NCAA Football News

Grading Top Big 12 Recruits' Performances at 2014 the Opening

With The Opening wrapped up, it's time to look at how some of the top Big 12 recruits performed in the elite Nike camp of the summer. 

Malik Jefferson and SoSo Jamabo were among the standouts, while other under-the-radar players also shined. 

So let's cut to the chase and grade the performance of the Big 12's top recruits at 2014 Opening camp. 

 

All recruit information obtained from 247sports

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Grading Top SEC Recruits' Performance at 2014 The Opening

SEC football prospects rarely fly under the radar these days with recruiting having long since become its own multimillion-dollar industry.

The Opening now allows future Saturday standouts to take center stage even earlier.

The Oregon-based event hosts many of the nation’s top prospects and pits them against each other in workouts, drills and a seven-on-seven competition.

It should come as no surprise that some of the top performers are bound for SEC programs or potentially bound for SEC programs. Perhaps the best part of The Opening is that unless a prospect wilts, the added exposure generally serves as a positive.

Here is a look at some of the top storylines revolving around SEC-centric players from The Opening.

 

Tide Rolling at The Opening

Considering the continued success Alabama coach Nick Saban enjoys on the recruiting trail, it would be more of a shock if one of his prospects flopped than flourished on such a scene.

Receiver Calvin Ridley lived up to the considerable expectations that come with being an Alabama commit, bringing home The Opening overall MVP honors.

Saban likely took great pride in watching Ridley team up with fellow Crimson Tide commit Blake Barnett. The dynamic pair led Team Apocalypse to the seven-on-seven competition championship.

Ridley also turned in arguably the highlight of the event with his one-handed catch.

Currently, 247Sports has Ridley listed as a 4-star recruit.

Barnett shined during The Opening, winning the seven-on-seven championship and being named Elite 11 MVP.

Look for a bump to 247Sports’ 5-star rating class as a distinct possibility with Barnett’s superb showing, especially after 247Sports’ Barton Simmons wrote that he “showed the most consistency and one of the weekend’s strongest arms.”

While Barnett and Ridley stole the show, several other Alabama commits made splashes.

Deionte Thompson, for instance, turned in another solid showing after 247Sports wrote that the safety turned in a spectacular performance at the NFTC in Houston.

As a result, he could see a bump to 247Sports’ 5-star class.

Thompson earned an honorable mention spot on 247Sports’ The Opening Dream Team. The site also described his closing speed as “among the most impressive” at The Opening.

A pair of future Crimson Tide offensive linemen also impressed.

Lester Cotton and Richie Petitbon stood out—Lester despite not being allowed to compete in pads because of Alabama high school rules.

Petitbon might not have been as outstanding as Cotton—and possibly missed out on a bump to 5-star status as a result—but he still played well. Earlier in camp, 247Sports detailed Petitbon’s powerful punches off the line.

 

Big Week for Tennessee

The Opening gave Tennessee fans further hope that coach Butch Jones is in the process of putting the program back on the path to relevance.

Defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie provided the biggest highlight, committing to the Volunteers on Thursday.

As much as McKenzie made big news with his official commitment, his play did just as much talking. McKenzie left as the defensive MVP of The Opening.

Even against some of the best offensive line prospects the country has to offer, McKenzie physically overmatched the competition.

“You’re not going to see an array of swim moves out of the new Tennessee commit, just overwhelming strength that he used to put linemen on their back or take them on a walk back to the quarterback,” 247Sports’ Barton Simmons wrote.

McKenzie showed off his strength on the field and during the SPARQ competition.

Tennessee can expect McKenzie to provide an instant impact once he arrives on campus.

Receiver Preston Williams showed Jones also found a suitable tag team partner for the talented MarQuez North. “The Show” went to The Opening hoping to show out as the No. 1 receiver in the nation.

Not even constant attention prevented Williams from producing.

 

The Opening Shines Bright Lights on Florida Targets

Two of the biggest standouts remain uncommitted.

Nobody turned in a better showing along the offensive line than Martez Ivey, who entered The Opening as a contender for the nation’s top tackle and erased a lot of doubt.

Ivey left as the offensive line MVP and an even bigger target for SEC programs.

247Sports went from wondering aloud if Ivey was the top tackle to opining that perhaps no prospect at The Opening “can match the upside of Ivey.” It went on to say he “has franchise left tackle potential.”

Florida currently leads for Ivey, but Auburn remains in the race for his services.

Another Gators target, Byron Cowart, established himself as one of the top five defensive linemen at The Opening.

Cowart’s ability to consistently pressure the quarterback allowed him to make 247Sports’ The Opening Dream Team. Even more impressively, he displayed the versatility to generate a pass rush from anywhere along the line.

Florida has a big lead for Cowart, though Oregon and LSU are among the teams that could make a push.

Athlete Ray-Ray McCloud, another recruit for which Florida is considered a heavy favorite, earned a spot on Nike’s all-tournament team.

 

Something to Prove

Defensive end Terry Beckner entered The Opening with something to prove.

The small-school product developed a name for himself, but limited competition created a perception that perhaps Beckner simply hadn’t been properly tested.

Before the event, 247Sports wrote that Beckner was worth watching because he was “highly ranked, highly regarded but limited in how much he’s been evaluated against top end competition.”

Just a few days in, Beckner had won over skeptics.

247Sports finished the week with a far different impression of Beckner, who earned a spot on the site’s The Opening Dream Team.

Missouri leads for Beckner, though USC, Ohio State and LSU could make a push—especially after his performance.

 

QB or Not QB?

247Sports 5-star prospect Torrance Gibson says he’s a quarterback.

The Opening, however, refused to follow along, listing Gibson as an athlete.

An ankle injury precluded Gibson from participating much in receiver drills, though he might not be overly upset to primarily showcase his skill set under center.

Gibson made clear again he wants to be a quarterback, whether he ultimately chooses Auburn, Tennessee, Ohio State or any other of the litany of teams pursuing him. Currently, 247Sports thinks Auburn leads.

Two things became clear at the Elite 11 camp: Gibson is a freakish athlete (who ran a 4.46 40), and he has plenty of work to do.

Inconsistent footwork and overall mechanics don’t disqualify Gibson as a quarterback, but they likely mean he’s more of a project at the position than polished product.

 

Texas A&M Getting Defensive

Texas A&M already has a few high-profile prospects in defensive lineman Daylon Mack, cornerback Kendall Sheffield and safety Justin Dunning.

Coach Kevin Sumlin’s intentions to add linebacker Malik Jefferson to the mix were long established before The Opening.

Jefferson became an even bigger recruiting target with a sensational showing.

Consider this report from 247Sports in naming Jefferson to its The Opening Dream Team:

“It’s tough for a linebacker to shine in a 7on7 setting but Jefferson managed to stand out anyway,” Simmons wrote. “He had a pair of pick-6 plays on Wednesday and his athleticism and speed to the football was scary.”

Jefferson showcased phenomenal speed, clocking a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash.

That speed teamed with Jefferson’s strength and athleticism made the 247Sport 5-star prospect one of the biggest freaks at The Opening.

Jefferson entered as 247Sports’ No. 3 linebacker. However, the site recognized that a remarkable week could help him jump to the top spot.

It will be interesting to watch how 247Sports responds after Jefferson lived up to the challenge.

Dunning joined Jefferson on 247Sports’ The Opening Dream Team with the site calling him the breakout star of the event.

 

LSU Set to Continue Recent Run as Defensive Back U

Finding defensive backs hasn’t been a struggle for LSU coach Les Miles since he arrived in Baton Rouge.

He appears to have at least a couple of more talented prospects lined up to continue the tradition.

Xavier Lewis and Kevin Toliver both drew recognition for their solid showings during the seven-on-seven competition, each earning spots on Nike’s all-tournament team. Toliver also earned a spot on the 247Sports The Opening Dream Team.

Toliver entered The Opening in the discussion of the nation’s top cornerback prospects and did nothing to hurt his stock.

The Tigers might not be done in the secondary, either.

Justin Reid, who is currently uncommitted, made a splash early in camp with his ability to cover ground from his safety position.

247Sports' Luke Stampini reported Reid turned in one of the plays of the event.

As the defensive backs were doing a drill that worked on coming off the hash to make a play along the sidelines on corner routes, Justin Reid, one of the top overall performers, flashed his bouncy athleticism. Breaking towards the sidelines a pass was thrown high over his inside shoulder when he leaped high in the air, contorting his body enough to make an impressive one-handed catch.

247Sports has Reid rated a 3-star recruit, but he could see his stock rise after a strong performance.

Oklahoma and LSU are battling for Reid’s services.

The Tigers also have a commitment from athlete Kirk Merritt, who showed out as a freak athlete in winning the SPARQ National Championship.

 

SEC East Targets Stand Out

Jeremy Pruitt could have a couple of new weapons on his defense starting next fall if Georgia finishes strong on a couple of potential commits.

Athlete Donte Jackson and linebacker Roquan Smith both performed well at The Opening, earning spots on both the Nike all-tournament team and the 247Sports The Opening Dream Team.

Jackson played both ways during the seven-on-seven tournament and, according to 247Sports, was a candidate for overall MVP. He shined brightest in the defensive backfield, though.

Smith showed the versatility and skills to play linebacker, safety or a blend of the two positions.

Vanderbilt commit Josh Smith earned a spot on the Nike all-tournament team as well, also earning an honorable mention spot on the 247Sports Dream Team.

247Sports described the linebacker’s performance thusly: “Every year there is a linebacker that has the length and athleticism to totally disrupt an offense in the middle of the field. This year it was Smith, a recent commitment to Vanderbilt.”

Like Smith, South Carolina linebacker commit Sherrod Pittman placed on the honorable mention Dream Team for 247Sports, where the site reported he “was all over the field, creating havoc.”

Kentucky tight end commit C.J. Conrad showed out as the top tight end in the group, according to 247Sports.

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Grading Top Pac-12 Recruits' Performances at 2014 the Opening

With college football media days officially underway, we can start the clock on the countdown to Pac-12 football, not that you haven't been marking off the days since January.

But before we take a look ahead, we're going to look back at one of the marquee recruiting events of the offseason: The Opening, which took place at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

The nation's top high school talents all descended upon the Portland area from July 7-11 to showcase their skills and improve their respective recruiting profiles. Several Pac-12 commits were there as well as many other players schools from the conference are hoping to sign as part of their 2015 recruiting class.

We're taking a look at six of the more high-profile talents and giving them each a grade for the week. Obviously, this was just one camp, and the grade by no means defines the player's overall skills or what he can and can't accomplish at the next level.

Still, it was interesting to get a glimpse of what these guys looked like when going up against other elite players. Click ahead to check out our grades of the top Pac-12 recruits from 2014 The Opening.

 

All recruiting information via 247sports.com.

 

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Re-Evaluating Clemson's Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

The beginning of the 2014 college football season is just a mere six weeks away for the Clemson Tigers. However, it's 2015 that has Clemson fans most excited. 

According to 247Sports, the Tigers currently have the nation's No. 3-ranked recruiting class. Clemson has commitments from 20 players, tied for most in the country.

Last week, some of the top prospects in the class of 2015 gathered in Beaverton, Oregon, at The Opening. Four Clemson commits were present: Mitch Hyatt, Chad Smith, Noah Green and Deon Cain. Hyatt is Clemson's only 5-star commit and arguably the best offensive line prospect in the country. 

There's a lot of time left in the 2015 recruiting cycle. Players haven't even started their senior season of high school yet. Some players will rise in the rankings, while others will fall. Some players took their opportunity at The Opening as a way to raise their individual profile before the 2014 season begins. 

 

Top Targets

Clemson's top targets are always the ones who have already committed. Head coach Dabo Swinney wants to keep players like Hyatt from jumping ship when another coach tries to poach him at the last second. 

But Clemson had some unfinished business at The Opening.

George Campbell, a 5-star wide receiver who is currently one of the Tigers' top remaining targets, was present at the event and put on a show. 247Sports currently has Clemson and Florida as Campbell's top choices. At 6'3", 184 pounds, Campbell has good size, speed and terrific ball skills. He has the potential to be a difference-maker early in his college career.

A former Michigan commit, Campbell is still undecided in his recruiting and doesn't plan to decide anytime soon. When asked to name a favorite, Campbell said, "I'm wide open," per Gary Laney of MLive.com. 

While Clemson didn't appear to gain any ground with Campbell, it did seemingly move one step closer to securing the services of one of the top defensive tackles in the country, Tim Settle of Manassas, Virginia. 

Settle said at The Opening, per Jamie Oakes of 247Sports (subscription required), that he was favoring three schools: Clemson, Penn State and Tennessee. The Tigers have been high on Settle's list throughout the recruiting process. One thing Swinney has to be encouraged about is Settle's insistence to leave the state of Virginia, therefore eliminating two ACC rivals in the chase for the talented defensive tackle. 

Defensive end Austin Bryant, of Thomasville, Georgia, stood out at The Opening. He is also high on the Tigers. While several other high-profile schools remain in the mix, Bryant was very impressed with Clemson and didn't rule out committing to the Tigers when he makes his second visit of the summer soon, per Chris Nee of 247Sports (h/t to Josh Newberg, who conducted the interview with Bryant):

"I don't know. It is just a matter of me talking to my family and making sure they are good with it. I might take some visits to other schools. I just have to take visits to make sure that I am sure about it."

All news out of The Opening wasn't positive for the Tigers. Running back A.J. Turner announced his decision to commit to Clemson's chief rival, South Carolina. 

Look for Swinney to continue to look for a running back in the class of 2015. 

 

Clemson's commits

Two of Clemson's four players performed well at The Opening.

Yes, Hyatt was impressive. He stood out in all of the pass-protection drills, per Tyler Donohue of Bleacher Report. 

Younger offensive tackles generally struggle with footwork. They win on athleticism and raw strength in high school. That changes at the next level. And no player understands fundamentals like Hyatt. He appears strong in his commitment to the Tigers.

The surprise for Clemson was running back/linebacker Chad Smith of Sterling, Virginia. 

Smith was outstanding in SPARQ testing. The SPARQ ranking consists of four tests: 40-yard dash, agility tests, vertical jump and a kneeling power ball toss, per Nike's official website.  

Out of 162 players tested, Smith finished No. 3 overall—in all positions—with a SPARQ rating of 140.97. Smith entered the weekend as a bit of an unheralded recruit.

However, he left Beaverton in a much different position and proved he belonged at The Opening with some of the nation's top recruits.

Smith even impressed himself, per Nikki Steele of TigerNet.com: "Being able to compete in the SPARQ Championship kind of opened my eyes to the fact that I can compete with these guys and with the best of the best in the nation. I can hang with them and some people even look at me with the best of the best as I do to them."

There's no doubt Smith is on the radar of coaches everywhere now. 

Overall, it was a quiet weekend for the Tigers. Most of Clemson's signees did not get invited to The Opening. But from all indications, Swinney is putting the touches on a special class and players likely sense that.

The Tigers' recent success on the field has put them in a position to be in the mix for some of the top players in the country. Players like Settle and Campbell likely won't decide until closer to signing day. Another 10-win season, with a new quarterback, would do wonders for Clemson in wrapping up what could be the best recruiting class in school history. 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. A subscription is required for most content. 

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1 Thing Each of the Top 10 2015 Pro-Style QB Recruits Must Improve On

Every recruit in the country must improve on something, but development as a player is most scrutinized at the quarterback position.

Looking at the best 10 pro-style quarterbacks in the country via 247Sports, each passer can do at least one thing to enhance his game. All of these players are talented quarterback prospects, but keep in mind that they're all still teenagers.

A 5-star quarterback needs to improve his mobility, while a 4-star field general must stop being so confident in his arm strength. Plus, there are a few quarterbacks on this list who need to get stronger.

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Ranking Every Power 5 Football Conference by 2015 Recruiting Classes

The Power Five football conferences rule college football. Comprised of the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12, each league features many of the nation's top programs.

Not only is it obvious on the field, but the five conferences also dominate the recruiting trail. Individual recruiting rankings naturally put the focus on specific programs, but it's time to look at the big picture and rank things from a conference perspective.

The SEC is recruiting at its usual clip, while the ACC isn't far behind. The Big Ten has an old power back on top, but the Big 12 is falling off.

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SEC Media Days Buzz: Carl Lawson, Not Nick Marshall, Is Biggest Story of Day 1

SEC Media Days has officially started in Hoover, Ala. The four-day long event for the conference marks the beginning of the end of the college football offseason.

Watch Bleacher Report's SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee break down the biggest stories coming out of Day 1, including a key injury for the Auburn Tigers.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

 

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SEC Media Days 2014: Biggest Quotes and Reactions from Day 1

HOOVER, Alabama—Day 1 of SEC Media Days in the books, and the focal point was undoubtedly the defending SEC champion Auburn Tigers.

Most notably, the absence of star quarterback Nick Marshall.

The senior quarterback of the Tigers was cited for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana on Friday and was pulled from Auburn's Media Days lineup late Sunday night in favor of tight end C.J. Uzomah.

Florida highlighted the second session of the afternoon, with head coach Will Muschamp and the Gator contingent addressing a critical 2014 season that will make or break Muschamp's career in Gainesville.

What were some of the biggest quotes and storylines of Day 1? Our picks are in this slideshow.

 

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Kyle Allen vs. Kenny Hill: Who Should Be Texas A&M's Starting QB?

The Texas A&M Aggies have a very important offseason this year with the task of replacing star quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Aggies recently released their depth chart at SEC Media Days, which had Kenny Hill and incoming freshman Kyle Allen both in the mix for the starting position. Who do you think will be starting in 2014?

Watch Bleacher Report's SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee and TexAgs.com's senior writer Billy Liucci discuss the future for the Aggies at the QB position. 

 

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

Highlights courtesy of XOSDigital.

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Florida's Supreme Confidence at SEC Media Days Great Sign for 2014

It wasn’t Steve Spurrier-like, but the Florida Gators won the first round of SEC Media Days Monday afternoon. Coach Will Muschamp and his three players walked into Alabama with their chests poked out and showed no signs of last season lingering around.

It’s a new day for Florida.

Muschamp doesn’t want to hear about your hot-seat comments and is tired of being reminded about last year’s four victories. He plans on attacking the criticism the best way he knows how and just about the only positive way he can.

In Muschamp’s first season, the Gators finished 7-6, which included a stretch where they lost four straight games. People were questioning then if he was the right man for the job, but he silenced any concerns the following year with an 11-2 record and a trip to a BCS bowl game.

While 2013 may be the worst season young Florida fans have ever experienced, it will be a forgotten memory if another double-digit win total is posted.

Judging by what Muschamp said next, it isn’t far-fetched to think 10 or more wins is in the cards:  

There’s really no turning back after those comments, as folks who were watching are sure to have added a couple more wins to Florida’s projected win total. Muschamp was a bounce or two away from playing for a national championship a couple of seasons ago. If this is the most complete team he’s had in Gainesville, well, the possibilities are endless.

Muschamp is feeling a little bit like Superman, and your negative comments just bounce right off him: 

Other guys were also feeling a little big and bad when the questions were flying throughout the day:

However, the most shocking statement of the day may have come from cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Quarterback Jeff Driskel's struggles have been well documented, but the star corner wasn’t holding his tongue for anybody and came to the defense of his offensive leader. Brace yourselves:

Driskel, your thoughts?

Because, you know, why not?

Most of the country is probably going to laugh at these comments. After all, Florida couldn’t move the ball the length of a dinner table on offense and lost to Georgia Southern among other teams. However, this is the type of stuff you want to hear if you’re a Florida fan.

Never mind sitting around and moping about what happened last season. It’s a new day, new season and the possibility for a complete turnaround.

Just ask Auburn, a team that won three games in 2012 and found itself just seconds away from winning the national championship the very next season. That doesn’t happen without believing in yourself first. Nothing great is accomplished by anybody without confidence.

Why not Florida?

The team took the step forward during media day.

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Auburn Football: What Carl Lawson's Injury Means for the Tigers' Defensive Ends

HOOVER, Ala. — Head coach Gus Malzahn confirmed some of Auburn fans' worst fears in his opening statement at SEC Media Days.

Sophomore defensive end Carl Lawson is not going to be available for the start of the 2014 season.

"He injured his knee the last week of spring practice," Malzahn said. "Carl is working extremely hard, and he's determined to come back towards the end of this year."

With Lawson expected to miss a considerable amount of time in 2014, the spotlight is now on the rest of Auburn's defensive linemen.

While the loss of Lawson will be a major early test for the defense, one of Auburn's veterans believes his team can handle it.

"[Lawson] is a great player," center Reese Dismukes said. "But there are other great players behind him. We're hoping he gets back as soon as he can."

One of the players who could see an immediate increase in playing time is fellow sophomore Elijah Daniel.

Auburn's heavy rotation along the defensive line last year benefited not only Lawson but another former 5-star end in Daniel. The Indianapolis native appeared in every game last season, and three of his nine tackles were for a loss.

With an entire offseason under his belt, Daniel should make more of an impression alongside his experienced teammates in Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 defense.

"Defensively, we all focused on really just the techniques and fundamentals of our base defense to get more consistent," Malzahn said. "I really feel like we accomplished that."

Daniel and the rest of the Tigers will try to replace what defensive lineman Gabe Wright called Lawson's "freaky" athleticism as the former 5-star recruit rehabs from the injury and surgery.

"He's a phenom," Wright said. "He's definitely a guy who could be three and done."

Montravius Adams showed his versatility at several positions toward the end of Auburn's SEC championship season and the beginning of spring camp.

The spring's heavily hyped "Rhino package"—named after Wright, who goes by @NineORhino on Twitter—used Wright, Adams and several other Tigers defensive tackles at both defensive end positions.

Johnson and defensive line coach Rodney Garner originally installed the set to combat injuries to Auburn's defensive line in the spring and look ahead to some of the SEC West's top power-running offenses.

The rhinos may get more chances to run this season with the possibility of a long-term Lawson absence.

"That whole freshman class brought some talent and some things that I really haven't ever seen before," Wright said. "I like to think of myself as athletic, but [the sophomores] are guys who could play all four positions on the defensive line."

Becoming more athletic has been a personal goal for the defensive tackle, who said he cut his weight down to 284 pounds in the spring.

The slimmer Georgia native now has set his sights on becoming an all-around contributor instead of just a bruising defensive tackle in his final season on the Plains.

"I wanted Coach Garner to put me at end last year, but he said I wasn't mentally ready yet," Wright said. "I don't second-guess him, but I will be ready if I'm called upon this year. There's no doubt about that."

If Johnson and Garner want to go with another youth movement like they did with the trio of Lawson, Daniel and Adams last season, they have several options.

Auburn's trio of true freshman defensive ends—Justin Thornton, Andrew Williams and Raashed Kennion—are all 6'4" or taller, bringing the size and athleticism Auburn's coaching staff wants in an increasingly bigger defense.

While he has been impressed with the newcomers in workouts, Wright said he is especially excited about seeing his new teammates at fall camp.

"I just can't wait to get out there and do what we do—get after it," Wright said.

 

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. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Oklahoma, Michigan Announce Future Home-and-Home Football Series

A future home-and-home series between Oklahoma and Michigan, two of the six winningest programs in Football Bowl Subdivision college football history, was announced Monday afternoon.

The games will be played in 2025 and 2026, with Oklahoma hosting the former and Michigan hosting the latter.

"We remain committed to playing games that celebrate the history and excitement of college football," Oklahoma Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics and Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione told the school's official website.

"Oklahoma and Michigan represent two of the most iconic names in American sport and we look forward to a series that will be marked by mutual respect and admiration."

Castiglione isn't blustering about OU's commitment to playing exciting games. According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Michigan is only the latest in a string of difficult upcoming home-and-homes:

It's jarring to talk about a series so far in the future. Even with regard to nonconference series, which are famous for being planned far in advance, a game set 11 years in the future seems...um, extensive.

This explains the string of tweets that followed the announcement:

Still, thanks to the—regrettable—trend of neutral-site nonconference series, even something more than a decade away is worth looking forward to if it means iconic programs playing at iconic venues.

Chris Vannini of 247Sports.com was wise to point this out:

There's not much analysis one can do on the actual matchup.

Michigan and Oklahoma have maintained success over decades in the past, but for reasons that are hopefully obvious, there is no way to say how they'll look in 2025 and 2026.

There's no way to say how football will look in those years.

But even if it's far down the road and 11 years provides more than ample time for the game to be unscheduled, you have to respect the courage of Michigan and Oklahoma to agree to play a true road game against a team with the resources to stay competitive.

That type of spirit has become increasingly rare.

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Gus Malzahn and Players Dish on Craziest Moments After Iron Bowl Victory

The SEC Media Days have officially started in Hoover, Alabama. The Auburn Tigers have had a long offseason to reminisce on some insane moments from the 2014 season. Bleacher Report asked a few star players how crazy Auburn, Alabama, became after the team's historic Iron Bowl win. Do you think it was the craziest game of the 2013 season? 

Watch Gus Malzahn and a few big-time Tigers discuss the craziest things they witnessed after the Iron Bowl.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOSDigital

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Lift for Life Event Shows Florida State Football's Family Atmosphere

Ethan and Trey Fisher are fixtures at Florida State football games and practices. When the Seminoles go out to the practice field each afternoon in the fall, they will see the Fisher boys, talk to them and often throw the football around.

In many ways, Ethan and Trey are little brothers to the FSU football players. 

Some veterans have been around the program long enough to remember Ethan when he was first diagnosed with Fanconi anemia, a rare and serious blood disease, in 2011. Other players are new to the FSU family. Either way, they see the Fisher boys constantly. And there's a desire to help both their coach and his sons in any way they can.

"Ethan is always around," sophomore safety Jalen Ramsey said. "We love Ethan. And of course we'll do anything for Coach Fisher. He puts his all into us, so why not give back to him?"

And that's what FSU's players are doing. Kevin Haplea did not play last year after the tight end suffered a season-ending knee injury in June 2013. While rehabilitating, Haplea turned his time and energy toward starting a chapter of Uplifting Athletes in Tallahassee. The group's aim is to have college football players raise awareness and funds for rare diseases. Haplea was familiar with Uplifting Athletes at his previous school, Penn State, where he attended from 2010-11.

Haplea's plan was to have FSU's Uplifting Athletes chapter hold a fundraiser for Kidz 1st Fund, the organization formed by Jimbo and Candi Fisher to fight Fanconi anemia.

About 60 FSU football players competed in a variety of drills on Friday in the Lift for Life event inside the team's indoor practice facility before fans who had donated $10 for adults and $5 for kids as admission. The event raised $2,780 at the door, and fans also contributed $14,725 to the event at upliftingathletes.org.

Players pushed sleds, flipped oversized tires and pushed two large vans as offensive players competed in timed events against the defensive players. The competition was spirited, and the players clearly had fun. Defensive back P.J. Williams said he thought the offense won, but in the end, the result didn't matter, as the Seminoles raised money to help Kidz 1st Fund.

For Haplea, it was the culmination of a nearly year-long effort.

"I think everything happens for a reason," said Haplea, who will be a senior in 2014. "I definitely wouldn't have been able to start this up if I didn't have all that extra time on my hands. It's definitely a proud moment. I know we had a good crowd today and raised a lot of money for a great cause."

The Kidz 1st Fund has donated approximately $2 million toward Fanconi anemia research in three years. Ethan Fisher is now nine years old and is healthy and active. But nearly every person with Fanconi anemia will have a decline in blood counts over time, leading to bone marrow failure and the need for a bone marrow transplant. The Fishers' oldest son, Trey, was tested in 2011 but was not a match as a bone marrow donor for Ethan.

The Fisher family has dedicated its time to fundraising and has donated money from the Kidz 1st Fund to the Fanconi Anemia Comprehensive Care Clinic at the University of Minnesota.

And now, the time and energy of FSU's players has contributed to the Fisher family's effort. Jimbo Fisher said he and his wife, Candi, are appreciative of Haplea for organizing the event and the players' enthusiasm and support.

"Kevin has done an unbelievable job of getting this off the ground," Fisher said. "He's a class act. ... It speaks volume about the character of our players. For them to come out and help our family like this and the other children, words don't explain it. It's just an unbelievable appreciation we have and respect we have for our players."

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter.

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5 Issues We Would Love Nebraska's Bo Pelini to Address at Big Ten Media Days

There will be plenty of topics for Bo Pelini to cover at Big Ten media days, which begin on July 28. However, there will be a few topics that fans would really love for the head coach to address.

After a wild 2013 season both on and off the field, Pelini will have a lot to talk about. He shouldn't shy away from any of it, either.

For the most part, a majority of fans have moved past the drama that surfaced in 2013. There are still some fans that haven't, though. That's why he shouldn't avoid any topics. As far as fans are concerned, nothing will be off limits when the coach steps up to address the media in Chicago.

Let's take a look at the five issues we would love Pelini to address at Big Ten media days.

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Oklahoma State Confirms Football Program Is Under Investigation by NCAA

The Sports Illustrated story that was supposed to shake Oklahoma State's football program to the core is finally getting closer to having a ripple effect. A university spokesperson confirmed to ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy on Monday that the school is still undergoing a formal NCAA investigation.  

"The inquiry continues and it is hoped that it will conclude within the next few months," the spokesperson said. "The university anticipates releasing a report after the NCAA concludes its process. Since it is an ongoing inquiry conducted in cooperation with the NCAA, the university is unable to comment further at this time."

In September, Sports Illustrated published a five-part series detailing rampant malfeasance of Oklahoma State's football program. The series alleged school officials, coaches and boosters knowingly broke NCAA rules when it came to recruiting student-athletes and retaining their eligibility. The violations included monetary payment, fudging of player grades and even the use of sex with Orange Pride girls.

The series made national headlines but has come under some scrutiny.

Multiple people involved, including former head coach Les Miles, have denied the allegations. McMurphy's report also cites numerous inaccuracies, including the graduation status of some athletes. Players who were even quoted in the story came out in its immediate aftermath to deny they took illicit benefits—or even spoke with Sports Illustrated at all.

Dom Cosentino at Deadspin also claimed SI was irresponsible when reporting the story, including Sports Illustrated's unwillingness to allow the school to address claims made before publishing:

The magazine also declined to give OSU the opportunity to address specific claims or corroborate basic information about players, coaches, tutors, and professors. Partly, this was a tactical decision by journalists not wishing to leave footprints all over Stillwater while reporting a sensitive story, but it would backfire when it turned out that a key source's claims could have been refuted with a simple phone call.

Sports Illustrated was recently named in a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma Fellowship of Christian Athletes representative John Talley, per Randy Ellis of The OklahomanTalley claims the magazine knowingly printed false information about his relationships with athletes.

The controversy surrounding the story helps explain why it has taken so long to come to a conclusion. Oklahoma State hired Charles E. Smrt to investigate the situation, and he has spent almost nine months doing so. The spokesperson told McMurphy their internal investigation is almost over.

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Re-Evaluating Notre Dame's Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

Notre Dame was well-represented at The Opening, with the Irish's four current commitments all having a very successful week at Nike headquarters.

C.J. Sanders' electric speed was on display. Cornerback Shaun Crawford wasn't too far behind him. Tristen Hoge made a case to be the top center in the country. And Jerry Tillery showed the athleticism that saw him finish as the No. 2-rated offensive lineman in the SPARQ competition. 

But if the week in Oregon showed anything, it's that even though Brian Kelly's recruiting class has swelled to 17 commitments in mid-July, the Irish are nowhere near finished. For a class that many expected to stay below 20, the Irish coaching staff is still actively chasing some of the nation's top talents. 

Let's take a fresh look at the Notre Dame recruiting class with The Opening in the rearview mirror. 

 

Top Targets

As we recapped late last week, Notre Dame is after some very big fish. And with the Irish's current recruiting efforts currently ranked No. 8 in the country by 247Sports, the addition of any of these blue-chippers is likely going to give Notre Dame a huge bump.  

Iman Marshall ranks as one of the nation's top 10 players, and his performance at The Opening solidified that. It also solidified his legitimate interest in Notre Dame. The 6'2", 195-pounder has size and a physicality to his game that football coaches at all levels covet, making it very good news that Marshall guaranteed Notre Dame a visit.

Marshall caught up with Rivals.com's Adam Gorney (subscription required) to discuss Notre Dame, who are among his favorites with Florida State and local powers USC and UCLA:

For official visits I'm going to take one to Notre Dame, I know that for a fact, and most likely I'll take one to Florida State, too. Unofficially, my dad and I still need to talk about some of the visits I'm going to take.

Notre Dame's program speaks for itself. The tradition like Long Beach Poly, I'm coming from a school with a rich tradition. At Notre Dame they have that, too. The connections and networks you get from Notre Dame are across the world and that's really important to me. 

The Irish went down to the wire with another Long Beach Poly product in last year's recruiting cycle, losing John "JuJu" Smith to USC in the end. But all you can ask for is sincere interest, and chasing a cornerback like Marshall, even with Nick Coleman, Crawford and Ashton White committed, is worth the effort. 

While the secondary is well-stocked in the 2015 class for Notre Dame, the Irish are still looking for a defensive end to get after the passer. And with early playing time available and a sales pitch pretty obvious after collecting mostly 3-4 defensive ends the past four years, The Opening gave Irish fans a great look at multiple targets who are all planning to take a closer look at Notre Dame. 

Five-star pass rushers Byron Cowart and Keisean Lucier-South are two of the top 20 prospects in the country, and both told Blue & Gold Illustrated's Tom Loy that they planned on using an official visit at Notre Dame. 

Cowart is as close to a ready-made prospect as you'll find. At 6'3.5" and 258 pounds, Cowart passes the eyeball test and brings a combination of speed and power that could play immediately, with Ishaq Williams in his final season for the Irish.

Cowart confirmed the news that he'll be back on campus after taking an unofficial visit that impressed him, watching the Irish play Stanford in the first week in October. He also talked about the sales pitch Tony Alford is giving him, and his receptiveness to the message should be music to Irish fans' ears. 

"When you think about committing somewhere, I'm not thinking about football," Cowart told Loy. "Football will take care of itself, when it's time to practice and strap up, it's going to take care of itself. It's about academics. What can Notre Dame do for me from an academic standpoint? And they can do a lot for me." 

At 6'4" and 211 pounds, Lucier-South will need to grow into his body, but he's the type of speed rusher off the edge the Irish don't have on the roster. He confirmed to Loy that he'll be at Notre Dame for the Stanford game as well, a weekend that's shaping up to be a big one both on and off the field. 

It's hardly 5-star-or-bust for the Irish at defensive end, and Austin Bryant or Porter Gustin are far from consolation prizes. Both were very impressive in Oregon and are making plans for visits to officially see South Bend. 

Notre Dame is still sitting pretty with Tevon Coney, with the Florida prospect seemingly down to the Irish and Florida. While Notre Dame missed out on 5-star linebacker Justin Hilliard, the Cincinnati native raised a few eyebrows when he only checked in at 6'0 and 225 pounds (and ran just a 4.72 40-yard dash), shorter than Coney, who stood 6'1" and weighed 222 pounds. 

On the offensive side of the ball, the Irish are still in the mix for Soso Jamabo, an elite running back who played up to that reputation at The Opening. But they've also continued kicking the tires on LSU commitment Nick Brossette, who sounded very open to Alford's pitch for early playing time. Notre Dame is hoping to add another back alongside Josh Adams, and either would be a huge pickup. 

 

Notre Dame's Commits

When you have prospects who are committed to your favorite team, you really just hope for two things: that nobody gets hurt and nobody looks overmatched. 

For the Irish, things went perfectly. Nobody got hurt. And nobody seemed close to overmatched, with all four commits acquitting themselves more than well. 

While class rankings—especially in mid-July—are pretty meaningless, you've got to expect a minor bump for the prospects' performances in Oregon, most notably those of C.J. Sanders. Elevating Sanders to a top-100-250 prospect puts the receivers group in a different light, especially paired with Miles Boykin and Jalen Guyton

Entering his fifth season at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly has shown more than a little courage in his convictions, recruiting players regardless of their star rating. So while it likely doesn't matter to him how a recruiting analyst views his current class, it does matter to the other recruits who are considering Notre Dame. 

That's good news right now. Because with 17 commits and some big names circling, The Opening gave us a look at a recruiting class that might be much better than most expected. 

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Why It Was a No-Brainer for Auburn to Leave Nick Marshall Out of SEC Media Days

HOOVER, Ala. — I was wrong.

When news broke that Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall had been cited in Reynolds, Georgia, for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and illegal windows tinting, my first reaction was that he should absolutely still attend SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, during Auburn's session Monday afternoon.

He should own it. Be a leader. Stand up in front of the assembled masses at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel and say, "I messed up."

After sitting out Media Days and, as a result, becoming the biggest storyline of the event, it's clear that this punishment was enough.

It hurt.

"It's a privilege and a reward to come to this event and represent Auburn University," head coach Gus Malzahn said. "Last Friday, he lost that privilege."

Brandon Marcello of AL.com wrote over the weekend about what drives Marshall and, in particular, his motivation to be successful in his football career to help his family.

Marshall wrote this text message to his mother Shalena Cliett, according to Marcello:

I go hard for one reason. I go hard because my mama doesn't want to work no more. I just want to say I love you more than you think I do mom. I have got older and see things different than what I used to. I appreciate everything you have done for me up until this point. You're my role model and Lord willing this season goes how it should, I'm ready to pay you back in return. Owe you every penny. Love, Pie Face.

Auburn making a spectacle of the incident at the highest-profile event of the summer and leaving Marshall at home hurts his reputation—something quarterbacks need to have intact when they leave college and embark on a professional career.

"He's going to have some consequences to pay," Malzahn said. "I haven't decided on what they are. Up to this point, he's been a model student, model teammate and a model citizen. But there's going to be a price to pay, and he's going to do that."

He's going to have to answer those questions now at the next level. While that may not seem severe in the world of college football, it's very important to players—particularly to quarterbacks, who are supposed to be leaders of the team.

What happens if Marshall does miss some time during the season?

Malzahn and several of the Auburn players were complimentary of backup Jeremy Johnson in nearly every stop along the Media Days circuit.

"Jeremy Johnson is a guy who could start for the majority of teams in college football," Malzahn said. "He can really throw it."

Center Reese Dismukes echoed those sentiments in the main ballroom, according to Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com.

Make no mistake—Marshall will be punished.

He already has been.

By pulling him at the last minute in favor of tight end C.J. Uzomah, Auburn sent the message to Marshall that even though he's been a model citizen, he's expected to be better, act better and carry himself as a leader.

Last Friday in Reynolds, Georgia, he forgot that. By missing SEC Media Days, he will be reminded of his poor judgment for the next several months.

That's punishment even if he doesn't miss any games.

 

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

 


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Construction Worker Trolls Texas A&M by Hanging Alabama Flag at Kyle Field

Football season is fast approaching, and that means college football fans are gearing up as well. With Kyle Field, home of the Texas A&M Aggies, undergoing renovations, a construction worker seized the opportunity to troll the Texas A&M fanbase.

Someone on the Kyle Field job site wants to get fired. pic.twitter.com/zbjGnR884r

— Doug Keegan (@doug_keegan) July 14, 2014

It's no secret that there is some bad blood between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Aggies. In 2012 the Aggies handed the Tide their one and only loss of the season, a 29-24 final in Tuscaloosa that knocked them out of the No. 1 spot in the AP and BCS rankings.

The next year, Johnny Manziel did all he could, but ultimately the Tide got their revenge, beating A&M 49-42 in College Station.

According to Outkick the Coverage, the construction worker that hung the flag was fired shortly after. He is also not an Alabama alum. 

[Twitter, h/t CBS Sports]

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UCLA Football: Re-Evaluating Bruins' Recruiting Class After 2014 Opening

The Opening proved to be very good for Jim Mora and the future of the UCLA football program.

The committed prospects participating in the event—in addition to the vast number of interested prospects at the camp—truly does illustrate UCLA's newfound prominence on the national landscape of college football.

UCLA picked up three commitments during the camp. In addition, two previously committed prospects—Alize Jones and Josh Rosen—were also present. 

There is considerable buzz surrounding the program at this time. A good chunk of the talent in attendance do have legitimate interest in Mora's squad. These prospects will be detailed below. 

 

Top Targets

Of the prospects on the West Coast, the list starts and begins with elite outside linebacker/defensive end Keisean Lucier-South

The Scout.com 5-star product has been compared constantly to former UCLA Bruin defender Anthony Barr. A very active Twitter user, Lucier-South constantly talks about UCLA. I'd think the Bruins will be in it until the very end for the Orange Lutheran High School product. 

Other local prospects included offensive lineman Dru Samia, defensive backs Dechaun Holiday, Marvell Tell and Iman Marshall and defensive end Rasheem Green.

Per Greg Biggins of Scout.com (subscription required), UCLA is recruiting Samia extremely hard. The talented offensive tackle from Danville, California, is very impressed with the UCLA coaching staff—particularly offensive line coach Adrian Klemm. It wouldn't be a surprise to see an eventual commitment to the Bruins in the future. 

Also according to Biggins (subscription required), UCLA is doing well with Holiday. As is the case with Tell, it could ultimately become a UCLA-USC battle for the duo. The Bruins and Trojans will likely also battle over Green and Marshall. I'd expect both schools to be on their respective short lists up until the signing period in February. 

Multiple out-of-state prospects also like the Bruins considerably. 

Outside linebacker Osa Masina out of Utah currently has UCLA in his top five. Ultra-talented running back Soso Jamabo out of Plano, Texas, also has the Bruins on his short list

Other prospects at the event with sincere interest in the Bruins include receivers Cordell Broadus and Ryan Newsome, defensive end Austin Bryant, linebackers Porter Gustin and Roquan Smith and athlete Ray-Ray McCloud. 

Ironically, former Oregon State receiver and first-round NFL draft pick Brandin Cooks has been recruiting Newsome to UCLA. Cooks was committed to the Bruins under former head coach Rick Neuheisel, before switching over to the Beavers and Mike Riley. Rosen was also in the ear of the Texas receiver throughout the week. 

 

Commitments at the Event

Rosen and Jones entered as the two preexisting commitments at the camp. 

Jones didn't participate much in the seven-on-seven portion due to a concussion. However, he did test exceptionally well. At 6'5", 220 pounds, he's a nightmare matchup for any defensive back. His 4.67 time in the 40 was above-average, and his 4.03 shuttle time is outstanding. 

There's no question the Bishop Gorman High School product is one of the most impressive looking athletes on the West Coast. 

Per Bleacher Report analyst Michael Felder and 247Sports analyst Ryan Bartow, Rosen "wowed" at the camp with his physical tools. Tyler Donohue also had Rosen listed as the top quarterback at The Opening.

UCLA is getting a star at the position. Aside from his impressive physical tools, Rosen is an extremely intelligent individual. He's attempting to graduate early in order to enroll in January. 

With Brett Hundley likely leaving after this season, there's no reason to think Rosen can't compete for—and potentially win—the starting gig as a true freshman. 

He's that talented. 

Athlete Stephen Johnson out of San Leandro, California, was the first of the three UCLA commitments at The Opening.

The 247Sports 3-star chose the Bruins over offers from Oregon, Cal and Arizona State, among others. Johnson flashed immense explosiveness at the combine, running a 4.37 in the 40 and also registering a 34'5" vertical leap. 

Johnson performed as both a corner and a receiver. His competitiveness makes him a valuable prospect, as does his ability to return kicks and punts. At this point, Johnson told 247Sports analyst Justin Hopkins he's "done and committed. I'm 100-percent Bruin."

With Johnson's strong showing, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him eventually bumped up to a 4-star rating. 

The second of UCLA's commits came in the form of talented offensive tackle Andre James from Herriman, Utah. 

UCLA beat out Southern Cal, Ohio State, Oregon and Oklahoma for his services. It was definitely a massive coup for the coaching staff. 

At 6'4.5", 278 pounds, James still has room for physical growth. He'll need to gain both weight and strength in order to play on the next level. Regardless, he's blessed with ideal quickness and agility. His feet will enable him to potentially protect the quarterback's blind side. 

Paul Myerberg of USA Today spoke very highly of James' performance in Oregon, and specifically mentioned his potential upside. With a strong senior season, the Scout.com 4-star could be propelled to a 5-star status. 

The last of UCLA's three commitments was offensive lineman Fred Ulu-Perry out of Honolulu, Hawaii. 

Ulu-Perry elected the Bruins over offers from many West Coast programs. At 6'2.5", 295 pounds, his future primarily will reside in the interior of the line—ideally at center. 

Ulu-Perry impressed considerably at the event. Biggins reported "it'd be tough to imagine a better center prospect anywhere in the country."

Scott Schrader of 247Sports also had glowing praise for the Hawaiian. Schrader mentioned Ulu-Perry showed "tremendous feet, strong hands, good hand placement, toughness and resiliency."

As a result of Ulu-Perry's performance, 247Sports recognized the talented lineman as a member of the "Dream Team" for offensive and defensive linemen in attendance. 

There's no doubt this was a massive addition for UCLA. With the commitments from Ulu-Perry, James and Scout.com 4-star guard Tevita Halalilo, it has the makings of a very good offensive line class. 

If one goes by the Scout.com composite ranking system, UCLA has commitments from the top center on the West Coast (Ulu-Perry), the second-best guard out West (Halalilo) and the second-best tackle (James) on the entire West Coast. 

This also doesn't include the top quarterback nationally (Rosen) and the No.2 tight end prospect (Jones) in the country. 

It's safe to say UCLA is recruiting at an elite level for '15. 

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