NCAA Football News

The Opening 2016: 10 Sleeper Recruits to Watch in Beaverton

There are a few athletes—running back Najee Harris, linebacker Dylan Moses and defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, for example—who many expect to have dominating performances at The Opening next week in Beaverton, Oregon. And while that may occur, there will be those athletes at the upcoming high school showcase who improve their national recruiting stock with accelerated play.

Calling athletes who qualified for The Opening "sleepers" can be processed oxymoronically, but it isn't totally off-base to say that the event will have its surprise performers. There are 166 athletes headed to Nike World Headquarters, and not everybody is a 5-star or high-4-star target. There will be opportunities for some to take the pedestal that other elite-level targets are used to.

Here are 10 athletes attending The Opening who may not receive the fanfare of some national blue-chippers. These 10, however, could be major storylines once The Opening comes to a conclusion. Only one of the 10 players is ranked in the top 300 of the 247Sports Composite rankings. Another player isn't even ranked in the top 800.

 

All names are listed in alphabetical order.

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Patrick Hudson to Texas: Longhorns Land Former 4-Star Baylor OT

Coveted offensive lineman Patrick Hudson is reportedly set to play college football at Texas.

Matt Hladik of College Spun passed along the former Baylor commit's decision Wednesday. Gerry Hamilton of ESPN.com also confirmed the news.

Hudson is a 4-star prospect who ranks as the No. 50 overall prospect in the 2016 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. He also checks in as the second-ranked offensive guard and the seventh-ranked player from the state of Texas. 

John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald previously reported the Silsbee High School standout was one of five Baylor freshmen who were released from their national letters of intent after the firing of head coach Art Briles following the school's sexual assault scandal.

The decision quickly forced Hudson back into the recruiting spotlight. It's not a situation he enjoys, as he explained to Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles last November.

"What's my life like? I think it's like being everyone else," Hudson said. "I wake up like you do. I go to sleep like you do. There's nothing new to the story. I try not to make anything bigger than it is."

Alas, a player with his type of natural talent and upside is hard to ignore. The lineman, who's capable of playing either guard or tackle, checks in at 6'5 ½" and 325 pounds with impressive athleticism for his size and a budding mean streak that every coach loves from his players up front.

The College Spun report noted Hudson became the fourth player previously committed to Baylor to join the Longhorns. The others are brothers Devin and Donovan Duvernay and J.P. Urquidez.

Hudson is a massive addition at this stage of the recruiting process for Texas. Signing a highly rated player with 2016 eligibility this close to the season is an unexpected coup. The Longhorns now rank seventh in this year's incoming class rankings, according to 247Sports.

Hudson could make a quick impact depending on how well he performs during his initial practices. While most of the line is likely set, there's still a chance projected left guard Brandon Hodges could lose his spot if someone else shines leading into the season.

More likely, the team's latest addition will play a reserve role as a freshman before trying to compete for the starting right tackle job next year. The line's only senior, Kent Perkins, moves on after this year.

 

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Michigan Extends Scholarship Offer to 8th Grade QB Sol-Jay Maiava

A general guideline to follow when building a college football roster is to sign a quarterback in every recruiting cycle. Well, Jim Harbaugh is already thinking about Michigan football's 2020 class.

Sol-Jay Maiava—an eighth-grader from Laie, Hawaii—tweeted that he received a scholarship offer from the Wolverines.

Harbaugh and his staff are roaming the country on a much-discussed tour of satellite camps. After spending a few days in California last week, Harbaugh made it to Hawaii and found Maiava.

On his Twitter account, Maiava lists himself as a 6'1", 170-pound dual-threat quarterback capable of running a 4.7-second 40-yard dash.

The 247Sports database currently shows no offers for Michigan in 2020, so Maiava is the first prospect to receive the opportunity.

Before anyone anoints Maiava a future superstar or labels the quarterback an overrated bust, though, please consider he's in eighth grade. We have no idea what will happen over the next four years.

The cautionary tale of David Sills is important to remember.

As a seventh-grader in 2010, he verbally committed to USC. Hype and praise followed before Sills ultimately became a 3-star prospect, flipped to West Virginia, converted to wide receiver last season and recently decided to transfer.

Expectations are both dangerous and unfair, especially for someone who can't even legally drive a car.

Maiava—as well as Jesus Machado, Harrison Bailey and Drew Pyne—have already picked up power-conference offers before sitting through a single high school class.

Besides, nothing about this scholarship offer is binding.

"Until you sign on signing day, these really don't count," Dennis Marroquin, Machado's coach, told Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer. "You still need great academics all four years of high school. You have to pass your tests. There's so much more to it. You don't just get some verbals and all of the sudden you made it. It's a process."

Harbaugh certainly believes Maiava is talented and has tremendous potential. More than anything, however, an offer is meant to spark some loyalty to Michigan.

Let Maiava and the others be kids. Let him enjoy this amazing accomplishment. Let him develop as a young quarterback.

But you can be sure Harbaugh and the Wolverines are watching.

[MLive]

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Winners and Losers of June on the 2017 College Football Recruiting Trail

College football recruiting has now hit its latest dead period, and things will be mostly quiet on the trail for the next few weeks as the calendar creeps closer to the 2016 season.

That impending dead period made for a flurry of activity all across the country, from commitments to flips and satellite camps to traditional on-campus contact.

With major summer combines and school practices coming up, more and more recruits started narrowing down their choices or going ahead with their pledges during the month of June.

Between the camp circuits and the calendar crunch, a lot of moves were made. Teams caught fire with monster stretches of commitments and jumped up in the 247Sports composite team rankings. However, there were a few schools that were on the wrong end of the frenzy in June.

Here are a handful of winner and loser schools on the 2017 college football recruiting trail during the month of June. But, remember—it's still early, so fortune can change quickly between now and the stretch run of the cycle. That should give hope to fans of the teams who were on the losing end and cautious celebration for those coming off a great month.

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Why John Franklin III Needs to Be Auburn's Starting QB from Day 1

"We're going to name somebody. Hopefully sooner rather than later once we start fall camp."

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said in May at the College Football Hall of Fame that he was going to stay true to his roots and not let his three-man quarterback battle linger into the season.

That race—which features last season's opening day starter Jeremy Johnson, last season's backup-turned-starter and former Elite 11 MVP Sean White and former junior college backup John Franklin III—was three-wide heading into the back stretch of the offseason when spring practice ended.

Once fall camp starts, somebody needs to separate from the pack.

It needs to be Franklin.

The former Florida State and East Mississippi Community College signal-caller threw for 733 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 451 and nine scores in a backup role behind Wyatt Roberts for EMCC last year, and he has the jets to be a major weapon in an offense that needs a dynamic running threat from the quarterback spot.

Malzahn has had the most success as a college head or assistant coach when he gets running production from his quarterback.

Since taking over as Auburn's offensive coordinator prior to the 2009 season, Malzahn is 44-10 (.815) in seasons in which his primary starting quarterback rushes for more than 400 yards on the season. In seasons in which the primary starting quarterback doesn't top 400 rushing yards, Malzahn is 23-16 (.590).

Even in 2014, when Auburn finished 8-5 with a mobile quarterback in Nick Marshall taking the snaps, it was in the thick of the national title race before the wheels came off in an early November home loss to Texas A&M.

Auburn needs wheels under center, and Franklin can provide those wheels, as he showed on Twitter earlier this spring when Auburn's players ran the 40-yard dash:

The biggest concern with Franklin is his weight.

He's listed at 186 right now, but said after the spring game that he wants to bulk up just a bit prior to the season in order to take the pounding that comes with being a dual-threat quarterback in the SEC.

"I got here [in January], and I was 170," Franklin said after the spring game. "So I've put on about about 15 pounds. I'm going to continue to gain weight. That's not a real concern of mine. The one thing I have [that others don't] is that I can run away from people.

"I want to get within 190 to 195. This is the biggest I've ever been. As long as I keep my speed and am able to move with the weight, I'm fine. It's going to come. I'm not really worried about it too much. I've been small all of my life, and it hasn't bothered me yet."

If Franklin can get to 195 pounds and keep that 4.28 speed—which was recorded after spring practice concluded—intact, he should be the starting quarterback for the Auburn Tigers in the season opener against Clemson and beyond.

There's a massive difference between 195 pounds and 170. While Franklin's ideal weight isn't close to where Marshall was when he took the snaps on the Plains (he was a well-put-together 210), it's still big enough for Franklin to be effective as long as he learns how to protect himself when danger is closing in.

As ESPN Insider's Phil Steele told The Opening Drive on WJOX in Birmingham, Malzahn needs to roll the dice and go with Franklin—the least experienced of the trio contending for the job:

Johnson doesn't have Franklin's wheels and isn't the bruiser that former Tiger Cam Newton was between the tackles. White is a prototypical dropback passer who, while talented, isn't a threat to take off on the ground.

What's more, it's imperative for the Tigers to get off to a great start in the opener versus Clemson and in Week 3 against Texas A&M. Auburn's offense is essentially an open book with Johnson or White at the helm. By going old-school and using a similar offense to the one Malzahn was successful with in 2013 and 2014 with a mobile quarterback, it will be difficult for the early-season opponents to properly prepare for what Franklin brings to the table.

The element of the unknown at quarterback can work in Malzahn's favor.

Franklin is Auburn's best shot to be an SEC West contender thanks to his playmaking ability on the edge, which will serve as a complement to the ability of running back Jovon Robinson to soften up defenses between the tackles. 

If he can develop just one or two aspects of his passing game and at least become a threat deep, he can help lead the program back into contention. 

If Auburn wants to make a big splash, Malzahn needs to go with Franklin.

 

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

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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How the Most Underrated QB Fought His Way to Elite 11

Through 48 hours of Elite 11 finals action, Tommy DeVito felt like he was on the cusp of a personal breakthrough.

The 6'2", 185-pound New Jersey quarterback, considered a 3-star prospect and competing alongside 23 positional contemporaries from June 3 to 5 in Redondo Beach, California, knew he was perhaps one strong performance away from pulling off a surprise.

DeVito, who arrived at the event rated No. 76 nationally among pro-style passers in the class of 2017's composite rankings, needed to ace one last challenge—a mentally demanding series of seven-on-seven reps—to earn one of 12 invitations to The Opening, an elite invite-only July showcase held at Nike's world headquarters.

“I studied my playbook all night before seven-on-seven, then woke up and studied more during breakfast," DeVito told Bleacher Report. "I kept telling myself, over and over again, to take it one breath and one throw at a time.”

That preparation paid off for the rising senior from Garden State powerhouse Don Bosco Prep. He consistently delivered darts, located receivers in stride and didn't leave much room for debate Sunday evening in the Elite 11 coaches' meeting, where the list of 24 contenders was cut in half.

“He was exceptional," said head coach and Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer, who drew comparisons between DeVito and Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers.

When the newest members of Elite 11's storied fraternity were announced via B/R a day later, DeVito was a slam-dunk choice. He'll head to Beaverton, Oregon, for The Opening showcase July 5-10, joining an Elite 11 fraternity that features Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff.

“Every year, there’s always a couple kids who come in with a chip on their shoulder," Elite 11 coach Yogi Roth said during the B/R broadcast. "Usually if they ball out the chip falls off, but, no, he stacked it and stacked it and stacked it, and kept ripping it. He’s like ‘I’m proving to you that I’m the dude and I don’t care if nobody believes in me.’”

Despite a successful first season as starter at Don Bosco, an ensuing verbal commitment to Syracuse University and validation in Los Angeles, DeVito should still be able to muster motivation from that chip moving forward. On June 6—the day he learned his fate for The Opening—DeVito carried a composite ranking of No. 121 among all quarterbacks and No. 1,626 overall in the 2017 recruiting class.

“It doesn’t faze me but, yes, it definitely motivates me to show that I shouldn’t be ranked so low," he said while walking off the field following final drills in Southern California. "I try not to let rankings affect me at all, but it does stay in the back of my head and pushes me to compete at a high level.”

If you were to strip away names from shirts and disregard preconceived notions about the two dozen quarterbacks who attended Elite 11 finals, it would be difficult to view DeVito as anything less than a top-10 field general.

“For me, he was one of the biggest mysteries coming into [Elite 11 finals], but he checked all the boxes for me," Student Sports president Brian Stumpf said during the selection special. "From the combine interview to the pro-day workout, and then taking the playbook—which is completely different than what he runs at his high school—and taking it to the field [Sunday] and acing the seven-on-seven competition.”

Don Bosco offensive coordinator Mike Teel, who led Rutgers University to three bowl victories as the Scarlet Knights' starting quarterback, was proud of his young protege. However, unlike most Elite 11 observers, he anticipated DeVito's inclusion in the upper echelon.

“That’s what I expected," he said. "I’ve been around a bunch of quarterbacks at different levels of college football, and you don’t really see many players like Tommy. He’s a talented, talented kid.”

While the rest of America had an opportunity to further evaluate DeVito at Elite 11 finals, Teel spent last season witnessing consistent development up close. A former Don Bosco quarterback himself, the 30-year-old play-caller admits DeVito's role is unlike most you'll find in high school football.

“I think Tommy, maybe more than any quarterback in the program, had expectations that were almost unreachable," Teel said. "Before last season, we hadn’t won a state championship in three years. That’s the first span like that since 2002, when I was in school.

"It’s as close to a college quarterback job as anywhere else at this level because the TV cameras are there and we’re flying in planes to face the best teams in the country. He was at the center of that, and he did a great job of handling adversity the right way.”

The Ironmen, led by longtime head coach Greg Toal, play a national schedule. During his first season behind center as Don Bosco's starter in 2015, Devito encountered talent-laden heavyweights such as Archbishop Rummel (Louisiana), St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia), Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati) and Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas). 

The team lost three games before Halloween, dropping its road matchup at national title contender Bishop Gorman, and a pair of narrow in-state clashes against St. Joseph (Montvale) Regional and Paramus Catholic, where No. 1 overall 2016 recruit Rashan Gary anchored the defensive front.

Don Bosco would later avenge the St. Joseph defeat in a state championship showdown. DeVito delivered two touchdown tosses in a 21-10 victory that halted the team's title drought and earned him a place in program lore.

The emerging junior catalyst helped fuel a season-ending five-game win streak while taking ownership of a revamped offensive attack. Teel became coordinator in late May 2015, leaving him limited time to work with Don Bosco's latest gunslinger.

“It was a sprint for all of us. I changed the entire system and terminology for what we did on offense," he said. "So this is a kid playing the toughest schedule in the country, trying to prepare for that competition each week and attempting to learn an entirely new system. We all had our growing pains early on.”

Teel didn't ask DeVito to dominate during his first fall as a starter, as he tallied 1,689 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions, per Syracuse.com's Stephen Bailey (via NJ.com's Braulio Perez). But dynamics changed during the crucial regular-season finale against fellow New Jersey football factory DePaul Catholic.

Missing multiple offensive linemen against a defensive unit featuring Michigan signee Michael Dwumfour and Nebraska enrollee Quayshon Alexander, Don Bosco struggled to establish an offensive rhythm.

"We had a tough time running the football, and at halftime we’re down [by nine points], so I went up to him and said 'You’re going to win us this game. Let’s go,'" Teel said.

DeVito fueled a 34-26 comeback victory with two second-half touchdown passes and connected for three total scores in the contest, effectively alleviating any apprehension Teel may have felt about opening things up for his young quarterback during postseason efforts.

"He went out there in the second half and methodically threw the ball all over their defense, which had some very talented players," Teel said. "That was really the turning point for him. He was ready to take over games and be a dominant player.”

Less than a month later, DeVito became a state champion, and a flurry of scholarship offers followed in February. He pledged to new Syracuse head coach Dino Babers in April after weighing alternative opportunities at Rutgers, Temple, Boston College and Maryland.

“It’s a high-paced, high-scoring offense with that staff," DeVito said. "Syracuse is less than four hours away from home, so it’s not too far for family and friends to come watch games.”

Long before he warranted attention from Babers, Teel or Dilfer, Devito worked arduously with personal quarterback coach Leon Clarke, who also helped develop 2015 Elite 11 finalist and Tennessee Volunteers newcomer Jarrett Guarantano.

The two first met when DeVito was just six years old, when he became Clarke's youngest client ever. At that time, he was simply looking to take snaps for his flag football squad.

As their relationship grew, the craft of quarterbacking became an obsession for DeVito. Clarke gradually commanded more from his student, and that's exactly what he got each time he raised the bar.

“It goes back to having countless repetitions and doing them right," Clarke said. "I can recall those hot summer days where this kid would put in 60 minutes of literally just drops. I would put a hula-hoop on the ground and make him throw from inside it to teach him how to develop a base and center of gravity. All those little things became almost indigenous to him.”

Elements of his approach as a passer progressively became more polished, setting the stage for a scintillating Elite 11 finals performance. This sharpness extends beyond the pocket, evidenced to DeVito during the three-day span more than ever before.

“When we were on the beach at six in the morning, running through the ocean and challenging ourselves, I realized my mental toughness is pretty good among some of the other Elite 11 guys. I was proud of that," he said.

Mental toughness is a required trait for the leader who issues orders in his offensive huddle, and Elite 11 competition has a way of separating studs from the pack. DeVito contended with quarterbacks carrying significantly higher ratings (the top nine prospects in composite rankings attended) and far more lengthy recruitments (fellow finalist Tate Martell received his first offer in seventh grade and has spent time committed to Washington, Texas A&M and Ohio State) but never looked out of his element.

“He really balled out. These people are really sleeping on him," Alabama quarterback commit Mac Jones said. "That kid can play, and from the personality side of things, he was definitely one of the easier guys to talk with out there. I think his recruitment might explode. I don’t know if he’ll stick with Syracuse or not, but he should get some big-time offers soon.”

LSU pledge Myles Brennan, another Elite 11 finalist who will join DeVito at The Opening, shared a similar sentiment.

“It’s really not all about the rankings and the stars that you have. It’s about buying into the process," he said. "Coming in, Tommy had obviously worked tremendous amounts just to get to L.A. He came out to prove it, and he did. He definitely earned that spot.”

DeVito, who qualified for Elite 11 finals with his efforts at a New Jersey regional camp in May, cherished the validation that accompanied his advancement to the next phase of competition.

"The weight dropped off my back, and I was so excited for them to call my name. My mom, dad and girlfriend were crying tears of joy," he said.

Just four months removed from his first Power Five offer, DeVito isn't content quite yet. He'll head to Oregon as the lowest-rated offensive recruit in a collection of talent that includes 166 total invited athletes.

"Obviously right now you can scrutinize the rankings, and maybe everybody has Tommy too low right now, but the ranking that will be remembered is the one in February," 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong said. "He's going to have a shot to continue to climb because he's on our radar now, where he wasn't really on the radar before his junior year.

"I knew who he was because I know his quarterback coach, but there was still no varsity tape, so you've just got to put him on your watch list."

A post-Elite 11 finals bump on that list indicates plenty of heads have already been turned during this process. DeVito has surged 1,011 spots since those three days in Los Angeles, sitting at No. 615 overall and No. 26 among pro-style passers.

“Everything for Tommy has been time," Clarke said. "It wasn’t about yelling from the top of a mountain for recruiting attention, and so many young players are quick to want publicity when they’re not ready for it. He’s done things the right way, waited his turn for an opportunity at Bosco, then went out [to Elite 11 finals] and made a statement.”

If DeVito can state his case in Beaverton as convincingly as he laid things on the line in Los Angeles, historic Elite 11 MVP honors aren't out of the question. Given his championship pedigree at one of America's premier high school programs and a magnificent June showing on the West Coast, expect him to carry the mindset of alpha dog rather than underdog.

"People get used to the ‘big-time’ names at quarterback early in the recruiting process, and they stick with those names without necessarily looking at other guys. Hopefully that’s going to change after what I’ve tried to do," DeVito said. “I’ve been training for this moment since I was six years old. To be able to make it to this point means all the hard work, all the long summer days have truly paid off.

"Now it’s time to prove that again."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake. 

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Tennessee Football Recruiting: 5 Players Who Could Make or Break Vols' Class

As the race to fill the final eight or so spots remaining in Tennessee's 2017 recruiting class heats up, there are a lot of huge names on head coach Butch Jones' big board.

That's excellent news for the Volunteers as their current class of 17 isn't too high on star power despite being ranked 10th by the 247Sports composite team rankings. There are just two 4-star prospects already in the fold for Jones and Co., as many players are taking a wait-and-see approach to whether UT can win big.

The Vols are expected to compete for championships in 2016, and if they do, their recruiting class could wind up being extremely impressive. 

When you toss in all the star power Tennessee is firmly in the mix for, it's easy to see why there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the ceiling of this class. A lot can change between now and June, and the fact is, a lot of movement will happen on both sides.

Players will decommit and look elsewhere, as 4-star receiver KD Nixon elected to do Sunday night, backing off his commitment from the Vols, per 247Sports' Ryan Bartow. Also, some of the players currently in Tennessee's class will be recruited over if better players elect to jump on board.

It's the nature of the game of recruiting.

But, regardless of how many spots are available, there are a handful of guys who'll have a spot no matter what. Tennessee is recruiting a slew of those players, and some such as in-state defensive back JaCoby Stevens may wind up being a long shot.

Taking into consideration where the Vols currently stand with some prospects, proximity to campus and just how prominent UT is in its recruitments, let's take a look at five players who could make or break the class.

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How The Opening Finals Will Shape Ohio State's Future Passing Attack

Ohio State fans could be looking at the future of the Buckeyes' passing attack when The Opening Finals kick off on July 8.

The event—which is Nike's signature high school football camp—annually draws the nation's top high school talent to Beaverton, Oregon, for a series of physical tests to determine the top overall athlete in the country.

But the camp also holds a competitive seven-on-seven competition, and that's where Ohio State's future could be on display.

Four teams are set to compete against one another, and Team Alpha Pro will be led by quarterback Tate Martell, a 5'10 ½", 203-pound blue chip out of Las Vegas.

Rated a 4-star standout and the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback for the class of 2017, Martell is one of the country's most productive signal-callers, combining to throw for 5,145 yards and 72 touchdowns (against just eight interceptions) while running for 1,037 yards and 14 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior seasons.

He's one of the most electrifying players in this year's recruiting cycle, and he announced his intention to bring that playmaking ability to Columbus when he committed to the Buckeyes earlier this month.

Martell will put those skills on display during the highly anticipated seven-on-seven tournament, where fate may be smiling upon head coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. Because lining up on the perimeter for Team Alpha Pro will be Ohio State's top wide receiver targets—5-stars Tyjon Lindsey and Trevon Grimes.

And it's not a leap to assume that Martell will be working hard to establish a chemistry with the 5-star pair on the field while trying to nudge them toward Ohio State off it.

In fact, that's a fair assumption to make because the prized quarterback is already recruiting both for Ohio State via Twitter.

Landing Lindsey would be an absolute coup for the Buckeyes. During the 2016 recruiting cycle, Ohio State signed Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor, the No. 10- and No. 12-ranked receivers, respectively. Both are big (Mack is 6'2", Victor is 6'4") outside receivers who use their length and range to punish a secondary.

Lindsey, a 5'8 ½" blazer from Corona, California, is an ideal slot receiver who can wreak havoc working over the middle of a defense while also having the speed to burn it deep. He'd fit in seamlessly with what Ohio State already has in its wide receiver room.

At 6'3", Grimes falls more into a similar mold to Mack and Victor, but the standout from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, boasts 4.4 speed that would be a invaluable to the Buckeyes' passing attack. He has the long-range speed to grow into a role similar to the one Devin Smith had for Ohio State's national title-winning team. 

With Lindsey and Grimes bringing a unique set of strengths to the field, it'll be easy for Ohio State fans to see why Meyer is recruiting the pair so hard.

And with Martell as their quarterback at The Opening Finals in two weeks, it should be easy for that 5-star tandem to see themselves suiting up for the Buckeyes next year.

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

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

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Alabama Football Recruiting: Tide's Top Commits, Targets to Watch at The Opening

While the rest of the college football world starts to gear up for the upcoming season, recruiting will first take center stage by holding one of its premier events on the other side of the country from the University of Alabama.

This year’s finals of The Opening, Nike's three-day signature high school football camp in Beaverton, Oregon, will be July 8-10. It’ll feature 166 of the nation’s best prospects, who first participated in 14 regionals held throughout the spring to land invitations.

Seven are Crimson Tide commitments, making Alabama one of the most represented schools. They’ll participate in various testing and events like what one would see at the NFL combine, in addition to 7-on-7 play and 1-on-1 passing and linemen drills.

The finalists are divided into six separate teams except for the linemen, a group that will include Alabama commitment Alex Leatherwood, a 5-star offensive tackle.

The other six are all together on Team Vaporspeed: running back Najee Harris, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, linebacker VanDarius Cowan, linebacker Markail Benton, safety Xavier McKinney and wide receiver Tyrell Shavers.

247Sports lists Harris, from Antioch, California, as the top player in the class of 2017, just ahead of linebacker Dylan Moses, defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, tackle Josh Myers (Ohio State) and safety Jeffrey Okudah, who are all scheduled to attend.

Except for Myers, all are Alabama targets, as are a number of players on all six teams.

Lunarbeast is second among the teams to keep an eye on, as it includes Moses, along with wide receiver Jeff Thomas and wide receiver Devonta Smith, who are both thought to be at least leaning toward the Crimson Tide.

Moses (6’2”, 220 lbs), who as a senior will play for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, after previously playing at University Lab in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, recently announced his official visits to Alabama, Miami, Texas, Southern California and Ohio State, while LSU is also in the mix. He doesn't plan to make his final decision until December. 

Both Thomas (5’10”, 170 lbs, East Saint Louis, Illinois), and Smith (6’1”, 160 lbs, Amite, Louisiana) are considered to be among the top 4-star prospects.

Vaporspeed is another team to watch, which includes 4-star wide receiver Jerry Jeudy of Deerfield Beach, Florida, another strong possibility for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama has made wide receiver a priority for this recruiting class and is expected to add at least three more to the class on national signing day in February.

Barring any last-minute major changes, Alabama will head into next weekend’s competition second in 247Sports’ composite team rankings, narrowly on the heels of Ohio State. That’s despite two of its 15 commitments being special teams players who bring down the class average.

Specifically, long snapper Thomas Fletcher, also of IMG Academy, is listed as a 2-star prospect, while kicker Brandon Ruiz is considered a 3-star talent even though they’re rated the first- and second-best players at their respective positions.

Consequently, Alabama is still very much in the running to contend for what could be its seventh straight recruiting championship from 247Sports.

Looking at its final open spots from the inside out, Alabama appears to be in good shape with a number of in-state prospects, including wide receiver Nico Collins, defensive end LaBryan Ray, tackle Kendall Randolph and wide receiver Henry Ruggs III. All are considered 4-star talents as it’s a very strong year locally.

Collins (Team Hypercool) and Ray made The Opening finals, as did one of the players for whom Alabama appears to be going toe-to-toe with Auburn, Will Ignont. The linebacker is on Team Mach Speed.

A full roster of participants can be found on The Opening website.

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Notre Dame Football Recruiting: Irish's Top Targets to Watch at the Opening

Notre Dame football enjoyed a recent surge of commitments, and the program has a chance to keep that recruiting momentum alive during The Opening on Nike's campus in Oregon.

Oddly enough, the Irish don't hold any verbal commitments from prospects attending the showcase. Knowing the world of recruiting, however, that could change quickly.

The Opening is filled with Notre Dame targets on both sides of the football. Although no pledges are official, a few Irish leans could become important recruiters for other top prospects.

 

Offensive Targets to Watch

Though both Donovan Peoples-Jones and Joseph Lewis—the country's top two receivers—are high-priority targets, fellow 5-star Tyjon Lindsey is a more realistic option.

In 2014, Lindsey snagged 34 passes for 884 yards and 15 scores. Last year, the California speedster registered 45 receptions, 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns.

CJ Holmes checks in as the No. 20 athlete but would be a tremendous addition for Notre Dame. He boasts offers from Alabama, Michigan, Tennessee, UCLA and Penn State, among others.

While skill positions often receive the most attention, The Opening's group of offensive linemen is loaded.

Foster Sarell is a 5-star, and Trey Smith is trending that direction. He recently rose to No. 3 on 247Sports' site rankings. Additionally, Jedrick Wills, Andrew Thomas and Robert Hainsey are each 4-star talents.

According to Tom Loy of 247Sports, Holmes and Hainsey are expected to announce their respective college decisions at The Opening. In both cases, Notre Dame is considered the favorite.

 

Defensive Targets to Watch

On the defensive line, the Irish are pursuing 4-stars LaBryan Ray and Joshua Paschal, who recently took an unofficial visit to South Bend.

Another mid-June visitor was Hunter Echols, who called the trip "unbelievable," per Loy. Echols is currently a UCLA commit but plans on returning to campus when Notre Dame hosts Stanford.

Baron Browning would be the gem of the 2017 class, though head coach Brian Kelly and his staff may have an uphill climb against TCU and Ohio State. Still, Browning is an undeniable talent who participated at the Irish Invasion camp.

Justin Foster—the top-rated player from North Carolina—also headed to South Bend for the camp. According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, the 4-star linebacker said Tennessee has an edge but liked how Notre Dame is "big on education" and "all about football."

Defensive backs coach Todd Lyght visited Thomas Graham in May, and the 4-star defensive back is scheduled to take an official visit to campus in September.

Irish fans can track plenty of names, but it's important to remain realistic about the entire list. Each of the following prospects are in the picture yet would be tough pulls.

Leonard Warner, a 4-star linebacker, listed an unofficial top three of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Florida State, per Kipp Adams of 247Sports.

Notre Dame will attempt to snag a couple high-profile defensive backs, too. Hopeful options include Darnay Holmes and Amir RiepJaylen Kelly-Powell, Grant Delpit, Devon HunterShaun Wade and Salvon Ahmed are on the radar.

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Georgia Football Recruiting: Top Commits, Targets to Watch at The Opening

In case you haven't noticed, Georgia is simply on fire in recruiting new head coach Kirby Smart's first full class of future Bulldogs. And now it's time to keep that blaze spreading to Nike's campus in Beaverton, Oregon, next week at The Opening.

Georgia is currently ranked No. 6 nationally by 247Sports for the class of 2017, and the Bulldogs have the fewest commitments—11—in the top eight. That speaks to the overall high quality of the recruits Smart and company have already landed.

The top targets on Georgia's board have the potential to create something special in Athens this cycle, too. For proof of that, look no further than the roster for The Opening next week. The annual recruiting showcase has more than a dozen blue-chip recruits considering the Bulldogs, from elite running backs to a huge number of game-changing defensive backs.

Here are the six current Georgia commitments who will be at The Opening next week, followed by 10 of the top Bulldogs targets who will also be in action. The rankings used here are the 247Sports composite rankings, which combine several of the industry's top ratings into one standard.

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USC Football Recruiting: Trojans' Top Commits, Targets to Watch at the Opening

Southern California's 2017 recruiting is off to a relatively slow start, with only 10 players committed as we near the end of June. But the Trojans are in hot pursuit of some of the nation's top prospects, many of whom will be on display at Nike's The Opening competition next week in Oregon.

A pair of committed players are among those USC will be keeping close tabs on in Beaverton, along with a handful of unattached recruits it hopes to bring to Los Angeles for the 2017 season.

Here's our look at who the Trojans are most interested in from The Opening.

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Michigan Football Recruiting: Top Commits, Targets to Watch at The Opening

While Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff work to reload the Michigan football roster, some of the program's biggest recruiting targets will be on display at The Opening.

And there are certainly more than a few.

Five current verbal commits will represent—and assuredly actively recruit for—the Wolverines during the showcase, which will be held at the Nike World Headquarters from July 5-10.

Although The Opening isn't a major event for the staff itself, there won't be as vast a collection of Michigan targets in one place for the rest of the 2017 cycle.

 

Commits to Watch

The current jewel of the class, 5-star Dylan McCaffrey highlights all commits and targets headed to Beaverton, Oregon. McCaffrey is the No. 2 pro-style quarterback and No. 22 overall.

McCaffrey amassed 5,178 yards and 49 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions during the last two seasons. He also scampered for 888 yards and 19 more scores.

Two of the Wolverines' three pledges at running back—O'maury Samuels and A.J. Dillon—will flank McCaffrey on Team Hypercool. Both Samuels (New Mexico) and Dillon (Massachusetts) are the highest-rated prospects from their states.

On the defensive side, 4-star linebacker Josh Ross earned an invite to The Opening. He's an in-state product and the brother of former Michigan player James Ross.

Rounding out the commits is Benjamin St-Juste, a 3-star cornerback from Montreal. Recently, St-Juste soared from No. 118 at his position and unranked overall to Nos. 47 and 518, respectively.

Note: The "M" in O'maury is not capitalized, according to James Yodice of the Albuquerque Journal.

 

Top Targets to Watch

Donovan Peoples-Jones, a 5-star receiver and the sixth-best prospect in the country, headlines the uncommitted targets for the Wolverines. But Harbaugh and Co. have an added boost.

In addition to 4-star prospects Nico Collins and Jhamon Ausbon (LSU commit), Peoples-Jones will be catching passes from McCaffrey. Those 7-on-7 connections could serve as a valuable recruiting tool.

Plus, McCaffrey will be looking for 4-star tight end Josh Falo—who Isaiah Hole of 247Sports notes said Team Hypercool may as well be called by another name.

"Well that team is basically 'Team Michigan,'" Falo said. "It basically has like five commits to Michigan and the rest are all recruits. So that's 'Team Michigan' right there. So that's great for me and Michigan."

Other Team Hypercool targets include 4-star linebackers Drew Singleton and Jordan Anthony, who will play alongside Ross and St-Juste. In the secondary, Michigan is keeping an eye on Ambry Thomas, Donovan Johnson and Devon Hunter.

Elsewhere at The Opening, the Wolverines are squarely in the picture for 4-star offensive linemen Cesar Ruiz and Kai'Leon-Herbert. They're also pursuing Jordan Reid, a 3-star from nearby Cass Tech.

More notables are defensive linemen Jay Tufele and Hunter Echols (UCLA), defensive backs Jaylen Kelly-Powell and Darnay Holmes and athlete Markquese Bell.

In all likelihood, Michigan will end the 2017 cycle with at least a handful of these targets. A week at The Opening alongside current Wolverines pledges may result in a quick commitment to Harbaugh and Co.

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Could Ohio State's 2017 Recruiting Class End Up as Urban Meyer's Best Ever?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Which of Urban Meyer's recruiting classes you consider to be the best of his coaching career likely depends on where your allegiances lie.

If you're a Florida fan, it's tough to top the Gators' 2006 class, which set the stage for Meyer's historic run in Gainesville. If you favor Ohio State, Meyer's 2013 haul would likely get your vote, considering the pivotal part it played in the Buckeyes' run through the first College Football Playoff a mere year later.

But regardless of whether you're partial to Florida or Ohio State, the discussion may no longer be left to debate in a mere seven months.

With the way the Buckeyes' 2017 class is already shaping up, a new candidate could soon be in play, and it may just possess the pieces to make an undisputed claim as the best in Meyer's storied recruiting career.

Ever since the 2017 recruiting cycle began to take form more than a year ago, Ohio State's upcoming class has stood at the top of the heap. At least that was the case until a week ago, when a commitment from long snapper Thomas Fletcher inched Alabama past the Buckeyes and into the No. 1 spot on the 247Sports composite rankings for the first time in more than a year.

The Crimson Tide's reign wouldn't last long.

Just days after Fletcher gave his pledge to Alabama, Ohio State received a commitment from 5-star offensive guard Wyatt Davis, which catapulted the Buckeyes back into the 2017 rankings' top spot by a full 13 points.

It's been that kind of recruiting year for the Ohio State, and although recruiting rankings aren't the end all, be all—both Meyer's 2007 and 2010 classes scored higher than his 2006 and 2013 hauls—they're often an accurate indicator of the talent a class possesses.

It's not a coincidence either that Meyer's recruiting peak could come at a time when he's had the most to sell on the recruiting trail, between last year's national title and his program's prominent presence in this year's NFL draft.

"I tell people it was like a 30‑day infomercial," Meyer said of the Buckeyes' national title last signing day, a comparison he'd reuse when Ohio State had five players selected in the first round of the NFL draft 15 months later. "Go pay for a positive advertisement for 30 days and see what that looks like."

After landing the nation's fourth-ranked class in 2016, the second return of results are only looking stronger. Despite possessing fewer commitments (14) than any of the first three teams trailing behind them—Alabama, Oklahoma and Michigan—the Buckeyes have a firm hold on the nation's top-ranked class, with highly touted top targets remaining on Meyer's radar.

"Rankings aren't important," Meyer stated this past signing day, before conceding, "as long as you're keeping score, we like to do the best we can. I think that's kind of appealing to me—to know that we're one of the top teams in the country as far as quality of player."

In that case, you won't yet find a 2017 class more impressive than Ohio State's, with Davis joining offensive tackle Josh Myers and cornerback Shaun Wade as 5-star prospects committed to spend their college careers in Columbus. Ohio State also currently lays claim to the nation's top-ranked dual threat quarterback in Tate Martell, who has taken it upon himself to serve as one of the Buckeyes' chief recruiters since giving his verbal pledge to Meyer earlier this month.

The reality, however, is Meyer may not need the help. To this point, 13 of Ohio State's 14 commits possess either a 4- or 5-star rating, the lone exception being the nation's top-ranked kicker, Blake Haubeil.

It remains unclear how many more prospects the Buckeyes will be able to add throughout the 2017 cycle, as they already appear to be in a numbers crunch as far as available scholarships are concerned.

But that won't stop Ohio State from continuing to chase some of the nation's top remaining uncommitted players, including 5-star wideouts Tyjon Lindsey and Trevon Grimes and 4-star corner Lamont Wade, each of whom 247Sports' Crystal Ball projections favor to end up in Columbus.

At the moment, the Buckeyes' 2017 class has earned a score of 267.90, which trails their 2016 class' final total of 289.12, despite the 2016 score factoring in 11 more prospects. According to the 247Sports calculation system, Ohio State's 2017 point total would jump to 297.62 with the entirely possible additions of Lindsey, Grimes and Wade.

From a numbers standpoint, that would already make 2017 Meyer's fourth-highest ranked class before even factoring in the remaining prospects who will round out a class that could theoretically top out in the low 20s.

Based on that limitation alone, the numbers might simply not be there for Meyer's upcoming class to be considered his best from a statistical standpoint. The 323.66 score his 30-man class at Florida registered in 2010 is going to be tough to top—although there may also not be a better example of the imperfect science that recruiting rankings contain, as that class was ultimately received as a relative disappointment.

Much like Meyer's better remembered 2006 and 2013 hauls, the Buckeyes' 2017 class will be judged by the legacy it leaves more than the score it receives upon its arrival. But with a collection of players who possess high-impact ability, Ohio State's upcoming class could potentially score high on both.

Only time will tell how it's remembered historically. But even for all he's already accomplished in his 14-year coaching career, Meyer's never had momentum on the recruiting trail like this.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting and class ratings courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.

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Auburn Football Recruiting: Tigers' Top Targets to Watch at The Opening

As a recruiting powerhouse in college football, Auburn is naturally going to have an influence on the prospects descending on Nike's campus in Beaverton, Oregon, next week for The Opening.

While none of the Tigers' 10 current commitments for the class of 2017 are headed to the massive recruiting combine on July 8-10, several of their biggest remaining targets will be in Beaverton to showcase their skills. Auburn fans wanting a possible glimpse at the future of the program will want to stay tuned to coverage of The Opening.

Auburn's targets at The Opening Finals include a trio of the highest-rated offensive tackles in the entire country, a handful of recruits from its familiar stomping grounds of Georgia and several players at major positions of need for the current class. Some of these targets will even announce their commitments at the event.

Here are 10 of the top Auburn targets who will be at The Opening next week. The rankings used here are the 247Sports composite rankings, which combine several of the industry's top ratings into one standard.

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SEC Football Q&A: Will the SEC Produce a Second Straight Heisman Trophy Winner?

Former Alabama running back Derrick Henry ran into the SEC record books in 2015 with a single-season record 2,219 yards, which carried him to New York in early December, where he became the first SEC player since former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in 2012 to claim college football's most prestigious award.

With LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly, Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs and several other talented players in the conference, SEC players will rise and fall throughout the three-month journey that culminates in the Big Apple.

Could the SEC make it back-to-back Heisman winners?

That question and more are answered in this week's edition of SEC Q&A.

 

I do think that Dobbs, Kelly and Fournette will be mentioned prominently in the discussion throughout the season; and there will be at least one player from the SEC in New York as a finalist. But no, I don't think that anybody from the SEC will win the award.

It takes a special set of circumstances for a running back to win an award that has been dominated by quarterbacks this century, and Henry benefited from that. A non-quarterback has to have a ridiculously filthy year stat-wise and lead his team to the playoff.

Fournette can provide the former, but I don't think LSU has an offense that's aggressive enough to take pressure off him when teams load the box for him to accomplish the latter. 

Kelly and Dobbs are both ultra-talented dual-threat quarterbacks who can post those video game numbers, and they could end up in New York if either of their teams makes the SEC Championship Game and flirts with the College Football Playoff.

But for my late-June, write-it-in-pencil-in-case-you-have-to-erase-it pick for the 2016 Heisman Trophy, I'm going with Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.

The Buckeyes lost a lot to the draft but will benefit from an offseason in which quarterback issues are in the rearview mirror and Barrett is allowed to grow with an offense under head coach Urban Meyer that's a perfect fit for his skills.

People seem to forget that Barrett threw for 2,834 yards and rushed for 938 essentially in a pinch in place of injured quarterback Braxton Miller in 2014, and that he helped lead the Buckeyes into the thick of the national title picture before his season-ending injury in the regular-season finale against Michigan.

Bri'onte Dunn is a physical back who can help Barrett out, redshirt freshman Mike Weber's upside is huge and Meyer has had success recruiting wide receivers over the last few years including K.J. Hill, Noah Brown, Parris Campbell and the ultra-versatile Torrance Gibson. Throw veterans Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson in the mix, and Barrett will be fine.

The relatively unknown playmakers outside will actually boost Barrett's Heisman case. If he can lead Ohio State to the Big Ten title and the College Football Playoff, the fact that he will have done it in spite of massive roster turnover will push him over the top in the minds of voters.

 

It certainly helps, especially since Auburn announced earlier this month that former 5-star prospect Roc Thomas left and ultimately landed at Jacksonville State.

Kameron Martin, the 4-star former Baylor signee who was granted a release in the wake of the sexual assault scandal in Waco, has tremendous straight-line speed, is dangerous in space and can absolutely be a weapon in any spread offense—especially one like Auburn's (or Baylor's, for that matter) that thrives with multiple running backs filling roles that fit their strengths.

Thomas' departure opens the door for Martin to push for playing time right out of the gate. As Mike Farrell of Rivals.com noted when Martin committed to Baylor, Martin's strength is obvious:

He'll have to contend with former Alabama Mr. Football Kerryon Johnson—who's coming off a shoulder injury but certainly can provide an option or some insurance for head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.

He won't be the No. 1 back at Auburn until he puts on a little more weight. But as a speed sweep option like former Tigers Corey Grant (2013) and Onterio McCalebb (2011), Martin certainly fits the bill. 

 

More of the same would be a huge development in Athens, and I don't think the Bulldogs will match last year's production in Year 1 under new coordinator Mel Tucker and head coach Kirby Smart.

Georgia finished with the nation's seventh-best defense last year at 305.9 yards per game, held opponents to 4.76 yards per play (13th in the nation) and posted the best pass defense in the country (156.5 yards per game). 

"More of the same," roughly translated, means "elite."

Georgia might be "really good," but the inexperience along the defensive line and uncertainty at outside linebacker will prevent the Bulldogs from matching last year's production.

In my post-spring depth-chart projection, there's only one upperclassman on Georgia's two-deep along the defensive line—junior John Atkins. That depth chart is certainly fluid, and other players could make bigger pushes for playing time during fall camp, but the overwhelming lack of experience up front is something that Smart is very concerned about.

"We have to do a great job of getting more physical in all areas, especially up front on the offensive and defensive lines," Smart said after the spring game. "First of all, we're not as big as we need to be, but we don't play as tough and as physical as we need to."

On top of that, the loss of Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd outside, combined with the sophomore slump that Lorenzo Carter endured in 2015, makes it hard to trust Georgia to replicate last season's success, even though Tucker's defense is very similar to the one Jeremy Pruitt ran in Athens.

With that said, if Georgia's offense can be a little more dynamic under first-year coordinator Jim Chaney, it will take a little pressure off Tucker's defense and could vault the Bulldogs back into the SEC East title race. 

 

Yes, although it might not look like it for the first half of the season.

James White and Keith Ford are both very talented running backs who have the capability to top the 1,000-yard mark and will likely enter the season as co-No. 1 running backs for head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.

It won't stay that way for the entire season, though.

Mazzone helped Paul Perkins (2014 and 2015) and Johnathan Franklin (2012) blow past the 1,000-yard mark during his four seasons as the Bruins' offensive coordinator, and his power attack out of the spread is a perfect fit for what Sumlin wants to do (and wanted to do last year, had former offensive coordinator Jake Spavital actually called the plays that fit the philosophy).

Both primary running backs in College Station are true all-purpose backs who can hit the home run and also take the pounding between the tackles, and one will emerge by season's end as the primary back.

Texas A&M will never go fully conservative with a run-heavy offense and certainly shouldn't this year, considering the bevy of wide receivers on the roster. But a more focused rushing attack that looks like a diet version of Malzahn's offense at Auburn will materialize in College Station this year and produce a 1,000-yard back for the Aggies.

 

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

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Elite 11 2016: Power Ranking This Year's Finalists

The 2016 Elite 11 class of quarterbacks returns to action July 5 at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. These competitors qualified from a group of 24 passers who attended the Elite 11 Finals from June 3-5, and they will now reunite in the Northwest with greater stakes. 

Elite 11 coaches challenged this collection of coveted recruits to delve into deep playbooks and depart for Beaverton prepared to execute during drills and a star-studded seven-on-seven tournament. The competition continues through The Opening, which ends July 10.

All 12 quarterbacks already earned induction to the Elite 11 fraternity, but only one will claim MVP honors, a feat accomplished in recent years by standouts such as Jameis Winston, Blake Barnett and Shea Patterson. Here's how we break down the top contenders in this class, taking into account past performances in Elite 11 settings and high school film review.

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Will Kirby Smart or Mark Richt Have More Success This Season?

It has happened to almost all of us at one time or another. We go through a bad breakup, mourn for a bit and then move on to a new significant other. We profess happiness but look back from time to time, checking out social media feeds and wondering what our former partners are up to these days.

It happens in college football, too. Increased attention, money and pressure have led to significant turnover in the head coaching ranks. This offseason alone, 27 programs changed coaches for a variety of reasons (Illinois did twice in six months, going from Tim Beckman to Bill Cubit to Lovie Smith). The slightest hint of struggle can leave fans wondering if their program made the right move.

One of the most fascinating cases of that phenomenon will unfold in Athens, Ga., this fall. Mark Richt had an excellent run at Georgia, going 145-51 in 15 seasons with two SEC titles, nine seasons of at least 10 wins and 15 postseason trips. But after failing to reach the SEC title game in three consecutive seasons, he and UGA parted ways.

Georgia made a very good hire in luring alum Kirby Smart, Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator and top lieutenant, away from Alabama to become its new head coach. Meanwhile, Richt landed on his feet at his alma mater, Miami, who wanted a new direction after bottoming out under Al Golden.

Both sides appear headed in the right direction. But which will feel better about their move in 2016? Will Richt or Smart enjoy greater success with their new program? Will Georgia fans feel any regret by December? Let’s take a look.

When Miami joined the ACC in 2004, the Hurricanes were expected to challenge for league titles on a consistent basis alongside bitter in-state rival Florida State. The Seminoles have reemerged as one of the nation’s best programs, but the ‘Canes have yet to make their first ACC title game appearance.

Golden muddled through four-plus mediocre seasons, although he was handcuffed by an NCAA investigation which forced Miami to self-impose bowl bans in each of his first two seasons. A 58-0 program-worst home loss to Clemson finally ended his tenure at 32-25.

Richt is a clear upgrade, but Golden also left him with a solid foundation. The Hurricanes haven’t won a bowl game since 2006, but they do return 16 starters from 2015’s eight-win team. They’re led by junior quarterback Brad Kaaya, one of the nation’s top signal-callers. Entering his third season, he’s already fifth in Miami history in career passing yardage and eighth in touchdowns. That’s impressive, given the program’s strong passing lineage.

Tailback Joseph Yearby is a returning 1,000-yard rusher, and receiver Stacy Coley caught 47 passes for 689 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. He leads a young but talented receiver corps, and the ‘Canes hope for a breakout season from Braxton Berrios and talented sophomore tight end David Njoku.

New defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will run an attacking scheme, and he has some very nice pieces in defensive ends Al-Quadin Muhammad and Chad Thomas, as well as impressive freshman linebacker Shaquille Quarterman.

However, the secondary lost cornerback Artie Burns to the NFL draft as a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and fellow veterans Deon Bush and Tracy Howard graduated. There are serious questions beyond senior cornerback Corn Elder and senior safety Rayshawn Jenkins. Same goes for Miami’s offensive line, which returns five players who started at least eight games but struggled at times to protect Kaaya and open holes for the running game a year ago.

Golden couldn’t get this program over the top, but can Richt work some magic? The schedule has its positives. Following an odd trip to Appalachian State and a visit to Georgia Tech in the first four games, the ‘Canes host Florida State and North Carolina before traveling to Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.
They swap Clemson for N.C. State in the ACC schedule rotation, a big positive, and also host Pitt. With a little improvement, this team could easily challenge for an ACC Coastal Division title.

Richt told Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the move reenergized him.

I think we're on track and implementing the way we're going to go about our business. I think our players have responded well. I think our coaches are all bought in, and I think we're doing all the things that we need to do to give us a chance. It's tough competing against other schools trying to do the same thing, but we're on the right track.

In Athens, the problem wasn’t talent. It was making the most of it. Richt simply didn’t do that in his last three seasons, going a combined 16-8 in a down SEC East. They finished behind Missouri twice, and winding up behind a Florida team led by first-year coach Jim McElwain was the final straw. Smart was hired to maximize that potential.

Doing so means getting the most out of the quarterback position. A year ago, quarterback Greyson Lambert was just average, throwing for 1,959 yards and 12 touchdowns against two interceptions despite being benched against Florida for now-transferred Faton Bauta. This spring, he was part of a three-way battle for the starting role with junior Brice Ramsey and incoming freshman Jacob Eason.

Eason was the prize of Smart’s first UGA recruiting class; he stands 6’5”, 208 pounds and was rated as the nation’s No. 5 overall recruit by 247Sports. He was excellent in UGA’s spring game, completing 19 of 29 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown with a strong touch on deep balls.

Eason is the future. Is he the present? Smart must decide that this fall. The Bulldogs return three offensive line starters but must identify solutions at both tackle spots. Whoever emerges under center has an emerging star to throw to in Terry Godwin surrounded by a talented receiver group.

The true X-factor? Tailback Nick Chubb’s health. The powerful back rushed for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman and was on pace for another huge year in 2015, with 745 yards and five scores through five games. But on his first carry on Oct. 10 against Tennessee, he suffered a serious, season-ending knee injury.

Sony Michel was solid, finishing the season with 1,161 yards and seven scores, but the offense wasn’t the same without Chubb. He is rehabbing, but, per Brad Crawford of Dawgs247, there are no guarantees of his readiness for the season opener against North Carolina or his full health for the beginning of the season.

Smart told Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is not a "subject matter expert" on knee-injury recovery. 

"I don’t know if that guy is going to be back (to start 2016) or not,” Smart said. “Do I want him to be back? Yes. But it’s hard to say with where he is now whether he’ll be back or not.”

If Chubb is healthy and ready, the offense will take on a new dimension in Smart’s first season. Across the ball, the secondary, led by safety Dominick Sanders, will be a big strength. The linebackers lost No. 9 overall pick Leonard Floyd to the NFL draft but shouldn’t miss a step with Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter leading the way.

Although former top overall recruit Trent Thompson is ready to step into a starting role at defensive tackle, the line is highly inexperienced after losing three starters from 2015.

Smart’s first schedule is pretty favorable. The Georgia Dome opener against North Carolina won’t be easy, but UGA does trade an SEC West crossover game against Alabama for a road trip to Ole Miss. Rivals Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia Tech all come to Sanford Stadium. Besides Ole Miss, there isn’t another road game against a returning postseason team.

The Volunteers will be the favorite in the SEC East, but the Bulldogs should push them strongly. Will that be enough to keep Georgia fans from looking longingly toward South Florida?

Both Georgia and Miami could challenge for division titles while playing on the weaker sides of their league. Miami’s schedule might feature slightly more difficult games, but the Bulldogs have the more talented overall roster, especially if Chubb returns healthy.

Let’s put Smart and UGA down for nine wins, with Richt and the Hurricanes clocking in with an eight-win season. Both very solid debuts, but Smart will have slightly more success in Athens. 

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Kellen Mond to Texas A&M: Aggies Land 4-Star QB Prospect

Kellen Mond, a 4-star quarterback recruit out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, announced his commitment to play college football for the Texas A&M Aggies on Monday.

Mond took to Twitter to break the news:

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Mond is the third-best dual-threat quarterback in the country, the 17th-best player from Florida and the 78th-best overall prospect in the 2017 class.

As a junior at Ronald Reagan High School in San Antonio, Mond put together an impressive highlight reel, courtesy of Hudl:

Unlike many other dual-threat QBs, the 6'2 ½", 201-pound signal-caller can also function as a pocket passer. Mond doesn't take off at the first sign of trouble, and he has shown the ability to make accurate throws from the pocket as well as on the run.

What pops out on Mond's highlight reel is his downfield accuracy. Time and again, he delivered the ball where it needed to be, and his 57 completion percentage can be somewhat attributed to the numerous long passes he threw.

Mond is also a good decision-maker, having thrown for 24 touchdowns with only three interceptions this past season. He also ran for 918 yards and five scores, showing how he can devastate defenses with his legs.

Thanks to his blend of size, fluid athleticism and arm strength, Mond has the tools to thrive in the Aggies' spread offense. He'd previously withdrawn his commitment to Baylor and thereafter stated he favored Auburn and Ohio State over Texas A&M, so the Aggies did well to sway him.

Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue weighed in, noting just how significant Mond's commitment was for coach Kevin Sumlin's program:

Texas A&M landed the top dual-threat QB in the 2015 class, Kyler Murray, but already saw him transfer to Oklahoma. The Aggies also lost signal-caller Kyle Allen, who transferred to Houston, creating a climate of instability in College Station, Texas, at the most important position.

Sooners transfer Trevor Knight will be the starter for Texas A&M in 2016. Beyond this coming year, though, the competition should be wide-open and create an opportunity for Mond to see the field within his first year or two on campus.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless noted otherwise. Stats courtesy of PointStreak.com.

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Mack Wilson Injury: Updates on Alabama LB's Recovery from Knee Surgery

Alabama's linebacker depth took a hit with incoming 5-star freshman linebacker Lyndell "Mack" Wilson suffering a torn meniscus that will require surgery. It is uncertain when he will be able to return.

Continue for updates.

Wilson Reveals He Needs Surgery Monday, June 27

College Spun's Matt Hladik was able to capture a deleted tweet from Wilson indicating he was set to have surgery on Tuesday after tearing his meniscus. 

Wilson did not announce a timetable for his return, but he later tweeted he would come back strong:

This is not the first major injury Wilson has dealt with. SEC Country's Chris Kirschner reported on May 17 that the linebacker had work done on his shoulder:

Alabama had an opening at linebacker after the Buffalo Bills drafted Reggie Ragland in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft at No. 41 overall. Wilson, who's No. 2 nationally at his position and the 15th-best overall prospect, felt he could make an impact early, per SEC Country's Marq Burnett.

“I feel like personally, I’m probably the most versatile linebacker Alabama has had in a minute because I can do so much,” Wilson said in May. “I feel like as long as I learn the playbook, I’ll be able to play.”

Alabama ranked third nationally in total defense last season, and the Crimson Tide have enough depth from their recruiting success to bear the immediate loss of Wilson. However, this injury will set him back in terms of learning the playbook and getting acclimated with his teammates on the field. His injury history is also concerning, so keep an eye on that moving forward.

 

Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com. 

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