NCAA Football News

Tennessee Football: Previewing 5 Biggest Position Battles Heading into Fall Camp

With more than 30 newcomers and few incumbents with firm grasps on their jobs from a season ago, the Tennessee Volunteers' fall practice is going to be one big free-for-all.

Position battles will ensue all over the field. While that is certainly healthy for competition, head coach Butch Jones no doubt wishes he had several more dependable stars.

No more than eight or nine Vols are sure bets to be starters. Everybody else must bring the intensity daily and elevate his play, or somebody talented and inexperienced will surge ahead.

A year ago, the urgency wasn't quite as pronounced for UT's players because there wasn't enough talent on the roster to generate real competition. Senior linebacker A.J. Johnson said at SEC media days last week, according to UTSports.com, that isn't the case anymore:

Some of the guys who came in early in the spring are already on beat, working, being vocal, just as though they've been here for 3 or 4 years. And the guys who just got here this summer, they've got their head down working each day. Some guys came in already knowing the whole defense and are ready to play. You can tell the way they are working, how much they put into their work. It's going to help us a lot. We've got older guys and we've got younger guys, so we've got competition. If you've got competition, everybody is going to go harder and play better.

Even though fans are going to be buzzing about freshmen such as Jalen Hurd and Josh Malone, they are at positions where they'll play a lot regardless of whether they start. There are much more important battles with unclear conclusions.

So, let's take a look at the top five position battles to watch in Knoxville this fall, ranked in order of importance by how much finding the right player will directly impact the team's success.

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ACC Media Days 2014: Top Highlights, Comments and Twitter Reaction from Day 1

For the first time since 2005, a conference other than the SEC won the BCS National Championship, as Florida State defeated Auburn a year ago, 34-31. Without question, that added to the buzz and excitement at this year's ACC Media Days.     

Of course, one of the stars of that game and last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, was the main attraction on Sunday. Winston, as you might imagine, attracted quite the throng of reporters.

Matt Fortuna of ESPN passed along the following picture on Instagram with the caption, "Just a bit of a turnout for this Jameis Winston fella (and PJ Williams) #FSU #Noles."

It didn't take Winston long to address the Seminoles' triumph in the championship contest, either, per Aaron Brenner of the Charleston Post and Courier:

As one might expect, some of his comments in that regard didn't go over as well with everyone, including Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press:

No cheering in the press box!

While Winston took his moment to reflect on the past achievements of the 2013 Florida State football team, he quickly turned to addressing the future:

He also addressed some interesting topics, like the hot topic of college athletes being paid, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

And he spoke about his baseball career, per Dan Wolken of USA Today:

He also touched on how baseball has potentially affected his throwing motion while playing quarterback and discussed making changes in that regard, which pleased Chris B. Brown of Grantland:

Finally, he told reporters he'll never shy away from being in the limelight:

Winston heads into the 2014 college football season as the face of the sport, so it's no surprise that he would also be the face of the ACC Media Days.

The real question will be whether he can replicate or better his 2013 campaign, when he threw for 4,057 yards, 40 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, completed 66.9 percent of his passes and ran for 219 yards and another four scores. 

It will be hard to top a season in which he won the Heisman and a national championship, of course. But if anybody is capable of doing so, it's Florida State's dynamic quarterback.

 

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Texas A&M Football: Previewing 5 Biggest Position Battles Heading into Fall Camp

The Texas A&M football team will start fall practice and its preparation for the 2014 season in two weeks. With a number of starting positions up for grabs, the 2014 fall practices should be spirited affairs. 

The Aggies return five starters on offense and seven on defense. A few of those starting spots were decided in spring, but some of them still remain open. 

The Texas A&M coaches need a few players to step up and have breakout years, especially on defense. How well these key positions are filled will determine the kind of 2014 season that the Aggies have. 

This is a look at the top position battles of the 2014 Texas A&M football team as it heads into fall camp. 

 

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Victor Davis Arrested: Latest Details, Mugshot and More on Texas A&M DB

Texas A&M freshman defensive back Victor Davis was arrested in Rosenberg, Texas, on suspicion of shoplifting at a local Kohl's, per Good Bull Hunting (via Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle).

The Rosenberg Police Department posted Davis' mugshot on Twitter along with five other alleged shoplifters who had been arrested in the last two weeks:

At the time of writing, the Aggies athletic department had yet to issue a formal statement, per Zwerneman.

While not a blue-chip recruit, Davis entered College Station with somewhat high expectations. According to 247Sports' composite ranking, the 3-star player was the 26th-best safety in the country and 481st-ranked player overall in the class of 2013.

According to Fox Sports Southwest's Anthony Andro, Davis was listed second in the depth chart at cornerback behind Deshazor Everett in Texas A&M's media-day depth chart. It's clear that head coach Kevin Sumlin envisioned the redshirt freshman playing at the very least a minor role for the 2014 season.

By itself, Davis' arrest wouldn't be a major cause for concern for Texas A&M. As Zwerneman pointed out, however, this isn't the first time an Aggies player has run afoul of the law under Sumlin:

The offseason transgressions of the A&M program under third-year coach Kevin Sumlin are multiple. Starting defensive tackle Isaiah Golden and starting linebacker Darian Claiborne were dismissed from the program in June following their arrests on charges of armed robbery. Starting senior defensive lineman Gavin Stansbury was arrested this spring on charges of assault on the Rice campus. He's fighting the charges.

Zwerneman also wrote that "half of Sumlin's starting defense was suspended for the Aggies' season-opening victory over Rice after various misdeeds in the previous offseason."

Sumlin spoke briefly about A&M's off-field problems in June, per Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News:

This most recent news will only strengthen the perception that the Aggies football program is failing to keep its players in line, whether that's a fair criticism or not.

Texas A&M opens its 2014 season on the road to South Carolina on Aug. 28.

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Jacob Eason to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 2016 5-Star QB Prospect

Just as the Georgia Bulldogs watch one great quarterback leave Athens, they welcome in one of the best passers in the class of 2016. Five-star QB Jacob Eason confirmed his commitment to the Bulldogs on Twitter Saturday night:

The 247Sports' composite ranking lists Eason as the second-best pro-style quarterback and 14th-best recruit overall for 2016.

He was the second high-profile commitment for Georgia on Saturday, with 5-star offensive tackle Ben Cleveland—ranked 22nd overall on 247Sports' composite ranking—heading to Athens as well. Like Eason, Cleveland announced his decision on Twitter, too:

Rivals.com's Mike Farrell thinks those two prep stars could lead to one of the best seasons in Georgia football for some time:

Between the two, Bulldogs fans have reason to look forward to the future. Eason in particular will get the Georgia faithful salivating. Logan Booker of BulldawgIllustrated.com thinks that the Lake Stevens, Washington, native will be the most prepared quarterback to arrive in Athens since Matthew Stafford:

Eason has a fantastic arm and accuracy to match, which is the much more important asset between the two. Plenty of QBs before have had cannons but couldn't consistently get the ball on target. Although Eason will have a learning curve and make mistakes early on, once he figures it out, the sky's the limit.

Eason's also an underrated scrambler. While not the next coming of Johnny Manziel, he's able to read the pass rush and move around in the pocket in order to buy himself some more time.

Mark Richt's come under some fire recently for Georgia's stagnation in the SEC, but with players such as Eason and Cleveland coming through the pipeline, he should certainly have bought himself some more time on the sideline.

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University of Miami Mascot Sebastian the Ibis Walks Bride Down the Aisle

It may not be traditional, but the Miami Hurricanes mascot Sebastian the Ibis made a bride's special day extra special when he stepped in to walk her down the aisle.

According to her Facebook page (h/t Lost Lettermen), Jennifer Sullivan lost her father and wanted to make her entrance special, so she was escorted by the mascot, who was wearing a jersey with her dad's nickname on the back.

[Lost Lettermen]

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A Scout's Take on the 2014 Wisconsin Badgers

I had another opportunity on Friday to talk with NFL scout Chris Landry on Steve Duemig's radio show, which was guest hosted by Ronnie Lane.

I wanted to get Landry's take on the 2014 Wisconsin Badgers football team, as well as how they will match up with the LSU Tigers, who they will take on in the opening game of the season on August 30 at Reliant Field in Houston.

Chris knows all about the LSU football program. Before becoming a scout, Landry was on the coaching staff for the Tigers in the 1980s. Landry also lives in the area.

The game with the Badgers and the Tigers will be a big test for both teams. In the updated divisional format in the Big Ten, the Badgers are now in the West division, which also includes Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue.

You will note that the East division has perennial powers Michigan and Ohio State in it, as well as last year's Big Ten and Rose Bowl champion Michigan State, plus there is Penn State, Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers.

It appears the Badgers caught quite a break being in the West. Not only that, but Wisconsin doesn't have to play Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan in 2014.

Landry talked about that set of circumstances:

The Big Ten has shifted. No more Leaders and Legions divisions. So quickly, it's East and West. And right now the strength is Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan.

Bob is right when he says that Wisconsin got a break. That's a pretty soft division when you look at it. Iowa is going to have their run every couple of years. Northwestern is going to be a tough out at times. I think Jerry Kill, God Bless him if he can stay healthy, has gotten the Minnesota program better.

Illinois and Purdue are a long ways away. So it's Nebraska and Wisconsin. It's a two-team race and if they struggle, then that's going to bring in Iowa, Minnesota or Northwestern into the picture.

The Badgers will have an opportunity to have a special season in 2014. They have a favorable Big Ten schedule, plus they get to play Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium

Besides their game against LSU, the Badgers will also take on Western Illinois, Bowling Green and South Florida in non-conference games.

That's why a win against a quality opponent like LSU could really jump-start the season for the Badgers.

Landry gave me his overall view of Wisconsin:

Wisconsin is going to be good again. Their offensive line is going to continue to be good. They are going to run the football. Melvin Gordon is an outstanding running back. If he plays well early, particularly against LSU, then he'll be a Heisman candidate.

I think this is going to be a physical run-team. They are going to miss Jared Abbrederis, and they are going to miss tight end Jacob Pedersen.

Wisconsin defensively, they are one of the few teams that run a 30-front (3-4). They are going a little bit quicker and a little bit more athletic. I like what Gary Andersen is doing there.

When the Badgers take on LSU to begin the season, they will be taking on a team that won national championships as recently as 2003 and 2007. In addition to that, the Tigers play in the best conference in college football in the SEC, plus they have to play in the West division of that conference, which features teams like Alabama and Auburn.

So, how does Landry see the Wisconsin-LSU contest?

It's going to be difficult for both LSU and Wisconsin to have a lot of success passing, but the one who can throw it a little bit better is going to win that game.

I think it's going to be a really good game. LSU is not right now settled at quarterback. I think Brandon Harris is going to wind up winning that job, and he's a true freshman. Anthony Jennings might win it because he's got some experience, not much, but a little bit.

They are going back to be a running-football team again. They lose their two great receivers. They lose the quarterback who can throw it. But they are going to be running and working on the defense. LSU is a little more athletic and I expect them to win. But I expect that game is going to be a lot closer than most people think.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

ACC Media Days 2014: Full Schedule, Live Stream and Participants

For the first time since 2000, the Atlantic Coast Conference will begin the college football season with the reigning national champion in its ranks.

Just like back then, the Florida State Seminoles are the team defending their title. All eyes will be on Heisman trophy winner and Noles' starting quarterback Jameis Winston. He will attempt to lead his team to another title, and perhaps a second-straight Heisman.

Winston is one of the player representatives who will be on hand for the ACC Media Days on Sunday, July 20 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Winston will be joined by Florida State defensive back P.J. Williams. Here's a list of the other players and coaches who will be available to the media during the two-day event.

ACC Media Days can be seen via live stream on the ACC Digital Network.

 

Schedule of Coverage Sunday, July 2012:30 p.m.Commissioner's Forum2:00-6:00 p.m. Student-Athletes Interviews
2:00 p.m. Virginia, Kevin Parks and Anthony Harris
2:15 p.m. Duke, Laken Tomlinson and Kelby Brown
2:30 p.m. Clemson, Cole Stoudt and Vic Beasley
2:45 p.m. North Carolina, Marquise Williams and Norkeithus Otis
3:00 p.m. Florida State, Jameis Winston and P.J. Williams
3:15 p.m. Wake Forest, Jordan Garside and Kevin Johnson
3:30 p.m. Boston College, Andy Gallik and Dominique Williams
3:56 p.m. NC State, Tony Creecy and Art Norman
4:11 p.m. Virginia Tech, Willie Byrn and Luther Maddy
4:26 p.m. Georgia Tech, Shaquille Mason and Quayshawn Nealy
5:01 p.m. Pitt, Tyler Boyd and Ray Vinopal
5:16 p.m. Miami, Duke Johnson and Denzel Perryman
5:31 p.m. Louisville, DeVante Parker and Lorenzo Mauldin
5:46 p.m. Syracuse, Sean Hickey and Cameron Lynch Monday, July 211:00 p.m.Preseason Media Poll and Preseason Player of the Year Announced2-6 p.m. Coaches Interviews
2:00 p.m. North Carolina, Larry Fedora
2:15 p.m. Virginia, Mike London
2:30 p.m. Wake Forest, Dave Clawson
3:10 p.m. Boston College, Steve Addazio
3:25 p.m. Duke, David Cutcliffe
3:40 p.m. Florida State, Jimbo Fisher
3:55 p.m. NC State, Dave Doeren
4:10 p.m. Miami, Al Golden
4:25 p.m. Pitt, Paul Chryst
4:40 p.m. Syracuse, Scott Shafer
4:55 p.m. Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson
5:10 p.m. Louisville, Bobby Petrino
5:25 p.m. Virginia Tech, Frank Beamer
5:40 p.m. Clemson, Dabo Swinney Wednesday, July 2311:00 a.m.2014 Preseason All-ACC team announced

 

Potential Highlights 

Winston's Interview

Will someone actually have the gall to ask Winston about crab legs? Probably not, but it seems a given that his offseason issues may come up during the 15-minute interview.

Aside from the unfortunate shoplifting incident, Winston also competed for the Noles' baseball team. He clearly has a lot to talk about. His time with the media should be interesting.

 

Fisher's Interview

Generally, Fisher is fairly quotable and prophetic. At the 2010 ACC Media Days, Fisher said this per Seminoles.com:

"That's why I wanted the Florida State job. hat's why I waited and turned down other opportunities because I wanted a place where I thought we could win it all. I know we're not there yet but we have a chance in the future if we do things right."

You have to love when a plan comes together. Unless of course you're Auburn.

 

Petrino Back Again

Bobby Petrino is back for his third stint as a coach with the Louisville Cardinals. He was an offensive coordinator for the program in 1998. He left for the NFL.

Petrino returned to take the head coaching job in 2003. He lasted until 2006 when he again tried his hand at the pro game. After stumbling through another stint in the NFL, and dealing with some self-inflicted personal issues, Petrino is again the man on the sidelines for the Cardinals.

Not everyone is enthused that Petrino was rehired. The panel for CBS Sports' Pre-Show tore into the hiring and Petrino.

It'll be interesting to hear what he has to say on Monday.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What 2015 QB Recruit Sam Darnold's Commitment to USC Means for Trojans

The mystery man of this recruiting class is staying in Southern California.

Quarterback Sam Darnold, a San Clemente High School prospect with fewer than 800 career varsity passing yards, committed to USC on Friday. The Tritons football program announced his decision on Twitter:

Darnold, a 6'4", 208-pound prospect, missed the majority of his junior season while recovering from a foot injury that required surgery. Utah extended a scholarship following a sophomore season that saw him play tight end, quarterback and linebacker, but after being sidelined in September he wondered what would happen to his college recruitment.

"Getting hurt early in my junior year was definitely tough to deal with since I thought I could pick up some offers during the season," Darnold said earlier this month. "It was really hard for me to miss seven games."

Despite the disheartening development, Darnold managed to put together a quality highlight reel in just three starts. He completed 63 percent of his passes for 337 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, per MaxPreps.

Due to his large physique, Darnold may not look like a rushing threat when you first lay eyes on him, but his game tape proves otherwise.

He averaged nine yards per carry, gaining 322 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Darnold devastated defenders with a hard-nosed, north-south running style that should make him a dynamic force in the red zone.

His athleticism is also apparent on the basketball court where he was the Sea View League MVP as a sophomore. Darnold returned from the foot injury in impressive fashion, tallying 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in his first game back after missing the season's first 10 contests.

A blend of strength and agility progressively vaulted Darnold up 247Sports' composite rankings. He is rated the ninth-best dual-threat quarterback in the country.

Impressive performances at regional camps earlier this year earned Darnold an invitation to the Elite 11 finals in Beaverton, Oregon. He attended the event last week and proved his limited track record shouldn't prevent him from being considered a top-tier prospect at the position.

"I've done my best to work on everything I can as a quarterback to prepare for this fall," Darnold said after an Elite 11 session. "I'm trying to step my game up and see where I can go from here."

During the revered camp, Darnold received tutelage from Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer, along with current and recent college standouts like Blake Bortles, Bryce Petty and Everett Golson. He anticipates a strong senior season once he finally returns to live game action.

"You'll see cleaner mechanics, especially after being at the Elite 11," Darnold said. "I think my decision-making is going to improve and really just understanding how to attack defenses."

He flashed a strong arm and solid accuracy in Oregon, earning respect from fellow quarterbacks and top receiver recruits. Ricky Town was among those quarterback contemporaries throughout the week.

The 5-star prospect from Ventura, Calif. committed to USC in January. He previously pledged to Alabama before backing off that verbal pact to join the Trojans.

Town plays the position with a style that contrasts Darnold. He is far more polished from a mechanical standpoint, particularly when it comes to footwork.

However, he is strictly a pro-style pocket passer. Town is able to deliver passes on the run to buy himself time and can gain chunks of yardage on the ground when necessary, but he doesn't compare to Darnold when it comes to giving defenses something to stress about as a rusher.

FOX Sports reporter Greg Biggins noted the newest USC commit doesn't seem phased by Town's presence:

Darnold, who landed a USC offer in late June, hadn't discussed the circumstances with Town through two days of Elite 11 action.

"I haven't brought it up to Ricky yet, but I want to talk about it with him while we're out here together," Darnold said on July 7. "I want to find out where he stands with the coaches and how he feels about the situation at USC."

It's certainly an element of the 2015 recruiting cycle that will be discussed at length as national signing day approaches. The Trojans now carry two Elite 11 quarterbacks in a class that ranks 10th nationally in 247Sports' composite team ratings.

Town, a long-established national prospect who committed to the defending national champions before his junior year, then made in-state fans rejoice by jumping from Alabama to USC's burgeoning bandwagon.

Darnold, an under-the-radar, seldom-seen recruit, rose to prominence this spring and stunningly collected offers from the likes of Tennessee, Northwestern and Oregon without totaling double-digit touchdown passes in his high school career.

It's certainly an intriguing new storyline to follow as first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian begins to make his mark on the storied program.

 

Recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: 5 Toughest Players Longhorns Will Face in 2014

Football season is a little more than a month away, and the Texas Longhorns will need to prepare for the talent they will face in 2014.

Head coach Charlie Strong's team has a decent number of questions that will need to be answered soon in order to keep up with the competition.

According to CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm, the Longhorns' schedule is the toughest in the Big 12. Nonconference opponents BYU and UCLA will be no walk in the park, and many of Texas' conference opponents have returning starters who have a history of producing against the Longhorns.

Here's a look at the five toughest players the Longhorns will face in 2014.

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Bold Predictions for Top College Football Freshmen in 2014

It was a good year for blue-chip true freshmen in 2013.

Of the top 22 players on the 247Sports composite rankings, 18 saw at least a fair amount of playing time—everyone except for Reuben Foster, Matthew Thomas, Kenny Bigelow and Max Browne—and appear to be on track for nice college careers.

Further down the list of top 50 overall prospects, players such as Alabama defensive end A'Shawn Robinson, Ole Miss safety Tony Conner, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Arkansas running back Alex Collins also flashed signs of nascent superstardom.

In order to enjoy such a promising freshman season, a player must have a mix of talent, opportunity and health. Those were some of the factors in constructing this list, which takes a look at 2014's top prospects and attempts to predict the unexpected.

Keep in mind that not all of these are actually likely. Otherwise they wouldn't be bold. But they aren't exactly far-fetched, either.

In the case of true freshmen, it's always hard to tell.

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Notre Dame Football: Freshman Jonathan Bonner Was the World's Best Eighth Grader

When Jonathan Bonner signed with Notre Dame, it didn't give the Irish much of a bump in the recruiting rankings.

A 3-star prospect from Missouri, Bonner only checked in at 599th on the 247 Sports composite rankings. While he had offers from the home-state Tigers and Michigan State, his offer and commitment after attending the Irish summer camp raised a few eyebrows. 

But Bonner was a late-bloomer on the football field. He was named the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, and a first-team All-State player. 

Yet upon signing Bonner, Notre Dame's staff was incredibly impressed by not just the player on the field, but the student-athlete off of it. Veteran defensive coach Bob Elliott had this to say about Bonner, per Notre Dame Football's site. 

This is one of the great stories in my 35-year college career. As we were walking back to our car, Coach Kelly and Jonathan in front and I was behind with the parents and coaches. As we turned down the hall and around the corner, we came right by the lunch room. And in the lunch room of his high school Parkway Central, there were probably 300 kids eating at the time. And when they saw Jon walking around the corner with Coach Kelly, they all stood up and applauded for Jon Bonner. It was maybe the most impressive thing I've ever seen, a testament to a kid who is so highly respected and loved in his school.

Yet more impressive than anything Bonner has done on the field is a letter he wrote himself in the eighth grade. Part crystal ball, part maturity and wisdom beyond words, Bonner shared the typed letter he sent himself on the eve of high school and posted it on Twitter

Dear self, 

This is you from eighth grade. I hope you're doing okay. Off to college, huh? You better be. Think about how much freedom you'll have. You've grown up and now you're off on your own. You have a lot to look forward to. 

It's almost the end of your eighth grade school year. Right now you were looking forward to summer, high school, and the biggest thing, football. You need to get either that TE or DE position. Did you get it? Right now what you don't what being a freshman will be like but you are anxious. Hopefully you played hard enough to go off to Notre Dame. If not, you better at least be going off to college. 

In college there are some things you must avoid. First off, stay away from drugs and alcohol. If you have touched a drug I consider you a failure and you better change now or you are wasting your life. Same thing with alcohol, it will make you do stupid stuff and you will end up in bad situations. Second, stay away from knuckleheads (words from mom). They will get you into trouble. Finally, try to stay away from weapons. The only reason you should be using one is if you are going off into the army or you are in physical threat. DON'T LOOK FOR REVENGE! Use your hands if necessary. This should also be a last resort. 

Here are some things you need to work hard at. First and most importantly, school. You will not get anywhere without it. Second off, work hard at football so, you can get yourself off to the NFL and make some money. You must also be respectful and responsibility to others and they will do the same to you. Your main goal is just to succeed. 

Someone you need to be nice to is your sister. At this age in eighth grade she means everything to you and if you have lost her, you have lost yourself. You need her almost as much as you need yourself. She has been there for everything and your entire life so don't even try to bail on her. Who knows? You may need her someday. 

As you should see you have grown and you have a lot of life left. Make it worthwhile and don't screw up. 

Yours Literally, 

Jonathan Bonner

Bonner might not turn into an All-American at the college level. But that doesn't mean he's not the perfect role model. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from SEC Media Days

SEC media days are over. And Les Miles, yet again, was one of the brightest stars of the show. 

Miles gave updates on all three of his kids, "Smacker," Manny and Macy, multiple times throughout the day before briefing the media. He also shared his affinity for the World Cup and New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter's performance in the MLB All-Star Game.

Miles' also shared a story of a family vacation to Austin, Texas. He said conditions were not ideal. 

"It was miserable. I hated it. But we it was great fun. I meant, it was not a beach, it was not sand, but it was my family, and that was the best," said Miles.

But Miles and three of his seniors, left tackle La'el Collins, linebacker D.J. Welter and running back Terrence Magee, also addressed topics regarding their football team. Overall, there was no breaking news to share, but there were some interesting comments regarding the 2014 Tigers.

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Wisconsin Football: 4 Backups Critical to Wisconsin's Success in 2014

With so many departures from last year's Wisconsin football team, depth becomes something of an issue throughout the team.  As the Badgers' talent level continues to increase, who fills in those key backup spots will be important as they look to improve off last year's 9-4 season.

With a lot of the starting spots still up for grabs, let's take a look at four players without a home in the starting lineup that will be vital to the Badgers' success if they are to return to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship and potentially progress to the inaugural playoff.

 

DE Alec James

While Alec James may be the odd man out when it comes to a starting spot, his skill set as either a linebacker or on the end will prove extremely valuable for the Badgers this season.  Both him and Chikwe Obasih are incredibly talented and will prove a formidable tandem going down the road, but for this season, James can provide the type of pressure defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is looking for.

James was highly touted out of high school. A 3-star player out of Brookfield, Wisconsin, he held offers from a number of top programs, choosing to stay in-state over Oregon.

If James can rotate in along the line and provide some hurries on the quarterback to go along with strong run support, he will quickly find himself in the situation that Tyler Dippel was in as the third defensive end that played as much as the starter.

 

WR Robert Wheelwright

Robert Wheelwright could find himself on the outside to start the season; however, injuries throughout the spring will probably hold him back from taking that role.  With that being said, Wheelwright is far and away the most talented of the returning receivers.

Wheelwright had two catches last season for nine yards, and with a dearth of proven receivers, he will show in due time that he can be a solid option for whomever ends up at quarterback—whether it's Joel Stave or Tanner McEvoy.

Depth at this position will become even more important with the report that both Chris Jones and Dareian Watkins will not join the team due to various reasons, as per Benjamin Worgull of Scout.com:

 

TE Austin Traylor

With the departures of Jacob Pedersen and Brian Wozniak, both of whom currently find themselves vying for a spot on the Atlanta Falcons, the depth at the tight end position will be tested this season.  Sam Arneson will likely be the starting tight end, leaving Austin Traylor as the key backup at this position.

The Badgers employ quite a few two-tight end sets, and Traylor is certainly in line to pick up his first career grab.  The 3-star recruit looked pretty good in the spring and has the frame at 6'3", 243 pounds, to provide a big body and a good target in the passing game.

 

CB Devin Gaulden

With the departure of Nate Hammon, depth in the secondary could be a concern, but at cornerback, the Badgers have depth beyond their wildest dreams.  Sitting behind the dynamic duo of Sojourn Shelton and Darius Hillary is Devin Gaulden.

Gaulden has struggled with injuries, tearing his ACL in 2012 and sitting out 2013; however, throughout the spring, Gaulden looked like one of the best and most experienced players on the field.  Gaulden in the nickelback role, where he can both line up in coverage and as a blitzing corner on the edge, will be an invaluable asset to the Badgers defense.

 

Recruiting star rankings and information via 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football: Which Trojans Must Step Up on Defense to Stop Uptempo Offenses

A point of pride for USC in 2013 was overcoming its limited numbers. The toll of NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions, combined with the typical build-up of injuries during a season, left the Trojans' roster thin. 

The number 13 is now etched in USC lore, roughly equivalent to the 300 of Sparta. Thirteen is the number of defenders USC played in its upset of then-No. 5 Stanford last November—and as Reign of Troy notes via Twitter, the Trojans' ranks were actually closer to 12 that night: 

Playing such a truncated rotation just isn't feasible for an entire season. Head coach Steve Sarkisian is implementing an uptempo offense that promises to keep the Trojans defense on the field longer than the 26:56 it averaged a season ago. 

More importantly, USC needs both depth and strong performances from its starting defense to contain the Pac-12's hurry-up opponents. After all, Stanford has become something of an anomaly by continuing to huddle.

Even the Trojans spurned the traditional strategy, joining Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, UCLA and Washington State among the Pac-12's uptempo ranks. Sarkisian also introduced a similar philosophy a season ago at Washington. 

Such systems have presented the Trojans with problems in recent years. Pac-12 South foes Arizona State and UCLA combined to score 97 points against USC, resulting in two of its losses. 

 

CBs Kevon Seymour and Josh Shaw 

In 2014, the Trojans face four of the five teams with the most pass attempts in the Football Bowl Subdivision a season ago. Three—California, Fresno State and Washington State—play an uptempo style. 

USC fared well defensively against all three last season, but a thin rotation of defensive backs must be ready for a peppering of passes once again in the coming season. 

USC has some of the top secondary talent in the Pac-12 with safety Su'a Cravens and the cornerback tandem of Kevon Seymour and Josh Shaw. The issue for the Trojans isn't the quality, but rather the quantity. 

Depth at cornerback in particular could be an area of concern. Josh Shaw moved to cornerback from safety to address the issue and performed admirably. His four interceptions a season ago were tied for second most on the team.

Seymour is developing into a potential shutdown-style cornerback on the other side.     

Behind them, however, the outlook is murky. Anthony Brown moved to running back, and incoming prospect Adoree' Jackson's role is unknown. Jackson was a star recruit at cornerback, but could play wide receiver. 

With the Trojans boasting one of the stingiest rush defenses in the Pac-12, opponents must test the secondary. That means both Seymour and Shaw will get quite a workout throughout the 2014 campaign. 

 

DT Delvon Simmons

Stopping the run is critical to USC containing the conference's uptempo offenses, and the Trojans need Texas Tech transfer Delvon Simmons to emerge up front. 

New defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox told Caroline Deisley for USCTrojans.com that Simmons made considerable strides during spring workouts:

Delvon has improved daily, and he's played obviously in college football before, but I think he's a guy who will continue to develop and get better and better. He just needs to continue to develop fundamentally, but I think he's a guy that can definitely help us.

Simmons is a big body capable of plugging gaps. Last season against uptempo teams, the Trojans were at their best when meeting ball-carriers at the line, thus forcing opponents to abandon the run early. Simmons could play an integral part in that process now that he's eligible after a mandatory redshirt season.  

 

LB Scott Starr 

The injury bug plagued Scott Starr for much of his USC career, but a clean bill of health in 2014 could make him a key for the Trojans pass rush.

Starr explained the benefit of a healthy offseason to Keely Eure of Annenberg TV News:   

To have a full offseason [for the first time] since I've been at SC, it's proven to be very helpful. I can have a full offseason [strength] coach Ivan [Lewis] to get stronger in the weight room and be out here [on the practice field to practice my technique. 

Starr shined in the Trojans' spring game. He has positive momentum on which to build in preseason camp and could challenge J.R. Tavai for a starting job. But no matter his place on the depth chart, Starr's ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks is crucial with Wilcox implementing a new, 3-4 base scheme. 

Starr must also be able to drop back into pass coverage, a key trait Devon Kennard brought to the position a year ago. 

 

Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com

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Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema Appears to Be a Fan of Bijhon Jackson's Body

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema may have given us the best sports quote of the year during a media session Wednesday. 

When talking about freshman defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson, Bielema had nothing but good things to say about the player—or at least his body. The Razorbacks coach's quote definitely makes for an awesome Vine.

Arkansas players should be able to have some fun with both Bielema and Jackson about that fantastic quote.

Warning: Vine contains NSFW language.

[Vine]

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Ohio State Football: Urban Meyer's 5 Breakout Players to Watch in 2014

The notion that Urban Meyer is obsessed with speed is more of a fact than it is an opinion. A year ago, I was watching high school prospects run 40-yard dashes at Ohio State's summer camp when a recruiting reporter turned to me following a particularly impressive showing.

"Urban's not going to be able to help himself," the reporter said with a smile.

No more than 10 minutes later, wide receiver Terry McLaurin had a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes.

But while Meyer's need for speed may be the worst-kept secret in Columbus, circumstances have diverted the attention of the third-year Ohio State head coach elsewhere for the foreseeable future. Because after the Buckeyes' disastrous defensive showing in 2013, it's clear that it's been "D" and not speed that's been on Meyer's mind lately.

So much so that when Meyer was asked to name a few breakout players for the upcoming season two weeks ago, the first three that came to mind were from the defensive side of the ball. Sure, some offensive options followed, but when it comes to what Meyer has had his eyes on this offseason, the message was clear: Beware of the Buckeyes defensive backfield.

What follows are the five (really, six) players Meyer mentioned when asked which Buckeyes will have breakthrough seasons in 2014.

 

Vonn Bell

A former 5-star prospect, as per 247 sports, Vonn Bell served as one of the headliners of Ohio State's highly touted 2013 class. A rangy safety with a knack for making the big play, Bell chose to play for the Buckeyes over the likes of Alabama and Tennessee.

But when the Rossville, Georgia native showed up in Columbus, his immediate impact was minimal. As Ohio State struggled to the nation's 76th-ranked pass defense, Bell predominately watched from the sideline, with the majority of his presence being made on special teams.

That all changed in the Orange Bowl, however, when Meyer decided that he had seen enough from the old guard and inserted the true freshman into the Buckeyes' starting lineup. Facing Clemson's pass-happy offensive attack, Bell responded admirably, recording seven tackles and an interception in his starting lineup debut.

Bell appeared to have the Buckeyes starting free safety spot locked up heading into the offseason before an MCL injury kept him out of the majority of OSU's spring football session. He'll battle with classmate Cameron Burrows come training camp, but all indications are that Bell will be given every chance to realize his seemingly limitless potential on the Buckeyes defense this fall.

 

Doran Grant

While Bell will attempt to bring something new to his unit, Doran Grant will try to bring something better. The cornerback from St. Vincent-St. Mary endured an up-and-down junior season in 2013, but Meyer has been given reason to believe that Grant's senior season could be something special.

"Doran Grant has been the most impressive guy in spring and summer workouts from what I'm hearing," Meyer said at his annual youth football camp in July.

A big senior season from Grant would provide an obvious boost to the Buckeyes, which are now without first-round pick Bradley Roby at the cornerback position. That means that the ultra-athletic Grant will have plenty of chances to show the strides he's made, as he'll often match up with opposing teams' top receivers.

 

Tyvis Powell

Regardless of whether it's Bell or Burrows starting at free safety for the Buckeyes, they'll have an experienced running mate in strong safety Tyvis Powell. Ohio State's nickelback a season ago, Powell recorded 48 tackles, one interception and defended three passes in his redshirt freshman campaign.

But the Bedford, Ohio native provided Ohio State with perhaps its most important moment of the 2013 season. With 32 seconds left on the clock in Ann Arbor, it was Powell who intercepted what would have been a go-ahead two-point conversion in the annual Michigan game, preserving the Buckeyes' undefeated season in the process.

The big play clearly instilled a newfound confidence in Powell, as evidenced by his impressive sophomore spring. Meyer said that you can go ahead and etch his name in the starting lineup with ink for the fall and expects big plays to be the norm from the big 6'3", 205-pound Buckeyes safety.

 

Jeff Heuerman/Nick Vannett

It's an annual tradition in Columbus: hyping up Ohio State's tight end position in the preseason and receiving minimal returns from it in the fall. But both Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett showed enough last season to prove that this year will be different as Meyer aims to add flexibility to his spread attack.

"We have two really good tight ends," Meyer said. "We're not a big (two-tight end team), but we will be."

Last season, Heuerman was the Buckeyes' third-leading receiver with 26 catches for 466 yards and four touchdowns. Playing more sparingly, Vannett added eight catches for 80 yards and a score in 2013.

Both big bodied and capable blockers, Heuerman and Vannett will only see their respective roles increase with the departure of leading receiver Corey "Philly" Brown from last year's squad. Heuerman has already proven to be one of Braxton Miller's favorite targets but should be featured more prominently as a senior, while Vannett could slide into Heuerman's old role as the Buckeyes' de facto safety valve.

 

Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott, the sophomore running back from St. Louis, Missouri, has been chosen by many as a breakout player for the Buckeyes, and Meyer apparently agrees. He only saw limited playing time as a freshman behind Big Ten Running Back of the Year Carlos Hyde, but when he was on the field, he showed both the size and the speed that made him one of Ohio State's top recruiting targets in 2013.

Appearing in seven games as a running back a season ago, the true freshman rushed for 262 yards and two touchdowns on just 30 attempts. That may not be enough of a sample size to truly judge how effective Elliott can be at the college level, but the fact that he has already managed to jump elders Rod Smith, Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball on the Buckeyes depth chart is telling.

He may not have a stranglehold on Ohio State's starting running back spot just yet, but that shouldn't be the case for long. Having added 15 pounds of muscle since the end of his freshman season (now up to 225 pounds), look for Elliott to provide the dynamic of speed and power in the Buckeyes backfield that Meyer so desperately covets.

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4 Issues We Would Love Oregon's Mark Helfrich to Address at Pac-12 Media Days

For Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, the 2013 season was about settling in and getting a feel for his new role. His second year is more about putting his own signature on the Ducks after following the tough act of predecessor Chip Kelly.

"When you go through something more than once, you better be more efficient and better," Helfrich said on the coaches teleconference call in May, via Pac-12.com

Helfrich is through his second spring practice season, and next week in Hollywood is another major milestone: Helfrich's second Pac-12 media days.

The coming campaign is one of high potential and high expectations for Helfrich's Ducks. Oregon is a popular pick for the new College Football Playoff, but qualifying likely means Helfrich winning his first Pac-12 championship. 

Media days should offer insight into the Ducks' preparation for the season and continued acclimation to their no-longer-so-new leader.

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Alabama Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from SEC Media Days

Alabama's turn finally came on Day 4 of 2014 SEC media days, and with only Kentucky—a team that hasn't won a league game since 2011—in the room during their session, the Tide had the lion's share of the spotlight to themselves.

Nick Saban and his three carefully selected players held court in their home state after what has been an interesting offseason. Most of the players on this team are used to ending the season with a national championship trophy—not a humbling loss in the Sugar Bowl.

With another No. 1 recruiting class and a controversial new offensive coordinator (to put it lightly) joining the program in 2014, there was no shortage of things to talk about in Hoover Thursday afternoon.

Here are some highlights from the session.

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Brandon Kennedy Commits to Alabama: What 4-Star OG Brings to Tide

Alabama beefed up its offensive line again Friday morning, adding a fourth 4-star commitment to its ranks. Brandon Kennedy, an in-state 2015 standout, chose the Crimson Tide over Auburn during an announcement ceremony at Wetumpka High School:

The 6'2.5", 295-pound prospect provides Nick Saban with yet another option in his expansive arsenal of elite blockers. Kennedy, rated 16th nationally among offensive guards in 247Sports' composite rankings, pledged to the program one month after receiving an offer while attending a camp in Tuscaloosa.

He landed an Auburn offer the same day, setting the stage for the latest skirmish in a series of recruiting showdowns between the bitter SEC rivals. The teams routinely go toe-to-toe for Alabama's top talent.

Alabama gained an edge in this battle thanks in large part to offensive line coach Mario Cristobal, who continues to emerge as a highly effective recruiter.

"It was good to talk to (Cristobal)," Kennedy told Charles Power of 247Sports (subscription required). "He's always fired up and intense. Great guy."

Cristobal is in an enviable position when it comes to depth along the offensive line.

Kennedy joins fellow 4-star Crimson Tide commits Richie Petitbon, Dallas Warmack and Lester Cotton in a class listed No. 1 overall in 247Sports' composite team rankings.

Alabama welcomed five freshman offensive linemen to campus this summer, including four 4-stars and top-ranked 2014 tackle Cameron Robinson. Dating back to 2013, Saban has secured commitments from 10 4-star offensive linemen and two 5-stars.

Clearly, Kennedy isn't afraid to compete for playing time.

He projects as a stout interior lineman who is already a polished run-blocker. His hand placement is consistent and he's quick to get his paws on an opponent, gaining immediate leverage.

Kennedy doesn't rely on his size to do the work for him, persistently pushing defenders downfield with a strong base. It's also important to note his aggressiveness, which shines on game film and provides an indication that he's intent on finishing off plays through the whistle.

He displays enough short-area quickness to disengage from his initial assignment in time to take out a linebacker or safety at the second level. Kennedy's biggest improvement must come as a pass-blocker, but he'll have the benefit of spending at least a few seasons polishing his overall technique as a reserve.

Alabama could implement Kennedy as a center or guard at the next level, depending on roster needs.

Wetumpka head coach Tim Perry praised his diligence.

"He works hard and is very coachable," Perry told John Talty of AL.com. "He's a very conscientious athlete. He wants to improve, pushes himself and does everything that you ask him to do."

That effort earned Kennedy a vast collection of offers that includes Clemson, Louisville, Tennessee and Ole Miss.

The Tide have now landed four pledges this week. Kennedy joins 4-star 2016 prospects Shyheim Carter (cornerback), Demetris Robertson (athlete) and Benito Jones (defensive tackle) as new additions.

 

Recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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