NCAA Football News

Why Mark Richt and Georgia Are Killing It This Offseason

From rumors of head coach Mark Richt's retirement, to the nation's top overall player, to an increased dedication from the administration to the football program, it's been an eventful offseason for the Georgia Bulldogs.

For the most part, those events have been positive.

The momentum continued on Monday, when the school announced that former Bulldog running back Thomas Brown will take over as Richt's new running backs coach, after a successful stint in the same role with Wisconsin. Bryan McClendon will shift his role from running backs coach to wide receivers coach—a position he played at Georgia—and become the team's passing game coordinator.

Richt commented on the moves in a release:

It brings back a great Bulldog running back in Thomas who has NFL playing experience and has had success as a college coach at multiple schools. He also inherits a position that has been built to an elite level by Bryan. And it gives Bryan the opportunity to return to coaching the position he played and the one where he cut his teeth serving as a graduate assistant under wide receiver coach John Eason here at UGA.

Brown, a Tucker, Georgia native, has ties to the region, helped reel in three 4-star commits in Wisconsin's recent class and will allow Richt to shift he and McClendon to positional responsibilities they're both familiar with from their playing days. 

Brown was successful last season helping lead Melvin Gordon to the Heisman Trophy ceremony, and he has a Ferrari to work with in Athens, as Radi Nabulsi of UGASports.com notes.

It's just the latest in a series of events that have generated momentum within the Georgia football program:

 

Recruiting Success

For the most part, Georgia—which finished sixth in the 247Sports team recruiting rankings—didn't make a whole lot of noise on national signing day.

Just the way Richt likes it.

Georgia entered the day with a top-flight class that included the nation's No. 1 overall player in defensive tackle Trent Thompson, seven early enrollees including three defensive linemen and Terry Godwin, the nation's top-ranked athlete. 

Not only did Georgia hang on to Godwin after a late push by Auburn, but it also found a new present under the tree long after college football's offseason holiday, when 4-star linebacker Roquan Smith signed a financial aid agreement with Georgia more than a week after committing to UCLA on national signing day.

Richt's 2015 haul wasn't the talk of national signing day, due in large part to the fact that, save for the uncertainty surrounding Godwin and Smith, the hay was already in the barn.

The new coaching moves are going to further solidify Georgia's recruiting prowess.

The move of McClendon to a coaching position he's more comfortable with and the presence of Brown on the staff as the running backs coach has already made a splash among prospects in the class of 2016.

Sure, Georgia suffers from an inexplicable loss that keeps it out of the national picture seemingly every season, but the talent that flocks to Athens every year keeps it competitive year in and year out in the SEC East.

That's not going to change anytime soon.

 

Increase in Staff Salaries

The hire of Brian Schottenheimer as Georgia's offensive coordinator after Mike Bobo took the Colorado State head coach job remains puzzling, considering his offenses finished better than 20th in the NFL just once since 2009.

What isn't puzzling, though, is the increased dedication Georgia has shown to paying its assistants fair market value.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt got a $450,000 per year bump to $1.3 million, according to Seth Emerson of Macon.com. Richt got an $800,000 per year raise that pays him $4 million annually (which is middle of the pack in the SEC) and Schottenheimer stepped in to a $950,000 annual salary, according to Emerson. That's $372,000 more per year than Bobo, who was wildly successful, was making as Georgia's offensive coordinator last year, according to the USA Today assistant coaching salary database.

It's crazy that all it took was a "silly little retirement rumor," which Richt was asked about in the press conference following the Belk Bowl win over Louisville, to get Georgia's staff to a competitive financial level with the rest of the SEC.

That has created a sense of stability within the program, which is something that trickles down to current players and high school prospects who now know that massive staff changes aren't as likely now as they were just two months ago.

 

Facilities

A hot-button issue for Richt over the last decade has been the absence of an indoor practice facility, which are common around the SEC.

That could be changing soon.

According to Emerson, the plans for the new facility are coming along quickly, and a site—near the existing football complex—could be approved as early as Tuesday. 

It's amazing how quickly the ball can get rolling when a head coach uses his leverage to get what he wants and a rival—in this case Florida—fast tracks an indoor practice facility of its own.

Of course, a slight nudge from Pruitt late in the season didn't hurt the push.

I've been on the other side when you recruit against Georgia, and when you don't practice you don't get better, so that hurts player development. The reason I came up here (to meet the media) is because we're fixing to take care of that. And this is gonna be the last football team at Georgia that's gonna have days where they don't get better because of not having an indoor facility. Because I know our folks upstairs are gonna get it done.

It's clear that Richt and his staff have taken the initiative to bring Georgia back up to a competitive level after slowly falling behind over the last few years, and that starts with the new indoor facility and a bigger budget for assistant coaches.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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

When national signing day came to end on February 5, the Georgia Bulldogs finished with 29 signed players. But a few days later, that number went up to 30 when Roquan Smith signed with the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs finished with the sixth-best class in the nation, fourth-best in the conference and second-best in the division, according to 247 Sports.

But how good is the class? Did the Bulldogs hit on every target this year, or did they let some players slip from them? Here are position-by-position grades for the 2015 recruiting class.

Begin Slideshow

CFB Future 100: Top 6 Running Backs in Class of 2016

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

Other Positions 

 

The next crop of dominant high school running backs is ready to make its mark as the 2016 recruiting class steps into the spotlight. The group features a variety of athletes—from shifty speedsters to punishing power backs—but each can be summed up as "playmaker."

Our CFB Future 100 series puts the focus on football stars expected to eventually make a major impact at the college level. Our latest analysis examines the eight ball-carriers currently listed among America's top 100 overall 2016 prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings, with grades based on vision, power, speed, hands, agility and ball security.

 

All players scouted by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue.

Begin Slideshow

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

Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong and his staff did more than put together a national-level recruiting class. They landed one that addressed every need, and this team will be much better for it in 2015.

The Longhorns lost 10 starters from their 2014 squad. Without an experienced quarterback, they will struggle to improve much on Strong's 6-7 record in his debut season.

For Texas to have any chance of achieving that, the staff had to turn in one of the nation's better recruiting classes this spring. They responded by pulling in a top-10 class, bringing in at least one 4-star recruit from every position group except the defensive line.

Even there, they landed a JUCO prospect who will slide directly into the starting lineup.

Overall, every single positional need was addressed with this class.

Begin Slideshow

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

The 2015 recruiting class will give the UCLA football team a considerable injection of both talent and depth. 

Per Scout.com, UCLA signed the No. 9 overall class in the country. Perhaps more impressive, UCLA had a 4.00 star-per-commitment average—ranking second behind only Alabama. 

This class helps to add depth at specific positions. It also enhances the skill in certain spots—specifically on the offensive side of the ball. 

Of course, Jim Mora and his staff did miss on some prospects. UCLA was also victimized by multiple decommitments on signing day. 

This piece will give each position or unit a grade based upon the talent signed, as well as the players UCLA may have missed out on. The readiness of the signees to play right away also factor into the letter grade. 

Begin Slideshow

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

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff deserve A grades for putting together the Trojans' best recruiting class in eight years, ranked No. 2 nationally per the 247Sports composite scores. 

Highly touted prospects at each position elevated this class to such heights. However, not every incoming group of recruits is exactly the same.  

Evaluating both the potential for immediate contribution to a sanction-thinned lineup, as well as the long-term outlook for making an impact at USC, the following are grades for each positional unit in the Trojans' recruiting class. 

Begin Slideshow

Bryan Harsin, Boise State Agree to New Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

It only took Bryan Harsin one season to earn a raise.    

According to the Idaho Press-Tribune's B.J. Rains, who cites a document on Idaho's Board of Education website, Harsin and Boise State have agreed on a new five-year contract worth a guaranteed $7.35 million. The deal, which is up for approval for the State Board on Thursday, includes bonuses that could push the total worth of the contract up to $9.35 million. 

As Rains noted, the only difference between this deal and the contract Harsin signed last December is a $100,000 signing bonus, another year (2019) tacked on for $1.75 million (the next four years remain the same) and other bonuses, both athletic and academic. 

There is also potential for the contract to be extended: 

The Idaho Statesman's Dave Southorn added some details about any potential buyout: 

In his first season as Chris Petersen's successor, Harsin had little trouble keeping Boise State's football team operating at a high level. The Broncos went 12-2, including an entertaining win over Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. They finished No. 16 in the final AP poll

Keeping the team operating at a high level for an extended period of time will be the 38-year-old's next task, but whether it was as an assistant at Texas or as head coach for a year at Arkansas State, he has shown his worth on the sideline.   

This was likely an easy decision for Boise State

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Recruiting Odds on Which Top Program Lands Evander Holyfield's 4-Star Son Elijah

Football has helped 4-star running back Elijah Holyfield set his own path and establish his own name. As the son of the former undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Holyfield has worked hard to become one of the nation's most coveted recruits of the 2016 class.

Physically, Holyfield, the nation's No. 14 running back, is a specimen at 5'11" and 200 pounds. With 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash, he's equally dangerous running the ball north to south as he is running outside of the tackles. Holyfield balances speed and strength as a running and pass-catching option.

On Sunday, Kipp Adams of 247Sports reported that while Holyfield's keeping his recruiting open, four schools are rising to the top.

"I am really liking Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, and Michigan right now," Holyfield told 247Sports.

Holyfield has done his homework on the schools and has made unofficial visits to Tennessee, Auburn and Michigan. All four have good shots of landing him, but which school has the best shot?

It's still early in Holyfield's process, but let's have some fun with the not-so-serious odds of where he ends up:

 

Auburn (3-1)

The fact that Auburn has already had a Holyfield come through the program should give the Tigers the early advantage. Holyfield's older brother, Evander Holyfield Jr., ran track and was a walk-on football player at Auburn.

Auburn and Tennessee are the closest schools to Atlanta, but if this race comes down to proximity, Auburn gets the nod. Auburn is roughly 90 minutes away from Atlanta, which means friends and family will have a relatively short drive to watch Holyfield play.

 

Tennessee (5-1)

Holyfield, per Adams, said Tennessee and Auburn are recruiting him the hardest. He made an unofficial visit to the campus in October, and he likes what the Volunteers bring to the table.

The Volunteers have to like where they are right now in this race. He likes running backs coach Robert Gillespie and said he speaks to him frequently. Holyfield added that he's looking to take in a spring practice in Knoxville.

 

Florida (5-1)

The Florida coaching staff has been active in reaching out to Holyfield as of late. Holyfield said he's been in contact and building relationships with running backs coach Tim Skipper and head coach Jim McElwain via social media.

Of the four schools, Florida is the latest offer for Holyfield, which could give the Gators an advantage down the stretch. And you can bet the relationships with Skipper and McElwain will continue to build throughout the spring.

 

Michigan (4-1)

Michigan's new offense will be fit for a downhill runner, and Holyfield would be a nice addition. He's spoken with both running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley and head coach Jim Harbaugh, and he's excited about the future of Michigan football.

Holyfield told 247Sports he wants to make another trip to Ann Arbor. He participated in a camp in June and also took an unofficial visit in July. Of all the schools, Michigan is the only one where Holyfield would play many of his home games in chilly temperatures. As much as he likes Michigan, will climate play a role in his decision?

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Who Mike Riley Should Hire to Replace Charlton Warren

Two months after head coach Mike Riley retained defensive backs coach Charlton Warren from Bo Pelini's staff, Warren has decided to leave. He's reportedly taking the same role at the University of North Carolina, per Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated (h/t Hail Varsity).

Riley thought he had finalized his staff in January. With the addition of Keith Williams from Tulane as his wide receivers coach, Riley's Nebraska staff seemed complete. That was until Warren's news broke.

It's not slowing Riley down, though. Instead, the head coach is ready to move forward and find the right person to truly complete his staff.

"We will search for a talented teacher, coach and recruiter to fill the open position on our defensive staff," Riley said, per Mitch Sherman of ESPN.com. "This is a high priority, but we will take the necessary time to find the individual who is the right fit to help lead the young men in the University of Nebraska football program." 

Who could that individual be? There are a couple of candidates that Riley should consider when seeking Warren's replacement.

A name that has come up quite a bit already is Eastern Michigan cornerback coach Daniel Bullocks, as the Omaha World-Herald reported. Bullocks played for the Huskers and was a second-round pick in the 2006 NFL draft.

Bullocks has a little experience coaching, too. He began coaching at the University of Northern Iowa in 2012, where he was for three years. He recently (as in January) made the move to Eastern Michigan.

That could easily be the catch for Riley if he was interested in Bullocks. However, a fair pay raise, as well as the opportunity to coach for his alma mater, might just be enough to lure Bullocks away from a brand-new job.

Another potential hire? Riley could take another look at his Oregon State staff and make an offer to secondary coach Rod Perry.

Hiring Perry wouldn't be the worst idea, either. He obviously knows Riley and has worked in defensive coordinator Mark Banker's defense before. It could be an easy transition, especially with the limited time Riley has to find a replacement for Warren.

Perry would bring a good amount of experience to the role, too. According to his bio on OSUBeavers.com, he spent 24 years in the National Football League. That includes three Super Bowls (one as a player for the Rams and the others coaching either the Colts or the Panthers).

Some fans are hesitant for another Oregon State coach to be brought to Nebraska. However, Perry could be the Huskers' guy.

Nebraska fans have thrown out plenty of other suggestions, too. Quite a few of them have Nebraska ties, like Wisconsin's Bill Busch who grew up in O'Neill, Nebraska, and attended Nebraska Wesleyan.

The question is whether Riley wants to hire someone he already knows or make a surprise hire. When it comes to two good options, both Bullocks and Perry would fit the bill.

Could the next defensive backs coach be one of those two? Only time will tell, but Riley doesn't have much of it.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Auburn Football Recruiting: Tigers' Biggest Targets in Class of 2016

Auburn is aiming for a third consecutive top-10 recruiting class under the direction of head coach Gus Malzahn. His squad closed out the 2015 cycle in strong fashion, landing 5-star Florida defensive end Byron Cowart and several key commitments on national signing day.

Efforts toward signing day 2016 are already well underway for the Tigers, who currently hold five pledges in a class headlined by Auburn legacy Stephen Davis Jr. and top-ranked wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers. There's still plenty of work to be done on the recruiting trail, and notable targets have caught significant attention from the team.

Here's a review of elite recruits who should keep the Tigers in pursuit throughout the year.

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State's Plan to Replace 4 NFL Scouting Combine Invitees

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Throughout its run to last season's national championship, Ohio State found itself having to replace an unprecedented seven players who were starting in the NFL at the time. And while that number likely won't be as high next season, Urban Meyer will again have to replenish the Buckeyes' starting lineup after the departure of multiple NFL-caliber talents from last year's title team.

This week's NFL Scouting Combine indicates as much, with four OSU alums being invited to participate at the annual draft showcase. Wide receiver Devin Smith, defensive tackle Michael Bennett, tight end Jeff Heuerman and cornerback Doran Grant will all attempt to improve their respective draft stocks in advance of this spring's draft.

Meanwhile, Meyer and his staff have been left with the task of replacing eight starters from last season's squad, four of whom figure to be locks to be playing in the NFL next season. That number could very well double by the start of next season as well, with linebacker Curtis Grant, wideout Evan Spencer, right tackle Darryl Baldwin and defensive end Steve Miller each attempting to crack professional rosters.

As Meyer has proved throughout his coaching career, he doesn't rebuild but reloads. Nevertheless, next season will present another unique task in replacing key players as the Buckeyes attempt to repeat as national champions.

 

Devin Smith

There may not be a more difficult player of Ohio State's departed seniors to replace than Smith, as they simply don't make many like the 6'1", 199-pound deep threat. That's been evidenced in the hype surrounding Smith leading up to the combine, where some have speculated he'll set the high mark in the 40-yard dash.

Catching a combined seven balls for 269 yards and four touchdowns in the Buckeyes' three postseason games, Smith played a crucial role in Ohio State's run to a national title while serving as a safety valve for quarterback Cardale Jones.

While inconsistent throughout the better part of his college career, Smith's game-changing speed and nation's-best 28.2 yards per catch have both ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay currently projecting the Massillon, Ohio, native as a first-round pick.

"He's got good speed, he can stretch the field, and he plays bigger than his listed size on contested balls," Kiper wrote in his most recent evaluation of Smith. "Devin Smith is a guy that probably wasn't utilized as much as he would have been in some other offenses."

That may be the case, but if Jones is going to continue to be the Buckeyes' starting quarterback, they would be best served keeping the deep ball as a mainstay in their offense.

In four years of recruiting, Meyer has done his best to add speed to the OSU roster, but no returning player has shown to possess the playmaking potential of Smith. Michael Thomas led the Buckeyes with 54 receptions in his sophomore season but trailed Smith in both receiving yards and touchdowns.

One player to keep an eye on is Terry McLaurin, who redshirted as a true freshman in 2014. The former 4-star prospect possesses size (6'0", 195 lbs) similar to Smith's and has also been lauded for his ability as a speedster, claiming a 4.40 time in the 40-yard dash.

If McLaurin doesn't prove capable, senior Corey Smith is another option to become the Buckeyes' next deep threat. The Akron, Ohio, native caught just 20 balls in 2014 but showcased his big-play ability with a 50-yard haul in the national title game.

 

Michael Bennett

Arguably the safest bet of any of Ohio State's draft prospects, Bennett has been on the radar of NFL teams since before the start of his senior season. Initially projected as a lock to be a first-round pick, neither Kiper nor McShay currently projects him to be taken with any of the draft's first 32 picks, although NFL.com's Lance Zierlein and Bucky Brooks both still have Bennett listed as a first-round pick this spring.

A three-year starter who started for the Buckeyes as a freshman in 2011, the 6'2", 288-pound Bennett has been a versatile mainstay on the OSU defensive line for the past four seasons. Possessing the ability to play both on the inside and outside of the line, Bennett tallied 41 tackles in his senior season, 14 of which came for a loss and seven sacks.

"Bennett is a disciplined, intelligent player who is a fit for teams looking for an upfield disruptor," Zierlein wrote in his evaluation of Bennett. "He relies on his initial burst, hand usage and technique to win at the point of attack. Bennett has the potential to dominate sluggish or weak guards."

Also considered one of the leaders of Ohio State's championship team, the void Bennett's leaving will be bigger than his All-American play. Taking that into consideration, one name who comes to mind as a candidate for replacing Bennett is Tommy Schutt, who will be a senior in 2015.

Tallying just 10 tackles in 12 appearances last season, Schutt has been hampered by injuries since arriving in Columbus as a 4-star prospect three years ago. Nevertheless, his status as a senior should give him an edge when it comes to the race to start alongside a pair of potential first-round picks in Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington on the OSU defensive line.

Should Schutt's health not allow him to give 2015 a full-go, names to keep an eye on include redshirt sophomore Michael Hill, redshirt sophomore Donovan Munger and true freshman Robert Landers.

 

Jeff Heuerman

The heart and soul of the Buckeyes' 2014 championship team, Heuerman is another player whose value to OSU exceeded his stat line.

Troubled by a foot injury at the start of the season and sprained ankle at the end of it, all while dealing with Ohio State's ever-changing quarterback situation, Heuerman totaled 17 catches for 207 yards and two touchdowns in 2014. With both the highest bench press and vertical jump on the Buckeyes' roster, Heuerman has the potential to be a workout warrior at the combine and is generally viewed as one of the top tight end's in this year's draft.

"Scouts seem to be unusually intrigued and excited about Heuerman's NFL potential," Zierlein wrote. "He is a vertical pass-catching tight end who can be moved all over the formation."

It's no secret who Ohio State will rely on to replace Heuerman, as the Buckeyes have spent much of the past two seasons lining up in two-tight end sets with Nick Vannett seeing significant playing time. The 6'6", 260-pounder actually posted better stats than Heuerman last season, tallying 19 catches for 220 yards and five touchdowns.

But while senior-to-be Vannett should step right into both Heuerman's starting role and leadership position, it will be interesting to see if Meyer continues to rely on two-tight end formations. If that's the case, then redshirt sophomore Marcus Baugh could enjoy increased playing time while simultaneously adding a new dynamic to the OSU offense.

A former 4-star prospect, Baugh was the first tight end Meyer recruited to Ohio State and is more of a pure pass-catcher than both Heuerman and Vannett. After spending much of 2013 in Meyer's doghouse, the lone catch of his college career thus far came when the 6'4", 252-pounder reeled in a two-yard touchdown in the Buckeye's blowout win over Kent State this past season.

 

Doran Grant

The most intriguing position battle at Ohio State this offseason will be the race to replace Grant, an All-Big Ten corner who heads to Indianapolis hoping to solidify his draft status. At 5'11" and 193 pounds, Grant, like Heuerman, could qualify as a workout warrior in the coming weeks.

But while Grant attempts to prove that he's deserving of being selected with a mid-round pick, his potential replacements in Columbus are currently vying for his starting spot. The two names that appear to be the best bets to start across from Eli Apple next season are redshirt sophomore Gareon Conley and true sophomore Damon Webb, each of whom played sporadically in 2014.

After being beaten out by Apple in the offseason, Conley served as OSU's third perimeter corner, tallying 16 tackles and two pass breakups. When Apple was questionable with an injury heading into the Big Ten title game, it was Conley who got the start in his place, although his inconsistent play caused him to quickly be pulled.

Webb, meanwhile, showed promise as a freshman, totaling three tackles and one pass breakup in just nine appearances. A 4-star prospect, Webb came to Columbus highly acclaimed from Detroit Cass Tech and could have the leg up in his current competition.

Other names to keep an eye on at Ohio State's cornerback position include redshirt freshman Marshon Lattimore, true freshman Eric Glover-Williams and true freshman Jamel Dean.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: Longhorns Look to Increase Draft Stock at NFL Combine

The Texas Longhorns will have a chance to showcase their talents in the upcoming NFL combine. Five former players were selected to participate in the week-long event, which begins with interviews on Tues. Feb. 17.

The Longhorns made history in last year's NFL draft, but it was not the type of history the school wants to continue. The 2014 NFL draft went by without any former Texas players selected, which ended the Longhorns' 75-year streak of having at least one player drafted.

But there's a very good chance history will not repeat itself in 2015.

Here's a look at the five former Longhorns who have the chance to increase their draft stock at the NFL combine.

Begin Slideshow

How Much Do College Coaches Care About Recruiting Camps and the Star System?

Recruiting rankings. Stars. Player ratings. They are all interesting topics of discussion in college football recruiting.

Just don't expect many college coaches to join in the conversation.

For some high school athletes—and their parents—the ratings given by the multiple recruiting sites of the world mean the difference between getting the attention of a Power 5 school or getting the attention of a Division III one—or getting any attention at all.

For others, stars are for bragging rights, strictly for entertainment purposes only, but nice to have in case they ever wanted to show friends and peers on their smartphones and computers.

When it comes to ratings, however, most college coaches will downplay a recruit's stars—whether he's a 5-star athlete or a 2-star athlete. In the eyes of college coaches, it's not what a player is doing now that’s most important; it's the potential he has to excel at the next level.

This is the time of year when players gain—and lose—stars, as the camp and combine circuit is underway. Players are preparing to show their speed, strength, agility and other skills at the Nike Football Training Camps, the Rivals Camps Series, the Semper Fidelis All-American Camps and other similar events nationwide.

Mick McCabe of the Detroit Free Press wrote a column addressing the issue, calling the combine period the "Underwear Olympics" and stating combines usually take place without college coaches in attendance.

"If you think college coaches pay attention to anything that happens at these combines or where the recruits are rated, you are delusional," McCabe wrote.

McCabe defined these combines as, "the latest rage, made popular by people trying to figure out a way to make more money off these kids in what should be much-needed downtime for them."

Feel free to pick your side on the argument, but when it comes to recruiting camps and player rankings, there are coaches who share the same feelings.

It just depends on what you're specifically talking about. If it's player rankings, consider them more for the fans and less for the college coaches. If it's camps and combines, consider it as another avenue for a college coach to put in evaluation time.

"At Iowa, we pay zero attention to rankings, stars or ratings of recruits," Iowa tight ends coach LeVar Woods said. "However, we do use camps as part of our evaluation process. A prospect's camp performance doesn't make or break his evaluation in our eyes; it's just part of our evaluation. We feel that any time we can work with a young man at our camp and run our drills instructed by our coaches, it is a huge plus for our evaluation of him."

Woods added that if he hears about a solid combine performance from a prospect in his recruiting area, he'll make it a priority to make contact with and congratulate the prospect. Oftentimes, what he hears regarding the athlete at the combine is simply confirming what he already knew from video evaluation.

Iowa's 2015 class featured only one 4-star prospect in offensive lineman James Daniels. What does that mean? Nothing, if you ask Woods.

It doesn't mean much to a guy like Gary Patterson, either. Patterson coached TCU to a No. 3 national ranking, a Peach Bowl rout over Ole Miss and a 12-1 record in 2014.

And how many 5-star players did Patterson have? Zero. In fact, since 2011, TCU has only had 10 4-star players, per 247Sports. The success stems from coaching and developing the talent Patterson's had in front of him.

The reality of recruiting in college sports is this: Stars and rankings are for fun. If they happen to motivate a player to do well—or do better than he previously was—so be it. Stars and rankings may get a player an extra look or two, but they will not get a player a scholarship.

Steve Wiltfong, the director of recruiting for 247Sports, has "Offer zero scholarships a year" as a part of his Twitter bio. While he knows rankings do not guarantee a player a scholarship, he’s also aware that it's the job of a legitimate recruiting analyst to provide the masses with the proper reporting of college football recruiting.

"It's the responsibility of college coaches to do their own research with recruits they are interested in, and most coaches do a solid job with that," Wiltfong said. "We're out bringing information to readers. At the same time, we absolutely can give a young man exposure, we absolutely can put someone on the radar and we absolutely can offer a voice.

"College coaches still will do due diligence. They're out visiting schools and talking to [high school] coaches. Our goal is to provide information to readers."

Greg Powers is a national recruiting analyst for Scout. He said rankings have the purpose of gauging high school players expected to play college ball. The idea isn't to gauge an athlete on whether or not he has professional potential, as some may assume.

And, with everything in life, there are hits and misses in giving players stars. J.J. Watt, the NFL's defensive MVP, wasn't a 5-star athlete, and he reminded recruits of that on national signing day.

And let's not forget about Johnny Manziel. He was considered a 3-star talent. He ended up winning a Heisman.

Powers said that while finding 5-star talents is great, some of the best college players will start as 2-star and 3-star recruits out of high school—and coaches know that, which is why getting a 5-star player isn't an extremely high goal for some programs.

"Some colleges probably care more than others as what stars they're getting into program. There's a big variance as you go from college to college as they look at that," Powers, who compared a coach's evaluation of a player to snowflakes, said; each is different in its own way.

Powers then added, "I can guarantee that all colleges will be happy gathering more stars when they're talking about it in press conferences."

A team like Alabama thrives on elite-level gets. Since 2011, Alabama has had 24 5-star and 72 4-star players sign. The Crimson Tide has had the No. 1 recruiting class since 2011, and they've won national titles in 2012 and 2013. Alabama, additionally, lost to eventual champion Ohio State in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff in January.

For the most part, the average Power 5 school will be more than excited with landing one 5-star prospect. If a college coach can get him, great. If not, look for that coach to attempt to turn the athletes around him into 5-stars.

The spring season is the best time for player rankings to become a major conversation piece. And with the various camps and combines scheduled throughout the spring, look for more and more people to discuss player rankings.

Just don't expect college coaches to cosign on anything. When it comes to rankings, they'd rather focus on the athlete they can produce instead of the athlete fans know today.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Can TCU or FSU Beat out LSU for 4-Star CB Trayvon Mullen?

LSU is no stranger to pulling top corner prospects who hail from outside of Louisiana, and they will try to do it again by beating out the likes of TCU and Florida State for 2016 4-star corner Trayvon Mullen.

The 6’2”, 175-pounder from Florida recently named the Tigers his leader, according to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

It’s not surprising to see Les Miles and his staff surging with a top corner recruit given the Tigers' recent history with putting studs at that position into the NFL.

However, can either the Horned Frogs or the Seminoles wrestle away control of Mullen’s recruitment away from the Tigers?

Given that it’s still early in the 2016 cycle, both schools have time to make their cases and get Mullen to change his mind. 

The Horned Frogs have emerged onto the scene following their strong 2014 season.

In particular, senior corner Kevin White—who racked up 51 tackles with 11 pass breakups and two interceptions, according to CFBstats.com—emerged as one of the nation’s best at his position.

"TCU is a great school with a great atmosphere," Mullen told Bartow. "I like the way they play and run things.”

He also noted that TCU is a school that he’d like to use one of his official visits on in the fall.

Assuming the Horned Frogs, who have already been tabbed as a 2015 preseason No. 1 candidate by ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach, have another strong year this fall, the buzz surrounding their program will continue to grow with top recruits such as Mullen.

Much like LSU, Florida State is a school with a lengthy history of producing elite defensive backs.

The ‘Noles will likely have both of their starting corners from last year’s squad, P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby, end up being selected in this year’s NFL draft.

Additionally, the ‘Noles have the advantage of being the lone in-state school in his lead group of schools.

“I'm going up (to FSU) for Spring Break,” Mullen told Bartow. “My brother goes to (TCC school) up there. It's the Noles. They produce just like other schools do. It's right here in Florida. It's a great school to be at."

As Josh Newberg of Noles247 notes, corner will be a need for the ‘Noles in the 2016 class, and Mullen fits the bill in what Jimbo Fisher is looking for at that position.

If FSU turns up the heat on one of the top prospects from the Sunshine State, can the lockdown defender turn them down in the end?

There’s a lot of time left between now and national signing day, so that remains to be seen. Additionally, Mullen maintains that he's still open in his recruitment. 

However, it will be tough to unseat LSU for Mullen, mainly because of the strength of his relationship with Tigers defensive backs coach Corey Raymond.

“I like Coach Raymond a lot,” Mullen said. “I talk to him every day. There isn't a day I don't talk to him. He tells me I'm his guy, his main guy."

With LSU seeming to make Mullen a priority, it is positioning itself well to land another dynamic talent out of the South Florida area.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Amari Cooper Is Bored with Your Normal, Non-Clapping Pullups

Pullups are the worst, and as an exercise, they hold a lofty position of respect in my mind.

From an early age, the act of pulling my suspended body weight over a bar stood as the lone gatekeeper between me and the Presidential Physical Fitness award.

Kids in my class with names like "Rally" and "Cordon" would just jump on the bar and go. I would do one-and-a-half before stalling out. Only after years of failure did I finally manage the eight pullups required to get that sweet blue shirt. It was a watershed moment for young Dan.

I mention all this because I just watched Alabama wide receiver/human sizzle reel Amari Cooper rip off the same exact number of pullups that once repaired my shattered self-confidence—but with the added insanity of throwing and catching his own body weight.

The 2014 Biletnikoff Award winner posted a video to Instagram of a recent workout. Cooper executed eight clapping pullups, which are like regular pullups but on "Nightmare" difficulty.

Cooper heaved his body in the air, clapped and then caught himself—a gym move typically requiring a sweat-ringed hat and shoulder pimples. It bears noting that Cooper is a 6'1", 210-pound wide receiver—not a plate-devouring linebacker or a born-with-a-six-pack cornerback. He's not supposed to be this strong.

Nonetheless, Cooper is out here grinding, putting in work and looking to elevate himself as the No. 1 wide receiver in the 2015 NFL draft. You'd do well not to challenge him to pullups, parkour or rock wall climbing. Don't even invite him into your Dying Light game. He will beat you to the airdrop every time.

 

Dan is on Twitter. He is learning to forgive the pullup bar.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football Recruiting Offers of the Week

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Fresh off national signing day, Alabama is already laying foundations for future recruiting classes in the downtime before spring practice begins.

The Crimson Tide staff had a busy week this week, extending offers to several prospects from 2016 and beyond.

Here's a rundown of Alabama's active offer week:

 

Deonte Brown, 2016 4-star offensive guard from Decatur, Alabama

Brown is one of the state's top players for 2016 and would bolster an already-stout, young offensive line core in Tuscaloosa.

While Brown is a low-rated 4-star as of right now, 247Sports' Barton Simmons wrote that Brown could start to rise in the rankings as camp season starts and he can work out for scouts.

Brown's crystal ball sits at 100 percent to Alabama.

 

Dontavious Jackson, 2016 4-star inside linebacker from Houston

It was a big week for Jackson, a top-20 player in the state of Texas and the No. 4 inside linebacker in the country.

He reported on Twitter this week that he's picked up offers from Texas A&M, Texas, Indiana, TCU and Alabama.

But 247Sports' Steve Lorenz wrote that Michigan is hard after Jackson and that he is planning on attending the Wolverines' spring game.

The Crimson Tide need to build depth at inside linebacker after signing three outside linebackers in their 2015 class.

 

Robert Kraeling, 2016 offensive tackle from Bogart, Georgia

Tackle is going to be a priority from Alabama in this class, and it's going after a massive one in Kraeling.

Kraeling stands at 6'8" and had aspirations of playing basketball at one point. While he is currently unranked by 247Sports, he has a lot of room to grow into a good prospect.

"I think he has a lot of potential for growth," his high school coach, Jeff Herron, told Shane Youngblood of 247Sports. "I don't think there's any question of that because he's right at 6'8" and probably right now 250-255. But the thing he's got going for him is he's really athletic for that size."

Kraeling adds to the long list of tackles Alabama is after right now.

 

Naseir Upshur, 2016 4-star tight end from Philadelphia

Alabama is also going hard after tight ends in this class and continued to offer some of the nation's top prospects at that position.

"Excited about them," Upshur told 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong. "They was in my top 15 before I even had the offer."

Upshur already has at least 35 other offers from schools around the country, per his 247Sports profile, emerging as one of the top tight ends in this class.

In a Bleacher Report interview last spring, he said he could be the best tight end ever.

 

Other offers from the week:

Ben Bredeson, 2016 5-star offensive tackle from Hartland, Wisconsin

Cary Angeline, 2016 4-star tight end from Exton, Pennsylvania

Parker Boudreaux, 2016 4-star offensive guard from Orlando, Florida

Devin Bush Jr., 2016 4-star inside linebacker from Hollywood, Florida

Jordan Duncan, 2016 4-star wide receiver from Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Erick Fowler, 2016 4-star defensive end from Manor, Texas

Daelin Hayes, 2016 4-star outside linebacker from West Bloomfield, Michigan (committed to USC)

Nigel Knott, 2016 4-star cornerback from Madison, Mississippi

Jared Mayden, 2016 4-star cornerback from Sachse, Texas

Michael Onwenu, 2016 4-star offensive guard from Detroit

Shaq Quarterman, 2016 4-star inside linebacker from Orange Park, Florida (committed to Miami)

Emmett Rice, 2016 4-star outside linebacker from Miami (committed to Florida State)

Antonio Williams, 2016 4-star running back from New London, North Carolina (committed to Wisconsin)

Jordan Elliott, 2016 3-star defensive tackle from Houston (committed to Baylor)

Chris Owens, 2016 3-star offensive guard from Arlington, Texas

Andrew Pryts, 2016 3-star safety from Hermitage, Pennsylvania

Charles Baldwin, 2016 JUCO offensive tackle from Brooklyn, New York 

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4 SEC Starters Who Are in Danger of Losing Their Spots to 2015 Signees

Last week, I discussed three SEC starting quarterbacks who could lose their starting jobs heading into the 2015 season. 

Let's take it a step further.

National signing day just wrapped up, and some signees in the class of 2015 could step right in and unseat starters at various positions around the SEC.

Which returning starters could lose their jobs to signees in 2015? Here are our top four:

 

Texas A&M QB Kyle Allen

Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: I don't expect Texas A&M sophomore quarterback to lose his job to 5-star dual-threat quarterback Kyler Murray, for two reasons:

  • Allen is the present of the Aggies offense, while Murray might be the future.
  • If Murray is a high draft pick in the Major League Baseball draft, that guaranteed money and longer earning power will be hard to pass up.

With that said, Allen is in a little bit of danger if Murray does, indeed, enroll at Texas A&M.

Just three years ago, Jameill Showers had all but locked up the starting quarterback role in College Station after spring practice over then-redshirt-freshman Johnny Manziel and others. 

But this is head coach Kevin Sumlin—a guy who's not afraid to be bold.

After three straight state titles and zero losses over his last three seasons at Allen (Texas) High School, Murray has become a legend in the rough-and-tumble world of Texas high school football. The 5'10", 180-pounder has the arm strength to push the ball downfield and the dual-threat capabilities that helped make the Aggies offense successful under Manziel.

Allen was impressive down the stretch last season, particularly in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in the 45-37 win over West Virginia, when he threw four touchdown passes and ran in another. That was important, because the bowl practices leading up to the game were the first time he's received first-team snaps in a camp-like setting, which suggests that further improvement in the offseason should be expected.

If that doesn't happen, and Murray is waiting in the wings, the dual-threat star is certainly capable of taking the job and running with it.

Maybe that's why Allen is keeping a keen eye on him.

 

Alabama CB Eddie Jackson

Cyrus Jones has one cornerback spot at Alabama locked down, after he progressed nicely throughout the 2014 season, picking off a team-high three passes.

The other side, though, is still a question mark. Eddie Jackson was hit-and-miss after tearing his ACL last offseason, Bradley Sylve was forced into action at times when Jackson struggled and former stud recruits Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey were waiting in the wings.

Add two more contenders for that job.

Kendall Sheffield and Minkah Fitzpatrick—two 5-star cornerbacks—signed with Alabama earlier this month and will join the program this summer. They both have the talent to be stars in the SEC. Sheffield has tremendous coverage skills and fantastic closing speed, and he can hang with the quickest wide receivers in the game. Fitzpatrick has similar attributes, but at 6'1", 198 pounds, he has more length to deal with bigger wide receivers.

Would head coach Nick Saban really start a true freshman at cornerback, especially since he didn't insert Brown or Humphrey last season despite Jackson's struggles?

Typically not, but these aren't traditional times in Tuscaloosa.

Mel Tucker was brought in specifically to coach defensive backs. That shifted defensive coordinator Kirby Smart's positional responsibility from safeties to inside linebackers and took some pressure off of Saban, who is more hands-on with cornerbacks than any other positional group.

That means a clean slate for everybody, and if either Sheffield or Fitzpatrick impress Tucker this summer, starting from the jump isn't out of the question.

 

Tennessee NT Danny O'Brien

Tennessee returns three of its four starters (and seven of eight players on the two-deep) on the defensive line, and the man in the middle had better be looking over his shoulder.

Danny O'Brien finished last season with 23 tackles, 4.5 for loss and one sack and was Tennessee's starting nose tackle as the season came to a close. O'Brien will miss spring practice, though, according to head coach Butch Jones (via: 247Sports).

That opens the door for Owen Williams, a senior who had plenty of playing time as part of the rotation last year, in the short term. Long term, though, the pressure will be on O'Brien and Williams to fend off newcomers looking to make an impact.

Shy Tuttle, a 6'3", 315-pound true-freshman early enrollee, will be chopping at the bit to earn immediate playing time. The former 4-star prospect is big and athletic, and he will benefit tremendously from the extra practice session.

The big challenge—literally and figuratively—will be coming this summer.

Kahlil McKenzie was the headliner in Tennessee's 2015 recruiting class. The 6'3", 354-pound monster is the big-body defensive coordinator John Jancek needs in the middle of the line, is quick off the ball and is athletic enough to do be a force from the moment toe meets leather for the 2015 season.

"When I talked to McKenzie, he said he felt like he was good enough to play anywhere on the defensive line, from a 0-technique to a 7-technique," B/R national college football video analyst Michael Felder told me last month. "The kid isn't wrong. Seven might be a stretch, but he certainly is athletic enough to be a 5-technique in a 3-4 but then turn around and play zero or one on the next snap. His speed is going to give centers and guards problems, and his strength will help him no matter where he lines up for the Volunteers."

Tuttle and McKenzie didn't sign to sit the bench. Because of that, every returning member of the interior defensive line should keep their heads on a swivel and watch out for the newbies.

 

Auburn DEs DaVonte Lambert and Gimel President

There's a reason 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart was such a big signing for Auburn and head coach Gus Malzahn—Auburn needs a pass rush.

Carl Lawson will be back to help out after missing last season with a torn ACL, but Cowart could be the other bookend in what looks like it could become one of the fiercest pass rushes in the SEC in 2015.

"You're talking about one of the best players in the country," Malzahn said of Cowart on national signing day. "He'll have a chance to compete and a chance to be on the field immediately with his skill set."

As Justin Hokanson of 247Sports notes, Auburn looks pretty set at defensive end with Cowart and Lawson together.

Lambert is recovering from a knee injury and, at 6'2", 293 pounds, has the size and strength to drop down and play inside for new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. President, at 6'4", 259 pounds, is best suited as a strong-side defensive end, which could put his status in question once Cowart arrives on campus.

Auburn experimented with a wide variety of combinations to fix its pass-rush issue last year, including the move of 6"2", 213-pound hybrid linebacker/safety Brandon King to defensive end in specific situations. It won't have to with a healthy Lawson and Cowart on board.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Projecting Brian Kelly's 2015 Coaching Staff

With the departure of Kerry Cooks, Matt LaFleur and Tony Alford from Brian Kelly's coaching staff, the usual lull between signing day and the start of spring practice has been anything but slow. With high expectations for the Irish next season, Kelly has spent the past two weeks rebuilding his staff. 

With two open spots on his offensive staff and a need to replace Cooks in the secondary, Kelly faces his biggest staff renovation since after the 2011 season. He knocked that change out of the park, with the Irish running the table in the regular season and finishing 12-1, their only loss to Alabama in the BCS title game. 

While Notre Dame has made no change official, it appears that two moves are in stone, with both Mike Sanford and Todd Lyght confirmed by multiple sources. Per Irish 247, Lyght is already on the road recruiting defensive back prospects. 

With just two weeks until spring practice begins, let's take our best guess as to how the 2015 coaching staff will look when Notre Dame takes the field next. 

 

Mike Sanford
Projected Title: Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach

SI.com's Thayer Evans is the latest to confirm Sanford's move from Boise State to Notre Dame. After only one season as coordinator of the Boise State offense, Sanford will have a homecoming of sorts, returning to South Bend, where he played high school football. 

Sanford's hire caught just about everybody off guard. He had no direct ties to Brian Kelly, and it didn't appear Notre Dame was in the market for a new offensive coordinator, with Mike Denbrock entering his second season. 

But Kelly managed to do what Urban Meyer and Derek Mason couldn't do this offseason: land one of the hottest young offensive minds in college football. So while that means there'll likely be a reshuffling in the offensive meeting room, Sanford takes over the title of offensive coordinator. 

 

Mike Denbrock
Projected Title: Associate Head Coach, Passing Game Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach

After turning down an opportunity to be the head coach at Central Michigan, Denbrock's going to once again show his loyalty to Brian Kelly by being a good soldier and giving up the coordinator duties to Sanford. But that doesn't mean Denbrock won't have a large say in the trajectory of the Irish offense. 

With an associate head coach title, Denbrock won't be a coordinator, but he will be second in command. So while he'll continue coaching the wide receivers, spring football will be our first clue as to how a three-headed monster (Kelly, Sanford and Denbrock) will work in running the offense. 

Perhaps Denbrock's greatest skill will be serving as a middle man between the head coach and new coordinator. Having worked with Kelly for five seasons in South Bend and for an extended stint at Grand Valley at the beginning of their careers, Denbrock can be a sounding board for both men as they figure out how best to incorporate some of Sanford's playbook into Kelly's offense. 

 

Harry Hiestand
Projected Title: Offensive Line Coach

Nothing changes up front for the Irish with Hiestand remaining as the team's offensive line coach. While there were reports that former Kelly lieutenant and Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn was coming on board as a full-time assistant, we get the feeling that if Quinn joins the program, it'll be in a non-coaching capacity. 

With every starter but Christian Lombard returning, Hiestand has a ton of continuity to work with along the offensive line. Expect the best unit up front since the Lou Holtz era, with a starting lineup and complementary depth the best it's been in years. 

 

Scott Booker
Projected Title: Tight Ends Coach and Special Teams Coordinator

There have been rumors of Booker's flip to the defensive side of the ball, potentially coaching safeties—the position he played in college and coached earlier in his career. But ultimately Booker will stick with the same position group, tasked with getting a young and unproven depth chart ready to play.

After another up-and-down season in the special teams phase, Booker could lose that title, keeping his focus on developing Durham Smythe, Tyler Luatua, Mike Heuerman and Alizé Jones. But for now, I'm keeping Booker in the same role until we hear otherwise.

 

Autry Denson
Projected Title: Running Backs Coach

Ever since Tony Alford left for Ohio State, Denson's name has been in the mix. The move for the USF assistant makes perfect sense.

He's Notre Dame's all-time leading rusher. He played four seasons in the NFL. And he's a Florida native and former high school coach who could help keep the Irish connected with top prospects in Alford's primary recruiting region.   

There have been no reports that make Denson's move to Notre Dame official. But you can tell from the video below that his love for his alma mater is certainly still intact. 

 

Brian VanGorder
Projected Title: Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach

There were rumors that VanGorder was also on the way out the door this offseason, with Jack Del Rio having VanGorder among his finalists for the Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator position. But VanGorder stuck around in South Bend, back for a second season atop the Irish defense. 

VanGorder will have to prove that the Irish's second-half collapse was a product of crippling injuries, not opponents getting a better read on his blitz-heavy scheme. He's added strong recruiting classes in both 2014 and 2015 to help build depth across the board. 

 

Mike Elston
Projected Title: Defensive Line Coach and Recruiting Coordinator

Elston will add the title of recruiting coordinator to his work load, per an Irish 247 report. One of Kelly's two original assistants to still be at Notre Dame (Denbrock being the other), Elston will add an important title to his resume, while continuing to work with one of the youngest position groups on the roster. 

While there were rumors of Elston coaching linebackers this season, there's a lot of work to be done on the defensive line. Elston welcomes back his entire starting lineup. 

He also will have redshirt freshmen Jon Bonner and Jhonny Williams ready to go. Welcoming in early enrollees Micah Dew-Treadway and Jerry Tillery, Elston will have plenty on his hands this spring. 

 

Bob Elliott
Projected Title: Safeties Coach

One of Kelly's most versatile assistants will move to the back line, shifting from outside linebackers coach to help Todd Lyght in the secondary. With both Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate in need of taking a big step forward in their games, Elliott will likely spend his time focusing on safety play while also adding another veteran set of eyes to the defensive meeting room. 

Elliott has lost the connections that brought him to South Bend, with Bob Diaco now running the UConn program and Kerry Cooks at Iowa. But Elliott has found a home under Brian Kelly, and he'll continue to be an important teacher on the defense. 

 

Todd Lyght
Projected Title: Secondary Coach

Lyght comes to Notre Dame after a brief pit stop at Vanderbilt, where head coach Derek Mason pulled him away from the Philadelphia Eagles. But once Cooks left for Oklahoma, Kelly quickly identified Lyght, and from the work Lyght's already doing on the recruiting trail, he seems to be a quick fit. 

Lyght may be relatively new to the coaching profession, but his playing career will earn him immediate respect both in the locker room and with recruits. Lyght was a two-time All-American at Notre Dame and a first-round draft pick. He was a Super Bowl winner and a Pro Bowler as well. 

Working with a young cornerback depth chart  anchored by Cole Luke (and likely KeiVarae Russell come this summer), Lyght, one of the best to ever play the position at Notre Dame, will teach VanGorder's aggressive coverage schemes. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Teams Who Will Rely on the Most Freshmen in 2015 College Football Season

Ideally, college football teams would stagger their players by year and never rely on too many freshmen.

Realistically, though, it sometimes happens.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing, as relying on freshmen pays dividends two or three years in the future. If there's enough (and the right) leadership in place, it can pay dividends in the short term too. It's just risky for obvious reasons.

The following teams recruited well in 2015. More to the point, they recruited for need. Their new class of players, including 2014 recruits who redshirted, fills holes up and down the depth chart.

They need the young guys to step up...and quick.

Begin Slideshow

Why 2015 Is a Make-or-Break Year for Les Miles

Les Miles has been a good coach for LSU. But has he been good enough? 2015 might be the year we get our answer. 

The Tigers head into the long offseason with no clear answer at quarterback and a new defensive coordinator, Kevin Steele. That's not an ideal place to be. 

Certainly, expectations for LSU will be tempered. How great (or overrated) the SEC West is is a discussion for another time, but the entire division went bowling a year ago. The point being, it can be easy to get shuffled into the middle of the pack. 

Another year like 2014—LSU went 8-5—and Miles will be feeling the pressure. 

Of course, say this for Miles: He's been a consistent winner at LSU. In 10 seasons, the Tigers have averaged 10.3 wins per year. Since 2008, that number has dropped slightly to 9.8—still an average most programs would salivate over. Under Miles, eight wins has been the floor for LSU. 

However, LSU has won just one SEC West (and SEC) title since taking home the national championship in 2007-08. Compare that to a pair of divisional titles in Miles' first three years from 2005-07. 

Can Miles get his team back to those better years? Here's what he's facing. 

 

Problems on Offense

Watching LSU move the ball over the past seven years has been, at times, like watching a T-Rex try to pick something up off of the ground. 

The Tigers were especially cringe-worthy last year with the 116th-best passing offense (162.9 yards per game) out of 128 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Neither Anthony Jennings nor Brandon Harris managed to solidify himself as the go-to guy at quarterback. 

Not surprisingly, other offensive issues stemmed from that. LSU wasn't good at all at converting third downs—just 39.9 percent—and had practically no explosiveness or big plays. 

LSU's strength on offense for several years has been in its ground game. Running back Leonard Fournette, who rushed for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns, is already developing into a star. What holds the Tigers back from being truly dangerous is a legitimate quarterback. B/R's Ray Glier explored this quarterback quagmire in greater depth last week. 

Here are the numbers since 2008, both at the quarterback and team level. Warning: They're not suited for small children. 

It might be nothing more than puffery, but Miles believes that quarterback play will get better. "We would think that we’re through the quarterback misery," he told Ross Dellenger of The Advocate

It's something that's probably never been uttered before, but JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn aren't walking through that door. That's a problem. 

Quarterbacks tend to get more praise, blame and general attention than they deserve, but the play from under center last year was an undeniable problem. If LSU, the '15 edition, looks the same, then there's been no progress. 

Zach Mettenberger was a Band-Aid that briefly covered the wound, but it's open again. LSU hasn't consistently developed even manageable quarterbacks in a long time. 

 

Problems on Defense?

It's clear by now that LSU has won more often than not in spite of its offense, not because of it. While that kind of imbalance can be frustrating, it can still technically work.

And it did work because of defensive coordinator John Chavis. Since 2009, Chavis' first season in Baton Rouge, LSU has finished with a top-25 scoring defense each year. 

The question is whether that imbalance is sustainable. 

In January, Chavis left to take the same position with divisional foe Texas A&M. The Aggies are reportedly giving him more money—Glenn Guilbeau of The Times previously reported that Chavis wanted a raise from $1.3 million a year to $1.7 million a year—but on paper, it was a lateral move. 

Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune reported that one of the many reasons why Chavis wanted a fresh start involved frustrations with offensive production (or lack thereof): 

Chavis' frustrations reached a crescendo this season when LSU finished first in the SEC in total defense, No. 8 in the nation and second in scoring defense. LSU was 11th in total offense and last in passing offense in the SEC, resulting in an 8-5 record, tied for the worst in coach Les Miles' 10 seasons.

In the past four seasons, Chavis' LSU defenses finished no worse than No. 15.

Coaches move around frequently, sometimes for the exact same title elsewhere. It's part of the business. 

But whatever the case is here, LSU has lost one of the finest defensive minds in college football. Miles didn't just lose a game, he lost the best asset he had. There's meaning in that too. 

The additions of Steele and defensive line coach/uber recruiter Ed Orgeron are critical for Miles' future. The last time Steele coached a defense, Clemson gave up 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. 

Steele deserves the opportunity to prove himself, but defense was the one thing keeping LSU in the conversation for SEC West titles. Ultimately, one of the things head coaches are judged on is the hires they make. 

2015 may not be a year in which Miles gets fired if he doesn't meet expectations. However, it could be the year when the countdown clock officially starts ticking—and when it becomes abundantly clear that the good just isn't good enough anymore. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages