NCAA Football News

LSU Football: Projecting Who Will Win Tigers' Open Starting Positions

LSU head coach Les Miles' annual replacing of players that were selected in the NFL draft during the offseason has become as certain as death and taxes.

Miles has the arduous task of finding new starters to step in and be productive right away. He will be aided this season by a talented incoming class of freshmen, but he does not have much time to determine who is best fit to play right now. 

LSU has a number of talented players returning from last year's team as well. The Tigers will need them to come into their own next season.

Here is a quick of preview of who will be asked to fill open vacancies from last year's team. 

 

*Stats and rankings via 247Sports, LSU Sports Information and cfbstats.com. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

 

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Why Notre Dame Should Absolutely Be Running Satellite Recruiting Camps

The very best college football programs take advantage of "loopholes." Joker Phillips' resignation notwithstanding, power programs—mostly in the SEC—have created a culture of rule-pushing, whether it be in recruiting practices, expanded support staff or over-signing.

But to consider the adoption of satellite camps, by Penn State this summer and by Notre Dame starting next summer, as exploiting a loophole gets one key variable wrong: This one actually helps the kids.

For Notre Dame, perhaps the premiere national recruiting football program in the country, getting the opportunity to sell their school and take their message to recruits over the summer can only help all parties involved. And the Irish staff absolutely must be at the forefront of the idea. 

As 247Sports.com's Steve Wiltfong first reported, the Irish will begin co-hosting football camps with schools in different regions. First on the list is joining Georgia State in Atlanta, a region that's turning into a significant pipeline for head coach Brian Kelly

Atlanta is just one stop. As a fully-formed idea, Notre Dame could set up shop in Florida, Texas and California, spending parts of the summer in three crucial recruiting regions where the Irish coaching staff continually fights uphill battles trying to pull out talent. 

The chance for Tony Alford to be more than just a voice from Indiana on the telephone in South Florida should have Irish fans salivating. That Kerry Cooks will be able to coach up prospects in Texas, where he's made significant inroads the past few recruiting cycles already, will be invaluable.

And while most Irish fans want to give up on a place like Fresno, getting Mike Denbrock and the Irish staff to such a talent-rich (though difficult-to-crack) region will make the idea of Notre Dame a reality to talented recruits, not just some mythical place in Indiana. 

The idea that James Franklin, Brian Kelly or any northern coach would be able to set up shop in somebody else's backyard has some SEC coaches crying foul. Georgia coach Mark Richttold the AP the following:

"To me, what I'm seeing is a loophole in that if another school sponsors a camp -- Georgia Camp featuring Penn State coaches -- or some Division II schools in Texas featuring Oklahoma's coaches or Oklahoma State's coaches or Texas' coaches and then just barnstorming all around the place," Richt said. "The rule says that everybody's camp should be on their own institution, so it's basically people finding a way around that rule. We think the rule was set for a reason and it ought to stay that way."

As SEC meetings took place a few weeks ago, some of the SEC's powerbrokers had the conference considering rule changes to stop the growing practice. Ross Bjork, athletic director for Ole Miss, made these comments to ESPN's Brett McMurphy and Edward Aschoff:

"That's our backyard, so anytime those things happen, your eyes and ears perk up to say, 'What do we need to address [the issue] if that's a hindrance,'" Bjork said. "If it's a competitive disadvantage, then we need to look at it."

The deeper you look into the summer camp scene, the more distasteful things seem to get. It's hardly satellite camps that are the problem.

CBSSports.com's Jeremy Fowler recently exposed the summer camp scene, highlighting the slippery slope that comes with paying high school coaches (often with elite prospects in tow) to work their camp.

According to open records requests made by CBSSports.com, Washington, Ohio State and Florida State spent more than $150,000 in "guest fees" last summer, making it pretty evident that it takes significant financial motivation to keep the current, non-loophole exploiting, summer camp system alive and well. 

Arizona's Rich Rodriguez and Tennessee's Butch Jones know the other, more compromised side. Both say high school coaches attempt to leverage them by offering to bring top players in exchange for getting paid to work a camp. “It's a growing question we hear,” Jones said.

Several FBS coaches are concerned not that camps exist, but that the recruiting system is designed for potential abuse, or to create pressure for coaches to abuse it themselves.

Putting high school or junior college coaches on the camp payroll to potentially steer players' campus visits could create a new arms race among high-resource schools. There's no definitive limit on pay for on-field guest coaches, assuming everyone gets the same rate based on work they perform.

“Essentially what (schools) are doing is paying to bring prospects to their camps,” Arizona's Rich Rodriguez said.

As recruiting timelines compress, getting athletes on campus over the summer is crucial. To that point, Notre Dame has stepped up its efforts on the homefront, not just relying on the traveling circus that could be unleashed next summer. Their upcoming "Irish Invasion" camp is among the top stops for elite recruiting prospects, with the Irish staff welcoming dozens of the top 2015 and 2016 prospects to campus.

For as long as Notre Dame has struggled to get back to the top of the college football mountain, excuses have been made: Academic barriers that eliminate a large portion of the country's top talent; an unwillingness to partake in unethical recruiting practices; the geographical hindrance that comes with being in Northern Indiana.

But Brian Kelly has done his best to tear those excuses down. He's recruited aggressively, working with both the university admissions office and high school guidance counselors to help prospects understand what it takes to get in and thrive at Notre Dame.

He's also taken a "new school" approach to recruiting, with the "Pot of Gold." Kelly's staff turned late December, a recruiting quiet period, into a much-talked about letter writing campaign that got national attention.  

With satellite camps, Kelly and the Irish staff will be breaking down a final barrier, combating the geographic issue that even NBC and Under Armour money can't beat. For talented recruits that can't find their way to South Bend on their own dime in the summer, the Irish staff will simply come to them. 

Call it a loophole in NCAA rule (13.12.1.2) if you will, but it's good for the kids. So whether or not it ruffles a few feathers, it's just one more thing Notre Dame needs to do as it continues its climb back into college football's elite. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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How Gus Malzahn, Auburn Dominate Recruiting in the State of Georgia

Two years ago, a picture of an MSNBC map incorrectly placing Auburn University in northern Georgia made the rounds online.  

This was obviously a mistake in geography, but looking at the makeup of Gus Malzahn's latest recruiting classes you can understand why it was made.

While Georgia has 69 in-state players on its current roster, Auburn's influence in the state is growing with 25 Tigers who call Georgia their home state.

"Georgia is very important to our success here," Malzahn told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell. "If you look back at the championship-type teams we’ve had at Auburn, we’ve had a lot of players from the state of Georgia. We’re going to continue to recruit that state very hard."

Through its close proximity and close relationships with some of the top players in the state, Auburn is having even more success in Georgia than the powerhouse Bulldogs.

In 2014, home-state power Georgia, finished with 11 in-state signees, but let 10 Peach State natives, including 4-star cornerback Nick Ruffin, cross the border to play for Malzahn on the Plains. 

Recruiting the Peach State is nothing new for Auburn. One could make a dominant All-Star team of former Tigers from Georgia—Cam Newton, James Brooks, Karsten Bailey, Steve Wallace, Tracy Rocker, Takeo Spikes and Carlos Rogers, just to name a few.

But Malzahn's staff has put more of an emphasis on recruiting Georgia than previous regimes, and for good reason.

From the talent-rich center of Atlanta to the state's football-crazed southern region, Georgia consistently puts out a much higher level of talent than the battleground state of Alabama:

“There’s no reason for these Alabama schools not to come over and try to pluck from a good tree," said Welton Coffey, who was the head coach of Auburn cornerback Kalvaraz Bessent at Camden County High School. "The football talent in Georgia is great, but the Bulldogs can’t get all of them."

Auburn takes full advantage of its close proximity to Georgia—Jordan-Hare Stadium sits less than 30 miles west of the Alabama-Georgia border—but it also maintains close relationships with the players of Georgia.

“I think it’s a testimony to the guys who come out and recruit here," Coffey said. "When you have guys who come out and develop relationships with these kids, I think their honesty and being candid with the players have a lot to do with it."

One of Auburn's key figures in developing relationships with Georgia high school players is assistant coach Rodney Garner. His wealth of experience on both sides of the state line—as a player at Auburn and a coach at Georgia—has been invaluable to Malzahn's efforts in the Atlanta area. 

“[Garner] knows the lay of the land in the state extremely well," 247Sports' Keith Niebuhr said. "Because he worked at Georgia so many years, he knows what their key selling points are and how to attack those points, while also trying to accentuate the positives of Auburn."

Like Garner, some of the series' biggest icons played significant roles on both sides. Legendary Georgia head coach Vince Dooley was an Auburn graduate, and legendary Auburn head coach Pat Dye was a Georgia graduate.

Niebuhr said Garner and the rest of his fellow coaches' success in Georgia is based on their understanding of what draws Georgia recruits, especially those from smaller towns, to Auburn.

"Auburn’s current regime has done a great job of identifying kids that fit what they do and also fit their personality," Niebuhr said. "They sell the family atmosphere extremely well, and that resonates well a lot in Georgia. You have the Atlanta kids, but you also have a lot of the more rural kids who are big on family and home."

Sometimes those family connections run a little deeper for some recruits.

Class of 2014 signee Dontavius Russell flipped from Georgia to Auburn last December after Garner's move back to the Plains, and his high school head coach believes Russell's Auburn heritage played a factor in the change of heart.

“Dontavius has grown up an Auburn fan his whole life," former Carrollton High School head coach Rayvon Teague told Carvell. "His uncle (1987-90 safety Dennis Wallace) played at Auburn. He and his parents are big Auburn fans...Coach Garner and Auburn never stopped recruiting him."

The Tigers, who also signed the son of former Auburn defensive lineman Myron Burton, have another family connection in Georgia for this upcoming recruiting class.

"Four-star cornerback Darius Slayton from Greater Atlanta Christian in Norcross, is a guy who's got ties to the Auburn program," Niebuhr said. "His cousin (1988-91 linebacker Darrell Crawford) played there. He's pretty high on the Tigers."

For some Georgia recruits who did not have the familiar connection with Auburn, the Tigers were able to make an impact in their recruitment by targeting them early in the process and getting a jump on the in-state Bulldogs.

"Sometimes the Bulldogs are after some of these kids strongly and are battling these out-of-state schools," Coffey said. "But there are some guys where Georgia does not have them as high up on their recruiting lists for whatever reason."

This was the case for Andrew Williams, another class of 2014 signee for the Tigers. The 4-star defensive end from McDonough made three separate unofficial visits to Auburn last summer before making his first visit to Athens. 

After a busy winter of visits to Auburn, Georgia and Clemson, Williams put on the orange and blue hat on national signing day.

"I just followed my heart, and everything about Auburn was right," Williams said. "It was really hard though. The short time Georgia had to get at me, they did the best. If they had longer time, they’d have been the ones to probably get me."

Looking ahead to the recruiting class of 2015, Auburn has a slim early lead on Georgia for the Peach State's finest picks. 

Malzahn and company have commitments from seven of Georgia's top high school stars and one from Jovon Robinson, a Tennessee native who has restarted his recruitment at Georgia Military College as the nation's No. 1 junior college player.

Georgia currently has six in-state commitments, but its top pledge, 5-star athlete Terry Godwin, has visited Auburn twice since committing to the Bulldogs.

"Getting to meet all of the coaches, everything was fun," Godwin told 247Sports' Kipp Adams (subscription required) during his Big Cat Weekend visit. "It was just a great day. It is one big family. They were just giving me more information on how they would give me the ball."

Auburn will hope to maintain that close relationship with Godwin and the rest of their targets from Georgia, including the nation's No. 1 overall recruit Trent Thompson, throughout the summer in what will be another yearlong border war on the recruiting trail.

"Auburn's right there, so close to everything in Georgia," Niebuhr said. "There’s talent in Georgia, and you are close to the talent. Success breeds more success."

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Michigan Wolverines Football: Examining the Discipline Problems Under Brady Hoke

After last season’s disappointing 7-6 finish some fans are doubting whether Michigan will return to national prominence under Brady Hoke. He is facing a critical juncture of his Michigan tenure—attempting to mimic the offense of Alabama with an offensive line that needs to be retooled at every position.

The last thing he needed was for one of his returning linemen to be involved in an embarrassing off-the-field incident. But that’s the position he finds himself in after details emerged of center Graham Glasgow’s arrest during spring camp. Graham’s subsequent punishment does more than hamper the development of Michigan’s offensive line—it raises the question of whether key players are responding to Hoke’s message of discipline and in his words “…understand the standard expected of them.”

As reported by Kyle Feldscher of MLIVE.COM Glasgow was arrested after his vehicle was pulled over by Ann Arbor police.

Glasgow, 21 of Ann Arbor, was driving a white Chevrolet Suburban SUV on William when Officer Pat Maguire observed a woman…hanging out of the front passenger window…screaming at pedestrians and not wearing a seatbelt…the rear tailgate to the SUV was open and, as Glasgow continued driving, it started to open more and more with items coming out of the trunk. Eventually, the falling items started to obscure the license plate and Maguire initiated a traffic stop.

Glasgow invited the arrest by driving through the heart of campus on a Saturday evening. He risked not only his own safety and that of his passengers but the safety of the numerous pedestrians and other vehicles in a busy downtown area.

Hoke suspended Glasgow for part of spring practice and the season opener versus Appalachian State.

Players have had mixed results after being disciplined by Hoke:

  • Defensive end Frank Clark was suspended after an arrest in 2012 but returned and has emerged as a team leader. 
  • Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint’s 2012 season was delayed by a DUI arrest that caused him to miss the beginning of training camp and he never really got on track. 
  • Kicker Will Hagerup was suspended last season for a violation of team rules (he also missed four games in Hoke’s first season) but will be return this season.
  • Tight end A.J. Williams was suspended one game last season after being arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop.
  • Kicker Brendan Gibbons didn't make the team’s bowl trip last season and was expelled from the University of Michigan over an alleged assault.
  • Tackle Taylor Lewan was arrested after allegedly assaulting an Ohio State after Michigan’s loss last season.

Michigan is hardly a renegade program, but it cannot afford to lose any more key players because of bad decisions.

Hoke says that he wants to help players who make off-the-field mistakes to “…learn valuable life lessons.”

One of those valuable life lessons might be that their actions can lead to more than just personal embarrassment— their selfishness may derail Hoke’s rebuilding program at Michigan altogether.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.

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Key and Peele Thank Mothers of Oddly Named College Football Players After Award

For all of the mothers who think outside the box, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele thank you.

While accepting an award at Spike TV's Guys' Choice Awards, the stars of Comedy Central's Key & Peele gave a shoutout to all of the moms who gave their children unusual names. 

Here are the names that inspired the comedy duo: former South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney, Cincinnati's Munchie Legaux and Silverberry Mouhon, Michigan's Taco Charlton, North Texas' Konockus Sashington, Eastern Michigan's Lion King Conway and former Alabama star Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Those names helped Key and Peele come up with unique names for the "East/West College Bowl” sketch:

[Spike TV, Comedy Central; h/t College Spun]

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Insider Buzz: The 5 Players Atop Notre Dame's 2015 Recruiting Big Board

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish landed a top-10 recruiting class in 2014, according to 247Sports. Will Brian Kelly repeat this success and get another huge class in 2015?

Watch Keith Arnold of NBC Sports and Bleacher Report break down Notre Dame's recruiting big board and which targets they are most likely to land.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital. All recruit rankings from 247Sports.

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Elijah Taylor Commits to Notre Dame: What Big Defensive Tackle Brings to Irish

Notre Dame remains on a defensive run in recruiting, as tackle Elijah Taylor is the latest defender to pledge his loyalties to the Fighting Irish. The Cincinnati standout announced the decision Friday morning on Twitter:

Taylor, a composite 3-star prospect, picked Notre Dame eight months after receiving an offer. The team targeted him early during his junior season and extended the scholarship during a campus visit in October.

He returned to South Bend in April, but several suitors stayed in the picture for his pledge throughout the process. Taylor took a long look at multiple Big Ten programs, including Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State.

His offer sheet also features Florida State, Tennessee, Kentucky and Miami.

Taylor is an athletic interior defender, standing at 6'3", 285 pounds. His frame leaves room for substantial growth at the next level, and he should be able to compete comfortably in the trenches while hovering around 300 pounds.

Taylor anchors the defensive front for national powerhouse Archbishop Moeller High School and earned a state title in 2013. He finished his junior season with 68 tackles and six sacks, per Blue and Gold Illustrated (subscription required).

At this stage of his development, Taylor is more effective as a run-stuffer than pass-rusher. His long physique, first-step quickness and large wingspan suggest he could wreak havoc as a player who can consistently penetrate the pocket from inside.

He appears disciplined enough to play the 3-technique and could vie for an early role in the rotation with a strong freshman campaign on the practice field. Taylor exhibits excellent vision, peaking into the backfield while dealing with double-team blocking schemes.

Once he identifies where the ball is headed, Taylor is decisive and attacks. His footwork leaves room for improvement, indicating we still haven't seen the best he has to offer as a defensive force.

Notre Dame now holds 12 total commits in a class that currently rates 12th in 247Sports' composite team rankings. The Fighting Irish have claimed five defensive pledges in the past two weeks, beginning with the flip of 4-star Indiana linebacker Josh Barajas from Penn State.

Taylor joins Indianapolis defensive tackle Brandon Tiassum, who committed Sunday.

 

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

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Best College Fit for Freak 5-Star WR Tyron Johnson to Succeed at Next Level

Tyron Johnson, a 5-star wide receiver, is one of the top playmakers in the class of 2015 and has yet to decide where he will be playing his college football.

The 6'1", 191-pound athlete has great size, speed and hands, which will make him an elite threat at the next level. The question is: Where should he take his talents?

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down which school would best fit Johnson going forward.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital. Rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

 

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South Carolina Football: Recapping the Biggest 2014 Offseason News so Far

The South Carolina Gamecocks are just 76 days away from opening their 2014 football campaign against the Texas A&M Aggies, so it is time to reflect on the biggest news from the 2014 offseason. 

All has been relatively calm for head coach Steve Spurrier and his squad. There has been a strong focus on recruiting, and the Gamecocks have one of the better 2014 recruiting classes as of right now. 

Outside of recruiting, most players are staying healthy and out of trouble, minus the one incident with Na'Ty Rodgers. 

The Gamecocks are going through the motions this offseason, developing their talent and preparing for their first game. 

Let's have a quick recap of the biggest 2014 offseason news so far.

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Does Former 4-Star QB Hayden Rettig Have What It Takes to Elevate Rutgers?

Hayden Rettig didn't sign with Rutgers out of high school, but he's the highest-rated quarterback "commit" for the Scarlet Knights since Tom Savage.

Which, if anyone followed Savage's career path from Rutgers to Arizona to Pitt, may not be a ringing endorsement. Still, Rettig and the Scarlet Knights could be a nice marriage, especially in light of Minnesota transfer Philip Nelson's dismissal from the team.

The former 4-star prospect from Los Angeles announced he was leaving LSU late last month after being buried on the depth chart. 

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports was the first to report that Rettig was heading to Rutgers, with Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune confirming as much. 

"Great place, great people, great education, going after a Big 10 championship," Rettig wrote in a text to The Times-Picayune.

Rettig already has his eyes on a title, which raises the question: Is Rettig the missing piece to elevate Rutgers to that level?

First and foremost, Rutgers needs stability in its quarterback situation. Gary Nova, who battled off and on with Chas Dodd for two seasons, will be a senior in 2014. Rettig will sit this season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, putting him in a good position to compete for the starting job in '15. 

As Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue tweeted, Rettig had an impressive senior season and came into college with a lot of hype:

Rettig just couldn't break through, though. That happens when there's stiff competition. No one was dethroning Zach Mettenberger last season, and early enrollee Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings were also 4-star prospects who signed within a year of each other. 

That's a lot of talent at a position where there's not a lot of room for playing time. The Tigers haven't announced a starting quarterback yet, but Harris seems primed to take the reins of Cam Cameron's offense. 

Rutgers just hasn't had that level of talent at quarterback lately. That doesn't automatically mean Rettig is the guy, but transfers like these aren't as likely to materialize if there isn't a good chance for playing time. 

Rettig had choices, after all. Feldman reported that Rettig picked the Scarlet Knights over Boston College, Cal, Tennessee and Louisville.

But nobody really knows how Rettig is going to do at the college level. Not even Rutgers. Sure, head coach Kyle Flood has a good feeling about Rettig, otherwise he wouldn't have brought him on the team. 

What Rutgers is hoping is that Rettig is the missing piece for a championship-caliber team. The problem is Rutgers isn't a championship-caliber team in the Big Ten. At least, not with the way recruiting has gone the past couple of years.  

The Scarlet Knights are in a stacked division, the Big Ten East, which features Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State. Within the next few years, Rutgers has to surpass all of those teams for Rettig's Big Ten championship hopes to come to fruition. 

Recruiting Rutgers has been a challenge since Flood took over the program. The Knights hauled in top-30 classes in 2011 and '12, but have failed to rank higher than 50th the past two seasons. 

(For context, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State, in that order, hauled in the top four classes in the Big Ten this past signing period.) 

Soon, those sophomores and juniors from '11 and '12 are going to depart. Flood and his coaching staff have to crush it on the recruiting trail, and the start to the 2015 class hasn't been promising (11th in the Big Ten, 57th nationally). 

This isn't to say Rutgers will never win a Big Ten game or pull an upset, but recruiting does need to pick up. Rettig appears to be a solid addition, but he can't be the bright spot on an otherwise so-so team. 

B/R's Michael Felder wrote in February that there's no such thing as an average recruiting class. There's a lot of truth to that, since schools recruit for different needs/goals on a year-to-year basis. Recruiting is also an inexact science.

If Big Ten titles are on the agenda, though, it's an uphill climb if a program ranks at or near the bottom of a conference in recruiting on a consistent basis. 

With Rettig's career on a to-be-determined path and Rutgers' lackluster recruiting efforts, it's just hard to see the Scarlet Knights as a Big Ten title contender at the moment. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

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Why Malcolm Mitchell Will Play Critical Role in the Georgia Bulldogs Offense

Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell had a disappointing year in 2013 after suffering an injury. Can he rebound and play a critical role for the Bulldogs in their quest for a national title in 2014?

Check out the above video in which Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee predict what to expect from Malcolm Mitchell in 2014. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

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Insider Buzz: The 5 Players Atop Florida's 2015 Recruiting Big Board

The Florida Gators are trying to put together a stellar recruiting class in 2015, and five names are currently at the top of their list.

Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe checked in with Nick de la Torre of GatorCountry.com to discuss the names atop the Gators' big board and which recruits will most likely end up at Florida.

Watch the video and learn the latest on Florida recruiting.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

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South Carolina Football: Gamecocks Land Two Commits in One Day

South Carolina stayed hot on the recruiting trail Thursday, adding two commitments to its 2015 class. The Gamecocks reeled in pledges from offensive tackle Austin Clark and linebacker Jalen Henry, per The Post and Courier.

Head coach Steve Spurrier has landed eight prospects since May 8, expanding the program's 2015 talent haul to 13 players. The class rates sixth in 247Sports' composite team rankings

Clark, a 4-star recruit from Lexington, Virginia, is the third offensive lineman to commit to South Carolina. He views the team's success and national prowess as a major plus that played a key factor in his decision.

"They are already ranked seventh in the preseason and I think they finished fourth last season, so they are doing really good in the SEC," Clark told Wes Mitchell of 247Sports. "I had two amazing visits and it is a place that I really liked."

His most recent trip to Columbia occurred in late May. Clark chose the Gamecocks over Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Penn State and Miami, among others.

Rated 25th nationally among offensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings, the 6'6", 297-pound Rockbridge County High School standout is a dominant run-blocker who has room to grow when it comes to pass protection. His skill set and physical frame should put him in contention to crack the two-deep as an underclassman.

Henry is the less-heralded pickup of the two. He wasn't on the radar of many Gamecocks fans before committing during a campus visit and is currently unrated by 247Sports.

The 6'0", 219-pound defender from Foley High School (Alabama) missed the majority of his junior season with a foot injury, per The Post and Courier. South Carolina was the first team from a Power 5 conference to extend an offer.

His other opportunities included Northern Illinois, FIU and Southern Miss. Henry is likely to line up at outside linebacker with the Gamecocks.

He joins 4-star Florida linebacker Sherrod Pittman in a strong defensive class.

 

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

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Nebraska Football: Who Will Fill Void Left from Monte Harrison Signing with MLB?

Nebraska fans know Monte Harrison chose Major League Baseball over being a dual-threat athlete for the Huskers. What fans want to know now is who will fill the void he left behind.

That player is likely Damore'ea Stringfellow. Transferring from Washington, the wide receiver is definitely a possible replacement for Harrison.

Regardless, Harrison's decision does leave a hole in the 2014 recruiting class. And neither Jariah Tolbert or Glenn Irons look to be the proper replacement from the group of recruits.

That's where Stringfellow comes in. At 6'3" and 225 pounds, he was rated the No. 6 player in California in 2013, per Sean Callahan of Rivals.com. Additionally, he did make a small impact in his time with the Huskies. As a true freshman, Callahan also notes that Stringfellow caught 20 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown.

As for Harrison, his high school football numbers were impressive. Per Huskers.com, he "finished the season with 60 receptions for 1,007 yards, an average of 16.8 yards per catch, and had 13 receiving touchdowns." However, Stringfellow has shown in his time at Washington that he's also capable of racking up the yards.

Stringfellow also matches Harrison in size, even holding a few more pounds over him. Harrison is 6'3" and 200 pounds, per 247Sports.com

But replacing Harrison goes beyond just how the two match up in numbers. For Stringfellow, he brings a lot to the table for the Nebraska receiving corp. For instance, Stringfellow is familiar with Nebraska and former Husker Quincy Enunwa. In fact, he hailed from the same California high school as the wide receiver and former defensive end Eric Martin.

Stringfellow's former high school coach even compared him to Enunwa.

“But String is more experienced than Quincy was,” Pete Duffy told the Omaha World Herald's Sam McKewon. “String was a three-year starter, whereas Quincy was just scratching the surface in his senior year. String was involved in a million 7-on-7 games. His experience level, coming out of high school, was much greater than Quincy’s.”

And Nebraska is just as familiar with Stringfellow. The Huskers recruited the wide receiver out of high school before he chose to play for Washington.

"Fortunately we had the experience of recruiting Damore'ea out of high school and understand what he's about and have a really close relationship with his coach," Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said during his appearance on The Jim Rome Show. "We pretty much knew what we were getting."

Ultimately, what Pelini and his staff are getting in Stringfellow is a solid replacement for Harrison. It's needed, too.

Stringfellow will have to sit out the 2014 season as of now, but he will be eligible come 2015. That's perfect timing also. Nebraska will say goodbye to both Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner at the end of this upcoming season, which makes Stringfellow an even bigger added benefit.

And Stringfellow knows the opportunity he has in front of him to make an impact.

"It's a great opportunity as you can see Nebraska produces good receivers like Quincy Enunwa, who actually went to my school and Kenny Bell, who's one of the best receivers in the Big Ten," Stringfellow told Callahan. "It's just up to me now to go there and take full advantage of the opportunity."

Losing Harrison to the MLB was not ideal, but fans knew it was very possible. With his departure, the Huskers will be seeking the best possible replacement for him.

That player will likely be Stringfellow.

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Blake Bell Expects Oklahoma to Win National Championship in 2014

Oklahoma quarterback-turned-tight end Blake Bell has seen a steady rise in bowl prominence since his redshirt freshman season in 2011. He's gone from the Insight Bowl to the Cotton Bowl to the Sugar Bowl, and in 2014—his final season with the Sooners—he expects that progression to continue.

"National Championship," Bell said when asked about his expectations for the upcoming season, per Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman

He didn't even hesitate before answering.

It's not crazy for Bell to think OU can win it all. The Sooners return quarterback Trevor Knight, whose presence helped force Bell to tight end, and almost every meaningful piece from the defensive front seven that dominated Alabama in the 45-31 Sugar Bowl victory.

They also have the benefit of an easy-to-navigate schedule. Tulsa, West Virginia, TCU, Iowa State and Texas Tech are the only true road games OU has to play next season, which is why I ranked it No. 1 in terms of easiest road schedules among power conference teams.

According to B/R's Adam Kramer—writing at his blog, Kegs 'N Eggs—the Sooners were listed as 2-5 favorites to win the Big 12 this season, better odds than any other team in any other power conference. Winning the league would likely (but not definitely) put them into the College Football Playoff, and from there they would just be two wins away from the title.

Maybe Bell is not so crazy after all.

Still, in college football, "Championship or Bust" is a romantic but ultimately impractical mantra. For any team.

There are 125 full FBS members, and 15 or 20 of them can realistically hope to make the College Football Playoff and win the national title. The talent that separates those teams in often minimal, and the deciding factors between who does and who doesn't reach their goal are often hard things to predict: a tipped pass at the line, an oddly bouncing fumble, an egregiously bad call, a 109-yard field goal return.

Oklahoma is set up well for a run at the championship but so were Ohio State and Alabama in 2013. Both of those teams subscribed to the "Championship or Bust" mentality, began the season 11-0, lost their final non-bowl game and were unable to rebound in the Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl, respectively.

Now, despite each winning their first 11 games, Ohio State and Alabama look back on 2013 and consider it a failure. Perception is a matter of context, and the context they viewed the season through was "we expect to win the national championship." That is a lot to ask.

Which is to say, there are ways for Oklahoma to have a successful season without winning the national title. It could win the conference and lose a close game in the national semifinals against, say, Florida State. Would that really be so bad of a year in Norman?

Bell is not to blame here because, really, what else is he supposed to say? That he doesn't expect to win the national title? That would be far worse.

However, these goals are a little lofty—for any team—and they set OU up for failure more often than they set it up for success.

You want your players to be confident without being unrealistic. This borders a little too heavy on the former without a healthy-enough dose of the latter.

OU opens the season Aug. 30 against Louisiana Tech.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Penn State Football: 2014 Struggles Could Lead to Big Success in 2015

When Penn State takes the field against UCF in Ireland on Labor Day weekend, there will be several new faces wearing white helmets. On offense alone, up to seven players could be starting for the first time in their careers.

Four new offensive linemen, a new group of receivers and mixups with the defensive line and linebackers will likely lead to some growing pains. 

A year from now, a favorable amount of those "new faces" will be savvy veterans and returning starters.

A quick look at Penn State's roster shows 11 players who will use their last year of eligibility in 2014. Only about half of them are expected to be significant contributors, meaning the Nittany Lions will be returning an overwhelming majority of their key players in 2015.

Guys like Brendan Mahon, Garrett Sickels and Andrew Nelson have high ceilings and will shed their redshirts this season. Nelson is projected to start at right tackle, while Mahon could wind up next to him in the huddle. Sickels will be in the rotation at defensive end behind two of the conference's best. He'll be expected to start in 2015. 

No amount of hype or coaching in the past will fuel their success as much as a season on the field is going to. 

Perhaps the position that will see the most progress from 2014 to 2015 is wide receiver. The depth chart is wide open, and the incoming group of freshmen could include several key players. Nick Polak, the recruiting guru for BlackShoeDiaries.com, thinks De'Andre Thompkins and Saeed Blacknall could be early contributors of that bunch: "Thompkins already seems to have etched his name into early playing time," said Polak, adding "Blacknall is immensely talented, especially on the outside, and could easily play his way into the starting lineup."

Joining them will be Troy Apke and Chris Godwin, both of whom are capable of seeing snaps this year. That experience, plus the chance to gain familiarity with quarterback Christian Hackenberg, will pay dividends in 2015.

Defensively, several young linebackers will get a shot this fall and only Mike Hull will move on following the season. Who does Polak think will start in 2015? "Brandon Bell, Troy Reeder, Nyeem Wartman."

Polak has high expectations for true freshman Reeder, saying "I think Reeder will be a part-time starter by the end of the season in 2014 and will show enough to take over the middle linebacker role for 2015, keeping Bell on the outside." If he's right, Reeder will be flanked by two linebackers with two years of experience each.

Players like Hackenberg and defensive lineman Anthony Zettel will only improve with another year of experience, and there will be other young players who pop.

Malik Golden in the secondary and Mike Gesicki somewhere on the perimeter of the offense both expect to see the field this season. They'll be learning on the go but in 2015, they'll be comfortable and ready to play significant roles. 

If the youth Penn State has on its roster can learn fast, they may be playing significant roles on one of the best teams in the Big Ten when that time comes.


All quotes obtained firsthand.


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football Recruiting: 3 Top Targets to Watch at 'The Opening'

The Opening is an exclusive football camp for the nation's top high school recruits—a six-day gauntlet of drills at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. 

The event kicks off on July 5 and will run through July 10. Naturally, a number of Ohio State's top recruiting targets are scheduled to participate.

Players such as 5-star wide receiver Christian Kirk, 5-star defensive end Josh Sweat, 4-star offensive tackle Drew Richmond and 4-star tight end Chris Clark, all of whom have Buckeye offers, will get in on the action. Even Tyler Green, the 4-star safety who committed to Ohio State last Sunday, will be in attendance.

The following three recruits should be of particular interest to Ohio State fans. One is a player the Buckeyes are seriously vetting. One is a player they desperately need. The other is a player both Urban Meyer and Nick Saban are after.

 

Travis Waller

Despite landing a commitment from 3-star quarterback Joe Burrow two weeks ago, the Buckeyes are still in hot pursuit of another quarterback.

Many expected that quarterback to be Torrance Gibson, a 5-star dual-threat QB out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But according to Ari Wasserman of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, the Ohio State coaching staff hasn't reached out to Gibson in a while. The Buckeyes have plummeted in his top seven as a result, and Gibson doesn't know if he'll visit Columbus this year.

It appears that Ohio State has turned its attention to Travis Waller, a 4-star prospect from Anaheim, California. The Buckeyes reach out to him on a daily basis and have surged up his list, even though they haven't offered yet.

A strong showing at The Opening could change that. It would also dramatically shift Ohio State's odds of landing him.

 

Van Jefferson

The Buckeyes have loaded up at wide receiver over the last three recruiting classes. Meyer has brought some lethal speed to the position with players such as Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall and Johnnie Dixon.

Van Jefferson is a different kind of receiver.

While he has good speed—247Sports reports that he runs a 4.56 40-yard dash—he is highly rated because of his crisp route-running ability, his knack for catching the ball in traffic and his size.

Those are qualities Ohio State will need to complement all the speed on the perimeter. Landing Jefferson has to be one of Meyer's top recruiting priorities.

 

Matthew Burrell

Beating Alabama and Nick Saban on the field starts with beating them on the recruiting front. Meyer and the Buckeyes are very aware of that, and they don't back down from college football's most efficient recruiting machine.

Both schools are going after 4-star offensive tackle Matthew Burrell

The Woodbridge, Virginia, product has more than three dozen offers, highlighted by programs such as Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.

According to 247Sports' crystal ball predictions, Ohio State is the overwhelming favorite.

Burrell recently announced a top 15, so his recruitment is far from over. With the momentum they have, though, Meyer and the Buckeyes have to like where they stand with the 6'5", 290-pound tackle.

 

All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Expect Big Things from Jeremy Pruitt, but Give Him Time

Quite understandably, the University of Georgia’s hiring of Jeremy Pruitt was met with high expectations.  After all, Pruitt, who arrived in Athens following a one-year stint as the defensive coordinator at Florida State and several seasons as a position coach with Alabama, might boast the best three-year resume in all of college football.

  • 2011: BCS National Champion
  • 2012: BCS National Champion
  • 2013: BCS National Champion

But merited as the hype may be, this won’t be an overnight transformation for the Bulldog defense. Fans should expect big things out of Pruitt, but give him some time.

 

Change Underway

Given the Dawgs’ recent struggles under former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, this project was never going to be a renovation. More accurately, the best way for Pruitt to reshape this defense is to tear it down and start over. Thus far, he’s done a lot of demolition work.

Even returning starters have been temporary victims of this rebuilding process. “There’s one thing about football coaches,” Pruitt said in his introductory press conference (according to GeorgiaDogs.com).  “Everybody may not agree with who we always play and all of that, but I think we always try to play the best players. We'll do that, and we'll give everybody an opportunity. I think competition is great.”

Opportunities for some have yielded demotions for others. Georgia has famously lost three defensive backs (Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaq Wiggins and Tray Matthews) to dismissal or transfer and another (Brendan Langley) to the offensive side of the ball. But none of those players started in the team’s spring game despite experience with the first team in 2013.

Ray Drew registered five sacks over the course of three consecutive games against SEC competition last year. As reported by David Paschall of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the senior defensive end bounced between the second and third teams during the spring.

Personnel changes will hardly be the only alteration under Pruitt. His defensive scheme is less exclusively a 3-4, an emphasis is being placed on both fundamentals and speed and even the physical shape of players is being altered to fit Pruitt’s desire. 

Pruitt wants a speedy, lean, aggressive defense with a knack for swarming the ball. He’s willing to tear the unit down to its core to achieve such results.

 

Change Takes Time

While there’s enough silver lining to more than encompass Pruitt’s efforts, it’s important to remember that rebuilding can and will take time. Last year, Georgia’s defense was young in the secondary. With the aforementioned departures and position changes, the unit could be equally green in 2014.

Furthermore, many longstanding habits—both on and off the field—need to be changed. And as last year’s defense proved, bad habits die hard.

Culturally speaking, a higher expectation has already been established. Last month, Wiggins told Kipp Adams of 247Sports he was looking for a team that would embrace his personality. Wiggins went on to describe himself as a “jokester.” Pruitt’s defense doesn’t have room for class clowns during practice or in the film room. Accordingly, Wiggins probably won’t be the last Dawg to depart in search of a more relaxed environment. Expect more attrition.

As far as on-field performance is concerned, progress may more closely resemble a slow-churning grind than a greased-up track to improvement, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing—at least not in the long run.

Optimism surrounding Pruitt is well-founded but paradoxically misplaced. Georgia fans should be excited about his arrival and quick start in Athens, but that excitement should not be rooted in exorbitantly high expectations for 2014. Rather, that eagerness should stem from an appreciation for Pruitt’s willingness to change the defense to a meaningful and lasting degree.

That process, as Pruitt will likely point out repeatedly this fall, will take time.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Football: Projecting Who Will Win Gators' Open Starting Positions

It’s highly unusual that a four-win team from a year ago doesn’t have many open positions, but that’s the case for the Florida Gators this season. With seven starters returning on both sides of the ball, most have a pretty good idea of who will be where when they take the field in late August.

Most positions that remain up for grabs are on the offensive side of the ball, as the coaching staff is still trying to figure things out after such a horrible performance a year ago. There are also a few young defensive players who are competing for a starting role. Other than that, Florida seems to be in good hands as far as starters are concerned.

Let’s predict who will get the nod at the current vacant spots.

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10 Cities That Should Host a College Football Bowl Game

When it comes to college football bowl games, it is really an all-or-nothing mentality. You either feel there's too many, or not enough.

For those who think the number of bowls—which balloons to a record 39 this year, thanks to four new games and the championship of the inaugural College Football Playoff—far exceeds what seems reasonable, we've got some news for you: too bad, because they're not going away anytime soon.

For those who feel there are not enough bowls, well, you're in luck. There are more coming, as the Cure Bowl in Orlando is set to debut in 2015, and several other proposed games could be added next year or soon thereafter.

But why stop there? Why can't it be like Oprah Winfrey is handling the bowl season, throwing out games and game invites here and there? "You get a bowl game! You get a bowl game! Everyone gets a bowl game!"

Not enough 6-6 teams? Heck, let them all in! Who says the bowl games have to all pit great teams against each other? Those goodie bags that players receive from the various bowls could count toward whatever compensation college players might someday receiver for their services, with the cost of those items coming out of the massive heaps of TV profits collected by FBS football programs.

Truth be told, a system that in its current state will send nearly 60 percent of its teams into the postseason is far beyond one that is intended only to reward the best of the best. So with that in mind, we have identified 10 cities that would be a great place to throw yet another bowl game onto the schedule.

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