NCAA Football News

Oregon Football: 4 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

Oregon's No. 21-ranked 2014 recruiting class is rife with talent. In the coming weeks when 2014 practices open, the Ducks' new additions dive in with an opportunity to make a meaningful first impression. 

From former head coach Chip Kelly to successor Mark Helfrich, premier freshmen have made immediate impacts at Oregon in recent years. Some of the cream of this year's recruiting crop will do so once more in 2014.

But even for those freshmen who won't crack the rotation in the coming season, this first season of practices will set the foundation for the Ducks' future.  

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USC Football: Isaiah Langley's Versatility Fits Trojan Trend in Recruiting

When Steve Sarkisian accepted the Trojans head coaching job after the 2013 season, he did so knowing that USC would be facing tremendous depth issues after suffering from three years of NCAA-imposed sanctions.

Those sanctions included the loss of 30 scholarships over that period, thus creating a roster that was only two-deep in quality players at some critical units.

Given those circumstances, "Sark" knew he would have to be creative with recruiting so that his limited scholarship players would deliver the most bang for those precious scholarship bucks.

So began a recruiting plan that would focus whenever possible on player versatility.

In the 2014 recruiting class, Sark signed Adoree' Jackson, a 247Sports 5-star cornerback who will undoubtedly play that position at USC, but who will also be seen catching passes on offense as well as returning kicks on special teams.

Also recruited in that class was John "JuJu" Smith, another 5-star player listed as an "athlete," but who actually made his hay as a safety in high school.

Smith will be catching passes for the Trojans in 2014.

Hell, even Jonathan Lockett, a 4-star cornerback who will stay at that position for the Trojans, will be given a long look as a kick returner on special teams.

The point is that in a pinch, these guys can be effective in other areas if the Trojans' depleted roster demands their attention.

It's a smart strategy and one that Sark and his Trojan recruiting brain trust has continued with the recruiting class of 2015.

For example, Taeon Masonone of USC's first pledges in this classis listed as a cornerback by 247sports.

Mason is being recruited as a receiver by the Trojans.

Another player whose versatility may result in him being looked at in different position is Noah Jeffersona defensive end who tore it up as a tight end in seven-on-seven camps this summer.

Now USC welcomes 4-star prospect Isaiah Langley, a player who is being recruited as a cornerback but whose recruiting video (posted by ESPN on April 6 of this year) features him as a wide receiver.

Langley's future both at USC and beyond is likely in the defensive backfield as tall, quick and athletic corners are always in demand. But that is not the point of this article.

The point is that Sark and his coaching crew are making the best of the short deck they were handed when it comes to replenishing a roster ravaged by the powers that be at the NCAA.

Although USC will have its full complement of scholarships in 2015, it will still take a couple of years to get its roster on par with all of the other programs who have not had to deal with the hurdles that the Trojans have in the last three years.

In the meantime, Sark will rely on recruiting as many players as possible who can step into another position if needed.

It's not the greatest situation to be in, but one that will have to be addressed if necessary.

For Sark and the legions of fans who follow the men of Troy, hopefully that won't be the case in 2014.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan

 

 

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College Football Week 1 Picks: Clemson Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs

The Clemson Tigers led the nation with 122 tackles for loss last season, which is important to consider when making your Week 1 college football picks, as they prepare to take on the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium.

Sports bettors will find that the Tigers are 9.5-point road underdogs in the NCAA football odds, with no betting total available in the marketplace.

Let's take a closer look at this nonconference matchup from a betting perspective while offering up a prediction along the way.

 

Gambling statistics via SBR Forum

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How Germany 7, Brazil 1 Compares to Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14

The first five goals in Germany's 7-1 slaughter of Brazil in Tuesday's World Cup semifinal came in a span of less than 20 minutes. Each one represented a stage of grief experienced (a la the Kubler-Ross model) by the host country: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. 

It's easy to be hyperbolic since people are creatures of the moment, but what happened to Brazil has the makings of the worst sports meltdown that anyone can seem to remember. Brazil, the five-time FIFA World Cup champion, was humiliated on its home turf for the whole world to see. 

According to Twitter Data, it was the single-most discussed sports event on its platform. Ever. 

It also produced perhaps the best series of fan-grieving photos in years. 

B/R's Dan Levy wrote that the blowout will never be matched. Andy Glockner, formerly of ESPN and Sports Illustrated, tried to make sense of what those mortifying 90 minutes meant to a country where football means everything. 

And when the college football world tried to make sense of what it was seeing, the comparisons started rolling in. Among them was Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14 in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game. 

Understand that there is no perfect comparison to what happened between Germany and Brazil because there has never been anything quite like it.

When comparing Brazil-Germany to Alabama-Notre Dame, there's a distinct difference that needs to be addressed: It would have been more accurate if Alabama delivered its beating in South Bend, not in Miami. Furthermore, 7-1 feels closer to something resembling 100-7 in American football. 

Other college football comparisons would have worked, too. UCLA 66, Texas 3 in 1997—later known as "Rout 66"—is one example (h/t Adam Jacobi). USC 55, Oklahoma 19 in the 2005 Orange Bowl is another. The examples go on and on.

But Alabama-Notre Dame is still fresh in collective minds. The way the Tide won has a striking resemblance to the semifinal. Like Germany, the Tide got off to an incredible start, racking up 21 points on its first three drives in the first 15:04. Alabama would score touchdowns on six of its 10 possessions.  

"Domination is not a word I want to use," Irish defensive tackle Louis Nix III said afterward (via ESPN's Brett McMurphy). "We missed a lot of tackles."

It certainly appeared Notre Dame got dominated, though. A few goals into Tuesday's massacre, it was clear Brazil was being dominated, too. It was a surreal turn of events given the history of the Brazilian national team and the talent on the field. 

Like Thomas Mueller of Germany and Brazil's Neymar, the Tide and Irish had star power on the field too, with Nix being one of them.

Among the players drafted from that game were Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, cornerback Dee Milliner and running back Eddie Lacy. Nix, tackle Zach Martin, tight end Tyler Eifert and linebacker Manti Te'o were among those drafted later from Notre Dame. In all, 31 players have been drafted over the past two years between the two schools. 

On the sidelines, Alabama's Nick Saban has four national championships while Notre Dame's Brian Kelly has obviously come close (though he has won national championships at the Division II level with Grand Valley State). Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari won the World Cup in 2002. Germany's Joachim Low has two third-place finishes: one as an assistant in 2006 and one as a manager in 2010. 

Given who was on the field, the history of the two sides and the way things played out, there are plenty of similarities between Tuesday's semifinal and the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

Some may disagree, but both events are ones fans on both sides won't soon forget—even if some would like nothing more than to do just that. 

 

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

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SEC Schools Will Regret Letting SPARQ Finalist Taj Griffin Head West to Oregon

The first night of television coverage of Nike's The Opening turned into the Kirk Merritt Show, as the 5'11", 206-pound running back/wide receiver/athlete won the SPARQ national championship. B/R's Tyler Donohue published a feature on Merritt shortly after winning the event on Tuesday night.

But another finalist turned heads in Beaverton, Oregon, and it's one who will be playing his college football in that state.

Oregon running back commit Taj Griffin.

The 5'10", 175-pound, Powder Springs, Georgia, native jumped 45.8" on Tuesday morning in the SPARQ preliminaries, 43.8" in the final, posted a 4.31 40-yard dash according to 247Sports.com's Steve Wiltfong and a 4.34 in the final.

That sound you hear is Oregon coaches cheering and SEC coaches cringing.

Taj Griffin raises the bar with a VJ of 43.4" pic.twitter.com/SJRD34UhAi

— The Opening (@TheOpening2014) July 9, 2014

Taj Griffin and Jordan Scarlett ran faster 40 times today at The Opening than all but 1 RB from 2014 #NFL Combine

— Michael Carvell (@Carvell_AJC) July 9, 2014

Yeah, he's a freak.

Griffin committed to the Ducks in April over several schools, including the in-state Georgia Bulldogs, USC and Clemson. After his performance at The Opening, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Auburn and the rest of the nine SEC schools who offered Griffin will regret letting him head west.

He isn't just a speedster or a system back who will thrive in Oregon, he's the top all-purpose back in the country for a reason. He's not the biggest player in the world, but he packs a mean punch, hits the hole hard and when he gets out in space, he's capable of hitting the home run.

B/R's Tyler Donohue got video of Griffin's kneeling power ball toss, which shows off his strength.

Oregon RB commit Taj Griffin flashed his speed this morning with 4.31 40, now testing strength with toss. https://t.co/alrzsmBY0h

— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 9, 2014

Instead of staying home and in the region, he's committed to playing for a team that the SEC blue bloods may potentially face in the College Football Playoff semifinals or title game. 

No defense wants to see that kind of home run hitter lining up at running back with college football's biggest prize on the line.

Of course, Griffin's recruitment is far from over.

"Any time there's a talented player like Griffin committed to a school that far from home, the programs in closer proximity likely aren't going to give up and go away," said JC Shurburtt, national recruiting analyst for 247Sports.com. "As the time to put pen to paper draws near, I've seen distance become more of an issue. So I suspect other suitors, in the southeast particularly, will continue to recruit him."

He didn't win the SPARQ national title on Tuesday, but Griffin proved by making the finals with a 136.56 score that he's not a system back, he's a future superstar.

One that SEC schools will regret letting get away.

 

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

 


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Auburn Football: 5 Stats Tigers Must Improve in 2014

Although Auburn is returning most of its starters from a team that was seconds away from a national championship, widespread progress must be made over the long offseason.

The Tigers took the college football world by storm in 2013 with their run to an SEC title after one of the worst seasons in program history and a complete coaching overhaul. 

Just like their run to Pasadena, they were also a surprise in the numbers of the sport—compared to other elite teams in recent seasons. Auburn's unorthodox style of a devastating run-heavy offense with an up-and-down defense made the team a statistical anomaly.

Here is a look at five statistics where the Tigers were lacking compared to several of the last national championship squads, including an Auburn team with a defense that was below average in several traditional stats but raised some eyebrows in other areas.

While the 2013 Tigers proved that a team does not need to be excellent in these areas in order to be in the mix for the title, improvement could make them even more dangerous, well-rounded opponents as they push for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

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LSU Football: 4 Freshmen Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

LSU head coach Les Miles will rely on freshmen in 2014 now more than ever. Luckily enough for Miles, his incoming class of newcomers is his best ever. 

Fall practice will be a vital period for the incoming freshmen, as they will have their first chance to prove their worth in pads. The pressure for them to perform in their first year is unlike any other crop of players Miles has ever coached.   

The 2014 class is headlined by 5-star running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Malachi Dupre. No matter what happens in fall practice, odds are in Fournette and Dupre's favor to play in the season opener against Wisconsin. The same cannot be said for the rest of the players. 

Here are four freshmen to keep an eye on for the rest of the offseason. 

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Elite 11 2014: Day 4 Schedule, Preview and Latest Info on Top Prospects

After what amounted to something of an inconsequential first day at The Opening, the quarterbacks competing for Elite 11 status will be under much higher scrutiny on Wednesday.

Though the signal-callers participated throughout the afternoon, Tuesday's SPARQ Rating testing was all about highlighting the skilled players. Kirk Merritt came away as this year's national champion, becoming the latest in a long line of Louisiana winners.

SPARQ testing is used to determine the player with the best strength and speed at the camp. Scores are normalized to a player's weight—largely to give linemen a fighting chance—and then players go through a 40-yard dash, 5-10-5 test, kneeling power ball toss and vertical leap.

The Seattle Seahawks and numerous other NFL teams use Nike's SPARQ rating when looking at potential draftees.

As you might expect, these are not areas in which most quarterbacks thrive. While there are certainly some excellent athletes in this crop, their size similarities to wide receivers, running backs and cornerbacks can be a disadvantage.

No quarterbacks were among the top-10 SPARQ performers in the preliminary round Tuesday morning.

Yet, not all was lost.

Quarterbacks are not judged on their athleticism versus cornerbacks; they're graded against their contemporaries. There was also a nearly two-hour training camp session in which quarterbacks again got to show off their skills.

Oregon commit Travis Waller and Torrance Gibson, both on the outside looking in of the most recent Elite 11 rankings, both made significant impressions. Penn State commit Brandon Wimbush may also be moving into consideration after impressing with his arm strength.

With seven-on-sevens beginning Wednesday morning and continuing through the evening, this will be far-and-away the most important day for these kids thus far.

Let's quickly check out a schedule for Day 4 and preview the action from The Opening.

 

Day 4 Preview

We've finally arrived at the days that actually count. While the first couple days of Elite 11 competition allowed a hierarchy to somewhat coalesce, the rankings can shift on a dime when it comes to seven-on-seven play.

Going against air and showing off your mechanics and arm strength is one thing. When the quarterbacks enter real, live competition is when these players can show off what they can do inside the game setting—even if it's still not quite "real" football.

The first few days in Oregon have seen this crop stay relatively close from a grading perspective. There is no standout who is dwarfing the competition at the moment. If we were assigning letter grades, the margin of error would roughly be between an A- and B for almost every participant.

One good game might send a kid hanging on the fringes back into the top 11. And one poor performance might do the opposite for a guy who impressed in the early days.

Atop the board thus far has been Jarrett Stidham. The Texas Tech commit has come in and bested a group filled with guys going to more nationally recognized powers, excelling with his consistency and accurate ball-placement throughout. 

"I thought he was a guy that was consistent through the two drill practices and then today transferred that drill work onto the field, which was hard," former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, the most identifiable person linked to Elite 11, told Paul Myerberg and Daniel Uthman of USA Today. "He's a guy that's definitely stood out."

The scouting report on Stidham is a little unlike Red Raider quarterbacks of years past. He's solid, albeit not elite, in the size department and is actually just as well-known for his legs as his arm.

Texas Tech has long been a program that has accentuated the skills of quarterbacks who slipped through the cracks due to one physical deficiency or another. In Stidham, Kliff Kingsbury might have a stud with an NFL future.

Stidham is joined atop the leaderboard by Drew Lock, a Missouri commit who was also on the periphery coming into this week.

Lock is ranked as the fifth-best pro-style quarterback in the nation by 247Sports' composite rankings but is well outside the top 100 nationally. Like Stidham, Lock has done right by himself simply by being steadier than his competitors.

Conspicuously low on the Elite 11 list—though they're at least on it—are some of the biggest names coming into this week.

Ricky Town, the USC commit who has spent most of his recruitment as the top-rated pro-style guy in his class, is in 11th. Town struggled throughout the drills process and needed a strong showing in Monday's seven-on-seven practices to stay on the fringes.

Josh Rosen, the UCLA signee who recently took over for Town atop the aforementioned list, has been solid but still rests ninth. Built like he was born to play the quarterback position, Dilfer was impressed with the kid's understanding of the game.

"Josh Rosen is supremely talented. He makes incredibly difficult things look easy," Dilfer said. "He's just a highly intellectual kid that understands the game a certain way and now is trying to figure out the way we're trying to teach it. But he's thrived. It's real work, and he's made it look easy."

Kyler Murray is an interesting case, as the 5'11" dual-threat was more impressive in the SPARQ testing than seven-on-seven practices. Murray will be joining a Texas A&M offense built to accentuate his skill set.

The same goes for Wimbush, who might have the single best arm of any player in Oregon. The Penn State recruit will need to flash some polish to go along with his physical tools to thrive in his games, though.

 

Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter:

 

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Remembering 10 Best Moments from BCS-Era SEC Media Days

Love it or hate it, it's nearly that time.

The unofficial kickoff to the college football season will take place next week when the SEC holds its annual Media Days at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

Over the years, the circus-like event has welcomed the crazy. From pimps to subpoenas to turkey insemination (yes, that was actually discussed), there's never a shortage of storylines coming from the Wynfrey during the mid-summer extravaganza.

What are the best Media Days moments from the last 16 years? Our picks are in this slideshow.

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Florida Football: 5 Players Who Must Shine in Fall Practices

Fall camp is right around the corner for the Florida Gators, and there are many players who need to take their game to another level in order to feel confident about the upcoming season. These next few practices are even more important than the spring considering the season is about a month away. It leaves very little room for error.

Either guys have improved and the season will be better than a year ago, or certain players will continue to struggle and Florida will enter another season was various question marks.

While quarterback is the most crucial position that needs an upgrade, there are a few other players who must impress throughout the fall.

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Wisconsin 2014 Quarterback Fall Practice Preview: Depth Chart and Analysis

With so many departures in the tight end and wide receiver ranks, one would think bringing a quarterback with 21 games of experience would give the newcomers some stability at that position.  Unfortunately for the Wisconsin football team, that is not the case as Joel Stave, who has started 19 games, has been woefully inconsistent and has forced a quarterback competition.

With six guys competing for snaps—Connor Senger, Thad Armstrong, DJ Gillins, Bart Houston, Stave and Tanner McEvoy—McEvoy and Stave walked out of spring ball as the two competitors for the starting job come August when the Badgers face off against LSU in Houston.

Without further ado, let's take a look at the projected depth chart at the quarterback position for the 2014 season.

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1 Trap Game for Every College Football Team in 2014

If every college football team had complete control over its schedule, you'd see a very distinct pattern of schools splitting up their road trips and ensuring quality opponents aren't lumped together in succession.

It would be kind of like how the SEC does it, where many of the top programs either have a bye week or a walkover nonconference opponent the week before a big game. But not every team has that kind of flexibility, especially when conference offices and television networks get their hands on the schedules and manipulate them in the interest of maximum drama and ratings.

As a result, many teams end up with at least one spot in their schedule that isn't ideal, and a lot of slates often feature a game or two that ends up becoming tougher than it should be. Those are commonly referred to as "trap" games.

Scheduled on a preferred date, at a specific time and without much schedule-driven conflict before or after, most of these games should be penciled in as Ws. But where's the fun in that?

After closely reading the 2014 schedules of each and every FBS team, we've found that one game they should be worried about more than any other. Scroll through to see who will be setting a trap for whom this fall.

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Meet Kirk Merritt, 2014 SPARQ National Champion

Kirk Merritt toed the line with 40 cone-bordered yards lying between him and a dream accomplishment. Surrounded by more than 100 of his premier peers, a star-studded coaching staff and national media, the Louisiana native delivered the most impressive sprint of his life.

By the time he slowed to a halt, the 5'11", 206-pound athlete was swarmed by fellow college prospects, as cameras broadcast the celebration on national television. Merritt capped off an incredible Tuesday with a SPARQ national championship at "The Opening," an elite invite-only camp held at Nike's world headquarters in Eugene, Oregon.

"It's a great feeling to get to this point and know all your hard work is paying off," he said.

The Destrehan High School standout emerged as the top athlete at a camp that includes future college and NFL stars. That accomplishment wasn't lost upon him in the immediate aftermath.

"This is the best of the best competing here," Merritt said. "To be able to perform like this and come out on top is an amazing feeling. It's incredible."

SPARQ testing takes several aspects of a player's skill set into account.

Prospects earn a final score based on their performance in four drills. Competitors take on a vertical leap, shuttle run, kneeling power ball toss and 40-yard dash.

The cumulative results of their efforts combine to create a total SPARQ rating.

Attendees at The Opening partook in each drill during a morning session. Those who registered a top-10 score advanced to the national finals later Tuesday, which were broadcast live on ESPNU.

Merritt entered the evening session as the top-ranked performer. A blistering 40-yard dash (4.43 seconds) helped set the tone early and earn him a spot in the finals.

"My 40-yard dash performance was huge,' he said. "My main focus while training for this was to improve that time. I ran a 4.60 at the New Orleans Nike camp and knew I'd need to improve on that, so I focused on getting faster for this competition and it paid off."

He nearly duplicated that success on his final burst of a busy day. Merritt capped of an impressive effort with a 4.46-second 40-yad dash, holding off a sensational group of contenders during the final stretch of action.

The uncommitted rising senior admitted he was looking over his shoulder at Virginia defensive end Josh Sweat. The 6'5", 240-pound defensive end challenged early and often dung SPARQ testing, including a 40-yard dash of just 4.46 seconds during morning tests.

Simply put, the athletic specimen validated every indication of stardom during his performance. Merritt would eventually earn top honors but knew it wouldn't be easy with a player like Sweat nipping at his heels.

"Josh is just a freak athlete," he said. "I knew I would be tough to beat him. He's the kind of athlete you never really see and I thought he was pretty amazing."

Sweat could've stolen the victory with a sub-4.5 in his final 40-yard dash but fell shy while dealing with a slight hip injury. Merritt reigned supreme among a national finalist group that also included Alabama cornerback commit Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oregon running back pledge Taj Griffin.

Rated third nationally among all-purpose backs, Merritt sees himself as a multi-dimensional offensive threat at the next level. His blend of versatility and sheer athleticism could combine to create a potent playmaker for with whichever program he chooses.

"I want to play receiver but that's not the only thing I'm trying to do on offense in college," Merritt said. "I'd like to do running back things and be able to help out the offense in different ways."

The 4-star prospect has quickly proven he's capable of contributing in a variety of facets and compares himself to former Florida star Percy Harvin. Several teams remain in the mix for his commitment.

Merritt mentioned Texas A&M, Auburn, Alabama, Oregon and LSU as programs that top his list of collegiate opportunities. Expect his recruitment to reach a frenzied stage following his rare performance among elite company Tuesday night.

 

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

All quotes obtained by B/R national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue.

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Predicting Which CFB Coordinators Will Take Head Coaching Jobs After 2014 Season

This time of year, the carousel is still.

It sits in a forgotten corner of the college football world, sitting silent and gathering dust as the summer heat beats down on it.

This, of course, is a metaphorical carousel. In summer, it is quiet, but wait until October or November.

Once teams lose a few games and the heat cranks up on embattled coaches, it springs to life, fueled by rumors and innuendo.

By December, the college football coaching carousel will be in full swing, slinging participants off and grabbing new riders with every passing day.

We’ll be talking about which coaches will be moving where and who’ll replace the candidates who are moving on or moving out.

Sitting head coaches will be part of the carousel, but so will be the nation’s top coordinators. Their names will be bandied about with breathless abandon until the final major coaching job is filled.

It’s only July, but here’s a shot at predicting which college football coordinators will take head coaching jobs after the 2014 season or, for that matter, hang around for another year.

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Insider Buzz: 5-Star DE Keisean Lucier-South to Take Official to Notre Dame

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove they are the best of the best. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have some big-time targets who have shown serious interest in bringing their talents to South Bend. If the Fighting Irish could land these recruits, then it would be a huge win for Brian Kelly and his coaching staff. Do you think these monsters will head to South Bend? 

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down the latest on these studs out at The Opening.

 

Ranking from 247Sports Composite

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Video: Watch Georgia 5-Star Terry Godwin Explode at the Opening

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove that they are the best of the best. The Georgia Bulldogs have a big-time commit out in Beaverton showing that he can be a huge asset at the next level. How well do you think this stud will do in Athens?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on this Bulldog commit out at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports composite.

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Biggest Freaks from The Opening SPARQ Combine, Training Camp

The Opening SPARQ combine and training camp has come to an end in Oregon. These 2015 recruits make up the top athletes in the country. Five of these studs stood out from the rest as the biggest freaks of the combine and training camp. Who do you think is the No. 1 freak athlete of the 2015 class?

Watch Bleacher Report's college football analyst Michael Felder break down why these five monsters made the cut.

Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

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Hidden Gem Ohio State Commit Who Burst on the Scene at the Opening

The top athletes are out in Oregon at The Opening to prove that they are the best of the best. The Ohio State Buckeyes have a hidden gem commit out in Beaverton showing that he can be a huge asset at the next level. How well do you think this stud will do in Columbus?

Watch Bleacher Report’s College Football Analyst Michael Felder discuss the latest on this Buckeye commit out at The Opening.

 

Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

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The Opening 2014: Top 10 40-Yard Dash Times from the Sparq National Championship

The SPARQ National Championship, a scaled-down scouting combine for the best high school prospects in the country, took place during Nike's The Opening on Tuesday, and the speed of the 2015 class did not disappoint.

Only the 10 players with the highest total scores in the prelims advanced the nationally televised final round, but counting what happened in the afternoon session, seven players ran a sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash…and one of those players was a linebacker!

The fastest runner on the day clocked in with a time of 4.30 seconds, which would have beaten Brandin Cooks for the second-fastest time at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine and been just behind Dri Archer.

Here's a quick look at the full top 10.

 

10. DE Josh Sweat (Uncommitted), 4.46 seconds*

You don't get compared to Jadeveon Clowney for nothing.

Josh Sweat made that plain and clear during his 40-yard dash on Tuesday, clocking in at 4.46 seconds—an obscene time for a lineman.

Sweat (6'5", 237 lbs) doesn't have the same thick build as Clowney (6'5", 266 lbs), but it does bear mentioning that Clowney's 40 time at the NFL Scouting Combine—a score people rightfully went crazy over—was seven-tenths of a second slower (4.53) than that of Sweat.

Sweat is the No. 2 overall prospect and No. 1 defensive end in the country, and a performance such as this, which included a second place finish in SPARQ rating, will do nothing to threaten that standing.

In-state Virginia Tech is the slight favorite to land his services, per the 247Sports Crystal Ball, with Florida State, Ohio State and Tennessee all garnering at least 10 percent of the votes as well.

*Finished 2nd in SPARQ National Championship

 

9. WR Kirk Merritt (Uncommitted), 4.43 seconds*

Kirk Merritt finished ninth in the battle but first in the war, riding his solid 40-yard dash score and the rest of his dominant measurables to a first-place finish in the SPARQ national championship:

Winning this hardware will surely help the recruiting status of Merritt, a 4-star prospect and the No. 145 overall player in the nation. At 5'11", he projects as a hybrid between an all-purpose back and a receiver, and he showed on Tuesday that he has enough speed to play both.

Last year's SPARQ national champion, wide receiver Speedy Noil, finished the cycle as the No. 8 overall prospect. Like Merritt, he stood 5'11" and played his high school ball in Louisiana, but Noil spurned in-state LSU to play for Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M.

Merritt's 247Sports Crystal Ball currently has him as a 50-50 split between…well…LSU and Texas A&M. Deja vu, perhaps?

*Finished 1st in SPARQ National Championship

 

8. WR Derrick Dillon (Florida), 4.41 seconds

Derrick Dillon is lauded for his versatility—according to 247Sports, he can play quarterback and cornerback along with wide receiver—and will bring rarified speed to whatever position holds his future.

Florida could use such a skill at a number of different spots.

At 5'11", 180 pounds, Dillon is roughly the same height as Duke QB Anthony Boone (6'0"), who thrived under new Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper in 2013. Still, he is participating as a wide receiver at The Opening and projects most realistically to that spot.

He is the No. 148 overall prospect in the country. 

 

7. LB Malik Jefferson (Uncommitted), 4.39 seconds*

Yes, you read that right.

Malik Jefferson is a linebacker. He is 6'2" and weighs 225 pounds. And he just posted a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash.

Which is ridiculous.

For context, the fastest linebacker at this year's NFL Scouting Combine was Tahj Jones, who clocked in at 4.48 seconds.

Jefferson's time would have shattered that, and it also would have placed fourth overall behind Trey Marshall, Tony Brown and Curtis Samuel—three lighter, shiftier, skill-position guys—among current college freshmen from The Opening in 2013.

Jefferson was already the No. 11 overall prospect and No. 1 outside linebacker in the country, and this score should only boost his ratings.

Texas A&M, Texas and Baylor are the three leaders to land him, per the 247Sports Crystal Ball, although Alabama is also in pursuit.

*Finished 6th in SPARQ National Championship

 

6. DB Stephen Johnson (UCLA), 4.37 seconds

Like the No. 1 player on this list, Stephen Johnson jam-packed his day with a stellar run in the afternoon and a commitment in the evening. 

Mike Farrell of Rivals announced that he would be the newest member of the UCLA Bruins. He posted a sizzling time of 4.37 seconds during his 40-yard dash, validating the belief that he is one of the fastest prospects in the 2016 class. Oregon, which was his second finalist before committing, must be kicking itself for letting him go.

Alas, Johnson will be playing in Westwood next season, and the Bruins will be happy to have him. He is only the No. 460 overall prospect in the country, but after showing well on Tuesday, there's a chance that might go up as the recruiting services update their rankings.

His speed and versatility are big assets.

 

5. WR George Campbell (Uncommitted), 4.36 seconds

George Campbell did not disappoint in his encore.

After participating in The Opening as a junior in 2013 and finishing with the fourth-lowest time in the 40-yard dash (4.36), he validated that speed—as if he really needed to—with a 4.36 Tuesday afternoon.

Here, take a look:

Campbell is the No. 25 overall prospect and No. 2 receiver in the country. He is 6'3" and knows how to put his speed to good use.

He committed to Michigan around this time last summer but pulled out of the agreement in December. Now, the Florida native is looking primarily at Clemson and his home-state Gators as potential schools.

Whoever lands him will have gotten a good one.

 

4. DB Mark Fields (South Carolina), 4.33 seconds

Mark Fields (not the Ford CEO) gave South Carolina fans something to get excited about with his showing on Tuesday, outrunning defenders in pursuit drills and clocking a 40-yard dash time of 4.33 seconds.

At 5'11", Fields has the size to defend taller receivers—if he has to—at the next level, but he will probably be a bigger asset against downfield burners. He proved he has the speed to stick with anyone.

subjective rankings actually had him a little higher than the composite did, ranking him No. 83 overall and No. 7 among cornerbacks.

He'll provide some much-needed secondary depth in Columbia.

 

3. WR C.J. Sanders (Notre Dame), 4.32 seconds*

Technically, C.J. Sanders is one of the less-heralded players at  The Opening—or at least he is for now. He is only a 3-star prospect and the No. 364 recruit in the country, there are questions about his height (5'9") and he is barely ranked among the top 50 wide receivers.

But that should start to change after the blazing 4.32 Sanders posted in the 40-yard dash Tuesday afternoon—a time that was nearly three-tenths of a second better than the 4.57 he used to qualify.

The result of Sanders' dash was a SPARQ score that pumped up from 121.98 to 139.26, which was enough to get him into the overall top 10.

He might not be a 3-star prospect for long.

*Finished 8th in SPARQ National Championship

 

2. RB Taj Griffin (Oregon), 4.31 seconds*

Sometimes, the rich get richer.

Or I guess, in this case, the fast get faster.

Oregon commit Taj Griffin looked great during his 40-yard dash on Tuesday, clocking in with a time of 4.31 seconds—a full-second improvement on his previous 4.41.

Griffin is 5'10", 175 pounds and current ranks as the No. 49 overall prospect and No. 1 all-purpose back in the country. The 247Sports subjective rankings already had him a little higher than the composite did, calling him the No. 28 player in the class.

There's a reason Mark Helfrich, Scott Frost and the rest of Oregon's staff reached all the way across the country into Georgia to land this kid. He could be a blur in the Ducks' unique, wide-open system.

*Finished 4th in SPARQ National Championship

 

1. RB Jordan Scarlett (Miami), 4.30 seconds

Jordan Scarlett had a big day on Tuesday, clocking in with the best 40-yard dash (4.30) of the event during the afternoon and announcing his decision to attend Miami during the evening.

Scarlett is the No. 97 overall prospect and No. 10 running back in the country, but even that is probably selling him short. At 5'10", 210 pounds, he has a unique blend of speed and power for a player.

Until recently, Scarlett was pledged to play at Florida Atlantic—of all places—where his former high school coach, Roger Harriott, will be the running backs coach next year. But he decommitted at the end of June before opening his recruitment and choosing the 'Canes.

With the addition of Scarlett, the four top rated players in Miami's 2015 class—a group that also includes Dexter Williams, Mark Walton and Jordan Cronkite—are capable of playing running back. Miami also landed a good ball-carrier in Joseph Yearby last cycle.

Whenever Duke Johnson leaves for the NFL, there will be no shortage of capable in-house replacements on the roster.

 

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information refers to the 247Sports composite rankings. All 40 times courtesy of StudentSports.com. 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas' 5-Star Target Malik Jefferson Loves Charlie Strong and New Staff

The top recruits in the country are out in Oregon for The Opening. The Texas Longhorns have some huge targets who are putting on a show in Beaverton. If the Longhorns can reel in these monster recruits, it will be huge for new head coach Charlie Strong.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder and 247Sports' Ryan Bartow are out in Oregon with the latest on the Longhorns' targets. Do you think Texas will land these studs?

Watch the video and let us know.

Rankings from 247Sports Composite

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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