NCAA Football News

Texas Football: Longhorns Who Need to Be More Involved in Offense

Charlie Strong and his staff have come under fire for a Texas Longhorns offense that laid a proverbial egg in 2014. Feeding the ball to players like Armanti Foreman and Johnathan Gray will help their fortunes in their second season.

Due to the graduations of John Harris, Jaxon Shipley and Malcolm Brown, the Horns will have to replace their top two receivers and leading rusher from last season.

As if that wasn't enough, this staff will also have a serious quarterback competition on its hands after Tyrone Swoopes bombed at the end of the season. In all likelihood, the end result of that process will be yet another quarterback taking the snaps.

To ease that process, the Longhorns need to feed their most explosive players and involve a position that has been uninvolved for the past seven seasons.

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CFB Recriting 200: Top 12 Interior Offensive Linemen

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report recruiting analysts Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports Composite Rankings and provided in-depth analysis. As national signing day draws near, Bleacher Report provides a position-by-position breakdown of the best college football recruits. Today, we present the Top Interior Lineman

 

They may not be the most flashy players on the field, but offensive linemen keep things moving forward. The men in the middle can make or break an attack based on their play in the trenches. 

We broke down each guard and center who appears among the top 200 prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings, organized in order of their rating. Our Bleacher Report college football recruiting analysts also chimed in with scores of their own, grading on a 100-point scale for strength, explosion, pass protection and run blocking based on film study.

 

*All prospects studied and graded by Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue.

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UCLA Football Recruiting: Latest Musings for the Bruins

Although the college football postseason has ended, an entirely new season is just beginning.

National signing day is less than three weeks away. For recruiting junkies, it's essentially a prolonged holiday season mixed in with mystery and intrigue.

The UCLA football team has a potentially exciting next few weeks to look forward to. As it currently stands, the Bruins are in on upward of 10 prospects—and have a legitimate shot at ending up with a top-five class nationally.

The latest storylines of the 2015 recruiting cycle for Jim Mora's team are this weekend's official visitors and the recent developments at tight end.

 

Official visitors this weekend

Per Tracy Pierson of BruinReportOnline.com (subscription required), UCLA is hosting four visitors on campus this upcoming weekend.

Two of the prospects visiting—3-star linebacker Victor Alexander and 3-star athlete Octavius Spencer—are committed to the Bruins. The other official visitors are wide receivers Tony Brown and Carlos Strickland.

The Bruins are hoping their success in Texas can continue with Strickland. The 4-star Dallas native recently decommitted from Texas Tech and is in all likelihood down to UCLA and Texas.

Strickland fits the mold of the typical UCLA wide receiver. He's a bigger target at 6'4", and he is capable of blocking downfield—a staple for receivers on screens to the perimeter. 

Brown is a local prospect from La Mirada High School. Interestingly enough, he is committed to Texas Tech. However, a good visit to the hometown school could force Brown into staying close to home.

He's an interesting prospect from the standpoint that he can play as both a receiver and a defensive back. This type of versatility surely appeals to UCLA.

 

Madness at the tight end position

Tight end doesn't traditionally offer a ton of excitement or intrigue from a recruiting standpoint. However, UCLA is spurning that trend considerably in 2015.

Alize Jones, a 5-star tight end, has decommitted from UCLA and has since switched his commitment to Notre Dame. Jones had been committed to the Bruins since 2013 and is a considerable talent—ranked as the No. 2 tight end nationally.

It's a strange turn of events for the Bruins.

Even with Jones (loosely) committed for months, it didn't stop UCLA from pursuing the No. 1 tight end in the country in Chris Clark. One look at Clark's Twitter page will give anyone an indication as to how interested he is in the Bruins.

Clark is essentially down to UCLA and Michigan. He will visit the Wolverines this weekend, and he will end his official-visit slate with a trip to Westwood the following weekend.

Both Jones and Clark are dissimilar as players—with Clark appearing to be a better fit for UCLA's offense. While no one disputes Jones' ability and talent as a football player, he often plays as a bigger receiver. UCLA has players on its current roster (Thomas Duarte, Austin Roberts and Alex Van Dyke) with similar attributes.

Clark is more in the mold of a traditional, brutish tight end.

There's no one on the roster with his skill set or size. He'd give UCLA a bigger option at the position, which would undoubtedly help on running plays with his blocking ability. Clark's prowess as a pass-catcher would also help UCLA's offense in the red zone—and on throws over the middle of the field.

It's bizarre to think the Bruins could go from losing one 5-star prospect to picking up another one at the same position. Clark would fill a major need going forward for UCLA.

 

All recruiting rankings are courtesy of Scout.com.

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Nebraska Football: Reasonable Goals for Huskers' Offseason

Nebraska football fans are now officially settled in for a long offseason, and the first step of any offseason is to define some goals. Sure, winning a national title in 2015 would be awesome, but Nebraska’s odds of doing so are pretty remote.

So what are some realistic goals new head coach Mike Riley can accomplish before the 2015 season starts? Here are three baseline goals that will go a long way toward building a foundation for Riley in Lincoln.

 

Recruit Strong

In the brief few weeks since Riley arrived in Lincoln, his job got a lot more complicated. Ohio State won the College Football Playoff National Championship, demonstrating (if you didn’t realize it already) that the Buckeyes have a talent pool that can compete with anyone in the country.

Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh, who has won big every place he has gone and looks to take the Wolverines’ top-10 recruiting classes (20122013) and have them competing with That School Down South in a hurry.

Add into the mix Penn State—with a top-flight recruiter in head coach James Franklin and being freed from the Sandusky-era sanctions—and a Michigan State squad that lived in the Top 10 for the last few years, and you can see the Big Ten isn’t quite the cakewalk it seemed to be. 

That said, Riley landed 4-star offensive guard Jalin Barnett this week, the highest-ranked recruit of the 2015 class. Nebraska’s class, according to 247 Sports, sits at No. 27 nationally and No. 3 in the B1G. With a small class and a short recruiting period, a gaudy recruiting ranking for Nebraska is unlikely.

But if Nebraska could at least crack the top 25 with its 2015 class, it would be a promising sign going forward.

 

Get To Know the Roster

Yes, that goal sounds quite banal and obvious. But it’s also one of the biggest and most important things Riley and his staff will be doing this offseason. Riley was known as running a pro-style offense at Oregon State, and many were fearful upon hearing of his hire that he would attempt to take Nebraska’s square-peg roster of zone-read players and force it into the round hole of a pro-style offense.

New offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf seemed to quell those fears, according to Rich Kaipust of the Omaha World-Herald.

“We haven’t necessarily been a huge zone-read team (at Oregon State), more because we haven’t had necessarily the right person to do that,” Langsdorf said. “I think here, it looks like there’s a little bit more possibility of that. So we’ll definitely look at that and consider more with who we have.”

It’s fair to assume that Nebraska’s defense will have the same adjustment, even with new defensive coordinator Mark Banker’s preference for quarters coverage. Brandon Vogel of Hail Varsity has an excellent summary of the similarities and differences between what look to be Banker’s philosophies and what Bo Pelini did on defense.

But that means Riley and his staff will have to very quickly get a handle on the strengths and weaknesses of Nebraska’s current roster, so they can start making offensive and defensive plans accordingly.

 

Choose a Quarterback

Goal number three comes right on the heels of goal number two, of course. One of the biggest decisions that Riley and his staff will be making this offseason is about the nature of Nebraska’s offense. And what that offense will look like should inform the skill set of the quarterback who wins the starting job.

But it might not be that simple.

With a new staff arriving, the door will be more open than ever for a new person to win the starting quarterback job. As the coaches look at all five quarterbacks on the roster (Tommy Armstrong, Ryker Fyfe, Johnny Stanton, Zack Darlington and AJ Bush), they will be able to assess each of their skills and sculpt an offensive philosophy around the one they believe gives Nebraska the best chance to succeed in 2015.

So deciding on a starting quarterback not only will be a roster decision, but it will also likely be an indicator of what Nebraska’s offensive identity will be next season.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

You can also use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: What Tigers Fans Need to Know About New DC Kevin Steele

LSU head coach Les Miles is banking on new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to continue the success of John Chavis.

Miles' hire came under fire went it was announced Tuesday. Steele was not the top name on the Tigers' list, as the search was not the smoothest for Miles.

But the mood changed for the better when Miles offered Louisiana native Ed Orgeron to be the defensive line coach, a job Orgeron quickly accepted. He last served on USC's staff and, like Steele, has a reputation for being a dominant recruiter.

The affable "Coach O" replaces Brick Haley, who will remain with the program as an administrative intern.

Miles officially announced both Steele and Orgeron at a press conference held Wednesday. The smiles and positive energy was clearly evident. 

ICYMI: @LSUfball hired 2 coaches and welcomed 4 signees Wednesday. Details: http://t.co/GDSVQQ2l28. pic.twitter.com/YkrdQyywcB

— LSUsports (@LSUsports) January 15, 2015

Miles raved about Steele in every aspect of coaching.

Les on Kevin Steele: "One of best recruiters in the country and an advocate of our style... I've wanted to hire (Steele) for a long time."

— James Moran (@SmartestMoran) January 14, 2015

There were more pleasantries exchanged among the three, some of which will be touched on later. But this press conference will soon be forgotten. Steele and Orgeron must make a difference now, as national signing day is less than three weeks away.

 

Who is Kevin Steele?

Imagine replacing your close friend at his or her job. Well, that is essentially what has happened with Steele taking Chavis' role. They grew up together in rural South Carolina and have remained connected since.

Story on friendship between Kevin Steele & John Chavis. Includes this photo of them http://t.co/f20QyO7SRv#LSUpic.twitter.com/cNV50ppBwX

— Ross Dellenger (@DellengerAdv) January 14, 2015

Steele was close to joining LSU's staff in 2012 after he was let go as Clemson's defensive coordinator. He served as a consultant to Chavis, but he never officially joined the Tigers.

Steele's stop in Clemson was his last as a defensive coordinator. His tenure there started swimmingly, but his gradual decline eventually ended with his defense allowing 63 points to West Virginia in a 70-33 beatdown in the Orange Bowl.

For the past two seasons, he served as Alabama's director of player personnel (2013) and linebackers coach (2014). His only other experience as a defensive coordinator was for the Crimson Tide back in 2007. 

New #LSU DC Kevin Steele's coaching history is quite fascinating: pic.twitter.com/waSfMPTyyz

— Carter Bryant (@CarterthePower) January 15, 2015

The stop that tarnished Steele's reputation was at Baylor, his only as a head coach. He was 9-36 overall and 1-31 in conference. Granted, the Bears were a laughing stock of a program before he took over, as well.

No matter how it is sliced, Steele's coaching past in play-calling positions is not all that impressive. Yet the past is the past for a reason. His forte has never been as an X's and O's guru like Chavis—but as a guy who accumulates talent at a high level.

 

Recruiting Ace

Coaches do not win games, players do. If that adage holds true, the Tigers should be in spectacular shape.

Few coaches have the recruiting pedigree of Steele. He was named Rivals.com Recruiter of the Year in 2005 for his work at Florida State, per Alabama Sports Information. The 56-year old showed he still has the magic touch a decade later, when he helped the Crimson Tide grab a commitment of 5-star running back Damien Harris for the 2015 class.

Geaux247's Shea Dixon summed up Steele's resume perfectly:

Kevin Steele has #SEC experience, coached in the #NFL and can recruit.. Helped put together a No. 1 class last year and another this year.

— Shea Dixon (@Sheadixon) January 13, 2015

USA Today's Glenn Guilbeau sees Steele potentially taking some players from Saban's backyard:

New LSU DC Kevin Steele is a premium recruiter, and his area while at Bama was Mobile and Gulf Coast, Fla. panhandle. Lot of players.

— Glenn Guilbeau (@LSUBeatTweet) January 14, 2015

Look for LSU Recruiting to Improve on Gulf Coast, particularly in talent-rich Mobile area, where LSU has not recruited well since Saban.

— Glenn Guilbeau (@LSUBeatTweet) January 14, 2015

While Steele's track record is impressive, Orgeron's is legendary.

One SEC assistant told ESPN's Jeremy Crabtree it is “seismic moment for everybody in the conference.” Crabtree agrees:

With Orgeron’s addition, the Tigers now have three assistants who have been recognized by the media as national recruiters of the year. The move gives (LSU running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Frank) Wilson—who was given his first college coaching job in 2005 by Orgeron—much-needed assistance as LSU’s recruiting coordinator. 

Mike Scarborough of Rivals' TigerBait.com took it one step further:

From a recruiting standpoint, this is without a doubt the best recruiting staff that #LSU has had in the Les Miles era.

— Mike Scarborough (@ScarboroughMike) January 14, 2015 

Orgeron and Steele understand they have plenty of work to do.

LSU is currently No. 13 on 247Sports team composite rankings, which is only good for sixth in the SEC. The Tigers are the only school in the top 13 with fewer than 20 commitments—and time is running out. 

Orgeron and Steele both emphasized the importance of the next few weeks at their introductory press conference. They have already mapped out their plan, per Tiger Rag's James Moran:

Coach O: "I went through a two hour meeting with Frank Wilson. Best recruiting meeting I've ever seen." #LSU

— James Moran (@SmartestMoran) January 14, 2015

Steele says he and Orgeron will hit the ground running tomorrow recruiting. "We have the next three weeks planned out." #LSU

— James Moran (@SmartestMoran) January 14, 2015

 

Steele's Scheme

Steele's tactics are a concern considering his defensive coordinator experience, albeit at two schools, is rather bare.

For a school like LSU, which produces a high volume of defensive players in the NFL, to not grab a more seasoned play-caller is astonishing. 

James Smith of The New Orleans Times-Picayune is not concerned about the perception of Steele:

Fans have the wrong idea as It pertains to Steele's abilities as a coach. Dude can flat out coach. One of the best teachers in all of fball.

— Jimmy D Smith (@JimmyDetail) January 14, 2015

LSU will have plenty of holes to fill with the departure of leading tackler Kwon Alexander and defensive ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter. Steele has experience coaching 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. He said he expects LSU to use both, per Moran.   

Billy Gomila of And The Valley Shook gave LSU fans some comfort on Steele's scheme versatility:

Steele is an old hand in the coaching world. Been around the block a ton, from stints on Tom Osbourne's Nebraska and Bobby Bowden's Florida State staffs, to some time in the NFL and even a disastrous tenure as head coach at Baylor...He's worked for a lot of good coaches and coached in a number of systems, from 3-4 to 4-3 and so on. His reputation is somewhat similar to John Chavis' as a nuts-and-bolts, fundamental type of coach. He coaches an aggressive style and likes to bring pressure.

Steele must re-evaluate the talent LSU has returning and a make a decision that best suits the Tigers. Where he will start is at Orgeron's expertise, which is the defensive line.

The only way a 3-4 will work is if there are maulers up the middle.

In 2014, the starting defensive tackle duo included Davon Godchaux and Christian LaCouture. Godchaux and LaCouture could possibly play multiple roles in a 3-4 defense—but probably not the head-up nose.

The Tigers are thin at defensive end with the loss of Rasco and Hunter. A 3-4 could help mask their departure if Steele can find the right pieces.

Steele must also collaborate with the defensive backs coach Corey Raymond on how he wants the secondary to look.

The departure of Jalen Collins and Ronald Martin is massive, but the Tigers will get back a healthy Dwayne Thomas and welcome star recruits Kevin Toliver II and Xavier Lewis. Having emerging star Jamal Adams does not hurt, either. 

Raymond and Steele must decide if they will keep Chavis' 3-2-6 "Mustang" package, which puts six defensive backs on the field at once on obvious passing downs. Chances are they still run it next season.

Steele will be focused mainly on recruiting in the next couple of weeks, as he should. But once that is done, he must begin to form a vision of what he wants his defense to look like. 

 

Steele's Reception

Gomila perfectly summed up the mood once Steele was hired as the defensive coordinator.

I suspect you probably hear some crickets chirping at the moment. I suspect his hire will go over like a fart in church.

One of Steele's strongest skeptics was Guilbeau:

Despite all the recruiting dreams, Steele was still not a good hire. He could end up being one, but he is not one now. LSU should always hire a sitting coordinator or a young up and comer at least. Not someone like Steele who has only been a defensive coordinator for four seasons at two places with mixed results. He was fired from one post at Clemson and demoted at the other at Alabama.

Bryan Broaddus is a football analyst and scout for DallasCowboys.com, and he is a respected voice in the football community and a Tigers fan. He was unenthused about the hire:

@CGilcrease: @BryanBroaddus any thoughts on the new LSU DC hire?” Not thrilled.

— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) January 14, 2015

@ryanmchorns: @BryanBroaddus@CGilcrease why do you not like Steele?” Fine recruiter but never been impressed with scheme and results.

— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) January 14, 2015

@CGilcrease: @BryanBroaddus so basically he's the DC version of Miles” just could have done better...we are LSU.

— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) January 14, 2015

On the other hand, there were some who liked the hire. Football Scoop's Scott Roussel believes the Tigers will do just fine under Steele:

LSU’s defense wasn’t broken. Steele’s system likely to be very similar to Chief’s. Good recruiter. Good guy. I like the fit.

— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) January 13, 2015

Former LSU All-American and SEC Network analyst Booger McFarland loves both Steele and Orgeron:

Kevin Steele is a great recruiter, put him in a top 5 talent state like Louisiana should be a great fit, players make plays not schemes #LSU

— Booger (@SECbooger) January 14, 2015

Coach Orgeron is a good defensive line coach, maybe a better recruiter he is able to develop & build relationships LSU DLine in good hands

— Booger (@SECbooger) January 14, 2015

 

Conclusion 

Steele, fairly or not, will always be compared to Chavis. Not only because they are close friends, but also because the Tigers could have kept "The Chief" if they really wanted him to stay. 

Chavis had unprecedented success in Baton Rouge since taking over in 2009. He produced All-Americans such as Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu while also not having a season when the Tigers finished below fourth in total defense in the SEC.

Steele has ginormous shoes to fill. He will bring in some elite recruits, but the main question is if he can develop them and put them in the best place to make plays.

He must first fix Chavis' fatal flaw.

The Chief was a masterful play-caller for the most part, but his defenses struggled to close games. The 2012 and 2014 seasons will unfortunately be remembered as years in which LSU blew late fourth-quarter leads to Alabama.

This was not entirely Chavis' fault. His players failed to make critical plays in key moments. But what stood out in these late-game scenarios was LSU's inability to get a pass rush without blitzing.

It is no coincidence Steele and Orgeron made stops to see 4-star defensive end Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. and 5-star pass-rusher CeCe Jefferson, per Dixon (subscription required) and ESPN's Derek Tyson on Thursday.

Expect even more visits to ends and linebackers as the Tigers only have one combined commitment at those positions.

LSU's defensive line accumulated a paltry 15.5 sacks in 2013 and 13.5 sacks in 2014. Those numbers are inexplicably low, which is partially why Haley was demoted. Steele must improve the pass rush, and there is no better man to help him than Orgeron. 

If Steele can do that, the Tigers will be a more complete defense in 2015. They have enough talent at linebacker and in the secondary to be fine despite the loss of Alexander and cornerback Jalen Collins to the draft. 

Steele's name is anything but shiny. He was demolished on social media, but that all will disappear if he produces a top-flight defense next season.

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.comESPN.com and LSUsports.net. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter at @CarterthePower.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Davon Durant Will Be Arizona State Football's Best Signing of 2015

Although national signing day is less than a month away, Arizona State football's most impactful recruit might already be on campus. 

Todd Graham and the Sun Devils have compiled an impressive class, one that ranks 21st in Rivals' rankings, 20th in 247Sports' and 24th in ESPN's. Residing in ASU's class of 2015 are some milestones for the program, especially in the Todd Graham era.

First, as the fourth class under Graham, it's the first time his recruits will fully mesh with players who were all recruited by the current coaching staff. Secondly, it's the first class since Graham arrived that isn't heavily leaning on junior-college recruits.

In 2012, eight of the 23 players (34.8 percent) ASU signed were from either junior or community colleges. In 2013, 10 of 25 recruits (40 percent) were from those schools, and in 2014, six of 28 (21.4 percent) were also.

For 2015, just two of the Sun Devils' 19 commitments (per Rivals) are not high school recruits, equaling 10.5 percent of the class.

One of them, though, will prove imperative to ASU's success in 2015: Davon Durant.

The 4-star linebacker has a chance to have the same kind of impact of another Graham JUCO transfer, wide receiver Jaelen Strong. Two seasons and 157 receptions later, Strong entered the NFL draft prior to ASU's Sun Bowl win over Duke.

Strong came in and immediately filled one of the biggest needs on the team. Durant will do the same—but on the other side of the ball.

The staple of Graham's defense is the Devilbacker, a hybrid defensive end/linebacker. Last season, there wasn't a natural fit for the position, and it showed.

The first five games of the season, the Sun Devils allowed more than 450 yards per game. Graham shook up the defense after its win at USC, which put less emphasis on the position and played to the team's strengths.

It was partially successful, leading to a four-game winning streak and a three-game streak of allowing fewer than 17 points in any game. However, it's not a long-term fix.

Toward the tail end of the season, the defense from the start of the season reared its ugly head again. The Sun Devils didn't allowed fewer than 31 points in their final five games.

This shouldn't be the story in 2015, though, especially if Durant comes in and makes the immediate impact he's expected to. He won't be without competition. It's also far from a guarantee that Durant sticks at Devilbacker. 

Just last season, Graham switched up the Devil a handful of times. First, it was Antonio Longino, then Edmond Boateng, all while De'Marieya Nelson was in the mix there, as well as his traditional tight end position.

All the way back in spring practice last year, the favorite for the starting slot was Chans Cox, a heralded linebacker recruit expected to make an immediate impact. Sound familiar?

Don't expect Durant to go the way of Cox, who ended the season working with ASU's practice squad. He was a recruit straight out of high school, while Durant is coming in as a more polished redshirt junior.

While the Sun Devils cupboard was bare of Devilbackers last season, that shouldn't be the case in 2015.

Fellow 2015 commitment Jaason Lewis starred on both sides of the ball in high school as a running back and linebacker. With the embarrassment of riches ASU has in the backfield, Lewis projects as a linebacker in college and has a prototypical build for a Devilbacker.

Lewis could give Durant a run for his money, and so could plenty of others, although it likely won't be the previous Devilbacker candidates, Longino and Boateng. Both return next season, but Longino has cemented himself at weak-side linebacker, and Boateng hardly saw the field by the end of the season.

Even if Durant doesn't stick at Devilbacker, there's no reason to believe he won't find a fit on the defense somewhere. He's just too talented.

The only people who shouldn't be excited about Durant's arrival in Tempe are the rest of the Pac-12 (and Texas A&M, which plays ASU in the season opener on Sept. 5 in Houston).

 

Evan Webeck is a junior at Arizona State University, studying journalism at the Walter Cronkite School. He's interned at Sports Illustrated and covered ASU football. Follow him on Twitter or email him at ewebeck@asu.edu.

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Cardale Jones' Ohio State Teammates Give Him a Hard Time After Decision to Stay

Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones announced via a press conference on Thursday that he will return to Ohio State for his junior year, which should create a quarterback battle for the ages next season. 

We've seen Jones and his teammates joke around before, and this occasion was no different, with multiple teammates chiming in on Twitter to poke fun at their QB in anticipation of his decision.

It's nice to see the national champions are still enjoying their time together after beating Oregon.

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Power Ranking All 128 Teams After the 2015 National Championship

It ain't over until the final power rankings have come out.

An amazing 2014-15 college football season is in the books, with Ohio State coming out of the first four-team playoff to win the national title. Along the way, the Buckeyes found themselves all over the top 20 of Bleacher Report's power rankings, but when all was through, they finished in the No. 1 spot reserved for a champion.

Where did everyone else finish? Well, that depends on how the power rankings played out.

Our power rankings are based on a rating that comes from averaging out a team's place on five lists: the Associated Press Top 25 and Amway Coaches polls, Bleacher Report's Top 25, ratings guru Jeff Sagarin's computer ratings and my personal ranking.

Take a look at how the 128 FBS teams finished the 2014-15 season after bowl games and the playoffs, and then give us your take in the comments section.

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Cardale Jones' Return to Ohio State Means Braxton Miller Must Transfer

Cardale Jones announced Thursday that he will bypass the NFL draft and return to Ohio State, leaving the Buckeyes with three capable quarterbacks: Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller.

For the team, this is what's known as a "good problem to have." But for Miller, it's a sign to start packing.

Miller was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013 before tearing his labrum this offseason. His injury paved the way for Barrett to become a Heisman candidate, and Barrett's own injury paved the way for Jones to become an NFL prospect.

All three quarterbacks have earned the right to start, but three quarterbacks can't share one backfield. If they could, Urban Meyer would be the right guy to puzzle the logistics—but they can't. And Miller, a rising redshirt senior, is the only member of the group who can transfer in 2015 without having to sit out a season.

Now more than ever, he has to find a new home.

Miller has the talent to win the starting job at OSU next season. He was a 5-star prospect in 2011 and started as a true freshman. He led the Buckeyes on a 24-game winning streak in his sophomore and juniors years. There's a reason he entered fall camp ahead of Barrett and Jones on the depth chart, and it wasn't just seniority.

But the chance that he might not start—or that even if he does start, he might split reps with two other players—should be enough to send him elsewhere. Not because he's "running from the competition," but simply because it makes pragmatic sense.

Have you seen the list of teams in reported pursuit of Miller? It's not like he's choosing between OSU and Louisiana Tech.

Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report floated Oregon as a destination. Florida State safety Jalen Ramsey recruited Miller to join the Noles. Steve Schneider of WAFB 9 linked Miller with LSU. Former Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson pitched well on the Sooners' behalf:

Three of those teams have played in a national title game since 2011-12. The only one that hasn't (Oklahoma) played its last in 2007-08.

Oregon and Florida State have produced the past two Heisman Trophy winners in Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. LSU has recruited better wide receivers than just about any school in the country. Oklahoma has Samaje Perine in the backfield to lighten the QB's load. All four teams have the pieces in place to succeed.

The only thing they need is…well, Miller.

There aren't enough good quarterbacks out there for Miller to spend the season withering away in some platoon system. Even if there's a chance for him to win the job outright, why risk it? Why not pick the safer option, the one more likely to get him to the NFL? It worked for Russell Wilson when he transferred to Wisconsin.

At the start of the season, Miller assured everyone he was returning to Ohio State. But now he has started giving roundabout answers.

"I've got to get my shoulder right," he deflected after Jones led OSU to the national championship, per Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com.

Not exactly ringing assurance.

Barrett, though, has been a little more candid. "I'm not leaving," he told Pete Thamel of SI.com before Thursday's announcement. "I don't think Braxton is leaving. I don't think Cardale is leaving."

But it's easy for Barrett to be candid, because he's the only one with no alternatives. Jones could have fled the logjam by declaring for the draft. Miller can flee the logjam by transferring. Barrett can only sit and watch his teammates and wait.

If Barrett draws the short straw next season, if he sees the fewest reps of any quarterback, he is not the one we'll criticize for staying. Of course he stayed in Columbus; what reason does he have to leave? Even if he doesn't play, he can still start in 2016.

Miller, though, has everything to lose by staying. He would be doubling down on his talent, on his ability to win back his job. Only now, instead of two anonymous underclassman, he'd be wagering against the No. 5 Heisman finisher and the reigning national champion.

No matter how good he thinks he is (or actually is), that is not a smart wager to make. Not when his career hangs in the balance.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeigh35

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Reggie Ragland, Jarran Reed Returning Gives Alabama Shot to Defend SEC Title

After about 24 hours of Twitter speculation and confusion, Alabama made it official: two key cogs in its defensive lineup will be returning for the 2015 season and forgoing the 2015 NFL Draft.

Alabama sent out a release Thursday afternoon saying that linebacker Reggie Ragland and defensive lineman Jarran Reed will return to Alabama for their respective senior seasons.

Ragland broke his own news in a tweet about half an hour before the official announcement:

“I’ve thought a lot about this decision and talked to my family, coach Saban and everyone close to me,” Ragland said in the UA release. “I’m going to return to the University of Alabama for my senior season. One of the big factors for me and my family is earning my degree, and I’m on track to graduate. You only form a brotherhood like this once, and I look forward to spending another season here with my teammates. Roll Tide.”

Following some confusion after an apparently errant tweet from IMG Academy saying that he would be training for the draft with them, Reed announced his intention to return to school in the release. Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports reported earlier in the day that Reed would be staying for another year.

“After sitting down with my family, coach Saban and coach Davis, I have decided to return to Alabama for my senior year,” Reed said in the release. “I am on track to finish my degree, and that is very important to me. The chance to play in the NFL is still my dream, but I am excited about another year at Alabama with my teammates. I learned a lot being here last year, and I’m confident another year will only improve my chances to succeed in the future.”

The pair’s return will be a major boost for a Crimson Tide defense that lost safety Landon Collins to the NFL and several other major players to graduation.

It gives Alabama’s defensive line an incredible amount of depth and talent at the position and saves a linebacking core from having little to no depth playing inexperienced players.

And it means the Crimson Tide will have the defense to defend its SEC title in 2015.

Nick Sabandidn’t take it too well last spring when asked about his “perceived depth” along the defensive line. There were a lot of talented players on the line, but several hadn’t had much game experienced and were largely unproven products.

That unit ended up fronting a defense that was tops in the conference in red zone touchdown percentage and rush defense. Alabama used a deep rotation to keep fresh bodies on the field and was a dominant force up front.

He won’t be able to deny that reality again this season.

From that defensive line, Alabama now only loses Brandon Ivory, its nose tackle that largely played in running situations, clogging up lanes and taking on multiple blockers. His presence will be missed but can be overcome.

Otherwise, the band is staying together.

Jonathan Allen (11 tackles for loss, five sacks in 2014) and A’Shawn Robinson (6.5 TFLs) will be juniors, entering the prime of their Alabama careers after shining their first two seasons on campus. Reed (6.5 TFLs, one sack, six pass break ups) and D.J. Pettway (3.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks) came in together as junior college transfers and played immediately.

Those four along will presumably make up a nasty starting four that will give defenses fits.

But behind them, the embarrassment of riches becomes more noticeable. Da’Shawn Hand, Dalvin Tomlinson, Joshua Frazier, Dee Liner and Darren Lake will all have another year of development under their belts.

As for filling Ivory’s role, JUCO transfer Jonathan Taylor, off-field issues aside, is expected to fill that role.

While the defensive line would have been in decent shape without Reed, the same can’t necessarily said be said for the linebackers and Ragland.

Trey DePriest, who made most of the calls last year at middle linebacker, graduated. Ragland leaving would have left two spots open for starting middle linebackers in a group that already lacks some depth.

Reuben Foster is the likely “next man up,” but he hasn’t shown yet that he can stay healthy for an entire season. His poor tackling form, keeping his head down far too low, opens him up for neck stingers, which he frequently sustains when he sees any kind of regular playing time like at A-Day or against West Virginia while DePriest was suspended.

Shaun Dion Hamilton showed promise as an early enrollee freshman this season, appearing in every game in 2014, largely on special teams but getting some work in at linebacker.

Behind those two, though, the cupboard is pretty bare. Walker Jones is a rising redshirt sophomore who played in just one game last season, late against Western Carolina. Dillon Lee has played inside but only as a reserve in Nickel and Dime looks, otherwise playing outside.

With Ragland’s return, Alabama can count on a steady option in the middle while hoping either Foster or Hamilton can develop into a second regular player, without having to dig too much deeper down the depth chart for production.

His return, combined with the depth that Reed will make on the defensive line, give Alabama a defense that could be one of the best in the SEC next season, if not the country.

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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How LSU's New Defensive Coaching Hires Will Impact Tigers Recruiting

An intriguing arms race for assistant coaches has erupted in the SEC this winter, and LSU took a turn stockpiling its staff earlier this week.

The program announced Wednesday that Les Miles landed longtime Alabama assistant Kevin Steele as defensive coordinator. Former Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron also enters the mix, accepting a role as defensive line coach. 

The staff shuffle comes in the aftermath of defensive coordinator John Chavis' departure. "Chief" recently bolted for the same position at Texas A&M, creating a pivotal void.

Make no mistake, LSU lost an excellent coach and dynamic recruiter in Chavis. However, the Tigers handled this challenge well and move forward in good shape on the sidelines and recruiting trail. 

Steele played a pivotal role in Alabama's efforts to sign the nation's top-ranked classes in 2013 and 2014. The Crimson Tide appear primed for another No. 1 haul this February thanks in part to the work he put in while in Tuscaloosa. 

He takes over the helm of a talented Tigers defense that already welcomed 5-star cornerback Kevin Toliver to campus as an early enrollee. Current LSU standout commits also include 4-star defensive back Xavier Lewis and massive New Orleans defensive end Isaiah Washington.

Steele's attention instantly turns toward strengthening his attack with more talent, aided by another highly regarded recruiter in Orgeron. 

"The thing about recruiting is it's not one guy," Steele said during his introductory press conference, per Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com. "Now the head coach has a critical factor in that, obviously. But as far as assistants go, it's a team effort."

Steele and Orgeron have a chance to make immediate inroads with limited time remaining until national signing day, though the tandem is probably destined to make an even greater impact on the 2016 recruiting class.

Orgeron helped return USC to national prominence at the turn of the century, serving as an architect for one of the most star-studded rosters we've seen in college football. He was viewed as a strong recruiter during his tenure as head coach at Ole Miss, though highly rated classes ultimately failed to translate into consistent victories.

Following stints with Tennessee and the New Orleans Saints, Orgeron returned to USC in 2010. He eventually served as interim coach during the majority of the 2013 season, salvaging what seemed to be a lost year under Lane Kiffin with six wins in eight games.

Some felt he was snubbed by USC when the university hired Steve Sarkisian as head coach, but Orgeron is right back in his wheelhouse a year later. 

If things go well at LSU, he may not last long in Baton Rouge. Other schools are bound to view him as a potential program leader.

“I do believe I will be a head coach again. I do believe that,” Orgeron told Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer in October. “When that’s going to happen, I don’t know. Maybe it will be next year, maybe not. We’re going to keep all options open.”

For now, he's hard at work playing catch-up with Steele, who spent four seasons as head coach himself at Baylor. The national recruiting "dead period" ended at midnight Wednesday, sending them out on a mission.

They traveled to Edgewood Academy in Alabama on Thursday, spending time with 4-star defensive end Prince Tega Wanogho. The 6'8", 250-pound prospect came away impressed by the interaction. 

"I could tell that he really liked them, and Coach Orgeron definitely caught his attention," Edgewood coach Bobby Carr told Shea Dixon of 247Sports (subscription required). "He kept talking about (Orgeron) after they left. He told (Wanogho) that he was out of work for 13 months and was tired of being a grill master at his house."

The duo's message came across loud and clear, landing LSU a possible official visit as early as this weekend.

"I think LSU is definitely a school he's now looking at," Carr said.

Orgeron and Steele face perhaps their biggest test later this month, when coveted California cornerback Iman Marshall comes to campus for one of his four January official visits. A commitment from the 5-star prospect would give LSU the nation's top incoming duo in pass coverage, pairing him with Toliver.

"Toliver is a great athlete, and he's very competitive like me," Marshall told Bleacher Report in August. "We could make some serious noise down there. LSU is known as 'DBU' for a reason. It's a place where I feel like I could really develop and polish my skills."

Though his comments came with a different coaching staff in place, Marshall—along with other top 2015 LSU targets—now has a limited window of time to weigh how he feels about the team's new additions. 

Given their respective track records, expect Orgeron and Steele to validate strong backgrounds on signing day and beyond.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Cardale Jones Should Be the Favorite to Start at QB for Ohio State in 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After entering the gym of his high school alma mater to the anthem of Drake's "Started From the Bottom" while wearing a gray T-shirt bearing his nickname, "12 Gauge," Cardale Jones stood in front of a national audience prepared to reveal a "life-changing decision."

But when Jones finally made his announcement—which was delayed two hours to allow Columbus television stations time to arrive in Cleveland—he caught most off guard, as many expected the Ohio State quarterback to enter the upcoming NFL draft.

"I'm going to return next year for school," Jones announced in front of cameras from no fewer than three national TV stations. “The NFL after three games was really out of the question for me."

That may be debatable, as in the hours leading up to Jones' revealing of his decision, analysts projected that the 6'5", 250-pounder would have been selected between the second and fourth rounds of the upcoming draft.

Now Jones heads back to a situation where he's not even guaranteed to be the Buckeyes' starter, with third-team All-American J.T. Barrett expected to recover from his fractured ankle and two-time Big Ten MVP Braxton Miller's status still up in the air.

But while Ohio State prepares for what could be a quarterback battle for the ages, Jones will improbably be the favorite to be the Buckeyes' starter when they take the field on Sept. 7 for their 2015 season opener against Virginia Tech. Should Miller return along with Jones and Barrett, it's very possible that Ohio State's quarterback depth chart will be upside down compared to what it looked like a year prior.

That was back when Miller was the only established quarterback of the bunch and before Barrett broke the Buckeyes' single-season total offense record and the Big Ten's total touchdowns record. But with both recovering from injuries that will hold them out of spring football, Jones will receive all of the reps with Ohio State's first team this spring, giving him a leg up on both Barrett and Miller heading into fall camp.

"I can get a lot better," Jones said. "As each week and each game went on, I think I got a lot better and I progressed. With a full offseason taking reps as a [No.] 1, I think it'll make me be the best quarterback I can possibly be."

That's not all that Jones has working in his favor either, as the redshirt junior-to-be is currently just three days removed from leading the Buckeyes to a national championship. The Cleveland native only has three starts to his credit compared to Barrett's 12 and Miller's 34, but he shined on college football's grandest stage, engineering Ohio State to wins over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and Oregon in Monday's national championship game.

And as improbable as it may have seemed when he took over the OSU offense following Barrett's season-ending injury in November, Jones may have proved to be the best fit for Urban Meyer's spread offense.

Replacing Miller's elusiveness and Barrett's efficiency as runners, Jones provided a bruising but effective style that extended drives and drew comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow. As a passer, Jones also proved to be the Buckeyes' best deep-ball thrower, throwing for 742 yards and five touchdowns in his three starts.

"All three of those guys are very good deep-ball throwers," Meyer said of his signal-caller stable earlier this month. "But Cardale is the first guy I've had, I want to say since [former Utah quarterback] Alex [Smith] that is up there that can high‑low a pass over the top of a defensive line, and that's rare. That's hard to find those guys."

Jones insists that he didn't receive any assurances from Meyer that he'd start, but it's hard to imagine his head coach didn't at least point out to him that this spring will give him the opportunity to build an insurmountable advantage over the other two quarterbacks vying for OSU's starting spot.

Las Vegas agrees with the notion that Jones will be the Buckeyes' starter in 2015, with Bovada (via Odd Shark) listing Jones a plus-120 favorite over Miller (plus-175) and Barrett (plus-200) to start for Ohio State in its season opener.

Although he has the smallest sample size of the Buckeyes' potential starting quarterbacks, Jones' wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon give him the three most impressive victories of any of the three's resumes.

If the 22-year-old can take down the likes of the Crimson Tide and the Ducks, it's probably a safe assumption that he can beat up on the Big Ten in the same manner that Miller and Barrett did for the better part of the past three seasons.

That's not a knock on Miller or Barrett, each of whom has provided plenty to the OSU program and whose mere presence would make any school an instant national championship contender. It's just that Jones has already proved to be the Buckeyes' best chance at capturing a national title, as he's the only one of the three to have actually done it.

Regardless of how Ohio State's quarterback situation plays out, Meyer will find himself at least temporarily turning down the services of two players from a group that includes the reigning national champion quarterback, the most recent national Freshman of the Year and a two-time league MVP who was on pace to rewrite the school's record book.

From that standpoint alone, what the Buckeyes are now dealing with is unprecedented in college football.

Could that be a problem? Certainly. But it's one any coach would be happy to have. And it's also one that Jones appears to be embracing.

"I want to go back to school and compete for the spot," Jones said. "I don't want anything given to me."

With what he's accomplished in the last month, that spot may have already been earned.

 

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

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The Men Who Really Control the Future of Texas Football

Howard McMahan doesn't play football—not anymore, anyway—but Texas head coach Charlie Strong recruited him all the same. In fact, you could say McMahan has taken some unofficial visits to the Longhorn program.

McMahan has been the coach of McNeil High School in north Austin for just under a year, but has coached in the Texas high school ranks at Pflugerville Connally and Copperas Cove. It's guys like McMahan who are just as important to Strong's success as wooing the next 5-star recruit. 

That's why Strong and the Longhorns coaching staff open their doors to area high school coaches, allowing them to view practices and see the program in a way most others can't.

Texas is still selling itself, after all, just not exclusively to prospective players. 

"It's an open-door policy. I've been over there to watch practices," McMahan said in an interview with Bleacher Report. "Being a major university, it sends a good message. It gives us an opportunity to really see the program. It develops relationships and good PR." 

Texas isn't the only school to peel back the curtains for high school coaches, but the Longhorns are definitely in need of some good PR. 

The harsh reality is that Texas has been losing the in-state recruiting battle. The Longhorns haven't finished ahead of Texas A&M in class rankings since 2012, according to 247Sports.com. In 2014, Texas landed eight of the state's top 50 players. That number was nine in 2013 and 18 in 2012

With less than a month until national signing day 2015, the 'Horns have seven of the state's top recruits and and have the ninth-best class; A&M has 12 and ranks eighth. 

"I think Charlie has worked at improving those relationships and has made some strides," said Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls, "but he probably still needs a super recruiter on his staff like David Beaty was at Texas A&M." 

Ultimately, high schools recruits will go where they think they'll be happiest. Their reasons are myriad and likely subject to change. Strong and his staff can't necessarily control that. What they do control, however, is their relationships with the recruiting gatekeepers: High school coaches. 

And Strong can't afford to alienate them. 

 

Rebranding the Brand

Strong's calling card from Day 1 has been his five core values: Honesty, treating women with respect, no drugs, no stealing and no guns. Everything he was going to build stemmed from that. 

Strong's core values can come across as obvious and a tad corny, but there are others who find them meaningful: High school coaches. They believe they're in the business of developing boys into men. In their view, Strong takes the baton from them. 

"He had a mission going into this and he's stuck with his guns," said Abilene Cooper coach Todd Moebes. "He's made a lot of tough decisions that could have been made differently, but he did what he felt was right and true. He believes in what he's doing."

"Strong is trying to reshape Texas," added Cedar Hill head coach Joe McGuire. 

Whereas other coaches like Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M and Art Briles at Baylor have long, pre-existing relationships with Texas high school coaches, Strong and his staff do not.

Interestingly, Strong recently released two assistants with Texas ties: wide receivers coach Les Koenning and tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Bruce Chambers. Chambers specifically had longtime ties to the Dallas-Fort Worth recruiting hotbed. However, those ties were perhaps antiquated. Coupled with poor on-field results, they weren't enough to keep Chambers around. 

All the same, it was a bold move. McGuire noted that Chambers "was our guy." Texas is currently recruiting one of McGuire's players, 4-star receiver Damarkus Lodge. McGuire added that 'Horns linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary has been in contact since Chambers' firing. 

Without a longstanding history in Texas, Strong and his staff have taken another angle: Transparency. High school coaches have to A) know what they're getting with Strong, and B) know that he's going to take care of their players once they're on campus.

Violators of Strong's core values have been suspended and dismissed. Last September, offensive lineman Kennedy Estelle was the ninth player kicked off the team. It's not something Strong enjoys doing though, as noted in a story last year from Max Olson of ESPN.com

Anytime a player is dismissed from this program, it hurts me. We're here to help young men. We're not here to run young men off. That is not our job. We're here to help them. It just bothers you, because when you've been given opportunities, you want to make sure you have every resource available for them to be successful.

 

Building for the Future Now

While discipline has been a key factor in garnering the respect of the state's high school coaches, there's going to be one thing that defines Strong's time at Texas: Wins. And high school coaches are willing to help him get those wins. 

"It's important if Texas is relevant," said McGuire. "College football is better." 

The Longhorns won six games in 2014. Other than a three-game winning streak in November, it was rarely pretty. The lows were abysmal, too; Texas lost its final two games to TCU and Arkansas by a combined score of 79-17.  

It's easy to see that Texas as a program is not the football factory it used to be. In 2014, no Texas players were taken in the NFL draft for first time since 1937, according to Jake Trotter of ESPN.com. From 2006-08, the 'Horns had an average of six players drafted each year, per NFL draft archives. From 2012-14, Texas had six players drafted total. 

Losing out on key recruits and failing to develop the ones that did come to Texas stamped the final years of the Mack Brown era. That can't happen under Strong if he's going to succeed. 

"I love Mack, I played for him," said Chris Simms, former Longhorns quarterback and current analyst for B/R. "But when Mack arrived in 1998, he had Ricky Williams, Shaun Rogers and Casey Hampton. He inherited a much better program than Charlie has." 

There's no shortage of quality players available and Strong needs them right away. What he has to sell to recruits and coaches is that they can be a part of the resurrection of Texas football. As of now, hope is the only currency that can be cashed. 

The pitch is starting to work. In the span of roughly three weeks—from Dec. 15 to Jan. 4 in a time known as the "Dead Period" of recruiting—Texas landed eight verbal commitments. Among them were Malik Jefferson, the No. 1 player in the state of Texas, and five other 4-star prospects from both Texas and Florida.

"If you have the relationships to get the best players, you do it," said McMahan. "Anyone who recruits nationally would say that." 

And recruiting is an ongoing effort. That's especially true for Strong, who is digging the program out of a hole left from the final years of the Mack Brown era. According to Bohls, Strong "has to get out more among the high school coaches and be a more visible presence.

"The presence of the SEC in Texas won’t go away and won’t diminish. If anything, it will grow stronger," Bohls continued. "It’s just a fact of life that other programs will try to court Texas high school kids, and that will grow with the addition of regular games at Jerry World and at NRG Stadium in Houston."

New blood was needed at Texas, though. Deep and longstanding relationships between college and high school coaches can be great, but they can also become stale. 

Early indications are that high school coaches are impressed with Strong's vision. "I've had nothing but positive interactions with coach Strong," said McGuire. If there are any skeptics about Strong from the high school ranks, they're not going on the record about it. 

There's work to be done. That much is true. But the fraternity that Strong must befriend is at least willing to open their door—just as Strong opened Texas' doors for them. 

   

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com

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Who Needs 5-Star DE Byron Cowart the Most: Auburn, Florida or Florida State?

One of the most hotly contested recruitments in the days leading up to national signing day will play out among Auburn, Florida and Florida State for 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart.

Those three programs represent the finalists for the nation’s top defensive end prospect and the No. 3 player overall in the 2015 class. 

He will visit Auburn this weekend, with trips to Gainesville and Tallahassee scheduled for following weekends. 

According to ESPN’s Derek Tyson, Cowart admits that he’s already come to a decision on which school he will pick—but he also noted his mind could change depending on how his visits go.

But which program needs the talented Sunshine State product the most?

 

Auburn

Anyone who watched Auburn play last fall could tell that the defense was downright abysmal at times.

The Tigers finished 66th nationally in total defense, giving up just under 400 yards per game, according to CFBstats.com

Auburn’s pass rush was also nonexistent for most of the season, with just one defensive end—rising senior DaVonte Lambert—who recorded more than one sack last fall, per CFBstats.com.

With new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp—who recruited Cowart heavily in his previous post as the head coach at Florida—set to jump-start the Tigers defense, adding an impact pass-rusher is among his first orders of business in recruiting. 

According to Keith Neibuhr of AuburnUndercover (subscription required), Muschamp is pitching Cowart to play a hybrid role in which he would line up at defensive end and outside linebacker in certain situations—something that appeals to the 6’4”, 250-pounder.

If the Gus Malzahn and his staff are able to land Cowart, it would go a long way toward getting their defensive woes ironed out in short order.

 

Florida

As Cowart’s Crystal Ball page indicates, Florida has been the longtime favorite for the Armwood High School product. 

In fact, Cowart showed up at the Under Armour All-America game carrying a Chucky doll—which is a tradition started by former Florida defensive linemen such as Dominique Easley and Dante Fowler Jr., according to GatorBait (subscription required).

Additionally, new Gators defensive end Geoff Collins is pitching Cowart on stepping into the role vacated by Fowler’s early departure to the NFL draft. 

He has a lot of guys," Cowart told GatorBait. "I can't remember the names, but a lot of guys at Mississippi State that play that Dante Fowler position. That's what I call it. Lot of people call it the hybrid, stand-up defensive end position. But he has a lot of guys that played that position. Third down, he sees me getting in there, rushing the quarterback and standing up.

Considering the transition in the Gators program, landing a player such as Cowart—an impact performer who has been a longtime lean—takes on a greater significance for new head coach Jim McElwain.

 

Florida State

It’s no secret that Jimbo Fisher has recruited at an elite level since taking over as Florida State’s head coach in 2009.

The ‘Noles once again have a star-studded class that currently rates as the second-best group in the 2015 cycle.

However, one area that Fisher and his staff would love to add another blue-chip talent is at defensive end.

After a series of early departures to the NFL from last year’s defense, defensive back Jalen Ramsey is the only returning player who recorded more than one sack last season, per CFBstats.com.

Pairing Cowart with fellow 5-star defensive end and current early enrollee Josh Sweat would be a significant boost to a defense that struggled to get off the field in key situations last season.

 

A closer look at each of finalists reveals that all three schools have a significant need for a potential game-changing pass-rusher.

However, between Auburn and Florida State, both programs have had enough positive momentum on the field recently to still field top-flight recruiting classes.

In Florida’s case, the need is greater to land a prospect such as Cowart, who could play a significant role helping to change the culture for the Gators program and give their 2015 class a major boost in the process.

 

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

 

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Kramer's College Football Notebook: Complete Offseason Preview

Success is intoxicating. It’s why congratulatory praise is often left open-ended, leaving room for the possibility of an encore. It’s why Urban Meyer, fresh off one of the most historic national championship runs in any sport, was pummeled with questions about the next championship less than 12 hours later.

"These are tough questions, man,” Meyer said. “We just won a championship."

It's why a quarterback with more national championships than regular-season starts caused the sporting world to stop functioning one Thursday afternoon. Sure, the third-string QB with a mortar for an arm made history, but what about making more history?

Cardale Jones announces he's going back to school. "It was simple."

— Zac Jackson (@FSOhioZJackson) January 15, 2015

"Simple" is not a word you would use to summarize Cardale Jones' meteoric rise to NFL commodity or Ohio State's unlikely title run. Nothing about this made any sense, and perhaps it never will. 

At this same time, one can’t help but look at Ohio State’s roster and be captivated about the things to come. It starts with Jones' return to the team, but that doesn't begin to outline just how deep the Buckeyes should be next season. With youth and star power dispersed across both sides of the ball at every level, there’s no reason to believe success won’t be sustainable.

There are losses to overcome, no question. The Buckeyes will be without the services of wideout Devin Smith, the nation’s top deep threat. Smith averaged more than 28 yards per reception this season, the highest average since 2011. The offense also has to move forward without offensive coordinator Tom Herman, now adjusting to life as Houston’s head coach.

Defensively, Ohio State will have to replace Michael Bennett, one of the nation’s most talented and versatile linemen. Linebacker Curtis Grant and cornerback Doran Grant have also said farewell.

But that’s basically it. The team you saw beat Oregon will be the same team you see months from now. The quarterback position is a colossal logjam, but it’s also a position the program will have the utmost confidence in regardless of the player named starter. It’s the ultimate rich man’s problem.

The offensive line, the one coming off its synchronized bulldozing brilliance, should be even better. Ezekiel Elliott, who ran for nearly 800 yards in the final three games, including 246 yards in the College Football Playoff National Championship, should be faster and stronger. Others, such as Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson—two outstanding chess pieces—should see their roles evolve.

On defense, there will be playmakers at every level. Defensive end Joey Bosa will be back and likely a popular name for the No. 1 pick when next year’s draft rolls around. Raekwon McMillan and Darron Lee will give the Buckeyes the top linebacking core in the country. And in the secondary, led by the electric and still-developing Vonn Bell, Ohio State should match experience with the athleticism of youth to build on an already impressive group.

There are pieces everywhere.

Offseason attrition and injuries will factor in at some point—no team knows this better than this one—but the unknown shouldn’t temper any Columbus enthusiasm. Not now, at least.

It’s never as easy as it looks on paper; just ask Florida State. Similar proclamations were made about the Seminoles at this point in the calendar one year ago. Things happen, teams change, units evolve and others change around you.

But with so much momentum working in Ohio State’s favor—and more help on the horizon with another magnificent recruiting class set to arrive on campus—all CFP National Championship hopefuls should begin with one simple question.

How do we go about beating this team?

As for other offseason storylines to follow—including recruits, storylines and television shows to take up a sudden surge of free time—let’s dive into the offseason headfirst and look for water midair.

 

Five Important (and Unavoidable) Offseason Storylines

1. Quarterback battles, of course, usually serve as quality offseason fodder. That will be the case once more. In particular, focus in on Columbus (see above) and South Bend, Indiana. After looking the part of a starting quarterback in Notre Dame’s bowl victory over LSU, Malik Zaire appears to have the upper hand over Everett Golson. Elsewhere, I’m curious to see what Oregon and UCLA do at the position after losing Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley, respectively. There are quarterbacks in place and big-time prospects hoping to have an early say.

2. Speaking of quarterbacks, college football’s “free agency” period could be fascinating in 2015 when it comes to graduate transfers. Golson and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller have both been rumored to be looking at other schools given their hazy starting potential with their current programs. With Florida State, Alabama, LSU and plenty others looking for answers at the position, these players could be hot commodities in the weeks to follow.

3. The College Football Playoff was a smashing success in its first season, shattering television records and drawing unprecedented attention to the sport. Now, with ample time to reflect over the coming weeks, it’ll be fascinating to see what changes are implemented before the fall. No, there won’t be eight teams. The selection committee, however, could undergo personnel changes. The evaluation process and how these results are delivered to the masses could also be tweaked some. Stay tuned.

4. Ah, yes. Good ol’ fashion NCAA conversations will undoubtedly surface once more, although this regular offseason ritual will carry a bit more weight this time around. Power Five conferences (Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12) have been granted autonomy, meaning they will be allowed to create their own rules. Player stipends and cost of attendance will be popular topics soon enough and other polarizing topics could follow. This could actually take up a significant part of your offseason coverage; you’ve been warned.

5. Of course, no offseason is without two ugly, unavoidable developments that will hit more than just a handful of teams. Injuries and arrests will again, unfortunately, consume much of our attention. It’s unavoidable. Outside of national signing day, the occasional spring football sound bite and eventual media day madness, you don’t want to hear about your team until fall practice. In the offseason, no news is good news. One can only hope that this particular offseason will be more quiet—even if that means boring—than usual.

 

My Way-Too-Early “Anger as Many Fanbases as Possible” Top 10

In recent years, these immediate post-championship rankings have become quite popular. And I can tell you from direct experience that nothing ignites a comment section quite like ‘em.

You love them. You also hate them when no love is given.

Now, I won’t post my full Top 25—there are far too many things to discuss and fanbases to enrage in other places—but here are my Top 10 teams with so much still to be decided.

(Note: If your team was disrespected or omitted, it’s absolutely an agenda and you should be enraged.)

1. Ohio State

2. TCU

3. Baylor

4. Alabama

5. USC

6. Auburn

7. Michigan State

8. UCLA

9. Oregon

10. Notre Dame

As for what these rankings usually consistent of, here is the formula for ranking college football teams in mid-January.

1. A Team That Looked REALLY Good Last Time You Watched It

2. A Team That Will Undoubtedly Finish 7-5

3. Probably Alabama (And If Not, Certainly Not Your Team)

4. Definitely Not Your Team

5. A Team With Major Holes (But It's January, So Who Really Cares?)

 

Five Teams I’m Going to Spend the Next Seven Months Figuring Out

Arkansas: I get why people are giddy over the Hogs, especially with almost the entire offense back. If the passing game can develop just a smidge and the defense can replace a handful of key pieces up front, I might just jump on the giddiness train. There is a lot to like; it’s just a matter of finding the appropriate ceiling.

Tennessee: With so much talent on the roster—especially on the offensive side—expect the Vols to be a “buzz” team. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs looks to be a future star in the conference, and more help is on the way with another huge recruiting class for Butch Jones. Both lines have been rebuilt, which will be significant moving forward. Fascinating potential.

Michigan:Brady Hoke, for all his limitations as a head coach, recruited some immensely talented players. It’ll be up to head coach Jim Harbaugh to develop that talent in a way Hoke simply could not. Is Shane Morris the guy at quarterback? What can we expect from Jabrill Peppers, who has superstar potential? It’ll be an eventful offseason in Ann Arbor.

Florida State: The Seminoles are losing more talent than anyone, and quite frankly, it isn’t even close. They’ll be without Jameis Winston at quarterback along with Rashad Greene and Nick O’Leary, his two favorite targets. The defensive line and secondary were both absolutely gutted, as was the offensive line. There is talent to step in thanks to masterful recruiting, although now is the time to get acclimated with future Tallahassee stars.

Oklahoma: What on earth was that? And, more important to the future, can the Sooners be fixed in short order? Major staff changes will bring some welcomed new voices to Norman, and the offense could use a boost. It doesn’t hurt to have Samaje Perine, one of the best young running backs in the country, although there are plenty of other questions hovering around the program.

 

Five Names You Should Get to Know Before Next Season

Devontae Booker: Utah’s outstanding running back announced he was coming back for another year, which is wonderful news for the Utes and horrible news for Pac-12 defenses. He had more than 1,800 yards from scrimmage last season, and yet, not nearly enough people know his name.

Mike Dudek: How much Illinois football did you watch this season? Be honest. Well, if you didn’t see much (or any), you missed Mike Dudek, one of the more underappreciated wideouts in the nation. As a true freshman, Dudek went for over 1,000 yards receiving and came up with unbelievable grabs regularly. Listed at 5’11” and 185 pounds on his official bio, Dudek plays far bigger than his measurables. He could be in line for a monster 2015.

Corey Clement: Wisconsin’s next star at running back nearly went over 1,000 yards while filling in for Melvin Gordon. With Gordon off to the NFL, Clement will become Wisconsin’s No. 1 back, a player new head coach Paul Chryst is thrilled to have around. Clement might not be at Gordon’s level, but he’s not far from it. And operating in a system conducive for running backs, his numbers should be off the charts.

Paxton Lynch: Memphis enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2014, and it did so behind one of the nation’s best defenses and a fascinating 6’7” quarterback. Paxton Lynch is a hard guy to miss, and he flashed moments of serious potential throughout the Tigers’ 10-win season. With key pieces of the Memphis defense departing, Lynch will be asked to do more. Look for him to build on a solid 35-touchdown year.

Kareem Hunt: If you’re not paying attention to this kid yet, why not? Also, please be sure to do so immediately. Toledo’s star tailback ran for more than 1,600 yards this season, and he did so despite missing three games. His bowl-game performance included five touchdowns and 271 yards rushing against Arkansas State. Not bad. If he stays healthy, he could go for more than 2,000 yards in 2015.

 

Who Will Take Home the Nation’s Top Recruiting Class?

Alabama.

Let’s move on.

 

Three Recruits I Cannot Wait to See in 2015

Unless you cover it full time or patrol message boards hourly—and some of you likely do just that—focusing on recruiting happenings during the season can be a challenge. With national signing day inching closer, the college football coverage on Bleacher Report will turn recruiting-heavy soon.

To help pass this baton, here are three incoming freshmen that I can’t wait to see on an actual college football field in short order. They won’t be on the bench for long (if at all).

Kahlil McKenzie, DT (Tennessee): His legs are the size of sequoia trees. Let’s start there. The Tennessee commit—tipping the scales at a cool 353 pounds—moves exceptionally well for someone his size. In fact, when you watch him operate, it doesn’t seem real. No one this large should move so quickly. Look for him to make an impact on Tennessee’s defense in the very first game.

Taj Griffin, RB (Oregon): The Ducks, of course, have plenty of firepower at the running back spot. Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman will serve as one of the best one-two punches in the country next season. But the addition of Griffin—perhaps the nation’s fastest recruit—will give Oregon a new toy that it will use in a variety of ways. He clocked in at 4.31 in the 40 at recruiting camp earlier this year and added a 45.8-inch vertical. That seems unfair.

Malik Jefferson, LB (Texas): When it’s all said and done, Jefferson could end up being the best player in this class. He’ll have to add to his 215-pound frame—and there’s no reason to believe he won’t—but it’s rare to see a linebacker enter with these athletic gifts. He’s posted sub-4.4 40s already, making him one of the fastest players in this class overall. Did I mention he played linebacker? Charlie Strong is going to enjoy coaching this one.

 

Offseason Checklist Items

The offseason isn't just about football. A lot of it will still be about football, although there will be other important matters sprinkled in.  

Family: There’s a group of people very close to me that I love very much; I look forward to learning about them and hearing about they’ve been doing these past few months.

Fitness: Establishing a regular workout regimen during the season is something all of us would love to follow through with; then the season arrives and life becomes a frozen pizza. I’m all yours, treadmill, lap lane and Bosu ball. Do your worst.

Food: I’m going to enhance my cooking options this offseason, especially when we finally thaw out. While the grill will get a workout, I plan to focus on overhauling my breakfast repertoire. By August, I’ll be an omelette and frittata wizard.

Reading: I need something besides a school or conference press release to read. Any good book suggestions? Please feel free to pass them along.

Sleep: So excited. It's been way too long.

 

What I’m Watching This Offseason

My television-watching portfolio is limited, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in absurdity and quality. Here are a few things plugged into the DVR.

Justified (FX): The final season starts next week. If you’ve been following all along, do cartwheels; if you’re new to it, purchase all seasons and watch them all as quickly as you can. Gunfights, cowboy hats, moonshine and amazing characters who have amazing tendencies and accents. Please watch this show.

Archer (FX): Perhaps the best animated show the world has ever seen. Last season’s attempt to change storylines did not go as well as planned, although I admired them for trying. This year the group is back in its old home, and the old formula will deliver as always.

The Americans (FX): No show makes me more uncomfortable—in a tremendous, unmatched way—than this one. The tension is remarkable, and FX has somehow made it so I now root for Russian spies. It’s brilliantly done, brilliantly acted and the story, thus far, has been exceptional.

Better Call Saul (AMC): I have my reservations about the Breaking Bad spin-off, but with so many people in place that played a role in creating television gold, I’m anxiously awaiting this February debut. It may not be brilliant, but I cannot see it being bad.

Spring Games: Of course I'll be watching spring football, ready to overreact to every magnificent throw and long run. While the value of these games can be overrated, these April exhibitions are the perfect way to see young players and new systems put into action. 

 

Enjoy the time off and don't fear the sudden football-less world. The game you know and love will be back sooner than you think. Plus, your omelette could probably use a little work.

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Cardale Jones Returns to Ohio State: Latest Details and Reaction

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones has decided against making the NFL jump and will instead stay with the Buckeyes for his junior campaign. It further clouds the team's quarterback outlook for the 2015 season.

ESPN's Adam Schefter had the news:

Jones was blunt about how tough his decision was via Zac Jackson of Fox Sports:

Back during the summer it seemed Jones was a long shot to receive serious playing time this season. Ohio State had both Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett ahead of him on the depth chart. The third-string option also had a lack of experience given his limited snaps as a freshman.

The story began to change once Miller was ruled out for the year in August due to a shoulder injury. It moved Jones into the more crucial backup role and, after watching Barrett shine for most of the season, he was thrust into the spotlight when the dynamic freshman suffered an ankle injury.

There were then questions about where the Buckeyes deserved a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff with him leading the offense. He responded by leading them to a 59-0 victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, locking up that coveted berth.

He then helped lead Ohio State to an even bigger shocker as it knocked off highly touted Alabama in the semifinals. That's when the draft talk started to pick up some steam.

Afterward, he explained to Brian Bennett of ESPN.com how he could step into such an important situation and handle it so well, especially when the Buckeyes fell behind.

"I have no clue," Jones said. "I think I'm just naturally a calm person. I never get too excited or too down. I never started pressing when we were down two scores."

Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead added some early scout takes to the conversation:




He followed that up by helping lead Ohio State to the national title with another strong showing against Oregon in the College Football Playoff National Championship. It capped a surprising run for both Jones and the Buckeyes.

The sudden star wasn't prepared to make a final decision in the aftermath of that win. Heather Dinich of ESPN.com noted his comments about not being completely sure he was ready to make the jump, ahead of a meeting with head coach Urban Meyer.

"In my personal opinion, I'm not ready for that level yet," Jones said. "I mean, like coach [Urban] Meyer said, it's a conversation me and him will have later down the road. But to me right now, it's far out."

Once the hoopla died down a little bit, he made his decision.

Even though there was some upside to going pro now, Jones opted for a return to Ohio State. Now the question is how soon he can get back into the lineup to further bolster his draft stock. It's something that may not be known until next summer or beyond.

That said, making the jump would have also presented major risk. Teams haven't gotten much of a chance to see him perform. Three games along with some other limited snaps is nothing compared to other players with multiple years of game tape for scouts to analyze.

So if he would have entered the draft process and proceeded to struggle, he could have been in line for a major drop. Should that have happened, the already tough path to success in the NFL comes with a few extra hurdles.

He returns to the Buckeyes, who have a potentially tricky situation to sort out under center. By the time the summer rolls around all three of Miller, Barrett and Jones should be healthy and ready to roll. If all of them are still on the roster by that point it would be quite a battle for the top spot on the depth chart.

Sometimes the decision for an underclassman is clear cut. Given the number of variables in play here, that clearly wasn't the case for Jones. There were serious potential downfalls on both sides of the debate and he had to make a relatively quick call.

At this point it's impossible to know if he made the right decision. Going back to Ohio State represented the safer option at a time when a perfect one was seemingly unavailable.

He took it and only time will tell how it plays out.



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Cardale Jones Returns to Ohio State: QB Battle for the Ages Begins for Buckeyes

Cardale Jones is returning to Ohio State for the 2015 season. The sophomore quarterback led the Buckeyes to wins in the Big Ten title game, the national semifinals and finally the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses what this means for OSU heading into the 2015 season.

Do you think Cardale Jones is making the right decision?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Notre Dame Steals Top TE Aliz'e Jones, Puts Pressure on UCLA to Land Replacement

Aliz'e Jones ended his 14-month commitment to UCLA on Wednesday, resulting in a long speculated flip to Notre Dame. The 4-star tight end shared his decision through a series of tweets:

His second post points to a fruitful 2015 pipeline between the Fighting Irish and Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School. The picture portrays Jones and teammate Nicco Fertitta, a defensive back who pledged to Notre Dame in April, serving as captains in South Bend.

Jones, rated No. 1 nationally among tight ends in 247Sports' composite rankings, played a key role during three straight state title runs at Bishop Gorman. He established career-highs as a senior, catching 41 passes for 930 yards and 13 touchdowns.

His yards-per-reception average (22.7) provides strong evidence that Jones isn't your average intermediate tight end weapon. The 6'4.5", 218-pound playmaker is more of a wide receiver at this stage of his career, capable of evolving into a hybrid weapon with further physical development and improvements as a blocker. 

Jones, who visited South Bend twice since September, adds to a Notre Dame class that continues to be boosted by players who initially committed elsewhere. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush (Penn State), cornerback Shaun Crawford (Michigan) and linebacker Josh Barajas (Penn State) are each 4-star talents who flipped to the Fighting Irish during this cycle. 

Brian Kelly's class bursts back into the top 10 in 247Sports' composite rankings with Jones on board, and now rates ninth overall with 23 pledges.

UCLA, meanwhile, must ramp up its efforts to reel in coveted Connecticut tight end Chris Clark. The 6'6", 247-pound Avon Old Farms standout is rated second only to Jones in composite rankings and remains extremely interested in the Bruins.

He is set to spend an official visit at UCLA starting on Jan. 23, but Jim Mora preferred not to wait for an in-person conversation with Clark. The Bruins head coach was slated to arrive in Avon on Thursday, the first day after college football recruiting's month-long "dead period" ended.

The cross-country trip confirms Clark is considered a top member of UCLA's "wish list" during its final push toward Feb. 4. National signing day looms large for a team suddenly lacking top-end talent at a position of need.

Clark plays in the mold of a more traditional tight end than Jones, dishing out devastating blocks as a force in the run game. UCLA sent him a "future" article from ESPN The Magazine earlier this month, envisioning a Bruins career that includes All-American honors , the Mackey Award and a national championship.

He could serve as an immediate safety blanket in the passing game for incoming 5-star quarterback Josh Rosen, who will challenge to start as a true freshman. The potential duo would have a chance to post prolific career numbers together if allotted early opportunities.

Jones' departure from UCLA certainly seems to pave Clark's path to Los Angeles, but Michigan may stand in the way. Clark decommitted from the Wolverines following Brady Hoke's dismissal, but he became an immediate interest for new head coach Jim Harbaugh:

Michigan hosts him for an official visit this weekend, looking to lock up a re-commitment before he can head west. Clark already carries an incredible amount of respect for Harbaugh.

"I think Michigan's going to turn back into a powerhouse with him," he told Nick Baumgardner. "He's like the LeBron James of coaching it feels like."

The lofty praise presents reason for UCLA fans to feel concerned about the odds of him ultimately landing in Los Angeles.

Now that Jones is headed to Notre Dame, it's officially crunch time for Mora and company in the Clark sweepstakes. These next three weeks—and two university visits—could prove paramount for UCLA's future offensive plans.

 

Recruit ratings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

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Louisiana Man Chooses Jail over Cooperating in LSU Memorabilia-Trafficking Case

Police are looking for answers in a case involving the sale of game-worn LSU football equipment on eBay, but recently ran into a wall when the seller refused to cooperate. 

The Advocate’s Ben Wallace (h/t Dr. Saturday’s Nick Bromberg) reports that Fletcher Sanders, 25, was contacted by LSU police regarding his involvement in selling a small collection of apparel worn during the 2014 college football season.

According to the police report, officers were interested in Sanders' role in peddling a pair of cleats and gloves allegedly worn during LSU’s 10-7 win over Ole Miss in October. Moreover, authorities wanted to know which player slipped Sanders the memorabilia on the market. 

Sanders, a Baton Rouge shoe store employee, was told he’d be arrested if he didn’t divulge his source’s identity. He doesn’t care. He’s not giving up his guy.

“Do what you have to do,” Sanders responded, according to the police report. “I am not going to be responsible for ruining someone’s career.”

True to their word, police brought Sanders into the station at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and booked him for being a principal to theft and the possession of stolen things. “Theft” and “stolen” are the operative words here, as the university “leases” gear to players, who are not allowed to sell or give it away.

Sanders was released Tuesday upon posting $3,000 bail, according to Wallace.

This is a fairly atypical development as far as recent memorabilia scandals go. The sporting world saw multiple college football memorabilia brokersroll over on their student-athlete suppliers over the last two years. No one stayed mum when the police came knocking.

That this shoe store employee would stand strong and do his time for the team…well, Wee-Bey would be proud. 

In any case, we’ll wait and see how Sanders' case plays out. Ironically, it may turn out that once again, the powers in charge of protecting and serving student-athletes think a couple of crusty cleats and gloves are worth wrecking a kid’s life.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture filigree.

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Is Trent Thompson or Martez Ivey the Real #1 Recruit of 2015?

Both Trent Thompson and Martez Ivey have consistently been rated among the nation’s Top 10 overall prospects in the 2015 class.

In fact, Ivey had been pegged as the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in December, according to Barton Simmons of 247Sports. Right behind him was Thompson at No. 2 overall.

However, with the postseason all-star circuit completed, the nation’s top offensive and defensive linemen in the 2015 class switched places—with Thompson now occupying the top spot.

It's a return to the top spot for Thompson, who was previously rated as the No. 1 overall prospect back in February of 2014, according to JC Shurburtt of 247Sports.

But which recruit is more deserving of being billed as the cream of the crop for the 2015 class?

Both Thompson and Ivey have worthy resumes to that claim.

Differentiating between the two prospects would be akin to splitting hairs, as both project to be impact difference makers at the next level.

With Thompson, he’s a 6’3”, 313-pound wrecking ball that is simply a man among boys at the high school level.

According to MaxPreps, Thompson racked up 84 tackles—including an astounding 36 for loss during his senior season. Over the course of his career, he logged 241 total tackles, with 88 coming for loss and 21 sacks.

He then went to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio and put on a show during the entire week of practice and also had a strong performance during the game, as noted by Simmons.

According to Chris Nee of Noles247, Thompson toyed with the nation’s top offensive line prospects all week long and none were a match in their quest to keep him out of the backfield.

With his size, athleticism and skill set, Thompson—who is committed to Georgia—figures to be a rare talent who can handle the rigors of life in the trenches of the SEC right away.

On the other hand, Ivey—who is uncommitted and has Auburn and Florida at the top of his list—is a physical force as a run-blocker and displayed his dominance during an outstanding senior season.

He helped pave the way for a rushing attack headlined by friend and current Auburn commitment Chandler Cox, as the Blue Darters finished the season on a six-game winning streak to capture the Florida 8A state title.

Given the importance of the left tackle to the offensive line, Ivey is a prospect who has an NFL-type frame with the agility and strength necessary to handle elite pass-rushers on the college level.

While Ivey possesses the type of freakish athleticism seldom seen in offensive tackle prospects, at 6’6”, 275 pounds, he’s still light in terms of size—and is probably a year or two away from becoming a contributor in college, as pointed out by Simmons. 

Even though Ivey may have the highest ceiling of any recruit in this class in the long-term, Thompson’s ability to potentially contribute right away separates the Georgia product in the race to be billed as the nation’s top player in the 2015 class.

 

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

 

 

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