NCAA Football News

Way-Too-Early Preview of Alabama Crimson Tide 2016 Recruiting Class

The Alabama Crimson Tide have become accustomed to dominating the recruiting scene over the past few years. Things are looking good for the 2016 cycle as well. 

Stephen Nelson was joined by Bleacher Reports' Lead Alabama Writer Marc Torrence to discuss the Crimson Tide's 2016 commits.

Who else should Alabama target? Check out the video and let us know!  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Tracking 2015 NFL Combine Results for Former Bulldog Stars

The NFL Scouting Combine is something of an oddity. A week-long rite of passage featuring no real football will go a long way in determining the professional status of the best football players in the nation. Pads and helmets are not nearly as important this week as stopwatches and orange cones.

For a handful of eager former Georgia Bulldogs, the hope is that a strong showing in a series of physical and mental tests and interviews will result in a favorable draft selection in a few months.

Here's a closer look at Georgia's participants and their performances at the NFL combine. And be sure to check back throughout the week for updates on each player's performance.

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CFB Future 100: Top 14 Defensive Backs in Class of 2016

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon SaylesSanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 100 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the class of 2016. Here we present the Top Defensive Backs.

Other Positions 

Three years ago, Vernon Hargreaves III was a rising high school junior, highly touted as one of the best cornerbacks in his class. Now, he's an all-SEC cornerback with NFL dreams.

Members of the 2016 class could be in that same situation three years from now, and there are several defensive backs who could be just as good in 2018 as Hargreaves is now. The 2016 group features a number of elite athletes, but the defensive back class is headlined by 5-star Florida cornerback Saivion Smith, who is the No. 7 player overall in the class.

Bleacher Report's CFB Future 100 series focuses on defensive backs, scoring them on their abilities in four key metrics—coverage (40 points), speed (20), ball skills (20) and run support (20). The cumulative figures from these traits resulted in our overall grade of each prospect. 

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How My Bleacher Report Story Helped Me Land a College Football Scholarship

On January 28, Bleacher Report published "The Best Football Prospect Nobody Has Ever Heard Of," the story of Easton Bruere.  At the time of publication, Bruere had zero Division I offers and no idea where he was going to play football in 2015.  This is what happened next, as told by Bruere to Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani.

Next year, I will be playing football at Butler Community College in Kansas.

I thought the recruiting process would take care of itself, but it didn't really work out that way. Honestly, it sucked at times. After you come home from a big win, and you played well and the team played well, and you should be feeling great, deep down in the back of your mind, you are thinking, "Dang, I have to figure out where I'm going to play next year!" I was getting letters from everyone across the country, but no real calls.

I just stopped opening the letters because they were piling up, and they were only interest letters. We sent out emails to everyone across the country during the season. A few people got back just with interest. A few told us they felt I was a Division I guy, but that was about it.

At the end of the season, I didn't have much going on. Then the article came out.

It was crazy. People would come up to me and say, like, "Bro, you're Twitter famous!"

It was great because not only did it open people's eyes about me, but it opened up the schools' eyes about recruiting New Mexico kids. There are plenty of good athletes here that can play at the next level. Our team alone has so many more contacts now. My coach can send out film to, like, 100 more teams than he did in previous years because he actually knows these guys because they have been in contact with him since the article came out.

That's great for schools here in New Mexico, where it's been like a flyover state where most coaches won't stop by unless you're a freak athlete.

The main thing is that it got a lot more people talking, and I appreciate that.

I ended up getting offers from a few Division II schools, and a bunch of junior colleges wanted me as well. There was not a ton coming from Division I schools, and that was what I had my eyes set on. That's every high school kid's dream if they want to play at the next level.

After the article, Butler came back along and invited me out there for a visit. I checked the school out and fell in love with the coaching staff and the tradition of that program. They win, and they send a lot of guys to Division I.

It also seems like the coaches are really involved with the kids. They know every player's name, unlike like a huge Division I school where the coach doesn't know your name if you are a third- or fourth-string guy. Their goal is to help you get a Division I scholarship as soon as possible. I thought that was a big plus.

[Head] Coach [Tim] Schaffner is great. I really enjoyed what he had to say and what he was offering. Plus, they have great facilities.  So I decided to sign with them, and I hope this coming year is a good one.

I'm going to be working hard all spring, summer and into the fall to make sure I don't let everyone down. Hopefully, I have a great year at Butler. I just want to say thanks to everyone for the support, especially to my friends and family. We appreciate all the well-wishes, and I hope this is just the next step in my journey to make my dream of playing Division I football come true.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NFL Combine Roster 2015: Invite List and Top Prospects to Watch

The brief window in each calendar year where the NFL doesn't factor into the broader sports conversation is over.

There's usually a bit of a post-Super Bowl lull when it comes to major NFL news, especially now that the Pro Bowl takes place before the big game. Now, with the official 2015 NFL combine invite list out and some preliminary combine activities having already taken place on Tuesday, it's officially draft season for pro football fans. 

The invite list of NFL hopefuls is exhaustive. It's a who's who of college football stars and studs, along with some small-school sleepers and overlooked prospects vying to make a name for themselves in Indianapolis 

Some players will court much more attention than others over the course of the six-day scouting event, from both franchises and media alike. Let's take a look at three of the top players to watch at this year's combine after a rundown of the complete invite list.


Top Prospects to Watch at Combine

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Much of the fun of following the NFL combine is derived from seeing which players put up eye-popping numbers. It's always nice to follow the athletic freaks, but it can be just as interesting to track a top prospect and see if the perception of him changes at this event. 

Jameis Winston is one such player. He's undoubtedly one of the featured prospects at the combine due to his controversial past and status as a potential No. 1 overall pick, but a month-old photograph adds a bit more intrigue to his combine storyline. 

A photo featuring a portly-looking Winston has worked its way into headlines, which is not a good look for an aspiring top pick.

Fans, scouts and media members will undoubtedly be curious to see whether Winston shows up to the combine in better shape. While the pic may be a cause for concern for some, it hasn't fazed his quarterback coach, George Whitfield Jr.

"He's always had a thing about pushing his stomach out," Whitfield said, per USA Today's Jim Corbett. "I hadn't seen the pic until Saturday. You smile about it because people got it and they jumped on it. When I saw him later, Jameis laughed and said, 'I'm going to be out in front of the world in a couple of days anyway.'"

Indeed, this could just be a case of an unfortunately timed photo, but Winston still has to prove himself at the combine. From the fan's perspective, Winston has plenty of catching up to do with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, per NFL on ESPN:

Perhaps it's a good thing the combine is primarily a scouting event, as Winston's skills and athleticism will be under greater scrutiny than his public perception as compared to Mariota. Whitfield Jr. noted that Winston was still mulling participating in throwing drills at the combine, but it appears the young signal-caller has come to a decision, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:

Keep an eye on Winston. The combine will be his first chance in a pro setting to show that he looks the part of a top-shelf quarterback.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma

Top wideout prospect Dorial Green-Beckham may be coming out of Oklahoma, but scouts will have to go back to his days at Missouri for game film. After being dismissed by Missouri after the 2013 season, Green-Beckham transferred to Oklahoma. However, he had to sit out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer restrictions, although he was allowed to practice with the Sooners.

With such a large gap between the last time he played a collegiate game—four catches for 53 yards on Jan. 3, 2014 against Oklahoma State—the importance of this combine for Green-Beckham is difficult to understate.

Sporting News contributor Eric Galko considers Green-Beckham one of the riskiest players at the combine due to various off-field incidents and notes the current NFL climate may not be conducive to players who may court controversy:

Green-Beckham’s maturity will be the biggest question mark on his scouting report. Talent-wise, outside of getting in the weight room more and learning more of the general nuances of the position, he checks all the boxes.

But in today’s NFL, off-field issues have grown into more than concerns for public relations departments: They’ve begun to be truly intolerable for roster building, forming long-term expectations and creating locker room chemistry. Green-Beckham is a remarkable talent. But every indication of his history paints a career path potentially more disheartening than Gordon’s thus far.

The interviews will be key to securing his future, as the junior wideout could flirt with first-round status.

While it's important Green-Beckham shows that he's ready to handle the scrutiny and responsibility that comes with being a pro, it's just as vital he demonstrates his athleticism at the combine, lest scouts worry he's lost his mojo by having gone so long without playing competitive football. An AFC college scout told NFL.com's Albert Breer that Green-Beckham's athleticism is comparable to that of Calvin Johnson:

He's one of the best receivers I've ever seen. He's special. He's gigantic; he has tremendous body control, balance; he runs like a deer and can leap out of the gym and high-point the ball. He's special. It's impressive. If not for all that stuff, he'd be the best receiver to come out since Calvin Johnson.

Green-Beckham is no doubt supremely talented; the game tape already shows that. But since it's been so long, he may need some fresh numbers to prove himself as a risk worth taking.

 

Shane Ray, DE, Missouri 

If you're looking for a freakish athlete with potential "wow" factor at the NFL combine, look no further than Missouri defensive end Shane Ray. 

His stats from college are impressive enough on their own. As a junior in 2014, the 6'3", 245-pound Ray racked up 65 total tackles (22.5 for a loss), 13 sacks and three forced fumbles. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller likes his first step:

If he can reinforce the perception of him as an athletic marvel capable of collapsing pockets everywhere, Ray could prove himself a shoo-in for a top-10 pick. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah projected the kind of numbers Ray could put up at the combine:

There is some concern about Ray's lack of bulk (Mizzou listed him at 245 pounds), but he makes up for it with rare explosiveness. Ray should record an outstanding 10-yard split in the 40, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him rip off a low-4.5 time in the event. Scouts also expect him to log a vertical leap of close to 40 inches. 

In a draft class loaded with talented pass-rushers such as Dante Fowler Jr., Randy Gregory and Owamagbe Odighizuwa, combine performances will be important for players looking to separate themselves from the crowded pack. Expect Ray to take advantage of this early opportunity to impress.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: Tracking 2015 NFL Combine Results for Former Hurricanes Stars

Eight former Miami Hurricanes are headed to the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine hoping to increase their respective draft stock over the next week.

Duke Johnson, Denzel Perryman, Ereck Flowers, Clive Walford, Phillip Dorsett, Ladarius Gunter, Anthony Chickillo and Jonathan Feliciano will represent "The U" on Feb. 18-23 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Though the combine represents just a small piece of the whole scouting puzzle, players have an excellent opportunity to showcase their athleticism through various drills. While speed, quickness and power are the main focuses, participants will also compete in position-specific workouts.

The tracker is organized alphabetically and will be updated throughout the week. Each athlete is accompanied by the latest draft projections from B/R's Matt Miller.

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Michigan Football: How Spring Practice Will Be Different Under Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh got to experience his first taste of the bitter in-state rivalry with Michigan State in the waning moments of Michigan’s 80-67 loss at Crisler Center as a large contingent of visiting Spartan fans serenaded him with a “…just a like football” chant.

Harbaugh took the whole scene in from a center court seat flanked by Michigan basketball coach John Beilein and interim athletic director Jim Hackett.

Harbaugh will begin efforts to remove that particular chant from the Spartan repertoire when spring practice begins.

His first step will be to instill a culture of intense competition at every position on the field. Practically every football coach in America gives lip service to this goal but Harbaugh measures and tracks every drill while posting the results for all to see.

When players arrive for practice they’ll be under the microscope as never before during their athletic careers.

Former Stanford all-conference player Ben Muth described to mlive.com what it was like to practice under Harbaugh:

It all started in winter conditioning, two guys would go through the same drill at the same time and every single drill we did in winter conditioning had a winner and a loser. And they'd post those stats in the locker room, and they'd be there for everyone to see. It'd be, 'hey, these guys are winning, these guys are losing. Where are you?'

Harbaugh stressed his commitment to competition during his signing-day press conference.

All things will be earned on the field. There are no guarantees, only opportunities, and they will have a great opportunity here at the University of Michigan to compete at the highest level academically and at the highest level athletically.

And just in case his players missed his press conference, Harbaugh tweeted about how they will be evaluated:

The open competition should yield some interesting results by the time Michigan plays its spring game on April 4.

Harbaugh’s method of intense competition will remove any remaining recruiting hype from his players. From 4-star phenoms to walk-ons the only thing that will matter is performance.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

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Auburn Football Players Allegedly Harass Student with Service Dog

Auburn University is currently investigating an incident involving two football players who allegedly harassed a student and her service dog Tuesday morning.

Elizabeth White of WSFA passed along a note from the female student, Ashley Ozyurt, who wrote at length about the incident on a Facebook page devoted to people with service dogs. Ozyurt alleges the two players were behind her and whistling at the dog and refused to stop when she asked them to quit acting as a distraction.

The players then allegedly became hostile, firing verbal assaults and bringing Ozyurt to tears:

At that point, in front of dozens of people, my PTSD took over and I withered to a crying mess. I went to the nearest safe place, the Office of Accessibility and reported the student's football numbers that they were wearing their FB sweat suits and backpacks. [omitted], the main attacker, and his hype man [omitted]. I attempted to attend my first class, but after 30 minutes of crying and humiliating myself further, I knew I needed to get home.

While Ozyurt identified the attackers in her post, their names are not being released by Auburn until they are properly identified. Auburn director of communications Mike Clardy said the school is opening up an investigation to the incident.

"Auburn University condemns any behavior that is demeaning to those with disabilities," the statement said. "We're investigating the reports and will take all appropriate action once all the facts are known."

Ozyurt claims Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn and assistant athletic director David Gunn called her to apologize for the incident. The 25-year-old student is a veteran who began using a service dog after being sexually assaulted while in the military.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jameis Winston Reportedly to Throw at NFL Combine: Details, Comments, Reaction

Jameis Winston is doing all he can to impress scouts at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. The former Florida State star and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback will reportedly throw at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the news on Tuesday:

Winston is in the running to be the No. 1 overall draft pick—or at least the first player at his position to come off the board. The race should be neck and neck between him and the most recent recipient of the Heisman hardware, dynamic Oregon product Marcus Mariota.

Just before news of Winston's intention to throw in Indy surfaced, ESPN's Chris Mortensen observed how Mariota is scheduled to let it fly this coming Saturday:

The MMQB's Peter King reported that Winston has lost 12 pounds leading up to the combine. This suggests Winston is locking in—in the hopes of impressing teams near the top of the draft order who might be inclined to select him.

However, King's column from Monday included testimony from NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock, who likes Winston as a prospect but raised concerns about some of Winston's perceived shortcomings.

"I'm scared to death of Jameis Winston off the field, and I'm scared to death of how many interceptions he throws," said Mayock. "He threw seven interceptions against Louisville and Florida, and it could have been 12 or 13 if the other team could catch the ball."

Renowned sports personality Jim Rome hinted at Winston's checkered past in his analysis of Winston's decision to throw:

The concerns Mayock and Rome intimate are offset by Winston's leadership on the field.

Winston led Florida State to a national championship and won the Heisman as a freshman, all the while playing in a pro-style offense. Mariota may be viewed as the safer pick from a personality standpoint due to his lack of off-field issues, though he may lack Winston's football acumen.

It's anyone's guess as to what will happen on April 30, when the first round commences. The NFL Scouting Combine ought to be quite a significant determining factor, though.

One of the biggest strengths Winston has is throwing with anticipation. Depending on how much chemistry he can find with his wide receivers at the combine, he may be able to display that better than Mariota on Saturday.

Other top quarterbacks in years past have opted to wait until pro days to throw, so this combine precedent that appears to be set by Winston and Mariota is exciting. They're both apparently keen to shine, and if they can make all the NFL throws, they should have nothing to hide from pro personnel men at Lucas Oil Stadium.

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Replacing Michael Bennett Will Be Ohio State's Toughest Challenge in 2015

Head coach Urban Meyer and Ohio State have to replace eight starters from last year's national championship team, but overcoming the loss of Michael Bennett will be the Buckeyes' stiffest challenge as they begin their quest to repeat in 2015.

The 6'2", 288-pound defensive tackle spurned the NFL to return for his senior season last year—a decision Bennett made to grow as a player and a leader.

"I had a lot of growth I had to do," Bennett said, according to Chase Goodbread of NFL.com. "Not just physically, but mentally. I got a lot bigger, my technique got better, I got faster. I grew as a leader and person, especially with the experiences we've had to go through this year."

Bennett emphatically achieved those goals during a stellar 2014 campaign, which aided the Buckeyes as they marched through the first ever College Football Playoff.

But Bennett's ability and leadership—paired with a lack of depth along the interior of Ohio State's defensive line—make his departure the biggest obstacle for the Buckeyes to overcome this season.

 

The Talent

As noted by Doug Lesmerises of Northeast Ohio Media Group, Bennett was expected to anchor a defensive line that featured three potential first-round NFL draft picks last season.

With Joey Bosa and Noah Spence on the edges, there was talk of the 2014 Buckeyes featuring the best defensive line Meyer ever coached—even better than his 2006 unit at Florida that bulldozed Ohio State in the 2007 title game.

Those expectations faltered, though, when Spence's three-game suspension turned into a year-long ban from the Big Ten. That allowed opposing teams to gear their blocking schemes to limit Bennett and Bosa, and Ohio State's star defensive tackle struggled out of the gate.

But that changed in a big way when the Buckeyes altered things for Bennett. Instead of playing a pure nose tackle position, Bennett lined up in the 3-technique midway through the season.

That allowed Ohio State's star defensive tackle to be the disruptive force he was the year before. He was free to rush the passer and get after running backs in the backfield as opposed to clogging the middle by taking on double-teams.

That switch produced the desired results. Bennett was absolutely dominant for the Buckeyes in their final seven games, leading the team with 11 tackles for loss during that stretch.

His best performance came against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, when the Buckeyes shut down NCAA-leading rusher Melvin Gordon and a high-powered Badgers ground attack. Bennett notched four tackles for loss (five total) as Ohio State limited Wisconsin to 71 rushing yards.

He and the rest of the Buckeyes' defensive line were also the difference in the national title game against Oregon. The Ducks had trouble with Ohio State's combination of size and quickness—especially in the interior—as they ran for just 132 yards.

It was Bennett's position switch and emergence that triggered Ohio State's defensive dominance down the stretch.

Now, after a strong second half to the season, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller is projecting Bennett as a second-round draft pick.

 

The Leadership

Midway through November, on a frigid day in Minneapolis, the Buckeyes needed a leader.

Ohio State's playoff hopes had just been invigorated by a 49-37 upset victory over Michigan State the week before. But on the road against a feisty Minnesota Golden Gophers team, the Buckeyes found themselves in a battle.

Back-to-back touchdowns from David Cobb had pulled No. 25 Minnesota to within three points at halftime, and the Buckeyes—who desperately wanted to register style points for selection committee—were losing steam.

That's when Bennett stepped up.

Infuriated by Minnesota's success in the first half, Bennett ripped the defense for allowing so many big plays.

“Mike Bennett took it very personally—he said some words I’m not gonna say right now,” senior cornerback Doran Grant said of Bennett's halftime speech, according to Tim Moody of The Lantern.

The Buckeyes came out and played well in the third quarter, scoring 14 unanswered points before cruising to a seven-point victory.

“The second half, we did a better job stopping the run,” Grant said.

With Bennett gone, Meyer will need to find a new voice to fire up the defense next year.

 

The Replacements

The Buckeyes managed to replace seven players who wound up starting in the NFL a season ago, so they have proven their ability to reload.

But replacing Bennett will be difficult because of Ohio State's lack of proven depth at defensive tackle.

Meyer tried to beef up the interior with his 2015 recruiting class, but the Buckeyes missed on their top three defensive tackle targets—Terry Beckner Jr., Christian Wilkins and Neville Gallimore. Ohio State did land 3-star prospects Robert Landers and DaVon Hamilton, but it will be hard for the team to crack the rotation as first-year players.

That puts a lot of pressure on Tommy Schutt.

The soon-to-be senior out of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, was a heralded 4-star recruit who was a part of Meyer's first recruiting class in 2012, but he has played primarily as a backup behind Bennett and fellow defensive tackle Adolphus Washington.

At 6'2" and 295 pounds, Schutt is more of a space-eating, run-stuffing tackle who's better slotted at the nose tackle. That will allow Washington to slide back into the 3-technique that he played at the beginning of the 2014 season, which he's better suited for.

Will these two defensive tackles, playing in their natural roles, be able to help the Buckeyes replace the lost production in Bennett's absence?

If they can't, the Buckeyes will have a hard time finding the defensive groove they were in to end the 2014 season.

 

All stats via OhioStateBuckeyes.com. All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Oregon Football: Position-by-Position Grades for 2015 Recruiting Class

Oregon’s 2014 season may have finished on a disappointing note, but the future looks as bright as ever in Eugene.

The Ducks’ 2015 recruiting class was ranked No. 3 in the Pac-12, trailing USC and UCLA, and the No. 16 class in the country, according to 247Sports.

Despite the fact that Oregon’s best player—Marcus Mariota—opted to take his talents to the NFL, the Ducks are very much in win-now mode. While most of the 2015 recruits won’t have an immediate impact, there’s no doubt that some of them will be an integral part of Oregon’s 2015-16 season.

Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the Ducks' 2015 recruiting class. These grades are determined by a projection of what impact these players will have on the Oregon program in 2015 and beyond.

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4 Underrated 2016 Recruits Who Will Shoot Up Rankings After Killing It at Camps

There are a number of top recruits who have already established themselves as elite prospects heading into their senior seasons.

However, there are many more prep prospects who are still hoping to catch the attention of colleges during the offseason camp circuit. 

Last weekend, a few under-the-radar prospects—players who have yet to earn a star next to their names—established themselves as prospects on the rise after a strong performance at the Adidas Georgia Showcase held at McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia.

Which players should fans be on the lookout for as prospects whose recruitment could blow up in the coming months?

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15 Bold Predictions for 2016 College Football Recruiting Class

We've come to expect the unexpected in college football recruiting, which is part of the allure as we follow along from the start of a cycle all the way through national signing day.

It's ultimately a cluster of well-paid coaches delivering sales pitches to undecided teenagers who also have friends, family and fans in their ear.

Expectations are in place for every collegiate recruiting department in America, and they are waiting to be exceeded or unfulfilled next February.

As we step forward with the class of 2016, here's are 15 predictions that might go against public consensus.

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J.T. Barrett Injury: Updates on Ohio State QB's Ankle and Recovery

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett took a promising step forward in his recovery from an ankle injury that brought his phenomenal 2014 season to a halt.

Barrett posted a photo on Instagram on Tuesday, showing the two screws that were taken out of his right ankle, which he underwent surgery on to address a fracture (h/t CBSSports.com's Jerry Hinnen):

Many Buckeyes fans figured their season was lost when incumbent starter Braxton Miller hurt his throwing shoulder and was ruled out for all of 2014. After Barrett struggled in an early loss to Virginia Tech, though, he emerged as a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender, keeping OSU in the playoff picture.

However, disaster appeared to strike again when Barrett went down in the Michigan game. It only set the stage for Cardale Jones to break out on the big stage, leading the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title and two postseason wins to triumph in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel recently highlighted how great a situation coach Urban Meyer's team is in at the most important position:

To say Ohio State's quarterback competition this spring will be epic is a most egregious understatement. The reigning national champions have the luxury of having three starting-caliber quarterbacks, setting a foundation for immediate and future success.

It will be interesting to see who rises to the top. While Miller has a longer track record, Barrett was arguably better than him when he saw extended action, though Jones' combination of arm strength and mobility is tantalizing as well.

The good news is that Barrett appears to be on his way to a strong recovery, which should allow this quarterback derby to live up to its deserved hype.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Early Predictions of the 2015 ACC All-Conference Team

It's that time of year again.

The time when we all have to deal with the long drought between the end of one college football season and the beginning of the next. While national signing day has officially come and gone, it's on to the predictions for the 2015 season.

Are they slightly early predictions? Come on, it's never too early to look toward the upcoming college football season, especially with the amount of talent the ACC may have in 2015.

Today, we get answers to questions such as "which quarterback will take over the All-ACC quarterback reigns from Jameis Winston?" Also, questions like whether or not players like Pittsburgh's James Conner and Tyler Boyd can repeat their impressive 2014 campaigns.

So, while those questions will be answered, the early predictions for each and every position of the ACC All-Conference team will also be revealed.

Not only will 2014 be factored into these choices, but a few players who have huge opportunities in front of them will also get consideration. Let's start off with some honorable mentions for both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, and then jump right into it.

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Jared Lorenzen Compares Himself to Jameis Winston, Writes 'Bigger' Is Better

Jared Lorenzen knows what it’s like to be a large man among large men. 

The former NFL backup and Kentucky Wildcats quarterback is a hillock of humanity with a mortar for an arm, and for the last decade or so, he quarterbacked professionally at one level or another despite a body type that defies all conventional norms. 

So when a picture of a surprisingly robust looking Jameis Winston emerged on the Internet over the weekend, Lorenzen opted to weigh in on the matter as only he can. 

Writing “#biggerisbetter,” the 6’4”, 315-pound former signal-caller asked his followers who looks better—him or the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner?

As for the photo of Winston, appearances probably don’t line up with reality. 

Winston’s quarterback coach, George Whitfield, cleared the air regarding the picture after it made the rounds on the Internet. Whitfield says Winston has actually lost weight while training to make the jump to the next level.

“He’s lost about 12-15 pounds,” Whitfield told USA Today’s Jim Corbett. “When you hear stuff about Jameis, the weight and he’s getting fat…what do people think, that I’ve been golfing while he’s been playing Call of Duty?”

“He’s been working his butt off the last five weeks to make sure he’s going to make a tough decision for somebody,” Whitfield told Corbett. “He looks good. I like where he is. Focused. Driven. He’s enjoying the process.”

Just remember: The last time we thought a guy had been sneaking extra spare ribs, that person turned out to be an unstoppable monstrosity. Camera angles can lie. That's all I'm saying.

 

Dan is on Twitter. He would like all the spare ribs.

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Every Power 5 College Football Team's Most Important Returning Player for 2015

It's all up to them.

Well, maybe that's a bit much. Very few teams in college football nowadays have their entire seasons riding on the performance of a single player, especially among power-conference schools that have a distinct recruiting advantage on smaller programs. If they do, that's a problem in its own right.

What every power program does have, though, is a most important player, the one who will be counted on more than any other. This player can play any position—though it often ends up being the quarterback, or whoever the offense is centered around—and his role involves both production and leadership.

Looking at what every school has coming back for 2015, we have identified their most important returner and explain how much they mean to success this season.

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Don't Count out J.T. Barrett in Ohio State's Quarterback Controversy

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It's not often that a quarterback competition causes Las Vegas to place odds for three separate competitors.

But one look at Bovada's handicapping (via OddsShark.com) of Ohio State's high-profile position battle shows that what the Buckeyes will face this offseason is far from your typical quarterback derby.

Ohio State hadn't even been the reigning national champion for more than 12 hours before Bovada released its odds for who will be the Buckeyes' starting signal-caller for the first game of the 2015 season. Just how unprecedented is the most-talked-about quarterback battle in recent memory? Look no further than the resume of the player with the third-best odds to start.

Ohio State's single-season total yardage record, the Big Ten's single-season touchdown mark, the Buckeyes' single-season passing touchdowns record, Big Ten Quarterback of the Year, Big Ten Freshman of the Year, CFPA National Freshman of the Year, third-team AP All-American and a fifth-place Heisman  Trophy finish. That would be the work of redshirt sophomore-to-be J.T. Barrett, who, as of Jan. 13, was listed at 2-1 and behind Cardale Jones (6-5) and Braxton Miller (7-4) in Bovada's handicapping of their three-man race.

As the slim margin between Jones, Miller and Barrett indicates, none of the three should be counted out at this point in the offseason.

"It's an interesting group. The little bit I've been around them, great young men, hard-working," new OSU quarterbacks coach Tim Beck said of the quarterback trio vying for the Buckeyes' starting spot. "They compete hard, because they want to win and they want to play."

If all three are fully healthy by the start of the season—and that's the biggest "if" in this whole deal—you could make a compelling case for any of the three to start. But while Jones has the momentum and Miller possesses the star power, Barrett has become an unlikely underdog, despite his stellar debut season.

Filling in for Miller two weeks prior to the start of the season after the two-time Big Ten MVP tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder, Barrett took the Buckeyes from national afterthought to championship contenders. Accumulating an 11-1 record in 12 starts before fracturing his ankle in Ohio State's regular-season finale against Michigan, Barrett rewrote the Buckeyes record books, building quite the trophy case in the process.

"I'm grateful and blessed for the opportunity," Barrett said following his season-ending injury. "I enjoyed all of it. It's just crazy to think about, myself personally, I wasn't trying to go out there and break any records or play outside myself. I was just trying to put my team in the best position to win each and every week."

Barrett, however, managed to do both, totaling 3,772 (2,834 passing, 938 rushing) yards and 45 touchdowns (34 passing, 11 rushing) in his freshman season. Although Miller shined as a one-man wrecking crew under Urban Meyer in 2012 and 2013, Barrett appeared to be a better fit as a distributor in the Buckeyes' spread system, ranking second in the country with a 169.8 passer rating.

"I feel like with this offense that Barrett works better in this offense,” Michigan State linebacker Taiwan Jones said as the Spartans prepared to take on the Buckeyes in November. “I feel like he has a better arm, he’s a way better quarterback than Braxton.”

But while Barrett had the OSU offense firing on all cylinders during his time in the Buckeyes lineup, his injury opened the door for Jones to showcase what he's capable of. In three games against three of OSU's toughest opponents, the strong-armed 6'5", 250-pounder threw for 742 yards and five touchdowns, helping the Buckeyes capture the national championship with wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.

The prevailing thought seems to be that with Jones riding a wave of momentum and being the only of the three healthy for spring practice, he'll have the opportunity to build an insurmountable lead in the quarterback competition. But with Barrett expected to be fully recovered by the start of fall camp, don't be so sure that's the case.

After all, Jones exited Ohio State's spring session a year ago firmly ahead of Barrett on the depth chart after Miller sat out due to his first shoulder injury. Barrett, however, bounced back to surpass Jones in the summer, three days before being named the Buckeyes' starter following Miller's season-ending injury.

"The offense moves more frequently when J.T.'s the quarterback," then-OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman said last offseason. "And that's the sign of a good one."

Barrett's already beaten Jones out once in a competition, and now he may have to do it again. As for Miller, the fifth-year senior claims to have already resumed throwing, but the severity of his injury makes it impossible to predict where his health will stand come summer.

That's just one of the many unknowns that will need to be answered before the dust settles in this unprecedented quarterback competition. With both Jones and Miller intent on heading to the pros the following season, Barrett seems to be a lock to be Ohio State's starter in 2016, but it remains more than possible the Wichita Falls, Texas, native won't have to wait that long to reclaim his starting spot.

"It's special what we have here as far as our quarterback room," Barrett said following the national title game. "There's no wishing bad upon Cardale so I can feel like the team needs me and that's how some places are. It's crazy."

It is, but so is Ohio State's current situation. And despite what the odds say, Barrett may be the Buckeyes' safest bet.

 

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

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Biggest Early Rivalry Battles on 2016 College Football Recruiting Trail

The battles that play out on the recruiting trail are often an extension of the rivalries that are heated on the gridiron every fall.

It’s not uncommon for Alabama and Auburn to fight over top prospects. Ditto for USC and UCLA, Michigan and Ohio State and the Sunshine State’s big three, to name a few.

Even schools such as Texas and Texas A&M—whose on-field rivalry ended when the Aggies joined the SEC—are still bitter foes when it comes to fighting over top talent.

Which 2016 prospects are already caught up in the tug of war between rival schools?

 

Players listed in alphabetical order.

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5 2016 Recruits Charlie Strong Must Land If He Wants to Turn Texas Around

As it turns out, yes, Texas head coach Charlie Strong can recruit well in-state.  

Texas' 2015 class was defense-heavy and included the No. 1 overall player in the state of Texas, linebacker Malik Jefferson, whereas the '14 class was a patchwork group assembled by Strong and his staff this month with a more personal stamp on it. According to 247Sports composite rankings, the Longhorns had the No. 10 class nationally. 

But as with anything in football, complacency is a killer. That's why Strong is Texas' coach, not Mack Brown

The Texas coaching staff is already looking at the '16 class. Which key players does Strong need to get for next February?

Five of them are listed over the following slides. 

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