NCAA Football News

Dalvin Cook Found Not Guilty of Misdemeanor Battery: Details, Comments, Reaction

Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook was charged with misdemeanor battery last month for an alleged incident with a woman June 23 at a Tallahassee bar.

Safid Deen of the Tallahassee Democrat reported Cook was not guilty of battery and tweeted video of the verdict being read:

"I'm thankful and blessed the truth came out," Cook said upon being exonerated, per ESPN's Jared Shanker. Cook also added, "I know I didn't commit no crime or did no wrong. ... I was making peace."

Following the news, Florida State released a statement reinstating Cook, adding he would be immediately eligible to return to practice, per Jared Shanker of ESPN.com. The running back had previously been indefinitely suspended by the FSU program in July.

Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel implied the proper call was made based on the allegations leveled at Cook:

The Seminoles have been under fire in recent years for their players' off-field issues. Former star quarterback Jameis Winston had multiple mishaps away from the gridiron. Video footage of freshman quarterback De'Andre Johnson punching a woman at a bar surfaced, prompting his dismissal from Florida State in July.

Cook was cleared after the jury deliberated for less than 25 minutes, according to Deen.

Cook ran for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns and added 22 receptions as a freshman in 2014. He also beat out current NFL player Karlos Williams for the majority of touches.

Winston's departure to the pros will make the rushing attack all the more critical to Florida State's success in the coming years. Cook can help the cause as the primary back.

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Why Big Ten Football Can Survive Another Slow Start

We're coming up on nearly a year—14 days, in fact—Sept. 7, 2014: the day, as B/R colleague Adam Kramer wrote at the time, the Big Ten died

The losses, you know by now, were cringe-worthy: Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21; Oregon 46, Michigan State 27; Notre Dame 31, Michigan 0; Northern Illinois 23, Northwestern 15; Central Michigan 38, Purdue 17.

Even some of the wins weren't much better: Nebraska 31, McNeese State 24; Iowa 17, Ball State 13; Maryland 24, South Florida 17; Rutgers 38, Howard 25.  

Of course, we also know that the Big Ten was never really dead. Temporarily flatlined, maybe, but not fully gone. Ohio State would rally from its early-season loss, slide into the playoff field as a No. 4 seed and win the national championship. 

This isn't intended to be a "gotcha" moment with hindsight being perfectly clear. Plenty of people thought the Big Ten's playoff hopes were dead following Week 2 of the 2014 season. Just as many played into its status as college football's piñata: 

However, it was a teachable moment. As we came to find out, writing off many teams, let alone an entire conference, from playoff consideration in Week 2 is a setup to be proved wrong. That's why the Big Ten could theoretically survive another disastrous start to the 2015 season. 

Or, more specifically, why individual teams can survive. 

Here's a look at the games on schedule through the first few weeks of the season:

Other than some cupcakes against Football Championship Subdivision opponents, there are plenty of coin-flip games on the slate. It's not an official prediction, but it wouldn't be unforeseen if the Big Ten went under .500 against Power Five opponents right out of the gate. 

If that does end up happening, the question becomes: Have we learned our lesson, or will the Big Ten be swiftly thrown back under the bus (which may, or may not, have Jim Harbaugh khakis painted on them)? 

The answer, as usual, is in the details. 

First of all, it's universally agreed upon that Ohio State and Michigan State are the Big Ten's best playoff hopefuls. If Northwestern loses to Stanford, it's not an indictment on the Big Ten's playoff chances. If Maryland beats South Florida, it's not a boost to the Big Ten's hopes. Not everything means something on a big-picture scale. 

But let's say Ohio State does drop its second straight game to Virginia Tech in stunning fashion. Let's presume Michigan State can't get revenge on Oregon at home. What then?

Those are wasted opportunities to land quality nonconference victories, to be sure, but recent history shows those aren't a season-defining moments. At the time of the first College Football Playoff rankings, Michigan State remained a top-10 team while Ohio State was ranked at No. 16. Two weeks later, the Buckeyes were considered a top-10 team. By the end of the year, both teams were ranked in the CFP top 10. 

But what was true last year might not be true this year, right? To an extent, yes; there is no magic formula for playoff selection. But that's why the whole season needs to play out. No one knows how things are going to go.

There's no denying Ohio State's strength of schedule on paper leaves much to be desired. If the Big Ten gets off to a bad start against Power Five opponents, it won't help the matter. However, as David Hale of ESPN.com tweeted earlier this month, it's possible for a great team (Ohio State, Florida State) to make a championship run even if the conference it represents falls short. In that sense, strength of schedule hasn't been the be-all, end-all factor some thought it would be.

"Conference champions are going to get the first tiebreaker consideration and strength of schedule is going to get the second," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told Ralph Russo of the Associated Press last month.

Who knows, the Big Ten could come out of the gate swinging and land several marquee nonconference wins in the first few weeks—and yet no one from the conference could make the playoff. Conversely, the opposite could be true. It was last year.

Count out the Big Ten (or any other conference) at your own risk. It's already shown to be an unwise move. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

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No. 1 JUCO OLB Tyree Horton Tweets Official Visits List

Top JUCO outside linebacker Tyree Horton may be committed to Florida State, but the 4-star Florida native is still going to hit a quartet of powerhouse programs with official visits.

Horton, who is rated as the No. 7 overall JUCO player in the country by 247Sports' Composite Rankings, tweeted Monday afternoon he would be visiting Alabama, Auburn, Florida and TCU sometime this fall:

Alabama, Auburn, Florida and TCU are among the 15 scholarship offers Horton currently holds. All four schools offered Horton in March shortly after he committed to Florida State.

Recruits can take a maximum of five official visits, and Horton took one to Florida State in June.

"I pretty much got to see the coaching staff, meet [Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher], and just got to know the inside of the program," Horton told Chris Nee of 247Sports. "Everything else that I didn't know about FSU, I now know. I also learned about the academic programs and things like that."

Florida State recently dipped into the JUCO ranks for linebacker talent by signing former LSU player Lorenzo Phillips in the 2015 recruiting cycle.

But Florida State needs more instant-impact players at the position for the future.

"He said that I was needed, that they have a big need at that position," Horton told Nee. "They want me as an outside linebacker... They want to use me as a guy that can go from sideline-to-sideline. They want me to roam. Come up and make big plays. They want me to use my speed and instincts."

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder raved about Horton's talents shortly after his commitment to Florida State in March.

"[Horton] brings experience, and I think this guy can be an anchor for this defense as they continue to add depth," Felder said. "They're going to rotate linebackers, and I think he can be a big part of that rotation. He's a guy who will come and understand what's being asked of him, and he has the athleticism to get the job done."

Horton had 63 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, three interceptions and a fumble recovery for a touchdown last season for the Highland Community College Scotties in Kansas.

While Horton told Nee in June he was "100 percent" committed to Florida State, he will use all five of his allowed official visits.

But Horton's choices for official visits were up in the air a couple of months ago.

According to Colt Barber of 247Sports, Horton tweeted in June that he had a date set for an official visit to Baylor. He later deleted the tweet, and it now appears the Bears won't be receiving an official visit from the elite linebacker during the upcoming season.

 

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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Notre Dame Football: Week 3 Fall Camp Stock Report

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With its Friday afternoon practice inside Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame football closed out its fall training camp.

After a few days off over the weekend, the Irish are transitioning toward an in-season approach this week. Classes begin Tuesday, and Irish head coach Brian Kelly emphasized the importance of building a routine, with afternoon practices replacing the late-morning sessions.

Notre Dame used Friday’s practice to zero in on, among other things, end-of-game situations, including special teams work, as position battles continue.

“We’ve got a lot of competition, a lot of depth that keeps that competition keen,” Kelly said to reporters. “We’re not in a situation where guys are just going through the motions in the last four or five practices because they know there’s nobody to push me.”

Let’s look back at the past week.

 

Shaun Crawford

Late Wednesday night, Notre Dame announced freshman cornerback Shaun Crawford suffered a torn ACL during Wednesday morning’s practice and will be out for the 2015 season.

Crawford had impressed throughout camp and had earned reps as the first-team nickelback.

Notre Dame does boast depth at cornerback, but Crawford was certainly in line to contribute as a rookie. Now the Irish will shuffle the defensive backs. Kelly said Friday that top cornerback KeiVarae Russell will serve as the nickelback, with junior Devin Butler stepping in on the perimeter in some situations. Kelly said Russell brings much-desired versatility to the nickel position, giving defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder the ability to play man coverage or blitz, for example. Butler, meanwhile, is now Notre Dame’s third corner.

“If we were handicapping the corners, we would not have thought that he’d be our third corner,” Kelly said. “He’s had a really, really good camp. He plays with so much more confidence, speed. He’s a different player than he was last year—really pleased.”

 

Freshmen Continue to Impress

Two of Notre Dame’s top offensive freshmen, tight end Alizé Jones and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, have flashed throughout the fall.

“They’re guys that are going to be very difficult to keep off the field because of their ability,” Kelly said. “Certainly where they play, they make for difficult matchups.”

Jones fits into an Irish tight end group that still lacks clarity (see below), while St. Brown is part of a deep receiving corps.

“They’re both extremely gifted players athletically,” Kelly said.

 

Tight End Options

Notre Dame brings back minimal production at tight end—one reception for seven yards—from last season. But the Irish have options at the position, and Kelly said there’s still uncertainty with roughly two weeks until the season opener against Texas.

As of Friday, junior Durham Smythe was still not at 100 percent health. Sophomore Tyler Luatua, redshirt freshman Nic Weishar, fifth-year senior Chase Hounshell and Jones are all potential contributors, too. Kelly said Notre Dame can use its different tight ends situationally.

“We’ve got some really good flexibility,” Kelly said. “I think at the end of the day, we can really do some things with those tight ends to keep teams off balance.”

Asked if the Irish can employ two tight-end sets, Kelly thinks they can deploy three.

 

Quick Hits

Third-year wideout Torii Hunter Jr. can play all three receiver positions for the Irish, Kelly said, not just the slot.

“Torii’s a playmaker for us,” Kelly said. “We’ve gotta be able to get some touches for him.”

Irish offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford will work from the press box during games, Kelly said.

Redshirt freshman left guard Quenton Nelson has made the most progress in pass protection, Kelly said, aided by the man to his left: standout tackle Ronnie Stanley. Kelly reiterated that fellow redshirt freshman Alex Bars will play and be a part of Notre Dame’s offensive line rotation.

On the other side, right guard Steve Elmer has “really improved his game physically,” per Kelly. The junior drew praise for his improvement moving in space, reaching the second level, sustaining blocks and staying on his feet.

“I think there’s been a huge elevation there,” Kelly said.

Kelly said redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer is “moving in that direction” when asked if Kizer had solidified the No. 2 quarterback job over true freshman Brandon Wimbush.

Senior running back C.J. Prosise (hip flexor) was scheduled to be “full-go” at Monday’s practice, Kelly said Friday.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Steve Sarkisian Reportedly Angered USC Alumni, Boosters with Comments

Just one year after taking over as the head football coach of the USC Trojans, Steve Sarkisian may be on the hot seat after his comments at Saturday's Salute to Troy donor event.

According to Lost Lettermen(Warning: Link contains NSFW language), Sarkisian disparaged many of USC's Pac-12 foes, used profanity and needed to be escorted off the stage by Trojans athletic director Pat Haden and John McKay, the senior associate athletic director for football.

The Orange County Register posted a short clip from the event in which the head coach can be heard swearing to the assembled crowd.

As a result, TMZ is reporting people connected to the USC football program are calling for Sarkisian's ouster:

Multiple high-ranking USC sources tell us ... ever since reports surfaced about the USC head football coach slurring and cussing at a major USC function Saturday night, the powers that be at SC have been getting complaints from the people who back the program.

One high-ranking USC source tells us ... "I've been getting a flurry of phone calls this morning from people who want him out. They feel he's an embarrassment to the program and the community."

Speaking on College Football Live, ESPN's Shelley Smith also seemed to indicate this story won't soon fade from the spotlight:

Sarkisian has since issued an apology.

"I sincerely apologize to my players and staff and to our fans for my behavior and my inappropriate language at our kickoff event Saturday night," he said in a statement on USC's official athletics site. "I have a responsibility to all of them and I let them down. Pat Haden talked to me after the event about my actions and I assured him this will not happen again."

USA Today's Dan Wolken wondered whether Sarkisian's apology will fully atone for his misstep, especially after the video surfaced.

Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman was one of many taken aback by what he had seen:

In the school's press release, Haden said he had had a talk with Sarkisian, during which he verbally reprimanded the coach. Haden finished his statement by saying, "I am confident he heard my message loud and clear."

While it would appear the school has no intentions of punishing Sarkisian, that could change should the boosters and alumni continue placing pressure on the program.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jim McElwain's No-Nonsense Approach to Penalties Will Help Florida Immediately

Penalties were so prevalent for Florida under Will Muschamp that yellow should have been added to the Gators' traditional orange-and-blue uniforms.

In Muschamp's first three seasons in Gainesville, Florida was the SEC's most penalized team in terms of yardage. If it hadn't been for Muschamp's new employer, Auburn, the Gators would've made it a four-peat last season.

But there's someone new in charge at Florida, and he is making it clear that he won't tolerate the repeated on-field errors of the past.

According to Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel, Florida head coach Jim McElwain kicked an unnamed defensive lineman out of a scrimmage last Friday night for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Even though the personal foul came in a low-stakes scrimmage instead of a high-intensity SEC game, McElwain used the opportunity to send a strong message to his team.

"We’ve got some behavior that we've got to keep working on," McElwain said, per Thompson. "What are we? The most penalized team in the last five years, six years, whatever it is? I don't know where we sit."

"It's ridiculous."

Notice how McElwain didn't limit his scope of Florida's penalty problems to the Muschamp era. That's because Florida also had the second-most penalty yards in two of Urban Meyer's last three years with the program—including the 2008 national championship season.

A high amount of penalties is a deep-rooted issue in the Florida program, and McElwain is on a personal crusade against changing the way the Gators played under Muschamp and even Meyer.

"If they continue to do it, they can continue to do it somewhere else," McElwain said, per Thompson. "I've been around some really good coaches, obviously, and that’s something you don’t see by great football teams. That’s not how they act."

The depth chart situation McElwain inherited at Florida is what it is, for lack of a better phrase. The Gators have some gaps at the moment that could keep them from competing for championships early in McElwain's tenure.

But making an emphasis on lowering the number of penalties could lower the number of losses Florida has this season.

As Thompson wrote on Friday, late-game penalties directly contributed to a pair of defeats for last season's 7-5 team:

A defensive holding call against defensive back Brian Poole on 3rd-and-17 kept alive a drive by LSU that eventually led to a touchdown and 20-17 lead during UF's 30-27 loss last Oct. 11 in the Swamp.

A holding penalty on receiver Quinton Dunbar during the fourth quarter against South Carolina erased a 13-yard run by quarterback Treon Harris to the Gamecocks' 6-yard line. Leading 17-10, the Gators eventually settled for a field-goal attempt that was blocked en route to a 23-20 loss in overtime.

Muschamp was fired the next day.

Penalties continued to be an issue for the Gators after the announcement of Muschamp's firing. During the second quarter of Florida's regular-season finale against Florida State, defensive lineman Gerald Willis was called for a personal foul after a late shove on Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston.

Winston threw a short touchdown pass to Nick O'Leary several plays later to give Florida State a two-score lead. Willis, who transferred to Miami earlier this year after his dismissal from Florida, received heavy criticism from Muschamp after the game.

"If I was still head coach, he'd be kicked off the team," Muschamp said, per Adam Silverstein of Only Gators. "That's ridiculous."

Florida players have said McElwain put a big emphasis on penalties since his first meetings with his new team.

The head coach knows he can't completely eradicate the flags for the Gators, but he can cut them down—especially the boneheaded personal fouls like the ones from Willis and, most recently, the ejected Florida lineman.

Sophomore defensive back Jalen Tabor discussed McElwain's approach, per Kevin Brockway of Gatorsports.com:

There's a line [McElwain] drew. There's a line, then there's being selfish. You made a play, you made a play. Celebrate with your teammates, or not getting all loud, doing dances, getting a flag, personal foul. There’s gonna be some [pass interference], some holdings, you know, aggressive plays, but when you get the false starts, the offsides, the crazy penalties that shouldn't happen.

Florida could be in line for a tough 2015 season under McElwain, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

But if his campaign against penalties is successful this fall, the Gators will have chances to reverse some of the frustrating losses they suffered in the last few seasons.

Fewer fouls may mean more opportunities to prove all the doubters wrong.

 

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

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Naseir Upshur Sets Decision Date: Odds on Where 4-Star TE Lands

One of the nation’s premier tight ends in the 2016 class will come off the board on Sept. 1 when 4-star Philadelphia native Naseir Upshur plans to make his commitment.

The 6’2”, 233-pounder has narrowed his list of more than 40 offers down to a pair of finalists, and he will choose either Florida State or Michigan next week.

Both schools were able to receive visits from Upshur during the summer.

Which school has the edge for landing the nation’s No. 5 tight end and No. 152 prospect overall in the 2016 cycle?

Let’s take a look at the odds for each program heading into Upshur’s announcement.

 

Michigan 12-1

Considering new Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh and his history of using and developing tight ends in prior coaching stints in college and in the NFL, it makes sense that Upshur would be attracted to the idea of playing in his offense.

Upshur last visited Michigan in June, and he was able to spend some quality time with Harbaugh.

According to Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247, Upshur was impressed with the campus and the laid-back demeanor of Harbaugh.

"Coach [Harbaugh] took us all over on a big tour," Upshur told Lorenz. "By the end of the trip, I had really seen the whole city, and it wasn't what I expected. It was a lot different than I thought it was going to be, and I really liked it a lot. The tour and what campus was like was a pleasant surprise to me."

As Lorenz notes, Upshur nearly ended his recruitment with a pledge to the Wolverines following his visit to Ann Arbor. 

His skill set and versatility to play in multiple positions in Harbaugh's offense are two things that could help him find the field early in his career if Michigan is his choice.

 

Florida State 5-1

While Michigan was sitting in a good spot earlier in the spring and summer with Upshur, things between Florida State and Upshur were lukewarm in that period—mainly due to FSU holding a pledge from 5-star tight end Isaac Nauta.

However, when Nauta backed off that pledge last month, Upshur became the main target in the crosshairs of Seminoles tight ends coach Tim Brewster. 

Upshur visited Tallahassee earlier this month, and it was made clear to him that he’s a priority for the ‘Noles moving forward, according to Chris Nee of Noles247.

“They were telling me that they need a tight end,” Upshur mentioned to Nee. “They said I would fit in well. They showed me how they would use me. They talked to me about what they do with their tight ends. Coach Brewster was with me the entire time. I have talked to him a lot and it was good on the visit.”

Nee noted that Upshur left Tallahassee with a return trip already planned in the form of an official visit for the ‘Noles rivalry matchup against Miami on Oct. 10—which is the only official visit he’s scheduled up to this point.

Given that Upshur’s timeline has accelerated following his trip to FSU, it seems like the ‘Noles are trending with him heading into his announcement.

 

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

 

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Alabama Football: Week 3 Fall Camp Stock Report

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — To the surprise of no one, the University of Alabama football team closed training camp and held its second and final preseason scrimmage last week without naming a starting quarterback.

Nick Saban did the same thing in 2014.

“The quarterback decision is going to get made by what the players do on the field, who performs the best, who does the best job of leading the team, making good choices and decisions, taking care of the ball,” he said. “That's how it's going to get decided. We're sort of monitoring that every day.”

However, a toe injury to senior Jake Coker might have made that approach impossible, as he missed three days of practice during the crucial time period when coaches were looking for someone to emerge and secure the job.

While Saban and his staff met Sunday and Monday to decide which players would make contributions this season, quarterback remains the team’s one big question heading into the 2015 season. Coker and junior Alec Morris appear to be the front-runners while Alabama also has sophomore Cooper Bateman, redshirt freshman David Cornwell and true freshman Blake Barnett.

Saban won’t meet again with reporters until Thursday, while the Crimson Tide’s initial depth chart is due to be released next Monday. Don’t be surprised if it reads Coker “or” Morris to start against Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 5 (8 p.m. ET, ABC).

 

ArDarius Stewart poised for breakout season

Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is known for getting the ball to certain playmakers and then essentially daring the defense to stop him, and this year that figures to include ArDarius Stewart.

Throughout camp, Stewart was the one wide receiver who Saban consistently praised, including after Saturday’s scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“Made some really good catches,” he said. “Adjusted to the ball well, made some contested plays, which was good to see.”

Stewart was beginning to become a bigger part of the offense last season when he suffered strained knee ligaments against Western Carolina in November. He finished the season with 12 catches for 149 yards.

“I'd definitely say his speed,” defensive back Maurice Smith said stood out the most about Stewart. “He's improved on every aspect as a receiver. Blocking, running routes and just knowing the plays. He's being a complete receiver.”

 

Injury update

Alabama emerged from training camp without any major setbacks, although offensive tackles Dominick Jackson (shoulder) and Korren Kirven (sprained knee) are expected to be out a few days this week.

All indications are that senior running back Kenyan Drake (hamstring) will be ready to go for the opener, but freshman Bo Scarbrough (knee) will start serving a four-game eligibility suspension.

The wide receiving corps will enter the season banged up as junior Chris Black (ankle) and sophomore Robert Foster (sprained knee) both suffered camp injuries and sophomore Cam Sims (ACL) has only recently started practicing.

“He has a ways to go,” Saban said.

With junior Raheem Falkins (leg) also out and even walk-on Parker Barrineau cutting his toe so badly in the shower that it required surgery, Richard Mullaney, a fifth-year transfer from Oregon State, and true freshman Calvin Ridley have gotten a lot of extra practice reps.

 

Special teams

Alabama’s special teams have started to take shape around the established trio of sophomore punter J.K. Scott, junior long snapper Cole Mazza and junior kicker Adam Griffith, who struggled with back issues last season.

When asked who would be the primary returner, Saban only mentioned one name, Cyrus Jones, who returned four kickoffs (19.2 average) and punts (20.5) last season.

“He’s got really good judgment, really good hands, running ability, fast and explosive,” the coach said. “So after that we’re looking at three to four guys to be backups.”

Black and Mullaney are two possibilities, but one notable player Saban didn’t mention was Drake, who did field some returns in the spring.

As for the rest of the spots, Saban listed Tony Brown, Bradley Sylve, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Robert Foster, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Dillon Lee and Shawn Burgess-Becker as players who have stood out.

“We've got kind of a group that's got some experience,” he said. “Obviously it's important that we get a lot of people involved on special teams so we don't play starters. I think it's good for team morale when you have a lot of different guys with roles. But those are some of the guys I've been impressed with.”

Brown, a sophomore cornerback, switched his jersey from No. 2 to No. 7 so he can be used simultaneously with junior running back Derrick Henry. 

 

Crimson Tide bits

• While Alabama didn’t release any statistics from either scrimmage, Saban disclosed that Henry had eight carries, Drake six and freshman Damien Harris 14 on Saturday. “That’s about what we wanted to get out of ’em. We wanted to get them banged, we wanted to get Kenyan Drake hit, he hadn’t been hit since the Ole Miss game, so he scrimmaged quite a bit and we wanted five or six carries for him and to play a lot of loose-play downs, which he did.”

• On the defensive side, senior linebacker Reggie Ragland has been the player drawing the most praise from Saban, but the coach also singled out Reuben Foster after Saturday’s scrimmage. That was telling because most of the plays were passes and Foster has been better against the run. It’ll be interesting to see if he won a starting job outright when the Crimson Tide’s depth chart is released next week.

• Alabama didn’t have many starting jobs up for grabs during camp, but one player who might have earned one is junior Alphonse Taylor at right guard. “Shank’s a great player,” sophomore left tackle Cam Robinson said about Taylor. “Lot of power. He’s just grown a lot from last year to this year; more comfortable in the offense, being able to do more things. He’s progressing really well.” Sophomore Bradley Bozeman played at right guard in the spring but might be more valuable as a sort of sixth man who can also play center.

• Redshirt freshman Marlon Humphrey appeared to be working with the first unit at cornerback last week and all indications are that he had a good camp. With Jones established, Alabama has some real depth at the corners again, including Brown, Sylve, Smith, redshirt sophomore Anthony Averett and Fitzpatrick.

• The coaches have been telling Scott that they want his punting to resemble a golf swing, fluid and not trying to muscle the ball. "It's a spot-on analogy,” Scott said. “It's perfect. Like, that's exactly what it is. The mentality of a punter is kind of the same exact as a golfer. You don't have many chances. It's just one shot, and you've just got to do everything you can for that one shot."

 

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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Oklahoma Football: QB Baker Mayfield Gives Sooners Offense Its Swagger Back

If you think about it, it all started with a dance.

Sitting out the 2014 season to satisfy both NCAA and Big 12 intraconference transfer rules, Baker Mayfield wasn't eligible to play for the Oklahoma Sooners. The former Texas Tech starting quarterback and Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year could only sit on the sidelines.

But even then, Mayfield wasn't about to remain a quiet member of the team. He wasn't content to hang back while starting quarterback Trevor Knight and backup Cody Thomas navigated their way through what would eventually be a disappointing 8-5 season.

No, Mayfield wanted to be embedded as a prominent member of the team. No other moment captured this like his slick dance moves before the Russell Athletic Bowl last season:

Even though Mayfield couldn't take the field for the Sooners, he was carrying himself with the type of confidence that a starting quarterback should have. It was infectious and got people like Bleacher Report's Michael Felder, a former player who knows a starter when he sees one, to take notice:

Indeed, eight months later, Mayfield has been named Oklahoma's starting quarterback.

The news was first reported by Eric Bailey and Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World and Ryan Aber of the Oklahoman. Oklahoma later confirmed the reports on its Twitter account, validating the feeling that has carried over throughout the course of the offseason:

"It's been a very tight battle among those three guys," said head coach Bob Stoops in a statement on the team's official website. "Baker, Trevor and Cody have all made substantial progress and I feel we can win with any of them."

All of those things, despite being classic examples of coachspeak, could very well be true. But Mayfield gives Oklahoma's offense something else neither Knight nor Thomas can, at least to the same extent: bravado.

That alone may not win the Sooners a Big 12 title. It may not even put them atop the conference in total offense. However, after a miserable season that led to assistant coaching turnover and a decent look at Stoops' future in Norman, it does give the team some hope.

That counts for something.

Mayfield's Oklahoma folklore really began last year as a member of the scout team when the coaching staff began raving about him. “Baker’s done an excellent job on the scout team ... fabulous job,” Stoops said in November, per Bailey. “He’s got all kinds of energy."

When Knight failed to deliver the Sugar Bowl encore that was expected of him in 2014, it opened the door for Mayfield to start.

Though Mayfield threw a team-high two interceptions in the spring game, first-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley suggested to reporters that there was still a magic about Mayfield on the practice field.

"Baker’s not a guy that’s afraid to take chances. And that’s the catch-22 in this offense. You can’t be scared, but at the same time, they’ve got to be calculated. They’ve got to be smart," he said. "And I loved the aggressiveness of Baker. I don’t want to pull on the reins."

Oklahoma's coaching staff has previously been adamant that there was no favorite in the quarterback competition, but reading between the lines, it was easy to see that Stoops and Riley liked what they saw from Mayfield. What YouTube viewers saw on the Internet was the same confidence that Mayfield showed on the football field.

By naming him the starter, Oklahoma's coaching staff believes the playmaking ability Mayfield brings outweighs the potential for mistakes.

Yes, Mayfield will take chances. He's never been shy about admitting that. Like all quarterbacks with that mentality, those chances will result in some amazing plays and some forehead-slapping decisions. As a true freshman for the Red Raiders in 2013, Mayfield threw for 2,315 yards and had 15 total touchdowns in eight games, but he racked up nine interceptions and had some ball security issues.

When I spoke to Stoops at Big 12 media days about Mayfield's gunslinger attitude, he made sure to point out that Mayfield wouldn't get the starting job if he was flat-out reckless with the football. Chances are the coaching staff feels he's been smarter with his decision-making.

Just last week, Mayfield told Aber that he was "sticking to the basics fundamentally" with his game.

Mayfield will still be who he is, but Stoops and Co. feel he's coachable as well. That's an important balance to find. Getting better is everyone's goal, and certainly, Oklahoma has a lot of room to improve from last year.

At the same time, you can't teach the kind of swagger Mayfield brings to the locker room and football field.

One of the few missing pieces standing in the way of a surprise Big 12 title run for Oklahoma was the quarterback spot. It would appear the team has found its missing piece. And maybe a little bit more.

Will Mayfield be the one to get Oklahoma back on track? There's no way to know that right now. But this much is certain: The Sooners will have some fun trying.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

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Kyle Allen Named Texas A&M Starting QB, Gives Aggies Best Chance to Win SEC West

In what was one of the worst-kept secrets in the world, Texas A&M has found its starting quarterback.

All head coach Kevin Sumlin had to do was look at last season's depth chart to do so.

True sophomore Kyle Allen was named the starting quarterback for the Aggies for their showdown with Arizona State in Houston on Sept. 5, beating out hotshot true freshman and high school legend Kyler Murray in the process.

A shock? Not really.

Allen received virtually all of the first-team snaps all offseason after earning the starting job midway through the 2014 season. He totaled five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl win over West Virginia. It was the culmination of a tumultuous season for Allen, who was despondent after losing the starting job before the season to former Aggie Kenny Hill.

"When I told him two weeks before the first game, he basically went around the corner and cried," Sumlin said at SEC media days. "To where he came to become MVP of the bowl game when six games ago he wasn't even playing, that says a lot. To go on the road to Auburn and then be the MVP, he's got a lot of confidence right now."

Confidence in this system, which has been in the top five in the SEC in total offense and yards per play in each of Texas A&M's three seasons in the conference, is gold for Allen.

He has six of his top seven receivers back, the team added another superstar this offseason with the early enrollment of Scottsdale native Christian Kirk and he will be operating within an offense that is going to take some pressure off him by putting a big emphasis on the power-rushing attack.

Add all of those things together, and you have an offense that's capable of being one of the best in the country.

But offense isn't going to get A&M in contention for the SEC West, right? After all, the Aggies haven't been in that discussion in each of the last two seasons despite moving the ball up and down the field with relative ease.

Things have changed, though, thanks to the arrival of defensive coordinator John Chavis.

The former LSU coordinator was lured away from Baton Rouge shortly after bowl season and will bring a much more aggressive approach to a side of the ball that was far too concerned about getting beat under former coordinator Mark Snyder.

"Here's a guy who's got a tremendous track record in the SEC and recently in the SEC West," Sumlin said at media days. "So his knowledge of opponents, his knowledge of the league helps me as a head coach, but it also helps our team and brings confidence right away to a defense that really needed it."

The opinions on Chavis are all over the board. But whether you think he's the best coordinator on the planet or gives up far too many third downs on "3rd-and-Chavis," he's certainly an upgrade over Snyder.

With Allen at the helm, the offense shouldn't miss a beat. Because of that, Chavis' margin for error is massive. That's a recipe for SEC success and should vault the Aggies into West contention.

Plus, it's not like the schedule is overly daunting. Sure, it's an SEC West slate, which is never easy. But the Aggies don't leave the state of Texas until Oct. 24, draw Auburn and Alabama at home, and only have three true SEC road games (the fourth is in Arlington vs. Arkansas).

Stability at quarterback was obvious. Now that Allen's spot atop the depth chart is set in stone, relevance in the division shouldn't be far behind.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com

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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Kyle Allen Named Texas A&M's Starting QB over Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray did all he could to push Kyle Allen for Texas A&M's starting quarterback job. It just wasn't enough.  

Head coach Kevin Sumlin announced (via the team's Twitter feed) Monday that Allen will get the nod when the Aggies open their season Sept. 5 against Arizona State. 

Allen, a sophomore, threw for 1,322 yards and 16 touchdowns against seven touchdowns last season. He took over for Kenny Hill as the team's starter for the final five games, leading Texas A&M to a Liberty Bowl victory over West Virginia.

Murray, a true freshman who is the reigning Gatorade National Player of the Year, nearly won the job in camp after an intense battle. The Allen (Texas) High School product brings far more of a dual-threat aspect than Allen, who is more of a prototypical pocket passer. Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital has even compared Murray to former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

“He’s a special player,” Spavital said, per Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle. “The thing that is pretty impressive with him is sometimes when he doesn’t know what’s going on exactly when you’re throwing a lot of new plays out there—he has a football savvy to him—he’ll drop back if the pocket collapses and he just turns and goes and makes something happen, very similar to how Johnny used to play (here).”

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports doesn't expect Murray to wait long before seeing the field:

Despite the public praise for Murray, Allen's been the clubhouse leader throughout camp. He has taken a majority of the snaps during preseason workouts, has the most experience and is a highly touted prospect in his own right. When Allen committed to Texas A&M, he was considered the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in his class, per 247Sports.

To put it mildly, Sumlin had a good problem to solve. Both Murray and Allen would start for a majority of the programs across the nation. If Allen doesn't perform as expected, expect Sumlin to experiment with his young dual threat sooner rather than later.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Brandon Jones Reveals Top 6: Will Any Team Lure 5-Star out of Texas?

Texas safety Brandon Jones, rated the top prospect at his position in composite rankings, moved one step closer toward a commitment Saturday.

The 5-star recruit revealed six favorite schools from three different conferences. His list features Alabama, Baylor, LSU, Oregon, Texas and Texas A&M:

Jones, a 5'11½", 193-pound senior at Nacogdoches High School, is considered the 2016 class' No. 22 overall recruit and sits at No. 4 among Texas athletes. College programs cross the country invested early.

Scholarship offers arrived from Stanford, Tennessee, Michigan, Miami, USC and several other universities following his standout sophomore season. Jones collected 95 tackles and five interceptions in 2013, cementing his status as a Lone Star State standout.

Odds seem to be in favor of him staying on home turf for years to come. Half of his top options reside in Texas, as the Longhorns, Aggies and Bears remain in strong contention for Jones' commitment.

Texas A&M has been the state's hottest team on the recruiting during recent cycles, but Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong enjoyed some late successes as last signing day approached, and Baylor currently ranks above both counterparts in 2016 composite class rankings.

The Bears have been more efficient securing top offensive talent under head coach Art Briles, so a chance to lure an elite defender like Jones presents a major opportunity. Lineman Bravvion Roy is the lone Baylor defensive commit rated above 3-star status.

Strong spent much of his career as an assistant coach making statements on defense, and he's clearly attempted to make a immediate impression on that unit in Austin. Texas signed a pair of the nation's premier linebackers in February, landing Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler, and could now add an elite safety to a secondary that includes promising freshmen cornerbacks Kris Boyd and Holton Hill.

Texas A&M is the overwhelming leader in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, claiming 96 percent of expert predictions. The Aggies must continue to make strides on defense in an effort to rise up SEC standings and already hold a commitment from impressive in-state cornerback Travon Fuller.

At the start of his final high school season, it's a bit difficult envisioning Jones calling a campus home beyond Texas. Still, one potential landing spot among his three out-of-state alternatives stands out.

Alabama has been in the mix for a while, securing a spot on his top-10 list last winter. Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban extended a scholarship near the end of Jones' sophomore year, and defensive backs coach Mel Tucker is a diligent recruiter.

Alabama enjoyed recent success on the Texas recruiting trail, especially in its search for secondary stars. The Crimson Tide signed 5-star Lone Star State cornerbacks Tony Brown and Kendall Sheffield in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Extended efforts in the territory this cycle have produced three 4-star commitments from Texas. Quarterback Jalen Hurts, offensive lineman Chris Owens and defensive tackle Kendell Jones each spurned in-state schools with an Alabama pledge.

Immense depth in the defensive backfield is an element that every safety or cornerback must consider before committing to the Crimson Tide. Jones is talented enough to surge past holdovers on plenty of college rosters, so don't be shocked if he takes his chances in Tuscaloosa.

"Jones possesses excellent speed, good hands and an ability to make plays in zone coverage and one-on-one passing situations. He has great instincts and closing speed," wrote Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles. "Jones is the quintessential hybrid defensive back."

 

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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Baker Mayfield Named Oklahoma's Starting QB over Trevor Knight

The Oklahoma Sooners named Baker Mayfield the starting quarterback Monday, according to Eric Bailey of Tulsa World. Ryan Aber of the Oklahoman also reported that Mayfield would be the starter.  

Oklahoma went on to confirm Mayfield's status as the opener:

He's beaten out both Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas, both of whom started games for the Sooners last year. With the team transitioning to new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley's Air Raid attack, Mayfield clearly was the best fit for the scheme.

Mayfield's journey to a starting gig at Oklahoma has been a fascinating one. He was a walk-on quarterback at Texas Tech and led the team to a 5-0 start in 2013, then lost his starting position to Davis Webb before the Holiday Bowl that season and had a public falling out with coach Kliff Kingsbury. He decided to transfer that December.

But he transferred to Oklahoma without ever actually speaking to coach Bob Stoops, since, according to the terms of his release, he couldn't talk to other coaches, as reported by Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News. So he ran the scout team in 2014, since he wasn't eligible to play for a year after his transfer.

He's likely to have somewhat of a short leash given Oklahoma's depth at the position, however, and Stoops has shown an inclination to play multiple quarterbacks in the past, so both Knight and Thomas could each still play a big role in Oklahoma's 2015 campaign.

 

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Ohio State Football Is 1st Program to Be Named Unanimous No. 1

Fact: Ohio State is the first team to receive 100 percent of the first-place votes in the preseason AP poll.

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

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Hard Work Paying off as 2017 4-Star CB Chevin Calloway's Recruitment on the Rise

DALLAS — It wasn't long ago when Chevin Calloway was addressed as "who?"

Now Calloway, one of the major contributors for Dallas' Bishop Dunne High School, is a national player to watch in the 2017 class—a top-10 cornerback, in fact.

As Texas high school football prepares for its first week of play this weekend, Calloway has been in midseason form since spring workouts. The 5'10", 180-pound defensive back has been impressive in every setting he's graced, and he has parlayed his hard work into more than 20 offers, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Ole Miss and the in-state schools representing the Big 12 and the SEC.

At the beginning of the year, Calloway was an unranked prospect. He's now a 4-star cornerback who is ranked No. 88 overall in the 2017 class.

"I'm feeling real good," Calloway said. "With all of these offers coming in, and with all the love the different colleges are showing, it's really exciting. It's like a dream come true."

Ask Bishop Dunne coach Michael Johnson about Calloway, and his story reminds you of the athlete every coach wants on his team. Johnson will give the speech about Calloway being one of the first on the field and one of the last to leave. He'll talk about Calloway's leadership ability, despite being only a junior.

But watching Calloway perform on the field will easily help to cosign Johnson's comments. If he isn't making a jarring hit, he's serving his team as a ball-hawking defender looking for an interception. There's a reason why Johnson calls Calloway "the hardest-working athlete I have ever coached."

"Chevin is a smooth and explosive athlete who has excellent hips," Johnson said. "His press coverage is suburb, and his field awareness is excellent. He is a hard worker who trains like he is the last man on the roster, but that is what makes him great."

Notre Dame was the first school to offer Calloway on Jan. 28. Since then, his stock has escalated tremendously. The month of May proved to be a breakout month for him, as he landed 10 offers combined. 

His performance at Alabama's camp in early June earned him an offer from the Crimson Tide. Iowa was the latest school to offer him.

Calloway, who began his varsity career at nearby Red Oak High School, still remembers being the player looking for any kind of recognition. It's almost uncanny to think that seven months ago, he was hoping for one school to take a chance on him with a scholarship offer.

"It's a crazy transition," he said. "I remember starting my freshman year at Red Oak playing varsity. I didn't get any recognition, but I kept working and kept pushing."

"I told myself I was going to be at that top level one day. I thank God for where I'm at right now."

Calloway still has a year to give recruiting his full, undivided attention, and he did say he is interested in taking a couple of unofficial visits when it doesn't interfere with Bishop Dunne's regular season. For now, he's focused on being a defensive catalyst, as Bishop Dunne looks to repeat as a state champion on the Texas private school circuit.

For Calloway, it's all about getting better each day and becoming more of a versatile defensive weapon. And as he gets better, more schools take notice.

"It's been a little overwhelming, but I don't let it get to me," Calloway said. "I just take everything one step at a time. Right now, I'm looking at different schools and what fits me most."

 

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

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7 Most Overrated Teams in the 2015 Preseason AP Poll

Sunday marked another important milestone on the road to the 2015 college football season. The Associated Press released its annual preseason Top 25 poll, sparking discussion on Twitter and message boards around the nation.

The AP poll no longer has any sort of binding influence on college football's postseason, as the College Football Playoff (which releases its first top 25 on Nov. 3) now uses its own rankings to determine the four participants. But the poll does set expectations and standards for programs, fair or not.

That said, this edition will bear little resemblance to the final one, which will be released following the national title game in January. A year ago, nine teams that began the season in the top 25 ended it outside the rankings, and three teams that began the season unranked ended it in the top 12.

That means there are a few teams that are overrated. Who are they? Let's take a look. Here are seven teams that, with their performances this year, will make Associated Press voters look a bit foolish.

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SEC Football: Storylines That Will Define the Season

It's almost game week, and there are still numerous lingering questions dominating the college football conversation around the SEC.

From quarterback questions at Alabama, Georgia and elsewhere, a crowded backfield at Auburn and the absence of a major bowl win over the last two seasons, questions abound down south.

Which storylines will dominate the season? Our picks based on roster holes, growing bandwagons and perception of the conference are in this slideshow.

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B/R 5th Down: Is This the Best Beard in College Football?

Editor's Note: The 5th Down captures the top social college football stories of the week. Because the long, grueling offseason is underway, we'll focus on things that make us laugh, think or maybe cry, but mostly laugh.

  

1. Introducing: The Boom-Beard

If you've read 5th Down at all, you probably know facial hair is a big thing for us. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer sported this mustache way back in the day and the Internet darn near lost its chill. May we present to you, then, West Virginia punter Nick O'Toole and fabulous lumberjack beard: 

O'Toole's outstanding facial hair isn't a new occurrence. Mountaineer fans are certainly aware of his now-extinct "Boom-stache":

No joke, I thought the guy's name was "Barnaby" for the better part of the last year. 

The mustache may be gone, but O'Toole's facial hair game remains as strong as ever. Shut it down, just give the guy the Ray Guy Award for best punter. 

 

2. Hype Videos on Hype Videos on Hype Videos on... 

You don't need me to tell you this, but the college football season is less than two weeks away. In fact, if you're really missing college football, North Dakota State and Montana play this Saturday (Aug. 29) on ESPN

In a way, the beginning of college football is like Christmas. Not in the typical, cliche way in that getting up on the first Saturday morning is like waking up on Christmas. Rather, college football is like Christmas in that we really do start celebrating it long before we actually need to. 

All of this is to say there are hype videos out on the Internet. Lots and lots of hype videos. We've listed off a handful of them for you below. Don't see your favorite team? Feel free to post any applicable videos in the comment section. 'Tis the season for giving, after all. 

Anyway, we love you all very much, so we'll stop talking so you can delay work just a little bit longer by watching these videos. We'll get out of the way, too, because you're willing to run through us in order to run through that wall. 

  

3. When All Else Fails, Jump Over the Guy

Wide receiver Jackson Tate, a 2017 prospect out of Edgewood Academy in Elmore, Alabama, isn't shooting up the recruiting boards at the moment. However, he may raise a few eyebrows after pulling off this magnificent hurdle in a game last weekend against Escambia Academy. 

Few things are better in football than the hurdle. This from then-Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell in 2012 against Boise State should be put in a museum: 

But let's give Tate some props as well. He didn't need to step over the defender; he cleared that guy straight up and went in for the score. 

 

4. Arizona State's Desert Ice Uniforms are Slick

Alternate uniforms are fun. At the end of the day, though, they're for the players and nobody else. Which is to say, here's hoping Arizona State's players love their new "Desert Ice" uniforms for the season opener against Texas A&M in Houston on Sept. 5. 

The all-whites are usually a good look for just about anyone, but the copper accents are pretty legit as well. 

You know what they say: Look good, play well. 

 

5. What in the Actual...?

So, this is a real thing. Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville's brother has a new song on YouTube called "Bangin' the Groove," and it's....well, it's something. According to the description, "Bangin' the Groove" is by "Dr. Jimmy Love featuring DJ Wait and Chas T aka Tuberwilly."

So....yeah. 

Between the flashing lights and "Gangnam Style" dancing, this is one interesting video. But we're just going to leave this here for you to watch and digest. Because we don't know what else to say.  

 

6. Ohio State's Secret Formula: Juice Boxes

If you can believe it, Ohio State became the first team in history to be a unanimous No. 1 preseason pick in the Associated Press poll. The Buckeyes have high hopes of earning another national championship, but the target on their collective backs will be even bigger than last year. 

So what's head coach Urban Meyer's secret formula? Juice boxes. And carrots. And Skittles. All three items make up the perfect little league snack pack. 

It brings to mind the scene from Space Jam when Michael Jordan gives the Looney Tunes a boost with his "secret stuff". Except Ohio State would be the Monstars in this analogy. Which is to say, it's not looking good for anyone playing the Buckeyes in 2015. 

 

7. Check out this Awesome Script Ohio on Google Maps

Back in May, a diehard Tennessee fan shared a photo of the program's signature "T" logo, which had been mowed into his yard and captured on Google Earth. It was basically college football's crop circle. 

Now, some Ohio State fans have done something cool as well by using Google Maps to spell out a script Ohio. Reddit user orweezy explained the process: 

My coworker friends and thought it would be cool to start off the football season by mapping and walking the Ohio Script this past weekend and using the stadium as the "I" dotting. Would anyone be interested in doing this with us next year? Maybe even as a fund raising event for a good cause.

It's a neat concept, and doing it again for charity would be even better. Hopefully this comes to fruition. 

 

8. Arizona Players Do the Haka War Dance

If the 2015 season hype videos didn't get you fired up, we have a second option: Arizona players doing the Haka War Dance. All we can say is if you're still not ready to put on a helmet and shoulder pads by this point, it's time to wonder what you're even doing here. 

 

9. Finally, Your Awesome Photo of the Week

Here's Oklahoma State's Boone Pickens Stadium in the background of an awesome thunderstorm. It's a great shot overall of Stillwater with the lightning, but the stadium gives it a cool college football feel. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. He's on Twitter @BenKercheval, but his beard is pretty terrible.  

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Bleacher Report's 2015 College Football Preseason All-American Team

College football has a wonderful knack for never running out of superstars, regardless of how many great players move on to the NFL. 2015 is no different, as you'll see in our selections for the Bleacher Report Preseason All-American team.

The team was selected by 19 members of our college football staff—writers Ben Axelrod, Greg Couch, Justin Ferguson, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Mike Monaco, Brian Pedersen, David Regimbal, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Greg Wallace and Christopher Walsh, video experts Michael Felder and Sean McManus and editors Eric Bowman, Hunter Mandel and Eric Yates—who each cast a ballot for the 28-man team. The top vote-getters at each position made our list, with the second team compiled of the runners-up at each position.

Some of our writers have also provided insight as to why some players have risen to the level of being considered an All-American and why you should be watching their every move this season.

Check out our team and give us your thoughts in the comments section.

Begin Slideshow

Auburn Football: Week 3 Fall Camp Stock Report

With the Chick-fil-A Kickoff against Louisville now less than two weeks away, Auburn's fall camp, in a traditional sense, is drawing to a close.

The Tigers started to specifically prepare for Bobby Petrino's Cardinals during the latter stages of Week 3, which culminated in another Saturday scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"We’re really still trying to figure out how ready some of those guys are to really help us the first game," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said, per Evan McCullers of the Auburn Plainsman. "Our coaches really strained our guys, taxed our guys. We've got to be ready."

Auburn will push ahead with its Louisville prep this week and start to nail down spots on the opening-day depth chart, as several key positions are still without clear-cut leaders.

Here's a recap of the major notes and quotes from the third week of fall camp on the Plains:

 

Muschamp's mantra: More consistency

Now that the Tigers are past the midway point in fall camp, Will Muschamp says he can see fatigue affecting his defense.

That fatigue has led to inconsistencies, and those inconsistencies have led to frustration for the passionate assistant coach.

"You get in this portion of camp and everybody's still a little tired and a little sore and they've got to push through it," Muschamp said last Thursday, per James Crepea of AL.com. "That's where your leadership's got to show up. We're just not consistently doing that well enough at this time."

One particular area that drew the ire of Muschamp was at inside linebacker, where the defensive coordinator is also the position coach. Even with the return of seniors Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost to the position, as well as the move inside for fellow senior Justin Garrett, Muschamp is demanding better communication.

"We know each day Coach Muschamp tells us that 'if you just keep the communication going and make sure you know where everybody is at all times, it'll get easier for you all around,' which is extremely true," Frost said, per Crepea. "Right now we're trying to go from a defense that didn't do a great job in communicating in the past to getting better each and every day."

Muschamp is constantly rotating his starting lineups during camp, as the best players from a practice get to line up with the first-team defense the next day.

That competition puts some starting jobs up in the air with less than two weeks to go until Auburn's season opener against Louisville, and Muschamp is just fine with that.

"We play at 2:30, right?" Muschamp said, per Brandon Marcello of AL.com. "2:28. We can tell them [the starting lineup] right before kickoff so they don't get nervous. Freshmen get nervous. You tell them as late as you can."

 

Robinson responds as running back race continues

As noted in the Week 2 Stock Report, running backs coach Tim Horton told reporters that JUCO record-holder Jovon Robinson was surprisingly behind sophomores Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber in the battle to become Auburn's new No. 1 running back.

Last week, Robinson rebounded from his slow start and had a solid set of practices in the eyes of Malzahn.

"He has had a better week," Malzahn said last Wednesday, per Marcello. "He had a couple hiccups early but he's had a better week, week and a half. He's done a solid job and really come on. And he needed to because the other two had really solid fall camps."

Marcello also wrote last week that Malzahn appears to be favoring a running back-by-committee approach heading into the start of the 2015 season.

"You got three guys that you feel you can line up and run your whole offense," Malzahn said. "Hopefully we'll have a little bit more information before the first game, but right now I think we're in a good spot—at least going into the season. It may be by committee early, we'll see."

Auburn has tried the by-committee system for the early portions of its first two seasons under Malzahn.

Cameron Artis-Payne followed up Tre Mason's SEC-leading season in 2013 with a conference-topping campaign of his own last year, but he didn't emerge as the go-to guy until the third or fourth game. And it took Mason a few more weeks to take over in 2013.

With freshman running back Kerryon Johnson battling injuries during fall camp, according to Wesley Sinor of AL.com, this looks more like a three-way competition that won't be resolved until Auburn hits the SEC schedule.

 

Sorting out the interior line

Auburn will head into the 2015 season with plenty of depth on the offensive line. However, that depth makes for a couple of big questions about the starting lineup heading into the Chick-fil-A Kickoff against Louisville a week from Saturday.

The Tigers' biggest concern up front is the replacement for Reese Dismukes, who started at center for Auburn each of the four seasons and was last year's Rimington Trophy winner. The battle to replace the All-American is between Ole Miss transfer Austin Golson, the presumed favorite, and senior Xavier Dampeer.

As Tom Green of the Opelika-Auburn News wrote last week, Golson has SEC starting experience—at guard—but former JUCO transfer Dampeer has had more practice time at center after backing up Dismukes all of last season.

"Xavier had a very good spring and has had a good fall camp," Malzahn said, per Green. "Both of those guys are very solid guys. That makes you feel very good going into the season."

Left guard is also a complicated battle for Auburn. Alex Kozan was a freshman All-American at the position before missing all of last season due to back surgery, and Devonte Danzey was his replacement for seven games.

According to Green, Malzahn said both Kozan and Danzey have received equal first-team reps in fall camp.

While Kozan is expected to win the job again, senior right tackle Avery Young said Danzey is in a "tough battle" with the 2013 starter.

"Alex Kozan is a great player. He came from a little injury situation he had, but it’s football," Young said, per Green. "There’s nothing handed to you—regardless of who you are... Regardless of how everything plays itself out, whoever gets that spot will have to earn it. No matter what it takes."

 

Quick hits

- D'haquille Williams moved up to the second string during practices last week, per Crepea. The senior receiver had to start at the bottom of the depth chart in his return from a "discipline issue."

- Tray Matthews, who is expected to start at safety this season, returned from a hamstring injury but is not yet back to full speed.

- According to Marcello, the battle between true freshman Ian Shannon and JUCO transfer Kevin Phillips for the starting job at punter could end as early as this coming week.

- Outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson will coach from the press box this season, while Muschamp, defensive line coach Rodney Garner and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson will be on the field.

- Green reports wide receivers Marcus Davis and Jason Smith are the front-runners to win the punt return job.

 

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

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