NCAA Football News

Best College Football Coaching Staffs Heading into 2016 Season

Having a great head coach is one thing, but he alone doesn't make for a great team in college football. It takes an entire staff of coordinators and assistants to operate effectively in today's game.

All of those like-dressed people on the sidelines wearing headsets, holding play sheets and flashing signals onto the field are tasked with working together to teach, guide and motivate dozens of 18- to 22-year-old players. It's not easy, and it's why many assistants—and not just head coaches—are starting to get paid large sums of money each season.

Assembling a great staff is almost as important as recruiting the best possible players. This is the logic that first-year Maryland coach D.J. Durkin used in hiring three assistants—Pete Lembo, Mike London and Scott Shafer—who were all FBS head coaches in 2015.

There are plenty of great coaching staffs in college football, but some stand out from the crowd. We've picked the six best groups based on their overall history together and their individual accolades.

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Most Important Recruiting Visits on Final Weekend Before National Signing Day

By this time next week, your favorite college football recruit is expected to be a college football signee. National signing day is on Feb. 3, and the majority of targets in the 2016 class will sign a national letter of intent on that day, officially ending their respective recruiting processes.

All that means for college coaches is the upcoming weekend is a last-chance opportunity to land some of the elite uncommitted talent—and, possibly, flip some of those who are already committed. There are a few big campus visits scheduled nationally for this weekend, which include some of the best players of the 2016 class.

Here are eight players, listed in alphabetical order, to keep an eye on as they prepare for the final weekend of official visits.

 

All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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4-Star WR Nate Craig-Myers Announces Final 2 Schools

The long recruiting saga of 4-star wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers is coming to a close, as the elite Florida product announced his final two college choices on Wednesday morning. 

The wideout from Tampa, Florida, tweeted that he will announce his decision between Auburn and North Carolina at 11 a.m. ET on Feb. 3—national signing day.

Craig-Myers said the decision will be televised by ESPN at his high school, Tampa Catholic.

Wednesday's announcement means the No. 6-ranked wide receiver and No. 43-ranked overall prospect in the Class of 2016 has dropped Ole Miss from his previous list of finalists, which was unveiled by the Tampa Bay Times' Kelly Parsons last week.

According to Derek Tyson of ESPN, Craig-Myers canceled his scheduled official visit to Ole Miss on Monday.

Auburn is currently the leader for Craig-Myers, with 67 percent of the 45 Crystal Ball Predictions at 247Sports favoring the Tigers.

Craig-Myers was originally committed to Auburn from July 2014 to May 2015, when he was a 5-star prospect and the No. 1 wide receiver in the 2016 class.

In-state school Florida State made a hard push for him, and he unofficially visited the Seminoles several times last year. He dropped Florida State from his list of finalists last week.

Craig-Myers, who played in the Under Armour All-America Game and was named a first-team All-USA receiver in 2015 by USA Today, officially visited Auburn on Jan. 15.

"Yeah, you know, that's one thing good about Auburn—that's one of the pros in this situation. When I come up here, nothing changes. It's always the same," Craig-Myers told Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports. "Even when I decommitted, I came back and I still felt like I was part of the family."

He arrived on the Plains for the first time in months alongside his brother, 3-star cornerback Jayvaughn Myers. Auburn is also said to be leading the race for Myers.

Craig-Myers made his official visit to North Carolina last September. Tar Heels co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer visited Craig-Myers last weekend.

Brewer was the position coach for Dallas Cowboys star Dez Bryant at Oklahoma State, and he hinted at Craig-Myers' potential in a tweet to Bryant last week:

Craig-Myers is a strong all-around wide receiver boasting ideal size for his position at 6'2" and 205 pounds. He runs a 4.62-second 40-yard dash, per ESPN.com.

According to Max Preps, Craig-Myers had 63 receptions for 1,018 yards and 16 touchdowns last season at Tampa Catholic. He missed most of his junior season with a leg injury but came back strong to finish his high school career.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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Early Preview of Big Ten Football's Top 2016 NFL Draft Prospects

With the 2015 college football season in the books, many of the sport's now-former stars find themselves preparing for their professional careers. This weekend will mark the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, which will be followed by the NFL Scouting Combine and eventually pro days and team workout sessions.

By the time the first round of the draft arrives on April 28, its prospects will have been dissected for months. The Big Ten will have a heavy presence throughout the process as well, with no shortage of highly touted players from the conference prepared to begin their pro careers.

Many of those prospects will hail from Ohio State, which has a legitimate shot to tie or break the NFL draft's record for players from one school (6, ) selected in the first round. But the entirety of the draft will feature plenty of Big Ten flavor, including major prospects from both Michigan State and Penn State.

With that in mind, let's take an early look at the Big Ten's top prospects in the upcoming draft.

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Does Clemson Have Legit Shot to Land No. 1 Overall Recruit Rashan Gary?

Rashan Gary, the country's top-ranked college football recruit, has locked in his final official visit of a recruitment process that started in 2012.

Clemson will be the final program to play host, according to Tony Crumpton of TigerNet.com. Expect Gary and his support staff to go silent following his stay with the Tigers, setting the stage for a highly anticipated Feb. 3 commitment announcement.

"We will be going to Clemson and entering our own dead period until signing day," his mother, Jennifer Coney, told Crumpton. 

The 6'5", 293-pound defensive tackle, who received his first offer from Rutgers before his freshman year, previously spent an unofficial visit at the university last spring. Though, as Phil Kornblut of the State reports, the complete Clemson coaching staff was not present on campus during Easter break. 

Gary, a senior at Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey, focused on two schools for his final visit, according to Kornblut. Alabama also factored into the decision, and he made Tuscaloosa an earlier stop on his national tour, but the Crimson Tide were left out of his equation when it comes to official visits.

Clemson joins Auburn, Michigan, Ole Miss and USC on Gary's official visit list, which kept analysts guessing about his fifth destination for months. Make no mistake, the Tigers are an underdog here, but this development at least gives the coaching staff a chance to send him home with a positive final impression of the ACC champions. 

Michigan, viewed as the favorite to land Gary, most recently welcomed him to town. He traveled to Ann Arbor last weekend, caught on camera in the Wolverines locker room with head coach Jim Harbaugh and assistant Chris Partridge, who previously coached Gary at Paramus Catholic:

It was the latest in a series of trips to Michigan for Gary, who used an official visit in Ann Arbor during the season. Close friend Kareem Walker, a 4-star running back, enrolled early and is one of five New Jersey products who help piece together an impressive 2016 Wolverines class.

Gary, who capped off his prep career with three sacks in the Under Armour All-America Game, has been tight-lipped about leaning toward any particular teams, but expectations point toward Michigan. He is projected to sign with the Wolverines by 78 percent of experts' predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, including the past 23 picks.

Don't expect that to deter Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, who delivered his squad to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game and already claims commitments from two defensive linemen considered top-10 prospects at their respective positions. 

Dexter Lawrence, a 5-star North Carolina defensive tackle rated No. 2 overall in composite rankings behind only Gary, enrolled early. Kansas pass-rusher Xavier Kelly is considered the No. 8 weak-side defensive end this cycle and will arrive at Clemson later this year.

The Tigers coaching staff, specifically defensive coordinator Brent Venables, have an opportunity to showcase a program that has quickly ascended college football's hierarchy. Clemson is 56-12 since 2011 and returns Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson at quarterback for at least one more season. 

Unlike other schools under his consideration, Clemson's coaches boast cohesiveness that's tough to locate elsewhere. Auburn, USC and Michigan each hired a new defensive coordinator this winter, forcing Gary and his mother to re-acclimate with a fresh presence.

It's unlikely to become a tipping point on signing day, but Clemson will need to use every card in its deck in order to pull off a late upset and that one is worth noting. Another is the proximity of family, as Gary has an uncle who serves as assistant basketball coach at nearby Anderson College, according to Kornblut.

Despite its high profile, this is a recruitment that's been largely devoid of signing day hints or cryptic social media messages. The outside perception seems to be Michigan out in front and plenty of murkiness beyond that.

While we don't envision Gary landing with the Tigers next month, Clemson is getting all it can ask for with a last-minute sales pitch. Swinney, coming off a season that secured his spot among the sport's coaching stars, would truly steal the spotlight on signing day if he pulls off an improbable pledge from America's most coveted recruit.

 

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

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4-Star CB Lavert Hill Tweets Final 3 Schools

With just one week until national signing day, highly touted 2016 cornerback Lavert Hill has trimmed his final list of potential schools down to three Big Ten powerhouses.

Hill, the nation's No. 135-ranked overall player and No. 12-ranked cornerback, tweeted on Wednesday morning that he will announce his decision between Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State on signing day:

He will make his announcement at his high school, Martin Luther King in Detroit. Hill's final official visit was scheduled to be this weekend at Clemson, but he will forgo the trip.

According to the Crystal Ball Predictions at 247Sports, Michigan is the favorite to sign Hill, with 86 percent of the site's 28 picks favoring the Wolverines.

Hill made his official visit to Michigan on Dec. 11 and took three unofficial visits during football season. He decommitted from Penn State last November, shortly after his last unofficial visit to Michigan.

"Hill has kept his recruitment very, very close to the vest, particularly over the last two months," wrote Steve Lorenz of 247Sports last week. "Originally, he was planning to flip to Michigan a week after the decommitment, but delayed it and has since taken visits to Tennessee, Michigan State and Penn State along with Michigan."

The U.S. Army All-American cornerback's older brother, Delano, is a rising senior safety at Michigan and started eight games in 2015.

If the younger Hill decides to go his own way instead of following in the footsteps of his brother, Michigan State is the more probable landing spot.

Michigan State has the remaining 14 percent of the Crystal Ball Predictions for Hill.

The Spartans have a need for elite cornerbacks in this year's class, and Hill is said to be close friends with current Michigan State commitment Demetric Vance and early enrollee Donnie Corley.  

"It’s kind of really stressful because I know a lot of people at both schools," Hill told Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports this past weekend, when he made his official visit to Michigan State.

Penn State, the school that once held a commitment from Hill, isn't out of the running yet.

Hill officially visited the Nittany Lions on Jan. 15 and received a standing ovation when he was introduced during a Penn State hockey game:

According to Greg Pickel of PennLive.com, Penn State is believed to have signed Hill to a financial aid agreement while he was committed, making the announcement legal.

Hill was originally committed to Penn State from Jan. 31 to Nov. 29 of last year.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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Georgia Football: Closing on Local Stars Critical for Head Coach Kirby Smart

With a week to go in the 2016 recruiting cycle, we've reached the stretch run.

It's the most critical week of Kirby Smart's young career as the head coach of the Bulldogs, with in-home visits with top prospects and the final recruiting weekend before national signing day looming.

He has to knock it out of the park, because this week—and this class—can determine how quickly the program rebounds and how high its ceiling is.

This isn't the ordinary crop of high school talent in the Peach State—this is one of the best classes in recent history. According to 247Sports, eleven of the top 100 players in the country are from Georgia, which is the most the state has produced over the last five years.

Of those Peach State products, the top three—defensive tackle Derrick Brown, athlete Mecole Hardman and wide receiver Demetris Robertson—are uncommitted and considering Georgia. 

Brown, a 6'3", 317-pound monster from Buford, visited Georgia last weekend but will visit Tennessee this weekend prior to signing on Feb. 3. He still lists Georgia as his leader, but Smart needs to make sure that lead is as wide as possible before Brown heads to Rocky Top and the quiet period hits.

Brown would be a tremendous addition to a defensive line that added Trent Thompson and Jonathan Ledbetter last year and landed 4-star defensive tackle Julian Rochester—who enrolled early—this year.

Smart's new-look defensive line is already shaping up well, and Brown could make it comparable to the one that helped Alabama win the 2015 national title.

Hardman is one of the most versatile players in the country and recently told Kipp Adams and Keith Neibuhr on VSporto's SEC Recruiting Buzz that he intends to play defensive back at the next level. He loves the staff, especially the tradition of winning that Smart brings to Athens.

He told Adams and Neibuhr:

I think the coach everybody wanted to see get hired was [Smart]. It is his alma mater, and he knows how Georgia plays. I think he's going to do a great job with them. Especially coming from Alabama and the recruiting he does, he's going to do great in that aspect. He's a really cool, laid back coach. Plus, coming from Alabama with a tradition of winning, all he knows is how to do is win.

This is the wild card.

Hardman's long-term home is likely on the defensive side of the ball, but his ability to make things happen on offense and special teams could help the transition for Smart and the new staff in the short term. 

Pair Hardman up with slot weapon Isaiah McKenzie and rising sophomore receiver Terry Godwin, and that's a lot of speed and quickness for opposing defenses to handle.

Georgia might be trending down for Robertson as Notre Dame becomes more of a factor, according to the 247Sports crystal ball, but Smart's recruiting prowess plus the home state draw for the 5'11", 175-pound Savannah native could swing him back to the Classic City on signing day.

If Georgia can land two out of those three, it could vault from the ninth spot in the current team rankings to the top five and possibly higher.

But wait, there's more.

E.J. Price, a 6'6", 311-pound 4-star from Lawrenceville, is visiting Athens this weekend after taking a trip to Auburn last weekend, and 4-star defensive tackle Michail Carter from Jackson will also check out the Bulldogs. Plus, there's still time for some late flips in the topsy-turvy home stretch of the recruiting cycle.

This could be huge for Georgia. Transition years for new staffs typically come with temporary downturns in recruiting, at least for one year. If Smart can close strong in-state, that lag could be a myth and be replaced by a recruiting upturn with players who will pay immediate dividends for the Bulldogs.

By closing with a few Peach State products, Smart could post one of the most impressive recruiting classes in the country, given the circumstances. 

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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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Michigan Football: Wolverines' Top Remaining Recruiting Targets for NSD 2016

The final stretch leading up to national signing day 2016 for the Michigan football program is a critical time to finish strong with uncommitted targets.

Along with the names you've heard for months like Rashan Gary and Lavert Hill, the Wolverines have ramped up the pursuit of a few highly touted prospects.

Ordered by 247Sports composite rankings, the following six players are the top-ranked recruits who have expressed a large interest in Michigan and remain a realistic option to commit.

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Mammoth Bones Found at Oregon State's Reser Stadium During Construction

Animal bones dating back to the Ice Age, including a potential femur from a mammoth, were discovered this week at the Reser Stadium construction site at Oregon State University.

Anthony Rimel of the Corvallis Gazette-Times passed along word of the rare find. OSU spokesman Steve Clark provided the outlet with further details about what was found.

"We believe we have an intact femur from a mammoth," Clark said. "There also appear to be bones from other species, including possibly a bison and a camel."

The report noted that work was being done in the area where the new locker room for the Beavers football team will be constructed.

"Maybe the archaeologist can tell you if it's good luck," deputy athletics director Mark Massari said.

Beavers Football provided some pictures from the site:

Joseph Rose of the Oregonian commented on the discovery:

The university has closed off the area around the discovery to the public to prevent it from being disturbed. The Corvallis Gazette-Times noted it is being examined by one of the school's associate professors of anthropology before archaeology students are allowed to sift through the site.

"They're really giddy because usually when they find these things they have to drive three hours to get to them," Massari said.

Superstitious members of the Oregon State community will surely hope the Ice Age find leads to better fortunes for the football program. The Beavers are coming off a 2-10 season that included a 2-4 record at Reser Stadium.

 

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Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' Top Remaining Recruiting Targets for NSD 2016

Ohio State's 2016 recruiting class already boasts 22 members and ranks second nationally, but head coach Urban Meyer is trying to land a few more elite prospects before closing the books on this year's recruiting cycle.

The Buckeyes have already addressed a number of big needs, but there are still holes to fill in the secondary and the interior of the defensive line.

With those needs lingering, Meyer and the coaching staff are going hard at a trio of 4-star standouts. 

 

Jordan Fuller, 4-Star Defensive Back

Ohio State has to replace three starters in its secondary with the early departures of cornerback Eli Apple and safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell, and that's why Meyer is trying to load up on defensive backs.

The Buckeyes already have a trio of cornerbacks in Wayne Davis (4-star), Rodjay Burns (3-star) and Kareem Felder (3-star), but they'd love to add a prospect as versatile as Jordan Fuller.

Rated the No. 6 overall athlete for the 2016 class, Fuller starred as a two-way player for Old Tappan High School in Westwood, New Jersey, playing both quarterback and defensive back. 

Fuller, who's coming off back-to-back visits to Ohio State and Michigan, is set to announce his decision Monday, February 1, taking to Twitter to confirm the date:

The Buckeyes are the commanding favorite as 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions give them an 80 percent chance of landing Fuller's commitment.

 

Damar Hamlin, 4-Star Cornerback

Fuller isn't the only defensive back Ohio State is recruiting. Names such as Obi Eboh and K'Von Wallace have surfaced down the stretch, but one prospect the Buckeyes have been chasing for over a year is Damar Hamlin, the 4-star cornerback out of Pittsburgh.

Hamlin, the nation's No. 14 cornerback and 149th-ranked prospect overall, has pulled in offers from some of the top programs in the country, including Auburn, Clemson, Miami, Michigan and Oklahoma. He's whittled his list down to three, though, tweeting that it's between Ohio State and a pair of in-state schools:

However, momentum seems to be swinging Penn State's way after head coach James Franklin hosted Hamlin for an official visit last weekend. Pitt will make its final pitch this Friday when he makes the short trip to visit the Panthers.

Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell checked in on Hamlin the day before his visit to State College, but that may not be enough to sway things in the Buckeyes' favor. 

 

Keyshon Camp, 4-Star Defensive Tackle

Ohio State and Meyer have done a lot of amazing things on the recruiting trail, but the one thing they've failed to do over the last few recruiting cycles is land a top-flight defensive tackle. 

The big misses started last year when the Buckeyes struck out on their top targets—Terry Beckner Jr., Christian Wilkins and Neville Gallimore—and it's been more of the same this year with 5-stars Rashan Gary, Dexter Lawrence and Rashard Lawrence and 4-star Antwuan Jackson all going elsewhere.

Ohio State's last-ditch effort to land a highly rated defensive tackle to pair with Malik Barrow is Keyshon Camp, whom the Buckeyes offered last week after missing out on Rashard Lawrence.

Camp had been committed to USC since June, but a flicker of hope sparked when he decommitted from the Trojans the day after Ohio State offered:

However, the Buckeyes haven't been able to gain much traction over the last week, as Missouri is the overwhelming favorite to land his pledge, per 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

If Ohio State can't land Camp, they'll put the full-court pressure on Jamar King, one of the more coveted 3-star JUCO prospects in the country. But King is leaning toward Alabama, so it looks the Buckeyes could swing and miss in their defensive tackle recruiting for a second straight year.

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

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

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How Record-Setting QB with Video Game Numbers Finally Landed FBS Offer

Writer's note: We were ready to ask how someone with Mason Fine's resume could still be without an FBS scholarship offer. North Texas, however, answered the call before national signing day.

 

Metaphorically speaking, Locust Grove, Oklahoma's Mason Fine could be the proverbial subject of every popular, feel-good movie. His resume on and off the football field makes him the quintessential protagonist.

Every good film, however, needs a storyline and a plot, and every protagonist needs a nemesis. For Fine, until late Monday, that antagonist was FBS programs. And for as long as he's been a quarterback, his size—or lack thereof—has been one of the biggest obstacles in fulfilling his dream.

Monday night, none of that mattered anymore. Fine, a high school quarterback who posted ridiculous career numbers—more than 13,000 passing yards—verbally committed to the one FBS team willing to take a chance on him: North Texas. He will play roughly four hours from home for new North Texas head coach Seth Littrell and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.

"This has been a childhood dream of mine for forever," said Fine, who is listed at 5'11" and 170 pounds. "It's something I've been working my butt off for, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to show the people that I can play D-I football, no matter how big I am.

"I want to prove to people I can be just as successful in college as I was in high school. I'm setting more goals now; I can never be satisfied."

Rated a 2-star quarterback, Fine heard the stories throughout his career: Many college coaches have their ideas about the look of a prototype quarterback, and Fine, at first glance, simply didn't meet the criteria.

Never mind the fact that he ended his high school career as a two-time Gatorade Oklahoma Player of the Year—the only two-time winner of the award in state football history. And forget that he set Oklahoma high school career records for passing yards (13,084) and touchdown tosses (166). The fact remains that when coaches see him, "quarterback" isn't the first thing that comes to mind.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frustrated," Fine said of the recruiting process before he had committed to North Texas. "I mean, I have my days where I think about it and get upset. It's something where it's every kid's dream to play for a big university. You want to be the guy and have all of the opportunities to lead your team."

So for everything Fine's done on the field—for the state records he set and for helping to turn Locust Grove High School into an Oklahoma power—he needed nearly the entire stretch of the recruiting process to earn his first FBS offer. He had a handful of FCS and Division II offers, but he, like many other athletes, has dreams of playing on the biggest stage in college football.

"Coach Littrell and Coach Harrell...out of all these coaches, they had faith in me to play at the next level," Fine said. "For them to take that shot on me, I'm forever in their debt. I'm going to continue working hard for them and for the University of North Texas."

 

A winner—size notwithstanding

As the quarterback at Locust Grove, a small school of roughly 500 students in northeast Oklahoma, Fine set multiple state records—and last lost a regular-season game as a freshman.

Fine has all the tools to be a successful college quarterback: a strong throwing arm, powerful legs, quick feet and all kinds of awareness and pocket presence. He's been clocked at 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

"His arm strength has really set him apart," said Jacob Unruh, a sportswriter who covered Fine for the Oklahoman. "He can make nearly every throw colleges want, which is a big reason why he's been such a star at the Class 3A level.

"His arm is the thing opposing coaches love and fear. They love to watch it from afar, but when it's their turn to play him, it's no longer enjoyable trying to contain him, because he can make any defense look bad with his strength and accuracy."

Physically, however, Fine is who he is, and that is someone built more like a slot receiver or cornerback than an aspiring college quarterback. To his credit, Fine is blatantly honest about his actual height and weight: He's 5'10 ¾" and weighs 167 pounds.

Take away the stature and you're left with a player who lost a mere eight games in four years at Locust Grove—and five of those came when he was a freshman.

"He's done everything he possibly could do to catch the eye of somebody," Dale Fine said prior to his son's receiving an offer from North Texas. "His mother and I tell him, 'You've just got to be patient. You don't need 30 offers; you can only go to one school.'

"If he could get that one coach to take a chance on him, that's all he wants. That one coach will get five years of the best Mason's got."

North Texas is getting not only a wildly successful quarterback but a senior class valedictorian with a 4.0 GPA as well. Fine is also in his fourth year as class president and has been active with both the school's National Honor Society and Fellowship of Christian Athletes programs.

 

Turning a program around

Matt Hennesy became the head coach at Locust Grove in 2011 and welcomed Fine to the team a year later. It didn't take him long to recognize Fine's talents as a high school quarterback and also his potential as a college signal-caller.

Locust Grove was 2-28 in the three years before Hennesy's arrival. The team went 5-5 in Fine's freshman season and 37-3 in Fine's final three years, with each loss coming in the postseason.

A former linebacker at Kansas State, Hennesy knows how the recruiting game is played. Coaches want leaders and athletes who can move the ball with their arm and legs, but they also want their quarterbacks to have size.

"I've been doing this a long time, and I get it," said Hennesy, a high school football coach for more than 20 years. "These big schools are recruiting more on how many stars a kid has rather than what you do on tape. Mase can play football. He's special. He's one of those kids that you can't replace because of his leadership and work ethic.

"Take away his height, you can't find a flaw with him. I'm telling you, [if] he was 6'2", every school in the country would want him."

Fine is coming off a senior year in which he threw for 4,232 yards and 53 touchdowns and led Locust Grove to the Class 3A state quarterfinals. He completed 65.4 percent of his passes (251 of 384), and he also rushed for 631 yards and nine touchdowns.

He was even better as a junior, leading his team to the state semifinals while throwing for 5,006 yards and 71 touchdowns—both single-season state records—and also rushing for 514 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"If I look back on my life and ask, 'Do I have any regrets?' I can honestly say no," Fine said.

 

Fulfilling a dream

Fine has aspirations of one day obtaining a degree in business management. Still, the pull of football is strong enough that he also said he'd like one day to go into coaching.

All of this, obviously, will take a back seat if he's fortunate enough to beat the odds and make the NFL. Fine is short, but so is 5'11" Russell Wilson. And 6'0" Drew Brees. And 6'0" Johnny Manziel. Wilson and Brees each have a Super Bowl ring. Manziel has a Heisman Trophy.

Prior to committing to North Texas, Fine was considering a pair of Division II schools, Central Oklahoma and Emporia State. He also considered a preferred walk-on opportunity with Oklahoma State.

Hennesy has a good relationship with Littrell, and the two had been in contact about Fine and what he could bring to the program. Fine is hoping he can help turn around the culture at North Texas—similar to how he helped turn things around at Locust Grove.

Fine is looking forward to learning the Air Raid offense from Littrell and Harrell. Littrell helped North Carolina set program records on offense during his two-year stint as assistant head coach from 2014-15. He also played running back for Oklahoma from 1997-2000. Harrell was a quarterback at Texas Tech from 2004-08 and still holds several NCAA and program passing records.

"I think I can learn a lot from Coach Harrell," Fine said. "He was so successful at Texas Tech running the Air Raid. I feel like he's the next big thing coming up with Coach Littrell. They are two of the best offensive-minded people in the country.

"It's going to be a lot of fun learning from them. I'm going to be there soaking everything up and listening to everything they have to say."

Fine doesn't know his immediate future at North Texas, as the Mean Green return starting quarterback DaMarcus Smith and will also have Alabama transfer Alec Morris competing for playing time. As a graduate student, Morris is eligible to play immediately.

One thing's for certain: Fine is in the position he wanted. All he wished for was a chance.

"I know I can only control what I can control," he said, "but I want to always be ready for that opportunity. I have to continue to be patient and be happy for the things that have gone right for me so far. I have to see that light at the end of the tunnel."

 

Damon Sayles is a national recruiting analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports.com's composite rankings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles.

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B/R CFB Recruiting 200: Top 7 Tight Ends

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon SaylesSanjay Kirpalani andTyler Donohue have graded the top 200 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 Tight Ends.

The tight end position has undergone a face-lift in recent years.

Whereas players at that position used to be extra blockers in the run game with the capability to occasionally slip out into pass routes, tight ends nowadays are walking mismatches that quarterbacks rely on in critical situations.

The 2016 recruiting class has a handful of tight end prospects, headlined by 5-star and current Georgia early enrollee Isaac Nauta, who are capable of being difference-makers both as blockers and receivers.

The latest edition of the CFB Recruiting 200 series will take a close look at the elite tight ends available in the 2016 class.

Bleacher Report scored the top tight ends on key metrics such as hands (25 points), route running (20 points), blocking (20 points), release (20 points), speed (5 points) and agility (10 points). The cumulative scores from those traits resulted in our overall grade of each prospect. 

How do the nation’s best tight ends stack up on film?

 

All analysis completed by B/R National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani.

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Arkansas' Brandon Allen Worth Investing in at the Senior Bowl Despite Hand Size

The 2016 Senior Bowl, in all of its fanfare, is an amazing and complicated resource for NFL scouts to evaluate prospects. As is true throughout the process, evaluating quarterbacks is especially unique, where every measurable is thoroughly discussed, and every throw is heavily scrutinized.

For Brandon Allen, the NFL draft process is still in its infancy. But after just a few short days in Mobile, Alabama, NFL teams have already learned so much about the Arkansas quarterback, both good and bad.

After starting 37 of Arkansas’s last 38 games and finishing his senior season with a 30-touchdown and eight-interception performance, Allen’s college career can be looked back on with optimism for an NFL future.

A strong-armed passer who helmed an offense that worked through its running game, play-action passing and utilizing his tight end (Hunter Henry) and running back (Alex Collins) in the passing game, Allen’s college film offers plenty for NFL teams to extract NFL readiness and tools to further develop at the pro level.

But scouting quarterbacks for many NFL evaluators start off as a meeting of thresholds. Across the NFL scouting industry, there are a handful of key measurable minimums that prospects need to meet to prevent size from harming their draft value. For quarterbacks, there are two key numbers: height, in which 6’2" is generally the preferred minimum and hand size, in which 9 ½" is the general threshold.

Arkansas’s Brandon Allen didn’t meet either one of those thresholds at the 2016 Senior Bowl weigh-ins. Allen measured in at 6’1 ½" tall, the second-shortest quarterback in Mobile, and with 8 ½-inch hands, he was the smallest of any passer in the three major all-star games.

Hand size has become a buzzword in the scouting industry, especially each year around Senior Bowl week. And while college team fans and supporters of a prospect's college career will try to dismiss it, hand size can be a key indicator of a quarterback’s ability to gather the ball off the snap quickly, control it throughout their release and possess overall ball security at a position that touches the ball on each and every play.

For Brandon Allen, it’ll be a question he’ll have to answer to NFL teams throughout the process, and even then, it might not be enough to quell concerns from decision-makers when it comes time to finalize their draft boards.

But on film, Allen's hand size is simply not a problem. Allen received his fair share of quick snap-to-throw situations, spun a consistently tight pass with ample velocity and didn’t have fumble issues at Arkansas. Allen seems ready to prove to NFL teams that his hand size won’t be an issue.

“I’ve never had a problem during my college career,” Allen stated in an interview during the Senior Bowl’s annual Media Night. “I think part of that is my baseball background. Growing up, I always worked on grip strength for both baseball and football. I’ve never had an issue with fumbling or anything throughout my career, and I think I can actually throw tighter passes and control the ball better than most quarterbacks with bigger hands here [at the Senior Bowl]."

Based off just a day of practice, Allen appears to be living up to that. On a South roster that features North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Alabama’s Jacob Coker, Allen clearly displayed the most velocity of any of the quarterbacks. He spun the most consistently tight passes and finished quick throws with plus placement and control throughout practice.

While developing chemistry with receivers in a few snaps is next to impossible, Allen seemed to be the most comfortable of the four passers in anticipating route breaks and delivering high-velocity yet catchable passes to his weeklong teammates.

Building off a successful first day, Allen should continue to impress as the week progresses. Along with having the best velocity of the group, Allen appears to be the most natural passer of the group, adjusting his mechanics for different types of throws and working off the move effectively. He does possess a slightly sidearm release from the pocket, something scouts will have to determine if that’s a detriment at all or, more importantly, if he uses that to better control the ball in his release.

Like in college, Allen should display efficiency in his placement on interior and quicker outside throws, while really taking advantage in team drills and on game day with vertically stretching opportunities. He’ll be one of the favorites to finish the Senior Bowl as game MVP, especially considering how quickly he’s become comfortable with the receivers on the South roster.

Height and hand size will be the two-buzzword phrases that Allen will be battling for the next three-and-a-half months. And to make matters worse, there aren’t a whole lot of quarterbacks with smaller hands who haven’t had fumbling problems to some extent in the NFL.

But in today’s NFL, quarterbacks who have ample velocity and can step in early in their career and play efficiently have become highly valued. Unlike quarterbacks such as Dak Prescott and Jacoby Brissett, Allen doesn’t need more time to develop before an NFL team can feel comfortable throwing him into the fire.

Allen's NFL readiness is a huge plus in a draft class in which most of the top passers appear to need a full year before any team can genuinely trust them to lead its offense.

Brandon Allen didn’t meet the measurable thresholds that NFL teams covet, but in a quarterback-driven league where adequacy at the position has begun to grow few and far between, Allen can provide that and more. His performance as a passer during the process, at the NFL Scouting Combine and in film reviews for NFL teams should build toward a mid-round draft selection.

Compared to some of the other quarterbacks in Mobile, Allen is playing a bit of catch-up, recouping his draft value on the field rather than the measuring stick. It only takes one NFL team to overlook measurable numbers and give Allen a chance to be his team’s key backup quarterback and allow him to develop.

A strong Senior Bowl performance could do wonders to ease decision-makers’ concerns moving forward and land him as an early to mid-round drafted quarterback.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: 5 Biggest Offseason Goals for the Bulldogs

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart is expected to do some big things in Athens. The program brought him in to help the Bulldogs be a national title contender year in and year out, something that Mark Richt was not able to do despite winning 10 games each season.

In order for the Bulldogs to be a national title contender, they have to iron some things out this offseason, and it starts next week with national signing day. So, here are the five biggest goals for Georgia this offseason.

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Tennessee Football: Volunteers' Top Remaining Recruiting Targets for NSD 2016

With a handful of highly ranked targets remaining on the board, a huge weekend worth of official visitors on tap and still three or four open spots, it's shaping up to be a potential sterling finish to the 2016 recruiting for the Tennessee football team.

The Volunteers have a couple of needs to fill, and they appear to be major players for several of the prospects who've been top targets for months. UT also looks like it's trending with another blue-chip star who hasn't been on the radar for long.

This cycle hasn't been as full of twists and turns or commits in clusters like the previous two classes under coach Butch Jones, but that's to be expected with such a small class.

But with the Vols expected to sign 20-21 players, the remaining few spots could be filled with the biggest prospects on the board.

A major Georgia duo is slated to be in Knoxville this weekend with Buford defensive tackle Derrick Brown and Peachtree Ridge defensive back Nigel Warrior. Both have been primary targets for nearly a year or more. Stud offensive lineman Landon Dickerson and defensive back Tyler Byrd also are on the docket.

Tennesee has courted Byrd, the friend of longtime UT running back commitment Carlin Fils-aime, for a while. However, with his long-standing pledge to Miami, his reciprocated interest in the Vols is a bit of a recent development.

All those guys could wind up giving Tennessee fans a national signing day to remember. So, with an emphasis on those top targets, let's take an in-depth look at the biggest remaining players on UT's board with one week to go until the big day on February 3.

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Texas Football: The Longhorns' Top Remaining Recruiting Targets for NSD 2016

Once again, Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns are going to be major players on national signing day.

On the surface, the Horns shouldn't scare anyone. The 2016 class is ranked outside the top 30 with a week to go, with only five of the 13 commits sporting higher than 3-star ratings.

That's all about to change.

In keeping with his previous two years at Texas, Strong and his staff have been working their tails off to end the cycle in epic fashion. The Longhorns are eyeing at least six flips from other programs and are working on 12 other uncommitted targets.

Below are the biggest names on those lists.

 

1. Any Defensive Tackle

We're cheating here, but Texas isn't about to get picky about which of its six remaining defensive tackle targets decide to join the program. The way the depth chart looks, the Longhorns will take as many as they can get.

Over the last three recruiting cycles, Poona Ford, Chris Nelson and Jake McMillon, all from the 2014 class, are the only tackles the Horns have been able to add to the roster. Even with Paul Boyette and Alex Norman holding over from 2012, that's created a major depth problem now that Hassan Ridgeway has declared for the draft.

With Du'Vonta Lampkin flaking out last season, this 2016 cycle is crucial for replenishing the ranks up front. Luckily, there are plenty of options.

As of now, the Longhorns are in pursuit of Jordan Elliott, D'Andre Christmas-Giles, Chris Daniels, Stephon Taylor, Marcel Southall and Mike Williams. The first three are the most obtainable at this stage, Taylor's 50-50 with Florida State and the other two have Texas as backup plans.

Elliott, a top-125 Michigan commit, projects best to help immediately. He's listening once again, and the feeling now is that the Longhorns are the favorites.

The Longhorns are also in a good spot with the rising Christmas-Giles, who Rivals.com considers the sixth-best tackle in the nation. He has a top three of Texas, LSU and TCU, but the Tigers might be done at the position after landing Rashard Lawrence. TCU is more of a fringe contender.

Rounding out the targets, Daniels and Taylor are on the radar thanks to great visits a couple of weeks ago. It was an uphill battle to get into contention with both, but the Longhorns should be able to get at least one. Of the two, Daniels is the safer bet.

Things seem to be changing here on a daily basis, but Texas should get two or three of these guys.

 

2. S Brandon Jones

It's easy to see why Texas wants Brandon Jones.

The nation's top safety is fast, instinctive and physical enough to play either safety position. The Longhorns also don't have a commit at the position yet, so an in-state win over Texas A&M and Baylor would be a huge victory.

Texas isn't desperate at safety, but bringing Jones would give it a potentially dominant secondary for the next three years. Last season's commits, Holton Hill, Davante Davis, Kris Boyd, P.J. Locke and DeShon Elliott, another interchangeable safety, have all risen quickly. Adding the Nacogdoches product to the mix gives this group elite potential.

Strong and Jeff Traylor have been all over Jones and should be able to sign him. It's going to be close, though.

 

3. LB Jeffrey McCulloch

Texas is in really good shape with Jeffrey McCulloch, the freakishly athletic linebacker from Houston, and should be happy when he makes his decision on signing day.

Even with Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler in the fold, McCulloch's a talent the Longhorns can't pass up. The 6'2", 230-pound linebacker posted a Jefferson-esque 138.3 SPARQ score at The Opening, good for fourth-best among all 2015 participants.

But McCulloch's athletic prowess is only part of the equation. The Shark's ability to play sideline-to-sideline and rush the passer makes him a great fit for Strong's hybrid Fox position, as well as playing more of a traditional outside linebacker. 

That said, being able to put an athlete like McCulloch on the field with Jefferson would be an awesome luxury. The Longhorns would be able to mix up their fronts, get more creative with their blitzes and generally torment opposing blockers with these two. The duo would be really fun to watch.

McCulloch's already considered a "silent commit," according to Rivals.com's Alex Dunlap (h/t Burnt Orange Nation's Wescott Eberts), and Texas is in the driver's seat. That's great news for the program, and what's even better is the possibility that he'll be a package deal with the next target on our list, as McCulloch hinted to Horns Digest's Greg Powers.

 

4. LB Dontavious Jackson

Texas is targeting the best of the best at linebacker, and Dontavious Jackson's natural fit for the inside puts him squarely on that list.

Jackson looks like a Transformer on the high school field. The 240-pounder possesses elite play recognition, navigates traffic with ease and is a true knock-back tackler. If he gets his body on you, you're done.

This true middle linebacker skill set is what makes Jackson such an important target. Jefferson played well in the role last season, but the Horns don't have another true middle linebacker on the roster. Since Jefferson is so good off the edge, the Horns absolutely want a guy who can fill that role.

Jackson would fill that void, but he's no lock to end up at Texas. Florida State, Michigan, Alabama and Florida are also going after him hard, with the Seminoles being the Longhorns' greatest threat.

The good news is that Jackson is Texas' lone visitor this weekend, and he'll get the red carpet treatment from the coaching staff. Also, don't be surprised to see other Longhorn commits and targets roll in as well to try to make this happen.

 

5. OT Patrick Hudson

Texas has made Baylor commit Patrick Hudson a top target just to see what can happen. In the final week leading up to signing day, the Longhorns have turned the opportunity into a fighting chance.

Yes, Texas is going after Hudson basically for kicks. The Horns have four solid linemen already committed in this class, Hudson's sister is going to Baylor to run track, as noted by The Football Brainiacs, and he officially visited the Longhorns without his family.

Still, Hudson spent a lot of time in Austin last week and got an in-home visit from Strong on Monday. The personal attention has made this a one-on-one battle between the Horns and the Bears, and the 4-star tackle has yet to rule out a flip.

Ultimately, stealing Hudson probably won't happen. But if he makes an unofficial visit with his mom over the weekend, then you have to believe Strong will pull it off.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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Former Texas A&M Trainer Claims Coaches Pressured Him to Clear Injured Players

Former Texas A&M athletic trainer Karl Kapchinski claims to have cleared players to return to the field even when they weren't fully healthy toward the end of his 31-year tenure.

Suzanne Halliburton of the Statesman reported on Kapchinski's claims, which were made during a segment on Tuesday's edition of HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

"While we're considered part of the medical staff in a lotta cases, the head coach just sees you basically, in some cases, being subservient to his situation," Kapchinski said in an interview with HBO's Jon Frankel. He added, "They would always, you know, tend to put pressure on you to get good players back."

An unhealthy player suffering another injury shortly after being cleared was something that especially concerned Kapchinski, and he believes a number of his peers have been stuck in similar situations.

"There's been a lotta great quality athletic trainers that have subsequently lost their jobs because they stood up for the players or were doing the right thing," he told Frankel.

At the time Kapchinski was dismissed in November 2013, the Aggies were gearing up for a home game against Texas-El Paso in the midst of a successful season.

The athletic department had no comment publicly about the reason for firing the long-tenured member of its training staff. Kapchinski filed a lawsuit against the university in January 2015, asserting he was terminated due to age discrimination. He was 56 at the time of his firing.

The 1979 Texas A&M graduate's abrupt departure was all the more surprising since he had the immense responsibility of supervising two nutritionists and a physical therapist in addition to 12 other athletic trainers. According to Andrea Salazar of TheEagle.com, "In job reviews from May 2012 and June 2013, supervisors rated Kapchinski as 'exceeds expectations' or 'exemplary' in the categories listed, including quality of work, initiative, job knowledge and innovation."

However, during four meetings between July 10 and Sept. 16, 2013, athletic director Greg Hyman and senior associate athletics director Raymond Harrison repeatedly brought up the same concerns, which included making himself available to all sports teams and meeting with all head coaches before their respective seasons began, per Salazar. 

Perhaps Kapchinski's allegations will lead to changes across college football or bear some consequence in College Station. Otherwise, the purported dangerous culture Kapchinski has been compelled to speak out against is bound to persist.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame WR Corey Robinson to Run for Student Body President

Notre Dame wide receiver Corey Robinson, the son of NBA legend David Robinson, is bidding to extend his legacy in South Bend, Indiana, beyond the gridiron by running for student body president.  

Mary Green of the Observer reported the younger Robinson's plans on Tuesday. The wideout insisted he's taking care of his rigorous academic work now ahead of his impending push for office with vice presidential candidate Rebecca Blais:   

I've planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I'm finishing up my senior thesis. I'm doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.

[...]

If we do get elected, I'm going to have a very experienced team with everyone who knows what they're going to be doing, so that way, I won’t have to be around every single second of every single day. We'll have a very experienced, very veteran team, where I can be more of an overseer. … I’d let them do their thing, through updates and through meetings, more of than kind of role as opposed to a micromanager.

Robinson has 65 receptions for 896 yards and seven touchdowns for the Fighting Irish. The 6'4 ½", 215-pound playmaker figures to be in line for a big role as a Notre Dame senior on and off the field.

Green mentioned that Robinson had enough credits already to graduate in May of this year but opted to add a business economics minor so he could maintain undergraduate status and remain eligible for presidency.

Already with experience on the executive cabinet as the student government's athletics representative, the move to take the next step in the pseudo-political arena isn't a publicity stunt. There's genuine interest and experience lending credence to Robinson's candidacy.

The plan Robinson has to tend to his prospective presidential obligations seems sound, as he told Green:

This spring, all of our practices are in the morning, so we practice from six in the morning until 10 a.m., and the rest of the day is free, and I have one class a day, no class on Fridays. In the summer, same kind of thing — we only practice for two hours a day, and I’m going to be here every day, all day, so that'll be easy as well. I'm only taking one class.

[...]

In the fall, we practice to 2:30 to 7, so anything between those hours, I can't participate in, but the rest of the day, I'm free. I'm going to have three or four classes … and the way my schedule works, only football and student body, so that way, I'll be able to be fully invested in both, in those two aspects.

For such a big man on campus who's a part of a powerhouse football program, Robinson appears to be taking the humble, diplomatic and cooperative approach to his political campaign.

Similar to how Robinson's arc as a football player has unfolded, 2016 figures to be when he steps into the limelight as more of a leader by example. With Will Fuller headed to the NFL, the opportunity is ripe for the seasoned Robinson to step up as a starter in Notre Dame's receiving corps.

If he isn't able to parlay a solid senior year on the field into a potential pro football future, Robinson seems to have the capacity to thrive in politics should he choose to go that route. He is a liberal studies major with a minor in sustainability in addition to his newly added business economics focus.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Derrick Henry's Alabama's Rushing Records Might Stand for a Long Time

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The first time that Derrick Henry met Tim Tebow, the University of Alabama running back admitted to being a little star-struck.

The two college football greats hailed from the same part of Florida, and Henry even grew up rooting for both the quarterback and the Gators.

Little did Henry know that he would eventually break some of Tebow’s records in the Southeastern Conference.

“It's an honor,” Henry said. “I'm always going to give credit where credit is due, and that's to my teammates. I couldn't do it without them. Tebow's a great player, and to be mentioned with him is a great honor.”

Imagine what it was like for Henry at all of the awards banquets. Although he was just the second running back to win the Heisman Trophy over the past decade, there were some pretty prominent previous winners in New York that night including Tony Dorsett.

Someday he’ll be able to attend as well, but it might not be for a while.

When it comes to Henry’s 2015 season, he was nothing short of phenomenal. In addition to taking home Alabama’s second Heisman, he won the two other major national player of the year awards, the Maxwell and Walter Camp, along with the Doak Walker for best running back.

The SEC’s first 2,000-yard rusher topped Bo Jackson’s numbers and broke some of Herschel Walker’s longstanding records. Had Henry returned for his senior year perhaps he might have topped Walker’s career mark of 5,259 rushing yards, but he would have probably needed about 49 total games to top what Walker did in 33.

"I'm not the type of person who's going to compare myself to him, Herschel's a great back,” Henry said during a Heisman Trophy press conference. “I've still got a lot of things to get better at and work at to be in that same conversation. I still have to get better.”

Try telling that to all the players Henry ran over this season en route to not just accumulating the most rushing yards in any Crimson Tide season, but smashing the mark by 540 yards—almost 25 percent of his total.

Alabama had only recorded 258 100-yard rushing performances before Henry had 10 in 2015.

Just 11 times has a Nick Saban-coached running back had a 200-yard game. Of them only Henry had more than one (four).

His 46 carries against Auburn set an Alabama single-game record, and 44 the following week against Florida in the SEC Championship Game totaled 90 a mere seven days apart.

Alabama will probably make that a new category in next year’s record book, but to help put that into perspective consider that the most Trent Richardson had in back-to-back games was 64, and Mark Ingram Jr.’s best was 52.

But now that Henry holds numerous Alabama rushing records, his might stick for a while. Granted, the conference marks will give LSU’s Leonard Fournette something to shoot for next season, especially after averaging 162.75 yards in 12 games in 2015, a lot of things contributed to Henry’s season.

In addition to his huge frame (6’3”, 242 lbs.) as Henry was physically unlike any other running back in college football, four important factors worked in his favor:

 

1. Kenyan Drake had injury issues.

Although the coaching staff initially envisioned more of a balanced running attack—sort of like the previous season when starter T.J. Yeldon finished with 979 rushing yards on 194 carries, Henry had 990 and 172 and both scored 11 rushing touchdowns—Drake’s health prevented that.

The senior running back suffered a leg injury at Texas A&M and a broken arm at Mississippi State but did return to have a critical kick return for a touchdown against Clemson in the national championship game.

With Alabama making a title run and essentially only having freshmen Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough in reserve behind Henry and Drake, the decision was made to ride Henry as long as possible against opponents like Auburn and Florida.

"People make a big deal about these carries,” Henry said. “I want the ball, I want to make plays, so it's not a big deal to me. It's rare [to get that many carries], but I want the ball. I told coach I want the ball. I want to help the team win. There wasn't a plan before the season. Everyone knows that's what Alabama is all about: running the ball and being physical. I just want to make plays."

 

2. The postseason

Back when Jackson and Walker played college football, the postseason was just a bowl game after a long break, with no league championship or four-team playoff.

Although Alabama’s passing game was crucial in the Cotton Bowl and the national championship game, Henry quietly had 100 carries for 422 yards and six touchdowns during the three biggest games of the season after enduring the Crimson Tide’s SEC schedule.

 

3. Jake Coker

Even though Coker was older and a graduate transfer, he was still a first-year starter and didn’t really land the job until after the third week of the season (he turned 23 on Sept. 22, three days after Alabama lost to Ole Miss).

Similar to some of his predecessors during their first year, Alabama’s offense was geared more toward the running game until the quarterback developed to the point that turnovers became rare.

Coker ended up completing 263 out of 393 attempts for 3,110 yards, which was close to Blake Sims’ numbers (252-for-391, 3,487) in 2014 except that Coker had two more games and no Amari Copper.

 

4. Lane Kiffin

If there’s one thing in particular that the offensive coordinator known for, it’s getting the ball to his best playmaker until the opposition stops him. Obviously the last two years that’s been Cooper and Henry, and four times in the last five years a Kiffin-coached player has finished in the top six of Heisman Trophy voting.

The other two were wide receiver Marqise Lee and quarterback Matt Barkley at Southern California, so Kiffin did that eye-opening accomplishment with players at three different positions. However, this year was different as Alabama won the national championship.

“I do think it's very difficult nowadays to have great skill players who are very unselfish,” Alabama's offensive coordinator said. “I mean it doesn't happen very often. And so to have two guys like that in the quarterback and the tailback, that's very unusual.

“They're never worried about stats, they're never worried about 'I didn't throw this much, I didn't run this much.' Derrick, early in the year, didn't have as many carries as he had late. Neither of them mentioned anything like that. That's pretty unique.”

So was Henry becoming just the 15th player, and fifth running back in NCAA history to win a Heisman Trophy and a national title during the same season, joining Ingram (2009), Dorsett (1976), Doc Blanchard (1945) and Bruce Smith (1941).

It might take a while for another perfect storm during a season that Alabama has a durable running back who’s up for the challenge. That’s probably what it’s going to take for someone to top Henry’s records. 

“This year has been unbelievable,” he said.

 

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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16 Best Rising Seniors for 2016 College Football Season

Most of the best college football players never end up becoming seniors, instead opting for the NFL draft and a chance to make it as a professional earlier than normal. That's the case with 107 players who declared for the draft rather than finish up their collegiate careers.

For those who choose to stick around, the senior year is their last time to shine. A great performance in that final season could be parlayed into a pro career, while it also provides the opportunity for them to go down in their schools' record books.

We've identified the 16 best seniors who will be on the rise as they come back for 2016, ones who are heading into their fourth or fifth year of college and looking to finish with a bang. They're listed alphabetically, rather than in a ranking.

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