NCAA Football News

Power Ranking College Football's 25 Fastest Players

Speed is becoming the name of the game in college football.

Wide-open offenses such as the ones at Baylor and Oregon are world-famous for being factories of lightning-fast players. Even the pro-style teams known for their powerful "man ball" styles like Alabama and Stanford are loading up on track-star talent at skill positions and all across their defensive backfields.

But who holds a legitimate claim to being the fastest in college football heading into the 2016 season? The most common way to measure speeds in football—times in 40-yard dashes—are notoriously unreliable thanks to various conditions and timing mechanisms.

A more accurate measure of speed is the fully automatic time system used in official track and field records from reliable sites such as the Track & Field Results Reporting System, Track & Field News and DyeStat. Many players who are considered some of the fastest in college football either run track collegiately or ran in high school.

In this countdown, I relied on recent, verified and mostly wind-legal times from the above sites in the 100 meters, which is the most common event among these speedsters. (More recent times held a greater weight than old high school ones when the numbers were close.) However, some track stars with elite numbers in other events, such as hurdles and relays, were eligible for special consideration.

Now, to be completely clear, this track-time method is the best objective way to pick the fastest players in college football. Some who didn't make the Top 25 could be faster than those inside the Top 25, but there's no real way to determine that without relying on opinion instead of the hard data. 

Notice a player with a verified 100-meter time that I left out? Want to suggest a player for the honorable mention category? Let me know in the comments below.

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Braxton Miller's Senior Bowl Showing Another Recruiting Tool for Ohio State

With a Super Bowl-high five players to set to play in the NFL's championship game, Ohio State has unsurprisingly used its heavy representation in the professional ranks as just another sales pitch on the recruiting trail.

One look at Urban Meyer's Twitter account shows a head coach who's clearly proud of his team's presence in the Super Bowl and isn't shy about letting any of his 369,000 followers know it.

But with two weeks sandwiched between the NFL's conference championships and the biggest game of the season, the Buckeyes have found another way to sell their program's ability to put players in the pros.

And it happens to come in the form of a player who just finished one of Columbus' most storied football careers despite finding his football future in doubt merely a year ago.

If you've been following coverage of the Senior Bowl from Mobile, Alabama, it's been hard to miss Braxton Miller's name in the past week. On several occasions, draft analysts and media members in attendance have taken to Twitter to rave about the progress of the former Ohio State wideout, who will play for the North team in Saturday's All-Star Game:

The fact that Miller is even in a position to be drafted—let alone potentially in the first two rounds of the draft—could be considered a success in and of itself, considering where the Huber Heights, Ohio, native's football fate stood just a year ago.

After a torn labrum in fall camp forced a second offseason shoulder surgery and brought his 2014 season to an end before it had even started, Miller's career as a quarterback—the position he had played at Ohio State for the first three years of his college career—appeared very much in doubt.

What's more, Miller was returning to a roster that already possessed quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, who had just co-piloted the Buckeyes to the first College Football Playoff National Championship.

Rumors of an offseason transfer for the 2015 season persisted, but there was no guarantee that Miller's shoulder would ever be healthy enough to play quarterback again.

As fall camp approached, the 6'2", 215-pounder had accepted that reality and announced to's Pete Thamel that he would be making the move not to another school but to a new position in the Ohio State offense as a wide receiver.

"This is the smarter thing for right now," Miller told Thamel of his transition.

It also may have been the smarter thing for the long term as well, as the former dual-threat quarterback also seemed to possess the most pro potential as a pass-catcher rather than a pass-thrower.

Miller's efficiency with his arm (career 59.4 completion percentage) had always been a question mark, while his ability with his legs and in the open field (3,315 career rushing yards and 33 career rushing touchdowns) had never been in doubt.

But outside of the Buckeyes' season-opening win over Virginia Tech, which saw Miller star in his new role as a wide receiver and Wildcat quarterback, the transition to his new position proved easier said than done.

Inconsistent play from a rotation of Jones and Barrett in the starting lineup didn't help, but by season's end, Miller had caught just 26 balls for 341 yards and three touchdowns, adding 260 yards and a score on the ground.

Perhaps more tellingly, Miller attempted—and completed—just one pass, which was more of a push than anything else, signaling that his future in football was indeed at wide receiver and nowhere else.

"Quarterback is in the past," Miller stated during media availability at the Senior Bowl, per "I learned a lot playing quarterback."

While criticisms that Meyer and his staff misused Miller last season are fair, his breakout showing in Mobile is proof of a player who was prepared to star at wideout in 2015 but got lost in the shuffle due to extenuating circumstances.

Having not played wide receiver since his freshman season of high school prior to 2015, the two-time Big Ten MVP has starred as an outside wideout this week after primarily playing in the slot this past season.

Miller has superb ability as an athlete—he claims his goal for the NFL Scouting Combine is to run a 4.28-second 40-yard dash—but the type of progress he's shown this past week doesn't happen without the preparation of Meyer and his staff.

That's something the Buckeyes already appear to be pitching on the recruiting trail, if the pride they've taken in Miller's Senior Bowl showing on social media is any indication:

Only adding to the intrigue of Miller's big week is that this isn't just some workout warrior emerging during the start of the "silly season" that is the NFL draft process but rather one of the Ohio State program's most prominent players for the better part of the past half-decade.

Miller was one of the Buckeyes' best recruiting tools during his time on campus, having been pictured consistently posing with prospects during their visits to Columbus.

Only from now on, Ohio State will no longer be able to sell Miller's presence to prospects but rather his preparation for the pros.

And who knows? Maybe it won't be long before the Buckeyes are touting a Miller appearance in the Super Bowl to their targets on the recruiting trail.

Based on how he's performed this week, the former face of the Ohio State program seems to be on the right path for a successful career in the NFL.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Which Dark-Horse SEC Running Backs Have Best Chance to Win 2016 Heisman Trophy?

Alabama running back Derrick Henry broke through that glass ceiling in 2015, rushing for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns en route to becoming the third running back this century to win the Heisman Trophy.

There will be several SEC running backs looking to catch on to that draft and attain that Heisman glory in 2016.

Of course, superstars like LSU stud Leonard Fournette, Georgia's Nick Chubb and Tennessee's Jalen Hurd will be mentioned prominently in the mix for the most prestigious individual award in American sports. Fournette chimed in tied with Stanford's Christian McCaffrey for second in early Heisman odds, via, at 5-1, and Chubb—off of that brutal knee injury—is tied for sixth with Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly and Florida State running back Dalvin Cook at 12-1.

But where's the fun in choosing the obvious running backs?

Let's go off the board with some dark-horse running back candidates in the SEC who could make a push for Heisman glory in 2016.


Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough

Was Henry frightening in Tuscaloosa? Yep, and his clone is coming at opposing defenses in 2016.

Bo Scarbrough tore his ACL last offseason and had a suspension to deal with early in the 2015 campaign. Those two issues made him a non-factor for the majority of the season. He only gained nine yards through the first nine games of the season but had a breakout game where he rushed 10 times for 69 yards and a score, and added 17 in mop-up work against Michigan State.

That's not a stat line that jumps off the page, I know.

But when you have a Mack truck like Henry rolling in the fourth quarter, you ride him.

Scarbrough, a 6'2", 240-pound rising sophomore, is similar to Henry with his size and speed and is stepping into a situation where he might be counted on to do exactly what Henry did.

In addition to Henry's departure, Alabama loses quarterback Jake Coker, center Ryan Kelly and will usher in a new right tackle. Sure, Scarbrough has to contend with sophomore Damien Harris for No. 1 carries. But a full season of work while healthy in the strength and conditioning program should transform Scarbrough into a monster in 2016. 

He's going to get a chance to win the job. When he does, he won't let it go.


Florida RB Jordan Scarlett

It was an up-and-down year for Jordan Scarlett as a freshman for the 2015 Florida Gators. The Fort Lauderdale native had 34 carries for 181 yards and one touchdown behind starter Kelvin Taylor, but was suspended for the Citrus Bowl against Michigan after being cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

He'll be a star in 2016.

With Taylor gone and dual-threat quarterback Treon Harris likely taking a back seat to a starting quarterback who's a better fit to head coach Jim McElwain's pro-style system (Luke Del Rio, Austin Appleby or Feleipe Franks), somebody needs to step up and be the workhorse in the Gator offense.

Scarlett can be that guy.

The 5'10", 198-pounder has breakaway speed, is big enough to take the pounding between the tackles and should have a better offensive line than the Gators had last season. 

While McElwain is known for his ability to develop quarterbacks, he turned Alabama castoff Dee Hart into a 1,200-yard rusher in 2014 and helped Kapri Bibbs top the 1,700-yard mark in 2013 while the head coach of the Colorado State Rams.

Scarlett will follow in their footsteps, become a star in 2016 and, if his team can remain in the national conversation into November, could jump into the Heisman conversation.


Auburn RB Jovon Robinson

For the first two months of the season, Auburn running Jovon Robinson was like Sasquatch. A mythical creature that you heard about through word of mouth but never really saw in real life.

That changed in November, when he rushed for 402 yards and two touchdowns in four games and finished the season with a 126-yard performance against Memphis in December in the Birmingham Bowl.

With fellow running back Peyton Barber off to the NFL, the path is clear for Robinson to become a bona fide superstar. Head coach Gus Malzahn has produced 13 1,000-yard rushers in 10 seasons as a college head or assistant coach, including Barber last year, and should take some pressure off of Robinson in 2016 with either the addition of a running threat at quarterback or an improved downfield passing attack.

As Allie Davison of noted on Twitter, the better Auburn running back from 2015 might be the one still playing college football in 2016.

The 6'1", 230-pounder is perfect for Malzahn's offense. He's patient, strong between the tackles, deceptively elusive in space and can be a force either in a more traditional offense with a pro-style quarterback or in a multi-dimensional system that utilizes the quarterback as the edge threat.

If Auburn is going to return to glory, it will be because of Robinson's success. Malzahn already sent one running back to New York as a Heisman finalist when Tre Mason made it in 2013, and don't count out Robinson following in his footsteps.


Texas A&M RB Keith Ford

Wait, who?

It seems like Keith Ford is the forgotten man at running back in the SEC, but the former Oklahoma running back is eligible at Texas A&M in 2016 after sitting out his transfer year in 2015.

Ford ran for 194 yards and five touchdowns on 34 carries through three games in 2014 but missed the next five games with a foot injury. That opened the door for Samaje Perine to burst onto the scene for the Sooners, which relegated Ford to a backup role.

The 5'11", 215-pound former 5-star prospect from Cypress, Texas, has the speed of a home run hitter, the size to take the pounding in space and is in a situation with new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone where the running game will take more of a precedent in College Station for the first time under head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Mazzone helped Paul Perkins top the 1,300-yard mark twice at UCLA, and Johnathan Franklin rushed for 1,734 yards in Mazzone's first season in Westwood in 2012.

He will split carries with James White early in his career, but the presence of Mazzone coupled with quarterback questions with either Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight or the relatively inexperienced Jake Hubenak should make the running game the focal point for the Aggies in 2016.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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B/R CFB Recruiting 200: Top 23 Defensive Ends

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon Sayles, Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the class of 2016. Here we present the Top Defensive Ends.


Whether they're speed-rushing or playing contained in a zone, defensive ends can make or break a play defensively. College coaches are looking for the playmakers at the position who can not only alter a run play but also get to a quarterback to disrupt pass plays.

The 2016 class has several college-potential prospects who can be playmakers at a Power Five school. Here's our breakdown of America's top-ranked prospects at the position, including scores based on individual assessments of pass rushing, tackling, explosive strength, run defense, hands and overall motor.

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The Secret Home of Blue-Chip Recruits: How Coach Bill Clark Is Resurrecting UAB

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — On a day when Donald Trump's infinite election convoy was shutting down the streets of Birmingham, Bill Clark strolled through the front doors of the Sheraton Hotel without anyone seeming to notice.

Wearing blue jeans, a sport coat and a neighborly Alabama smile, Clark was not outfitted like a football coach. He looked more like a company's go-to salesman—the kind of asset that closes a deal long before shaking a single hand.

In many ways, at least for the time being, this has become his new reality.

On one of the final college football Saturdays of the season, the head coach of UAB football—the program that was told to die, only to spring back to life before most knew it had ever left—looked strangely content with his unorthodox standing.

Clark will not coach his team in an actual game until September 2, 2017—more than 550 days from now—when UAB makes its official return to college football.

In the meantime, the catalyst of this great resurrection has the unthinkable task of selling a program that has to remain idle a bit longer.

It's a weight no coach should have to carry around in living rooms and dinner tables. And yet, despite the obstacles of selling a future, Clark has convinced a collection of former 4- and 5-star talents—elite players who logged hours at some of the nation's most esteemed football powers—to commit to his vision.

UAB, operating with a tremendous anchor, is on the verge of securing one of the greatest recruiting classes in school history.

Instead of simply adding necessary depth with national signing day now less than a week away, Clark has infused his gutted roster with greatness—known names and athletes poised to guide this program's hand up from the grave and into the driving light.

The team with the highest-ranked recruiting class in Conference USA won't play next fall. And the architect behind it—the man anxiously hoping to win a city's heart—doesn't appear the least bit fazed by the lingering shock and now the overwhelming success of it all.

The Presidential Suite at the Sheraton is spacious: 850 square feet high above Birmingham, overlooking a downtown that is in the infant stages of a makeover. In the years to come, this space will overlook the new football facilities UAB has planned.

Clark did not pick to meet in this particular room by chance. It was by design. This setting was handpicked to host one of UAB's most robust recruiting weekends since it was brought back.

With mockups of the facilities propped up on easels throughout the room and a delectable spread laid out, Clark eased onto the leather sofa hours before the players arrived.

Twirling a bottle of water in his hand, he talked about rebuilding this program and the challenges in acquiring this kind of talent. But before he could look forward, he had to revisit old wounds.

"My mother passed away when I was 19, so I don't want to compare it to a death," Clark said, finally letting go of his smile. "But this was close to a death."

On December 2, 2014, UAB President Ray Watts told a room full of players and coaches that their football team was being disbanded. Members of the team walked out with their arms around each other, fighting back tears. Some didn't bother to fight them at all. 

A lack of funding and general financial commitments, coupled with a very cryptic (and somewhat political) situation ultimately doomed UAB football. 

After leading the team to a .500 or better record for the first time in a decade, Clark watched as the program was scrapped for parts. Coaches and players left for other universities.

While some upperclassmen expressed a desire and willingness to sit out two full years for one more chance to play for their coach, Clark told them not to wait. Not with so much still to be determined.

"It was every emotion," Clark said. "I need to be here for these kids. Now I need to go get a job. Where is my next move? But there was still hope. And this is where I wanted to be."

So he waited. And six months after his program was taken away, Watts announced football was coming back.

Not only was UAB football returning, but it was also being rebooted with new facilities that included a football operations building, turf fields and locker rooms.

Clark had his team. More importantly, he had something to sell. The only catch was that this vision and this future would not be realized for more than two years.

Roughly 30 players stayed at UAB—a mix of scholarship athletes and walk-ons Clark refers to as his "culture" group. The rest would have to be brought in from the outside—a task that was daunting on the surface.

UAB needed bodies, above all. To create a competitive environment for spring practice—a period that will still be "the least normal thing we do," according to Clark—they needed commitments to fill in such glaring holes.

"I don't want us to sell our soul to win early, but I want to be able to compete," Clark said. "And we're not going to be able to do that with a bunch of freshmen. We had to go get older."

A list that began in thousands was narrowed to a few hundred players.

Many of these players were junior college players in between football homes. While UAB didn't avoid high schools, thinking about the next, next step, this first class demanded a unique methodology.

"There's a bad connotation with junior college kids. There's a bad connotation on transfers. But we said every guy has a story," Clark said, gesturing with the now empty water bottle. "A lot of these guys were so highly touted that they just didn't know how to handle it. They've got another chance. They have a chance to be the start of it and attend a great university."

The concept made perfect sense.

Resurrect your roster with a developed group that could settle in for the next year. Get them on campus as quickly as possible and acclimate them with the system through spring football. Get them in class, just like any other student-athlete.

But putting this plan in motion required a breakthrough. It had to start somewhere.

Clifton Garrett's phone buzzed.

It was October of last year, shortly after one of the nation's elite linebackers from the 2014 recruiting class—a 5-star talent and the No. 28 prospect overall, according to 247Sports' composite rankings—shocked the recruiting world by committing to UAB.

A head coach at a major university actively recruiting Garrett received word that his target had committed.

"Wow," this coach wrote him in a text message, still shocked by the news. "Are you serious?"

All Garrett could do was smile. Not because this was some sort of a joke, but because this was coming. He understood that few would understand why he was doing what he was. He wasn't the least bit concerned in justifying his decision.

"It's bigger than me and the program," Garrett said shortly after he committed. "It's about the whole city of Birmingham."

The idea that Garrett could have landed at UAB would have been preposterous a few seasons ago. One of the anchors of an LSU recruiting class that included running back Leonard Fournette, the Plainfield, Illinois, product never felt at home with his new team.

The excitement surrounding his recruitment didn't match the reality of campus life. So instead of forcing happiness that simply wasn't there, Garrett left the bright lights of Baton Rouge for Arizona Western—a JUCO that would allow him to play right away.

A concussion derailed these plans for much of the 2015 season. Still, one day after practice, the UAB coaches paid Garrett a visit.

Competing against schools such as Auburn, Florida State, TCU and Louisville, the staff members didn't apply a full-court press. They simply asked that he visit them before telling them no. He obliged.

"I'll be honest," Garrett said. "My mindset was that I could get on a plane and get some nice good food. Go on vacation. But that was probably one of the best vacations I have taken in a long time."

Garrett could sense the pain the city was moving beyond as he toured through Birmingham—a place he had never been before. At the same time, he fell in love with the city and the idea of being something more than a linebacker. He could feel the energy there.

Connecting with his future head coach was the icing on the cake.

Waiting for his airplane at the Birmingham airport, Garrett called Clark shortly before he boarded the plane back to Arizona.

Right there and then, he committed. He couldn't wait any longer.

The man who was supposed to lead Notre Dame to the promised land has spent much of the last year locked away in a dimly lit, cluttered room at the Hotel Roma in Miami Gardens.

Instead of seizing an opportunity in South Bend, Greg Bryant lived in isolation—eating canned food and living out of his suitcase he refused to unpack. He couldn't fathom the idea of calling this place home.

"I'll keep it real," Bryant said in an interview the day before he moved out. "This past year has been the hardest part of my life. Not playing football, going from the luxurious life at Notre Dame and coming back home and living in the hood at Miami while playing JUCO, it's been real tough."

In 2013, Bryant was one of the most coveted running backs in the nation—a mix of speed and power that drew wide interest. The Florida product was the 247Sports composite ranking's No. 7 back in the class.

Bryant committed to Notre Dame, and he was instantly expected to be the key cog to Brian Kelly's offense. Only it never happened. His first two years didn't click. Hoping to change that in 2015, Bryant was ruled academically ineligible shortly before the season began.

"I needed a B+ in my summer school class," Bryant said. "But I got a B-."

Instead of waiting, Bryant left Notre Dame and returned home. He enrolled at ASA College in Miami—a JUCO that would allow him the chance to play while he figured out his next move.

An issue with his paperwork at his former stop, however, essentially forced Bryant to sit out the entire year. Instead of finally showing the world what he was capable of, Bryant spent his days in the gym, at class and his sheltered hell.

Then one day he heard from the coaches at UAB. Not long after, he met with the man that would change his life.

With interest from Louisville, Minnesota, Indiana, Auburn and others, Bryant joined Garrett in announcing his commitment.

"I've had a ton of people ask me why UAB," Bryant said. "They really don't know my background and what they're doing for me. Once I went on a visit and met them in person, I knew I was safe. I knew I was in a safe environment. They're basically giving me a second chance."

Instead of being forced to wait until summer to join a program, UAB welcomed Bryant in January. While he understands the weight of his commitment—taking great pride in what the return will mean now and moving forward—there was more to it than that.

A door opened at just the right time. For him, there is no more waiting. The wait came last year when he was all alone.

"It's a whole year of football, but it's better than sitting in a hotel," Bryant said. "I can possibly get my degree heading into the 2017, and that's a dream come true. Somebody like me getting a degree where I come from is unheard of."

Clark settles back into his seat after grabbing a handful of peanuts. His eyes darts to the television as Michigan wraps up a 28-16 win over Penn State.

His peers have spent the past few months enjoying the ecstasy that comes with each victory. All the hours are spent to satisfy these sensations. Due to his situation, Clark has had to find this rush in other places.

"Right now," Clark said, "the commitments are our wins."

Beyond Garrett and Bryant, UAB has attracted the attention of many JUCO stars drawing huge interest elsewhere. Brandon Hill, a massive guard who first committed to Alabama, has signed to be one of the team's future enforcers.

Former Michigan State defensive end Noah Jones is also part of this class. As is Darez Diggs, an athletically blessed cornerback and the younger brother of NFL wideout Stefon Diggs. Fellow cornerback Shaquille Jones, who started out at Georgia, has also signed.

This would be an impressive coup for any team in any season. But for a program still a year away from playing in actual games, this is nothing short of a football phenomenon.

"It's kind of surprising," Clark said when asked about the team's early recruiting success. "But this one breeds the next one. And the next one."

Much of this future is now. Many members of this class are already on campus, acclimating themselves to a new environment, working toward Alabama A&M on September 2, 2017.

This collection of JUCO All-Stars along with a handful of high school signees ready to seal the deal on signing day represent more than just names on the list. They will do more than plug holes. They are the symbol of a spectacular rebirth.

"The guys who are here now are the first credit in the movie they're going to make about this thing," Clark said. "And it's going to be a movie. But we want this to be a happy ending."

The plan for 2016 is to put this influx of talent to use, almost immediately. Clark wants to make this transition year as seamless as possible. 

UAB still won't have a full roster during the spring, although it will practice. The reps will come fast as the roster is developed and further NCAA and conference matters regarding this unprecedented return are sorted out. Even now, they still don't have all the answers.

Moving to the fall, Clark plans to treat each week as a game week. He will establish a normal schedule—one that includes watching weekly game tape of the team's opponents, a scrimmage on Saturdays and even nights before these "games" in the team hotel. 

Every last detail down to the involvement of cheerleaders will be implemented during this yearlong simulation. 

"I hope that August is as close to our routine as possible," Clark said. "I tell these guys that they're not coming in here to be off for a year." 

The doorbell of the Clark's hotel suite rings, interrupting a plan he has gone through countless times in his mind. Perhaps the next great commitment is on the other side of the wall, anxious to pledge allegiance to the man in blue jeans.

The great 5-star whisperer swings open the door. Two employees from the hotel greet the coach, wheeling in more food and drinks with the recruiting weekend set to begin.

These are not the next great players at UAB, although you wouldn't know the difference from Clark's greeting.

"Good seeing you again," Clark says as he uncorks that familiar smile. "How are y'all?"


Adam Kramer covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @KegsnEggs

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National Signing Day 2016: Announcement Schedule, Predictions and More

We are a long way from the start of the 2016 college football regular season, but the biggest event of the offseason is upon us with this year's national signing day. 

The day itself has become a spectacle with high school players taking advantage of their time in the spotlight to announce their decision, often in the most ridiculous way possible. While many enjoy watching the creativity and sometimes goofiness of each player, the event is also meaningful as each team tries to bring in the best possible class.

With the future landscape of college football up in the air, you want to make sure to tune in to the full-day event. A full announcement schedule will be revealed later, per ESPN MediaZone, but here is a look at the current information available:


National Signing Day Television Schedule

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 3

TV: ESPNU (8 a.m.-1 p.m. ET); ESPN2 (1-5 p.m. ET); ESPNU (5-7 p.m. ET)

Live Stream: WatchESPN 


Times courtesy of ESPN MediaZone, MaxPreps, 247Sports and assorted personal announcements.


Top Battles to Watch

Rashan Gary, DT

EJ Holland of 247Sports was one of many who came away impressed after the Under Armour All-America Game:

Rashan Gary was named MVP of that all-star showcase and appears likely to make an early impact no matter where he goes. While everyone wants him, the defensive tackle is down to Michigan, USC, Ole Miss, Auburn and Clemson.

Although the superstar hasn't made an announcement, Adam Friedman of explained why Michigan has been the favorite for a long time:

The Wolverines have been the favorite for a long time and for good reason. Gary’s former high school coach Chris Partridge is on the staff as the linebackers coach, he knows dozens of players on the team and in the recruiting class, and Gary and his family feel comfortable on campus and in that environment. The defensive scheme is something Gary really likes and he sees how much of an impact he can have.

USC is definitely a team that can make a late charge, but this seems like Michigan's race to lose.


Lyndell "Mack" Wilson, OLB 

It appears to be down to Florida, Alabama and Georgia, with each spot having its draw. The Crimson Tide are obviously difficult to turn down after seeing them win yet another championship this season, especially with Mack Wilson being a lifetime fan of the school.

"Since I was a young’n, I have dreamed about playing for Alabama," the linebacker told Chris Kirschner of SEC Country.

The local player could easily stay home and continue the trend of elite linebackers on this defense. However, the relationship with former Alabama defensive coordinator and current Georgia head coach Kirby Smart could sway his decision. Wilson recently visited Athens and came away impressed. 

"It went great," the linebacker told Derek Tyson of ESPN. "I just had a chance to see it for my first time and I felt like it was a great place and a great football town to play in. I’d give the visit a 10. We had a good time, we just talked football, hung out, ate and chilled. It was great overall."

He still has a chance to take a trip to Florida as well, although despite all of this, it might be difficult to get him to leave the state. Alabama remains the favorite and the best guess for the talented player. 


Derrick Brown, DT

This class might not have many elite offensive skill players, but what it does have is defensive linemen who are almost sure things to contribute at the next level. Georgia native Derrick Brown is one of those players in the impressive class.

While no one is sure about where Brown will end up, we do know he will be playing in the SEC based on his final five:

Georgia was certainly the favorite for much of the recruitment process, but 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions have started to trend toward Auburn with seven of the last eight picks going to the Tigers. The first pick in this stretch was Wesley Sinor of, who stated a few weeks ago he expected the big man to make a "surprise" commitment to Auburn.

Tennessee remains in contention, and you can never count out Alabama when it comes to bringing in defensive studs. But Auburn has made up a lot of ground in this recruitment and could end up on top when all is said and done.


Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for year-round sports analysis.

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Matt Farniok to Nebraska: Cornhuskers Land 4-Star OT Prospect

The Nebraska Cornhuskers bolstered their offensive line Wednesday evening on the recruiting trail with the addition of Matt Farniok, who is rated as a 4-star prospect by 247Sports’ composite rankings.

The 6'4 ¾" and 297-pound offensive tackle shared the news of his commitment on Twitter:  

Farniok is a South Dakota native and the No. 262 overall player in class of 2016, the No. 24 offensive tackle and the No. 1 prospect from his state, per 247Sports' composite rankings. Alex Chippin of noted Farniok took official visits to Michigan State and Iowa in addition to Nebraska and drew scholarship offers from Stanford and Michigan.

Michael Bruntz of 247Sports said Nebraska head coach Mike Riley, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh were all present for an in-home visit with their new prospect Wednesday night. 

Riley is not allowed to mention prospects by name, but he seemed to allude to Farniok in his tweet following the news:

Farniok’s mother, Christine, offered a quote to’s Derek Young (via Josh Harvey of

Matt is so appreciative of everyone that recruited him and this decision came from lots of thought and sleepless nights. It's such a relief to see him relaxed and smiling again. Bottom line is, he wouldn't have made a bad choice in any of the schools he was down to. I'm so proud of all his hard work to get him to this place and now he deserves to enjoy being a Husker.

As of Wednesday night, 247Sports had Nebraska 28th in its composite rankings for the class of 2016. 247Sports also provided a list of prospects committed to the class, and it included offensive linemen John Raridon, Bryan Brokop and Boe Wilson in addition to Farniok.

It is clear the Cornhuskers have made something of a commitment to the offensive line in this recruiting cycle after mixed results during the 2015 season.

Football Outsiders rated Nebraska’s offensive line last season as 98th in power success rate (“percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown”) and 39th in opportunity rate—“the percentage of carries (when five yards are available) that gain at least five yards, i.e. the percentage of carries in which the line does its job”—so there is room for improvement.

If the Cornhuskers plan on bouncing back from a 6-7 campaign and challenging the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa in the Big Ten, they need to play better along the offensive line. Adding players like Farniok is an ideal place to start.

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Notre Dame Football: Irish's Top Remaining Recruiting Targets for NSD 2016

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — We’re now just one week away from national signing day, and the Notre Dame football coaches are traveling across the country trying to land the final Irish targets.

Currently, Notre Dame’s class of 2016 consists of 22 prospects, including the five early enrollees already on campus and weeks away from the start of their first spring sessions.

Who are the remaining Irish targets?


Demetris Robertson

Stud wide receiver Demetris Robertson is the highest-rated target still on Notre Dame’s board.

The 5-star Robertson is the No. 1 wideout in the country and the No. 14 overall prospect. Notre Dame assistants Mike Sanford, Mike Denbrock and Scott Booker are scheduled for an in-home visit with Robertson on Thursday, per Irish247’s Tom Loy.

The Irish are jockeying with Georgia, Alabama and, perhaps increasingly, Georgia Tech, according to Loy.


Caleb Kelly

There’s still an array of linebackers on Notre Dame’s board, and 5-star prospect Caleb Kelly highlights the group.

The Fresno, California, native is the No. 3 outside linebacker and No. 25 overall recruit in the nation. Kelly took his official visit to South Bend in mid-December for Notre Dame’s awards banquet weekend.

The Irish staff—with head coach Brian Kelly, associate head coach Denbrock and linebackers coach Mike Elston—had its final in-home visit with Caleb Kelly on Tuesday.

Oklahoma has ranked among Kelly’s leaders, per Loy.


Jonathon Jones

Outside linebacker Jonathan Jones is the No. 31 player at his position and No. 449 overall prospect in the class. The Orlando, Florida, native is only considering Notre Dame and Michigan, per 247Sports’ Ryan Bartow.

According to Loy, Notre Dame assistant coaches Autry Denson and Brian VanGorder were expected to visit Jones this week.


Nate Johnson

Wide receiver Nate Johnson committed to Michigan in mid-December, but the Irish are still targeting the No. 93 wideout in the nation.

The Thompson’s Station, Tennessee, product took an official visit to Notre Dame over the weekend, six days after the Irish reached out with an offer.

Notre Dame’s current wide receivers in the class include early enrollee Kevin Stepherson, Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.


Other Names to Watch

Beyond that quartet, the Irish are still targeting the likes of linebackers Jeffrey McCulloch and Ben Davis, athlete Jordan Fuller and all-purpose back Damian Alloway, most notably.


Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports composite rankings.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco on Twitter.

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Deshaun Watson Claims Next Year May Be His Final Season at Clemson

Enjoy quarterback Deshaun Watson next season, Clemson fans. It may be your last chance.

According to a Wednesday report by the Associated Press (via, the quarterback, who will be a junior during the 2016 campaign, said “he could leave a season early next year if circumstances are right.”

Watson also stated he has always dreamed of the NFL and that the opportunity to get there is one reason he elected to attend Clemson. The Associated Press noted, “Watson said one of his goals is to have his college degree before he leaves. He is on track to graduate in December.”

CBS Sports rated Watson as the No. 1 quarterback on its list of 2018 prospects, and it is not much of a stretch to assume the Clemson signal-caller would be No. 1 if he does elect to enter the 2017 NFL draft based on his production during his sophomore campaign.   

He threw for 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns and added 1,105 yards and 12 more touchdowns on the ground as a Heisman Trophy finalist. He also led the Tigers to the national championship game, where they lost a 45-40 heartbreaker to Alabama. The loss was far from his fault, considering he torched the fabled Crimson Tide defense for 405 passing yards, 73 rushing yards and four touchdown passes. 

He made history in the process, per Bleacher Report Insights:

Mark Schlabach of ranked Clemson as the No. 1 team in his “way-too-early Top 25,” largely because Watson is returning under center. What’s more, Odds Shark recently listed Watson as its favorite to win next season’s Heisman Trophy.

Watson has the talent to take home college football’s most prestigious award and lead his Tigers to the national title during the 2016 campaign all while earning his degree. If he does all that, NFL teams will certainly take note.

To hear Watson tell it, that has been the plan all along.

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Jordan Elliott Decommits from Michigan: Latest Details and Reaction

Head coach Jim Harbaugh's stellar 2016 recruiting class has taken a big hit with defensive tackle Jordan Elliott decommitting from the Michigan Wolverines on Wednesday.

EJ Holland of 247Sports reported Elliott's decision to leave the Wolverines and open up his recruiting one week before national signing day.

Elliott announced his commitment to Michigan back in November on Twitter following the regular-season finale against the Ohio State Buckeyes:

It helped build momentum for the Wolverines this recruiting season, which has otherwise gone very well. He's the 14th-ranked defensive tackle and a 4-star prospect, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

Michigan is still set up well for an excellent recruiting season, with 247Sports having the program ranked fifth in the nation.

It had become apparent in recent weeks that Elliott was having second thoughts about his decision. Jason Suchomel of reported on Jan. 20 that the Houston native was going to take a visit to the University of Texas Longhorns.

Even though Michigan is still listed on Elliott's radar, the Longhorns have moved into the top spot. According to 247Sports' crystal ball projections, Texas is currently getting 67 percent of the vote as Elliott's preferred destination. The USC Trojans are second at 17 percent.

Getting a prominent in-state recruit to stay home would be a major coup for Texas, which is struggling with the 37th-ranked recruiting class right now, per 247Sports.

Until players officially sign their letter of intent on Feb. 3, things remain wide open. The next seven days will be a wild ride in college football, with Elliott's move the latest ripple in the vast ocean of college recruiting.

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Early Preview of SEC Football's Top 2016 NFL Draft Prospects

For those who have been doubting the Southeastern Conference's prowess of late, all you have to do is look at recent NFL drafts for proof that it remains the most dominant league in college football. 

Last year the SEC had 54 selections, the second-most in draft history. It set the record the year before with 63 players picked.

The SEC led the nation's conferences in draft picks for the ninth consecutive year in 2015. The last time the SEC did not top the conference draft list was in 2006, when the ACC had 52, the Big Ten had 41 and the SEC had 37.

Since then the league has averaged 50 players selected per year.

During the last nine NFL drafts, the SEC has had a leading 81 players go in the first round, an average of nine per season. Over the past decade it’s had 40 percent of the top 10 selections.

This year appears to be no different, as the SEC is poised to once again lead college football in helping NFL teams fill their rosters.

Here are 10 SEC players to keep an eye on, not all of whom will be first-round selections.

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The Last 10 No. 1 College Football Recruits: Where Are They Now?

What can we expect from New Jersey defensive tackle Rashan Gary, the No. 1 college football recruit in the 2016 class?

Based on recent history, a lot.

The last five No. 1 overall recruits have performed better than the previous five, in part because of injury luck and in part—one assumes—because recruiting has become a year-round industry and scouting has become more nuanced and accurate.

So Gary, who has yet to decide on his school, will have a lot to live up to in college and the NFL. But he's earned those expectations for a reason.

Here is where the previous 10 No. 1 recruits are today.

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Linebackers Key for Georgia Recruiting

In his first offseason as Georgia Bulldogs head coach, Kirby Smart is faced with a daunting task: landing UGA's talented linebacker recruits.

College football programs with a new head coach generally have more difficulty recruiting than those with an established coaching staff. After all, these are high school kids who have to make a life-altering decision. Some of them will even have the privilege of playing in the NFL someday, a possibility that is largely contingent on how well their college coaches prepare them for the NFL.   

Even with a new coaching staff, however, the Dawgs are still elite recruiters. 247Sports' 2016 composite rankings have UGA at No. 9 overall, just a handful of recruits away from cracking the top five.

The Bulldogs also happen to be in the hunt for two of the best—if not THE two best—linebacker recruits in the country: Alabama natives Ben Davis and Lyndell "Mack" Wilson.

Davis, an inside linebacker at Gordo High School, is the No. 1 inside linebacker in the country and No. 10 overall prospect, according to 247Sports.

His father, Wayne Davis, is the Alabama Crimson Tide's all-time leading tackler and has taken up a supportive role in his son's recruitment process. Though Davis has been open about his desire for his son to play at Alabama, he has said he will support whichever decision he makes.

"I made it clear with Ben that he needs to go to Alabama,” said Davis, via Tide 99.1's Kevin Connell. "I made it clear with Ben also that I want him to go around and look at the other schools and make up his own mind."

He had been considered a slam-dunk commit for the Crimson Tide until a few weeks ago, but everything changed for the younger Davis when Smart—one of Davis' primary recruiters at Alabama—left Tuscaloosa to become the Bulldogs' head coach, prompting him to name Georgia his leader.

Wilson, an outside linebacker at Carver High School, also included Georgia in his recruiting chase once Smart was settled in Athens. Listed by 247Sports as the No. 2 outside linebacker in the country and No. 15 overall prospect, he included UGA in his top three schools alongside Alabama and the Florida Gators.

Davis and Wilson are not the only high-profile recruits Georgia is pursuing. Having already landed No. 2 overall quarterback Jacob Eason and No. 1 tight end Isaac Nauta, the Dawgs are also in the mix for three additional 5-star prospects: defensive tackle Derrick Brown, athlete Mecole Hardman Jr. and wide receiver Demetris Robertson.

But make no mistake—Davis and Wilson are the two most important recruiting targets for the Bulldogs.

The formula for success in the SEC is well-established. A successful team requires a physical offensive line that excels in run blocking, a powerful defensive line that can stuff the run and a linebacker corps that can do everything effectively.

Of those three, the latter is by far Georgia's biggest weakness heading into the 2016 season. Three of last year's starting linebackers for the Dawgs—Leonard Floyd, Jake Ganus and Jordan Jenkins—have graduated. They will likely be replaced by rising juniors Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy, as well as rising senior Tim Kimbrough.

Behind them, however, is an utter dearth of depth. Rising sophomore Natrez Patrick showed the most promise last year, but he has dealt with some serious off-field issues in the past few weeks. Rising senior Reggie Carter has been plagued by injury. Roquan Smith will need to make a big leap in his sophomore season, as will D'Andre Walker.

The recruiting trail for both Davis and Wilson has become a high-risk, high-reward situation. In his latest piece, my Bleacher Report colleague Tyler Donohue noted the distinct possibility that the duo would come to the same school as a "package deal".

The reason for such a decision is that they have become good friends through the recruiting process. In a Twitter post back on Dec. 12, Davis—wearing No. 32—showed his love and respect for Wilson (No. 30):

In the last few days, Georgia's recruiting status with the duo has taken an interesting turn. Since December, Georgia had gone from Davis' favorite to "sharing No. 1" with Alabama. After his Jan. 24 official visit to Tuscaloosa, Davis was ready to name Alabama his new leader altogether.

Whereas Davis' chances with the Dawgs have taken a slight dip, Wilson has become an increasingly likely commit for Georgia. Starting off as the third option behind Alabama and Florida, his official visit to Athens back on Jan. 15 yielded fantastic results for the Dawgs, as Wilson considered his visit to be "a perfect 10". As a result, Wilson notes that Georgia is now "equal" with Alabama and Florida in his recruiting chase.

Kipp Adams of Dawgs247 and 247Sports detailed the full extent of Wilson's satisfaction with his visit, as well as his potential future in Athens:

Fortunately for the Bulldogs, even losing both Davis and Wilson does not completely void them of blue-chip linebacker commits. Jaleel Laguins, an in-state inside linebacker from Oconee County High School, has been a UGA "hard commit" since committing to Georgia back on Aug. 19. Laguins is the No. 10 overall inside linebacker in the 2016 class, according to 247Sports. 

With national signing day coming up on Feb. 3, this next week is crucial for Georgia. Both Davis and Wilson will be committing that day, so Smart and company need to make one final, convincing pitch to their prized linebacker targets. Fielding an elite 2016 linebacker class will ease concerns heading into next season, and it could put Georgia back into the national championship picture.

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Previewing Biggest Spring Depth-Chart Battles for Top 10 College Football Teams

A week from today, programs across college football will fill voids in their rosters on national signing day. But unless a recruit is an early enrollee, those rosters will still be somewhat depleted. 

Still, there will be key position battles starting to take form over the next few months. All position battles are important, but some capture more attention than others because of major losses. In the following list, we've broken down the biggest position battle for each team that finished in the Associated Press Top 10 for the 2015-16 season. 

Selections for the following team weren't always the most obvious. For example, a number of Top 10 teams will have quarterback battles this offseason. Rather, the importance was based on not only the departing players but also the remaining depth chart, possible incoming players and overall strength of the position group.

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Defensive Tackle Is the Missing Piece for TCU's Recruiting Class

While TCU’s 2016 recruiting class is currently ranked higher than any other in school history, they still have one major need to address: defensive tackle.

The Horned Frogs’ class is No. 18 in the country, according to 247Sports Composite rankings. The group boasts multiple receivers, running backs, defensive ends and defensive backs. At defensive tackle, however, they have only one commit.

The Frogs need to add depth at the position. With the departure of senior Davion Pierson, the Frogs will have just five DTs on the roster for spring practice. Two of them—Aaron Curry and Tevin Lawson—have only one year of eligibility remaining.

Controlling the line of scrimmage is critical when trying to slow down the high-octane offenses of the Big 12. The interior of the line is key to making that happen.

When TCU led the conference in total defense in 2014, it was due largely to the play of Pierson and fellow DT Chucky Hunter. That year they combined for 67 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, according to

Hunter graduated after the 2014 season, and Pierson is now gone as well. This season will be the first since 2011 that neither of those players is present along the line for TCU. If they want to perform at the level head coach Gary Patterson wants defensively, they’ll need talent to fill that void.

The Frogs also rely heavily on a rotation along the defensive line. They substitute regularly to keep players from becoming exhausted by the pace used by teams like Baylor and Oklahoma.

They need more DTs to have the depth to make those rotations as consistently as they want. Curry and Chris Bradley got significant snaps this season, and Joseph Broadnax got playing time as a freshman.

But in the fourth quarter on the road against Baylor in November, TCU will want to be able to play more than just three or four DTs.

So where do the Frogs get that depth? It starts with the DT they already have committed.

The Frogs’ lone DT commit is a highly regarded prospect. Ross Blacklock, a 4-star DT from Missouri City, Texas, committed to TCU at the Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 9.

At 6'4", 326 pounds, he has the frame to compete for significant snaps this year. But the Frogs still need another big body at the position.

One of the Frogs’ biggest targets remaining for 2016 is D’Andre Christmas-Giles. The 4-star prospect has TCU in his final three along with Texas and LSU. He has taken official visits to all three schools.

According to Rod Walker of the New Orleans Advocate, Christmas-Giles had 49 tackles and five sacks as a senior at St. Augustine. He was named co-Defensive Player of the Year in the New Orleans Catholic League.

Patterson is not hesitant about putting freshmen on the field if they're ready to play. KaVontae Turpin went from a relative unknown in last year's recruiting class to the Frogs' second-best receiver as a true freshman.

Christmas-Giles and Blacklock would get the chance to show what they can do early. The hope would be to begin grooming them to be TCU's next duo to solidify the defensive line for years.

Getting Christmas-Giles would not only fulfill the Frogs’ biggest remaining need. He would also become the top-rated player in an already historic class for TCU. 

He is the No. 83-ranked player in the country by Rivals. That would make him the highest-ranked player to sign with the Frogs since LaDarius Brown in 2011.

TCU will celebrate this year’s class no matter what. It will be the first top-25 recruiting class under Patterson. But landing another DT like Christmas-Giles would make that celebration even sweeter.

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Best College Football Coaching Staffs Heading into 2016 Season

Having a great head coach is one thing, but he alone doesn't make for a great team in college football. It takes an entire staff of coordinators and assistants to operate effectively in today's game.

All of those like-dressed people on the sidelines wearing headsets, holding play sheets and flashing signals onto the field are tasked with working together to teach, guide and motivate dozens of 18- to 22-year-old players. It's not easy, and it's why many assistants—and not just head coaches—are starting to get paid large sums of money each season.

Assembling a great staff is almost as important as recruiting the best possible players. This is the logic that first-year Maryland coach D.J. Durkin used in hiring three assistants—Pete Lembo, Mike London and Scott Shafer—who were all FBS head coaches in 2015.

There are plenty of great coaching staffs in college football, but some stand out from the crowd. We've picked the six best groups based on their overall history together and their individual accolades.

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Most Important Recruiting Visits on Final Weekend Before National Signing Day

By this time next week, your favorite college football recruit is expected to be a college football signee. National signing day is on Feb. 3, and the majority of targets in the 2016 class will sign a national letter of intent on that day, officially ending their respective recruiting processes.

All that means for college coaches is the upcoming weekend is a last-chance opportunity to land some of the elite uncommitted talent—and, possibly, flip some of those who are already committed. There are a few big campus visits scheduled nationally for this weekend, which include some of the best players of the 2016 class.

Here are eight players, listed in alphabetical order, to keep an eye on as they prepare for the final weekend of official visits.


All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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4-Star WR Nate Craig-Myers Announces Final 2 Schools

The long recruiting saga of 4-star wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers is coming to a close, as the elite Florida product announced his final two college choices on Wednesday morning. 

The wideout from Tampa, Florida, tweeted that he will announce his decision between Auburn and North Carolina at 11 a.m. ET on Feb. 3—national signing day.

Craig-Myers said the decision will be televised by ESPN at his high school, Tampa Catholic.

Wednesday's announcement means the No. 6-ranked wide receiver and No. 43-ranked overall prospect in the Class of 2016 has dropped Ole Miss from his previous list of finalists, which was unveiled by the Tampa Bay Times' Kelly Parsons last week.

According to Derek Tyson of ESPN, Craig-Myers canceled his scheduled official visit to Ole Miss on Monday.

Auburn is currently the leader for Craig-Myers, with 67 percent of the 45 Crystal Ball Predictions at 247Sports favoring the Tigers.

Craig-Myers was originally committed to Auburn from July 2014 to May 2015, when he was a 5-star prospect and the No. 1 wide receiver in the 2016 class.

In-state school Florida State made a hard push for him, and he unofficially visited the Seminoles several times last year. He dropped Florida State from his list of finalists last week.

Craig-Myers, who played in the Under Armour All-America Game and was named a first-team All-USA receiver in 2015 by USA Today, officially visited Auburn on Jan. 15.

"Yeah, you know, that's one thing good about Auburn—that's one of the pros in this situation. When I come up here, nothing changes. It's always the same," Craig-Myers told Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports. "Even when I decommitted, I came back and I still felt like I was part of the family."

He arrived on the Plains for the first time in months alongside his brother, 3-star cornerback Jayvaughn Myers. Auburn is also said to be leading the race for Myers.

Craig-Myers made his official visit to North Carolina last September. Tar Heels co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer visited Craig-Myers last weekend.

Brewer was the position coach for Dallas Cowboys star Dez Bryant at Oklahoma State, and he hinted at Craig-Myers' potential in a tweet to Bryant last week:

Craig-Myers is a strong all-around wide receiver boasting ideal size for his position at 6'2" and 205 pounds. He runs a 4.62-second 40-yard dash, per

According to Max Preps, Craig-Myers had 63 receptions for 1,018 yards and 16 touchdowns last season at Tampa Catholic. He missed most of his junior season with a leg injury but came back strong to finish his high school career.


Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Early Preview of Big Ten Football's Top 2016 NFL Draft Prospects

With the 2015 college football season in the books, many of the sport's now-former stars find themselves preparing for their professional careers. This weekend will mark the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, which will be followed by the NFL Scouting Combine and eventually pro days and team workout sessions.

By the time the first round of the draft arrives on April 28, its prospects will have been dissected for months. The Big Ten will have a heavy presence throughout the process as well, with no shortage of highly touted players from the conference prepared to begin their pro careers.

Many of those prospects will hail from Ohio State, which has a legitimate shot to tie or break the NFL draft's record for players from one school (6, ) selected in the first round. But the entirety of the draft will feature plenty of Big Ten flavor, including major prospects from both Michigan State and Penn State.

With that in mind, let's take an early look at the Big Ten's top prospects in the upcoming draft.

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Does Clemson Have Legit Shot to Land No. 1 Overall Recruit Rashan Gary?

Rashan Gary, the country's top-ranked college football recruit, has locked in his final official visit of a recruitment process that started in 2012.

Clemson will be the final program to play host, according to Tony Crumpton of Expect Gary and his support staff to go silent following his stay with the Tigers, setting the stage for a highly anticipated Feb. 3 commitment announcement.

"We will be going to Clemson and entering our own dead period until signing day," his mother, Jennifer Coney, told Crumpton. 

The 6'5", 293-pound defensive tackle, who received his first offer from Rutgers before his freshman year, previously spent an unofficial visit at the university last spring. Though, as Phil Kornblut of the State reports, the complete Clemson coaching staff was not present on campus during Easter break. 

Gary, a senior at Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey, focused on two schools for his final visit, according to Kornblut. Alabama also factored into the decision, and he made Tuscaloosa an earlier stop on his national tour, but the Crimson Tide were left out of his equation when it comes to official visits.

Clemson joins Auburn, Michigan, Ole Miss and USC on Gary's official visit list, which kept analysts guessing about his fifth destination for months. Make no mistake, the Tigers are an underdog here, but this development at least gives the coaching staff a chance to send him home with a positive final impression of the ACC champions. 

Michigan, viewed as the favorite to land Gary, most recently welcomed him to town. He traveled to Ann Arbor last weekend, caught on camera in the Wolverines locker room with head coach Jim Harbaugh and assistant Chris Partridge, who previously coached Gary at Paramus Catholic:

It was the latest in a series of trips to Michigan for Gary, who used an official visit in Ann Arbor during the season. Close friend Kareem Walker, a 4-star running back, enrolled early and is one of five New Jersey products who help piece together an impressive 2016 Wolverines class.

Gary, who capped off his prep career with three sacks in the Under Armour All-America Game, has been tight-lipped about leaning toward any particular teams, but expectations point toward Michigan. He is projected to sign with the Wolverines by 78 percent of experts' predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, including the past 23 picks.

Don't expect that to deter Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, who delivered his squad to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game and already claims commitments from two defensive linemen considered top-10 prospects at their respective positions. 

Dexter Lawrence, a 5-star North Carolina defensive tackle rated No. 2 overall in composite rankings behind only Gary, enrolled early. Kansas pass-rusher Xavier Kelly is considered the No. 8 weak-side defensive end this cycle and will arrive at Clemson later this year.

The Tigers coaching staff, specifically defensive coordinator Brent Venables, have an opportunity to showcase a program that has quickly ascended college football's hierarchy. Clemson is 56-12 since 2011 and returns Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson at quarterback for at least one more season. 

Unlike other schools under his consideration, Clemson's coaches boast cohesiveness that's tough to locate elsewhere. Auburn, USC and Michigan each hired a new defensive coordinator this winter, forcing Gary and his mother to re-acclimate with a fresh presence.

It's unlikely to become a tipping point on signing day, but Clemson will need to use every card in its deck in order to pull off a late upset and that one is worth noting. Another is the proximity of family, as Gary has an uncle who serves as assistant basketball coach at nearby Anderson College, according to Kornblut.

Despite its high profile, this is a recruitment that's been largely devoid of signing day hints or cryptic social media messages. The outside perception seems to be Michigan out in front and plenty of murkiness beyond that.

While we don't envision Gary landing with the Tigers next month, Clemson is getting all it can ask for with a last-minute sales pitch. Swinney, coming off a season that secured his spot among the sport's coaching stars, would truly steal the spotlight on signing day if he pulls off an improbable pledge from America's most coveted recruit.


Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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