Extra Points

  • As the battle between Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett at quarterback rages on, Meyer said he wouldn't rule out running a two-quarterback system.
  • As for the situation involving Braxton Miller endorsing the health supplement line AdvoCare on his Instagram account, Meyer does not anticipate any major issues coming from the NCAA. A secondary violation, which wouldn't affect Miller's eligibility, is possible, if not likely.
  • In the race to replace Doran Grant as a starting corner opposite Eli Apple, Ash said Gareon Conley has a lead over sophomore Damon Webb.
  • Admitting he's been concerned with the depth on his defensive line, Meyer singled out Joel Hale and Tommy Schutt as players who have stood out this spring.
  • Meyer said ideally, he'd like to rotate 10 defensive linemen this fall.
  • The Buckeyes starting linebackers appear to be set with Joshua Perry, Darron Lee and Raekwon McMillan.

 

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Nebraska Football: Final Spring Practice Stock Report

As Nebraska football fans enter the week of the Spring Game, it’s time to take a final stock of how spring practice has gone under new head coach Mike Riley. Between a new coaching staff and a new split-schedule practice, Nebraska fans have had a lot of changes to adjust to this spring.

So as we prepare for this weekend’s Spring Game and the conclusion of 2015 spring practice, here is a look at some winners and losers.

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Do High-Tempo Offenses Equal More Wins in College Football?

Football is a game of advantages. It doesn't matter if you're a college football blue blood like Alabama or a smaller program trying to win at the Division I level like Western Kentucky. No one just lines up and plays. And if they tell you that, they're lying. If you believe it, you're gullible.

Everyone does something to try to get ahead. 

One of the more common advantages a team can employ is running tempo on offense. The core purpose of tempo is to stress the defense to the point where it can't react quick enough or well enough to make a stop. Along those lines, many teams have stopped huddling to keep defenses on their toes. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez called huddling "the biggest waste of time in football" in 2013, per Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com

Of course, tempo and the no-huddle offense are no longer gimmicks used by teams smaller and less talented. Just about everyone in college football runs tempo at some point or another.

And the teams that run the most plays aren't always the ones you think; they don't have to be of the hurry-up, no-huddle variety. Michigan State, for example, actually ran two plays more per game than Oregon in 2014 (76.5 to 74.5) and roughly four plays more per game than Auburn.

Idaho—Idaho—ran about 80 plays per game. 

There are variables that play into that, like time of possession and defensive efficiency, but those are some interesting raw stats for sure. 

But do more plays actually help a team win more games? The numbers might make coaches like Arkansas' Bret Bielema, an outspoken critic of hurry-up offenses, smile. 

 

The First Group

Below is a table of the fastest 20 offenses in college football based on plays run per game. (For what it's worth, Buffalo ran 73.9 plays per game, the median for FBS schools.) For context, each team's yards per play, number of explosive plays and points per game were listed as well. 

There are some usual suspects in the chart, like Arizona, Baylor, Washington State and West Virginia. However, teams you wouldn't expect, like Memphis and Northwestern, made the cut as well.

(As an interesting note, none of the four playoff teams from last season ranked among the top 20 teams in plays per game.)

Why is that? From a raw data standpoint, the gap between No. 1 and No. 20 in terms of plays per game is big—about 10 per game. When it comes to running tempo, there are teams from practically every walk of life. 

TCU, which could very well have been a playoff team, ran nearly 80 plays per game because it could with a ton of success. Idaho, whose lowly single win came against New Mexico State, likely had to play catch-up against everyone. Sure enough, the Vandals were awful on defense, giving up 6.93 yards per play and 37.3 points per game. 

As mentioned above, running a lot of plays per game not only puts stress on the opposing defense, it puts stress on your own defense. Not every defense is equipped to handle that. This is when offensive efficiency is important.

It's no surprise to see Baylor put up gaudy stats and have success doing it, but teams like Tulsa, Northwestern and the like also ran a lot of plays without nearly the same level of success. 

Tulsa had one of the most ineffective offenses in college football—behind Florida and Michigan in yards per play—and lacked the explosiveness (plays of 10 or more yards) you saw from teams like East Carolina and Washington State. 

In other words, teams like Tulsa had a lot of wasted plays. Again, playing from behind probably had something, if not a lot, to do with that. 

Granted, one of the great things about running more plays per game is that you can move on from a bad play quickly. Psychologically, this can be good for players, as Baylor coach Art Briles told Spencer Hall of SB Nation in a 2013 interview.

"The great thing about young people is that they have short memories," Briles told Hall. "They're living in the now, the moment." 

Like everything else, though, there are limits to that. There's throwing away a bad play and moving on, and then there's having difficulty moving the ball.  

 

The Next Group

Here are the next 20 offenses ranked by plays per game. As you can see, the number of plays between the 21st team and the 40th team is much tighter and closer to the national average: 

In all, the gap from top to bottom is about 2.5 plays per game. 

Here's where things get interesting. The primary question is whether running tempo increases your chances of winning. 

"I just read a study that said players in the no-huddle, hurry-up offense play the equivalent of five more games than those that don’t," Bielema recently told Matt Hayes of the Sporting News. "That’s an incredible number." 

More opportunities don't automatically mean more chances to win. In fact, based on raw numbers, the answer is actually the opposite. You have a better chance of winning if you run fewer than 77 plays per game. 

Averaging the numbers of the two tables together, teams that ran between 76.8 and 74.3 plays per game actually won roughly a half-game more per season than teams that ran at least 77 plays per game. Figure in rounding—there are technically no "half wins"—and one game could mean the difference between bowl eligibility and staying home for the holidays. It could mean the difference between playing for a conference championship or not. 

Generally, the teams in the latter chart were a touch more efficient on offense and averaged roughly the same number of points per game. The biggest difference was in the number of explosive plays per game. As you'd expect, the teams in the first chart averaged more.  

There are, of course, multiple variables at play that have to be taken into consideration. If you have an awful defense, like Idaho or Tulsa, then it might not matter if you run 80 plays or 60. 

There are also factors that play into a team's offensive strength that can't be charted as easily, if at all, like strength of schedule, injuries, bad officiating calls, etc. 

Take Clemson and quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Tigers offense looked like a completely different group when Watson was behind center instead of Cole Stoudt. As a freshman, Watson played in eight games with five starts. Without a doubt, Clemson's offense would have been more prolific if Watson had been healthy all season and started every game.  

 

Going Slow Doesn't Win the Race 

What about teams that grind out a game? Do they have a better chance of winning? 

Put it this way: Going slow doesn't help.

Of the 20 slowest offensive teams in terms of plays per game—New Mexico was the slowest at 61.3 plays—only six ended the season with a winning record. Compare that to 11 teams in the top 20 table and 13 in the next 20. Four teams among the slowest 20 offenses—Minnesota, Navy, Rutgers and Stanford—hit a ceiling of eight wins. 

The offensive numbers aren't much better. Miami (Florida) averaged 6.68 yards per play—tied with TCU for 11th in the country—but was the best in that category at 64.4 plays per game. Navy (6.36), Rutgers (5.99) and Stanford (5.89) had success to a lesser extent. Generally, though, slower offenses were less efficient and designed to shorten the game by grinding out victories.

And, generally, that didn't work. 

There are success stories with offenses that run tempo all the time, but they're also few and far between. Teams like Baylor and TCU have top-notch athletes and defenses that do well enough to prevent teams from beating them at their own game. 

Not everyone else can match that type of effectiveness on the recruiting trail or on the field. Simply running tempo or averaging more plays per game doesn't help in the win column. If anything, it hinders your chances, even if by only a little. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com. 

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Bold Projections for College Football's Final 4 for 2015-16 Season

Earlier this offseason, I made way-too-early predictions for the 2015-16 College Football Playoff.

My predictions veered from chalk—how many people have Clemson over Florida State?—but were still, for the most part, conservative. Baylor won the Big 12. Ohio State won the Big Ten. The Buckeyes repeated as national champions, and Auburn, for the second time in three years, became the national runner-up.

In the following set of projections, I have slightly tweaked the boldness setting. I haven't dialed the meter up to 10—sorry, Indiana fans—but rather to a cool six or seven. These aren't wild, crazy, hell-raising projections; they are bold but realistic scenarios.

Will they happen? Probably not.

But can they? You'd better believe it.

This is still, after all, college football.

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South Carolina Football: Does a QB Need to Emerge in the Spring Game?

South Carolina is a week away from its spring game, and head coach Steve Spurrier hasn't been pleased with the progress of his offense.

Following the second straight offensively challenged scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, the Head Ball Coach let it be known that there's still plenty of work to be done on that side of the ball.

"The offense didn't do much at all," Spurrier said in the post-scrimmage release. "But it was good practice. Nobody got hurt. None of the quarterbacks shined too much. It was not encouraging on the offensive side, but we've got one more week. Hopefully by the spring game time next week we'll throw some completions and look like we know what we're doing on offense."

According to stats released by the school, Connor Mitch finished 4-of-9 for 77 yards, one touchdown and a pick, Perry Orth was 4-of-6 for 29 yards and Michael Sarnecchia was 2-of-7 for 15 yards and a touchdown.

"Connor Mitch held the ball too much at times and threw late at times, as did all of them," Spurrier said in the release. "But the protection probably wasn't all that super at times either. Hopefully we can learn from it."

Is that Spurrier talking down his offense in classic Spurrier fashion in an attempt to keep the fire burning bright, or an indicator that the quarterbacks haven't progressed in a way that is suitable to Spurrier?

Perhaps the former.

According to JC Shurburtt of 247Sports.com—who was at Saturday's scrimmage, Mitch isn't only "the man," but an "upgrade" from former starter Dylan Thompson. 

"Mitch is faster than Thompson running the ball (he’s a lot like Stephen Garcia speed-wise, but not as fast as Connor Shaw) and has a better arm," wrote Shurburtt.

Is it necessary for South Carolina to settle on a signal-caller exiting spring practice?

Not at all, especially since you—yes, you sitting at home reading this who has never taken a college snap—have six fewer passing attempts that Mitch, South Carolina's most experienced passer.

This is the first true quarterback competition for all involved, so establishing a rough framework of the depth chart is all Spurrier and his staff needs once the spring game wraps up on Saturday. That will give players an idea of who their leaders will be, while avoiding any sense of complacency that could creep in by naming a true starter exiting spring practice.

There's no denying Mitch's talent.

The 20th-ranked pro-style passer in the class of 2013 had offers from all over the place, including Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee and LSU, according to his 247Sports.com bio. One look at his high school highlights, and you can see that he has a big arm and doesn't lose accuracy when he takes something off.

But can he lead?

Thompson was already a season-veteran who had come in for former starter Connor Shaw in big spots—including a 310-yard performance on the road vs. Clemson in 2012—when he was anointed the starting quarterback in Columbia in January 2014.

Mitch doesn't have that. For the coaching staff to have full confidence in him, he needs to take the reins this summer, act like a veteran and rally the troops during "optional" workouts. That will be the final piece of the puzzle for Mitch and Spurrier's quest to find Thompson's replacement.

No matter what the quarterbacks look like during the spring football game, it's probably best for South Carolina if Spurrier waits to name a starter. The offense—as is the case with most schools—has been behind the defense so far this spring.

With so many new pieces around the quarterback—including a new-look offensive line and new No. 1 running back—Spurrier should let the battle simmer for a little while before settling on a starter.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Michigan's 2016 Recruiting Class Is Finally Gaining Major Momentum

The Michigan Wolverines didn't manage to secure a single 2016 commitment during head coach Jim Harbaugh's first 14 weeks in Ann Arbor.

A stalled situation shifted dramatically during the past four days, as three high school juniors pledged to the Wolverines. The much-needed momentum switch—spurred by Saturday's spring game—provides fresh fuel for Michigan's recruiting efforts as Harbaugh and his staff work to assemble a foundation for the future.

The first—and most crucial—commitment came Friday evening from 4-star Indiana quarterback Brandon Peters. He arrived on campus Friday following a family spring-break visit to Mexico and announced his decision within hours:

The 6'5", 205-pound playmaker joins 2015 Michigan signee Zach Gentry and Iowa transfer Jake Rudock as quarterbacks personally landed by the current coaching regime.

Peters, rated ninth nationally among pro-style passers in 247Sports' composite rankings, completed 56 percent of his attempts for 1,876 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2014. He added 244 yards and five scores on the ground for Avon High School, where he doubles as a college-level basketball standout.

Peters became a primary target for the Wolverines last month after top-ranked California quarterback KJ Costello committed to Stanford over Michigan and USC. Harbaugh and company quickly sealed the deal, beating out fellow favorites LSU, Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin.

His presence could provide passing-game coordinator Jedd Fisch with six scholarship quarterbacks in 2016, though that number may fluctuate if a player or two opt to explore alternative options.

Peters has the size and skill set to compete for early reps in Ann Arbor and should help Harbaugh lure more offensive talent to Michigan.

Michigan secured its second commitment of the weekend Saturday from in-state recruit David Reese, who also attended the spring game. The 6'1", 235-pound prospect is a battering ram on both sides of the ball, presenting promise at middle linebacker and fullback.

Reese, rated 19th nationally among inside linebackers in the composite rankings, initially pledged to Louisville in early March. The Wolverines entered the equation three weeks later, extending a scholarship offer while he visited campus.

This time around, he departed Ann Arbor as a member of the 2016 Michigan class:

Reese racked up 225 tackles during the past two seasons, per MaizeNBlueNation.com. He rushed for 297 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior.

"Thank you Cardinal Family for the opportunity you have given me to further my education at the University of Louisville," Reese wrote on Twitter. "But the chance to play at home I couldn't turn down."

Louisville's loss is Michigan's gain.

Battling with Big Ten rivals Ohio State, Michigan State and others for quality in-state talent, all recruiting additions on home turf are pivotal en route to signing day.

Reese could soon be joined in the class by Farmington High School teammate Desmond Fitzpatrick, a 4-star wide receiver. The 6'2", 194-pound pass-catcher is currently committed to Louisville, though he also attended Michigan's spring game and admitted mutual interest is mounting. 

“Right now I’m really comfortable with Michigan," he told Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports. “I told (Harbaugh) I’m still taking my time and want to get to know the program more. He said 'I want you to be 100 percent when or if you do flip.'”

Fitzpatrick caught 32 passes for 511 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014, per MaxPreps. He took note of the successful series of events in Ann Arbor.

"David committed, so I was really excited for him," Fitzpatrick told Wiltfong on Saturday. "Brandon Peters committed yesterday, so it was a big weekend for Michigan."

Positive recruiting news seeped into the new week for Michigan.

Alabama running back Kingston Davis declared his intentions to join the Wolverines on Monday:

Davis, a 6'1", 225-pound prospect from Prattville High School, is rated third nationally among fullbacks in the composite rankings. He follows in the footsteps of teammate Keith Washington, a late defensive back addition to Michigan's 2015 class.

Harbaugh's pursuit of the powerful rusher provides further evidence he's working to build an intimidating stable of backs in Ann Arbor. Davis rumbled for 1,432 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com.

Davis and Reese each appear capable of someday earning roles in the Wolverines backfield alongside Peters, though a pledge from Davis may ultimately push Reese into an inside linebacker slot. 

This flurry of commitments could eventually be viewed as a turning point for Michigan's 2016 recruiting haul. The trio ended a significant drought, joining former head coach Brady Hoke holdovers Erik Swenson (Illinois offensive tackle) and Dele Harding (Maryland linebacker).

Key Wolverines wide receiver target Ahmir Mitchell documented Harbaugh's impact on the program during a late-March trip to Ann Arbor.

“Coach Harbaugh seemed like a normal guy, who is honest with you and didn’t mind shaking hands or taking pictures with people who came up to him on campus," Mitchell told Bleacher Report. "It's very exciting to see how everyone feels about him at Michigan.”

Fans are likely feeling even better about their new leader after a stretch of successful recruiting endeavors. Michigan has climbed into the top 25 of the 247Sports national class rankings and may be on the verge of soaring much higher on that list.

Nearly five months shy of his first game as Wolverines head coach, Harbaugh is finally securing much-needed victories on the recruiting trail.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Who Are the 5 Best NFL Prospects on Texas A&M?

The Texas A&M Aggies have done a fantastic job of sending their players to the NFL. In recent years, the big names to come out of the program include Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans and, going back as far as 2008, Martellus Bennett.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the Aggies roster and projects which players could play in the NFL. 

Which Aggies will make it at the next level? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ranking the 5 Best NFL Prospects at Florida State

In addition to being national championship contenders over the past few years, the Florida State Seminoles have also done a great job of churning out NFL talent.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the Seminoles roster and projects which players will be NFL picks. 

Which players on the FSU roster will be suiting up for the NFL? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jonah Williams' Commitment to Alabama Could Spark Big Recruiting Run for Tide

Over the weekend, Florida State overtook the No. 1 spot from Miami in the 247Sports recruiting team rankings. Alabama, a team that's had the top spot since 2011, is still not in the top 15 for the 2016 rankings.

Jonah Williams' Saturday commitment bumped the Crimson Tide into the top 20 nationally. It's a spot that Alabama isn't used to being in, but the 4-star offensive tackle's pledge could be that jolt the Tide needs.

For many, Alabama's recruiting isn't about if, but when it will make a run for its sixth consecutive No. 1 ranking. Williams, out of Folsom, California, is the Tide's first pledge in nearly two months, and he's the first offensive lineman to commit.

At 6'5" and 272 pounds, Williams is expected to bring quickness, overall athleticism and a level of tenacity to the Alabama offensive line. Williams, the nation's No. 9 offensive tackle, is also a versatile lineman who can play guard if necessary.

Williams' commitment could make for a nice spring streak. He may be the first of a few pledges to move Alabama in the right direction.

Alabama has several targets considering making Tuscaloosa home, including two of the nation's top four tackles in No. 4 Willie Allen and No. 1 Greg Little, a Texas A&M commitment. Additionally, Alabama is in the driver's seat for top-five outside linebackers Lyndell Wilson and Ben Davis, and the team feels strongly about where they sit with the nation's top-ranked defensive tackle, Rashan Gary, and the nation's top-ranked defensive end, Shavar Manuel.

All six of those athletes are 5-star players. If Alabama can land four of the six, it will put the team in a great position to once again compete for a top-five spot nationally.

Panicking is one thing head coach Nick Saban and his staff never seem to do—particularly with recruiting—and even if the Tide miss out on the top spot this year, they are still expected to have a solid recruiting class.

Monday could be the start of something special. Per Andrew Bone of Rivals.com, eight athletes are expected to be on campus.

A big upcoming recruiting opportunity is the annual A-Day spring football game on April 18 which has, in the past, garnered as many as 90,000 fans in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Look for a large majority of Alabama targets to be in attendance.

And then there are the multiple home games for the upcoming season. Alabama will host LSU, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Arkansas this year. The campus atmospheres for official and unofficial visits during game weekends have been determining X-factors for uncommitted targets in past years.

Look for the Tide to see a spike in its recruiting class. Williams' commitment serves as a great start.

 

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

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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Two out-of-state wide receivers, Florida native Freddie Swain and Mississippi standout A.J. Brown, stole the show at last month’s Atlanta Nike Opening Regional camp.

According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, USC pulled the trigger on offering both of the electric 4-star pass-catchers who reside on the other side of the country. 

Swain, who was named the receiver MVP of the Atlanta camp and earned an invite to The Opening, admitted to Bartow that USC has been his dream school.

"[Receivers] Coach [Tee Martin] told me they had a meeting and decided to pull the trigger," Swain told Bartow. "I told him I'm going to come visit and see how it is."

The 6’0”, 172-pound Swain has collected 20 offers, with schools like Florida, Miami and Alabama among the others who have tendered him. 

Brown, who also earned an invite to The Opening for his performance in Atlanta, is a 6’1”, 200-pounder who resides in Mississippi State’s backyard in Starkville. 

The Trojans join the Bulldogs, Ole Miss, Alabama and Auburn as schools in the running for Brown.

USC has been one school who has had success recruiting nationally in recent years.

As their recent activity suggests, Steve Sarkisian and his staff are scouring the country in search of finding the top talent at the receiver position in the 2016 cycle.

 

Texas offers Out-of-State 4-Star DE

One key for Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns in the 2016 cycle is continuing to upgrade the talent along the defensive line. 

Last week, Strong and his staff pulled the trigger on offering 4-star defensive end Prince Sammons, according to Horns247

The 6’8”, 280-pounder could also play along the offensive line, but he’s a raw talent with the athleticism and strength the create havoc on defense. 

Sammons rates as the nation’s fifth-best strong-side defensive end prospect and the No. 71 player overall in the 2016 class.

 

Wisconsin After 2016 Florida CB’s 

Wisconsin’s secondary already has a bit of Florida flavor to it, with corners like Sojourn Shelton and Derrick Tindal roaming the back end for the Badgers.

Paul Chryst and his staff hit the Sunshine State last week in search of more help in the secondary. 

The Badgers offered 2016 3-star corner Henry Miller, per Demetric Warren of Varsity Preps. Also, per Scout’s Corey Bender, Wisconsin also offered fellow Floridian and 2016 3-star corner Carlos Becker.

Considering the Badgers track record with defensive backs from Florida, the recruitment of Miller and Becker could get interesting if both players decide to explore their options out of state.

 

Alabama, Georgia offer 2017 CB

Both Alabama and Georgia have gone head-to-head on the recruiting trail for a number of talented prospects over the last few years.

Nick Saban and Mark Richt both were hot after 2017 corner LeAnthony Williams, who was offered by both the Tide and the Bulldogs last week. 

The 6’0”, 170-pounder from Roswell, Ga., also holds offers from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia Tech.

While it’s still early in the race to land Williams, both SEC heavyweights figure to be major players in his recruitment until its eventual conclusion.

 

Best of the Rest

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Ranking the 5 Best NFL Prospects on Notre Dame's Roster

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have done a great job of getting their players to the NFL. Over the past few seasons, head coach Brian Kelly and his staff have sent several players to the next level after their time in South Bend.

But which players on the current roster have the best shot at playing on Sundays?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the Irish roster and projects which players can make it to the next level.

Which Notre Dame players will go on to the NFL? Check out the video and let us know!

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2015 Spring-Game Goals for Every SEC Football Team

College football is king in the SEC, but what's the second-biggest sport in the south? Spring football, of course.

Spring practice sessions are in full-gear around the SEC, with spring games around the corner. Not every problem needs to be solved on the biggest stage of the spring, but there are at least some minor goals for every SEC team to accomplish under the bright lights of the spring game.

What are the spring-game goals for every SEC team? Our picks, based on team need and positional struggles, are in this slideshow.

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Notre Dame Football: Harry Hiestand Continues to Roll on Recruiting Trail

When you close your eyes and think of the best recruiters in college football, you don't imagine Harry Hiestand. Yet, Notre Dame's offensive line coach continues to be one of the best on the trail, reeling in top 2017 offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons over the weekend.

Beating out a program like Ohio State for Gibbons is monumental. The young prospect spoke to Hiestand's reputation as an offensive line coach when he gave Brian Kelly his commitment just days after leaving campus and being offered.

"He’s the best offensive line coach in all of college football," Gibbons told Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune, per ND Insider. "Whatever he says, I’m going to take to heart."

He's also turned into the most unlikely top recruiter in all of the country. He's a 56-year-old, 30-plus-year veteran of the coaching ranks whose old-school approach puts conventional recruiting wisdom on its head. 

Today's best recruiters are a constant on Twitter. Hiestand has an account, but he hasn't tweeted anything yet. Top recruiters are glued to their phones and love sending messages through Facebook. Hiestand's Facebook profile exists—it's just stuck at 26 friends and hasn't been updated since he was a coach at Tennessee four years ago.

In hiring Hiestand after the 2011 season, Kelly reached outside of his coaching circle to pluck Hiestand away from the Volunteers. And the kind words Kelly spoke directly after Hiestand was hired now sound closer to reality than your standard press release stump speech, according to the official Notre Dame athletics website

Harry is one of the best offensive line coaches in college football, and we are fortunate to have him on our staff. When I was searching to fill this position, I asked some of the most respected offensive line coaches in football whom they would recommend and Harry's name was routinely mentioned as one of the best. His history of developing NFL-caliber offensive linemen speaks for itself, and I know our linemen will learn a lot from him.

We've already seen Hiestand's work with Zack Martin, who was an All-Pro in his rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys in 2014. Adding third-round choice Chris Watt to the pro ranks, Hiestand could've had another first-rounder on his hands had Ronnie Stanley decided to leave for the NFL this offseason. 

That track record should pay off as the Irish look to reload their offensive line in the 2016 recruiting cycle. After taking just two offensive linemen in the 2015 class (Jerry Tillery's switch to the defensive line robbed Hiestand of another blue-chip tackle prospect), Hiestand is looking to add to current 5-star commit Tommy Kraemer, an Ohio native who chose the Irish over Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. 

Chief among that group is Cleveland native Liam Eichenberg. The 4-star tackle prospect will be difficult to get out of Ohio, but the Irish coaching staff has had plenty of success at St. Ignatius (Eichenberg's high school) in the past—current redshirt freshman Jimmy Byrne played there, as did former linebacker Dan Fox. 

Hiestand is also trying to find further talent at John Curtis High School, the New Orleans powerhouse where the Irish just landed pass-rusher Bo Wallace. Pulling Willie Allen away from LSU or Alabama might be a long shot, but at this point why would anybody question if Hiestand is able to do it? 

One thing that'll only help Hiestand's reputation as a recruiter is a dominant 2015. Stanley's return, along with the presence of Music City Bowl starters Nick Martin, Steve Elmer and Mike McGlinchey, have the Irish primed for a dominant season up front (the entire offensive line would've returned had Matt Hegarty decided not to transfer).

After making it to the BCS title game in 2012 with an offensive line that was undersized, Hiestand quickly changed the profile of Notre Dame's O-line. Entering 2015, they'll have bookend tackles—Stanley is 6'5 ½", McGlinchey stands 6'7 ½". Nick Martin is the shortest starter, listed at 6'4 ½", while guards Steve Elmer, Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars all have the size and were originally projected to be offensive tackles. 

Hiestand came to Notre Dame in large part because Ed Warinner was passed up internally for the offensive coordinator position. And while the Irish staff has seen attrition—both Tony Alford and Kerry Cooks moved on this offseason with hopes of moving up the ladder—Hiestand is more than comfortable coaching the players in the trenches. 

That's good news for Notre Dame and the offensive line, as Hiestand continues to show he's one of the best in the business. 

 

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Georgia Football: Week 3 Spring Practice Stock Report

The Georgia Bulldogs have put in another week of spring practice and are getting more prepared to play in the G-Day game, which takes place this Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

The Bulldogs had another scrimmage on Saturday, and there was some separation between players at one crucial position. Also, the newcomers are continuing to impress, including one linebacker who could make his way into the starting rotation in his first season with the Dawgs.

The offensive line was a big part of the Bulldogs' success on offense last season, but with David Andrews gone, the center position is now a crucial position to fill. However, there is one player who is standing out as the front-runner to replace Andrews.

Here’s the Week 3 spring practice stock report.

 

Stock Up: Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta

Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Jacob Park are the three quarterbacks vying for the starting position, and all three have had a chance to work with the first-team offense.

But recently, Ramsey and Bauta have been getting the majority of snaps with the first two units. In the scrimmage on Saturday, both Ramsey and Bauta went 17-of-28 through the air. Bauta tallied 250 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while Ramsey had 219 yards and one touchdown.

According to Jake Rowe of 247Sports, Ramsey has attempted 60 passes in the two scrimmages, while Bauta had attempted 58.

The reason for Ramsey and Bauta getting the snaps is experience. Both have seen in-game action, but this doesn’t mean this is now a two-man race. There is still plenty of time for Park to gain some ground.

 

Stock Down: Jacob Park

Speaking of Park, he is not seeing much action in the scrimmages. He only went 2-of-8 in the Saturday scrimmage and has only thrown the ball 15 times in the team’s two scrimmages.

Again, this goes back to Bauta and Ramsey having more experience. Park has been doing some good things during spring practice, but he will have to earn playing time in the scrimmages and in the G-Day Game.

The only thing Park can do is make the most of his snaps. He has been able to do it so far, but the G-Day Game will be vital for him to move up the depth chart.

 

Stock Up: Isaiah Wynn

David Andrews was the leader of the offensive line last season, and because of his leadership, the Bulldogs were able to lead the SEC in scoring.

Now that he’s moved on, there needs to be someone who replaces him, and Isaiah Wynn could be the best fit.

Wynn, who was recruited as a guard and has never played center, worked with the first-team offense in the first scrimmage, according to Connor Riley of The Red & Black. Wynn said that he’s not yet comfortable being at center.

But as of right now, Wynn is the No. 1 center and has shown that he’s more than likely going to hold on to that spot for the rest of spring and fall camp.

Isaiah Wynn appears to be the leader for the vacant center role. Got all 1st team snaps today. Hunter Long second team. #UGA

— Logan Booker (@LoganMBooker) March 28, 2015

 

Holding Steady: A.J. Turman and Jake Ganus

There are two guys who continue to have outstanding spring seasons, and they have yet to play in a Bulldog uniform.

Tailback A.J. Turman and linebacker Jake Ganus were the two standouts in the Saturday scrimmage, but it’s no surprise because they have been doing well since the start of spring practice.

Turman worked with the second unit in the scrimmage, rushing for 140 yards and two scores on 22 carries. Ganus paced the defense with 10 tackles.

Both Turman and Ganus will be fighting for playing time because of where they are on the depth chart. But if they continue to do well during the spring practices and fall camp, they will see plenty of time on the field this upcoming season.

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10 Starting Quarterbacks Most Likely to Lose Their Job Before the End of 2015

There is no more important position in college football than the starting quarterback. Great programs begin with the quarterback and build a foundation around him. A great quarterback can win you games with steady play and nerves of steel in the clutch.

A bad quarterback can lose you games with shaky play and ill-timed pick-sixes. And if you have two quarterbacks, as the adage goes, you really have none. Multiple programs face interesting quandaries this spring and fall. Many teams are set with their signal-caller, but many more have serious questions.

Here is a look at the 10 quarterbacks most likely to lose their jobs before season’s end.

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