NCAA Football News

Le Mans 2015: Leaderboard, Live Stream and Finish Time for 24-Hour Race

Three hundred and sixty-four days out of the year, Le Mans, France likely tells time just like the rest of us: watch, clock, or smartphone. But for one 24-hour period each year, they can judge a day's passing by waiting for the distinctive buzz of high-performance race cars to start and—after one of Earth's rotations around its axis—finally stop.

Time is running out in Le Mans 2015, one of the premier automobile endurance racing events in the world. Along with the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, it's one leg in the sports' own Triple Crown. It's also the flagship race of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The race started at 9 a.m. ET (3 p.m. local time) at the Circuit de la Sarthe racetrack on Saturday, June 13 in Le Mans, France. The finishing time is then, naturally, 9 a.m. ET on Sunday.

Each team of the 55 teams at Le Mans 2015 consists of three drivers. There are four different classes of car at Le Mans—two prototype and two GT, per the event website—and teams of drivers and their crews compete for the top spot both within their class and outright against all other competitors. The race is judged on greatest number of laps completed, not total distance covered.

Here's what you need to know to follow along to the finale of this unique spectacle.


Viewing Info

Here's the remaining television broadcast schedule for Le Mans 2015.

A live stream of the race can be found at either Fox Sports Go (TV provider log-in required) or at NISMO TV on Youtube, found below. The NISMO TV link features multiple car cams, a live leaderboard with commentary and even a pit cam. Fox Sports Go offers a similar set of options.

 

Leaderboard

A live leaderboard can be found at 24h-LeMans.com, on the right-hand side of the main page.

 

Race Report

Although Audi cars and teams have dominated the 24-hour Le Mans in recent years, this year has seen a pair of Porsche teams best the competition for much of the long day's journey into night (and, well, back into day).

As can be expected in most years, the top of the leaderboard is dominated by the powerful, top-tier prototype class (LM P1). The No. 19 Porsche 919 Hybrid car driven by Earl Bamber, Nico Hulkenberg and Nick Tandy held the lead as of 6:30 a.m. ET.

The Rennsport.com staff—doing yeomen's work liveblogging the entire race—noted at the 20-hour mark that this had been the state of affairs for quite some time:

"For yet another hour, there is little change overall. Porsche #19 has a wide lead on Porsche #17, which is ahead of all of the Audis (Only the #9 among them being close to one of the top 919 Hybrids) and, well adrift, the #18 Porsche."

Porsche is the top car manufacturer at Le Mans, with 16 titles since the race began in 1923.

The top Audi team as of 6:30 a.m. ET was one well acquainted with Le Mans success. Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer—taking turns piloting the No. 9 Audi R18 e-tron quattro—won the 24-hour Le Mans in 2011, 2012 and 2014, but their run of dominance appears to be headed for at least another one-year hiatus barring engine trouble or some other calamity befalling the top two Porsche teams.

Loic Duval and his cohorts driving the No. 8 Audi R18 e-tron quattro have acquitted themselves well in this race despite taking heavy damage in a crash within the first four hours of the race, per FoxSports.com:

While battling for a spot inside of the top five, Duval made a swift move to avoid cars who were checking up for a slow zone on the run to Indianapolis. Unfortunately, slight contact with the No. 51 Ferrari pitched Duval sideways and into the guardrail.

The hit ripped the front end of the Audi off, but Duval managed to limp the car back to the pits where the team could make repairs...

Oliver Jarvis is on Duval's team, and he is looking to put a disappointing 2014 in Le Mans behind him, when he watched his car crash out very early on at the Circuit de la Sarthe. An experienced driver, he contends there is nothing quite like Le Mans and is well aware of what it takes to win, per the Guardian's Giles Richards:

I love driving at here. Especially at night, two to three in the morning, it’s almost as if you are out there on your own, you really become one with the car, But ultimately whoever manages to stand at the top step will have done an incredible job. They will have to have driven 24 hours on the absolute limit, with no mistakes, because that is what it is going to take to win Le Mans this year.

Outside of the top-of-the-board action, there was a scary moment very early on in the race when the No. 66 Ferrari 458 Italia caught fire during a pit stop, per the Sporting News' Steve Petrella. Triple M Sidney provided a look:

According to Petrella, there were no injuries and the fire was swiftly put out.

With the amount of stress piled on these cars over the course of this race, anything is possible in the late hours. However, the approximately 8 1/2-mile track and the need to make up full laps makes any final charge a daunting proposition.

If the current race pattern holds, an Audi automobile team will not be featured atop the leaderboard for the first time since 2009. The trio Bamber, Hulkenberg and Tandy are in line to win their first 24-hour Le Mans should they drive well and the Porsche hold up to the intense demand.

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Tyler Boyd Arrested: Latest Details, Comments and More on Pittsburgh Star

Pittsburgh Panthers junior wide receiver Tyler Boyd has reportedly been arrested on DUI charges. 

According to Rich Walsh of KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, Boyd's arrest happened Friday morning:

Walsh's full report on the CBS Pittsburgh website provided additional details from the paperwork filed by the police:

According to police paperwork, the officer who pulled him over “smelled the moderate odor of an alcoholic beverage about Boyd,” who said he “had ‘two shots’ but did not start drinking until after the NBA Finals game he was watching.”

The 20-year-old was placed under arrest after being administered a breathalyzer that tested positive for alcohol, police paperwork said. He was then taken to Jefferson Hospital for a blood test.

Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette provided a statement from Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi:

Walsh also added that Boyd was "released to the custody of a family member" after his blood test. 

Boyd has been one of the best wide receivers in college football since playing his first game at Pitt in 2013. He has racked up 2,435 yards and 15 touchdowns on 163 receptions and was named to the All-ACC First Team in 2014. 

Pitt has made it to bowl games both seasons Boyd has been with the program. In the first, the 2013 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Boyd showed how valuable he could be with a career-high 173 receiving yards and a punt return for a touchdown in Pittsburgh's 30-27 win over Bowling Green. 

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SEC Football Coaches Facing the Most Pressure in 2015

Pressure comes in various shapes and sizes in all facets of life, and it's no different for several SEC football coaches.

At least one is facing a must-win situation in 2015. Others have demanding fanbases who want a breakthrough. Then there are a couple of coaches who've done well in short time spans but are about to be expected to take a huge step toward competing for the division.

Coaching in the SEC is a high-profile, high-dollar position, but with it come high stakes.

With the job come major demands, and with the league on a two-year hiatus from winning a national championship, some are beginning to wonder if those dollars are justified for the men at the top.

Following James Franklin's success at Vandy, Derek Mason didn't endear himself with a 3-9 first season. While Butch Jones and Kevin Sumlin have fostered goodwill at Tennessee and Texas A&M, respectively, the grace periods are over for the duo. It's time to win.

There are various stress points depending on each situation across the league.

At first glance, the conference appears wide-open. That means pretty much every team's fans are optimistic heading into the season. That's a perfect climate for the pressure cooker to turn up as the weather cools off.

All SEC coaches have plenty of pressure all the time, so this is nothing new. But let's take a look at five coaches who will be facing a little extra once things kick off in '15.

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Clifton Garrett to Transfer from LSU: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

LSU linebacker Clifton Garrett, who was entering his sophomore year, has reportedly transferred from the program.

According to Justin Hopkins of 247Sports, while Garrett hasn't officially decided where he will transfer, it will be to a junior college program:

Big news has been confirmed through multiple sources. Former five-star linebacker Clifton Garrett is transferring from LSU and will head to a junior college.

Sources inform 247Sports that Garrett will opt to enroll at a junior college, not yet determined, and continue his football career. Garrett has already departed and has no plans of returning.

Garrett came to LSU with a lot of hype, as 247Sports had him ranked as a 5-star prospect and the No. 2 outside linebacker in the 2014 recruiting class. He played very little last season before getting redshirted in November and figured to make a big impact on Les Miles' defense in 2015.

In November 2014, Miles told reporters that he believed Garrett was going to be an excellent player.

“I think he’s a perfect Mike linebacker, and he’s progressing extremely well," Miles said. "Very talented guy. Has great size but runs extremely well. He’s going to be a very good linebacker.”

While Garrett may turn into a perfect "Mike" linebacker, it will be at a different school. This is a big blow to LSU's depth at linebacker for 2015, though Miles has been such an effective recruiter and developer of talent—especially on defense—that the Tigers should be able to get by.

Garrett will get a chance to rebuild his career at a place he wants to be.

It's not a perfect solution for either side, but it is one that the young player wanted. He will be able to take advantage of this opportunity to find a spot that can take advantage of his talents.

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Clemson Tigers 'Get Back' Coach Puts in Work During the Offseason

No matter the role, everyone who is part of a team has to put in the work in order for the group to reach its full potential.

Even the "get back" coach—someone who keeps football players and coaches off the field—has to spend the offseason working to get better.

The Clemson Tigers put together a fun video to show how strength/"get back" coach Adam Smotherman trains in the offseason. From working out to watching film, he puts in the necessary work to make sure he is on top of his game come September.

[Clemson Tigers, h/t CBS Sports]

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Best College Football Value Bets to Throw Down This Summer

Anything is possible before the games begin, right?

Now less than three months until the 2015 college football season gets underway, we're starting to get to that point where the anticipation gets the better of us. Spring practice is over, preseason camp is still weeks away and all there's left to do is wait. And wonder. And maybe search out some juicy bets that could pay off in the long term.

There's no denying that college football is one of the most heavily bet sports out there, as evidenced by the fact there are already point spreads available for Week 1 games and prop bets are available in connection with the Heisman Trophy and national championship contenders. You can even wager on whether a certain FBS team will finish over or under a certain win total.

Most of these early odds are nothing more than a crapshoot, so to speak. The trick is finding bets that have more value than others, ones that either have a reward that far outweighs the risk or ones that are too juicy to pass up.

Using odds provided by Odds Shark and 5Dimes, we've picked out a few potential wagers that might be worth taking a flyer on. That's assuming you happen to be visiting Las Vegas anytime soon, since that's the only place in the U.S. where sports betting is legal.

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Schools to Watch After B.J. Emmons Decommitted from Georgia

Running back B.J. Emmons ended a seven-month commitment to the Georgia Bulldogs on Wednesday. The 4-star prospect elected to reopen his recruitment in the aftermath of increased interest from fellow SEC programs, per Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Emmons, rated fourth nationally among players at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings, initially pledged to Georgia in December.

He joined a class that already included No. 1 overall quarterback recruit Jacob Eason, though that decision occurred when Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo still served as the Bulldogs' offensive coordinator.

The 5'10", 230-pound playmaker is considered among the premier rising high school seniors in North Carolina, where he attends Freedom High School.

"I think that he just wanted to be fair enough to say ‘Hey look, I want to open things up and see what else is out there.’ He wants to make sure that he’s going to the right school," Freedom head coach Brandon Allen told Carvell.

It's an understandable stance for Emmons, who continues to see his collegiate opportunities expand.

His latest head-turning scholarship offer arrived in late May from Alabama:

It's no surprise to see the Crimson Tide claim attention from a running back. The team boasts a bevy of blue-chip offensive linemen and a strong history of putting rushers in position to reach the NFL as high draft picks under Nick Saban (Eddie Lacy, Trent Richardson, T.J. Yeldon and Mark Ingram among them).

Alabama signed 5-star rusher Damien Harris last signing day, continuing a long line of prospects to arrive in that backfield with high expectations in place.

Searching for a sixth straight top-rated recruiting class, the Crimson Tide are still in need of a 2016 running back.

"Alabama is known for their power-running game. They always want a tailback that they can put back there who can run between the tackles and be a physical presence," Allen told Carvell. "I certainly think that BJ can do those things."

For Saban, the next step in this courtship is to arrange another on-campus visit with Emmons.

The back already journeyed to Knoxville twice this spring for a close look at the Tennessee Volunteers.

Head coach Butch Jones hosted Emmons for a junior day in March, and he recently returned. Emmons also attended a Volunteers game in 2014, shortly after receiving an offer from the team in August.

Jones has used a pair of top-10 classes to revitalize his roster, putting Tennessee in the mix as a possible SEC East contender this season. The Volunteers are trending heavily right now in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, carrying 100 percent of the signing-day predictions on Emmons' profile.

Tennessee already holds 2016 pledges from an elite quarterback talent in Jarrett Guarantano and several wide receiver recruits. With Emmons in the equation, Jones could further bolster a burgeoning offensive attack.

Among programs yet to offer Emmons, Carvell notes the running back is keeping a close eye on a pair of SEC alternatives—LSU and Texas A&M. Florida also figures to play a factor now that things are wide open.

Coach Allen also believes Georgia shouldn't be forgotten just yet. There's still a chance for reconciliation in Athens.

“He spoke with Coach (Mark) Richt, and he said that the conversation went well,” Allen said. "I certainly don’t think he has ruled Georgia out."

Emmons erupted for 2,348 yards and 38 touchdowns as a junior, per Paul Schenkel of the Morganton News Herald. He averaged 12 yards per carry in the process.

 

Recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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4-Star David Long Jr. Opens Up on Top 10, Making Move from WR to CB

David Long Jr. has several years of experience playing wide receiver. The idea of playing cornerback shouldn't have come so easily for him.

Not that easy, anyway.

But it did. And now, the 4-star cornerback from Los Angeles' Loyola High School boasts 23 offers from coast to coast. Thursday afternoon, Long announced his top 10, which includes five schools from the Pac-12, two from the Big Ten, an independent in Notre Dame and one each from the Big 12 and ACC.

"They are the schools that I've built the best relationships with early," Long said of the 10. "The relationships built really have been set in stone for me; plus, with some of the local schools, I know a lot of the players and the atmospheres.

"The schools I haven't visited, I like what they are doing right now. I'm trying to make some visits this summer."

Long is the nation's No. 6 cornerback and the No. 64 overall player. He put on an impressive showing at The Opening Oakland regional last month, running the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, throwing the power ball 36 feet and recording a vertical jump of 35.9 inches.

After measuring at 5'10" and 176 pounds, Long recorded a SPARQ rating of 114.36 and then dominated the secondary drills to claim the defensive back MVP honor and an invitation to The Opening finals next month in Beaverton, Oregon.

For someone fresh off one year of playing cornerback, Long looks like a cagey veteran in the secondary. Long credited the smooth transition from playing receiver to working on foot placement and advanced techniques to improve speed, lateral movement and acceleration.

Playing receiver helped, as well.

"I love the move. Before you guard a route, you have to be able to run a route," Long said. "I can look at a receiver now and tell what type of route he's going to run."

Long's talents as someone who can play both sides of the ball will benefit one lucky school. His 247Sports Crystal Ball points to predictions for Washington (50 percent), USC (33 percent) and Stanford (17 percent).

Before he makes a choice, however, Long said he wants to see the schools he's yet to visit. So far, Long has visited USC, UCLA, Stanford and Washington. He's hoping trips to Notre Dame and Michigan are in his immediate future.

"A lot of schools said they would take me as an athlete, and I'm fine with that, but I've been exclusively working as a cornerback," Long said. "If I can get out to a few schools, maybe I'll commit then, and there won't be a need for official visits.

"If I can't get out to those schools, I'll take them on officials before signing day."

Long has a top 10 but doesn't have an order of schools. He said he'll look to trim the list possibly later in the summer.

 

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

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Will Ohio State's Week 1 QB Starter Be Same as Bowl Game Starter?

By now, you're likely familiar with the unique competition between Ohio State Buckeyes quarterbacks J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes have started all three with incredible results and could win another national title with any of them.

The primary question to date has revolved around which one of the three will start in Week 1. We likely won't know that answer until deep into preseason camp.

The question that hasn't been asked as often is whether that same player will start in the bowl game (assuming, of course, that things don't go awry and Ohio State makes it to the postseason).

To answer that, let's revisit what led to Ohio State's improbable national championship run last year.

Barrett replaced Miller, the incumbent starter who was lost for the season because of a lingering shoulder injury, and went on to win 10 of his first 11 games. Barrett then sustained a season-ending ankle injury against Michigan, putting Jones at the top of the depth chart. All Jones did was help lead Ohio State to a Big Ten title, Sugar Bowl win and national championship.

The irony of it all is that we found out just how fortunate the Buckeyes were through a series of misfortunes. In no other way would head coach Urban Meyer have known that he had three quarterbacks who could play at that level.

So for 2015, we ask ourselves this: Will Ohio State experience the same level of injury-related bad luck as it did a year ago? Because that's the way two separate quarterbacks start in Week 1 and the bowl game.

The other possible way is if someone—say, for the sake of conversation, Jones—starts in Week 1 and gets benched at some point through the season.

Do you see that happening? Me neither. Additionally, as of March, Meyer has all but officially ruled out playing two quarterbacks. That would take care of any loophole in which one quarterback technically "starts" in Week 1 and the other "starts" the bowl game.

This brings us back to the more probable situation. Can Ohio State's starting quarterback, whoever it may be, stay healthy for the whole year? Or, at least, could the injured player return for the postseason?

Otherwise, there's a legitimate case to be made that the Buckeyes quarterbacks are snakebitten, even if it's not in the traditional sense. To lose even one quarterback to yet another season-ending injury would be unreal.

It wasn't on display in 2014 because Miller and Barrett were unable to return, but there is a pecking order to the quarterback depth chart that Meyer stands by. In an interview with Austin Ward of ESPN.com, Jones explains that, in some ways, he still feels like the No. 3 guy:

We as a team and me as an individual get a lot of praise for how well we did in those games, but I didn’t even grade out as a champion as far as coach’s standards. I haven’t proven anything yet. I haven’t proven anything to myself, my teammates, my coaches to label myself as a starter. That’s my opinion, my personal opinion.

I’m kind of harder on myself than the coaches, but I was thrown into that position. I didn’t beat out J.T. [Barrett] going into the Michigan game. I didn’t beat out Braxton [Miller]. Unfortunately both guys got hurt, and luckily enough I was prepared to try to take advantage of the situation.

If Miller was able to return from injury, he would have. The same thing applies to Barrett. Thus, if any starting quarterback for Ohio State is able to return from injury in 2015, you'd have to think he would.

Speaking of which, Alex Gleitman of 247Sports reports that Miller has been "fully cleared to throw the football as of this past Monday (June 8) with no limitations on his surgically repaired shoulder." This marks the first time in well over a year that Miller has been 100 percent.

Interestingly, the report also states "sources contributing to this report believe that the job is 'Miller's to lose' granted he is fully healthy and performing as expected."

With Barrett expected to be a full go in time for preseason camp as well, all three of Ohio State's primary quarterbacks will be healthy for the first time in a long while. Can whoever wins the job stay that way? 

The odds of the Buckeyes being that unlucky again seem low.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand.

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Why Alabama's Secondary Will Transform from Pushover to Power in 2015

Alabama used to be known as a program that not only sent members of its secondary to the NFL but also produced a top-tier pass defense while those players were on the Crimson Tide roster.

Over the last two seasons, the second half of that equation has been more myth than reality.

The Crimson Tide secondary finished 11th in the SEC in pass defense last year after it gave up 226 yards per game, more passing plays of 10 or more yards (133) than any team in the SEC and the second-most first downs (15) in obvious passing situations (3rd-and-10 or more) in the conference.

The year before, Alabama got picked apart by teams that could actually throw the ball and finished eighth in the SEC in third-down passing conversions of 10 or more yards (eight).

What seemed like an anomaly has become a trend under head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart—both of whom were hands-on with their defensive backs in practice.

Will Alabama's secondary go from pushover to power in 2015? 

Yep. Here's why.

 

An Established Leader

The secondary seemed more like the punchline to a bad joke in 2014, but it wasn't Cyrus Jones' fault.

The 5'10", 196-pounder from Baltimore earned a starting nod at corner before the season and steadily transformed into a star as the season progressed. He finished the year with three picks, a team-high 13 pass breakups and second-team All-SEC honors from the Associated Press (via USA Today). Not bad for a guy who, as Matt Zenitz of AL.com notes, put off hip surgery and played through the pain.

He missed spring practice recovering from surgery for that torn labrum in his hip but should be 100 percent this fall. 

As Zenitz noted in April, he has the confidence from last season's personal success and the motivation to fix the perception of the Alabama defense.

"Now I know what I can do, and I know my abilities, and I know the defense," Jones told Zenitz. "Now it's just up to me to just go out there and play and prove everyone wrong who has something bad to say about it."

His presence and established success at corner will help stabilize the secondary and give Saban and his staff  a nice foundation as they fill out the rest of the depth chart during fall camp.

 

A Fresh Face

Whatever Saban and Smart were doing over the last few years was clearly not working the way that it should. That doesn't fall squarely on the coaching staff, although it should shoulder some of the blame.

New secondary coach Mel Tucker was brought in as a fresh set of eyes to try to fix the glitch.

Tucker was most recently the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears from 2013 to 2014 and served in the same capacity for the Jacksonville Jaguars (2009-2012) and Cleveland Browns (2008). He has also served as the defensive backs coach for the Browns (2005-2007), Ohio State (2001-2004)—where he won a national title in 2002—LSU (2000) and Miami-Ohio (1999).

"I've known Mel for almost 20 years going back to Michigan State when I hired him as a graduate assistant," said Saban, according to Alabama's official site. "He is an outstanding coach all the way around and really does an excellent job in terms of teaching the players. When you look at his college and NFL experience, his resume is very impressive."

His presence takes pressure off Saban and allows Smart to move back down to coaching inside linebackers. Basically, Saban and Smart recognized the problem and brought in Tucker as the elixir. 

How much will things change under Tucker? Saban and Smart will still have their hands in the cookie jar to an extent, but it's Tucker's show for the most part, and that new set of eyes couldn't hurt.

 

A Blessing in Disguise

Jones' absence this spring could be a blessing in disguise for the cornerbacks, because it allowed even more first-team snaps for players who are vying for the top spot on the depth chart.

Who took advantage the most? Sophomore Tony Brown seems like the big winner.

The 6'0", 195-pounder from Beaumont, Texas, played with the first team in the spring game and had three tackles, one for a loss and one quarterback hurry, according to stats released by Alabama. As Marc Torrence noted on Bleacher Report following the spring game, Brown should start alongside Jones barring something crazy happening this summer.

Jones' absence also allowed more reps for Bradley Sylve, Anthony Averett and Marlon Humphrey, all of whom will see time either as reserves or at nickel.

What's more, the move of former cornerback and part-time starter Eddie Jackson to safety indicates that Tucker has already put together some pieces of the puzzle.

Geno Smith will join Jackson at safety after spending the majority of his career at nickel, sophomore Hootie Jones has boat loads of potential, and early enrollee Ronnie Harrison was the talk of spring practice in the defensive backfield.

"The freshman is impressing me a lot. He’s just showing a lot of instinctiveness out there on the field,” Jones said, according to Alex Byington of the Times Daily. "He’s still getting it mentally, and that’s going to take time, but he’s definitely a football player. So he’s one of the guys that’s impressed me a lot."

In 15 short practices, Tucker already has made tremendous progress in getting the secondary shuffle sorted out.

That bodes well for the future. 

 

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.

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.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Best Offensive and Defensive Coordinator Duos in College Football

In the fast-moving coaching carousel of college football, great coordinators are hard to keep around.

Just ask Ohio State's Urban Meyer or Clemson's Dabo Swinney, who saw their star offensive assistants move on to head coaching jobs this offseason. The same goes for Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Missouri's Gary Pinkel, two coaches who had to replace their excellent defensive coordinators.

Top coordinators are always prime candidates to make the move up the coaching ladder at another school, which makes having a successful set of top assistants a constant challenge for head coaches. Building and then keeping a dynamic one-two punch of coordinators is a luxury.

Here are the top 10 coordinator duos in college football for the 2015 season, judged by their experience, longevity and, most importantly, their on-field success either at their current school or their previous stops. Duos that have a coordinator who has never served in that role before were not considered for these rankings.

Sound off on these rankings and nominate your own favorite duos in the comments below.

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Jim Harbaugh and Michigan Setting Summer Recruiting Trail on Fire

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — Say what you want about Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, but hate him or love him, his energy cannot be denied. Particularly when it's infectious.

Harbaugh loves the game of football, and his level of excitement can rival any coach's. College recruits around the country are noticing that, as he and his Michigan coaching staff continue their satellite-camp tour from coast to coast.

Harbaugh stopped in Dallas suburb Grand Prairie, Texas, on Tuesday as part of the Showtyme Elite Football Camp and not only watched roughly 250 athletes perform, but also gave demonstrations—in 90-plus-degree heat—on how to do drills, shouted words of encouragement for hours and, when the camp was over, stayed late to take pictures with eager athletes—many of those pictures of him wearing a Texas-sized cowboy hat.

Harbaugh, the former San Francisco 49ers coach, even took pictures with younger fans wearing jerseys of current 49ers.

"I now have a different perception of him," said Gerald Smith, Showtyme Elite Football Camp director. "When you see Jim Harbaugh, you think of what you saw with him and the 49ers—always intense. My attitude has changed. He's a really good coach who wants to help the kids and know them personally.

"He said he was really humbled about me reaching out to him. After he left, I knew I liked him a lot. I saw how the kids were posting about him on Twitter. Some think he's arrogant; he's not. He's very laid-back."

The personality always has been there for Harbaugh, but his nationwide run of satellite camps has many SEC and ACC coaches and supporters unhappy. The SEC and ACC do not allow guest coaching at satellite camps.

There's an NCAA rule limiting programs to hosting camps within 50 miles of campus. The loophole: There isn't an NCAA rule against a coaching staff volunteering at other camps or attending as a guest.

It's through this loophole that Harbaugh and his team have visited Texas, Indiana, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania and, most recently, California.

"Michigan is a far school to get in a car to drive and then come back," Texas 5-star 2017 safety Jeffrey Okudah said. For them to come [to the Dallas area], that means I get a chance to meet the coaches and not just talk to them on the phone. I can actually talk to them in person and get to feel how they really are."

Rising 2016 running back Peytton Pickett added: "He's an awesome coach, first and foremost. He was real positive towards everybody. As far as meeting him, it was like meeting a celebrity. I think he'll be very succesful on the college level just like he was at the pro level.

Athletes hear about coaches all the time, and Harbaugh's reputation fit everything that many athletes expected. He's a fiery, no-nonsense coach who wants to get the best out of his players. Harbaugh also has a level of charisma and passion for his work that earns him respect.

His presence was enough to bring out Texas Rangers pitcher Derek Holland for a couple of hours.

It's that energy that's made the satellite campers want to work with him—particularly when a camper is hours away from the Michigan campus.

"It was great to get to work with them up close. We got to talk to them out there. They were energetic and were teaching," said Florida 2017 tight end Tre McKitty, who has a dozen reported offers. "We have a lot of talented athletes around here in Florida, so it was cool that they came to watch us. I think everyone was excited to see them."

Harbaugh's presence provided more than the after-camp photo opportunities and handshakes. Recruiting targets who hadn't made it to Ann Arbor, Michigan, saw the kind of people he and his staff were. The satellite camps have been a chance for recruits to put names with faces.

For someone like Texas 4-star cornerback Eric Cuffee, face-to-face meetings are key. Cuffee has 30-plus offers and said Michigan's appearance in the Dallas area gave him a newfound respect for the program.

Cuffee, who lives in Waco, Texas—roughly 90 minutes from where the Grand Prairie camp took place—made the trek to meet the staff. He didn't participate in the camp drills, but as someone with a Michigan offer, he felt making the drive was the right thing to do.

"It was a great experience. I never would have thought Michigan would have come down this far," Cuffee said. "I think that's great that the coaching staff was able to come, as well. That's one of the major factors that played a part in me coming."

Smith said Harbaugh's presence, although not liked by some, is a valuable tool which could not only help Michigan's national recruiting reputation, but also the view of the Big Ten altogether. Smith said Harbaugh's a guy who "really set the tone by getting guys motivated" at the Showtyme camp. That seems to be the consensus with the other locations where Harbaugh and his staff have ventured.

Whether this will get the Wolverines a few out-of-state pledges for the 2016 class is still to be determined. The groundwork, however, has been set. Younger recruits in attendance will remember the aura Harbaugh brought, and Michigan could be a finalist for a lot of athletes it once thought it couldn't have landed.

"I learned a lot from the coaches that I can use when I start working in summer ball," Florida 4-star 2017 defensive end Zachary Carter said. "I spoke with coach Harbaugh; I really like him. He's enthusiastic about the game."

Emphasis on "enthusiastic."

 

National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani contributed to this report.

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

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Will College Football Ever Have Another Realignment Craze?

Thursday marked the five-year anniversary of Nebraska announcing it was leaving the Big 12 and joining the Big Ten. In turn, this week marked the five-year anniversary of "realignment-palooza" as it was unofficially known. 

In the height of the frenzy, the Pac-10 was going to expand to 16, forming the first of four superconferences. The Big 12 was on its deathbed and likely to be absorbed by...wait for it...the now-defunct Big East. 

“This part of the country, all of its significant institutions would have belonged to conferences somewhere else,” former Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe told Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated about the possibility of the conference disintegrating. “If it all fell apart, the sad part is the ‘Flyover Zone’ would have been a true flyover zone.”

No other time in college football's history was more chaotic, as noted by Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports

Today, 43 FBS schools -- 33.6 percent of the current membership -- compete in a different conference than they did five years ago. Along the way, one league (the WAC) died, while another (the former Big East) lost its name (it's now the American Athletic Conference) and its privileged postseason status. All 10 remaining conferences include at least one team they did not claim in 2010.

The effects of realignment were felt even further down the ladder. Grand Canyon University—yes, there is such a thing—became a Division 1 member in the WAC, which still fields basketball, in 2013-14

The term "back-channel discussions" became a realignment buzz word. Articles claimed a supposed "gentleman's agreement" for SEC expansion and message boards blew up about the location of the nearest airport to West Virginia University.

Everyone was on crazy pills

Naturally, the question is: Could it all happen again?

Yes, but likely not for some time. Television contracts for the five power conferences won't start to expire until next decade at the earliest; an example of an exception would be the SEC's contract with ESPN, which runs through 2034

As Staples recently tweeted, conferences wouldn't even start exploring ideas like pooling television contracts until their current deals run out. 

In the meantime, everything is in a standstill. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has his East Coast presence. The SEC has its network on ESPN and the Pac-12 has Pac-12 Networks. The ACC and Big 12 are, well, alive. Notre Dame kept its Independent status, but has a stronger presence in ACC territory thanks to its partial membership. The Big 12 has no imminent plans to expand because of the lack of viable options. 

And Texas, the program at the heart of the '10 realignment craze, is still ironically in the same spot it was. 

How long will things stay that way? It could be years—a decade or more even—before we see anything that would potentially rival what began in 2010. Once those grant-of-rights and TV contracts expire, though, a new round of conference shuffling could commence.

The question then would be: What sets it off? Dissatisfaction with previous conference acquisitions? Not forming the superconferences the first time? Lessons learned from the first time around? It's hard to tell for sure.

When the realignment craze of 2010 began, it was fueled by deep-rooted issues within the Big 12 and ignited by the desire to rake in more television money. Whatever drives the next round of realignment internally—the "why" factor—the more pertinent question is whether media rights contracts are still the focal point of how it gets done. 

But here's what one can say definitively: We have about another decade for those frustrations to build. Long-standing rivalries and history be damned, major college athletics wants the next best thing before it enjoys what it has in front of it. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Football: Ranking the 10 True Freshmen Who Will Light Up 2015

National signing day was a day of celebration across the West Coast, as many of the country’s top high school players committed to play Pac-12 football. Now that 39 Pac-12 players have been picked in the 2015 NFL draft, there are plenty of spots to fill in the upcoming season. But which true freshmen will make the biggest impact in 2015?

In ranking the top 10 true freshmen for next season, there were a number of factors to consider.

This is not just a regurgitation of the recruiting services’ rankings. Talent, of course, plays a big part in where a player ends up on the list, but so does the opportunity for immediate playing time.

With the departure of Brett Hundley, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has a clear path to a starting job, which bodes well for his ranking. But Oregon running back Taj Griffin, the Ducks’ top-ranked offensive recruit, has Royce Freeman, Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall blocking his path, which will hurt his ranking on this list.

Where most recruiting services take a player’s ceiling or potential into account, these rankings are focused on the here and now. Players that will need more time to develop (typically offensive linemen) will not be featured heavily.

Lastly, positions will also be taken into consideration. No single player impacts a team more than the quarterback, so any freshman signal-callers who could earn starting jobs will be ranked higher than, say, freshmen defensive backs who will be rotated in and out throughout the season.

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Bailey Hockman Commits to Georgia: How 4-Star QB Fits Bulldogs Offense

The Georgia Bulldogs bagged another big-time quarterback recruit Friday morning, as in-state standout Bailey Hockman announced his intentions to play for the program:

Hockman, a rising junior at McEachern High School, becomes the first member of head coach Mark Richt's 2017 class. Rated second nationally among pro-style passers in his grade, per 247Sports' Composite rankings, Hockman is exactly the kind of talent coaches attempt to build around on an annual basis.

The Bulldogs aim to repeat the ensuing success that followed a similarly early commitment from top-ranked 2016 quarterback Jacob Eason. The Washington product pledged last summer, setting the stage for Georgia to develop a foundation that's helped the class elevate to seventh in 2016 Composite rankings.

Eason initially bought into the vision of former Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who now serves as head coach at Colorado State. He's remained loyal to the team as its transitioned to veteran NFL coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Now the first-year Bulldogs assistant has his grips on another coveted quarterback.

Hockman, a 6'2", 210-pound passer, is currently a composite 4-star recruit and could certainly leap into the 5-star tier with further progress. He threw for 3,597 yards and 42 touchdowns last season as a sophomore, per Jeff Sentell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Those efforts helped him emerge as a prized prospect, garnering offers from several Power Five programs. Hockman holds scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Stanford, Michigan State and Miami, among others.

Georgia extended an offer in January.

"They have great coaches and coach Schottenheimer, I was the first person he called and offered (when hired in January)," Hockman told Drew Champlin of AL.com. "That was a big deal to me."

Hockman has the arm strength and physical frame to effectively orchestrate a dangerous collegiate aerial attack. The lefty shined during significant early experience in a McEachern offense that featured USC offensive lineman Chuma Edoga, Oregon running back Taj Griffin, Duke wide receiver T.J. Rahming and fellow 2017 4-star Tyler Smith.

The Bulldogs landed his high school teammate, 5-star defensive tackle Julian Rochester, two weeks ago. Hockman's presence could also provide a push in Georgia's pursuit of Smith, who should serve as his primary target during the next two seasons.

It's easy to understand why college coaches have become enamored with Hockman, who spent Friday morning attending camp on campus:

He exhibits excellent footwork for a young quarterback and spins the ball well with an impressively quick release that places passes on his receivers in a hurry. If Eason lives up to his high-profile status in Athens, there won't be much of a drop-off, if any, at the position when he departs.

Hockman may sacrifice the opportunity to play quickly by heading to Georgia. Immense expectations are in place for Eason, who could compete for snaps as a true freshman and become entrenched as the Bulldogs' full-time starter through 2019. 

Patience will be imperative for Hockman if that's the case.

Based on impressions from his underclassman performances, an opportunity to lead Georgia will be worth the wait for him and Bulldogs fans alike.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Tray Matthews Could Be the Key to Auburn's Secondary Success

How many guesses would you need to correctly pick which team tied with Ole Miss for the SEC lead in interceptions in 2014 before you landed on Auburn?

Ten?

All 13? 

But there the Tigers are, atop the SEC's interception chart with the Ole Miss Rebels at 22. Despite that, Auburn finished 12th in the SEC in pass defense (230.1 yards per game), while that vaunted "landshark" defense chimed in at third (191.2). As far as total defense goes, the difference was as wide as the Grand Canyon, as Ole Miss finished the season having given up 329 yards per game with Auburn nestled in the ninth spot in the SEC at 398.8.

So different, yet so the same.

If Auburn is going to become more consistent in the back end of the defense under first-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, it's going to have to be more consistent against the pass and give up fewer big plays on the ground.

Tray Matthews is the man for the job.

The 6'1", 213-pound redshirt sophomore will likely step in for part-time starter Jermaine Whitehead at field (free) safety, whose suspension and subsequent time in the doghouse played a big part in Auburn's struggles. 

Auburn gave up 24 rushing plays of 20 or more yards in 2014, the second-most in the conference. Whitehead's prolonged absence played a part in that, and Matthews will be counted on to cut down on that number in 2015.

The last time Auburn fans saw Matthews up close and personal in a real game, he was wearing the red and black of the Georgia Bulldogs in 2013, lying on the turf at Jordan-Hare Stadium watching current Tiger wide receiver Ricardo Louis stroll into the end zone during the "Miracle at Jordan-Hare." After being dismissed from Georgia following the season, Matthews sat out his transfer year at Auburn before immediately being inserted into the starting lineup this spring.

It paid immediate dividends.

Matthews had five tackles, one forced fumble and one interception in Auburn's spring game, earning defensive MVP honors in the process.

"I can't stress enough the potential of this team," Matthews said after the game, according to quotes released by Auburn. "People ask me all the time how I'm doing, and I say 'I'm doing great, but I have so many great players around me.' Our defensive line is awesome. The linebackers have great communication with us."

As this photo of from Jason Caldwell of Inside the Auburn Tigers shows, athleticism isn't an issue for Matthews:

He is the key to Auburn's defensive success.

Auburn needs a talented, ball-hawking safety who's not afraid to stick his nose in and help out against the run, and Matthews is that guy.

He had 36 tackles, one interception and four pass breakups as a part-time starter for the 2013 Bulldogs, including 12 tackles in the "Miracle at Jordan-Hare" before being in frozen time on that batted ball to Louis. 

Now he's in a system under Muschamp that's known for producing hard-hitting safeties like former Florida star Matt Elam and versatile corner/safety Jaylen Watkins. Matthews has bought into playing in Muschamp's scheme.

"He wants everything done his way," Matthews said following the spring game, according to James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser. "He wants the defense done his way. He wants every technique done his way. If we buy into what he got going on, we're going to be all right."

He'll bring some stability to an Auburn secondary that can use some.

Cornerback Jonathan Jones, when healthy, is an All-SEC-caliber player, and junior Johnathan "Rudy" Ford will likely start at boundary safety while filling in at cornerback alongside Jones and senior Josh Holsey when needed.

That's a relatively experienced group that has endured a lot of highs and lows throughout their careers.

Matthews is the key.

He has the skills and is in the right system to become a star, and now's his time to shine for a defense that desperately needs a player exactly like him to fill a gaping hole.

 

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.

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.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking College Football Conferences by Coaching Stability

By its very nature, college football coaching is a peripatetic pursuit. The ever-increasing amounts of money and pressure rolling into the game give athletic directors across the nation a “what have you done for me lately?” attitude with the leaders of their programs. Per a 2014 USA Today survey, 72 head coaches made at least $1 million annually, with Alabama’s Nick Saban leading the way at $7.16 million.

Of the 128 current FBS programs, only 11 coaches have spent at least 10 full seasons at their teams' helms. Only three (Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz) have spent more than 14 seasons leading their teams, with Beamer holding a 12-season edge on Ferentz and Stoops as the longest-tenured coach in FBS.

In other words, it’s hard to stay in the same place for an extended period of time. How tough is it, and which leagues make life hardest? We decided to take a look. We surveyed every college football league for coaching stability, using an excellent account from FootballScoop.com’s Zach Barnett as our guide.

We averaged the number of full seasons coached in every league, giving all winter 2014 hires zero seasons coached. Realignment makes this less than an exact science, but it’s the best way to examine which leagues are currently the most stable for college football coaches.

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Notre Dame Football: Recapping the Biggest 2015 Offseason News so Far

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — We’re five-and-a-half months removed from Notre Dame football’s win over LSU in the Music City Bowl and barreling toward the 2015 campaign.

Since the start of the year, players and coaches have come and gone, and positions have changed. So what has been the biggest offseason news thus far?

Let’s have a look back.

 

Quarterbacks

Quarterbacks were going to headline the Notre Dame offseason one way or another, whether with a position battle or a departure. The Irish had both.

Everett Golson and Malik Zaire duked it out throughout the spring for the starting quarterback job, though Irish head coach Brian Kelly indicated the competition would carry into the fall. That, of course, won’t be the case any longer after Golson announced last month he’d be transferring from Notre Dame.

“After much thought, prayer and discussion with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to graduate from Notre Dame and transfer to another school effective immediately,” Golson said to FOX Sports in a statement.

Less than two weeks later, Golson announced he’d transfer to Florida State.

“We, of course, have approached our preparations for the upcoming season with this possibility in mind,” Kelly said in a statement at the time of the initial transfer announcement. “The emergence of Malik Zaire, based on his performance in the Music City Bowl win over LSU, and throughout spring practice, has given our staff supreme confidence that he can lead our team to great success in 2015.”

So there it is. Zaire will quarterback the Irish in 2015. He’s only attempted 35 career passes, but the redshirt sophomore did claim Music City Bowl MVP honors.

“I think anytime that you’re sharing a position versus going out there, you can sense in the meetings there’s a confidence and you’re always looking to him for the answers,” Kelly said of Zaire earlier this week. “So he’s obviously feeling as though he needs to live up to that expectation too.”

Zaire will make his second career start in 85 days against Texas.

 

KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams

After missing all of last season during and after Notre Dame’s investigation of suspected academic dishonesty, cornerback KeiVarae Russell and defensive lineman Ishaq Williams are back—to varying degrees.

Russell, who started 26 games in his first two seasons at cornerback, is expected to return to the squad in the coming days. The senior announced on his Facebook page at the end of May that his expected return had become official.

“Love my school and my teammates,” Russell wrote on May 29. “Excited to go help lead this team to success. Officially accepted back at Notre Dame!! Back on campus in [two] weeks!”

Russell then posted the following note Thursday.

Russell’s return is a major addition to a potentially budding secondary. Fellow corner Cole Luke posted a strong sophomore season, and safeties Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate showed growth during the spring.

“He’s an alpha player,” Kelly said of Russell on Tuesday. “He’s got that warrior personality where he will hold others accountable. You add him to the mix with a Joe Schmidt. And you add him to a Jarrett Grace. That changes the personality of our defense from what it was late in the year when we really didn’t have those personalities on the field.

“And we all know what he has from an athletic standpoint.”

Williams’ situation is less defined. Kelly said Tuesday that the big-bodied defensive end from New York is back in school at Notre Dame and is participating in team workouts. Kelly said confidently that Williams will receive his degree from the university. The head coach said the football component for Williams is “a lot more complicated” and deals with “NCAA eligibility.”

Williams will be on scholarship even if he’s ruled ineligible to play, Kelly said. In that case, Kelly said it’s possible the scholarship could be counted differently.

 

Coaches

While it doesn’t exactly parallel last season’s coaching carousel, in which offensive coordinator Chuck Martin and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco both left for head coaching jobs, this offseason featured similar movement on the coaching staff.

Assistant coaches Tony Alford (Ohio State), Kerry Cooks (Oklahoma) and Matt LaFleur (Atlanta Falcons) all moved elsewhere. Kelly brought in offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford, running backs coach Autry Denson, defensive line coach Keith Gilmore and defensive backs coach Todd Lyght to replace them.

In Sanford, Notre Dame adds a 32-year-old coach who has already made stops at Boise State, Stanford, Western Kentucky and Yale.

“Mike Denbrock and I had a long conversation about this,” Kelly said during the spring. “We agreed at the end that what we were looking for was somebody that could turn the room upside down. We didn’t want somebody to be equal.”

Kelly and Sanford agreed the new coach’s primary job is to develop the quarterbacks.

“Whether it was this year or any other year, there’s a great amount of scrutiny on the quarterback position,” Kelly said when announcing the new coaches. “Mike understands that. He welcomes that challenge.”

Meanwhile, Alford and Cooks were widely regarded as top recruiters, and their presence could be difficult to duplicate, at least in the short term. With roughly eight months until national signing day, Notre Dame’s class of 2016 sits at just six members.

 

Roster Movement

Golson, Russell and Williams drew the bulk of the in-and-out attention during the spring and early summer, but Notre Dame also lost versatile offensive lineman Matt Hegarty, who started 11 games in 2014.

With one year of eligibility remaining, Hegarty decided to spend it at Oregon. He announced his intention to leave Notre Dame in March.

“Unfortunately, I have already had to miss a precious amount of football battling back from my stroke, and I value every rep and opportunity going into my final year of college ball that much more,” Hegarty said in a statement to ESPN.com’s Matt Fortuna. “My goal is to contribute this season, continue to develop my skills and pursue my dream of playing in the NFL. Because of this goal, I have asked for a transfer to play at another school where I can contribute more on the field.”

Kelly left spring ball very high on his offensive line, both in terms of the first unit’s ability and the overall depth. The Irish bring back three linemen—Ronnie Stanley, Nick Martin and Steve Elmer—with multiple career starts.

On the other side of the trench, second-year defensive lineman Jhonny Williams will transfer, according to multiple reports Thursday. Tyler James of the South Bend Tribune first reported the news.

Williams, viewed as a raw defensive lineman with pass-rushing potential, redshirted as a freshman in 2014. His departure brings Notre Dame closer to the scholarship limit.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Tennessee Football: Projecting Who Will Win Volunteers' Open Starting Positions

The most talented Tennessee football team in at least a decade will trot onto the field in 2015, but that doesn't mean every starting spot is locked up.

As a matter of fact, there are several wide-open races ongoing that will heat up once practice begins. Even more could emerge once UT gets all its highly touted recruits on campus and thrown into the fray.

For instance, the Vols return starting defensive tackle Danny O'Brien. But with potential stars such as Kahlil McKenzie joining freshman Shy Tuttle on campus, nobody's job is safe.

The same situation applies to sophomore Emmanuel Moseley, who must hold off JUCO transfer Justin Martin, freshman Darrell Miller and others to keep his starting spot.

Still others, such as left tackle Kyler Kerbyson, left guard Marcus Jackson, safety LaDarrell McNeil and receiver Marquez North, who appear to have firm holds on starting jobs, aren't guaranteed to lead their respective units onto the field.

Even running back Jalen Hurd could see stiff competition from Alvin Kamara, though both will receive plenty of carries.

It's going to be a free-for-all for several spots, but a few position battles are setting up to be particularly interesting. Let's take a look at some open competitions and who should emerge as starters by the time UT travels to Nashville to take on Bowling Green on Sept. 5.

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Ohio State Football: Projecting Who Will Win Buckeyes' Open Starting Positions

Ohio State is set to return 15 starters for its national title defense this fall, but the departure of numerous veterans has Urban Meyer looking for replacements at wide receiver, defensive end and a pivotal cornerback spot. 

There's also a pretty intriguing quarterback quandary you may have heard about. 

A couple of the Buckeyes' openings were filled during spring practice. Raekwon McMillan secured the middle linebacker position that was vacated by Curtis Grant, and on offense, Nick Vannett stepped up as the lead tight end in place of Jeff Heuerman.

But fall camp will be a proving ground for a handful of important position battles. Which Buckeyes will rise up and secure a starting spot this fall? 

 

Quarterback

After leading Ohio State on an incredible postseason run through Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon to close out the 2015 season, and as the only healthy quarterback among Ohio State's three elite options this spring, many pegged Cardale Jones as the favorite to win the unprecedented quarterback battle. 

But if you ask Jones, he's not the one leading the race. The 6'5", 250-pound gunslinger told Austin Ward of ESPN.com that he still views himself as a third-stringer, and that he still has a ways to go before securing the starting spot.

"I’m working harder than ever," Jones said, via Ward. "I understand that I want to be the starting quarterback of this team, but I know I have two guys in front of me who are working just as hard."

That quote falls in line with a culture Meyer has built at Ohio State—that everything you get is earned, not given. Meyer also revealed during spring practice that he plans on naming the starter midway through fall camp.

Jones certainly won't be the third-stringer he views himself as now.

 

Winner: Cardale Jones

 

Right Tackle

With four starters returning to a unit that dominated down the stretch of the 2014 season, Ohio State's offensive line has the potential to be the best in the country this fall.

But that potential will only be reached if the Buckeyes can effectively replace the sole deflection of right tackle Darryl Baldwin.

The leader for that vacated spot coming out of spring is Chase Farris, a converted defensive lineman who backed Baldwin up during the 2014 season. He gained the edge over talented underclassman Jamarco Jones, who has bounced between right and left tackle as a Buckeye.

"Chase Farris will start if he continues to progress," Meyer said this spring, according to Ari Wasserman of the Plain Dealer.

 

Winner: Chase Farris

 

Wide Receiver

Perhaps the biggest loss the Buckeyes need to overcome is the departure of senior wideouts Devin Smith and Evan Spencer. 

Smith spent the previous four seasons as Ohio State's elite deep threat, while Spencer emerged as the Buckeyes' best perimeter blocker (a hugely important role in Meyer's offense) and one of the team's unquestioned leaders.

In their absence, the two players who stepped up this spring were Corey Smith and Noah Brown.

Corey Smith played sparingly in 2014, ranking fifth on the team with 220 receiving yards. He flashed in the CFP National Championship against Oregon, though, leading the team with 76 receiving yards on two catches, and three months later in the spring game, he broke out for 176 receiving yards and two touchdowns on just six catches.

Brown, though, made a bigger impression throughout spring practice. At 6'2" and 222 pounds, he has the size to be an effective blocker on the perimeter, but he also adds legitimate playmaking ability to the field as well.

"Noah Brown has had probably as good of a spring as I could've wanted," receivers coach Zach Smith said, according to Bill Landis of the Plain Dealer. "He's at a different level than he was in the fall. He's come a long way and still has a lot to do, but he looks like a guy who's going to contribute in the fall."

And while the Buckeyes are loaded at receiver with players such as Curtis Samuel, Johnnie Dixon, Parris Campbell and Jeff Greene, Corey Smith and Brown should rise to the occasion.

 

Corey Smith, Noah Brown

 

Defensive End

One of the things Ohio State lacked in 2014 was an effective counterpunch along the defensive line to complement Joey Bosa.

Noah Spence was supposed to be that guy, but a year-long suspension left the Buckeyes shorthanded at weak-side defensive end. And while Rashad Frazier and Steve Miller formed a suitable pair at the position, they didn't possess the pass-rushing ability that would've made Ohio State's defense elite.

Tyquan Lewis is trying to change that.

The redshirt sophomore had a fantastic spring, edging ahead of redshirt freshman Sam Hubbard for the starting spot. The competition is still open, according to Meyer, but Lewis flashed the ability that Ohio State desperately needed last season.

“Tyquan is having a great spring, really great spring,” defensive line coach Larry Johnson said, according to Tim Moody of the Lantern.

 

Winner: Tyquan Lewis

 

Nose Tackle

When defensive tackle Michael Bennett hit his stride last year, it changed the trajectory of Ohio State's season.

Bennett actually played the beginning of the season out of position, slotted as the nose tackle to allow Adolphus Washington to play the 3-technique. But when the two switched positions, Bennett dominated, finishing the final seven games with a team-high 11 tackles for loss.

His departure allowed Washington to slide back to his natural role at the 3-tech position, opening up a spot at nose tackle. And throughout spring practice, senior Tommy Schutt showed that he's ready for a starting role.

“(Schutt) has had a good spring, his best spring since he’s been here,” Meyer said, according to Tim Shoemaker of Eleven Warriors. "As of right now, he’d be the — him and Adolphus starting inside. As of right now. I’m not ready to say he’s the guy yet.”

Schutt will have to hold off guys such as Donovan Munger and Joel Hale, but he's definitely in the driver's seat heading into fall camp.

 

Winner: Tommy Schutt

 

Cornerback

One of Ohio State's most heated position battles came in the secondary for the open cornerback spot. 

The Buckeyes have good depth at the position, but for most of spring practice, it was a two-horse race between Gareon Conley and Damon Webb. 

Conley, who struggled at times during the '14 season—most notably on the road against Michigan State—brought a renewed confidence to the field this spring. 

“Last year, I’d go out there thinking about messing up,” Conley said, according to Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch. “Now it’s just going out there being confident that you won’t mess up. Not thinking about messing up, that’s what helps you be a good corner.”

That confidence gave him a lead over Webb and Marshon Lattimore, who surged as he got healthy during spring practice, but this will be a battle that wages well into fall camp. 

But in the end, expect Conley to be on top.

 

Winner: Gareon Conley

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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