NCAA Football News
He didn't know it at the time, but in 2012, then-Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds boldly predicted something that, nearly four years later, would stand tall as the "Dewey Defeats Truman" of modern-day college football.
Texas A&M, along with Missouri, was officially leaving the Big 12 that year to join the SEC. Pretending this wouldn't affect the Big 12 or its hub in the state of Texas, Dodds told Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman the SEC's footprint would expand ever so slightly to "a sliver down the East side" of Texas:
Here we are in 2016 and, without a doubt, Dodds severely underestimated what losing Texas A&M would do to the Big 12 in myriad ways. One consequence that has hurt the Big 12 as much as anything is how the conference has fallen behind in recruiting in the state of Texas.
Namely, the SEC has made itself quite at home in the Lone Star State. There's an argument to be made this is as important (or detrimental, depending on your point of view) as the Big 12's membership dilemma.
Go back seven years to 2009, and you get a better idea of what the state of Texas meant to the Big 12 regarding talent acquisition. Why '09? On national signing day that year, Oklahoma was recently removed from playing for a BCS championship. Less than one year later, Texas would play for the national title. Though the Sooners and Longhorns came up short against Florida and Alabama, respectively, this was during the era in which the top of the Big 12 was producing big winners on the field and on draft day.
(In 2010 alone, the Big 12 had five top-10 picks in the NFL draft. Three of the top four came from Oklahoma.)
A glance over the '09 prospect list in Texas shows just how dominant the Big 12 was at keeping homegrown talent in the conference. In all, the Big 12 landed 38 of Texas' top 50 recruits, including 17 of the top 25 prospects. The SEC reeled in seven prospects (five within the top 25), the Pac-12 hauled in two and two more went to programs outside the power conferences.
In short, the Big 12 claimed 76 percent of the top prospects in Texas. About two out of every three top-25 recruits went to Big 12 programs.
Now fast-forward to this year with signing day just a couple of weeks away. The landscape of Texas recruiting is dramatically different. With nine top-50 Texas recruits yet to make their commitments (binding or otherwise), the Big 12 can claim 16 players. The SEC, 17.
Additionally, Texas has just four* verbal commitments among those top 50 players. For reference, Alabama and Ole Miss also have three verbals, while LSU has four. Texas A&M has six. Therein lies the biggest concern regarding the SEC's presence in Texas: It's not just the Aggies doing damage.
(*It is worth noting, however, that Texas head coach Charlie Strong is a late bloomer in recruiting. This is the complete opposite approach from former Longhorns coach Mack Brown, who generally got kids to commit early. Strong closed hard and fast on the '15 class and could do the same this year.)
It was always reasonable to assume the SEC would have an increased impact in Texas recruiting because of A&M. That's a matter of simple numbers shifting from one conference to another. The Big 12 claims A&M's recruits in '09; the SEC claims them in '16.
What people like Dodds probably didn't foresee was other SEC programs getting a bigger chunk of the recruiting pie. Granted, programs like Arkansas and LSU always had some presence in Texas because of geographical proximity, but it would be naive not to notice the wealth has spread. In 2013 following A&M's first full season in the SEC, the Aggies had 13 of the SEC's 17 top-50 Texas recruits. For '16, A&M has six of 17.
Though the data charted references 247Sports, Dan Wolken of USA Today and Allen Kenney of Blatant Homerism noted similar trends using Scout.com and Rivals.com rankings:
The point being, the Big 12 no longer has a vice grip on its own recruiting territory. Yes, nearly every program in major college football recruits Texas in some capacity, but the newfound diversity is noteworthy.
How did this happen—beyond the typical conference infiltration, that is?
Winning is the simplest of theories. From 2006-07 to 2012-13, the SEC won seven straight BCS championships. Auburn played for an eighth in 2013-14. Because of this, people viewed the SEC as the strongest conference in major college football, usually by a country mile. As a result, the best conferences tend to attract the best talent.
Anyone who thinks that perception reign is over is sorely mistaken. Thanks to Alabama's 45-40 win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship, the SEC's perception is as bolstered as it's ever been, even if the East division was significantly weaker.
Meanwhile, Clemson routed the Big 12 champion, Oklahoma, in the Orange Bowl.
Will it take a Big 12 team to win a national championship for the trend to reverse? Does Oklahoma, Texas—or even Baylor or TCU—need to win the whole thing for the Big 12 to take back Texas on the recruiting trail?
It's too early to say. Even if, for example, the Sooners won a title next year, it could take another five years before we know for certain if the Big 12 has fixed its recruiting issue.
There's also the matter of exactly where blue-chip prospects are coming from—and they're not coming from Texas in the volume you'd think. Per a recent SportSource Analytics heat map, a large concentration of top-tier players came from the southeastern part of the United States:
Individually speaking, Texas is still a hotbed for talent, but the SEC region is loaded as well. Moving forward, the SEC is beginning to get the best of both worlds, while Big 12 programs are simply trying to win their own territories.
That's not the right combination for the Big 12.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless noted otherwise.
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Michigan's flip of 3-star defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour might not look like a huge recruiting win at first, but it could be monumental in the Wolverines' pursuit of the nation's No. 1 player.
Dwumfour tweeted early Monday that he was no longer committed to Penn State:
Three hours later, the defensive tackle announced he was committed to Michigan:
Dwumfour's decision to flip from the Nittany Lions to the Wolverines was widely expected by recruiting analysts after the Wayne, New Jersey, native officially visited Michigan on Jan. 15.
According to Sean Fitz of 247Sports, Dwumfour visited Penn State this past weekend, but the Nittany Lions still weren't able to keep him in their class.
Standing at 6'2" and weighing 286 pounds, Dwumfour is rated as the No. 58 defensive tackle in the country. He is the 25th pickup in Michigan's 2016 class, which is ranked No. 3 nationally behind LSU and rival Ohio State.
While he is far from the highest-ranked pickup in Michigan's class, Dwumfour could be the key to getting the nation's highest-ranked recruit—fellow New Jersey defensive tackle Rashan Gary.
Dwumfour was a high school teammate of 4-star running back Kareem Walker, who enrolled early at Michigan on Jan. 11, at De Paul Catholic in Wayne.
Both Walker and Dwumfour are close friends with Gary, and the three have talked about playing on the same team at the next level.
"(Walker, Gary and I) are like brothers," Dwumfour told Brandon Justice of SB Nation's Maize 'n Brew last week. "We spoke about (playing together) when we were young, and Kareem brings it up a lot now. It would be great if we could."
With Walker already on campus in Ann Arbor and Dwumfour now committed to the Wolverines, Michigan is one step closer to landing Gary, who is set to announce his decision next week on national signing day.
In terms of Dwumfour's potential impact on the field, Steve Lorenz of 247Sports called the defensive tackle an "important piece" for Michigan with 4-star commitment Jordan Elliott possibly flipping to Texas in the near future.
"With Jordan Elliott's situation with the Wolverines in flux, Dwumfour all of a sudden becomes an important piece to their 2016 puzzle," Lorenz wrote. "While there are questions about whether or not Dwumfour will qualify, we're told that he should be in good standing when it matters."
As for Penn State, Dwumfour's flip leaves the Nittany Lions with only one defensive tackle commitment for 2016 with a little more than a week left before national signing day.
Fitz noted Penn State once had four defensive tackle pledges in this class. The Nittany Lions are currently No. 14 nationally in 247Sports' Composite Team Rankings.
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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Quarterback play shapes the narrative of teams and conferences.
For all the talk of SEC dominance, there has always been a question under center. Next year more than most, people from outside the region will use the state of SEC quarterbacks to argue against the conference.
But how does the SEC actually stack up with its peers? And which of those peers carries the banner into next season?
To answer those questions, I've projected the winner of each Power Five quarterback battle, then sorted those projected winners into categories. From there, I gave each conference a grade based on how it should feel about its quarterbacks.
Both of those required subjective reasoning, so I anticipate disagreement. Just know that I do not hate your conference. I used both college production and high school recruiting rankings to inform my decisions, but in the end, these grades came down to gut feelings.
Let me know where you disagree!
Florida State University and Erica Kinsman, who accused former Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston of rape in 2012, have agreed to a settlement in a Title IX lawsuit Kinsman filed a year ago, according to Rachel Axon of USA Today.
Per Axon, "FSU agreed to pay Kinsman $950,000—an amount that includes attorney’s fees—as well as make a five-year commitment to awareness, prevention and training programs. The lump sum is the largest settlement for Title IX claims regarding indifference to a student’s sexual assault."
The university didn't acknowledge or admit to liability in the settlement, however, and president John Thrasher maintained that the decision was made to avoid mounting legal costs in the incident, despite the fact that he was convinced the university would have "prevailed" in the lawsuit.
Kinsman sued the school after claiming Florida State was “deliberately indifferent” to her accusations of sexual assault, while also claiming the school interfered with the investigation to protect Winston, who won a Heisman Trophy and led Florida State to a national championship.
Kinsman ultimately left the school in November 2013, while Winston was the top overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft and just finished his rookie campaign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I will always be disappointed that I had to leave the school I dreamed of attending since I was little,” Kinsman said in a statement, per Axon. “I am happy that FSU has committed to continue making changes in order to ensure a safer environment for all students.”
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has continued its Title IX investigation against the school.
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The Michigan football program enters the offseason as a popular way-too-early favorite for 2016, but the Wolverines have a handful of goals to accomplish before the campaign even begins.
A large group of returning standouts provides the main reason pundits love Jim Harbaugh's team. However, a top-notch recruiting class and a small yet important batch of new starters and role players are just as important.
For Michigan to reach its perceived potential next season, though, the roster needs to avoid the two types of major setbacks and keep its best talents on the field and off the sideline.
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 Pro-Style Quarterbacks.
No position can impact a recruiting class and, ultimately, the long-term outlook of a college football program quite like quarterback. The rise of true freshman starters increases stakes for coaching staffs aiming to quickly upgrade offensive attacks.
This 2016 recruiting cycle is packed with potential standout pro-style passers, and we've spent years monitoring their development in high school action and competitive camp settings. Here's our breakdown of America's top-ranked prospects at the position, including scores based on individual assessments of arm strength, accuracy, pocket presence, mobility and decision-making tendencies.
All prospects scouted by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. Players ordered by appearance in 247Sports' composite rankings.
In the College Football Playoff era, scheduling is increasingly important. As Baylor and TCU found out in 2014, a glossy resume means little when it is loaded with wins over weak non-Power Five foes. Power Five schools have upgraded their schedules, moving toward having at least one, if not two marquee nonconference games on their slate.
That’s great news for you, the college football fan. Meaningful games are far more fun to watch than a Power Five team motoring through an overmatched FCS or Sun Belt foe. Those games are still on the schedules, of course, but having big-time games that shape the playoff picture are crucial to the season. Here is a look at the top 25 nonconference games that are on deck for 2016.
However, last week, LSU got involved with another prospect when they offered in-state 3-star passer Lindsey Scott.
That offer was enough of a trigger to get the 5’11”, 205-pounder to back off an earlier pledge to Syracuse.
According to Sonny Shipp of Geaux247, Scott will take a visit to Baton Rouge on the weekend of Jan. 29—which is just days before national signing day.
Shipp noted that Scott had previously visited Tulane and took trips to visit Big Ten members Rutgers and Maryland last weekend.
While Scott doesn’t have the size of other touted quarterbacks such as Franks, he was one of the most productive players in the country this past season, accounting for more than 5,000 yards of total offense and 61 touchdowns.
With LSU getting his last visit, it appears as if Scott could fill the biggest remaining hole in the Tigers’ top-rated class.
Michigan State offers 2016 Michigan Pledge
However, in-state rival Michigan State is trying to make a late run at Onwenu, as the Spartans offered him last week.
According to Mike Wilson of 247Sports, Onwenu subsequently scheduled an official visit to East Lansing that took place last weekend.
While he’s been a longtime Wolverines pledge, it will be interesting to monitor whether that trip gave him something to think about over the final days before signing day.
Notre Dame Offers Stud 2017 RB
Notre Dame has commitments from two touted running back prospects in its 2016 recruiting class.
However, Irish head coach Brian Kelly and his staff are already scouting the position for talented prospects in the 2017 class.
Last week, the Irish offered 4-star rusher A.J. Dillon.
According to Tom Loy of 247Sports, the Irish have emerged as “one of his leaders” and will be in the thick of his recruitment until he announces his commitment in May.
Florida State After 2017 Alabama RB Pledge
However, other schools are likely to try to poach one of them, given the Tide’s wealth of riches in the backfield.
Last week, Florida State officially entered the mix with Akers after extending an offer to him.
As Paul Jones of 247Sports detailed, Akers is still firmly committed to the Tide but intends to give other schools a chance to recruit him. That means the door could be slightly cracked for schools such as FSU to make a run at him in the coming months.
Best of the Rest
- West Virginia offered linebacker Kaelin Hemphill. Justin Hopkins of 247Sports noted that the Mountaineers also offered 4-star athlete Beau Bisharat.
- Arkansas offered 3-star linebacker Giovanni LaFrance, who committed to the Razorbacks shortly afterward.
- Pittsburgh offered 3-star quarterback Hendon Hooker. The Panthers also offered fellow passer Matt McKay.
- Michigan State offered 3-star defensive tackle Dalyn Wade-Perry. According to Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247, the Spartans also offered 4-star defensive tackle Corey Bolds.
- Oklahoma offered 4-star receiver and current FSU pledge D.J. Matthews. The Sooners also offered 3-star receiver Leroy Henley.
- Scout’s Greg Biggins reported that Arizona offered 4-star athlete and current USC pledge Thomas Graham.
- USC offered 5-star defensive end Joshua Kaindoh. The Trojans also offered 5-star corner and current Ohio State pledge Shaun Wade. According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, the Trojans also offered linebacker Brandon James and corner Shawn Davis.
- Auburn offered 4-star offensive lineman Robert Hainsey. The Tigers also offered 3-star offensive lineman and current Florida pledge Kadeem Telfort.
- Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports reported that Ohio State offered quarterback Phil Jurkovec. Adam Friedman of Rivals reported that Tennessee also offered Jurkovec.
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — With a little more than a week to go until national signing day, Urban Meyer currently lays claim to the nation's second-ranked 2016 class, with the potential to reclaim the No. 1 spot, as room for two or three more prospects in the class remains.
Regardless of where Ohio State's final ranking lands, the Buckeyes are well on their way to their fifth consecutive top-seven class under Meyer, with each class ranking as the Big Ten's best in their respective years.
Yet despite Meyer's unprecedented recruiting run in Columbus, which will likely include four top-five finishes after next week, the fifth-year Ohio State head coach appears to only just be getting started.
In fact, Meyer's best classes with the Buckeyes could very well still be ahead of him.
If the three-time national champion head coach has been selling promise since arriving at Ohio State in 2012, then his 2016 class marks the first that he was able to truly pitch on results, with the Buckeyes just one year removed from winning 2014's College Football Playoff. By the time the confetti had settled in Arlington, Texas, last winter, Ohio State's 2015 class was already practically full, with Meyer adding just four of the class' 27 members between the national title game and signing day.
"I thought maybe we might turn, but that didn't happen," Meyer answered on national signing day last year when asked if the Buckeyes received a boost from their victory in the playoff. "There's a few that helped us.
"Certainly, [in] '16, you've seen a jolt."
That "jolt" has come in the form of a class that currently sits at 22 members, including 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa and 15 4-star prospects. Meyer and his staff remain in the market for at least one defensive back and potentially a defensive tackle, with the Buckeyes still in the hunt for 4-star athlete Jordan Fuller, 4-star cornerback Damar Hamlin and 4-star defensive tackle Karamo Dioubate.
While the merits of Ohio State's upcoming class speak for themselves, its 2017 haul may wind up being even more impressive.
With national signing day for 2016 yet to have even taken place, the Buckeyes' 2017 class currently ranks as the nation's best. Ohio State received eight commitments to its 2017 class within seven months of its championship victory over Oregon, at which time it had already held a pledge from 4-star quarterback Danny Clark.
If the Buckeyes' 2016 class was the start of their post-championship recruiting bump, then 2017 could very well be its climax, with Ohio State already laying claim to the nation's third-ranked player, 5-star offensive tackle Josh Myers, and very much in the running for several of the nation's top uncommitted prospects.
"I tell people it was like a 30‑day infomercial," Meyer said of his program's time in the spotlight last winter. "Go pay for positive advertisement for 30 days and see what that looks like. That's basically what it was."
On top of the Buckeyes' success on the field breeding success off of it, Meyer has taken additional steps toward ensuring his program maintains its momentum on the recruiting trail.
When defensive coordinator Chris Ash—who had successfully recruited 4-star wide receiver K.J. Hill and 3-star cornerback Damon Arnette to Columbus in 2015—left to become the head coach at Rutgers, Meyer enlisted in the services of former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano to fill the void. With an impressive track record on the recruiting trail with the Scarlet Knights and NFL experience as a head coach under his belt, Schiano could ultimately prove to be an upgrade to Ohio State's staff, at least as far as attracting talent is concerned.
"I enjoy the competitiveness of it and enjoy being able to acquire really good people and players to make your team whole," Schiano said upon his arrival in Columbus. "Some people, that scares them off. I actually enjoy that part."
That isn't the only change to the Buckeyes staff this offseason.
Bumping tight ends and fullbacks coach Tim Hinton to an administrative role, Meyer hired former LSU offensive line coach Greg Studrawa to serve in the same capacity at Ohio State. During his time with the Tigers, Studrawa helped land a number of highly touted prospects, including 5-star wide receiver Rueben Randle, 4-star linebacker Barkevious Mingo and 4-star athlete and Cincinnati native Spencer Ware.
Studrawa's impact—if any—will be minimal in the Buckeyes' upcoming class, but it could make a major difference in 2017 and beyond. That will hold especially true as Ohio State rebuilds an offensive line unit that will replace three starters in 2016 and at least one more in 2017.
As is often the case in recruiting, the rich get richer, and the Buckeyes appear poised to do just that. Jim Harbaugh may be generating the headlines—and will also be in contention for the nation's top-ranked class come signing day—but Meyer's program is hitting on all cylinders, as evidenced by its 50-4 record on the field in the past four seasons.
Off the field, Meyer has been arguably even more successful and is only gaining steam. Where Ohio State's upcoming class—and the one after that—will wind up slotted remains to be seen, but it won't be hard to find the Buckeyes in the recruiting rankings in the coming years.
Just keep looking toward the top.
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 cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
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It's the offseason, which means there will be an increased focus on legislative issues like autonomy, player welfare and, yes, the future of the Big 12.
The NCAA voted to deregulate conference requirements for football championship games earlier this month, which allows the 10-team Big 12 the possibility to hold a title game with its current membership, provided that it continues its round-robin scheduling.
As my Bleacher Report colleague Ben Kercheval pointed out earlier this month, simply holding a championship game as is mandates that the eventual conference champion must beat its second-best team twice if it wants to finish the season unblemished.
Expansion would prevent that, and Oklahoma president David Boren stoked the flames of expansion in a statement to the Oklahoma Daily:
The Big 12 is disadvantaged when compared to the other conferences in three ways. We do not have at least twelve members, we do not have a conference network, and we do not have a championship game. I think that all three of these disadvantages need to be addressed at the same time. Addressing only one without addressing all three will not be adequate to improve the strength of the conference.
Well hello to you, expansion talk, annual Goliath of the college football offseason.
The fact that Oklahoma is vocal about its displeasure and openly politicking for change has spurred several articles speculating what would happen if the Big 12 doesn't expand and how the SEC could scoop up the Sooners, including from Chadd Scott of GridironNow.com and Jay Clemons of SECCountry.com.
Let's hold off on forcing the issue of this becoming the sequel to the realignment bonanza of the 2009 and 2010 offseasons. It's not going to become that.
Not even close.
Why on earth would the SEC expand now?
For the television market in Oklahoma City that currently ranks 43rd in the country, according to Nielsen? For No. 60 Tulsa?
That mattered much more in the era prior to the SEC Network, when Missouri and Texas A&M brought in four media markets in the top 33 (Dallas, Houston, St. Louis and Kansas City).
National carriers DirecTV, DISH Network, Verizon Fios and AT&T U-Verse already have the SEC Network packaged with other sports channels, and it is in the sports and info tier on Cox in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas along with ESPNU, NFL Network, MLB Network and other comparable channels.
Yes, the eyeballs of Sooner fans—or any other fanbase for that matter—will increase the ratings of the network. But the market is already paying for it now, so any added revenue would be minimal.
The SEC distributed $435 million out of a total revenue of $455.8 million last year at spring meetings—an average of $31.2 million per school. According to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today, that total revenue will jump to $527.4 million for the fiscal year that ended on Aug. 31, 2015.
Are the 14 schools currently in the SEC willing to split that among a few more schools, even though from a visibility standpoint they won't add much in terms of subscriptions to the SEC Network?
Of course not.
The only way the SEC even considers expansion is if the entire landscape blows like it would have in the ill-fated Pac-16 scenario Texas tried to orchestrate in 2010. If that happens and simply adding teams for synergy purposes in order to create four 16-team leagues becomes the primary goal, then sure, the addition of Oklahoma (or any prestigious teams) would make a ton of sense.
It doesn't make sense now from the SEC's perspective, though.
The conference is doing just find with its current membership. SEC inclusion certainly is desirable for outside programs due to the financial windfall and massive exposure the current programs enjoy.
Would they want to share that?
Of course not.
While the sands might be shifting in the Big 12 now, the SEC footprint is currently registering a 0.0 on the realignment Richter scale.
It's about as stable as it can be.
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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During much of the past decade, the Tennessee football program had so many needs in the offseason to compete for championships that they could be sorted by chapters rather than checklists.
Now, after three progressive years under coach Butch Jones, the Volunteers appear only to need to hone some things to be in position to battle the SEC's top programs for the conference title in 2016.
An upperclassmen-laden roster full of talent, former top-shelf recruits, depth (finally) and bolstered by the return of Cameron Sutton, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Alvin Kamara looks ready to return UT to contention.
Getting to nine wins in 2015 means considerable buzz in the months between now and the season's start, and the Vols will be trendy picks for the SEC East. But they can't worry about all that.
Among Jones' mantras that have become cliches to Tennessee fans over his tenure include preaching about getting "1 percent better" every day and how the "power of one" player working toward team goals can lead to a team accomplishing its goals.
So, what are the things the Vols need to focus on most between now and early September?
As the final weeks before national signing day morph into spring practice followed by the offseason strength and conditioning program, the Vols should have a narrower list of improvements to make than at any time in Jones' time in Rocky Top.
Let's take a look at a few things that need to be on that list in order to help UT take yet another step forward.
Charlie Strong has already made the biggest move of Texas' offseason, but there's plenty more on his wish list with national signing day looming.
Strong scored his first big victory of the 2016 season by hiring Sterlin Gilbert to be his new offensive coordinator. The former Tulsa assistant brings the spread attack Strong has wanted since he came to Austin, and he gives Texas a chance to turn around the nation's No. 83 scoring offense (per cfbstats.com).
That was just the first step on a long path.
Now Texas has to find a quarterback, finish strong on the recruiting trail and sort out a couple of question marks on the roster. Accomplishing all of that will likely determine whether Strong is still Texas' coach in 2017.
This time last year, Ohio State was coming off a historic postseason run and was the odds-on favorite to repeat as national champion in 2015. But after falling short of that goal and losing eight starters on each side of the ball, the tone for this offseason will be very different in Columbus, Ohio.
The Buckeyes, who are currently working through their winter conditioning, will be filling out a new-look two-deep rotation while breaking in a key new addition to the coaching staff.
With so many questions and unknowns surrounding Urban Meyer's squad, here are five things to watch during a crucial offseason.
Signings over the next two weeks could change things, but right now six teams stand out for having recruited the best skill talent in the 2016 class.
"Recruiting the best skill talent," as defined by this list, means having five or more commitments from quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers or tight ends whose grade exceeds .9000 on 247Sports' composite ratings.
Players who rank below the .9000 threshold could, of course, emerge and become superstars, but that's not what this list is trying to identify. It's using the composite because those rankings, while obviously imperfect, are the best source we have to rely on.
Here are the teams who the consensus says attracted the best skill talent.
Who do you think will join them after signing day?
While the NFL will celebrate its glorious presence with the AFC and NFC Championship Games on Sunday, fans had a chance to get a look at some potential future studs in the 2016 East-West Shrine Game Saturday.
The West rolled over the East 29-9, and Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. was responsible for the majority of the scoring. He completed 6 of 9 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Adams accumulated his monster total in less than two quarters of play, as he was subbed out before halftime and would not return to action.
Adams' best play was this Shrine Game record 93-yard touchdown pass to Purdue wide receiver Danny Anthrop:
A stunning play, but it wasn't even the longest of the game. That honor would belong to Florida cornerback Brian Poole, who picked off Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty and returned it 98 yards for a touchdown, one of the few highlight plays for the East squad:
Poole compared his play to New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler's famous theft from last year's Super Bowl.
"It was similar to the play that happened in the Super Bowl last year," Poole said, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).
"I saw the one receiver line up on the ball and the other line up off the ball, so I knew he was going to try work in the slot and I just jumped the route," Poole added, per the AP. "The quarterback didn't see me."
Poole wasn't the only defensive back with some notable thievery on the day.
Suiting up for the West, Wisconsin safety Michael Caputo nabbed two interceptions and defensive MVP honors. One of those interceptions came off his teammate, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave, who played for the East. The strange situation was not lost on Caputo.
"How weird was it? It wasn't weird. It was cool,'' Caputo said, per UWBadgers.com. ''Whether it would stop my former QB or not, I just read the play and I just jumped it.''
The game was indeed a lopsided affair, but the score is mostly irrelevant. Those individual highlights, along with the insights gleaned from the exhibition and the practices leading up to it, are what really matter for the players involved and the scouts looking on.
Here's a quick rundown of the three players who did the most to improve their draft stock, taking into account both practice buzz and their in-game performances.
Top Performers Who Boosted Draft Stock
Vernon Adams Jr., QB, Oregon
After his magnificent display on Saturday, NFL scouts are surely going to take an extra-hard look at Adams' game film from this season, and they should like what they see for the most part.
The senior signal-caller improved as the season wore on, finishing with 26 touchdown passes and six interceptions. His 407 yards and six touchdowns against USC on Nov. 21 was one of the best performances by any quarterback in 2015.
While he only threw nine passes in the Shrine Game, West coach June Jones assured folks Adams was pinpoint in practice as well, per College Football 24/7:
"I just showed (scouts) I can play this game. ... Hopefully I can get a chance with some team. I've overcome (size questions) my whole life. It's not new to me, and I know how to play the position," said Adams, per NFL.com's Chase Goodbread.
Detractors will look to Adams' relatively slight build (5'11", 201 pounds) and the fact that he doesn't appear to add much value as a runner. However, he did show he's capable of buying time in the pocket on the 93-yard bomb to Anthrop, and the likes of Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have proved short QBs can get it done at the next level.
Adams doesn't appear to be the type of player who can step in immediately at the next level. However, with the right system and some seasoning he could turn out to be a serviceable pro quarterback.
Victor Ochi, DE/LB, Stony Brook
It can be tough to get noticed playing football at Stony Brook. The school is tucked away on the North Shore of Long Island in New York, and the football program plays in the FCS's Colonial Athletic Association, not exactly a hotbed of NFL-caliber talent. When Seawolves (that's the Stony Brook mascot) get an opportunity to shine in front of scouts, they have to show up.
Defensive end/linebacker Victor Ochi did exactly that in both practices and the Shrine Game itself. Check out his strong first steps and closing speed on this sack, per Optimum Scouting's Eric Galko:
He was a menace on several other plays, displaying the kind of relentless motor that commands respect from offensive lineman and attention from observers. Ochi's burst and pass-rush moves were evident in practice as well, impressing First Coast News' Mike Kaye:
CBS Sports' Dane Brugler noted how Ochi makes up for his lack of size:
At only 6-1, Ochi obviously lacks ideal height, but he has longer arms (33 1/2-inch) than most players his size, shooting his limbs at the point of attack and using his violent hands to fend off blockers. His lack of ideal measureables will take him off the board for several teams, but he has the talent to contribute in sub-package situations and a smart defensive coordinator will figure out how to use his strengths.
With the obvious caveat that the level of competition in the CAA is a far cry from that of a Power Five conference, to say nothing of the NFL, Ochi had little trouble overcoming his disadvantages for Stony Brook. He racked up 32.5 sacks in his collegiate career, 24 of them coming in the last two seasons.
History is not on Ochi's side, as Brugler also points out that a Stony Brook player has never been selected in the NFL draft. That said, NFL teams can always find use for a guy who can come in on third downs and create chaos. Based on the Shrine Game, Ochi would appear to have an excellent chance of doing exactly that at the next level.
Geronimo Allison, WR, Illinois
It didn't matter who was playing quarterback, Illinois wide receiver Geronimo Allison found a way to make plays on Saturday. Playing for the West, Allison caught two touchdown passes, one from Adams and another from Indiana's Nate Sudfeld.
Real GM's Jeff Risdon felt Allison did more than most to improve his draft stock:
West wide receivers coach Terance Mathis predicted Allison would have a good outing, per NFL analyst Bucky Brooks:
The signs were definitely there in practice. NFL Draft Bible's Christian Shanafelt provided video evidence of Allison using his smooth stride and solid route running to get open in practice:
There is plentymorewhere that came from.
Unlike Adams and Ochi, Allison is blessed with the size (6'4") that is coveted at his position—though he could stand to pack a few more pounds onto his lanky frame.
The senior wideout caught 106 passes for 1,408 yards and eight touchdowns over the past two seasons. If he can put in a good combine and keep impressing the scouts, it would seem Allison could fashion himself into an early-round prospect by the time the draft rolls around.
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Baker Mayfield is a man of many talents. But as if his killer whip weren't enough, he's added one more to his repertoire—lip-syncing.
The Oklahoma Sooners quarterback treated the Norman Public Schools PTA council to a once-in-a-lifetime performance of Katy Perry's "California Gurls" at a fundraising event Saturday night.
The gig featured Mayfield wearing a rainbow-colored wig and bright green tutu, which was the real selling point.
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The 2016 East-West Shrine Game was dominated by the Western squad in a 29-9 victory, but it was more notable for the individual players who showcased their talents in front of NFL scouts Saturday.
Quarterbacks are always under the microscope in All-Star showcases like the East-West Shrine Game. While there was some erratic play from the position on both teams, Oregon Ducks star Vernon Adams put on a show for the West with plays like this 93-yard touchdown pass to Danny Anthrop:
Adams finished 6-of-9 for 191 yards and three touchdown passes, winning MVP honors.
This game continued Adams' trend of strong play, as the senior quarterback completed 75.5 percent of his passes for 1,175 yards, 12 touchdowns and one interception over his final four games with Oregon.
During the NFL Network broadcast, draft analyst Mike Mayock praised what he saw from Adams (via CollegeFootball 24/7):
Chris Biderman of Scout.com said that Adams' skill set will impress NFL fans during training camp:
Adams does have a lot of obstacles to overcome before he can make it to the NFL. At 5'11", 201 pounds, he may have to switch positions to find a spot in the league.
However, Benjamin Albright of 1340 AM in Denver noted he sees Adams as a quarterback in some league moving forward:
Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated also made a good point:
As far as the player on the receiving end of Adams' long touchdown pass, Anthrop has also gotten strong reviews for his effort throughout the week, per Jeff Risdon of RealGM:
Another player who shined for the West was Illinois wide receiver Geronimo Allison, who had two touchdowns and 37 yards on four catches. He also garnered positive buzz, per Risdon:
Allison struggled to garner national attention because Illinois has been a mediocre, at best, Big Ten program for years, but he put up 1,480 yards and eight touchdowns on 106 catches over the last two seasons.
The Illini wideout also has terrific size at 6'4" and 200 pounds, so his performance in the Shrine Game will help him move up draft boards as the scouting process rolls on.
Even though there were not a lot of big plays to celebrate on the East's side, Florida defensive back Brian Poole did one-up Adams' 93-yard score with this pick-six against Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty:
That was as good as things got for the East on either side of the ball, though some strong individual performances stood out.
Every year during the predraft process, players from smaller schools pop up on the radar. Based on the results, both during the week and in Saturday's game, Stony Brook defensive end/linebacker Victor Ochi is going to get a lot of attention.
The 22-year-old was an unstoppable force for the East team. He entered the game as a projected third-round pick, according to Risdon, with scouts telling Risdon they had reservations about his small stature (6'1") and lack of versatility as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
However, Ochi gets to the quarterback. The Stony Brook star sacked Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld using lightning-quick speed and timing at the snap to get around the left tackle.
After that play, Shane Alexander of Inside the Pylon noted the pass-rusher's bank account is going to look a lot better in three months:
One of the key things to take away from Ochi's performance, beyond the measurables, is what he's capable of doing.
Jared Tokarz of Who's Next Football summed up why Ochi deserves more attention from NFL teams:
The ability to get after the quarterback is a rare skill that teams will always pay for. The NFL is a pass-first league, so it's vital to have players who can disrupt the backfield with sacks or force the quarterback to move and throw off-balance.
One player for the East whose numbers won't impress is Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock. Coming into the game, Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted one NFL offensive coach called the Wolverines star "a poor man's Andy Dalton."
Wisconsin's Michael Caputo picked Rudock off in the end zone, but he responded on the East's final drive with a terrific pass into the corner of the end zone that showed textbook touch and accuracy. Chris Brown dropped it, though, so he had nothing to show for it.
There will be plenty of time for Rudock, and other stars who struggled, to improve his draft stock. This was just a brief snapshot of where players are in their development heading into the long scouting process.
Not surprisingly, the glow was still on Adams after the game. June Jones, who was coaching the West team, had an interesting classification for the Oregon quarterback, per Feldman:
Adams did remain humble despite his brilliant performance, just saying he is hoping to get a chance, per College Football 24/7:
During the NFL Network broadcast, per College Football 24/7, Mayock speculated that former Oregon and current San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly was "taking a look at Vernon Adams and seeing what he can do."
There are plenty of teams, including the 49ers, that will have to answer questions at quarterback this offseason. Adams just gave all of them a little more to think about, even if he has to start his pro career as a backup.
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The Moss football family tree will branch out again to the college football ranks, as Thaddeus Moss, the son of former NFL superstar Randy Moss, announced his commitment to N.C. State on Saturday.
The younger Moss—the nation’s No. 18 tight end, per 247Sports—chose the Wolfpack over Texas A&M, but he also took visits to USC and UCLA and fielded offers from a slew of top-tier schools, including Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma and West Virginia, the state in which his father grew up.
He announced his decision on Twitter, posting a picture with head coach Dave Doeren at an N.C. State basketball game:
The 3-star tight end is a 6’3”, 240-pound brute out of Mallard Creek (Charlotte, North Carolina) and said proximity and loyalty were the primary factors in his decision.
"It just felt right," Moss said, per Tom VanHaaren of ESPN.com. "It's close to home, it felt right, and they kept it real with me from day one. N.C. State was the first team to offer, and loyalty was rewarded.”
He also said the prospect of playing immediately weighed heavily on his commitment.
"I believe in Coach Doeren and his vision with the program. I'll have early playing time, tight ends are vital in the offense and the coaching staff has kept it real with me since day one,” Moss said, per Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.
The Wolfpack return starting redshirt senior David Grinnage and sophomore Cole Cook, but neither had a remarkable season in 2015, meaning Moss could contribute early.
Randy Moss was a college star for two seasons at Marshall before leading a Hall of Fame-worthy career in the NFL. With the Thundering Herd, he was a statistical machine, compiling 20.3 yards per catch with 54 total touchdowns and 15 games eclipsing 100 receiving yards.
His son appreciates those accolades but wants to establish his own milestones away from his father’s shadow. Moss said he leaned on his father some during the recruiting process but that the decision was all his, per VanHaaren:
For the most part, he really let me go about the process on my own. I asked for his opinion and for him to sit down with the coaches and talk, but I asked for that these last few weeks. He voiced his opinion, and we had in-depth conversations about what was best for me and what was best for the family.
N.C. State finished 7-6 last season yet was third in the ACC in scoring (33.2 points per game), behind only Clemson and North Carolina, the two teams that played for the conference title.
Bringing in a tight end like Moss as another offensive weapon should help translate established production into more wins.
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The fans had started gathering before the sun rose and then steadily kept coming to secure good spots, even though every part of them screamed to get back inside.
Yes, the University of Alabama may be proficient at winning national championships, but they weren’t going to miss Saturday’s on-campus parade and celebration no matter what the temperature gauge indicated.
Not only could they have their photos taken with some of the prestigious trophies the Crimson Tide had accumulated, but it would also be the last time the 2015 team would be together. To them the biting wind was a worthwhile price to pay.
“First of all let me thank each and every one of you for coming out; we certainly appreciate you braving the cold and the conditions that we have today, but that kind of spirit exemplifies what the University of Alabama stands for, and that kind of spirit characterizes what this team was all about this year,” head coach Nick Saban said.
“I’ve said it many times how much I’ve loved this team. The togetherness that this team had was something special and unique, and I think they accomplished what they did because they traded ‘I’ and ‘me’ for ‘we’ for ‘us,’ and there was no selfishness on this ream.”
Thus the theme for both the celebration and this past season’s team was resiliency, and it was in abundance.
In addition to the temperature hovering just above freezing when the parade started at 11 a.m., the entire area was under a wind advisory—15 to 25 mph with higher gusts up to 35 mph.
It was cold by anyone’s standards, local residents and visitors alike, and it gave the estimated 14,000 who attended a taste of Chicago-type weather in the winter.
Yet few left early, even though everthing was broadcast live on local TV and the SEC Network.
This was the fourth time Alabama has celebrated a national championship since Saban arrived in 2007—two were stadium celebrations and the last two have been parades—but the weather cooperated those times during what’s always a big recruiting weekend.
Although there was a short parade route, from Denny Chimes and the area known as the quad where fans tailgate before games at Bryant-Denny Stadium, that part of the festivities was in the sunshine and had the players moving around.
Cheerleaders, majorettes and marching band members had to be available hours beforehand in uniform. For them that meant the equivalent of a warm-up suit, and there was only so much they could wear under their sanctioned Crimson Tide garb.
During the ceremony the players sat on cold, metal bleachers in a shaded, raised area at the entrance to Bryant-Denny Stadium, so they felt the wind more than anyone else. Many wore thick hoodies under their jerseys, but it wasn’t enough.
After throwing souvenirs to the crowd during the parade, many didn’t have gloves. In the front row linebacker Reuben Foster took off his scarf and wrapped his fingers in it during the numerous speeches and trophy presentations.
“It takes all of us to keep the Tide rising,” Alabama athletic director Bill Battle said.
“It does not get any better than this,” first-year university president Stuart R. Bell said.
“That sound is regularly music to my ears,” league commissioner Greg Sankey said after being greeted by an “SEC” chant.
“I started as the eighth commissioner of the Southeastern Conference on June 1, and I spent a lot of time listening to people wonder if we were still the best conference in college football. No one is wondering any more.” The SEC Network congratulated Alabama via Twitter:
Meanwhile, fans and reporters saw numerous players for the first time since Alabama defeated Clemson 45-40 on Jan. 11.
Defensive end Jonathan Allen's left arm was in a sling after having shoulder surgery. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey was on crutches with a cast on his left foot. Cornerback Tony Brown, who had been suspended and sent home from the Cotton Bowl, did participate. Humphrey's father, Bobby, expressed his joy in being able to spend time with his son during Alabama's celebratory activities:
But the speeches seemed to get shorter the colder everyone got, including the farewell messages team captains made before unveiling the added “2015” lettering next to Saban’s statue along the Walk of Champions.
Quarterback Jake Coker: “Thank you all for coming out. This year—I’ve never had so much fun playing football in my life. Y’all have been the biggest part of that; I can’t say how much I appreciate you all coming out. Thank you all for this year, and thank you all for everything.”
Linebacker Reggie Ragland: “If it wasn’t for my teammates, I wouldn’t have had the year that I had. They supported me through the good times and the bad times, and they know that I had a lot of bad times, and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be where I am now. Roll Tide!”
Center Ryan Kelly: “Thanks for coming out. I’m very fortunate that I can always call this place my home. It’s because of all the people in the stands today, all the fans who made playing here so special, all the guys who are standing behind me who are truly brothers to me and all the coaches who put so much work into making us [better]. I’d just like to say thank you for everything so far; it’s been an incredible opportunity and Roll Tide!”
Running back Derrick Henry: “Thank you all for coming out. I love you boys,\; they’re like my brothers. This final year has been unbelievable. God has been good to us, plus winning the SEC two years in a row, the national championship and me bringing the second Heisman Trophy, it’s just been unbelievable for me— the coaches, the team, the nutritionist, the trainers, just unbelievable. God’s been very good to us, and we’ve been very fortunate. Thank you all for everything and Roll Tide!”
Finally, after Alabama was re-awarded both the Cotton Bowl Trophy and the crystal football, otherwise known as the Coaches' Trophy—which again caused a nervous moment due to having an unsteady stand (in 2011 Alabama’s trophy shattered after a parent tripped on a rug)—Saban got his chance to speak.
This time his message would be very different from 2009, when he declared: "I want everybody here to know this is not the end; this is the beginning."
It was more about appreciating what this team accomplished.
“This celebration is really not about all of the other championships that we’ve won or how many we’ve won or how many we’ve won over the last seven years,” he said. “This championship, this day, was for this team and what they were able to accomplish.”
So even though the wind blew the confetti away from the celebration and a lot of the players didn’t wait for the marching band to finish the fight song “Yea Alabama” before heading for the warm busses, it was all still kind of fitting.
Nothing came easy for this year’s national champions, who played a brutal schedule, rallied from an early-season loss and found ways to grind out wins. Even more than its impressive talent, the effort and determination the team showed this past season will be its biggest legacy over the years.
That’s why Saban called it the most special of his five national championships.
“The hard work and sacrifices this team has done, I think you should really appreciate,” Saban said. “To face 12 straight elimination games after the Ole Miss [loss]. The resiliency, the competitive character that this team showed at being able to do that, and even coming back from behind in the national championship game, really shows the spirit that made this team something special.”
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.
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The 2015 college football season is over, and it was a lot of fun. A well-played, competitive season ended with a tremendous College Football Playoff National Championship Game in which Alabama outlasted Clemson 45-40 for its fourth national title under Nick Saban’s watch. With the deadline to declare for the NFL draft behind us, it’s time to turn attention toward the 2016 regular season, which is just over seven months away.
While a number of top juniors declared for the draft, college football should be just as exciting in 2016 as it was in 2015. With five of the top seven finishers in Heisman Trophy voting returning and talented players departing, previously unheralded backups have a chance to shine. USA Today's Daniel Uthman put together a great list of the best players who passed up the draft this month.
Here are some reasons why college football will be even better in 2016.