NCAA Football News
Early enrollees dotted the college football landscape during spring practice, and many of the 2016 cycle's highly ranked prospects passed their first major test.
While immediate success certainly isn't a surprise for these guys, several have already claimed or are quite close to securing a starting position as a true freshman.
But the learning curve simply takes longer for others. However, that doesn't mean a slower start is a failure by any means.
The grades are not representative of a player's talent or potential. Rather, they're based on how quickly he climbed the depth chart (if legitimately possible), performed in scrimmages and other factors that vary for each early enrollee.
Still more than nine months shy of national signing day, the search for top-tier quarterbacks continues to intensify. Plenty of marquee college football programs have already secured verbal pledges from passers who will provide immediate promise in the development of future offensive attacks.
Each composite 5-star quarterback in the 2017 class committed well in advance of his senior season, while the collection of undecided prospects has steadily dwindled this spring. Here's a glimpse at five teams still working to fill pivotal position slots as a dizzying recruiting cycle progresses, including one powerhouse primed to pursue a huge commitment flip despite the presence of a passer in its class.
The past few weekends have been filled with college football, and though none of it counts in the standings, those spring practices and scrimmages were as close as we've gotten to the real thing since January. It's also the last we'll see of these teams until August, when preseason camps open in preparation for the 2016 season.
The NCAA allotted every FBS school 15 practices that it could use to work on different schemes, identify starters and, in many cases, acclimate players to an entirely new coaching staff. Along the way, there were some injuries, breakout performances and sluggish efforts, all of which have led to some minor tweaks in our rankings heading into the summer.
This is not a prediction of what the Associated Press or Amway Coaches Top 25 polls will look like when they come out in August; rather, it's a reflection of what Bleacher Report feels are the best teams in college football at this point in the offseason. Consider it a conversation starter to help you get through the rest of the offseason, which is now down to only about four months.
As the 2016 NFL draft approaches, there's been no shortage of attention placed on the Big Ten.
At Ohio State, the Buckeyes are preparing to send a potentially historic draft class to the NFL.
In East Lansing, Michigan State will likely lay claim to multiple first-round picks, as well as one of the draft's biggest question marks at quarterback in Connor Cook.
Even at Penn State, Indiana, Maryland and Illinois, pro teams having been poking and prodding at players expected to be taken within the first three rounds of the selection show.
But when it comes to Michigan, the place Wolverines are most often popping up on the NFL's radar is on game film where they served as the opponents of the more highly touted prospects in their conference. That shouldn't be the case for long, however, as Ann Arbor should soon find itself an NFL factory once again.
That was always expected to be the case when Jim Harbaugh returned to his alma mater, and not just because of his previous four-year stint as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, but also his penchant for putting players in the pros while on the sideline at Stanford. One year may have been one too few to expect similar results at Michigan, and if the Wolverines' current crop of draft hopefuls is any indication, that certainly seems to be the case.
Graham Glasgow, ranked by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller as the draft's No. 7 center, should hear his name called this weekend, as should 14th-ranked defensive lineman Willie Henry. That, however, might be it when it comes to Michigan players picked in 2016, save for a team taking a late-round shot on quarterback Jake Rudock or defensive lineman Mario Ojemudia.
All things considered, the Wolverines' streak of not having more than three players picked in a single draft is likely to extend to an eighth year. It's also likely to be the last lean draft under Harbaugh's watch at Michigan given both his current roster and the way he's recruited in his first year-plus in Ann Arbor.
"You knew that the day he took over he's going to win," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on a conference call last week. "He's well on his way. He's got prospects for this draft."
In fact, this year's class of Wolverines prospects could have seen a boost, if not for a few players opting for an additional year of seasoning from their head coach.
That rings particularly true when it comes to the case of cornerback Jourdan Lewis. According to Kiper, the All-Big Ten selection would have been one of this year's most highly touted corners, a status in draft stock that shouldn't change over the course of the next 12 months.
"If he had come out, he'd have certainly been one of the top corners," Kiper said. "Next year's draft, if you look at the top five right now and you look at a corner, you'd have to put him in there."
Instead, Lewis, who CBSSports.com already ranks as its No. 4 cornerback in the 2017 draft, will return to Michigan alongside tight end Jake Butt, the same site's top-ranked prospect at his position for the upcoming season. The reigning Big Ten Tight End of the Year, Butt would have almost assuredly been selected had he opted to enter the 2016 draft, which features an uninspiring crop of tight end prospects, according to Miller:
And then there's defensive lineman Chris Wormley, who also bypassed the upcoming draft in order to receive one more year of development under Harbaugh. Add in potential draft picks in wideouts Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh, defensive end Taco Charlton, defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow, running back De'Veon Smith and offensive lineman Erik Magnuson, and the Wolverines' 2017 draft class should be their most robust in recent memory—and that's before mentioning safety/corner/linebacker/jack-of-all-trades Jabrill Peppers will also be draft-eligible a year from now.
"There's no question there's going to be athletes produced. You've got the receivers who can run, you're going to have talent coming in," Kiper said. "Look at the recruiting class coming in."
That class, Harbaugh's No. 5 nationally ranked haul, includes 5-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary, as well as 4-star quarterback Brandon Peters, who Harbaugh has already compared to arguably his most famous pro product, Andrew Luck.
And while it may be too early to project players who are yet to officially begin their college careers, let alone their senior seasons of high school, Harbaugh's 2017 class ranks seventh in the nation and should bode well for a continuing pipeline from Ann Arbor to the professional ranks.
"Tremendous difference from what they were and what they are," Kiper said of the Wolverines program. "You've got some young players, some studs from this recruiting class."
This draft is just a start, and while a modest one, it still serves as a testament of Harbaugh's ability as a player developer. Soon enough, he'll be putting his own recruits in the pros, which could be reminiscent of what's occurring at his Big Ten counterparts.
"What Jim's doing there, it's going to put pressure on Ohio State, who just lost a gazillion players to the NFL," Kiper said. "There's no question it's going to be Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh going up against each other every year."
Losing "a gazillion" players to the NFL, however, can be a good problem to have, as big draft classes serve as an indicator of the top talent your roster possessed and your staff produced.
It's also one the Wolverines should be experiencing soon enough, given their second-year head coach's propensity for putting players in the pros.
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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Spring is in the books, post-spring power rankings are out and we have officially entered the doldrums of summer.
How will you survive?
A little SEC Q&A will do the trick.
In this week's edition, we'll take a look at some of the unknown quarterbacks in the SEC, Auburn's title hopes, and Austin Allen's future—and we'll get a little weird.
Chad Kelly is clearly the best of the bunch after he produced the third-best single season in SEC history in 2015 with 4,542 total yards. For the sake of focusing on unproven quarterbacks, I'm going to ignore Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs and Trevor Knight for this question since they have proven a lot during their respective careers.
Who else could become a star?
I really liked what I saw from Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason in the G-Day game earlier this month. The true freshman early enrollee completed 19 of his 29 passes for 244 yards, a touchdown and zero interceptions, including a perfect 37-yard sideline pass to Reggie Davis in the fourth quarter and a 35-yarder down the opposite sideline to Riley Ridley in the second.
It wasn't just the statistics or the throws that were impressive; it was the respect Eason demanded.
From the moment he took the field in the second quarter for his first series, the entire Georgia secondary took about five steps back. They knew what was coming, because they had seen it for 14 straight practices.
In the end, isn't that all that matters for Georgia?
Eason doesn't have to throw for 4,000 yards for the Bulldog offense to be successful; he just has to look like he's capable of doing it. If he can do that—and he did in the spring game—running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel should be able to take it from there.
Will he have his ups and downs? Sure.
Any true freshman would, regardless of the star ranking coming out of high school. But the highs for Eason will be high, and where and when the lows come could determine just how successful Georgia's season is.
Elsewhere, "Alabama Quarterback X" will be a star, whoever it is. Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell, Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts are all talented and will have the luxury of facing off against the best defense in the nation everyday in practice.
Why so much faith in Alabama, especially after the offense's struggles in the spring game?
Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has worked wonders for the Crimson Tide offense in each of the last two seasons that included massive quarterback uncertainty. Kiffin's system works. It has led Alabama to consecutive SEC titles, College Football Playoff berths and last season's national title and is founded on creating mismatches pre-snap through different formations.
Well, sure. If John Franklin III can lead Auburn's offense to its 2013 level—when it finished 11th in the nation in total offense (501.3 YPG), eighth in yards per play (6.92) and 12th in scoring offense (39.5 PPG)—yes, Auburn can win it all.
But getting to that point isn't likely with the questions the program faces at wide receiver and quarterback.
Auburn's offense was widely panned following the spring game in which it converted just one of 22 third-down chances, but Franklin—the junior college transfer from East Mississippi Community College—wasn't allowed to show off his wheels since quarterbacks weren't "live."
What were short gains or losses in the spring game wouldn't have been short gains or losses in real games, because Franklin has the speed and moves to replicate Nick Marshall—whom he imitated while on the Florida State scout team prior to the 2014 BCS National Championship Game between the Seminoles and Tigers.
He is an edge threat, and the quest for Auburn's staff is to make him enough of a threat deep in the passing game to keep opposing defenses honest.
If he can do that, yes, Auburn can contend.
Unlike the 2013 season in which Auburn's defense finished 87th in the nation in total defense (420.7 YPG), this defense led by a fierce defensive front that includes end Carl Lawson, tackle Montravius Adams and enough depth to roll nine or 10 players in throughout games should be much better.
Because of that, the offense might not have to be at the 2013 level in order for Auburn to contend.
Auburn has the talent on the roster, and Franklin is the right man for the job at quarterback. The pieces just have to come together, and the Tigers have to catch a few breaks. If all of that happens, don't count them out.
It won't be as great as his brother's senior season last year, when Brandon Allen threw for 3,440 yards and 30 touchdowns.
But Austin Allen did look solid in Arkansas' spring game, when he completed 13 of his 19 passes for 141 yards. He showed off his big arm at times in the spring game and has a veteran group of receivers to rely on including Keon Hatcher, Cody Hollister and Dominique Reed.
A season more like his older brother's junior season in 2014 is more likely. That year, Brandon Allen threw for 2,285 yards, 20 touchdowns and five picks and was more of a game-manger than a difference-maker.
That's a good thing.
The most important aspect of any quarterback's job is to manage the game and avoid mistakes, and that should be the expectation for the younger Allen after three years in the system with the veteran weapons he has around him.
This is a foundation year for the redshirt junior, and he should set a solid one.
Vanderbilt will make a bowl for the first time since James Franklin's last season as head coach in 2013.
It's easy to pile on Vanderbilt thanks to its reputation as the SEC East's cellar dweller and a couple of years of rather mediocre football. But the dirty little secret in Nashville is that head coach Derek Mason has built a phenomenal defense that finished sixth in the nation in third-down defense (28.16 percent) and fourth in red-zone touchdown defense (38.78 percent) according to CFBStats.com.
Linebacker Zach Cunningham is back to lead that defense, along with veteran defensive backs Torren McGaster and Oren Burks.
The 'Dores will win three of their four out-of-conference games and win three conference games (South Carolina, Kentucky and Missouri) to finish 6-6 and make a lower-tier bowl.
Write that down (in pencil, so it can be erased).
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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After a tumultuous fall that nearly saw Les Miles canned at LSU, the Tigers get to celebrate this week, as a slew of players from Deion Jones to Jalen Mills are expected to be selected in the NFL draft.
Jones is the prize of LSU's class, but anywhere from four to seven players could be drafted by the time the weekend draws to a close.
We'll keep you up to date and track each LSU player as they're selected with analysis on how they'll translate to the NFL and how they'll be replaced at Death Valley.
Stay plugged into the following slides to track each LSU player selected in this weekend's draft.
With linebacker Su'a Cravens headlining the class, the USC Trojans are expected to have upwards of half a dozen prospects selected in this year's NFL draft.
This piece will track the Trojans who are selected on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as how they fit into the NFL and their newfound teams.
Stay plugged in for continued updates as each Trojan is selected.
While the Georgia Bulldogs still look to reaffirm their prowess on the field under a new head coach this offseason, fans get to celebrate during this week's draft as potentially over a half-dozen former Bulldogs could be selected to enter the NFL.
With that, let's track the top Bulldog candidates to be drafted in the 2016 NFL draft.
The NCAA may have created a formidable foe when it outlawed satellite camps on April 8.
According to USA Today's Paul Myerberg, the United States Department of Justice has opened an informal inquiry into the practice and the NCAA's decision to ban the events. The purpose of the inquiry is reportedly to look into whether the ban hurts high school athletes who are looking to increase their profile among college head coaches.
USA Today's Dan Wolken is already imaging the debate about satellite camps bleeding into the presidential campaign:
Earlier in the month, the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, Sun Belt Conference and Mountain West Conference voted in favor of prohibiting coaches from running clinics away from facilities their teams use throughout the entire year.
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh was the catalyst for the growth of satellite camps following his Summer Swarm tour in June 2015. In an interview with Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg, Harbaugh laid into the powers that be, telling the reporter, "The incompetence of the NCAA has reared its ugly head yet again."
Harbaugh was also critical of what he believed was hastiness by the NCAA.
"I mean, what's it based on? A survey?" he said. "There wasn't a lot of discussion or study. What are the facts? What are the perils and merits of making that decision? It just seemed lacking in that regard."
Rosenberg then argued satellite camps are beneficial in terms of exposure:
High school players learn from the best coaches in the sport. More importantly, for the price of one camp, they can get in front of several coaching staffs and potentially earn a scholarship. And even more important: Players get a taste of success. They get a little closer to their dreams.
If you have spent any time in impoverished neighborhoods, you know that the problems there go beyond finding food to eat and a roof to sleep under. People feel completely disconnected from their aspirations.
CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd, on the other hand, thought the problem was being overblown:
Proponents argued satellite camps provided "exposure." I'm sorry, did that Internet that Harbaugh so expertly hijacked suddenly go down? Phone service, too?
If you're good enough, you'll be found. There's 7 on 7, there are personal trainers. In a handful of states, high schools conduct spring practice.
Oh yeah, there are the regular, longstanding above-board scouting opportunities available to coaches. The term "official visit" seems to have been lost in the bluster.
ESPN.com's Tom VanHaaren reported on April 19 that a number of coaches and athletic directors were working behind the scenes to overturn the 10-5 vote that ended satellite camps.
The DOJ's potential involvement could speed that process up quite a bit.
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Getting a clear read on a spring game is difficult. Different teams do different things in how they separate the talent, how they score the game and how they maintain the clock. Several just ditch the idea of a traditional scrimmage and go for a public practice.
Spring game season is almost completely finished in the world of college football, meaning fans and analysts everywhere won't get to see on-field action for quite some time. This can lead to overreactions from the glorified scrimmages, which usually are vanilla by design.
Let's try to avoid the hot takes and identify the reasonable takeaways coming out of spring games for each Top 25 team for the 2016 season, based on our composite preseason rankings of several top national outlets. (Again, if you have a problem with where a team is ranked, take it up with the rest of the country.)
Here are the spring game grades for each of the composite Top 25, based on factors such as the overall performances of the offenses and defenses, quality of depth showcased in the games, excitement level around the contests and the avoidance of the infamous spring game injuries.
Opinions on spring games are wide-ranging, making a universal grading system impossible to use. But this one trends toward the positive for teams that got closer to answers for their major preseason questions and left pleasantly surprised at some of their individual performances.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Like for everyone else who could be selected in the NFL draft this week, it’s been a whirlwind few months for former University of Alabama center Ryan Kelly.
After declining to participate in the Senior Bowl, Kelly underwent a whole different kind of training to improve the individual skills that would be measured and tested. There was the NFL Scouting Combine and Alabama’s pro day, in addition to private workouts scheduled by various teams.
Sometime this week, he’ll finally find out his destination, although Kelly’s not even sure when he should be paying attention, as there’s a wide range of speculation about which round he could be selected in.
The first round is on Thursday, the second and third rounds on Friday and the rest on Saturday.
If I’m an NFL general manager, I don’t wait. He’s the guy I want to take from Alabama. Kelly could be the rock of an offensive line for a decade or more and seems to have no red flags.
Center and guard are known as positions teams only rarely pick from in the first round, but Kelly could be the exception. Two obvious fits are Indianapolis at No. 18, as the Colts need a lot of help in the offensive line, and Cleveland with the first pick in the second round (No. 32 overall).
“Ryan Kelly’s a top-tier offensive lineman in this draft,” Mike Mayock of NFL.com said on a conference call with reporters on April 22. “He could play center or guard, but he’s the top center in this draft. So I think Ryan Kelly could be an interesting guy at 18.”
But chances are Kelly won’t be the first Crimson Tide player to hear his name called, as he wasn’t invited to attend the first round in Chicago, while three of his former teammates are making the trip: linebacker Reggie Ragland and defensive linemen Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson.
Trying to project who it will be is nearly impossible because no one knows how the draft will change due to trades, team needs and the varying degree of opinions. For every evaluator who might prefer Reed, another might like Robinson.
“Mock drafts are exercises in futility,” King wrote on Monday. “Two years ago, I was 2-for-32; last year, 5-for-32.”
Moreover, each NFL war room is different. Some stick to their draft boards like glue, while others are known for doing the opposite. Who has the final say and how often that person has the job security to select a high-reward, huge-risk player like Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche is crucial.
If pure talent was the only factor in the draft, he’d almost certainly be a top-five selection.
“At the end of the day, do you trust him? I think that’s the whole thing with Robert Nkemdiche, and my answer is 'No,'” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said. “[If I’m a general manager] I have to hit on a first-round pick.”
When it comes to Alabama’s R-R-R collection of defensive prospects, there’s no consensus about who’s the best prospect.
For example, NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt has Robinson 13th on his Hot 100 list, followed by Ragland (18), Reed (21), Kelly (25), running back Derrick Henry (32) and cornerback Cyrus Jones (92).
Meanwhile, Mayock has Reed ahead of Robinson, while Ragland has slid in his position rankings to fourth among interior linebackers.
“I think they’re all going to be really solid,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “I don’t know about spectacular because it’s a pass rush league and Ragland, Reed and Robinson aren’t pass-rushers. Ragland’s shown some versatility, he’s not real explosive. His coverage ability in the NFL, we’ll see. He might be a two-down player.”
That’s a little different from McShay, who calls Reed maybe the best run-stopper in the draft and Robinson one of the most overrated players. He also likes to remind people that Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott claims that Ragland was the hardest hitter he has ever faced.
One could debate between the three for hours.
“I think Robinson’s going to get better,” Kiper said. “He’s young, just turned 21. He showed pass rush ability as a freshman when he had 5.5 sacks. He kind of stops the run on the way to the quarterback, knocks down passes, disrupts throwing lanes.
“Reed is a hustler. He’s a different kind of player. He could be a nose tackle, he could be a 4-3 defensive tackle or 3-4 end. He’s got talent and plays hard. I like Robinson and Reed a little more than most people.
The guess here is that Ragland will be the first to go due to the concept of scarcity. While there is some concern about Ragland’s ability to cover at the pro level, finding a quality linebacker who can act as both the base and leader of the defense isn’t easy.
Chances are a team like Buffalo, Denver, Green Bay or Oakland will find him too good to pass up.
Meanwhile, it’s a very deep draft for defensive linemen. You might see a team or two trade up to take one, but not many. Here are some teams that have a need to fill up front: Atlanta, Buffalo, Carolina Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, Miami, New England, New Orleans, New York Giants, Oakland, San Diego, Tampa Bay and Washington
“We’ve been talking all along about the best defensive tackle draft we’ve seen in years,” Mayock said. “I’ve talked to several teams in the last couple of weeks, all of whom believe that because that group is so deep, we’re going to see teams in the first and second round kind of going after positions of need that aren’t anywhere near as deep, like say wide receiver. Or if you think there are four offensive tackles in the drop-off, you better go get that offensive tackle before you get your defensive tackle.”
Despite that, Reed was the first Alabama player selected in the NFL Network’s Media Mock Draft (by Maurice Jones-Drew on behalf of Washington at No. 21) on Sunday.
So to summarize: It should be Kelly, it would be Robinson with a little more consistency, it could be Reed, but odds are it’ll be Ragland who gets selected first.
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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The 2016 crop of college football's starting quarterbacks is becoming clear after competitions ruled college football headlines during spring practice.
Returning starters, experienced backups and talented youngsters spent most of March and April in the spotlight. Following the workouts, though, just two or three real contenders remain at most programs.
Nearly every battle brought the anticipated result. While no clear-cut starter emerged at schools such as Michigan and Notre Dame, the spring still brought some separation on the depth chart.
A few coaches named leaders, but most others elected to refrain from tabbing post-spring starters. Those competitions will receive a majority of the nation's attention once fall camp arrives.
Spring practices have wrapped up around the South, with some questions being answered at key positions.
Trevor Knight has been tabbed as Texas A&M's starting quarterback, Drew Barker will take the snaps at Kentucky and Austin Allen will take over under center for his older brother at Arkansas.
How has that impacted the SEC race? Does the fact that other key positions battles around the SEC remain unresolved drop contenders down the pecking order?
Our post-spring SEC power rankings based on talent, experience, scheme and unresolved questions are in this slideshow.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — All at Mallard Creek High School on Sunday saw the future of Stanford football compete nearly in his own stratosphere.
Davis Mills put on a show in the Elite 11 Charlotte regional that solidified his top-five national ranking among pro-style quarterbacks. The Greater Atlanta Christian School standout not only claimed camp MVP honors but also earned an invitation to compete in the Elite 11 finals, which will take place June 3-5 in Los Angeles.
Mills stood out among roughly 75 quarterbacks from 14 states and Washington, D.C., who competed on Sunday. He shined in a competitive half-skelly showdown, which featured six signal-callers battling for camp MVP honors.
Davis was impressive, but he wasn't the only quarterback to show his skills. Here is a look at five quarterbacks who stood out on Sunday. Brian Stumpf, president of sports at Student Sports, provided analysis on each athlete.
Spring football has come and gone, at least in the Big Ten, which wrapped up its final spring games of the year this past weekend.
Now all eyes in the conference will turn toward offseason conditioning and workouts leading up to the start of fall camps this August.
But with spring ball having passed, we now know more about the Big Ten as a whole than we did even just a couple of months ago. Even with the entirety of each team's 2016 recruiting class having yet to arrive on campus, a clearer picture of a likely pecking order in the coming year is beginning to take form.
With three months down in the offseason, plenty will likely change between now and the time the 2016 season officially kicks off in September. But for now, here's a ranking of how each team in the Big Ten stacks up coming out of spring football.
The only constant in college football is change. The end of each season is the beginning of the talent life cycle. Players declare for the NFL draft, and a few weeks later, coaches sign new recruits to national letters of intent, filling holes left by graduation and early draft entries.
That was true this year, as it is all years. A total of 107 players declared early for the draft, and this weekend, they’ll see their dreams play out when the NFL holds its annual draft in Chicago.
It’s a little bittersweet, really. For college football fans, watching players take a new step in their journey is exciting, but it also means they’ll never pull on the uniforms of their favorite team again.
Here’s a look at 10 players that we wish didn’t declare for the NFL draft. They have great potential as professional players, but they were supremely fun to watch in the college game. For one reason or another, we wish we had a little more time with them on Saturdays.
Jaeveyon Morton isn't a piece of someone's turf. He isn't a piece of meat. He's not a commodity or a statistic. No, he is a 16-year-old sophomore at Martin Luther King High School in Detroit. He has dreams.
Football talent, smarts, athleticism, a work ethic, a face, a name, hopes and dreams.
"I want to go to college and play football," he says.
The amazing thing is, even though he's only 5'9", he is good enough to achieve this dream.
But money is tight because his dad has health issues. Morton has two older brothers; one went to college in Illinois for a year, but the bills were too much. So the Mortons brought him home. Then, with the help of some grants and student loans, he went to college another year, this time in Ohio, but the bills still piled too high. He came home.
Will Jaeveyon get to college? Not if he doesn't get a scholarship.
"That wouldn't be realistic," says his mom, Kenthia, who works to support the family.
Jaeveyon Morton is nothing but reality.
Meanwhile, the power brokers within the multibillion-dollar industry of college football are working against him. Oh, they don't know it. Reality isn't on their radar. But that's the result of what they did earlier this month when they banned teams from holding satellite camps, requiring "schools to conduct camps and clinics at their school's facilities or at facilities regularly used for practice or competition."
The college football power base—the programs in the southeast corner of the U.S.—were so freaked out that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was invading their territory to steal crumbs off their plates, they pushed a new rule through the NCAA just to keep him away.
But instead of dealing specifically with their Harbaughphobia, they carpet-bombed the hopes and dreams of Jaeveyon Morton and hundreds or thousands of kids like him.
Those kids are unintended consequences. They weren't even considerations in the banning of the camps.
"This rule is about big money, big politics, big egos," said Terel Patrick, assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Martin Luther King, which is a top Detroit program that regularly produces college scholarship players. "It's 1 percent of decision-makers making decisions for the 99 percent who are affected."
The rule was about protecting turf, and college football is willing to risk letting Jaeveyon fall through the cracks to help teams do that.
What happened is this: Harbaugh came to Michigan last year with endless energy and no regard for tradition. It was Harbaugh being Harbaugh.
Instead of holding his offseason camps for kids just at Michigan, he also started holding them in the South, where much of the country's high school football talent is. SEC and ACC coaches didn't like this, so they led a charge to get the NCAA to adopt a rule against it.
"We all know what the story is here," Kenthia Morton said. "Harbaugh came in, and he moved too fast. It's simply that. And the other schools don't like it."
In fact, many of the coaches involved went as far as admitting their opposition to satellite camps like Harbaugh's was purely self-serving. USA Today's Dan Wolken and Alabama Media Group's James Crepea shared comments from coach Hugh Freeze and coach Jim McElwain, respectively:
They were thinking about themselves, about their programs, about winning—not about the kids.
For kids like Morton, the new rule will make it infinitely harder to be noticed by college coaches.
"I guess you'd say he's a typical fringe-type of kid," Patrick said. "He's probably a MAC kid."
Again, Morton is 5'9". He was probably never going to have the measurables to end up in a Power Five conference. But playing in the Mid-America Conference is still playing college football.
The satellite camps were great for kids like this. They were a showcase players and teams of all levels attended.
College football camps in general tend to get coaches from many different schools working at them. So if Ohio State held a camp on its campus, only a small fraction of the kids there would likely ever get a scholarship offer to play for the Buckeyes. But coaches from other schools were watching, too.
Under this new rule, Morton would have to go around the country, campus to campus, in hopes that someone will take him. The costs can add up.
"He's a good player, but he hasn't been in the forefront on his high school team because he plays behind some 5-star players. He needs these satellite camps to be seen," Kenthia Morton says. "I'm going to have to pick a few camps to go to now, and they're going to have to be close by. I don't know which ones."
The Detroit area is fortunate to have the Sound Mind, Sound Body football camp. Founded by Curtis Blackwell to help kids in his hometown, the camp is not technically a satellite. It is run independently of a specific college, though college coaches fill the place up.
Under the new rule, coaches from FBS programs won't be able to help out anymore.
Sound Mind, Sound Body will still offer instruction from coaches and give kids a chance to showcase themselves. But that will now be in front of coaches from schools with more limited scholarship opportunities like Eastern Illinois and Youngstown State. In the past, coaches such as Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio have been there.
"I just think they didn't think this ban through," said Blackwell, who is no longer officially at Sound Mind, Sound Body but is instead the Michigan State recruiting coordinator. "There is no way coaches would want to take opportunity away from kids. No way.
"Until someone tells me that to my face, that they knew this would happen, I won't believe it."
The ban, which conference officials voted on, is still somewhat of a mystery. Officially, no one is saying why it was important. All we know for sure is that after Harbaugh started having camps in the South last year, SEC coaches and officials started complaining, and now we have a ban.
Blackwell said kids pay $90 for a two-day camp, but that's a misleadingly low number. In addition, he said, to come to a camp, a family has to get the kid there and usually stay at least a night or two in hotels. Parents might have to pay for flights. The camps are also usually on weekdays, meaning parents have to get off work to get there.
The costs can add up. And if a trip to an on-campus camp will now put a kid in front of just one school's coaches, then just how many camps will a family have to travel to in order to get the word around about their kid? Will the different schools have their camps on the same days? And if kids start going to one camp after another all summer, what about potential injuries?
The top-rated prospects won't be hurt by the ban. Power football programs will find them. Well-off kids can afford multiple camps.
But when told about Morton's specifics and how a lack of exposure could make the difference between college and no college, Blackwell said this: "Wow, wow, wow. It's the realities of life in the system we have. And in a city like Detroit, it's pretty much do or die. You can't bounce back when things go wrong. People with resources, they can bounce back."
Patrick, Morton's high school coach, points out Iowa's Desmond King won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back in 2015 despite being a Detroit kid originally projected to play in the MAC. Then he was discovered at Sound Mind, Sound Body.
What happens if he hadn't been discovered?
"The best kids don't always get out of here," Patrick said.
So you can see the fine line in the real lives of kids. That's what college coaches—who are part of our education system, right?—should be thinking about rather than their own turf.
During the offseason, Patrick said, the coaches at King strategically pick a camp or two to send several team members to so they can be seen by the broadest amount of coaches. Last year, he said, they took 14 or 15 kids and some ended up at the top level, Division I, while some went to Division II, some went to Division III (which doesn't offer scholarships) and some went to small-college NAIA.
King's coaches, he said, paid their own way and usually contributed more so kids who couldn't fully afford the trip could go, too. But where will King's coaches take their kids now?
"We'll have one kid in the car with 40 offers and one hoping to get one," he said. "Who is more important? Who is more important? It has been life-changing because of these opportunities."
The hope now is for the NCAA to change the rule back and to allow satellite camps. And there is one force in college football that's more powerful even than the SEC and the NCAA.
Rozlyn Peoples, mother of Detroit Cass Tech 5-star recruit Donovan Peoples-Jones, started a petition to get the ban overturned. She was moved to create the petition when she saw a letter her son had posted on Twitter to show his disappointment with the new rule. In the letter, he talked about how lucky he was to have been able to showcase his football abilities and also to have learned at satellite camps.
"I was fortunate enough to have a great group of family, friends and coaches who have guided and supported me throughout my years of playing football," he wrote. "Unfortunately, many of the athletes in Detroit don't have the same background foundation as I was blessed with."
Rozlyn read it and said, "It almost brought tears to my eyes how appreciative he is. He was taking a stand. I wanted to help raise awareness."
It now has more than 14,000 signatures, many from people who left testimonials about how much the camps helped their kids or about how they don't know what they'll do now.
Peoples said she took her son to one camp in Florida and one in California last year, and it cost roughly $5,000. But, she said, there were at least 35 schools represented at each camp.
"How many camps can you afford to go to?" she said. "A lot of these kids don't have anyone to take them across town, let alone to camps."
She said she knew plenty of kids who would be hurt by the ban and suggested talking with Djuna Barker, mother of Detroit football player Kalon Gervin.
"I'm the mother of five boys, and actually they're all great athletes," Djuna Barker said. "I was married, but my husband passed. When these camps come up, that is actually how the [players] can actually be exposed to different places other than Michigan, Michigan State. Coaches might come from Cincinnati, Iowa, UCLA. To some of these kids, that's the only time they can dream.
"My son is a 4-star now, but he didn't have offers. Like Peoples, he's a really good kid. He didn't get exposed to schools until he went to Sound Mind, Sound Body. The same thing happened with Peoples."
She recommended talking with Kenthia Morton, which brings us back to Jaeveyon.
He has an offer from Akron, but Kenthia said she isn't sure that offer is official or how solid it is. Patrick, his high school coach, said he doesn't feel confident about that, either.
It could still go either way for Jaeveyon.
Gervin and Peoples will get offers. Their mothers speak out anyway, even though the rule doesn't really affect their kids. Peoples figures the more awareness people have of the downside to banning satellite camps, the more pressure there will be to end the ban.
"I got involved from a parent perspective as well as for people who don't have a voice," Peoples said. "These 1-star, 2-star, 3-star kids, that's who this [ban] disenfranchises. That's who I'm concerned for."
Concern for others not as a piece of turf, but as human beings. Someone has to do it.
All star ratings via 247Sports.
Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him at @gregcouch.
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The fourth spring under Tennessee football coach Butch Jones is in the books, and the lessons learned are far-reaching for a program possibly on the brink of some big things.
If the Volunteers are going to live up to the massive expectations many national experts placed on their shoulders, they've got to get healthy.
They've also got to be able to fill the voids better than they did a season ago when those injuries occurred. Sure, the setbacks on the offensive line led to profitable future finds in tackle Chance Hall and Jack Jones, among others.
But the Vols felt the sting of losing then-nickelback Rashaan Gaulden before the season when Malik Foreman wasn't ready to step in. As the year progressed, Foreman shone, but he struggled at the onset. The same goes for UT's lack of a middle linebacker until Darrin Kirkland Jr. began to receive most of the snaps.
When Shy Tuttle was lost for the year against Georgia, the Vols really didn't replace him in the rotation.
So, while the 20-plus injuries that befell UT this spring were difficult to deal with, the flip side is it gave several players the opportunity for extended auditions under the coaches' watchful eye. Several young Vols took advantage of the situation.
Over the course of March and April, the Vols found some areas where they will be considerably stronger and deeper than a season ago. Other spots need reinforcements from the 2016 class to get to Knoxville and help right away.
All in all, Tennessee knows more about itself after this spring practice, which is the purpose of it, anyway. Let's take a look at some of the things we learned about the Vols this spring.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett is finally in position to take over as the leader of an Ohio State team that's incredibly young but equally talented.
That was one of the biggest takeaways from a pivotal spring camp in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes, who are working to replace a number of superstars such as Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa, wrapped up 15 practices with its annual spring game last week—and the scrimmage showcased an inexperienced squad that's brimming with potential.
Urban Meyer is trying to mold that group into a contender this fall. Since his arrival in 2012, the Buckeyes are an incredible 50-4, but they boast just one Big Ten title in the last four years.
The quest to the conference championship game actually began with spring practice. Here are five things we learned about the Buckeyes.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At the start of Sunday, 66 athletes had earned invitations to The Opening July 5-10 in Beaverton, Oregon. By the end of the day, that number increased by six.
The Opening Charlotte regional saw an abundance of talent venture to Mallard Creek High School to battle for that coveted golden ticket to one of college football recruiting's most premier and prestigious events for high school athletes. More than 400 athletes were in attendance, and six more joined the ranks of the elite athletes already selected.
Oak Ridge, Tennessee, wide receiver Tee Higgins validated his 5-star rating with a phenomenal performance throughout Sunday. Defensive backs Devon Hunter, from Chesapeake, Virginia, and A.J. Terrell, from Atlanta, are 4-star talents who showed versatility and patience in seven-on-seven drills.
Linebacker Sherrod Greene, a 3-star prospect, played like an athlete with a lot to prove Sunday, as did 3-star offensive tackle Blake Vinson, who had a solid day against gritty defensive linemen. Khalan Laborn showed why he is the No. 2-ranked all-purpose back in the 2017 class.
Here are some highlights from The Opening Charlotte:
#RunningManChallenge, extreme rules
Athletic teams from Maryland, Michigan and other programs have participated in the new social media craze called the #RunningManChallenge, where athletes do a run-in-place dance to the '90s hip-hop track "My Boo" by Ghost Town DJs.
The dance, as Maryland basketball players showed, brings a lot of laughs and can be a lot of fun:
The Opening decided to one-up the competition:
In a collaboration with Bleacher Report, The Opening had its entire group of athletes at Mallard Creek High School do the dance. Among those doing it was Elite 11 head coach Matt James, who spearheaded a fake "Fastest Man" race to organize the actual cuing of the dance.
Entering Sunday evening, the performance had been retweeted more than 8,000 times and "liked" more than 9,000 times on Twitter.
Atlanta DB continuing high school trend
Atlanta 4-star defensive back Terrell did his best to hide his emotions when he heard his name called as one of the invited participants to The Opening. Upon receiving his medal, he maintained a look that was almost stoic.
It was after the event when Terrell let his emotions out. It hit him that one of his longtime football dreams was coming true.
"I've dreamed of going to Oregon for The Opening since I was little," Terrell said. "I was happy, but I didn't really want to show it as much. I couldn't wait to get into the car, though."
Terrell said he's been following The Opening for a few years, and he was even more proud to keep his high school's trend going. Terrell attends Westlake High School, the same school Tennessee signee and The Opening alum Nigel Warrior attended before transferring to Peachtree Ridge High School.
"With Nigel, I looked up to him. We both play the same position, and people compare me to him with offers and how he's making for himself," Terrell said. "Now I'm following his footsteps and making a name for myself."
Shirt serves as battle scars for Florida OL
It was easy to tell Citra, Florida, offensive lineman Vinson had been in a few battles. As he walked up to receive his The Opening qualifier medal, he showcased a huge piece of his shirt missing near the lower part of his left shoulder.
Torn shirts are common with linemen at The Opening regionals. But for guys like Vinson, torn shirts are pleasant reminders of what hard work can produce. And for Vinson, the work produced a trip to Oregon in the summer.
"I tore it in finals against [4-star defensive end] Malik Herring," said Vinson, a 3-star offensive tackle listed at 6'4" and 280 pounds. "He ripped my shirt after an outside move, but it's OK, though.
"I've been thinking about [The Opening] the past couple of months. It's a really nice feeling; it's awesome."
Walkup gets ratings MVP award
Kendall Lewis wasn't on the initial The Opening Charlotte roster. He was listed as a walkup.
After his efforts on Sunday, no one will remember Lewis simply as the last-minute addition. The Charlotte wide receiver, who only has a reported offer from Miami (Ohio), per Rivals, recorded a ratings score of 121.41, capped by a vertical leap of 43.5 inches.
A receiver at Rocky River High School, Lewis' vertical jump is tied for fifth nationally among all athletes on the 2016 Nike+ Football Rating Leaderboard. The 6'1", 189-pound receiver also threw the power ball 41 feet, which is a top-five national score among wide receivers.
Backflips before, speechless after for invited RB
Before The Opening, Laborn was doing backflips—simply because other players told him he couldn't.
The Ocean Lakes, Virginia, 4-star running back had a fun time with fellow athletes before the start of the event, but when it was time to perform, he let his athleticism and work ethic speak for him. His efforts were enough for him to earn an invitation to Oregon.
"I feel good. I feel like a new man," Laborn said. "I wasn't expecting it. Certain things didn't go the way I thought it should go. Some of the drills didn't go the way I wanted."
Laborn said he didn't want to dwell on the negative, but he felt that errors here and there in running back drills—led by former pros Jamal Robertson and Natrone Means—ultimately would doom him of any shot at advancing to The Opening.
He was more than ecstatic when he found out his thoughts were incorrect.
"When they called my name—and then they called my name first—my jaw dropped," he said.
Laborn, at 5'9" and 193 pounds, has offers from Florida State, Virginia Tech, Arizona State, Alabama, Georgia and a host of other schools.
For LB, act Super—as the emblem says
Greene wore a chain with a Superman emblem attached. Superman isn't his nickname, but his work on Sunday definitely was heroic.
Greene, a 3-star linebacker from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, did everything asked of him en route to earning an invitation to Beaverton. He went above and beyond in drills, and he left the facility with the respect of the multiple coaches in attendance.
"It feels great. I'm just thankful for the opportunity to compete," said Greene, who has offers from North Carolina State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, East Carolina and others. "I knew if I came out and competed and did what I do best, I would do a good job. To get an invite to go to Oregon...I just thank God for it all."
Greene then was asked about the emblem on his chain. The idea of taking up the nickname Superman isn't expected. At least not yet.
"I don't know about that," he said with a smile. "Maybe later. Maybe."
Learning and player-recruiting for Wolfpack commits
North Carolina State has four commits in its 2017 class. Two of the four were making it a priority to not only receive excellent tutelage from The Opening coaches but also use the time with athletes as an opportunity to do some player-recruiting.
Defensive tackle Grant Gibson and quarterback Matt McKay said Sunday was a great day to see talented players they believe can help benefit the future of North Carolina State football. Both players said they were in the ears of a few uncommitted players and hoped their words made some athletes consider being a part of the Wolfpack.
"I definitely came to recruit. I basically recruit every day, especially on Twitter," McKay said. "I tell them N.C. State's a great place that's very family oriented. I feel like we're going to the next level. It's time to join now."
"It's good to have your [future] teammates out here," Gibson added. "We're just trying to build something strong at N.C. State. It's just good that we all are out here getting a chance to compete.
South Carolina WR wins close 'Fastest Man' race
The Opening's "Fastest Man" race, which is quickly becoming one of the social-media fan favorites of the regional event, was so close that officials had to literally go to video to determine a winner.
And when the results were tallied, York, South Carolina, wide receiver Jaevion Matthews edged out West Columbia, South Carolina's Kerryon Richardson, Washington, D.C.'s Christian Braswell and Douglasville, Georgia's Jaytlin Askew—all of whom are athletes who lined up as defensive backs at The Opening.
To earn a spot in the "Fastest Man" race, Matthews ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds.
Acrobatic Tennessee WR makes a name for himself
He may not have been named wide receiver camp MVP or earned an invitation to The Opening on Sunday, but Zack Dobson proved he was a show-stealer.
Dobson, from Knoxville, Tennessee, had a few memorable moments and made sure the public talked about him once everyone left. For starters, the 5'8", 170-pound athlete recorded a vertical jump of 41 inches. His leaping ability proved to be a topic of discussion, particularly after finding out his vertical jump.
Shortly after, Dobson showed his athleticism with a super-acrobatic backflip off a brick wall. He finished his day by making two exceptional catches in the half-skelly showdown, which helps to determine camp MVPs at each position, primarily the quarterbacks.
"I'm here to have fun, man," Dobson said. "Gotta show everybody what I can do."
Dobson reportedly has offers from Austin Peay, Jackson State, Charleston Southern and Tennesse Tech. Tennessee, Oklahoma State and West Virginia are among the schools showing interest.
Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings, unless otherwise noted. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles
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