NCAA Football News

Ohio State Football: The 5 Most Important Recruits at Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights is the Ohio State Buckeyes' premier offseason recruiting event, and this year, it will draw some of head coach Urban Meyer's top targets to Columbus, Ohio, for pivotal visits.

The event was established when Meyer took over at Ohio State in 2012, and it has brought in big-time recruits such as Joey Bosa, Darron Lee, Raekwon McMillan and Torrance Gibson, all of whom wound up at Ohio State.

Which marquee prospects will be on hand this Friday?

 

Luke Farrell, 4-Star Tight End (2016)

Ohio State already has one tight end commitment with 4-star Jake Hausmann, but the staff is looking to add another for its 2016 class.

The guy at the top of its board is Luke Farrell, a 4-star prospect out of Perry, Ohio. Rated the fifth-best tight end and the No. 145 recruit overall, Farrell has offers from some of the nation's top programs, including Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame and Oregon.

A commitment from Farrell would give the Buckeyes two of the top five tight end recruits in the country, and according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions, that's an inevitability. The home-state team is the unanimous favorite to land his pledge.

A good visit to Columbus should solidify that this Friday.

 

Damar Hamlin, 4-Star Cornerback (2016)

The Buckeyes already have 17 commits for their 2016 class, and with room for only six or seven more, the coaching staff is tightening up its selection process.

One unit that still has a big need is the secondary, which only has commits from cornerbacks Wayne Davis and Kareem Felder.

The Buckeyes would love to add Damar Hamlin to that group.

The 4-star cornerback is rated the No. 144 recruit nationally and has offers from 31 schools, highlighted by Auburn, Michigan, Notre Dame and UCLA. But the Pittsburgh standout has been to Ohio State numerous times and is high on the Buckeyes, according to Tom Loy of 247Sports:

I've been up [to Columbus] a lot. This was just about spending time with the coaches. Coach Luke Fickell, coach Chris Ash and coach Kerry Coombs are all good guys. We have a good relationship. We’re real close. It’s another one of my top schools. I love everything about the coaches. It’s a great place.

The Buckeyes recently made his top-10 list, which wasn't a surprise as they're the leaders for his commitment, per 247Sports.

If things go well Friday, Meyer and Ohio State could solidify themselves as the leaders for Hamlin.

 

Lamont Wade, 4-Star Cornerback (2017)

It's not just 2016 recruits who will be heading to Columbus this weekend—many elite 2017 and 2018 prospects will be in attendance as well.

One of the most highly touted players bound for Columbus this week is Lamont Wade, a 4-star cornerback from Clairton, Pennsylvania.

Wade, the No. 5 cornerback and the No. 42 overall prospect for 2017, already boasts 15 offers from major programs before playing a single snap of his junior season. Auburn, Nebraska, Penn State, UCLA and Virginia Tech have already offered, but Ohio State is shaping up as the leader in his recruitment, per 247Sports.

With 20 months until signing day, however, it's pivotal for the Buckeyes to make an early impression. That's why this week is so important for Meyer.

Ohio State already has a pair of outstanding cornerback commits for 2017 in 5-star Shaun Wade and 4-star Marcus Williamson, and if it could get Wade in the fold, it'd have three of the top eight cornerbacks for the 2017 recruiting cycle.

 

Bruce Judson, 4-Star Athlete (2017) 

One of the most important recruits at Ohio State's Friday Night Lights will be a player who has already committed to the Buckeyes.

Bruce Judson, a 4-star athlete out of Cocoa, Florida, is one of the most sought-after junior recruits in the country. He boasts offers from schools such as Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Miami, but he spurned all of those southern suitors, committing to the Buckeyes in January.

But how hard will Ohio State have to fight to keep that commitment?

Judson has been active over the last two months, visiting Miami, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Auburn. But he says his involvement at these campuses isn't to scout other schools, and he's completely committed to the Buckeyes.

Still, Meyer will want to reaffirm that commitment this weekend.

  

Keyshawn Johnson Jr., 4-Star Wide Receiver (2017)

The son of legendary receiver Keyshawn Johnson has legitimate interest in joining the Buckeyes.

Keyshawn Johnson Jr., the 6'1", 195-pound receiver who's rated No. 122 overall in the class of 2017, has an incredible offer list that already includes Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Miami and USC, among others.

But the Buckeyes stand out because Michael Thomas—Johnson's nephew—has thrived in Columbus under Meyer. As a result, Ohio State is shaping up as a contender with USC and Nebraska for Johnson Jr.'s commitment.

Even though Ohio State relies so heavily on the run game, Johnson feels that Ohio State would be a fantastic fit for his son.

"I feel good about [Ohio State]," Johnson said, according to Ari Wasserman of Northeast Ohio Media Group. "I like what they do from an offensive perspective. I think a lot of times, especially at skill positions, a lot of people would think, 'Why would you go to Ohio State to play receiver?' If you know football, it's a pretty good school to go play receiver."

The Buckeyes slightly trail USC for the lead in Johnson Jr.'s recruitment, but a good visit this Friday could change that.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports.

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

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Georgia Football: The Bulldogs' Biggest Position Battles Heading into Fall Camp

In a couple of weeks, the Georgia Bulldogs will hit the field for fall camp. The media recently voted the Bulldogs as the favorites to win the SEC East. So once again the expectations are high as they get ready for the 2015 season.

Because the season is drawing closer and closer, there are some questions the Bulldogs need to answer. And by questions, I mean position battles that will need to be finalized before the season begins.

So which position battles are the ones to watch heading into fall camp?

 

Quarterback

It’s obvious the one position that everyone be paying attention to is most important on the roster.

It was an interesting offseason for the quarterbacks because it looked as if the battle would be between Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Jacob Park. However, Greyson Lambert transferred from Virginia to Georgia, and as a result, Park decided to transfer.

Lambert brings something Ramsey and Bauta don’t have, and that’s experience. Lambert started in nine games last season, and he threw 1,632 yards, 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Those numbers aren’t impressive, but if he were to start this season for the Dawgs, he would have a chance to put up better numbers because he is working with a better offensive line and better skill players.

Ramsey has seen limited action, as he played sparingly in eight games last season. The most action he saw was in the Belk Bowl, where he was 4-of-9 for 51 yards and one interception.

Bauta only played in three games last season. He is not the typical pro-style quarterback because he can run just as well he can throw. However, he did have a great spring game as he threw for 171 yards and one touchdown.

 

Center

This position battle is a little more interesting than quarterback because the two players who are competing for the starting center position are on the same level when it comes to talent.

Brandon Kublanow is listed as the No. 1 center on the depth chart, per Jason Butt of the Columbus Ledger-Inquirer, while Isaiah Wynn is listed as the No. 1 left guard.

What makes them interesting is Wynn was the starting center during spring practice, and Kublanow was the starting left guard, the same position he played all of last season.

Head coach Mark Richt said, per Butt, that the center position is "not settled" yet and the reason the players switched is that Kublanow has the body type (6’3’’, 282 lbs) for the position and has a good amount of experience on the line. However, Richt went on to say that both Kublanow and Wynn might go back to their original positions by the end of fall camp.

 

Wide Receiver

One of the receiver positions is set with Malcolm Mitchell because he’s the team’s best deep threat. As far as the other receiver position, there are a few who are looking for their shot.

"To be able to complete spring, which I had never done before, was positive energy going into the season" - #UGA receiver Malcolm Mitchell

— DawgPost (@Dawg_Post) July 16, 2015

According to the UGA Media Guide, Isaiah McKenzie is listed as the starting Y receiver (Mitchell is listed as the X receiver). McKenzie showed he’s a great weapon on special teams, as he had three returns for touchdowns last season (two punts and one kickoff). Because of his speed and his hands, McKenzie should see more time at receiver.

However, there are a few more receivers who are looking to see playing time. Reggie Davis is a veteran who is looking to take the next step in his progression. Shakenneth Williams only had three catches last season, but he is athletic and has good speed. Other guys to watch for are Blake Tibbs, Charlie Hegedus and Kenneth Towns.

Also, Justin Scott-Wesley is another player who is just as explosive as Mitchell. But he recently had knee surgery, according to Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and that has been a problem for him since he tore his ACL back in 2013.

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Nebraska Football: The Huskers' Biggest Position Battles Heading into Fall Camp

Nebraska football fans know that fall camp is starting soon, and one of the biggest things for new head coach Mike Riley to do during it is to sort out contested positions. Some positions are fairly clear, but a number of them on Nebraska’s roster will force Riley to make some decisions.

Here are five of the positions where the battles for playing time should be the fiercest.

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Chris Williams Shot in Arm Following Argument: Latest on UCF DB's Recovery

Central Florida defensive back Chris Williams was shot "around 1 a.m. ET" on Saturday morning outside of King Tut's Lounge in Orlando, Florida, according to authorities, per WFTV.com.

Continue for updates.

Williams Hospitalized with Non-Life-Threatening Injuries Sunday, July 19

Brandon Helwig of UCFSports.com passed along the following update from Williams:

Per WFTV's report, authorities said Williams was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, while Shannon Green of the Orlando Sentinel reported that the shooting followed an argument. Green also reported that head coach George O’Leary had been informed of the situation and reached out to both Williams and his mother as the school continued to gather more information about the incident. 

Williams, a redshirt freshman, dressed for Central Florida's Nov. 14 game against Tulsa this past season, but he spent the rest of the year on the scout team, according to his bio at UCFSports.com.

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2017 5-Star QB Tate Martell Details Texas A&M Visit, Latest in Recruitment

Texas A&M hosted a big unofficial visitor over the weekend in 2017 5-star quarterback Tate Martell. To say the visit was a success would be something of an understatement.

Martell, the talk of Las Vegas as 247Sports' No. 13 player in the 2017 class and the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback, told Bleacher Report on Saturday that he thoroughly enjoyed his trip to College Station, Texas. The experience was exactly what Martell was looking for.

"I knew halfway through the day [Saturday], right around when I went to lunch, that even if I wasn't playing football, I'd feel comfortable going to college there," Martell said of Texas A&M. "That's the first time I've felt like that with a college. Adding football on top of it, that would make it that much fun."

This wasn't the Bishop Gorman High School star's first time in Texas, as he's made previous unofficial visits to TCU and Baylor. The trip to Texas A&M, however, was one for the books, as he gave it high marks.

Martell said he enjoyed the overall campus environment but really liked the athletic facilities. He then added that he hopes for a return trip soon.

"The facilities are unreal there," he said. "I didn't know how insane the facilities were going to be. I want to come up for one or two games. I want to see the Alabama game and the South Carolina game."

Although he had a great time in College Station, Martell reiterated he still has a few schools in mind regarding his recruiting process. USC is in the mix, as are Michigan and Alabama. Oregon is a school Martell also is a fan of, but the Ducks are not one of the nine programs to offer.

Whichever school lands Martell will get a player who was an All-USA second-team selection by USA Today and the MaxPreps national sophomore of the year last season. Martell threw for 2,537 yards, 40 touchdowns and only two interceptions as a sophomore.

Bishop Gorman, under Martell, won its sixth consecutive state championship and finished the year undefeated at 15-0. The team beat several nationally ranked teams and was crowned mythical national champion by USA Today and the National Prep Football Poll.

The Texas A&M trip was an opportunity for Martell to further get acquainted with head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. Martell had nothing but positive things to say about both coaches.

"I got to talk to Coach Sumlin, and he's a really cool guy," he said. "He was completely honest with me. He and Coach Spav have been genuine with everything. I hung out with Coach Spav. We had a chance to break down some film."

Texas A&M did its job in impressing the quarterback whom some have compared to former Aggies standout Johnny Manziel, primarily because of the similarity in size. Martell is 5'11" and 180 pounds with two years of high school ball remaining. Manziel, who now is 6'0" and 210 with the Cleveland Browns, was 193 pounds in his senior year of high school.

Listed as a dual-threat quarterback, Martell feels his game is a little different than Manziel's. He feels a little more comfortable with comparisons of him and Russell Wilson, who is considered more of a pro-style quarterback with dual-threat capabilities.

"It's cool being compared to somebody that good," Martell said of Manziel. "Maybe some haven't watched enough of my film, but I feel like I play more like a pocket-passer, where Johnny was more of a guy who created his own plays.

"I know how to extend plays and run the ball, and I'll never say I'm as good as him, but when it comes down to it, I think I can be a different type of player [than Manziel]."

And that could happen if he ultimately chooses Texas A&M. Playing time, however, would be the biggest concern. The Aggies already have a solid stable of quarterbacks entering the 2015 season in incumbent starter Kyle Allen, reserve Conner McQueen, former junior college standout Jake Hubenak and incoming freshman Kyler Murray, a three-time state champion and the reigning Gatorade Male Athlete of the Year.

Competition is something Martell said he isn't afraid of.

"I want to play early and compete for a starting job," Martell said. "That's a huge thing for me, playing early. I like how Coach Sumlin gives every kid an opportunity to start if they're ready for it."

Martell said he's still weighing all options, but a commitment to a program could come before the start of the upcoming season. He said he wants to have a commitment out of the way so he can focus on leading Bishop Gorman on the quest of a seventh consecutive title and another undefeated season.

"I'd like to get it done before the season, but that's something I want to talk to my parents about," he said of a verbal to a school. "As soon as my parents give me the thumbs-up, I'm going to start preparing for it."

 

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

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Adidas Unveils Miami's New TECHFIT X Primeknit Football Uniforms

Adidas provided an early look at the new football uniforms the Miami Hurricanes will be wearing next season.

The school's new TECHFIT x Primeknit uniforms will come in three colorways: white, orange and green.

Here's a look at each one:

[Adidas]

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Baron Browning to Baylor: Bears Land 4-Star LB Prospect

The top-ranked inside linebacker in the Class of 2017 has made a decision.  

According to Scout.com's Tim Watkins, 4-star linebacker Baron Browning has committed to the Baylor Bears despite receiving offers from Alabama, TCU, Texas A&M, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas and dozens of other schools. 

"I just feel like people are gonna be like, 'why Baylor?'" Browning said, according to 247Sports' Amy Pagitt. "No offense to the other programs, but I just feel like Baylor has a brand now, and it's something I want to be a part of."

A native of Kennedale, Texas, who attends Kennedale High School, Browning has prototypical size for a linebacker at 6'3'' and 220 pounds.

In addition to being the top-ranked insider linebacker in his class, according to 247Sports, Browning is also the eighth-ranked player in the state of Texas and 45th-ranked player nationally among 2017 recruits.

As Watkins noted, Baylor has now received six commitments from prospects in the class of 2017.  

"I'm 100 percent committed to Baylor," Browning said, according to Pagitt. "I'm not going to decommit. I'm going to stand strong on my word as a man. Baylor is the place that I want to be at to take my game to the next level."

With Browning's decision final and Baylor only starting to build its 2017 recruiting class, the Bears should be in good shape as they continue to woo other highly touted prospects from across the country. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5'11" Missouri DB Finis Stribling Shows Off Hops with 61" Box Jump

Wanting to show off his incredible hops, 5'11" Missouri Tigers defensive back Finis Stribling IV attempted a 61-inch box jump during a workout.

Stribling made the tall task look fairly easy. Luckily for the rest of us, he posted a slow-motion video of the box jump.

To put this in perspective, Stribling jumped on top of boxes that are just 10 inches shorter than he is.

[Finis Stribling, h/t the Big Lead]

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Every SEC Football's Team Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for 2015

It's the middle of July, a couple of weeks before fall camp starts around the nation and SEC football gets ready to kick off.

In other words, this is the point of the offseason where optimism springs eternal.

Everybody is 0-0, and if you listen to the majority of fanbases, their teams have what it takes to make it to Atlanta to play for the conference title.

After all, the SEC East is wide open (how many times have you heard that this offseason?) and the SEC West is so strong that it would be the nation's toughest conference. Right? Yeah, you've heard that, too.

Right now, every team is trying to get to where Alabama and Missouri were a season ago. There are upstarts many around the nation are talking about such as Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Then there are the old staples like the Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs.

Can last year's out-of-nowhere darlings, Mississippi and Mississippi State, keep things going? Will potential powerhouses Auburn and LSU awake from a forgettable 2014 slumber?

There are so many questions surrounding a league that is now on a two-year national championship drought.

Things must line up perfectly for a program to compete for national titles or league titles. For some programs, just achieving a winning record seems far-fetched this year.

Let's examine every SEC team's best- and worst-case scenarios entering the 2015 season.

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Tre Lamar to Clemson: Tigers Land 4-Star LB Prospect

The Clemson Tigers have added 4-star recruit Tre Lamar to their linebacking corps. Lamar announced his decision on Twitter: 

The inside linebacker was the eighth-best prospect at his position and No. 15 coming out of the state of Georgia, according to 247Sports. According to the website, he turned down offers from Auburn and Alabama.

Lamar discussed his decision to choose Clemson with Nikki Hood of TigerNet.com:

I just felt like Clemson was the most comfortable place. I felt like it was the right choice for me and my family. I had kind of already decided to commit. I talked to my family before we came up here because I just had a good feeling. 

At 6'4", 240 pounds, Lamar recorded 131 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and four sacks in his senior season at Georgia's Roswell High School, according to Yahoo Sports. Lamar is the third linebacker Clemson has received a commitment from. Inside linebackers and twins Judah and J.D. Davis signed letters of intent on February 4, according to 247Sports.

Clemson went 10-3 last season, defeating Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl 40-6.

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FSU President John Thrasher Reveals Plan to Educate Student-Athletes on Behavior

In a Q&A session with the Tallahassee Democrat, Florida State University President John Thrasher revealed how he and head football coach Jimbo Fisher will attempt to better educate members of the team on their off-field behavior. 

You can read a snippet of Thrasher's comments regarding the steps he and Fisher will attempt to take, courtesy of the Democrat's Jim Henry:

We talked about the course (in social responsibilities). I think we are going to work on that. We talked about perhaps another compliance type person to come in and oversee some things like that. That’s in the discussions stages. Jimbo’s plan of bringing in some quality people to talk about character, role models I think can be a good influence on some of these folks is positive.

This comes after Thrasher personally met with FSU football players Monday to discuss the standards the school expects from them. According to ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach, he wouldn't be the only notable figure to address the team (with Florida's state attorney counted among them):

In an open letter published after his meeting, Thrasher wrote in part:

In light of recent off-field incidents, I reiterated to our players that they simply cannot put themselves in situations that reflect poor behavior or cause harm to others. They must remember that playing football for FSU is a privilege, not a right. The actions of a few have the capacity to do serious damage to the reputation of our entire university.

I told them their coaches, the Athletics administration and I will do all we can to support them and help them learn the values we expect them to uphold. But they will be held accountable for their actions.

Florida State has come under scrutiny recently following the legal troubles surrounding De'Andre Johnson and Dalvin Cook.

On June 30, Florida's state attorney's office charged Johnson with misdemeanor battery after he allegedly hit a woman at a Tallahassee bar. Fisher dismissed Johnson from the team July 6.

Fisher also suspended Cook indefinitely after the running back was involved in a separate incident where it's alleged he struck a woman outside a bar. Cook is also charged with misdemeanor battery.

The stigma surrounding FSU isn't anything new—the origin of which was the investigation into the sexual-assault allegations against former Seminole Jameis Winston. In April 2014, Walt Bogdanich of the New York Times explored some of the potential failings by both the school and the Tallahassee Police Department as they looked into the charges.

Six months later, Bogdanich and Mike McIntire took a wider look at how the TPD investigated additional allegations against other Seminoles players.

Following the Cook and Johnson arrests, Fisher reportedly barred any of his players from patronizing any Tallahassee bar, per Henry.

Following Thrasher's words, the onus will be on Florida State back up his proclamations if necessary. The public's expectation for the school will be to come down hard on any Seminoles player who runs afoul of the law.

Certainly in the case of Johnson, Fisher sent the message that the consequences from any sort of major infraction will be severe.

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Kyle Allen Will Be the Biggest Surprise in the SEC This Season

The Texas A&M Aggies, led by quarterback Kenny Hill, started out 5-0 last season. As Hill struggled through the middle of the season, true freshman Kyle Allen was thrown into the fire at starting quarterback. Allen proved capable of being a starter in the SEC, and even more should be expected from him this season.

Allen was the top-rated quarterback in the country coming out of high school, and he got an early chance to show his potential in the second half of his freshman season.

After Hill was pulled near the end of the 59-0 massacre against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, Allen started the rest of the season. Allen struggled in his first start against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, and the Aggies barely pulled out a 21-16 win.

After his first start, Allen became more comfortable in his starting position, and it showed over the final four games of the year. He led the Aggies to two wins down the stretch. The first was a 41-38 road win at No. 3 Auburn. The second was a 45-37 victory over West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl, in which Allen was named the MVP.

With Hill transferring to TCU, Allen should have the A&M starting job locked up for the 2015 season.

There's been speculation that 5-star recruit Kyler Murray will challenge him. But as Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee wrote, "Don't fall into the trap of thinking it's going to be much of a battle, though."

Head coach Kevin Sumlin confirmed that notion in a Periscope interview with Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage (via Brandon Wheeland of the Dallas Morning News).

"Kyle Allen is the guy right now. I usually go two weeks before the first game before announcing the guy," Sumlin said. "You can’t end the season as the MVP of the bowl game and not start off No. 1."

Allen took command of the Texas A&M offense in 2014 and helped the Aggies salvage a season that seemed to be headed for disaster after the team lost three straight games by two touchdowns or more in Hill's final three starts.

He showcased maturity beyond his years by getting the team to rally around him as a freshman. In 2015, Allen deserves the chance to continue what he started last season, and he'll take full advantage of that opportunity.

As impressive as his maturity down the stretch was, Allen showcased equally impressive abilities on the field.

When given the opportunity, Allen showcased his impressive arm strength, pinpoint accuracy and an ultra-quick release. His ability to stay poised in the pocket and read SEC defenses was more than anyone could have expected from a true freshman.

At SEC media days, Aggies offensive lineman Germain Ifedi mentioned how remarkable of a job Allen did down the stretch, per Sallee:

In his final four starts, Allen threw for 952 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions, including a 294-yard, four-touchdown performance in the Liberty Bowl.

Despite his play last season, Allen hasn't gotten the same level of hype as other first-year starters in the SEC.

Auburn's Jeremy Johnson and Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs were both named to the preseason All-SEC team heading into their first full seasons as starters.

Allen hasn't racked up the same preseason accolades, but his supporting cast should set him up for a big 2015 season.

Texas A&M should have one of the top receiving corps in the country in 2015. The Aggies return two of their top three receivers from last season in Josh Reynolds and Speedy Noil, who went for 842 and 583 receiving yards, respectively.

Ricky Seals-Jones returns after a solid freshman campaign, and the Aggies also landed 5-star receiver Christian Kirk as part of the 2015 recruiting class. Three of five starters on the offensive line will also be back for the upcoming season.

With his talent and the talent around him, Allen is headed for a stellar 2015 season in Sumlin's offense. An entire offseason of first-team reps should help him develop a stronger connection with the rest of the offense and improve on his freshman season.

He's not the same type of athlete or dual threat as Johnny Manziel was, but Texas A&M doesn't need him to be. He controls the pocket, makes precise throws and is capable of making a play with his feet when the situation calls for it.

Allen is a solid, accurate quarterback who is capable of leading his team through an SEC schedule. Any SEC team that overlooks him will regret it this fall.

 

Recruiting information via 247Sports.com

Statistics via CFBstats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Every Top 25 Team's Best Recruiting Sales Pitch to Their Top 2016 Target

College football recruiting is far more than just seeking out the best players who fit well into a program and then offering them a scholarship. That's the easy part.

Nowadays is takes a strong sales pitch to convince the country's top high school prospects to pick one school over (several) others, and just offering playing time isn't enough. That's something they're likely able to get from most of their suitors, and oftentimes they end up going somewhere in spite of the competition they face to get on the field immediately.

In order to convince an impressionable teenage athlete that his best move is to pick School X over University Y and Z State, it takes the kind of proposal that would sway a dyed-in-the-wool Republican to cross the aisle and vote Democrat or vice versa

Using Bleacher Report's Post-Spring Practice Top 25 as a guide, we've come up with a strong sales pitch for each school to use on its top remaining 2016 target.

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Biggest Questions Facing Indiana Football in 2015

With questions surrounding the offense, the defense and the future of head coach Kevin Wilson, Indiana football will have plenty of issues to tackle in the 2015-16 season. 

After a promising 3-2 start last season that included a massive 31-27 win over Missouri, the Hoosiers struggled mightily while losing six of their last seven games. 

A key reason for the 2014 disappointment was due to quarterback Nate Sudfeld suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in the team’s sixth game against Iowa. Now fully recovered, he will determine how well the Indiana offense will play, especially after losing star running back Tevin Coleman to the NFL. 

The defense is also a concern, which has been a recurring theme during Wilson’s tenure in Bloomington, Indiana. How hot is his seat heading into this season after four subpar years? 

Here are five burning questions for the Hoosiers for this upcoming season:

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Crazy Quarterback Situation Could Be Ohio State's Kryptonite in 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With less than two months to go until the start of the 2015 season, it's hard to find a reason to pick against Ohio State repeating as college football's national champion.

Consider all that head coach Urban Meyer currently has working in his favor:

  • The Buckeyes return 14 combined starters on offense and defense from last year's championship squad.
  • The Buckeyes possess arguably the best offensive player in the country in Heisman Trophy candidate Ezekiel Elliott.
  • The Buckeyes lay claim to arguably the nation's top defensive player and potential future No. 1 overall pick Joey Bosa.
  • The Buckeyes will face a manageable schedule that may not see them legitimately challenged until a Nov. 21 date with Michigan State in the second-last week of the regular season—a game that will be played in Columbus.
  • The Buckeyes boast an embarrassment of riches at quarterback, football's most important position. Ohio State is the undisputed home of the deepest signal-caller depth chart in all of college football.

But whether that last point will wind up being a blessing or curse for the Buckeyes remains to be seen.

Whether or not you envy Meyer's upcoming decision between Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller in an unprecedented starting quarterback derby likely depends on if you're a "glass half-full" or "glass half-empty" type of person.

There's no debating whether or not Ohio State will have a qualified signal-caller behind center regardless of who is ultimately named the Buckeyes' starter, but how the quarterbacks who wind up on the bench handle the situation could ultimately determine how the 2015 Buckeyes fare in their quest to repeat as national champions.

Having spent much of the offseason considering the dynamic he will be facing, Meyer knows as much.

"The human element's dangerous," Meyer admitted. "If [the competition's] about them, it can be very bad. If it's about the team—I think our culture right now wouldn't support something about them."

The three-time national champion head coach went on to state that he hasn't seen any signs of the quarterback competition having a negative effect on his team yet—quite the contrary. "It'd be much harder if they weren't good players, to be real honest," Meyer said. "Trying to move the football with a bad quarterback—you've got a bad deal. That's real difficult.

"Fortunately, I'm not really having to do that."

Maybe not, but the reality remains that as soon as Meyer names his starter, two overqualified quarterbacks will be headed to the bench.

Between Jones (the national champion whose starting record consists of three postseason wins), Barrett (the reigning Big Ten Quarterback and National Freshman of the Year) and Miller (a two-time Big Ten MVP whose 2014 season ended before it started due to a shoulder injury), the Buckeyes' quarterback depth chart will look more like a preseason award watch list, regardless of the order in which it shakes out.

Meyer knows this, which is what will make how he handles the admittedly delicate situation so fascinating.

Factions forming across a roster with three quarterbacks who were each a part of a different recruiting class is also a real possibility, especially as soon as necks start turning once the starter—whoever it is—throws his first interception or even gets off to a slow start.

For what it's worth, Jones, Barrett and Miller have each said all the right things throughout the offseason, as have the teammates who—outside of the quarterbacks—have the most to gain and possibly lose from Meyer's decision.

In fact, Jones recently called Barrett his best friend on the team, and various Buckeyes have recently praised Miller's leadership while injured in 2014.

"Those guys are going to get after it and they're going to compete and that's all we ask for from every position," said senior linebacker Joshua Perry. "They really do care a lot about each other, so it's not going to be one of those nasty competitions. Obviously, I have a lot of faith in our coaching staff."

As does Jones, who bypassed an opportunity to enter the NFL draft in order to return to Ohio State for the 2015 season. The same goes for Miller, who could have used his ability as a graduate transfer to spend his senior season somewhere else.

One—or possibly both—of these players will be starting the upcoming campaign on the bench, and it will be interesting to see whether that leads to feelings of regret from either one.

One possibility Meyer has already admitted to considering is a two-quarterback system, which would best work with Jones and Miller's diverse skill sets.

That would likely mean leaving Barrett on the bench, but as a redshirt sophomore, he enters 2015 with the least amount of urgency to play—even if he's coming off a year in which he broke the Buckeyes' single-season total offense record and the Big Ten's total touchdowns mark.

But that doesn't mean you should count Barrett out either, especially with PredictionMachine.com's John Ewing indicating that advanced analytics give him an edge and Meyer stating that the competition will be statistically based.

Perhaps the best blend of both passer and runner among Ohio State's trio of quarterbacks, Barrett might be the safest bet for Meyer to turn to—even if it means leaving two players with aspirations for the 2016 NFL draft on the bench.

No matter how you look at it and regardless of the outcome, whichever choice the Buckeyes' staff lands on will lend itself to plenty of second-guessing.

That's the territory that comes with such an unprecedented situation in which two quarterbacks who have already accomplished so much will find themselves not even starting in the upcoming year.

"The only bad thing that I see so far is that there's one or two of the individuals that aren't going to play a lot," Meyer said. "That's terrible. All three of those guys have done major things. They're not like freshmen or rookies. All three have major impact on this program—major impact. You go down in Ohio State history, those names are going to be there."

That may be the only negative for Meyer at the moment, but it's also an unavoidable one. The possibility remains that Meyer will manage all three players' respective situations enough to satisfy them—or that the Buckeyes will simply overpower their opponents with their abundance of talent—but sooner or later, Ohio State will have to deal with the consequences of its coach's decision.

And how it does that could ultimately determine the fate of its national title aspirations.

The old cliche is that if you have two quarterbacks, you really don't have any. But what if you have three?

The Buckeyes are about to find out.

 

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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Auburn Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from SEC Media Days

SEC media days opened this week with Auburn as the first team on the schedule. Later in the week, the event ended with Auburn as the first team on the media's ballots for the conference title.

Although the Tigers weren't predicted to win their own division—have fun figuring that one out—it's clear they received plenty of attention this week in Hoover, Alabama.

Even with a smaller-than-usual amount of experience on offense and a lack of recent success on defense, Auburn will enter the fall as a strong SEC and College Football Playoff contender.

Several faces of the 2015 team were on display at SEC media days. Head coach Gus Malzahn, quarterback Jeremy Johnson, linebacker Kris Frost and cornerback Jonathan Jones represented Auburn on Monday morning and received dozens of questions from the media masses.

In case you missed it, catch up on what a surprisingly cagey Malzahn had to say with this Monday piece and Johnson's big day under the bright lights in this Tuesday story

Here are a few of the remaining top quotes and main takeaways from Auburn's time at media days.

 

"The Muschamp Effect"

New defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was, of course, one of Auburn's biggest storylines at media days. Malzahn made his thoughts clear on how important his new assistant was to the team's future.

"In my opinion, the best defensive mind in all of football, not just college football," Malzahn said. "Our defensive players have taken on his personality, which I really like."

Even though Muschamp's 2015 defense hasn't played a single snap yet, the energy is a lot different in the program when it comes to that side of the ball.

"We are all excited," Frost told AL.com's Brandon Marcello. "We feel like we have a new breath of life in us. Everything is so positive. I have never seen it so positive before, with everything circling around the team. For the team as a whole, we are extremely excited and pumped up about starting the season off."

And when the defense finally hits the field, Jones says Auburn fans should expect to see a big difference from last season's struggling unit thanks to Muschamp.

"People are going to see the changes right off the bat," Jones told the Kansas City Star's Tod Palmer. "You can look and see what he did at Florida as far as their defenses. They were always at the top. People want to play for great coaches, and he’s a great coach."

 

Kerryon Johnson could play early

True freshman running back Kerryon Johnson, the third straight Mr. Football signee for Auburn, will enter a strong backfield this fall.

Johnson will be behind JUCO star Jovon Robinson and sensational sophomore Roc Thomas, along with bruising redshirt sophomore Peyton Barber. But don't count him out as someone who will sit in 2015.

"I really feel like he will factor," Malzahn told Auburn Undercover's Phillip Marshall. "He’s a guy we expect to play. He has a unique skill set and can do a lot of different things. He can do a lot of things with the ball in his hands."

Johnson might not be a traditional running back in Auburn's offense to start his career. The 4-star athlete has the potential to get touches at slot receiver, Wildcat quarterback or return man this fall.

"He brings a lot to the table," Malzahn said. "He can do that. He can catch the ball very well. You can even split him out. He’s very versatile."

 

Jones is ready to go

Speaking of Jones, Auburn's top defensive back told reporters he's 100 percent heading into fall camp after foot surgery a few weeks ago.

"I feel the same," Jones told Marcello. "It wasn't a major surgery. It was something minor and I wanted to get it out of the way.

"You kinda want to test it out, see where you're at because you don't want to wait until right before the game to really see where you're at and it not be where you need it to be."

The junior has battled injuries during his time on the Plains but has still become one of the most consistent performers in the conference.

He was named to the media's All-SEC first team Friday after leading the conference in passes defensed last season. Jones also had six interceptions in 2014—the most of any returning defensive back in the league.

 

"It's real big"

One of the biggest—literally—stories in Auburn this summer has been the construction of the new 190-by-57-foot scoreboard inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Malzahn was asked about the scoreboard, which will be the largest in college football, late during his media days appearance on Monday.

"It's big. It's real big," Malzahn said. "When you get on the field and you actually see how big it is, it's really something else. I think it's going to be a great thing for our fans. The atmosphere, it will do nothing but help our atmosphere, which is already off the charts. I know our players are going to enjoy it."

He said the team will turn it on for practices during fall camp, so the players can get used to the massive sight by the time Auburn hosts Jacksonville State for its home opener.

"It will take me a little getting used to, but I'm really looking forward to having it," Malzahn said. "And we are going to practice some in fall camp with that thing on so it won't be a shock to us that first game at home."

 

All quotes are taken from SEC Network broadcast unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR. 

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Former Michigan DL Ondre Pipkins Will Transfer to Texas Tech

A former Michigan defensive lineman who grabbed national attention during his departure from Ann Arbor will now finish up his college career in the Big 12 with Texas Tech.

Ondre Pipkins is transferring to Texas Tech and will play his senior season in 2016. The news was first reported by ESPN.com's Joe Schad.

Pipkins tweeted a photo in which he is holding up a Texas Tech jersey next to Red Raiders defensive line coach Mike Smith on Friday afternoon:

"I believe they have the best plan for me," Pipkins told Schad. "Now it's all about executing the plan."

Pipkins told Schad in June that first-year Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and several members of the Wolverines' program pressured him to retire from football.

The 6'3", 305-pound former 4-star recruit tore his ACL against Minnesota in October 2013 but was able to play for the Wolverines last season, recording nine tackles in five games. He also battled concussions during his Michigan tenure.

Pipkins said the Michigan staff asked him 10 times over a two-month period to sign a medical scholarship form that would've ended his playing career.

Pipkins has been diagnosed with arthritis in his knee, but he told Schad doctors originally said it wouldn't threaten his playing career.

Harbaugh later responded to Pipkins' claims, telling reporters, "We don't run off players."

"I'll speak for myself personally," Harbaugh told MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner. "When it comes to the health and safety of the players, that argument trumps all other arguments." 

The Michigan head coach also denied giving Pipkins a deadline of July 1 to sign the scholarship form.

Pipkins, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, is now heading to Big 12 country after recording 24 tackles in 24 games at Michigan.

According to 247Sports' Daniel Paulling, the Red Raiders will need some immediate help at defensive line next season, and Pipkins would have a great chance to become a starter when he becomes eligible.

"Demetrius Alston, Brandon Jackson, Keland McElrath, Rika Levi, Donte Phillips and Marcus Smith will be completing their final season of eligibility this fall, which would be a huge loss of talent and depth," Paulling wrote Thursday.

 

Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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College Football's Toughest Question: Who Will Finish Last in the SEC West?

HOOVER, Ala. — If you’re a serious fan of college football, you probably saw a sign at some point of last season reading: “Sharks have a week dedicated to” followed by their favorite team.

If it was from the West Division in the Southeastern Conference, it likely drew some laughter. Put simply, the regular season was nothing short of being a vicious survival test, and this time around could be even more brutal.

It’s definitely tougher to predict, and if picking the team at the top wasn’t hard enough, trying to figure out which one will finish last is even more difficult.

Seriously. Just take a look at the list of coaches and try to come up with who will be at the bottom of the standings looking up at everyone else next spring. There’s no new addition as everyone’s been at their present position for at least two years and no major rebuilding project for the other teams to feast upon.

Last season, all seven teams played in a bowl game. This year we might see them all ranked...at the same time. 

"In my opinion, the West is the toughest conference in football, I don't think it's even close," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "I mean, it's a man's league. There's no off weeks. Everybody asks about the SEC and all that, and the thing that really stands out to me is the grind. If you're not in it, you don't understand it.

In 2014, we didn’t have this problem. Coming off a winless season in SEC play, Arkansas was the clear choice for the cellar, although it was pretty clear the Razorbacks were on the rise.

Sure enough, they won two league games and played numerous rivals tough including an overtime loss to No. 6 Texas A&M, the 14-13 defeat to eventual SEC champion Alabama and fell 17-10 at No. 1 Mississippi State. Because Arkansas subsequently beat No. 17 LSU and No. 8 Ole Miss down the stretch, every team in the West finished above .500.

"I think it's ridiculous the amount of publicity and excitement that we're getting based off of 7-6," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said this past week at SEC media days. "I get it because we were 3-9, and before that we were 3-9. This is a team that was supposed to be up for a national championship. So I understand the excitement. Because of what they've done on the field and in the classroom, there's a lot of excitement and a lot of buzz. I don't want that to go away. I mean, it's absolutely awesome. But we're in the SEC West. We're a 7-6 team looking to improve."

Consequently, few, if any, are predicting another last-place finish. But if not the Razorbacks then who?

Essentially the one thing that everyone agrees on is that it’s extremely unlikely to be Alabama. Nick Saban’s teams have gone 7-1 in SEC play in each of the last four seasons and only once did that fail to put the Crimson Tide in at least a tie for first in the division. That exception was 2011, when it still went on to win the national championship.

Even though Alabama only has 10 returning starters, and for the second straight year will see a new starting quarterback, most prognosticators have the again-loaded Crimson Tide in their top five or slated to return to the playoffs.   

Otherwise there’s a wide range of opinions regarding the other six contenders after saying “They’re good.” For example, among the preseason publications, Athlon has every West team in its preseason top 25, but Lindy’s didn't have either Mississippi school ranked.

The Sporting News has every team in its top 25 except A&M, while Phil Steele has A&M 32nd and Mississippi State 39th.

When it posted its preseason odds to win the SEC, Sportsbook operator CG Technology had every West team between 5/2 (Alabama) and 15/1 (Texas A&M), which was nothing short of remarkable. 

As for national title chances, Bovada has 27 teams listed at 66/1 or better including all SEC West teams. Among them, Mississippi State has the longest odds but only barely behind Arkansas (50/1), Ole Miss (40/1) and Texas A&M (33/1).

One of the more interesting preseason evaluations is the Football Power Index by ESPN Stats and Info, which doesn’t necessarily try to project how each team will finish but rather estimate its overall strength. It’s a three-pronged formula using the prior year's offense, defense and special teams efficiencies; returning starters and head coach information; and recruiting rankings.

Five of its top 11 teams heading into the 2015 season aren’t just from the SEC, but the West—and that doesn’t include Auburn. Specifically, it has, in order, No. 2 Alabama, No. 4 LSU, No. 8 Ole Miss, No. 10 Arkansas and No. 11 Texas A&M. The other two division teams are No. 18 Auburn and No. 22 Mississippi State.

Regardless, every team has questions. Every team needs players to mature and elevate their play. And every team might be considered the one to beat if it instead played in another conference.

So when the results of the annual poll to predict the order of finish were announced at SEC media days,  Auburn was named the team to beat for the league title, with the West looking like: 1. Alabama, 2. Auburn, 3. LSU, 4. Arkansas, 5. Ole Miss, 6. Texas A&M and a team that was ranked No. 1 for a good part of the 2014 season at the bottom, 7. Mississippi State. 

Maybe Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was on to something when he half joked that "It's kind of like a tradition" to vote the Bulldogs last, although he'll simply turn around and use it as motivation. 

"I think the SEC West will be as competitive as ever and is still really the best division in all of college football and the most competitive division of all of college football," Mullen said. "But that's what we love, and those are the challenges we love. As a competitor, that's the league you want to be in every single day, every single week. On Saturdays, you roll out on that field knowing you're playing one of the best teams in the country every single Saturday.

"It's a great thing to be a part of."

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer.

Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Hits and Misses from SEC Media's All-Conference Teams

The SEC wrapped up media days this week by unveiling the media's preseason All-Conference teams, and they make a lot more sense than their championship picks.

Georgia running back Nick Chubb, Florida defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III and Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland led the way in voting for the three All-SEC teams.

Defending SEC champion Alabama had six first-team selections, which were the most among any of the conference's 14 schools. The lone school left off the three teams for the second straight year was struggling Vanderbilt.

While the media voting seemed to have a great grasp on the top talent in the SEC, there were a few surprising omissions and slides down to the second and third teams, judging from the players' 2014 output and potential for the upcoming season.

Here are the three preseason All-SEC teams and the biggest hits and misses on this year's squads.

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LSU Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from SEC Media Days

Following three days of quips, one-liners and fashion forays from other coaches in the SEC, it came time for one of the masters of the podium to get his turn. But instead of topping them all, LSU's Les Miles instead used his turn at the mic to take a surprisingly low-key approach to the 2015 season.

And a long one at that.

"His opening statement in the main media room seemed like a filibuster," ESPN's Alex Scarborough wrote. "Miles broke down every position on his team, even the specialists. It was as if he was encouraging a government shutdown, only it was Twitter that slowed to a crawl."

Though he was long on substance, Miles didn't fire out as much sizzle as we've become used to during his tenure. Despite being picked by the SEC media to finish third in the ultra-tough SEC West, the aura around LSU's program just isn't what it was a few years ago. Multiple seasons where the Tigers were quickly out of the national- and conference-title discussion will do that, and Miles acknowledged as much.

"Our team, eight wins, certainly not enough," he said Thursday, per Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com. "We played some really good ball clubs in that eight-win season and played them very close, but our goal is the playoffs, our goal is the SEC championship. We're shy of our goals, and we want more."

LSU returns 15 starters from the 2014 team, a higher-than-normal amount for a program that tends to get pilfered by early NFL entry more than most schools. But that set of returners also includes one that may very well not start—and even if he does it wouldn't necessarily be considered a bonus.

That would be quarterback Anthony Jennings, the junior who went into this spring battling sophomore Brandon Harris for the second year in a row for the starting job. The duo combined to produce the worst passing offense in the SEC last season, averaging 162.9 yards per game.

Harris looked to have moved ahead of Jennings in the competition toward the end of spring ball, and he's firmly in the lead now due to Jennings' suspension in the wake of an on-campus burglary in June. He was one of three players suspended for that incident. Miles said he expects Jennings, as well as defensive end Maquedius Bain and defensive back Dwayne Thomas, to eventually return, but the timetable is dependent on how the legal process plays out.

"Right now Brandon Harris has done all the work with the players," Miles said, per Kleinpeter. "Until this thing, AJ is not available. The players say (Harris) is playing well. I'm not saying they're making the decision, but it certainly is a positive piece."

 

Missing Chavis

Whether it was in front of the large room of reporters, on radio and TV shows or in one-on-one interviews, one thing Miles seemed quite uncomfortable talking about was the messy divorce between LSU and longtime defensive coordinator John Chavis. Texas A&M hired Chavis to run its defense during the winter, despite him having signed a contract extension just before then, and the schools are currently embroiled in a legal battle related to a buyout in that contract. 

When asked how he thought Chavis would fare with the Aggies, LSU's annual Thanksgiving weekend opponent, Miles hesitated and then stumbled to talk around the question.

"You suspect that he will coach great defense at A&M," he said, per Kleinpeter.

Miles noted that, while Chavis had a big part to do with LSU's success on defense over the years, it's also been about the quality of the players that have come to Baton Rouge:

If you look at the number of guys that we've had on our defense that were drafted—simply put, we had eight players drafted in the 2013 NFL draft, all coming from the first five rounds. It's the only time in modern day history that an NFL—that one school had eight defensive players taken in the first five rounds. We've had 24 defensive players since 2010, which ties the most in the SEC during that span. We've had at least one defensive lineman taken in every NFL draft for the last 12 years. The five defensive players selected in the first round since NFL draft since 2010. So our talent pool has been pretty special. What I'm saying is that we would expect that that talent would continue and that we would have great defense, period.

LSU's 2015 recruiting class, which was rated by 247Sports as fifth-best in the nation, is highlighted by potentially the next great defensive superstar in cornerback Kevin Toliver II.

 

Saving the fourth wall

Miles' approach with the media has been one that's a mix between dealing with a necessary evil and making the most out of a difficult situation. But that doesn't mean he wouldn't do what he could to look out for those on the other side of the microphone, or in this case the video camera.

 

Leonard Fournette: older, wiser and much stronger

A year ago at this time, Leonard Fournette wasn't just the top-rated player in his recruiting class, but also a player who was heading into college with so much hype it seemed impossible for him to live up to the large expectations being placed on him.

Somehow, though, he still managed to put together a masterful first season by setting the school record for rushing yards by a freshman. Now we'll get to see what he can do after a full offseason of training and preparation, rather than just with a few weeks of training camp.

"Coming from high school, you're so used to running over everybody," Fournette told ESPN's Greg Ostendorf. "In the SEC, you have great tacklers, great players you're going to go against every week. So I kind of had to change my point of view from that."

Built like a linebacker but with the speed of a defensive back, Fournette has the kind of tools that could give him a strong chance to win the Heisman. One of his biggest challengers comes from the same league, though, in Georgia sophomore running back Nick Chubb.

They won't face each other this season unless Georgia and LSU meet in the SEC championship, but Fournette acknowledges there's an unofficial competition between them.

Fournette said he's also learned to better handle himself on the field and pick the right spots for celebrations, particularly those that resemble the Heisman Trophy pose following a touchdown run against FCS Sam Houston State last September.

"I regret it a little because it was kind of selfish of me and childish," Fournette said, per Jon Solomon of CBS Sports.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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