NCAA Football News

Georgia Football: 5 Goals for Brian Schottenheimer's Offense in 2015

The arrival of longtime NFL offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has piqued the interest not only of Georgia Bulldog fans, but of fans around the country.  

On one hand, the Dawgs return many components of what was a record-setting offense in 2014.  Most notably, freshman sensation Nick Chubb is back, and he'll be running behind four returning starters along the offensive line.

On the other hand, Schottenheimer is a big name who coached with debatable results at the professional level.  His ability to navigate the college game is somewhere between unproven and unknown.

With these factors in mind, what can be expected out of Schottenheimer in his first season?  Here are five goals for Georgia's offense in 2015.

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Alabama Football: Why Is Nick Saban Letting His Defensive Coaches Leave?

The coaching silly season has been eventful in the SEC and profitable for moving companies.

Assistant coaches have made road trips to find new homes all around the SEC, and this week was particularly big for moving companies in Tuscaloosa.

LSU hired inside linebackers coach Kevin Steele to become the new defensive coordinator of the Tigers, a role once occupied by new Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis. Prior to his time at the Capstone, Steele served as the defensive coordinator of Clemson (2009-2012) and Alabama (2007), and was Baylor's head coach from 1999-2002.

Just one day later, outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson left his post in Tuscaloosa to coach the linebackers for head coach Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp at Auburn.

"I'm excited to have Lance Thompson join our staff. Lance is very familiar with Will having worked with him before," Malzahn said in a release. "He's an outstanding coach and an outstanding recruiter who is very familiar with our state and the Southeastern Conference. Lance will be a great addition to our staff."

Is head coach Nick Saban cleaning house?

Not really. 

Steele left for a better job at LSU, and whether Saban did or didn't give him a slight nudge to walk out the door, he still got a better gig as the head man in charge of one of the most talented defenses in the SEC at LSU.

Thompson, on the other hand, might be a different story, as Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com notes:

An excuse? Probably not.

It's common for Saban—and many other coaches—to fire assistants without actually firing them in order to keep their resumes looking good.

It's unlikely, though, that Saban expected Thompson—who was the third-best recruiter in the country in 2013 and was ranked fifth in 2015, per 247Sports, before the jump to Auburn skewed his ranking—to walk out the door and head 160 miles southeast to Auburn one day before the recruiting dead period ended. 

That's where Thompson and Steele's departures will make the biggest impact.

Saban is left looking to replace two on-field assistants quickly during a time where his focus really should be in the living rooms of high school prospects.

There is a quick fix available, though.

Tosh Lupoi served as an "intern" on Saban's staff last year but was a defensive line coach and defensive run game coordinator at Washington before the two mutually parted ways amidst an NCAA investigation into improper benefits. The NCAA later cleared Lupoi, according to Andrew Gribble formerly of AL.com, but he was left without an on-the-field job.

He finished fifth in the 2010 247Sports recruiter rankings when he was the defensive line coach for Cal and, according to Michael Casagrande of AL.com, worked with Thompson during practices this year at Alabama.

If Saban promotes Lupoi from within, would it be an upgrade? That remains to be seen.

It would, however, be a tweak to a defense that needs more of a tweak than a massive overhaul.

The last time we saw Alabama's defense on the field, it gave up 230 yards on the ground to Ezekiel Elliott in the Allstate Sugar Bowl national semifinal in the 42-35 loss to the Buckeyes. Part of the blame for that debacle does fall on the linebackers, who were out of position and missed tackles on the second level, which allowed Elliott and quarterback Cardale Jones to get yards in chunks.

It also forced safeties to creep down into the box to help out against the run, which played at least a small part in the inconsistencies in the pass defense over the last couple of years.

The timing isn't ideal, but the setup of Alabama's staff—particularly the off-the-field staff—limits the impact of losing on-field coaches during critical points of the year.

Alabama will be fine. It always is.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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CFB Recruiting 200: Top 200 Overall Recruits in Class of 2015

After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report recruiting analysts Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports Composite Rankings and provided in-depth analysis. As national signing day draws near, Bleacher Report provides a position-by-position breakdown of the best college football recruits. Today, we present the Overall Top 200

 

The Class of 2015 is loaded with impressive talent. It's perhaps strongest on the defensive side of the ball, but there are still a great deal of offensive players who will be major household names. 

Stud high school players from Florida, Texas and California dominate the top overall rankings, but nearly every state is represented in 247Sports Composite Rankings, which compile ratings listed by the major media recruiting services. 

Some of the players in the top overall rankings will go on to make an immediate impact next season, while others will continue to develop and learn before getting their chance to shine. 

This list provides a glimpse of college football's future stars and how they've arrived at this point. Continue on for our review of the rankings, complete with individual scouting reports and insight on each prospect.

Be sure to sound off in the comments below with your thoughts on overall rankings, scores and recruit projections.

 

Note: 247Sports Composite Rankings are scheduled to update on Monday, Jan. 19. We will update this list accordingly once new rankings are released.

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Georgia Football: Why the Bulldogs Will Win the SEC in 2015

The end of the college football season means fans will have to wait eight months before the new season kicks off. Fortunately, news for the upcoming season is always at their fingertips because various media outlets have already made their early predictions for the 2015 season.

Paul Myerberg of USA Today recently came out with his Top 25 for the upcoming season, and he has the Georgia Bulldogs at No. 14. But Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com has the Bulldogs ranked at No. 8, making them the highest-ranked SEC team in his poll.

The Bulldogs finished ninth in the AP poll, which is the first time they have finished in the Top 10 since 2012, when they finished No. 4. The following year, the Bulldogs struggled with injuries and barely finished in the Top 25.

2015 will be an interesting year for the Bulldogs because they will have 13 starters returning and will play a favorable schedule. And if the Bulldogs are able to stay healthy, they will be the odds-on favorite to win the SEC title.

Winning the SEC is not an easy task, as the Bulldogs have not won the title since 2005. But the team coming back this upcoming season could be the best team head coach Mark Richt has fielded in three years.

It all starts and ends with running back Nick Chubb, who took the college football world by storm with his ability to break tackles play after play. Chubb was second in the conference in rushing, and he was the starter for only half the season.

Georgia Bulldogs & NCAA Football Fans, can you say Nick Chubb for Heisman in 2015? This guy looks like a legitimate NFL RB & he's a Freshman

— ADJ Sports (@ADJSports) December 31, 2014

But Chubb is not the only one to watch on offense. His backup, Sony Michel, was able to be a key contributor when he was healthy. Michel has top-notch speed and has the ability to catch passes out of the backfield.

The offensive line was a big reason Chubb and Michel were able to run with success. They will miss David Andrews, but the line will return Greg Pyke, John Theus, Brandon Kublanow and Kolton Houston. The four returning starters made great strides in 2014, and they will have no issues meshing with the new starters.

But the one question on offense is quarterback. Brice Ramsey will likely be the new starter, and he was able to make some plays in the limited time he saw this season. But 2015 will be the first year Ramsey will have to face a full SEC schedule, which is not easy to get through.

The Bulldogs are hoping new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can utilize his NFL experience to get Ramsey more prepared for what he will face in September.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was in the same boat last season as he tried to get the players up to speed in terms of what he wanted on defense. And while the defense had some growing pains in the early stages of the season, it finished with very solid numbers.

The Bulldogs ranked second in the conference in passing defense, fifth in scoring defense and sixth in total defense. The defense will miss Ray Drew, Mike Thornton, Ramik Wilson, Amarlo Herrera and Damian Swann, but Pruitt will have a talented group of players to work with, including Lorenzo Carter, Jordan Jenkins, Dominick Sanders, Quincy Mauger and Aaron Davis.

Pruitt’s defense is about creating turnovers, and the Bulldogs were able to do that in a big way with a plus-16 turnover margin, which ranked fourth in the country. There is no reason they can’t do the same thing in 2015, especially with the players coming back in the secondary.

As it was mentioned earlier, the Bulldogs have a favorable schedule, which was not the case the last couple of seasons. The Bulldogs have only four true road games, and two of those games take place in the first two months of the season. The Bulldogs do have to face Alabama on October 3, but the game will be played in Athens, and the Crimson Tide will be fielding nine new starters on offense.

The Bulldogs will always have the talent to win the SEC, and as long as Richt is under center, they will always be in the hunt to contend for the conference title. They just can’t have too many slip-ups like they did last season; they must remain focused.

The Bulldogs will have their share of struggles in 2015, but with a guy like Chubb running the football, guys like Jenkins and Carter rushing the quarterback and a guy like Ramsey leading the offense, 2015 could be the season the Bulldogs stand tall at the Georgia Dome in December.

 

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Ranking Which 1st-Year College Football Head Coaches Will Succeed Most in 2015

There's already been a slew of coaching changes around the college football ranks as we now gear up for the second season of the new College Football Playoff—who else can't wait? 

From Jim Harbaugh at Michigan to Mike Riley at Nebraska, there are seven new coaching regimes being implemented at Power Five schools and a total of 15 new head coaches already signed up across the FBS. 

But which new head coaches will have the most success in 2015? Let's find out.

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Isaiah Holland Suspended: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The University of Colorado football team has indefinitely suspended freshman Isaiah Holland, who faces four felony charges after being arrested in October on allegations of sexual assault.

Alex Burness of the Daily Camera reported the news, noting that Holland is no longer enrolled at the school.

"We hold our student athletes to very high standards, and they know that when those are not met, there will be consequences," said athletic director Rick George, via Burness.

Holland was arrested early the morning of October 24. According to the campus police report, he allegedly entered a woman's dorm room uninvited and touched her without consent. He's charged with "sexual assault of an at-risk victim, sexual contact with an at-risk victim and two counts of second-degree burglary."

He has a preliminary hearing on Thursday, Jan. 22.

Holland, a 3-star offensive guard recruit from Littleton, Colorado, redshirted in his first season with the team. According to the school's athletics website, he is the son of Darius Holland, who enjoyed a successful career at Colorado and eventually won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers.

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Revenge of the SEC: College Football's Dominant Conference Won't Be Down Long

ATLANTA — I checked with my sources. The SEC is not surrendering to Urban Meyer.     

Y'all think the Mississippis and the Tide and the Dawgs and the Tigers, both of them, look like potted plants right about now, but their answer to the Urbanator is coming the next three weeks.

SEC coaches are going to roll up the long driveway at Buford High School in Buford, Georgia, and confirm commitments of some of that school's nine Division I prospects. SEC coaches are going to roll a few miles down the road to Grayson, where there are five seniors with D-I ability. They are going to swing around I-285 to Stephenson High in Stone Mountain, which has eight players with D-I offers.

Cedar Grove, also in DeKalb County, has Division I players. So does Archer in Gwinnett. Mays in Atlanta has five seniors committed to Division I schools.

These are schools within 25-32 miles of each other. We're not talking about the talent in the rest of the state, or the rest of the South. We're talking the same neighborhood.

Tom Lemming, a national recruiting analyst, said Gwinnett County, Georgia, in the Atlanta area, is the second-best county in the country for D-I talent, behind Broward in South Florida. Lemming had a seminar for Gwinnett rising seniors last fall, and 30 Division I prospects walked through the door.

Of the 75 players on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's thoroughly researched Super 75 for the state of Georgia, more than half are heading to SEC schools. That's one state.

On ESPN's Top 300, 56 of the top 80 prospects were in the SEC footprint. I stopped counting after 80 because, well, you get the point.

Meanwhile, NFL teams will sign more players from the SEC than those conferences in the Midwest, East, West and Southwest. Per NFL.com's Mike Huguenin, the SEC has had the most players drafted for eight straight years, which proves the conference hauls in talent and develops it.

That casket being lowered into the ground, the one supposed to be full of an SEC corpse, is empty.

There is no question Meyer is back as the best coach in college football, but he's won just a single title at Ohio State. Alabama had three in four years. The SEC just finished a run in which it was in eight straight title games with four different teams. Georgia was on the doorstep in 2012.

Alabama is still the NFL's 33rd franchise, not Ohio State.

This bunk about the SEC shriveling up started in New Orleans. I had a reporter from a national outlet tell me Mike Bobo left Georgia to become head coach at Colorado State because UGA would not take care of its assistant coaches with raises. Two days later, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt got a new deal for $1.3 million.

Let's stay there for a moment, on the subject of money. John Chavis, the veteran defensive coordinator, was snatched away from LSU by Texas A&M for $1.7 million. Will Muschamp, the new DC at Auburn, the old coach at Florida, was just lured in by $1.6 million a year.

Does that look like a white flag fluttering in the breeze? No, it looks like a lot of cash fluttering in the breeze.

The Big Ten just won its first national title since Ohio State beat Miami in 2002, with the help of a late, late flag that is still fluttering in the air. And the Buckeyes are supposed to be all things 'Bama?

Meyer is a terrific coach. I get it. The idea he ran from Nick Saban with some made-up ailments in 2010 is a crock.

I watched from the sidelines in New Orleans as Meyer used motion and formations to get Alabama unbalanced and then ran around the end. It was great scheming, helped by the fact that on Ezekiel Elliott's 85-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, All-American safety Landon Collins and 'Bama's best linebacker, Reggie Ragland, were not on the field because of injuries.

It was interesting to see Ohio State's players up close when the Buckeyes were down 21-6 to Alabama. No panic. That's coaching and leadership. I thought all along that the loss to Virginia Tech, which was tied around the neck of the Buckeyes for two months, was overblown. Tech was riddled with injuries and was not the same team at the end of the season that beat Ohio State at the beginning of the season.

Ohio State has most of its offensive line back, as well as its defensive line and Elliott. That is so Alabama-like. The Buckeyes, I've heard, also have a few quarterbacks to choose from.

An esteemed colleague, Matt Hayes of Sporting News, wrote that Meyer is the new king of college football because he is ruthless and relentless.

You want ruthless desire to win? How about Saban? Last week he welcomed a 340-pound early enrollee, defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor, who was kicked out of Georgia after allegedly committing theft and choking a woman. This is after another defensive end, D.J. Pettway, was brought back to 'Bama even after he allegedly had a role in an on-campus robbery.

Nobody is going to out-ruthless the SEC.

Relentless? Alabama had a ferocious defensive line, and it will welcome into the 2015 rotation the best defensive line prospect from 2014, Da'Shawn Hand. He will team with A'Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen and Pettway to give Alabama a defensive line better than Ohio State's. LSU just hired a superb defensive line coach, Ed Orgeron, who also happens to be a terrific recruiter. Ask around.

How is this for relentless? Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and LSU are relentless for stockpiling talent. They will do it again on national signing day in a few weeks. Eight of the top 20 schools on the Rivals board are SEC schools. Recruiting analysts get their information from college assistant coaches. These rankings are not bunk.

There are some things I detest about the SEC. The number of junior-college players. The number of juniors who leave school too early because they are going nowhere academically, and they want the money for their families.

The fraudulent courses these football players take are abominable. The made-up degrees are insulting. The 40-hour work weeks for football players to help a coach keep his multimillion-dollar job are distasteful. The SEC Network making us pay for things we used to get free every Saturday afternoon aggravates me, too. All that should be troubling to the fan of SEC football.

What should not be troubling is the future. Signing day will affirm the SEC's superiority in college football. Ohio State is still in Ohio. The best football players are still in the South.

 

Ray Glier covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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Clemson Football: Tigers' Top Remaining Recruiting Targets

We’re less than a month away from national signing day, but there isn’t a ton of excitement for the Clemson Tigers on the recruiting trail at this point. The Tigers’ class is almost full, and with the exception of a few names, the 2015 cycle is complete.

Clemson owns the nation’s No. 13 recruiting class, according to Scout.com, and a lot of that can be attributed to success in Georgia and Florida. The Tigers hold a verbal commitment from 5-star offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt as well as 4-star Sunshine State wide receivers Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud.

There are plenty of other 4-star-caliber players in this class, and the Tigers have worked to fill the needs of the team moving forward. The offensive and defensive lines were the priority, and the Tigers have done a solid job of meeting those needs.

Hyatt is the prized recruit, but some may be overlooking how important the addition of Jake Fruhmorgen is. The 4-star offensive tackle from Tampa, Florida, ranks No. 15 at his position, and he was sought after by many top-notch programs around the country.

The most recent commitment for Clemson was 4-star defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Wilkins, the No. 7 overall defensive tackle on Scout.com, has the kind of size (6'4", 290 lbs) to come in and make an impact early in his career. Other defensive line prospects currently committed to Clemson include Albert Huggins, Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell, LaSamuel Davis, Sterling Johnson and Gage Cervenka.

With that being said, there isn’t much more room in this class for prospects. Here are a few of the remaining targets left for Clemson in the 2015 class.

 

Mark Fields, CB

Fields decommited from South Carolina on December 16, and from that point on Clemson has emerged as the perceived favorite to land him. He is a 4-star prospect, and with the loss of Garry Peters, signing a cornerback is important to this class.

Juwuan Briscoe, a 3-star from Waldorf, Maryland, decommited from the Tigers in November, so the slot is open to sign another guy. The Tigers already have a lockdown cornerback in Mackensie Alexander, so signing another quality defensive back could mean big things for the Tigers secondary down the road.

Fields will be in Clemson this weekend, with his official visit date listed as January 16 on 247Sports. He will then visit Texas on January 23 and LSU on January 30. The Gamecocks, the team he was committed to before, also still remain as a potential school for him to sign with.

 

Denzel Johnson, WR/DB

The 3-star from A. C. Flora High School in Columbia, South Carolina, will also be in Clemson this weekend for a visit. Johnson averaged 19.7 yards per catch this season, and per Brandon Rink of orangeandwhite.com, former Clemson receiver Airese Currie was his position coach at A.C. Flora.

N.C. State is also in the picture for Johnson, and he has a visit set there for January 30. With a young group at wide receiver, signing Johnson isn’t a priority, but he could also play defensive back for the Tigers.

 

Kareem Orr, DB

The 3-star from Chattanooga, Tennessee, has been in contact with Clemson as of late, so he could also be a prospect to keep an eye on. If the Tigers receive a verbal commitment from Fields, they may be unlikely to also sign Orr, but he is a good option to have if Fields decides to go elsewhere.

Per Phil Kornblut for orangeandwhite.com, Orr said he “might visit there,” referring to Clemson. Kornblut also states that Orr expects an Ohio State offer soon, and that was one of his favorite schools growing up.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of Scout.com and 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Nebraska Football: Huskers DC Mark Banker Has Right Idea for Blackshirts

When Mark Banker became Nebraska's defensive coordinator, he also become the man in charge of the Blackshirts. It's not a task he plans to take lightly, either.

Part of that is getting the tradition back on track.

He said he's heard from former players who want the tradition to return to what it once was, via the Omaha World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht and Rich Kaipust. Banker would like the same.

“I was like, ‘Well, OK, so exactly how was it? What happened to it?’ ” he said.

The history of the Blackshirts dates back to the 1964 season when Bob Devaney was head coach. Hail Varsity's Mike Babcock compiled all of the information known on the tradition for Huskers.com in 2009.

Essentially, the jerseys were an "accident of availability." Intended to distinguish between offense and defense, the black jerseys were purchased at a bargain because they typically didn't sell well.

As one might say, the rest is history.

When Tom Osborne took over, the jerseys were handed out to the top defensive players at the end of preseason practice. That was a departure from what Devaney did, which was to hand out the jerseys before and after each practice.

Osborne's tradition lasted until 2008. That's when Bo Pelini was hired.

"That’s not part of our philosophy," Pelini said, per Huskers.com.

Instead, Pelini felt his team needed to earn the right to wear the black jerseys. This left fans and the media wondering when, and sometimes if, the jerseys would be distributed.

As Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star wrote in 2012, "He makes it clear he wants competition both in preseason camp and during the season."

And for the seven years Pelini was in charge, that's how it was. Banker is ready for that to change.

"If you’re going to carry on a tradition, let’s carry on the tradition and do it the right way, and don’t make a mockery of it," he said, per the Omaha World-Herald.

Is that the right approach? It absolutely is. 

Linebackers coach Trent Bray believes so, too.

"We're going to do all our research to make sure we do it right, because I know that's been an issue around here," Bray said, per Michael Bruntz of Huskers Illustrated. "Alumni have reached out to us and want it done right, so we're going do our research and make sure that when it's done, it's done right."

Bray was clear he didn't want to be disrespectful to any previous staff, but it's obvious what Pelini was doing will not be how Mike Riley's staff does things.

The defensive coaches want to return to the true Blackshirt tradition.

Fans should be excited. Players should be, too.

Earning a black jersey prior to the season establishes a player as a leader. It puts each person wearing one in a position to step up and be a role model.

Plus, it makes the Blackshirt tradition relevant again. Under Pelini, the Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel asked a simple question: "Has the Blackshirt tradition ever been less relevant?"

Requiring the players to work for a black jersey might have made it more meaningful, as Shatel pointed out, but it strayed from the tradition.

That's ultimately what it all comes down to: What is the tradition truly worth?

For Riley and his staff, it's worth enough to get back to it.

That's why athletic director Shawn Eichorst hired Riley. His attitude is a nod to the past Nebraska loves. That's why it makes sense his staff wants the tradition to return to what it once was.

In a time of change, this shift toward something familiar is exactly what Nebraska needs. The Blackshirts will still need to be earned—they'll just be hanging in the lockers at the end of preseason practices.

And that's how it should be.

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The Uncertain Future of Oregon's QB Situation

It is the one question everyone didn’t want to think about but knew was inevitable: Where do the Ducks go now without Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota?

Mariota, unequivocally the best player in Oregon football history, has officially declared himself eligible for the 2015 NFL draft after four years in Eugene. Though the result of Mariota’s final start as a Duck was a disappointment, his contributions to the program are immeasurable.

The redshirt junior from Hawaii is one of the most decorated quarterbacks in college football history. He set numerous Pac-12 records, NCAA records and led the Ducks to their second-ever national championship appearance. Despite the loss to Ohio State, Mariota will be remembered as one of the finest quarterbacks to ever play at the collegiate level.

Now, without Mariota, the Ducks find themselves in a position of uncertainty.

While Oregon’s motto of “next man up” has served it well over the past couple of seasons, the program has been built upon a foundation of stability. The head coaching position has been passed down to the offensive coordinator for the past two decades, and there are a plethora of assistant coaches who’ve been with the program for two or three decades.

The Ducks like to change up their uniforms, they enjoy shunning tradition; however, Oregon is also a program at its best when its leaders are program staples. No player has ever meant more to the Oregon program than Mariota.

Now, the Ducks must move forward without their leader. But whom will they turn to next?

The general assumption is that redshirt sophomore Jeff Lockie, who took a single snap in the title game versus Ohio State, is the favorite to take over for Mariota in the backfield. In a limited role behind Mariota, Lockie was 21 of 28 for 207 yards and a touchdown this season.

The relationship between Mariota and Lockie has been well documented. The duo is extremely close, and the relationship has been good for both parties, especially for Lockie.

“He helps me learn on the field, off the field, how to manage the game,” Lockie said of Mariota, according to The Associated Press (via SFGate.com). “It’s been a pretty awesome experience.”

According to offensive coordinator Scott Frost, Lockie is smart, coachable and has been a perfect backup for Mariota this season.

"He's been perfect for what we've had," Frost said, according to Paul Myerberf of USA Today Sports. "He's a completely reliable, extremely intelligent, very unselfish kid who's been Marcus' biggest fan in a hundred ways that people don't know about. He's been perfect for that role, and I think he's relished it."

While Lockie will be given every opportunity to win the job, the position is very much up for grabs, and the Ducks will likely hold an open competition for the job.

Since Chip Kelly took over as offensive coordinator in 2007, the Ducks have had three major changes at the quarterback position. In 2008, the quarterback job was open after Dennis Dixon graduated. Instead of going with Justin Roper, who had finished the 2007 season after Dixon tore his ACL late in the season, Kelly and then-head coach Mike Bellotti went with a player who was fifth on the QB depth chart coming into camp: Jeremiah Masoli.

Masoli was the unlikely choice, but he managed to lead the Ducks to the Rose Bowl in 2009 and earned first team All-Pac-12 honors along the way.

When Masoli left the program after the 2009 season, Kelly again held an open competition at quarterback. Once again, the favorite didn’t end up getting the job.

Coming into the 2010 season, it was expected that Nate Costa, a senior, would take over for Masoli and easily beat out his competitor: Darron Thomas. Instead, Thomas surprisingly won the job and led the Ducks to a perfect 12-0 regular-season record in his first year as Oregon’s starter. While the Ducks lost in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game to Auburn, Thomas set a championship game record 363 passing yards.

Thomas, who went 24-3 as a starter at Oregon, threw for 63 touchdowns in two seasons and guided the Ducks to their first Rose Bowl victory in 95 years.

When Thomas left the program after his redshirt junior season to attempt a career in the NFL, the job was once again vacant.

This time, the job was expected to be given to Bryan Bennett, a sophomore who had served as Thomas’ backup in 2011. However, a redshirt freshman from Hawaii came in and blew away the competition.

Now, with the job left vacant again, the Ducks will once again use an open competition to flush out the best quarterback candidate.

If Lockie is thought to be the prohibitive favorite, then it would be wise to get well acquainted with the other contenders considering the favorite is 0-3 in quarterback competitions since 2007.

The Ducks currently have three other quarterbacks on the roster who will vie for a chance to be the starter next season: freshman Morgan Mahalak and redshirt freshmen Taylor Alie and Ty Griffin, who transferred to Oregon from Georgia Tech.

Oregon could also go with Travis Waller, a 6’2” 4-star recruit, according to 247Sports, from Anaheim, California, who is expected to enroll at Oregon in the spring.

Of course, it could be someone from outside the program. As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee explains, Ohio State's Braxton Miller could be the perfect fit in Eugene. 

As a graduate, he can transfer now if he can find a home, and simply getting mental reps during spring practice would help not only him but also the younger players who get actual first-team reps.

Mariota stepped in as a redshirt freshman in place of Darron Thomas, and the offense didn't miss a beat. Thomas stepped in as a sophomore for Jeremiah Masoli and led the Ducks to the 2011 BCS National Championship Game following the 2010 season. 

It's a great system that's designed for simplicity, speed and efficiency—all of which would benefit Miller as he recovers from his shoulder injury.

Whoever gets the job will be tasked with filling Mariota’s shoes. It’s an unenviable task that shouldn’t even really be attempted. Oregon’s starting quarterback in 2015 should go out and try to be their own quarterback. There’s no doubt that whoever the man is, whether it be the Lockie, Waller, Mahalak or someone else, will have the full support of the coaching staff and his teammates.

Oregon’s “next man up” motto is one of the program's tenets and has come in handy more than a few times during the 2014 season. Now, facing one of the most important quarterback competitions in school history, the Ducks will once again rely on that motto.

There’s no replacing Mariota. The school should retire the No. 8. However, one player does not define the Oregon program.

The Ducks should be in a position to succeed in 2015 regardless of who is taking the snaps. Oregon will be flushed with playmakers next season as Thomas Tyner, Royce Freeman, Byron Marshall, Darren Carrington, Pharaoh Brown, Evan Baylis, Charles Nelson and Bralon Addison will all be returning.

If you look at it in that light, Oregon’s next QB may have the easiest job in the country. Just get the ball into all of the playmakers' hands and don’t turn the ball over.

Oregon’s next QB has some big shoes to fill, but the job might be the best in the nation.

 

Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise stated. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.

Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

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Predicting Every All-Conference Team for 2015 College Football Season

The undisputed MVP of Ohio State's run to a national title didn't even make his all-conference team.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott was only an Honorable Mention choice in the Big Ten this season, before he went on to rush for more than 200 yards in each of the Buckeyes' three postseason games to help them claim the championship. Those performances have Elliott among the early front-runners for the Heisman Trophy in 2015, and he'll no doubt make most preseason all-conference and All-America lists.

Who else will end up being among the best of the best next season? To figure that out, first we'll look at who should be the top players in each of the five power conferences.

Here's our predictions for who will be named to the all-conference teams in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. Check these out, then give us your thoughts and picks in the comments section.

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Cardale Jones Would Risk Less Entering 2015 NFL Draft Than Staying at Ohio State

Cardale Jones may not feel he's ready for the NFL just yet. That would be a logical assessment by a reasonable person. Then again, the extraordinary accomplishments Jones has achieved in his brief tenure as Ohio State's starting quarterback have defied reasonable expectations.

Jones led the Buckeyes to victories in the Big Ten title game, the Sugar Bowl and the national championship in his first three college starts. The 6'5", 250-pound instant star has a cannon arm and amazing athletic ability for his size, and he would be turning down a golden opportunity by spurning the 2015 NFL draft.

A convoluted quarterback depth chart looms in Columbus, where Jones isn't even guaranteed a starting spot this next year. SportsCenter's graphic illustrates the situation:

Asked about the possibility of making the improbable leap to the pros on Tuesday following OSU's 42-20 triumph over Oregon, Jones was reluctant to claim he was prepared for the next level, via ESPN.com's Heather Dinich:

I mean, it's very odd. You know, I'm going to be starting three games in three years, and you know, guys play their whole career to have that buildup and have that motivation to play in the NFL. In my personal opinion, I'm not ready for that level yet. I mean, like coach [Urban] Meyer said, it's a conversation me and him will have later down the road. But to me right now, it's far out.

Other than Jones' national championship counterpart, Marcus Mariota, and Florida State's Jameis Winston, there aren't any surefire first-round QB prospects in this 2015 class.

Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey alludes to the lack of alternatives available:

If Jones does require time to sit and learn a pro-style offense, he can do so at the NFL level, rather than lighting up the competition in college for another year.

There is a realistic chance that Jones sits behind either Braxton Miller or J.T. Barrett with the Buckeyes in 2015.

Presuming Miller or Barrett succeed, there would be little chance for Jones to see the field, and he'd lose steam as an NFL prospect and not have any recent, impressive game tape to point to.

That isn't to say Jones would go in the top 32 if he declared himself eligible for the NFL this year. Limited game action and a QB-friendly spread offense make Jones quite a risk the higher he'd be chosen.

But in this era of lesser rookie salaries, which team in need at the most important position wouldn't consider Jones in the second, third or fourth round?

The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre brings up another strong point:

Jones has shown enough innate accuracy and transcendent arm strength to fit the ball into tighter NFL windows, and his knack for delivering the deep ball also bolsters his stock. His feel for climbing the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield are other attractive qualities.

Far removed from his infamous "classes are pointless" tweet, Jones is 22 years old and has a daughter, which has aided his maturation.

"We've had a lot of conversations about the enormity of responsibility that comes from being a father," said Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman of Jones, per ESPN.com's Max Olson. "I think it's really caused him to mature and grow up and have a different perspective on things."

The skill set Jones has brings to mind the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton, two big signal-callers who've had considerable success in the pros.

Conventional wisdom isn't something Jones has adhered to amid his amazing run in leading the Buckeyes to the top of college football. In his aforementioned tweet from October 2012, Jones stated that he really came to Ohio State to thrive on the gridiron. He couldn't have hoped to do much better to date with the opportunities he's had.

A certain degree of naivete harmed Jones' reputation during that Twitter fiasco. Then that quality helped him take the reins of the Buckeyes offense and thrive on the biggest stages imaginable.

Using that logic, it suddenly doesn't seem so unrealistic that Jones could shine in the NFL if he takes the modest risk, marketing his limited experience as a positive to rise above the underwhelming prospects after Mariota and Winston.

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Texas Football: Offseason Goals for the Longhorns Defense

The Longhorns defense was one of the few bright spots on the team in 2014. Head coach Charlie Strong took a unit that was once the worst statistical defense in school history in 2012 and transformed it to the No. 25 total defense in the nation.

The Longhorns' final defensive performance was not what Strong was used to. Texas gave up 351 total yards in the 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl. Strong was not thrilled with his defense's performance and understands he has a challenge ahead of him.

"Defensively, you can't give up the big play. You've got to play better. You've got to play smart. You have to be able to go out and stop. It doesn't matter what happens on offense. Defensively, you have to make plays. We just didn't do that and didn't get off the field," Strong said following the loss.

"We see there's a lot of work to be done, which is great. It's a great challenge. I don't mind it. I don't mind accepting it."

Texas had a lot of veteran players on the defensive side of the ball, and Strong needs to find the right replacements for the talent he has lost.

 

Linebackers

Part of the reason for the Longhorns' success was because of the veteran group of linebackers. Seniors Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond were two of the most consistent players on the team last season, and their absence will be hard to replace in 2015.

The positive news for Texas fans is the Longhorns have a variety of options to replace the duo. The downfall is the lack of experience at the position.

Peter Jinkens is one of the most veteran returning starters at linebacker. Texas also has Dalton Santos, who played as a backup to Edmond in 2014. Aside from those two, the Longhorns have a group of linebackers with little to no experience.

Three names a lot of Texas fans are excited to see are incoming freshmen Malik Jefferson, Cecil Cherry and Anthony Wheeler. The highly touted commits could see playing time immediately, which could fill the void at linebacker.

With a group of inexperienced linebackers on campus, the Longhorns need to utilize this offseason to find viable replacements for Hicks and Edmond.

 

Defensive Line

Two of the highest-profile names on the Longhorns' list of departures are defensive end Cedric Reed and defensive tackle Malcom Brown. Replacing these two players will be difficult, but there is enough talent on the roster to make the drop-off a little less drastic.

Defensive tackles Hassan Ridgeway and Desmond Jackson are two veteran replacements for Brown. The Longhorns also have a variety of options at defensive end.

Shiro Davis and Caleb Bluiett will be back for their senior seasons and Naashon Hughes will return for his redshirt sophomore season. The problem does not lie within the starting defensive ends; the problem is with the inexperienced depth behind the starters. 

The backup defensive ends need to step up in order to continue the progress of the defensive line without Reed in the mix.

 

Defensive Backs

One of the biggest areas of need for Texas is at defensive back. The Longhorns will lose four-year starters Quandre Diggs and Mykkele Thompson. But Texas has a group of defensive backs who could replace the veteran duo.

Duke Thomas, Jason Hall and Dylan Haines return for another season, and the Longhorns have a number of defensive backs who could very well turn into starters in 2015.

But similar to the other positional groups, the issue lies with the lack of experience behind the starting defensive backs. The Longhorns need to determine which players can provide the needed depth for the position.

If you have not noticed, there is a common denominator for all of the defensive positional groups. The Longhorns have a lot of talent on the roster but need to have more depth in 2015.

Will this plague the Longhorns defense? Probably not, but an answer needs to be found during the offseason to continue the progress on the defensive side of the ball.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Super Early Top 25 Preseason Poll for 2015 College Football Season

Ah, yes, it's that time of year again. It's time to take what we've learned from bowl season, throw it in the trash and look ahead into the future with reckless abandon. 

College football is a year-round sport. The College Football Playoff National Championship may be over, but the offseason—recruiting, spring practices and the like—is just getting under way. In the meantime, let's make some predictions for the 2015 season. 

Here is your way-too-early Top 25 for next season. As always, we expect you to agree 100 percent with the decisions, as surely no team will be overrated or underrated. 

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Alabama Football: Breaking Down the Potential Replacements for Blake Sims

If you’re looking for an experienced hand or a sure thing, Alabama’s 2015 quarterback competition is not for you.

Of the five candidates expected to be on campus during spring practice, none of them has at least a year of experience in the system and a pass attempt in a real, live game.

That means that whoever ends up winning the job will be especially green in some way or another.

Much will be written about the fight to be Blake Sims’ replacement at Alabama, just like it was for AJ McCarron’s this time last year.

For now, let’s just get a brief primer on each player, where he’s been and what he brings to the table, in order of class standing:

 

Jake Coker, redshirt senior

There wasn’t even supposed to be a quarterback competition this year. Coker, a Florida State transfer who lost out to eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, was supposed to come in and make for a smooth transition from McCarron.

Instead, Coker got to campus in May after graduating from FSU and couldn’t get enough of a grasp on the offense to see any meaningful first-team snaps.

In his limited game time, he showed promise but also why he wasn’t ready yet. He appeared confused at times getting signals in from the sideline, while showing off the arm strength and mobility that made him a coveted transfer.

Coker will be the de facto No. 1 heading into spring, but that doesn’t necessarily make him the favorite. Can he take the next step in his development? This is his last chance to do so.

 

Alec Morris, redshirt junior

Morris seemed to be the “next man up” last year before Sims’ emergence and Coker’s transfer. The former 3-star from Allen, Texas, has drawn comparisons to Greg McElroy, coming from similar situations.

Morris has been the No. 3 quarterback for the last two years but hasn’t registered a pass attempt in his very limited game-time action. He appeared in just one game last year and four this year, mostly as Alabama’s backup punter.

What will make him stand out from the pack, like Coker, is his arm strength. The 6’3”, 230-pound quarterback was described as a “gunslinger” by Nick Perry in spring practice. He also was the quarterback wearing the headset on the sidelines, helping offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin signal in plays to the on-field quarterbacks.

Those physical tools combined with an apparent knowledge of the offense could make him a viable candidate for the starting job. If he doesn’t win it this time around, his window at Alabama may be closing.

 

Cooper Bateman, redshirt sophomore

If there’s a quarterback currently on the roster with the right mix of youth, experience and physical tools, it’s Bateman.

It’s unclear how much Saban and Kiffin will take age into account. They may want to try to develop some continuity at the position so they aren’t in this situation again next year. Bateman, a former 4-star from Salt Lake City, could potentially turn into a three-year starter like McCarron was.

Bateman ran some scout team for Alabama this year, including simulating Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott.

“Cooper Bateman is very athletic, very fast, probably runs less than a 4.6 and does a really, really good job,” Saban said of Bateman during MSU prep. “He's been the scout team player of the week several times this year. Certainly has done a really good job this week. You have to have someone that can be that type of guy, or you really can't prepare your defense for what they're going to see.”

Bateman was efficient in pretty much his only public display of passing at 2014’s A-Day, leading the White team to a 17-13 victory. He threw for 156 yards and one touchdown, throwing 17 more passes than his teammate Morris.

 

David Cornwell, redshirt freshman

A year ago, Cornwell was Alabama’s hot-shot, young-gun quarterback coming in as a true freshman.

That’s not to say he’s fallen off or been a bust or anything like that. It’s just the cycle of how these things go.

Now with a year on campus under his belt, Cornwell will enter the fold likely as a long shot to win the job this time around. As a second-year player, he would go against the precedent of Saban playing older quarterbacks.

Still, the former 4-star quarterback from Norman, Oklahoma, brings a lot of promise and potential with him. He’s been largely limited during his time in Tuscaloosa rehabbing from a knee injury suffered in college and should be ready to show off his stuff in the spring.

 

Blake Barnett, true freshman

Barnett may be the wild card in this whole ordeal. He and Coker are the only quarterbacks in the mix recruited by Kiffin and seems tailor-made for his offense.

Barnett is a 5-star quarterback from Santiago, California, who can run and pass. Those legs may put him in the mix sooner rather than later.

He is the highest-rated quarterback Saban has signed at Alabama and the only 5-star. So he comes in with a considerable amount of hype (not unlike Cornwell last year).

If Barnett can pick up the offense and translate the skills that made him such a good high school player into college, he could make things interesting.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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We Remember: Byron Leftwich Carried Down the Field After Breaking Shin

In honor of his 35th birthday, there's no better time to look back on the moment when Byron Leftwich officially became a warrior. 

On Nov. 2, 2002, Marshall took on Akron in a MAC regular-season matchup. Leftwich broke his left tibia in the early stages of the first quarter and left the game to get an X-ray at the hospital. You would think with a broken tibia, Leftwich would be out for the remainder game, right? 

Wrong.

Wanting to rally his team, Leftwich returned early in the fourth quarter, unable to walk. The QB was literally carried by his offensive linemen to the line of scrimmage to snap the ball. 

Marshall lost, 34-20, but Leftwich finished with over 300 yards. Not bad for a guy with one working shin. 

[YouTube]

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Notre Dame Football: Getting to Know the 4 Early Enrollees

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — National signing day is still a few weeks away, but four Notre Dame football commitments got a head start on their college careers this week as early enrollees.

Linebacker Tevon Coney, defensive lineman Micah Dew-Treadway, offensive lineman Tristen Hoge and defensive lineman Jerry Tillery have signed scholarship agreements with Notre Dame and began taking classes Tuesday—the first day of the spring semester—according to a Notre Dame press release.

Tevon Coney, Micah Dew-Treadway, Tristen Hoge & Jerry Tillery on board and begin class tomorrow #ShamrockSoldierspic.twitter.com/2nAd1mEvM5

Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) January 12, 2015

The four players are set to participate in spring practice, which begins March 2.

What should Irish fans expect from each of the four players, in the immediate future and down the road?

 

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

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How 2014-15 Ohio State Compares to Every BCS Champion

Ohio State capped a magical season with a 42-20 win over Oregon, beating the Ducks in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship and bringing the national title to the Big Ten for the first time since 2002-03.

But how did the 2014 Buckeyes stack up with the teams that came before them: the 16 national champions from the BCS era?

To answer that, we've pitted OSU against each team head-to-head and analyzed a number of factors. Most of them are self-explanatory, and those that aren't are easy to understand.

The simple rating system, explained by Sports-Reference.com, measures point differential against strength of schedule. The F/+ ratings at Football Outsiders (only available after 2004) measure several additional factors against strength of schedule.

Basically, we wanted to make sure the schedule was accounted for.

Based on all the numbers, a subjective call was made between the teams. But in many cases, there was room for debate.

Sound off below, and let us know what you think!

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Ohio State Football: How Will Urban Meyer 2.0 Handle a National Championship?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Along with his three children, Urban Meyer stood in the northeast corner of Arlington's AT&T Stadium on Monday night, the familiar feeling of confetti falling accenting his team's latest rendition of "Carmen Ohio."

But as soon as the singing of Ohio State's signature song had concluded, the family of five realized that they were short one, as the Meyer matriarch, Shelley, had gone missing in the sea of celebration.

With tears—the good kind—in her eyes, 24-year-old Nicki Meyer scurried off off to find her mother, while her younger sister Gigi paved an opening among a sea of reporters-turned-paparazzi. Once reunited, the five Meyers—son Nate included—locked in embrace, celebrating the family's third national championship in the past eight years.

Only this one was a little sweeter, and not just because it was their first at the premier program in Urban and Shelley's home state. The Meyers had not enjoyed such elation since Urban's last national title at Florida in 2008, and that "celebration" went a little differently than this one did.

"Urban Meyer stood on the field with his second national championship team, the 2008 Gators, singing the fight song," ESPN's Wright Thompson wrote in his 2012 profile of Meyer. "After the last line, he rushed into the tunnel and locked himself in the coaches' locker room. He began calling recruits as his assistants pounded on the door, asking if everything was okay."

As it turned out, everything wasn't.

Eleven months later, Meyer would suffer a stress-induced health scare following Florida's loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Last fall, Meyer admitted to HBO Real Sports that his pursuit of perfection in Gainesville caught up to him and was ultimately the reason why he prematurely retired from coaching at the end of the 2010 season.

"You build this thing up, and it's hard to sustain," Meyer told HBO's Andrea Kremer. "I remember standing at the SEC [media day] podium, and they said, 'Coach, how does it feel that anything other than undefeated and a national championship, you're a failure?' And I just stared at the person asking the question, and it just sunk through my body. And I said, 'You're right.'"

Meyer would take a sabbatical from coaching in 2011 only to return to the sideline as Ohio State's head coach in 2012. He did so with a promise to his family—in the form of a contract written by Nicki on pink notebook paper—that he would take better care of himself, whether that be dealing better with either winning or losing.

Thanks to a three-game stretch that included two losses at the end of 2013 and start of 2014, we've already seen how the new Meyer handles the latter. But it wasn't the losing that got to Meyer at Florida so much as the pressure to maintain the winning, which is the same challenge that he'll now face with the Buckeyes back on top of the college football world.

It's too early to tell how Meyer will handle Ohio State's recent success with a full offseason and the entire 2015 campaign still ahead of him. But it didn't take long for the third-year Buckeyes head coach to receive his first test, with reporters in the post-championship press conference already inquiring about the likelihood of Ohio State repeating as national champs.

And for what it's worth, Meyer's answers sounded like that of a changed man.

"We'll have that conversation, certainly not today. It's about enjoying it," Meyer said. "Right now we're in the celebration phase. Eventually we're going to get to the 'learn from it' phase, and then the next guys like this wait for the next mission. So that's the pattern we're going to have."

While Meyer's plan sounds good in theory, it should be noted that he also said all of the right things following Florida's championship in 2008. A coach would never publicly admit that he's already looking ahead to the following season so soon, or put the pressure on his team to live up to the expectations set by its predecessor.

But with 14 combined returning starters on offense and defense, the expectations have already been set for the 2015 Buckeyes to continue what appears to be the budding dynasty Meyer is building in Columbus. Their head coach isn't naive about that either, as he'll hit the recruiting trail on Thursday expecting his third national championship to have a tangible effect.

"You move to the front of the line," Meyer said of dealing with recruiting prospects as the reigning national champion. "[OSU assistant] Kerry Coombs and I are sitting there, and I said, 'Man, I can't wait to go out recruiting.' You can't recruit to this now, you're officially a bad recruiter."

How Meyer wraps up his next three weeks of recruiting will go a long way toward determining how long the Buckeyes are able to sustain their success. What will be most important, however, will be his ability to maintain the championship expectations at Ohio State as a positive and not a detriment.

At Florida, they consumed him and ultimately led to his departure. But as evidenced by Monday night's celebration, so far, it's been so good for the Meyers in Columbus.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com, and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Marcus Mariota's College Football Legacy

The last time we saw Marcus Mariota in one of the many versions of the Oregon Ducks uniform, he was walking off the field at AT&T Stadium having come up short in his quest to bring a national championship to the Pacific Northwest.

It's about the only time during his storied collegiate career that Mariota didn't come through.

Mariota, who officially announced Wednesday that he would pass up his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL draft, will leave school as the most decorated player in program history. But beyond being the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Mariota leaves behind a reputation as one of the most well-liked athletes in recent memory.

Let's take a look back at the legacy that Mariota leaves behind as he sets out on a pro career.

 

On the Field

College stats don't always tell the whole story, but with Mariota they do a darn good job of it. In three seasons with the Ducks, the 6'4", 219-pound Mariota started 41 games and threw a touchdown in every one of them. Overall, he threw for 10,796 yards and 105 TDs, with only 14 interceptions in 1,167 pass attempts.

Known as much for his mobility as his arm, Mariota also ran for 2,237 yards and 29 TDs, with 15 rushing scores in 2014. All told this past season, he was responsible for 5,250 yards and 58 scores, numbers that made him one of the most overwhelming Heisman winners in history.

"It's been an honor to watch Marcus develop over the last four years, and I'm excited to see what his future holds," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said in a statement released by the school. "He's given this program everything we could have asked, and he'll be the standard by which others are judged."

A 3-star recruit out of Hawaii who was the 19th-best dual-threat quarterback in the 2011 class via the 247Sports composite rankings, Mariota redshirted that first year at Oregon. In 2012, he won the starting job and went on to win 36 games in three seasons. He holds eight school career records, and his 105 passing TDs ranks him second all time in the Pac-12 behind USC's Matt Barkley. 

In addition to winning the Heisman in 2014, Mariota also won the Maxwell and Walter Camp awards given to the national player of the year, as well as the Davey O'Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm quarterback awards. Mariota was also a unanimous All-American this past season, just the second player in school history to achieve that honor. 

 

Off the Field

In an era where many of college football's best and brightest players have struggled to keep their noses clean and maintain a positive reputation, Mariota was as close to a squeaky-clean athlete as their ever was. When a speeding ticket is the biggest blemish on the resume, you know you're dealing with one of the good guys.

ESPN.com's Ted Miller noted that Mariota is so well liked he went against the grain for what has become the expectation for high-profile players, particularly those at his position:

Along the way to becoming a national figure who further validated Oregon as an elite power, he also became known for being quiet and nice, which isn't very quarterback-y. He's not a carouser. You don't get much swashbuckling with him. In fact, with so few obvious holes in his game, his quiet niceness has apparently become a worry for some NFL scouts, at least an anonymous one took who that position during the season in an interview with Sports Illustrated.

Recent Heisman winners such as Florida State's Jameis Winston, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Auburn's Cam Newton all had checkered off-field lives, while 2005 winner Reggie Bush is no longer recognized by the Heisman Trust after the NCAA determined he'd received gifts while in college.

None of that existed with Mariota, a humble, team-first player whose win this year helped return some prestige to an award that briefly dropped "with integrity" from the description listed on the Heisman website. Though this was due to a redesign error, it served as a reminder of how the award's reputation had been tarnished by the actions of recent winners.

Mariota helped fix that.

He's also a big deal in Eugene-area schools, as we learned when O'Hara Catholic School 12-year-old Charlie Pape spoke during an Oregon press conference earlier this season:

 

Overall Impact

Thanks to its connection to Nike—which has enabled the school to become a sports fashion icon, among other things—Oregon has been a national brand for some time. But Mariota elevated the Ducks to another level, one that wasn't based entirely on flash and flair but also got credit for performance. Though Oregon came up short in Monday's national championship game, falling 42-20 to Ohio State, it was the program's second appearance in the final in the past five years.

Oregon wouldn't have gotten there without Mariota, and though the Ducks have a talented roster coming back, they're not considered a favorite to return in 2015-16.

But even with his college career over, Mariota's legacy at the school is expected to have an impact for quite some time. According to Richard Read of The Oregonian, the exiting quarterback has created a "Mariota Magic" boom in applications to the school. It's similar to the "Flutie Factor," the name given to the spike in enrollment that Boston College had after Doug Flutie's Hail Mary pass to beat Miami (Florida) in 1984.

"Spectacular success on the football field often translates to increased applications and giving, university managers and fundraising consultants say," Read wrote. "For the University of Oregon, such spikes would be timed perfectly, coinciding with the campaigns for donations and for out-of-state students who pay higher tuition."

Many of the buildings and athletic facilities at Oregon are named after members of the Knight family, major donors to the school and principles in Nike. But after what he's done for the school, it shouldn't be long before there's a structure with Mariota's name on it. 

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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