NCAA Football News

Texas A&M Official Wants Stadium Named 'Kyle Field: The House That Johnny Built'

Johnny Manziel has left College Station early and will now head to Cleveland as he hopes to leave his mark on the National Football League. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner's time at Texas A&M was so sensational that one Aggies official wants to rename Kyle Field—which was built in 1927—in honor of the quarterback.

Texas A&M regent Jim Schwertner talked about what he would like to see happen to the stadium while the Aggies gave an update on the $450 million renovations going on at Kyle Field:

Schwertner did go into a little bit more detail, via the San Antonio Express-News' Brent Zwerneman:

I hope the Aggie Nation will come together and decide that's something they want to do.

Think about this – the last time we had a Heisman Trophy winner was John Kimbrough. [Note: It was actually John David Crow who won the Heisman Trophy in 1957.]

It's going to be up to the students and former students to decide that. That would sure be a real testament about how great that young man was for this university. My vote would be yes, but there are a lot of other folks who will have a vote on what I just said.

That's an interesting idea although, as ESPN's Darren Rovell reported last month, Manziel already filed to trademark "The House That Johnny Built."

Manziel put Texas A&M back on the college football map during his two seasons on campus. If one Aggies official has it his way, Johnny Football's legacy will never be forgotten.

[Twitter, h/t Black Sports Online]

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Zach Gentry to Texas: Longhorns Land 4-Star QB Prospect

The Charlie Strong era at Texas is off to an encouraging start following news that the Longhorns have landed highly touted quarterback prospect Zach Gentry.

Gentry took to Twitter to announce his commitment on Monday: 

247Sports' official Longhorns account also had the news:

A 6'7", 230-pound quarterback out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Gentry is rated as the sixth-best pro-style quarterback in the class of 2015, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

The 4-star signal-caller had received a handful of other offers, including ones from Alabama, Baylor and Strong's former team, Louisville. 

Earlier this month, ESPN.com's Max Olson discussed what landing Gentry would mean for Texas' program as well as quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson, who followed Strong to Austin from Louisville:

"Gentry would be a home run and a clear statement that Watson and the offensive staff won't be afraid to pursue elite passers outside the usually loaded Lone Star State." 

In addition to his incredible size, Gentry's arm strength separates him from other quarterback prospects in his class. He'll need to continue to improve his mechanics and his footwork to hit his target on a consistent basis when given the opportunity at the college level, but his potential is tremendous.

The Eldorado High School star is also an excellent decision-maker and is capable of using his legs to extend the play even though he excels from the pocket. Per his 247Sports profile, he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds.

Although Longhorns fans will have to wait more than a year to see Gentry in a Texas uniform, his commitment bodes extremely well for the program's future and serves as one of the early triumphs for Strong, who took over forMack Brown back in January. 

For coaches in high-profile positions, recruiting top-level prospects is the first step to success. And with one of the top quarterbacks in the country officially on board, Strong appears to be well on his way to turning the Longhorns around. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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Virginia Tech Football: Who Is Replacing Every Hokie Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

The Virginia Tech Hokies were a pretty popular team during the 2014 NFL draft, but now Frank Beamer and company are left contemplating who will fill the shoes of their departing stars. 

The Hokies had three players selected in the draft and six others sign afterward as undrafted free agents, and each leaves a gaping hole to fill.

Fans might have been excited to watch Kyle Fuller get taken by the Chicago Bears with the 14th overall pick, or for Logan Thomas to join the Arizona Cardinals and Antone Exum head for the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth and sixth rounds, respectively, but the Hokies will sorely miss each of their abilities.

Read on to find out exactly which players are slated to replace each NFL-bound star.

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Philip Nelson to Be Formally Charged with First-Degree and Third-Degree Assault

Rutgers quarterback Philip Nelson, who was arrested early Sunday morning for an alleged assault in Mankato, Minnesota, will be formally charged on two counts.    

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett provided the news and details: 

The 20-year-old Mankato native, who transferred from the University of Minnesota to Rutgers in January, was booked into Blue Earth County Jail on suspicion of assaulting Isaac Kolstad, a former linebacker for Minnesota State-Mankato, according to multiple reports, via NJ.com's Dan Duggan

Details about the incident began to trickle forward, and according to KSTP Channel 5 News in Minnesota, Nelson went to court at 3:30 p.m. local time, where he was then charged. 

According to police, via Duggan, Nelson became extremely agitated late Saturday night when a bouncer kissed his girlfriend's hand. Later in the evening, around 2 a.m., Nelson and Kolstad got into an argument and had to be separated. Kolstad reportedly punched Nelson, and a third party, who remains unidentified, delivered a punch to Kolstad that appeared to knock him out. 

Steph Stassen, a graduate student who was on the scene, told police, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Curt Brown, it was a "sucker punch."

While Kolstad lay motionless and "clearly" defenseless, as one police officer put it, Nelson allegedly kicked him in the head. 

According to Duggan, a neurosurgeon has said he is unsure if Kolstad will survive. His father, Blaine Kolstad, gave the following update, via CaringBridge.org:

Isaac suffered a severe head injury early this morning. He is currently in Critical condition and fighting for his life. He is young and strong, but the battle he has in front of him is enormous. We do not yet know the full extent of his injuries. He is very sick. Please pray for Isaac and all of those involved.

Nelson played in 11 games for the Golden Gophers last season, compiling 1,306 passing yards, 364 rushing yards and 15 combined touchdowns. He is set to sit out this season with the Scarlet Knights due to NCAA's transfer rules, but with two counts of assault, there is a strong possibility his collegiate career will be over. 

For now, though, focus should turn toward Kolstad, who is hopefully able to recover from his critical injuries.  

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Penn State Football: Who Is Replacing Every Nittany Lion Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

The 2014 NFL draft is behind us, and the Penn State football program has lost some of its most notable players to the highest level of organized football.

Gone are the record-breaking performances of Allen Robinson along with the veteran leadership and on-field dominance of DaQuan Jones and William V. Campbell Award winner John Urschel.

There are plenty of players vying for their spots on the current roster, but filling the shoes of college's elite players won't be easy. 

Which current Nittany Lions have the best shot at stepping up and starring in voids created by the latest crop of NFL rookies?

 

All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Why ACC Football Is an Underappreciated NFL Factory

For the 100th year in a row, the SEC was the king of the NFL draft. 

The SEC had 49 players selected in this past weekend's draft, 11 of which went in the first round. Both numbers were the best among any conference in college football. Per Kevin McGuire over at College Football Talk, Alabama and LSU have been leading the way with the most players drafted over the past four years, with 30 and 29, respectively.

But not far behind Alabama and LSU is Florida State, which has had 25 players drafted over the past four years. That's thanks to head coach Jimbo Fisher returning the Seminoles to an elite level in college football. 

For that matter, the ACC, with Florida State's help, has been churning out a lot of NFL draftees over the past few years.

Before going any further, there's some fuzzy math that plays into NFL draft chest thumping that's worth noting. Thanks to conference realignment, conference sizes have increased, and in the Big 12's case, decreased. For example, Texas A&M had three first-round selections—Jake Matthews, Mike Evans and Johnny Manziel—who signed with the Aggies when they were still in the Big 12. 

Nevertheless, they'll count toward the SEC's total. Now, on to the ACC's numbers. 

The ACC finished second among all conferences in the '14 draft with 42 players selected. In fact, the ACC had more players selected through the first four rounds (28) of this year's draft than the SEC (26). 

Since 2005, the ACC has not finished worse than third in total number of draft picks among all conferences. In 2006, the ACC finished with the most draft selections (51), per Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star.

For the past two years, the ACC has finished with the second-highest number of first-round draft picks (11). 

Suffice to say, the ACC—or, at least, a portion of it—has become its own little NFL factory recently. Florida State, Miami, Clemson and North Carolina have been churning out talent worthy of getting drafted. Still, the conference hasn't quite garnered the recognition in the same way the SEC has. 

That comes with long-term sustainability. The SEC has had the most NFL draft picks for the past eight years. If you want to see the opposite perception, check out Adam Kramer's write-up on B/R about the Big Ten and its struggles producing high draft picks. 

The ACC has been lurking in the SEC's shadow for some time on draft night. As such, the conference has been a bit underrated when it comes being identified as an NFL draft factory. Still, the numbers suggest the ACC can produce NFL-caliber talent with just about any other conference in the country.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. 

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Power Ranking College Football Conferences by Their NFL Representation

As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee wrote Friday, the SEC replanted its flag atop the college football universe with its standout performance on Day 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft, helping the conference forget about Florida State's (and by proxy, the ACC's) victory over Auburn in the national title game.

The field caught up with the SEC after Day 1, however, and by the end of the draft, the ACC was within seven picks of having the most players selected. If you count the conferences as they'll stand in 2014—with Maryland leaving the ACC and Louisville joining—the gap was even closer at four.

Which got us thinking: How do the numbers stack up throughout the league? Rosters are technically in flux right now, so it is hard to get a perfectly accurate number, but based just on the active players listed at Pro-Football-Reference.com and the players selected this weekend, which conferences represent what portion of the current NFL?

Again, it is important to note that the numbers here have been adjusted for 2014 conference realignment. Some web outlets have posted the number of drafted players by conference and included the 2013 conferences, but this list does not.

Louisville's draftees counted for the ACC, Maryland's counted for the Big Ten, Tulane's counted for the AAC, et cetera.

Here's how it all shakes out.

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Nebraska Football: Who Is Replacing Every Former Huskers Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

The 2014 NFL draft has come and gone. For the Nebraska Cornhuskers, that means three players were selected in the seven-round event that began May 8.

With those three players gone, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini will be working to find replacements for each player. Fans got an early look at who will fill the open spots during spring practice and at the annual spring game.

Who will the replacements be? Here are the top candidates to replace each former Husker taken in the 2014 NFL draft.

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Alabama Football: Realistic Expectations for the Tide's 2014 Season

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson had an interesting view of practices last season from the University of Alabama weight room.

After sustaining a knee injury in the season opener, his second since committing to the Crimson Tide in 2012, he was often seen working out and going through rehab in front of the facility’s numerous big windows that overlook the practice fields, where he could see what the defensive linemen were doing.

It wasn’t ideal, of course, but it did help the former heavyweight wrestling champion from the state of Georgia keep up with what was going on, both in terms of scheme and execution.

This is what he saw: “We just weren't aggressive off the ball.”

And now? “This year we're just more aggressive and firing out,” Tomlinson said. “I think we're going to get to the quarterback a lot more this year.”

Even though Alabama is still waiting for a couple of potential contributors to arrive on campus, particularly defensive end Da'Shawn Hand and linebacker Rashaan Evans, it’s already apparent that the defensive front seven have the potential to be outstanding just like the playmakers on offense.

Consequently, even with the quarterback position unsettled and the question marks in the young, talented secondary, there’s little reason to believe that the Crimson Tide won’t be hunting for another national championship.

For the most part, the schedule is considered favorable. Florida visits Tuscaloosa on Sept. 20, and Ole Miss and Tennessee are expected to be better. However, the only back-to-back road games are separated by a bye. Alabama visits LSU on Nov. 8, which along with Auburn is considered THE game this year for fans, but last season the Crimson Tide seemed to peak against the first of those two opponents.

Avoiding any sort of recurrence was a priority this spring, including constant reminders of how the 2013 team finished. Nick Saban also preached going “back to basics,” which meant a significant effort to rediscover the things that led to the 2009 national championship, the only one of his four title teams that finished undefeated. 

“People are staying positive because any time you get negative, it's like one spoiled apple ruins the bunch,” junior wide receiver Amari Cooper said. “If you see one negative person a lot of people start to get negative, and that's not good for any time.”

While a perfect record may be a tall order, all indications are that Alabama will again go into the fall favored against every opponent. Oddsmakers have done so for 53 consecutive games, dating all the way back to the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championship Game against Florida, and already Alabama is considered a three-plus touchdown favorite against West Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome on Aug. 30.

However, since 2008 Alabama has always done one of two things: either lose a couple of games and finish in the bottom half of the top 10 in the national rankings, or win the national championship.

In terms of talent, there’s no doubt the Crimson Tide can contend, and numerous times the programs that have finished atop the recruiting rankings have gone on to play for the title within a couple of years.

According to 247Sports, Alabama has failed to have the nation’s best recruiting class only once since 2008. The closest program during the past couple of years has been Florida State, the reigning national champion.

Based on that alone, one has to consider the Crimson Tide and Seminoles as having the best preseason chances to be part of the inaugural four-team playoff this year. That’s why the different vibe during Alabama’s spring was so important.

“I think we're more together as a team,” senior safety Nick Perry said. “I think we have a better understanding of our goal unlike last year. I think you learn more from losses than you do from wins. Sometimes you need to lose to learn. We definitely learned our lesson last year.”

 

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

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ACC Football Plans to Use Same 8-Game League Schedule Model as SEC

The ACC announced Monday that it would be keeping its eight-game conference schedule—the same schedule the SEC chose to keep a couple of weeks ago—instead of opting into the nine-game schedule preferred by the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12.

Per Dan Wolken of USA Today:

Also in the same vein as the SEC, the ACC announced that starting in 2017, its teams would be required to schedule at least one non-conference game against an opponent from a power conference.

Notre Dame, which is currently participating as a partial ACC member, would count as one of those games, but it has yet to be determined if the other FBS Independents—BYU, Army and Navy—would as well, per Wolken and Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com:

And even further in the same vein as the SEC, the ACC will keep its current divisions and maintain its permanent cross-division rivalries, per Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Werner also reports that the news is not yet official. The conference athletic directors have merely "recommended" that the schedule stay at eight games, and though they still need to vote on Thursday, that action is merely a formality:

Scheduling is a hot topic in college football right now—and with good reason. No one is exactly sure how the new College Football Playoff will work, what the selection committee will value, et cetera. 

Because of that nebulosity, a cynical mind might say the SEC and ACC are trying to gain an advantage by keeping their conference slates at eight games. Even with the mandate to play at least one power conference opponent, non-conference games are traditionally far easier than conference games. Playing more of them should help ensure better records throughout the league.

Tyler Duffy of The Big Lead helps break down why this matters:

There are arguments to be made for keeping the eight-game schedule—the preservation of cross-division rivalries comes to mind—but for the most part, less conference games means less quality opponents, and less quality opponents means less quality games on TV.

And who in their right mind wants that?

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Notre Dame Football: Who Is Replacing Every Former Irish Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

Notre Dame football just finished its best NFL draft weekend in 20 years. Now it needs to figure out how to replace the eight players that were drafted. 

No area of Notre Dame's roster went unscathed. On the offensive line, it's not just replacing Zack Martin, Notre Dame's highest-drafted offensive lineman since Andy Heck was taken 15th in 1989. But Chris Watt was taken in the third round by the Chargers, proof that Watt was one of college football's most underrated competitors. 

Troy Niklas and TJ Jones are two keys in the passing game that need replacing. Without them, Everett Golson only recognizes the soon-to-be returning DaVaris Daniels while breaking in a slew of new young receivers. 

Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix, even with draft-day slides, were one of the most intimidating defensive line pairings in college football. And the back two levels of the Irish defense also lose key contributors, with captain Bennett Jackson gone from the secondary and pass-rusher Prince Shembo gone at outside linebacker. 

Let's take a look at who will replace the Irish draftees. 

 

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QB Jake Rodrigues to Transfer from Oregon Ducks

Unable to lock down the backup job behind Marcus Mariota, redshirt sophomore quarterback Jake Rodrigues announced on Monday his intention to transfer from Oregon.

"Football wasn't working out here and that is why I am leaving," said Rodrigues, according to Brianna Amaranthus of Comcast SportsNet Northwest. "I am not leaving because of how people treated me, or how much it rains here. I am leaving simply based on this football decision."

Rodrigues was a 4-star recruit and the No. 7 pro-style passer in the class of 2012, per the 247Sports Composite. After breaking his fibula in high school and redshirting in 2012, he lost the No. 2 job out of camp to less-heralded prospect Jeff Lockie last fall and was hoping to usurp it this past spring.

Lockie outperformed Rodrigues in the spring game, however, completing 7-of-12 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Rodriguez completed just 7-of-18 passes for 66 yards and an interception.

In the wake of those developments, Rodrigues' decision to transfer did not come as a surprise, per SB Nation's Dan Rubenstein:

According to Amaranthus, Oregon has granted Rodrigues the right to transfer anywhere he would like. If he moves to another FBS program and sits out the required season, per NCAA transfer rules, he would have two years of eligibility remaining when he returns in 2015.

And even though sitting behind Mariota did not allow for much playing time, Rodriguez thinks it will help him wherever he goes next.

"It might be hard being behind Marcus, but it might have been the best thing that ever happened to me," he said, per Amaranthus. "In my opinion he is the number one quarterback in the nation right now. I guarantee he will be the first pick in the NFL draft next year. I learned so much and my quarterback game grew tremendously behind him.

We'll keep you updated when we know to where he's transferring.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Does Texas Football Have the Talent to Rebound at the 2015 NFL Draft?

The 2014 NFL draft wasn't good to the Big 12, which finished with the lowest number of drafted players (17) of any of the so-called "Power 5" conferences. For what it's worth, having only 10 teams may have something to do with that as well.

The draft was especially rough for Texas, which didn't have a single player selected for the first time in nearly 80 years. There's no question that this was a low point for the Longhorns program, whose bad years were, at one point, said to still be better than Missouri's good years. 

Being shut out of the draft is a bad look that will undoubtedly be used against it in recruiting. As David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest notes, only defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat could have been realistically considered a draft "snub"

Yes, Texas was left without a pick, but Jackson Jeffcoat was really the only major snub. That's troubling. He sounded like a middle-rounder for most of the draft process, but his durability issues (ankle injury as a freshman and major pectoral injuries as a sophomore and junior) and less-than-ideal technique surely were the reason for his tumble. 

However, first-year head coach Charlie Strong can point to three first-round selections he coached at Louisville: safety Calvin Pryor, defensive end Marcus Smith and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. 

Can Strong pull a similar turnaround in Austin after one season? 

Consider the players who could have declared for the NFL draft but decided to come back to Texas for another season: Defensive end Cedric Reed, cornerback Quandre Diggs and running back Malcolm Brown. (Fellow running back Johnathan Gray will also be a draft-eligible junior in 2014-15.) 

For all the attention on Jeffcoat, Reed was a force along the Horns' defensive line as well, finishing second on the team in tackles for loss. Diggs led the team in pass breakups, and Brown led the team in rushing. 

2015 mock drafts and big boards are already being posted. At this point, they're nothing more than preliminary guesses and should be treated as such; so much can change in a year. 

Still, early marks have been favorable for the Horns. B/R's Matt Miller has Brown as the No. 7 running back, Reed as the No. 3 defensive end and Diggs as the No. 2 cornerback. Even oft-injured linebacker Jordan Hicks is getting some early 2015 draft love

Furthermore, USA Today's Brent Sobleski and Dan Kadar of SB Nation have Reed going 19th overall in next year's draft. 

These way-too-early posts are subject to change dramatically, of course, but they provide a snapshot of where players stand. 

Who knows how many wins Strong's team will have this year? But one thing seems certain: Texas will likely run the ball a lot and play sound defense. That's where the team's strengths lie, and it's a defensive-minded coaching staff. 

That plays into guys like Reed, Diggs, Brown and Gray having big years in 2014—provided they can stay healthy. 

Being shut out of the NFL draft was a bad look for Texas and a sign that moving on from former coach Mack Brown was a good call. The turnover on the defensive coaching staff—defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was relieved of his duties two weeks into the season in favor of Greg Robinson—certainly didn't help the cause. 

Strong has a good reputation, though, and the Horns' new coaching staff has some solid pieces to coach up. No matter how the draft shakes out next year, it seems unlikely that Texas will come close to being shut out again. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. 

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Oregon Football: Who Is Replacing Every Former Duck Taken in the 2014 NFL Draft

Four Oregon football alumni were selected in last weekend's NFL draft: two on offense, two on defense. 

Each of the four leaves a sizable void that head coach Mark Helfrich and staff must fill to remain in the hunt for the Pac-12 championship. 

Below is exactly what Oregon is faced with replacing:  

 

Wide Receiver Josh Huff

Drafted: No. 86 (Round 3), Philadelphia Eagles

2013 Stats: 62 receptions, 1,140 yards, 12 touchdowns

 

Running Back De'Anthony Thomas

Drafted: No. 124 (Round 4), Kansas City Chiefs

2013 Stats: 96 carries, 594 yards, eight touchdowns; 22 receptions, 246 yards, one touchdown; 21 kick returns, 513 yards, one touchdown

 

Defensive End Taylor Hart

Drafted: No. 141 (Round 5), Philadelphia Eagles

2013 Stats: 75 tackles, six tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles, five passes broken up

 

Cornerback Terrance Mitchell

Drafted: No. 254 (Round 7), Dallas Cowboys

2013 Stats: 59 tackles, five interceptions (one returned for touchdown), seven passes broken up, one forced fumble

 

The Ducks will turn to both fresh faces and returning veterans to fill the gaps the program's four draftees left on their way to the NFL.

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How Georgia Will Recover from Losing CB Shaq Wiggins to Transfer

Offseason roster attrition is something most schools hope to guard against, and one potential national title contender got bitten with the transfer bug on Friday.

Georgia announced that Shaq Wiggins, a rising sophomore cornerback who started eight games last season, according to Phil Steele's start chart, will transfer to another institution.

"Shaq and I have been talking over the last few days and a fresh start is what he believes is in his best interest," head coach Mark Richt said in a release from Georgia. "We respect his decision and certainly wish him nothing but the best."

Wiggins had 19 tackles, three for a loss, four pass breakups and two interceptions last season, one of which he returned for a touchdown. In the spring game, he had two tackles and one pass breakup and looked like he was in line to be a starter for first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Where will Georgia turn?

Wiggins was the lone bright spot last season in a secondary that was high on talent but short on consistency, and joins former safety Josh Harvey-Clemons in the "unexpected departure" department.

Damian Swann will likely retain his starting job at one cornerback spot.

That may (and probably does) scare Georgia fans after Swann routinely blew coverages and arm tackles last season. The arm tackling issue may persist because Pruitt and the new staff can't coach effort, but blowing coverages is something that the new staff has made a point to fix by simplifying former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's scheme.

On the other side, Wiggins was a contender for first-team snaps despite bouncing between the first and second teams this spring. J.J. Green played running back last season, but could slide into that cornerback spot after switching positions this offseason. Sheldon Dawson, a reserve who started one game last year, could win the job. Brendan Langley can play both corner and safety, and redshirt freshman Aaron Davis could walk through that door.

The X-factor is Reggie Wilkerson.

The former 4-star prospect who enrolled in January 2013 had worked himself into the rotation last offseason, but tore his ACL last summer and missed the entire 2013 season. Now a redshirt freshman, the 5'11", 171-pounder has a chance to pick up right where he left off once fall camp starts in August.

It's never a good thing when a part-time starter leaves. But even if the writing wasn't on the wall, Georgia has recruited well in the secondary over the last few years. Pruitt's goal to simplify the defense will help the entire unit get better, and Wilkerson's return from injury gives him even more options.

Wiggins' transfer may have been a shock, but it's something that Georgia can recover from. The talent is there, and now the system will be coordinated by Pruitt, a coach who recognizes the importance of simplicity.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

 


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Marcus Mariota Tops Way-Too-Early Big Board for 2015 NFL Draft

The 2014 NFL draft is now officially behind us, and while many people will gratefully take some time off from evaluating and discussing college football prospects, for others the clock is now ticking toward the 2015 NFL draft.

For myself, full-scale evaluations won't begin until just before the 2014 college football season begins in August. But some preliminary work never hurts, and I've used it to compile my first big board for next year's draft class.

This initial list is pretty heavy with skill positions—four quarterbacks, four wide receivers and two running backs are in the top 25, and only three defensive players are in the top 10.

Remember, this is not a mock draft in any way; it is merely my own ranking of the best draft-eligible college prospects in 2015. 

 

*Indicates underclassmen

 

1. *Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Mariota was rising very quickly up draft boards over the winter before he announced his intention to remain at Oregon. He has unbelievable athletic ability and became a better thrower and pocket passer as the year progressed. 

 

2. *Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

Peat was the best offensive lineman on Stanford's outstanding line as a sophomore in 2013. He is incredibly long at 6'7" and has more than enough athleticism to be a stalwart left tackle in the NFL. Still a little bit raw, Peat can improve his draft stock immensely with a bit more development.

 

3. *Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

Still a relatively unknown commodity at this point, Gregory started his college career at Arizona Western, a community college in Yuma, Arizona. Gregory was a football and basketball star in high school and showed off some unbelievable athleticism in his first year at Nebraska in 2013. His size (6'2", 235 lbs) and quickness off the edge will grab scouts' attention.

 

4. *Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

I don't think we really know what we are in for in 2014 with regards to Winston. He's a phenomenal talent, but is he NFL-ready? He makes some great plays, but does Florida State's offense cover up his weaknesses? Also, is he mature enough to handle the pressure of being a professional? Be ready for all those questions, and more, over the next 12 months.

 

5. Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

This may be a lot higher than other people have Scherff, but he's a legitimate top talent at left tackle. He might be the most polished player in this entire draft class, and he will get even better after choosing to go back for his senior year at the offensive line factory that is Iowa.

 

6. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

A long, athletic, playmaking corner with a nose for the football, Ekpre-Olomu would have been a first-rounder had he come out this year. There's no doubt that he will be one of the best defensive players in the nation as a senior in 2014.

 

7. Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State

As a former defensive tackle who only converted recently to the offensive line, Erving was sensational in 2013 in only his second season as a left tackle. There's a whole lot to like about the trajectory of this prospect's career.

 

8. Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson

Beasley spent 2013 terrorizing quarterbacks, and he'll only get better and stronger in 2014. His size (6'2", 235 lbs) lends itself more to playing as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL, and I think he'll spend less time with his hand in the dirt this year.

 

9. Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M

Ogbuehi is the big upside pick for next year's draft. He's a great pass-blocker because he has quick feet and long arms, but there's a lot of seasoning still left to be done.

 

10. *Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

People were all over the board about Hundley as a prospect over the winter, but nearly everyone was in agreement that he made a smart decision by going back to school. He's got a tantalizing combination of arm strength and athleticism, and he will push Mariota and Winston for the top quarterback spot in next year's class.

 

11. *Landon Collins, S, Alabama

Collins was almost as good as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in 2013, and he could easily get drafted higher than his former teammate in next year's draft. He is a strong player in both run support and pass protection.

 

12. *Nelson Agholor, WR, Southern California

Agholor is similar in some ways to Marqise Lee, who slipped to the second round of the 2014 draft, but he doesn't have the consistency issues that Lee had. He's already got big-time experience and is a smart player who does a bit of everything.

 

13. *Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

It's really difficult for me to separate Cooper and Agholor, who are both juniors with exceptional talent. Cooper may have a bit more upside, as he's a more natural athlete and can create plays after the catch.

 

14. *Leonard Williams, DE/DT, Southern California

Williams is a big run-stopper who is going to fill a 4-3 defensive tackle or 4-3 defensive end role, depending on how he develops as a junior in 2014. He's got a good mix of strength and quickness on the inside.

 

15. *Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor

The monstrous Oakman will not remain in the shadows for very long. At a chiseled 6'9", he's an absolute force off the edge. After a tumultuous first few years in college, Oakman has finally settled in at Baylor and has the potential to dominate.

 

16. Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami

Perryman is sort of next year's version of C.J. Mosley. He doesn't do any one thing exceptionally well, but he's very athletic and versatile on the inside and will be a solid NFL player for years.

 

17. *Dorial Green-Beckham, WR

What to do with Green-Beckham? He has all the physical ability in the world, but his recent off-field issues have put a big damper on his future after being dismissed from Missouri's team. We'll have to wait and see what happens here, but his stock has already taken a major hit.

 

18. *Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

Calhoun is a freak of nature athletically. He's got good size (6'4", 257 pounds), but his quickness and bend around the edge is deadly. He needs to get a little stronger at the point of attack, but his upside is massive.

 

19. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor

Petty isn't quite in that elite class of quarterbacks, but he's got the arm of a gunslinger and the mentality of a game manager. This combination helps him excel in a spread offense like Baylor's, and Petty would do well to operate in a similar offense in the NFL.

 

20. *Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

If you're looking for the next Adrian Peterson in this draft, Gurley is your guy. He's 6'2" but has the quickness of a 5'9" sprinter. The only things holding him back are injury concerns.

 

21. *Hroniss Grasu, OC, Oregon

A bit of a random name to some, Grasu was one of my favorite offensive linemen for the 2014 draft before he announced that he was going to return to Oregon. He's got a warrior's mentality and battles like crazy on the interior line despite being more of an athlete than a bruiser.

 

22. La'el Collins, OT/G, LSU

Collins was a dominant run-blocker at guard in 2012, but he switched to left tackle in 2013 and was equally as good. Look for him to have another great season and be a first-round prospect next year.

 

23. *Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

Waynes is a long, well-rounded cornerback who will remind a lot of people of his former teammate Darqueze Dennard on the field in 2014. Look for him to take a big step forward this year.

 

24. *T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama

There have now been two straight drafts without a running back being selected in the first round, but Yeldon (along with Gurley) will look to change that in 2015. Yeldon is a very quick and feisty player who should dominate in 2014 for 'Bama.

 

25. *Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland

Diggs is hands-down the most explosive player in this draft. At 6'0", 195 pounds, he is bigger than guys like Tavon Austin and De'Anthony Thomas, and he's so quick and elusive that he'll draw a lot of interest as long as he produces for the Terrapins. 

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Michigan Football: Realistic Expectations for the Wolverines' 2014 Season

Michigan slid to 7-6 last season after an abysmal 1-4 month of November that began with a crushing defeat on the road to Michigan State and ended with a loss at home to Ohio State. Michigan sat idle while its two main rivals met to decide the Big Ten Championship—clearly not what Brady Hoke had in mind when he returned to Ann Arbor to replace Rich Rodriguez.

Hoke’s teams have struggled since his initial 11-2 season and fans are getting restless for a Big Ten championship as he enters his fourth season.

Michigan faces a brutal schedule because of its alignment in the new Big Ten East Division with Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana and new conference members Maryland and Rutgers.

How likely is a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game this season for Michigan?

 

Nonconference Games

Michigan starts by facing a ghost from its past. Appalachian State returns to Ann Arbor as Michigan looks to avenge its epic 2007 loss, which marked the beginning of the end for former coach Lloyd Carr.

Several seasons ago, this game might have been interesting, but the Appalachian State program is a shell of its past glory. An argument could be made that Michigan is too, but even so, there is no way the Wolverines lose this game.

Next up is a road contest with Notre Dame which marks the final meeting between these two historic programs for the foreseeable future. The key here is that Michigan travels to South Bend. Hoke’s teams have struggled on the road under his tenure, and it’s difficult to see a scenario where Michigan wins this one—not while rolling out a new offense while piecing together an offensive line.

Michigan then returns to Michigan Stadium and should roll over Miami (Ohio) and Utah as the offense jells and the quarterback situation gets settled.

 

Big Ten (First Half)

Michigan begins the Big Ten season with Minnesota at home. Expect the Gophers to make a game of it but eventually fall short. The brown jug trophy will stay in Ann Arbor.

Next up is a road game with Rutgers. Michigan often struggles on the road, but this game should be a rude welcome to the Big Ten for the Scarlet Knights. Expect east coast Michigan fans to pack the stadium as Hoke finally coaxes a stellar road performance from his team.

Michigan then returns to face Penn State for a night game at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines fell in overtime last season to Penn State, but there will be no such repeat this season. Michigan is money in night games at home under Hoke. No reason to expect anything different versus Penn State this year.

Because of a scheduling quirk (thanks Big Ten!), Michigan then heads on the road to face Michigan State for the second consecutive year. Both teams should be undefeated in conference play, and the winner will be the favorite to represent the division in the Big Ten championship game. Expect Michigan to compete better than last season but fall short. The combination of a road game and tough opponent proves too much for Michigan to overcome.

 

Big Ten (Second Half)

Michigan should enter the backstretch of the season 6-2, with losses to rivals Notre Dame and Michigan State. The heat will be on Hoke in Ann Arbor.

Michigan will handle Indiana for a homecoming victory that should placate the fans a bit. Then, the Wolverines travel to play Northwestern on the road for the second year in a row. Last season, Michigan barely avoided a loss to Northwestern with a desperation field goal in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime. Expect Northwestern to win this year unless the team goes on strike before kickoff.

Michigan should then defeat Maryland for its final home game of the season.

Michigan ends its season with another bitter loss to Ohio State in Columbus. Another case of not being good enough to overcome a tough opponent and a hostile crowd. 

An 8-4 finish will keep Michigan from the Big Ten Championship Game and put Hoke firmly on the hot seat for the 2015 season.

 

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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LSU Football: Who Is Replacing Every Former Tiger Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

LSU was dominant in the NFL draft yet again. 

The Tigers led all colleges with nine draft picks, according to LSU Sports Information. LSU also had a few major contributors from last year's team that surprisingly went undrafted in Craig Loston and Anthony Johnson. 

Replacing a multitude of NFL-caliber players has become a yearly chore for Les Miles. But luckily enough for Miles, he has plenty of prized thoroughbreds in the stable ready to step up.

Here are the former Tigers who were drafted and the current players slotted to replace them.

 

All stats and rankings via LSU Sports Information, 247Sports, NFL.com and cfbstats.com. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.   

 

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How Different Will College Football Be as We Transition into Playoff Era?

A sensational story making the rounds last week claims that a Chinese miner was found alive after living 17 years underground following a mine collapse. He had been trapped since 1997 and subsisted on limited fresh water and whatever critters he could find to eat.

Of course, the story turned out to be a hoax, as it was propagated by a site that's the Israeli equivalent of The Onion. But let's just pretend that Mr. Cheung Wai is for real, and he's a huge college football fan (hey, it's my story now, so I'm going with this). The first thing he asks after seeing daylight is: Who won the Rose Bowl last year?

Mr. Cheung must've been utterly confused when he's told that Michigan State won the Rose Bowl, but Florida State won the national championship at the Rose Bowl. Yeah, if you've been living under a rock for the last 17 years, as Mr. Cheung did, college football has been radically different—and will be even more so starting in 2014.

The advent of the BCS was the first monumental change in the way college football's champions are decided. Though its predecessors the Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance tried, it wasn't until the BCS when all traditional bowl tie-ins were loosened and all teams were free to meet for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.

But the leap from the BCS to the College Football Playoff, due to debut in the 2014 season, trumps the introduction of the BCS.

After all, the BCS preserved and relied on the traditional poll system and merely made an accommodation to make the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup possible. During its 16-year run, only three times (2000, 2001 and 2003) did the BCS title game not feature the top two teams in the final regular-season polls—and none after the standings were fixed in 2004 to heavily favor the polls.

The College Football Playoff, on the other hand, will obliterate the clout of the polls, which go back to at least 1936, when the AP poll came into existence.

With the 13-member committee making the calls on not just the four-team playoff field, but also berths for the four other most lucrative bowls, the significance of the polls will be marginalized. The committee members will rely on many data sets to form their decisions, with the polls being just one of the tools. 

This setup will prompt several significant changes in college football in the coming years:

1. It will place more importance on winning the conference championship than even during the BCS era. The odds of getting a shot at the national championship for a major conference winner has just improved from (at best) 33 percent to up to 80 percent. 

2. It will force top teams in the "Group of Five" conferences to schedule up. They will need to do that not just for a slim shot at making the playoff field, but also jockey to be the team to claim the only guaranteed spot for non-power-conference teams in the CFP bowl games.

3. Depending on how the committee behaves this season, it may even force top teams in power conferences to beef up their own schedules. After all, one major champion will still be left out every year, and the key factor most likely will be strength of schedule. 

4. The PR games of lobbying will continue, but will probably not be as intense as they've been in the BCS era. Instead of trying to sway some 170 voters, there are only 13 people who are theoretically more informed, more savvy and have more data at their disposal. This will lessen the influence of talking heads of TV networks, particularly ESPN and also CBS.

But as Mr. Cheung settles into his comfy chair and knocks back his first cold brew in 17 years, he'll know just as much as we do about how the selection committee will go about its business. Such is the brave new world of college football.

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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Former Tide QB AJ McCarron Says He 'Wasn't Healthy at Alabama'

After claiming throughout the predraft process that he would be a first- or second-round pick, former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was rightfully shocked to hear his name called in the fifth round of the NFL draft, when he was selected No. 164 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals.

In trying to reconcile why he fell—why his two national championships as a starter did not equal a higher selection—McCarron went on SiriusXM NFL Radio this weekend and explained that, unbeknownst to most, he was injured for much of his time at Alabama.

Here is a short transcription of what he said, per NFL.com:

A lot of people don't realize I wasn't healthy at Alabama. I sacrificed a lot to play for coach Saban and that university; I played through a lot of injuries and we never leaked it because that's just the way it is. I just always tried to fight through for my teammates, my team and the University of Alabama but as of now I'm just excited to get to work with coach (Ken) Zampese and learn under Andy Dalton.

It's been a weird week for McCarron, who was hitherto known as a humble, consummate leader. In some circles, he maintains that reputation. Off-field matters and intangibles were supposed to help his draft stock more than they hurt it.

But ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that McCarron "rubbed (teams) the wrong way" during the interview process, per Michael Casagrande of AL.com, and these most recent comments have been likewise taken the wrong way by the public.

Enough so that McCarron went on a tirade of sorts on Twitter:

Part of what McCarron is saying makes sense.

It didn't seem, to me, like he was throwing anybody under the bus at Alabama. He wasn't saying Saban forced him to play through injuries or that he wasn't happy to do it. He was, and it worked well.

What he was doing was offering a defense for why his tape might not be as good as he thought it was—why his stock slipped all the way down to the fifth round. But in some ways, that might be even worse. The way he said it, it came off more like an excuse than a defense.

And no one likes a quarterback who makes excuses.

Which led Mark Ennis of SB Nation to tweet the following:

Agreed. Perhaps he should try to keep a lower profile.

But with a televised wedding to WAG-turned-celebrity Katherine Webb in the works, that might be easier said than done.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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