NCAA Football News

One Nightmare Scenario for Every Top-25 CFB Recruiting Class

With a little more than seven months left in the 2017 recruiting cycle, there are plenty of reasons for fans to be excited about their teams.

The ones in the top 25 of 247Sports' composite team rankings have gotten out to hot starts by either loading up on a large number of early commitments, landing some of the highest-rated recruits in the country or doing a combination of both.

But in the wild world of recruiting, all that can change in an instant.

Let's take a look at the current top 25 recruiting classes and pick out what the worst-case or "nightmare" scenarios would be for these programs for the rest of the 2017 cycle. These scenarios will be based on realism. Otherwise, "have everyone decommit and have zero signings on the final day" would be the nightmare for all 25 teams.

Here are the tough situations these 25 programs need to avoid in order to have great 2017 classes and build toward huge seasons down the road.

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Alabama Football: 10 Best Players in Crimson Tide History

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The tricky part about trying to name the best players in University of Alabama football history is determining what standard to use.

You're talking about a program that dates back to 1892 and boasts of having 119 players who were named first-team All-American 153 times, and 239 players who landed all-conference honors 319 times.

Alabama has won so many trophies that a couple of years ago the Bryant Museum ran a humorous ad campaign about what the Crimson Tide use some of them for (paper weights, back scratcher, door jam, etc.).

But just how do you define "best"?

Do you base it on statistics? Would a player have had to been named an All-American or to a Hall of Fame to be considered? How do you compare players from different eras?

Would being the biggest icon count? If so, quarterback Joe Namath would have to be included, and probably Kenny Stabler as well, even though neither is in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Most awards? There would have to be a place for offensive lineman Barrett Jones.

Continual success? Quarterback AJ McCarron and linebacker Woodrow Lowe would be right there.

Consequently, if 100 different people did this list, there would be 100 different results. I encourage you to do your own and compare.

For this article, the standard is simple. It's the equivalent of being on a playground picking teams. These are the ones I'd want—the players who have to be considered among the best to ever play for the Crimson Tide.

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Juwon Young Suspended Indefinitely: Latest Details and Reaction on Miami LB

Miami Hurricanes linebacker Juwon Young was "suspended indefinitely for a violation of department rules" Friday amid the school's ongoing investigation of potential NCAA violations. 

Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post reported that Hurricanes athletic director Blake James announced Young's suspension via a press release.

According to Porter, Young is among multiple football and basketball players targeted in Miami's probe. Multiple sources also told Porter that Young could be dismissed outright by the football program.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported further details on Young's situation:

Brian London of 790 The Ticket provided more specifics on the matter:

Young had a fine 2015 campaign with 57 total tackles, a forced fumble and an interception in 11 games, per CFBStats.com.

According to Ourlads.com's depth chart, which was updated Thursday, Young was listed as the primary backup to Shaquille Quarterman, a 4-star recruit from from Oakleaf High School in Orange Park, Florida.

Quarterman is an early enrollee who, along with the other arriving linebackers from the Class of 2016, has made an instant impression on Miami defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Manny Diaz.

"They're all mature beyond their years," said Diaz in April of Quarterman and the true freshmen backers, per the Miami Herald's Susan Miller Degnan. "They've come in and have not been daunted by being on the field with guys three or four years older than them, when you can imagine they should all be in English 12 right now reading The Great Gatsby or something."

Per 247Sports' composite rankings, Quarterman was the fifth-best inside linebacker in the country from the 2016 class. He is evidently living up to the hype thus far in practicing with the first-team defense to compensate for Young's off-field issues.

While the ongoing investigation has to be a point of distraction for new Hurricanes coach Mark Richt, at least his first recruiting class will make up for Young's individual, indefinite absence from the team.

Although Young's suspension was handed down through Miami's compliance office rather than the football team, per Porter, the junior's outlook on the gridiron for 2016 and beyond is cloudy.

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Notre Dame Football: Fighting Irish's Most Important Players at Each Position

First-year starters dominate the outlook for 2016 Notre Dame football, but not all of the Fighting Irish's most important talents are guaranteed spots in the lineup.

Since injury troubles plagued Notre Dame last season, a couple of offensive backups logged regular action. The in-game experience is unquestionably valuable, no matter if they're starters.

Plus, the defense must replace several multi-year players who shouldered leadership responsibilities. Before this year, the new starters have only filled reserve roles.

Importance can be measured in a variety of ways, but depth, versatility and projected role factored into the selections.

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New Texas A&M Commit Santino Marchiol's Unique Connection to Von Miller

When IMG Academy 4-star linebacker Santino Marchiol committed to Texas A&M on Tuesday, he filled a void for head coach Kevin Sumlin's 2017 recruiting class. Marchiol is the first linebacker to commit to the Aggies this recruiting cycle.

Marchiol's pledge will also allow him to answer a "what if" question that he's had in the back of his head for months.

What if he could be like the guy down the street?

Before Marchiol was a linebacker for IMG, he lived in the Denver area and was a standout at Cherry Creek High School. He transferred to IMG in January 2015.

While in Colorado, before he committed to Texas A&M, Marchiol had the opportunity to receive periodic advice from someone he called "the cool guy down the street."

Marchiol hopes to one day trade Texas A&M football stories with that guy.

"Von Miller's my neighbor back home," Marchiol said.

Yes, that Von Miller. Denver Broncos All-Pro linebacker. Super Bowl 50 MVP. Four-time Pro Bowl selection. Butkus Award recipient in 2010 as a college athlete and again in 2012 as a professional.

Marchiol and Miller are separated by a few houses in Colorado. Miller moved to Colorado the Broncos drafted him in 2011 as the No. 2 overall pick. Since then, Marchiol said he's not only relied on advice from Miller but done everything he could to mimic Miller's work ethic to become a quality linebacker and better football player.

"I really admire him and want to try and be like him one day," Marchiol said of Miller. "With him coming from A&M, it really made me consider it more because of the influence he's had on my childhood."

Marchiol chose Texas A&M over offers from Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Stanford, Nebraska and others. He became the Aggies' 14th pledge and the fourth 4-star commit of the 2017 class.

Marchiol said he first spoke with Miller when Miller visited Cherry Creek. They began chatting about where they lived and found out they were in the same area.

Marchiol said they also talked about what it took to be better than the competition.

"His house, first of all, is entirely covered by 100 trees, so you can't see into it," Marchiol said. "But I know that he's very laid back, and he's about his work. That's why I admire him so much. He's focused on his craft and wants to be the best at what he does.

"I've asked him what it takes to play at that level. He said to keep away all the distractions, and just be the best you can be. That's really what you've got to do, especially in high school."

Now standing 6'3" and weighing 224 pounds, Marchiol can be an answer for an issue Texas A&M has had in previous years. The Aggies are always on the hunt for big, physical linebackers who can fare well against the ground-and-pound offenses in the SEC.

Playing at IMG has helped Marchiol prepare for the next level. He's lined up at the "Stinger" position, a rover spot, for IMG, and he's expected to see time at weak-side linebacker in IMG's defensive package.

"One of the great things about him is his versatility," IMG coach Kevin Wright said. "I think his primary attribute is that he plays fast and with really good natural instincts. That goes back to the coaching he’s had throughout his career as a player.

"I was excited for him about A&M. I've known Coach Sumlin from way back when he was an assistant at Purdue and I was head coaching in Indiana. I know they do a tremendous job with recruiting, and I thought Santino would be a good fit."

Marchiol said he's "always had a dream" to play SEC football and loved all of his unofficial visits to Texas A&M. His first came as a freshman, and he also visited during his junior season in late March. Marchiol most recently visited Texas A&M two weeks ago and took in a recruiting barbecue.

Marchiol is the son of Ken Marchiol, who saw time at linebacker in the NFL. Ken Marchiol and Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone have known each other for years. Together, Mazzone and defensive coordinator John Chavis worked hard to land Marchiol, a top-300 player nationally and the No. 13 inside linebacker in the 2017 class.

"He's a dependable guy, a guy you won't have to worry about, because he'll get it done," said Michael Fletcher, linebackers coach at The Opening who most recently coached Marchiol at The Opening Charlotte regional in April. "He's a very vocal kid. I think he understands that he has to be. At the end of the day, he can be a stat-sheet stuffer. He'll have checkmarks in every category."

Miller was someone who filled the stat lines for the Aggies from 2007-10. According to his Sports Reference page, he had 181 career tackles (104 solo), 33 sacks and seven forced fumbles for his career. He led the NCAA in sacks in 2009 with 17.

Miller's numbers make for lofty goals for Marchiol, but it's a challenge he isn't afraid to take. Playing against elite talent at IMG has helped him realize there is no such thing as taking plays off, which has helped fuel his drive to become better each day.

"IMG is different. If you like football, it's not the place for you. You've got to live it, love it and breathe it," Marchiol said. " There's meetings, film, practice, workouts ... and it's Monday through Saturday. You've got to be on your stuff every single day, because you're with the best players in the country."

Wright added: "He's able to process quickly and play fast. Being able to do that and having the natural instincts have helped him to become a very good football player. Any time you have a kid with his athleticism, size and football IQ, you have a chance to be special."

Playing in front of 100,000-plus at Kyle Field is something that gets Marchiol excited about college football. Getting the opportunity to be taught by Chavis and Sumlin, he said, is "like a dream."

Marchiol said he likes how Texas A&M's coaching staff gives young talent the opportunity to show themselves worthy early in their playing career. At the linebacker position, a shot to see immediate playing time could work in Marchiol's favor.

Graduating early to join the Aggies for the spring is part of Marchiol's plan. He also said he's working on two IMG teammates to join him in College Station in 4-star quarterback Kellen Mond and 4-star wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon.

And when his college career is over, Marchiol said he hopes to have the same kind of stories that Miller had.

"Him just telling me to stay focused, that motivates me," Marchiol said of Miller. "He's something special. He's that dude."

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Big Ten Q&A: Who Will Be the B1G's Most Improved Team in 2016?

Between the end of the NBA Finals, baseball season heating up and the UEFA European Championship hitting its home stretch, it's been a relatively quiet week in the college football world. Not even Jim Harbaugh has managed to make a stir, aside from the announcement that he and his wife Sarah are expecting another child, which came in a manner only the Michigan head coach could deliver.

"Attacking this pregnancy with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind," Harbaugh said, per Maize and Blue News' Matt Pargoff.

On that note, let's get to this week's Big Ten Q&A. This week, we'll tackle the conference's most improved team, a brewing rivalry between first-time head coaches, Ohio State's quarterback situation and the Wolverines' running back position.

As always, you can send me your questions each week on Twitter @BenAxelrod.

Let's get started.

 

Last week, I made the case for Nebraska being the Big Ten's sleeper team in 2016. And while I hate to repeat answers, I believe so strongly in the Cornhuskers' chances at improving dramatically on last year's 5-7 regular season that it'd be hard for me to justify deviating from that pick.

Why?

Between all of the talent Nebraska returns and the frequent close calls that made up the majority of their seven losses, the Cornhuskers are simply due to see dramatic improvement. A bounce here and a bounce there and Nebraska could have easily been 7-5, a mark they could easily improve on with 94 percent of its offensive production returning, per SB Nation's Bill Connelly.

While Nebraska was only credited with five regular-season wins, a 10-win season in 2016 is hardly out of the question, given that the Cornhuskers' makeup was more reminiscent of a seven-win team. Its schedule doesn't do it many favors with an out-of-conference game against Oregon and back-to-back road trips to Wisconsin and Ohio State, but Nebraska should remain on track to control its destiny in the Big Ten West with just one win over either the Badgers or Buckeyes.

Ultimately, a big part of the Cornhuskers improving their record will be dependent on the steps taken by a roster returning 14 combined offensive and defensive starters from a year ago. But as its Foster Farms Bowl victory over UCLA at season's end showed, the pieces are there for Nebraska to go from one of the Big Ten's biggest disappointments to conference contender, all in the span of a year.

 

This is a good question and one of the Big Ten storylines that won't receive much national attention throughout the 2016 season or in the years to come.

And while it may not make much of an impact in the conference-title race anytime soon, it's still fascinating to see former in-conference coordinators D.J. Durkin and Chris Ash take over programs in Maryland and Rutgers, which don't have the apparent upside of being nationally relevant so long as they play in the Big Ten East.

Although I liked both the hirings of Durkin and Ash, the reality remains that as long as Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio are around, it's not going to be easy to gain a lot of ground in the Big Ten East. Both coaches can still make positive impacts on their programs, but to expect either to become contenders within their own division simply seems unrealistic.

As far as which first-year head coach is more capable of instant success, I'll roll with Durkin, simply because the talent is more apparent on Maryland's roster at the moment, despite the Terrapins suffering through a 3-9 season in 2015. And regardless of how each team's season plays out, there should still be plenty on the line when Durkin and Ash meet in the final week of the regular season—a year after doing the same as the defensive coordinators at Michigan and Ohio State.

As for either competing with their former bosses, I wouldn't count on that taking place anytime soon. They're each simply starting in too big of a hole and the Buckeyes and Wolverines should only be getting better in the coming years.

 

When you look at the dual-threat nature of the quarterbacks Meyer typically recruits, the answer to this question would usually be "yes." After all, we've already seen this situation play out before, with Torrance Gibson moving to wide receiver upon arriving at Ohio State alongside fellow quarterback Joe Burrow in the Buckeyes' 2015 class.

But when looking at the quarterbacks slated to arrive in Columbus in the coming years—Dwayne Haskins this summer and Tate Martell and Danny Clark next year—none fit the mold of a pass-thrower who can also be a pass-catcher. Both Haskins and Clark are more pro-style passers than anything else, and as the top-ranked player at his position, Martell's future is clearly as a signal-caller.

So what happens with Ohio State's logjam at quarterback, which is slated to possess six scholarship quarterbacks in 2017?

Obviously, a lot can—and likely will—change between now and then.

For one, it's possible J.T. Barrett will forgo his final season of eligibility next year, having already spent four years on campus, three of them as Ohio State's starting quarterback. Any questions about Barrett's draft stock won't have to do with his talent so much as they will his height, and that won't change with another year on campus.

After that, Stephen Collier is in the midst of recovering from a torn ACL, and his future as a potential starter for the Buckeyes already appeared in doubt as recently as this spring. Burrow has shown promise and Haskins' ceiling remains unknown, but neither is the type who would play anything but quarterback.

As for the two 2017 commits, Martell is on his third commitment and Clark gave his pledge when he was merely a high school freshman. Needless to say, neither commitment is a lock to stick until signing day.

So will there be a position switch somewhere on the Buckeyes' quarterback depth chart? Probably not.

But other changes could soon be afoot, as these situations have a history of figuring themselves out.

 

At this point, the odds-on favorite has to be running back De'Veon Smith, who led the Wolverines in rushing with 753 yards in 2015, although the senior-to-be is hardly a lock to repeat as Michigan's rushing king.

Rather, I'm turning my attention toward true freshman Kareem Walker, one of the crown jewels of the Wolverines' 2016 class, who should find a way to make an instant impact in the coming year.

A former Ohio State commit who at one point ranked as the nation's top prospect at his position, Walker already possesses the size at 6'1" and 203 pounds to play right away in his college career. Perhaps most importantly, as an early enrollee, the New Jersey native will hardly be shell-shocked when fall camp begins, as he'll already have been on campus for eight months at that point in time.

As for Smith, the 5'11", 228-pounder has been steady but unspectacular to this point in his college career. And with Harbaugh's pro-style offense predicated on a strong running game, steady may not cut it, especially with a first-year starter behind center at quarterback.

Walker possesses the potential to add that extra spark to the Michigan offense, one which was missing throughout the majority of the 2015 campaign as the Wolverines ranked eighth in the Big Ten in rushing with an average of 158.2 yards per game. Smith may very well begin the season as Michigan's starter, but don't be surprised if Walker's apparent ability shines through by season's end.

 

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. Recruiting class rankings courtesy of 247Sports' composite.

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Ohio State Football Recruiting: 5-Star Cam Akers Would Give OSU Perfect RB Haul

Ohio State already has a verbal pledge from 4-star all-purpose back J.K. Dobbins—one of the crown jewels in its No. 2-ranked class—but pairing him with 5-star running back Cam Akers would give Urban Meyer the most lethal backfield duo in the 2017 recruiting cycle. 

Akers, the one-time Alabama commit who reopened his recruitment on March 3, is the country's No. 2-ranked running back and No. 16-ranked prospect regardless of position. The 5'11 ½", 212-pound standout from Clinton, Mississippi, has one of the most impressive offer lists in the country, highlighted by Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.

Despite all the attention from those regional powerhouses, Akers is very warm to the idea of trekking north to spend his collegiate career at Ohio State.

That became apparent almost immediately after Akers blew his recruitment back open, when he made the trip for an unofficial visit to Columbus just four days after decommitting from Nick Saban and the Tide.

Meyer and the Buckeyes made a huge impression on the star ball-carrier, and they used the visit to become a major player in his pursuit.

"I definitely love Ohio State," Akers said, according to Bill Kurelic of 247Sports. "My family and myself love Ohio State and what the [football] program is doing. They always produce good running backs."

Ohio State's history at running back is certainly rich—Archie Griffin remains the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner in college football history—but the position group has surged under Meyer. Since 2012, Ohio State's starting running backs (Carlos Hyde, Ezekiel Elliott) have averaged more than 1,500 rushing yards per season.

Those numbers would catch the attention of any ball-carrier, but it's more than Ohio State's raw production that piqued Akers' interest.

"They are always in the running for the national championship and the academics are great also," Akers said, via Kurelic.

Akers is the exact kind of running back that has thrived under Meyer. He's bullish, using his 212-pound frame to bulldoze defenders at the line of scrimmage, but he has the 4.4 speed that makes him nearly impossible to corral once he hits the second level.

That combination of power and speed is something Elliott used to run his way into the Ohio State history books (with back-to-back seasons eclipsing 1,800 rushing yards), proving to Akers that he could be perfectly utilized in Ohio State's power-spread attack.

And that attack would be much more lethal when you factor Dobbins into the equation.

Rated the No. 3 all-purpose back nationally, Dobbins would be the perfect change of pace to Akers' tough-nosed running style. Both have elite speed, but Dobbins has elite elusiveness and will be a nightmare for opposing defenses when he hits the perimeter on plays such as Ohio State's jet sweep.

But Dobbins isn't just a speed guy, either. He has the tools to line up in the backfield and attack the middle just like Akers.

"I can do more than just have speed," Dobbins said, according to Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com. "People think that's what I'm about. But I can run through the middle, through the trenches, and I can pass-block, too. I am a three-down back. That's what most people would like to say."

Having that much playmaking ability at one position would give Ohio State's future offense a lot of firepower, and that's something Meyer and the coaching staff are working hard to make happen.

The Buckeyes have surged in Akers' recruitment over the last three-and-a-half months, and now they only trail home-state Ole Miss as the favorite to land his commitment, per 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions. 

Meyer is hoping to cover that ground next month, when Akers again makes the trip to Columbus to attend Ohio State's marquee summer recruiting event—Friday Night Lights.

If that trip goes as well as the last one, the Buckeyes could quickly ascend to the top of Akers' list, making a dream scenario for Meyer closer to a reality.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Deommodore Lenoir to Oregon: Ducks Land 4-Star CB Prospect

Oregon Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich identified pass defense as an area of need this year, and he strengthened his secondary quite a bit Thursday with the commitment of 4-star cornerback Deommodore Lenoir. 

Lenoir confirmed on Twitter that he will be a Duck:

Lenoir is the No. 8 CB and ranks 85th overall in 247Sports' composite rankings. The Los Angeles native had interest throughout the country, with some offers a little closer to home—Arizona State, California and Washington—and others on the other end of the country—Tennessee, Nebraska, Michigan, Miami (Florida) and Boston College, per 247Sports.

Versatility is one of the more impressive aspects of Lenoir's game. In an interview with Lorenzo Reyna of Sports Out West, he spoke about how two-way USC star Adoree' Jackson is something of a model for himself.

"We have the same kind of talents," Lenoir said of himself and Jackson.

He added that he's more than willing to fill whatever role necessary for the team: "I do what I can. If they need me at running back, I'll do that. Wide receiver? Cornerback? I'll play anything."

According to MaxPreps, Lenoir caught 18 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns and finished with 1,499 all-purpose yards as a junior.

In the event Lenoir does start playing a little at wide receiver, he'll almost certainly still spend the majority of his time on the defensive side of the ball. At 5'10 ½" and 191 pounds, he has a great frame for a cornerback.

In addition to Lenoir's versatile skill set, his on-field intelligence will help him contribute to Oregon right away. Throwing a true freshman right into the fire is rarely a good idea, so he shouldn't be expected to start every game. Lenoir could fill in as a situational option in nickel and dime packages, though.

Lenoir will make his fair share of mistakes, especially early in his college career, but he's wise beyond his years in terms of reading the field and putting himself in a position to make a play.

Barring an injury or a major road block in his development, Lenoir should be one of the best cover corners in the Pac-12 in two or three years.

 

Star rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Predicting the Top 25 College Football Programs of the Next 10 Years

College football is outstanding entertainment for myriad reasons, one of which is the sport's unpredictability. Rosters are completely overhauled every five years, so we can only reasonably predict a few seasons in advance.

Still, much can change over a short amount of time. Sustaining excellence is tremendously difficult. But that's what makes decade-long predictions fun.

Projecting anything more than five years away is a complete, unashamed guess. Unless your favorite team has already filled its 2022 recruiting class, we have no idea what the rosters will look like.

However, certain head coaches might be around. Thanks to recruiting success, a new hire or recent consistency, the following teams appear best suited to regularly chase conference titles and national championships for the next 10 years.

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How Good Does Alabama's Defense Have to Be to Defend National Title?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — New coordinator, new leadership and new starters.

It’s a nasty trifecta for Nick Saban and the University of Alabama football team this season, one that would stymie most college football programs, yet has caused few to think twice about the Crimson Tide’s potential this season.

Yes, Jeremy Pruitt has replaced Kirby Smart, who for years had been Saban’s right-hand man on the coaching staff. Players like Reggie Ragland, A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed and Cyrus Jones have moved on and were all selected in the second round of the NFL draft. The base defense will have at least seven new starters.

Nevertheless, the word drop-off has been significantly absent around Tuscaloosa this offseason. Some believe that this year’s defense could become something special, although, like usual, Saban is quick to deflect away such talk. He’s quick to point out that this group hasn’t even played a live down yet.

“Everybody not only has to have a get-it-done type of attitude but they also have to take ownership for people who aren’t getting it done because they’re unable to do things to the standard that we want to do it,” he recently said about fighting complacency.

“I do think this is a work in progress and I do think that players have to accept roles. This is not something that just happens. The team chemistry last year happened over time. I think we’ll see how this team develops over time.”

The chemistry part is definitely true as Alabama’s defense last season looked a lot better against LSU in November than it did during the loss to Ole Miss in September.

Pruitt is also very familiar with the players and scheme, which has helped everyone with the transition, including the two other new defensive assistant coaches, Derrick Ansley and Karl Dunbar. Smart will certainly be missed, but it’ll be interesting to see how someone else puts his thumbprint on Saban’s long-established defensive system.

“He brings a different kind of energy,” senior outside linebacker Ryan Anderson said about Pruitt. “He’s definitely more of a players’ coach. A lot of the guys are more willing to sell out for the guy because he’s willing to do it for us. It’s a different style.”

“I’m really going to enjoy playing for him,” junior interior linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said.

Anderson and Hamilton are just two of the players with significant experience and are now expected to fill bigger roles. The same goes for the likes of Tim Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson and Ronnie Harrison, only no one’s sure how well they’ll handle those responsibilities and mesh until they actually do so.

That part of the equation is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. The Crimson Tide had to learn that the hard way with three losses in 2010, after winning the national championship in 2009.

After Alabama won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012, it was again unable to maintain its success during the two subsequent seasons. That left last year’s crew hungry, with Ragland going so far as to say “Guys aren't scared to play us anymore,” during the 2015 SEC media days.

Changing that perception became the goal, and Alabama came pretty close to pulling it off. Although not one defensive player received a major postseason award, they notched a shutout in a College Football Playoff semifinal, 38-0 against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.

However, Alabama then gave up 550 total yards against Clemson in the title game, although most Crimson Tide fans were too busy celebrating after the 45-40 victory to really notice.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson established new playoff records for pass attempts (47), pass completions (30), passing yards (405), passing touchdowns (four) and total offense (478 yards), and his ability to move the ball caused Saban to attempt the on-side kick that no one will forget.

“I made the decision to do it because the score was 21-21 and we were tired on defense and weren't doing a great job of getting them stopped, and I felt like if we didn't do something or take a chance to change the momentum of the game that we wouldn't have a chance to win,” Saban said at the time.

Alabama had entered the game, its 15th of the season, ranked second in the nation in total defense, averaging 256.8 yard per game. Clemson’s output more than doubled that. Opponents had also completed 49.1 percent of their passes, but Watson found the mark in 63.8 percent of his attempts.

Overall, Alabama finished third in the nation in total defense, which was based on yards allowed per game. It stood out in what some called a down year for the conference even though Georgia was seventh and Florida eighth in the statistical category, while the Crimson Tide defeated two other top-10 teams in Wisconsin (second) and Clemson (10th).

Of note, only one other SEC West team finished in the top 25 in total defense, LSU, but all had a winning record.

Alabama matched its No. 3 showing in scoring defense and was first in rushing defense, but with the young secondary, finished eighth in pass efficiency defense. Except for Alabama’s rushing defense in 2008, which was second in the nation, those were the worst its been in those categories during the four title seasons under Saban.

That’s remarkable, but also sets the bar for what needs to be achieved for the Crimson Tide to repeat in 2016. Match those rankings, especially in total defense, and its probably a playoff team again, although that still wouldn’t automatically mean another national championship. After all, the 2008 team hit two of those marks and still lost to Florida in the SEC Championship Game, and Alabama also had the Heisman Trophy winner last season. 

The key number to look for is one, because whenever Saban’s had a defense finish first in any of the four major defensive categories Alabama has won the whole thing. 

This team has that kind of potential if it wants it badly enough.

 

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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How Many Wins Does Charlie Strong Need in 2016 to Survive at Texas?

Athletic directors will swear up and down that there aren't "magic numbers" when it comes to a head coach on the hot seat.

The people in power will argue there isn't a minimum amount of wins a coach needs to keep his job past the upcoming season. Texas AD Mike Perrin even said as much in March, according to Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News:

But according to a recent column from Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, Texas head coach Charlie Strong might have such a number on his head for 2016.

"One highly influential Longhorns power broker can count, and on Wednesday [he] said Strong needs at least eight wins to show progress from an 11-14 record," Bohls wrote Wednesday evening.

Bohls wrote that getting to eight could be a tough challenge for Strong in Year 3. All but one of Texas' 12 opponents returns their starting quarterbacks—a luxury the Longhorns might not have this fall—and the schedule is among the toughest in the country.

Bleacher Report's Brian Pedersen ranked Texas' schedule as the 17th-hardest in the FBS for 2016. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports gave the Longhorns' nonconference slate a ranking of 10th-toughest. The S&P+ metrics from Bill Connelly of SB Nation project 6.7 wins for Texas in 2016.

So should eight wins be a fair benchmark for Strong to keep his job past 2016?

First, let's break down Texas' 2016 schedule compared to its 2015 slate of opponents:

In order to get to eight wins, Texas would have to first repeat its three victories over opponents projected to start outside the Top 25: UTEP, Kansas State and Kansas. While UTEP and Kansas should be easy victories, Texas hasn't beaten Kansas State in Manhattan since 2002.

Then the Longhorns would need to flip most of their losses to teams that most likely won't be ranked to start 2016: California, Iowa State, West Virginia and Texas Tech. All four of these teams bring on their own unique challenges.

California is trying to reload its offense with Texas Tech transfer quarterback Davis Webb III and former Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. 

Texas should be favored in home games against Iowa State and West Virginia, as the Cyclones will be adjusting to a new head coach and the Mountaineers only return four starters from their defense. But both teams had Texas' number in 2015 by beating the Longhorns by a combined score of 62-20. Those won't necessarily be easy flips.

Texas Tech will need to be a good road win for Texas after losing a close one at home to the Red Raiders late last season. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes will undoubtedly be in late-season form, and TTU will be fired up to get two in a row over Texas for the first time since 1997 and 1998.

That leaves five games against projected preseason Top 25 teams for Texas in 2016: Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU. Last year, those were two surprising upset wins, one frustratingly close loss and two blowout defeats.

The two surprising upsets are going to be tough to duplicate. Oklahoma returns most of its starters from its Big 12 title-winning team and will be out for revenge. And for all the uncertainty surrounding Baylor, the Bears will most likely have star quarterback Seth Russell this time around instead of a converted wide receiver running a prehistoric-looking offense.

The close loss would be one Texas should feel good about turning around in 2016 after losing to Oklahoma State last fall on a special teams gaffe. But even though the Longhorns match up well with a Cowboys team that has a stellar passing attack but a struggling running game and rebuilding defense, that game will be a challenging Big 12 opener on the road.

Texas will get chances at revenge for its lopsided losses to Notre Dame and TCU at home this season. The Fighting Irish look like potential national title contenders. The Horned Frogs will be strong on defense and have the pieces to keep rolling on offense, such as KaVontae Turpin, who scored four touchdowns against Texas in 2015:

The simplest path to eight wins for Strong in 2016 is to defeat all seven unranked opponents and get an upset victory against one of the five ranked foes. If the Longhorns take a loss on the road to a team like Cal, Kansas State or Texas Tech or drop a home game to a WVU, they'll have to replace it with another upset.

Considering Texas pulled off two eye-opening upsets last season with a team that finished below .500, reaching that number with a more experienced squad in 2016 is definitely within reason.

But what will be more important for Texas in 2016 than hitting a magic number of victories is continuing to show signs of progress.

No one should reasonably expect the Longhorns to challenge for a championship this season. The recruits from Strong's first full cycle at Texas will only be sophomores. The Longhorns will be adjusting to a new offensive system under new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and will have some growing pains.

If Texas takes care of business against its projected unranked opponents in 2016 but gets routed by a combination of, say, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and TCU, would that season be looked upon fondly?

On the other hand, let's say Texas makes a bowl after winning less than eight regular-season games.

But say the Longhorns show progress on offense with true freshman Shane Buechele at quarterback, a dynamic one-two rushing punch of D'Onta Foreman and Chris Warren III, an improved offensive line and a receiving corps led by young stars such as John Burt and recent Baylor flip Devin Duvernay. All of those players would be expected back in 2017.

In this scenario, Texas also looks stronger on what was a bad run-stopping unit in 2015 and continues to develop exciting defensive playmakers. The Longhorns improve all across the board under Strong, grab some more big recruiting victories and avoid any blowout losses like the ones from last year.

Even with less than eight regular-season victories in a brutal schedule, wouldn't those be enough signs of progress in Austin? Letting Buechele take over as the starting quarterback and building the young offense around his talents should buy Strong some more time, and the defense would be loaded with his own recruits in 2017.

Returning to the postseason should always be the bare minimum for a school like Texas, and the talent is there for the Longhorns to challenge for a huge season in 2016. After all, Texas was a couple of special teams blunders away from being 7-5 last year. 

However, the upcoming transition on offense and the schedule ahead might be too daunting for any "eight wins or else" demands.

Staying patient in the high-stakes world of power-conference college football is extremely difficult, especially at a blue blood like Texas that is desperate to win now. Strong understands that pressure.

"This is a critical year for us," Strong said in March, per Bill Frisbie of Inside Texas. "There's a standard here, and we need to meet that standard. It's time for us to move forward now."

Moving forward for Strong and Texas would be a winning season without the embarrassing routs of 2015—a campaign that would pave the way for a potentially huge 2017 with a talented team built mostly on experienced Strong recruits.

Hitting the reset button on all that Strong has done just because he didn't hit some magic number would do nothing but continue Texas' vanishing act on college football's biggest stage.

 

Recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Should James Franklin Get More Patience at Penn State?

Technically, James Franklin is preparing to enter his third season at Penn State.

But if it were up to the Nittany Lions head coach, he'd prefer to be treated as if his time in State College were just getting started.

"In a lot of ways, we look at this as Year One. It's the first year post-sanctions, with the ability to have all of our scholarships, and there's nothing hanging over our heads," Franklin said in March, per Mark Wogenrich of the Morning Call. "We're still a young team, but we don't have any of those things anymore."

For the most part, he's right. For the first time in his Penn State tenure, he is no longer faced with the effects of the unprecedented sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the makeup of the Nittany Lions roster would suggest a program starting from scratch rather than one that's been building toward something.

But to think that everyone—both outside and inside the Penn State program—will be as gentle in assessing Franklin's time in Happy Valley, which includes a 14-12 overall record, would be naive. 

The third-year Nittany Lions head coach isn't on the hot seat quite yet, but it's getting warmer, with multiple columns—including one from this Big Ten writer—pointing to 2016 as a potentially defining season in Franklin's State College stint.

"Fans and as coaches and as players, it doesn't always happen at the rate we want it to happen," Franklin said this spring. "At a place like Penn State with the history and the traditions and everything we've been through—I think that's part of it."

At the moment, CoachesHotSeat.com slots Franklin as the No. 40 coach in its hot-seat rankings, still considered "safe for now," but right on the cusp of earning "edge-of-hot-seat" status. He's only 10 spots removed from the actual hot seat, according to the site, and with Franklin trending in the wrong direction, there's no telling how much additional heat an underwhelming 2016 season would add.

"I love the fact that we have such high expectations. I do. I love that," Franklin said. "It's something, when you're at a place like Penn State, you have to embrace."

To Franklin's credit, he's done that. But even he might admit it may have been better to temper expectations, given the situation he inherited in 2014 as Bill O'Brien's replacement. After Joe Paterno held the Nittany Lions head coaching job for 45 years, Franklin became Penn State's second head coach in three seasons, with sanctions limiting him to 75 scholarships in his first season and 80 in his second.

As a result, the Nittany Lions have had some issues with their depth chart, particularly on the offensive line, as walk-ons and JUCO transfers have created a patchwork unit in each of the past two years. It's not a coincidence Penn State ranked 124th and 113th in sacks allowed in 2014 and 2015, respectively, hardly giving the Nittany Lions offense a chance to succeed in its first two seasons under Franklin.

"I don't think people understand the importance of competition at every single position throughout our program and really anywhere," Franklin said of his offensive line depth this spring.

But even if the Penn State offensive line begins to live up to expectations, the timing of a potential make-or-break season could not have been worse for Franklin.

While he never seemed like a great fit in Franklin's system, quarterback Christian Hackenberg is heading to the NFL after having served as Penn State's starting signal-caller in each of the past three seasons. On defense, the Nittany Lions have lost the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in Carl Nassib, second-round pick Austin Johnson and a versatile and experienced defensive back in Jordan Lucas.

Altogether, Penn State will have to replace nine combined starters on offense and defense from a year ago. Breaking in a new starting quarterback will only heighten the task of making a splash in the ultra-competitive Big Ten East, where Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan have solidified themselves as the division's top three teams.

On paper, the Nittany Lions appear to be a team building toward 2017, with 2016 likely to be marked by growing pains. But in his first two years, Franklin may not have bought himself that much time, although he does deserve credit for landing top-25 classes in his first two recruiting cycles and bolstering his roster with the likes of Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders, the top running back in the 2016 class.

But for as well as Franklin has recruited, and even with the extenuating circumstances he's dealt with, he's not blameless in the disappointing consecutive 7-6 seasons he's started his Penn State career with.

Not only have clock-management issues consistently plagued the Nittany Lions under Franklin, but the losses of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and offensive line coach Herb Hand and the firing of offensive coordinator John Donovan leave Penn State dealing with no shortage of turnover on its staff in 2016.

Sustaining stability in State College was never going to be easy, but Franklin hasn't helped matters. And when that's factored in with everything else he inherited upon arriving in Happy Valley, it may leave him with a shorter leash—or warmer seat—than he may ultimately deserve at season's end.

Is that fair?

Not necessarily. Even for his faults, it's not hard to see Franklin was facing an uphill climb, even if he hasn't helped his cause via unrealistic expectations or on-field errors.

But in college football coaching, what's fair is irrelevant. And no matter how levelheaded your approach, it's becoming easier to see that 2016 will mark a pivotal point in Franklin's time in Happy Valley, one way or another.

 

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. Recruiting class rankings courtesy of 247Sports' composite.

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SEC Extra Points: After Chad Kelly and Joshua Dobbs, Where Are the QBs?

The annual circus known as SEC media days will take place from July 11-14 in Hoover, Alabama, where the assembled members of the media will speak with coaches, players and vote on predicted order of finish and the preseason All-SEC teams.

When we do head to the ballot box, we will have a tough decision to make.

Who should be the third-team All-SEC quarterback?

Unless there's an incredible upset, Ole Miss' Chad Kelly and Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs will be on the first two teams. The third choice is anybody's guess.

Based on SEC success, the only viable choice is LSU quarterback Brandon Harris. The rising junior from Bossier City, Louisiana, completed 53.6 percent (148-for-276) of his passes a year ago for 2,158 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions while also adding 226 rushing yards and four scores on the ground.

Not exactly earth-shattering numbers for Harris who, while similar to Dobbs in production through the air, is a far cry from the Volunteer signal-caller on the ground.

If Harris doesn't do it for you, where else can you go?

The only other viable option is Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight—who has played precisely two games against SEC competition while he was at Oklahoma. Granted, those were two good games—348 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Alabama in the 2014 Allstate Sugar Bowl and 308 yards and a touchdown versus Tennessee in Game 3 of the 2014 regular season.

But Knight lost his job to Baker Mayfield, was incredibly inconsistent in other starts with the Sooners and doesn't exactly strike fear in opposing defenses.

After Harris and Knight, who would you pick? Georgia's Greyson Lambert? Auburn's Jeremy Johnson? Those two players might not win starting jobs and didn't exactly impress in 2015. 

The preseason All-SEC vote at quarterback will be an indictment of the state of the position in the SEC. Whether it is poor development, stubbornness from a philosophical standpoint or outright misses on the recruiting trail, the position that was once a strength in 2012 and 2013 has fallen into the abyss.

It doesn't have to stay that way once the season starts. But until then, it's hard to find where all of the quarterbacks have gone.

 

Kirby's Law

In what is his first real test as a disciplinarian at Georgia, head coach Kirby Smart made the obvious choice. 

Defensive back Chad Clay was arrested and charged with theft by taking—his second arrest in four months—and promptly dismissed from the program, according to Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Unfortunately, Chad will no longer be a part of our football program," Smart said in a statement, per Emerson. "It is very disappointing, and we wish him the best in his efforts to continue his education."

Clay was arrested earlier in the offseason, along with early enrollee defensive tackle Julian Rochester, for firing a BB gun on campus. 

Clay and Rochester's previous cases involve felonies. While those are still pending, Clay being arrested twice in one offseason speaks to incredibly poor decision-making.

Felony or otherwise, Clay made it impossible for Smart to trust him to make the right decisions off the field, so how could he be trusted to make the right decisions on it?

Smart has now set the tone within the Georgia program—one that his predecessor Mark Richt also set—that poor decisions have serious consequences. That message should resonate with the Georgia players who are still getting to know the intricacies of their new head coach.

 

A Welcomed Addition

Missouri's running back situation looked bleak earlier this offseason when junior college transfer and 2016 signee Nate Strong ran into some academic issues that will delay his enrollment until January, according to Frank Cusumano of KSDK.

Immediate help is on the way, though.

Missouri announced Wednesday that Oklahoma graduate transfer Alex Ross is now a member of the Missouri football program:

The addition of Ross is huge for a Missouri rushing attack that finished last in the SEC with 115.42 yards per game and 118th in the nation in yards per carry at 3.49.

Ross, a 6'1", 221-pounder, has the speed to be a weapon in space and on special teams, but also has the size and strength to be a monster between the tackles. That's important, because Missouri's leading returning rusher—Ish Witter—is only 190 pounds and more of a home run hitter than a bruiser. 

Ross took a back seat last year to Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, but did rush for 595 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore in 2014 and has two career kickoff returns for touchdowns.

With Drew Lock entering his first full season as the starting quarterback, a passing attack that has been less than stellar over the last couple of years and a questionable offensive line, having a somewhat proven commodity at running back is imperative for first-year head coach Barry Odom.

Ross is that guy.

 

Getting Thin

Tennessee's wide receiving depth took a hit this week when the school confirmed to Wes Rucker of 247Sports that Vincent Perry, a 5'10", 175-pound redshirt freshman, has been ruled academically ineligible. 

According to Rucker, Perry will stay at school, pay his own way this fall and work to regain his scholarship and eligibility for the 2017 season.

Is this a big deal? Sort of.

Perry is by no means one of the headliners of a Vols receiving corps that includes Preston Williams, Josh Malone, Josh Smith, Jeff George and others. But while all of those players are talented, the group as a whole has been wildly disappointing over the last two seasons thanks to the inability of former highly recruited players to run crisp routes and get off the ball consistently.

Because of that, head coach Butch Jones needs options at the position. Perry could have been one of those options, especially in the slot.

Can Jones and the Vols compensate? Absolutely.

Williams looked like a star downfield in the spring game, Malone should be healthy come September, and there's a talented group of receivers coming in this year.

But the last thing that Jones needs is the one unit that needs help to start losing possible contributors. 

 

Quick Outs

  • Don't worry about the recent transfers of former Alabama defensive backs Maurice Smith and Shawn Burgess-Becker. Alabama's secondary is loaded, Anthony Averett is a speedy defensive back who can step in, the Tide has recruited well in the defensive backfield over the last couple of seasons and Minkah Fitzpatrick, Marlon Humphrey and Eddie Jackson are all returning. What once was a liability became a strength last year, and that should continue in 2016 despite a couple of transfers.
  • One of Alabama head coach Nick Saban's favorite movies in the mid-1990s was Crimson Tide, according to Michael Casagrande of AL.com. That worked out well.
  • Here's Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd squatting 255 pounds on one leg. Never skip leg day, folks:

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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Hunter Rison, Son of a Super Bowl Champion, Aims to Write His Own Legacy

ADDISON, Ill. — The moment when "Dad" became "NFL star" is still crystal clear for Michigan State wide receiver commit Hunter Rison.

The receiver from Ann Arbor, Michigan, remembers watching film of his father, 1989 NFL first-round draft pick Andre Rison, during his rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts. It was a rookie season that included 52 receptions and four touchdowns, but it also included one signature play that fascinated his son.

"He caught a pass on a curl [route], and then he did a move to make a guy fall," Hunter said. "He then juked, made two more dudes miss and scored.

"That's when it really hit me. I mean, he was on some other stuff."

Andre Rison earned five Pro Bowl appearances and won a Super Bowl in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers in 1996. He also won a Grey Cup championship in the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts in 2004. Before the pro success, Andre established himself as one Michigan State's all-time great receivers in the 1980s. His career numbers rank among the top five in almost every receiver category.

It's knowledge that Hunter is well-versed in. Consider his father's stats and achievements as the ultimate goal as he prepares for college football.

"He tells me I can be better than him," Hunter said. "I always strive to be, not to show him up but just as a goal of mine. I've got a chip on my shoulder. I don't want to be known as Andre Rison's son all my life.

"I want to be known as Hunter Rison." 

Being a Legacy

Measuring at 5'11" and 197 pounds at The Opening Chicago regional, Hunter Rison is a 4-star player who first committed to Michigan State while at a Spartans camp the summer before the start of his junior season. He was their first pledge of the 2017 class, but he would go on to decommit in November to explore options, only to recommit on April 1. He selected Michigan State over schools such as Ohio State, Alabama, Miami, Penn State, Oregon, Oklahoma and UCLA.

"Seeing the past, I realized that's where I come from, what I was born into," Rison said of Michigan State. "I think about the present; they're winning now and really have solidified themselves as a national champion contender.

"Coach [Mark] Dantonio is known for making 2-stars into NFL draft picks. Now he has this pool of talent coming in, and the future is about to be crazy once it all comes to fruition. We're setting a goal to win that national championship."

Rison plays for his father, who coaches receivers at Skyline High School. Andre Rison watched his son emerge as a dynamic, reliable receiver who, per MLive, had 1,046 receiving yards and 10 touchdown passes as a junior.

"I've seen him make some catches I've never made...and I thought I pretty much made all of them," the elder Rison said.

Some consider Michigan State lucky to have held on to Rison. He decommitted in November citing that he made a rushed decision but remained high on the Spartans.

"A lot of kids hadn't thought about committing when I did," he said. "I felt like I rushed it and did it in the heat of the moment. I figured I needed to take a step back and play the [junior] season and see what other colleges give me interest."

After weighing his options, Rison recommitted to Michigan State on April 1. What may have won him over, he said, is that Dantonio and his staff were supportive of his original decision to explore options and take his time with the process. Rison added that Dantonio told him that the offer would always be there, regardless of his decision.

Rison had heard about Michigan State's loyalty and family environment from his father multiple times. The conversations with Dantonio, receivers coach Terrence Samuel and recruiting coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brad Salem ultimately helped put a bow on his recruiting.

"That stuck with me," he said. "For them to show consistent love, even with all the new offers, it just showed that's where I needed to be. My dad and I weighed out all the pros and cons, and Michigan State seemed to win every battle."

Recruiting, Rison said, is a closed chapter. Now, it's time to prepare for a productive senior season at Skyline.

From there, it's all about the chase of his father's accolades.

"I want to, for sure, break his marks at MSU," he said. "I want to go first round [in the NFL draft] like he did, but I want to go higher. He went 22nd to the Colts; I want to go higher. He scored 52 TDs in his first five years; I want to have more."

Chasing Dad

Rison described his father as "the Antonio Brown of his time." Andre Rison had 80 or more receptions in five of his first six NFL seasons. He finished his career with 743 catches for 10,205 yards and 84 touchdowns.

Hunter said there are definite similarities and differences between him and his father. Both are outgoing individuals off the field, and they both take pride in being the best athlete on the field. Hunter admits that his father was faster and more of a showman.

Andre doesn't worry about his son's speed.

"In the near future, he'll be running 4.4s," the elder Rison said of his son, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.71 seconds at The Opening Chicago regional. "By the time he turns 20, he'll be running 4.4s. Trust me."

Andre also said he wants his son to keep his reputation clean on and off the field. As talented as the former pro was, he had to overcome a tainted past that included legal issues, verbal and physical spats with teammates and a rocky, publicized relationship with the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, formerly of R&B group TLC.

Andre had a nickname of "Bad Moon," and that person, off the field, is someone he's made certain his son has avoided. On the field, however, Hunter is looking to put up big numbers, and Andre is working with his son to be better than he was.

"I want him to be better than me, and I know he can be," Andre said of Hunter.

Is there pressure to carry on the family name? It's something of a loaded question for the younger Rison, but it's one he never dances around.

"We talk about it all the time, and there's always going to be pressure," he said. "What he did was so big. It's just crazy sometimes to think that it was my dad doing it.

"I can handle the pressure, though. He tells me just to stay true to my game and play my game. People are going to always put pressure on me, but it's always going to come down to what I do. If he's teaching me the game, I know I can handle it."

Hunter's mental approach to the game is one of the things Andre appreciates most. Andre said his son understands the position he's been put in, and he works hard to perfect everything he does on the field.

The elder Rison called his son's grind "hardcore."

"He's a great kid, first of all," Andre said. "I think that's going to carry over to him getting better as a football player. Right now, we're just working on him letting a bad play go. He can get disgruntled in trying to make every catch or run every route perfectly.

"I tell kids all the time that I've never played a game and graded out 100 percent."

Hunter spends just as much time in the film room as he does on the field. He's a true student of the game and he makes attention to detail a part of his character. His father said there's a definite level of focus Michigan State fans will notice about him the minute he steps on campus.

For Hunter, it helps knowing that he's looking to put his name in the record books beside the man who is raising and training him. There's added incentive in wanting to maintain the Spartans legacy while also starting a side chapter in those record books.

"Just knowing what my dad did, it's pretty cool," he said. "But he knows I'm coming for [his records]."

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Auburn Football: 10 Best Players in Tigers History

Auburn's proud history in college football has produced some of the best athletes the sport has ever seen. There are the three Heisman Trophy winners who are forever linked to many of the program's best moments and then there are the legends who paved the way for success on other title-worthy squads.

So, one can imagine how tough it is to try to condense all that history of individual greatness into just a top-10 list of players.

Last summer, I posted my list of the top 10 players in Auburn Tigers football history. But after digging deeper into the record books, reading the firsthand accounts of the school's past greats and growing into an older and wiser college football analyst, I found myself questioning several of my selections. (OK, maybe that last part is a bit of a stretch.)

Still, there aren't any right or wrong answers for the top 10 football players in Auburn history once you get past the top three—and even the order of that trio can be up for debate.

With that being said, here's an updated countdown of the 10 best players to ever suit up for the Tigers, which was based on individual awards, All-American honors, school records held and number of team titles. As always, please feel free to list your own top 10 in the comments below.

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Michigan Football: Wolverines' Most Important Players at Each Position

While every contributor on a roster occupies a specific role, a select group of Michigan football players are most important to the team achieving national success in 2016.

At each position, the Wolverines have a talent who—while not necessarily irreplaceable in each case—will carry the heaviest burden, is the most experienced player or can be used in a variety of ways.

Michigan needs a new quarterback, but one player boasts a significant amount of previous snaps. No matter if he starts, though, the offense returns two skill-position leaders from the 2015 team.

On both sides of the trenches, a veteran is switching to a new starting position to help the Wolverines adapt. And there's simply no debating the players at linebacker and in the secondary.

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Elijah Blades to Florida: Gators Land 4-Star CB Prospect

The Florida Gators aren't waiting around to add top talent for next year's recruiting class, as they have landed cornerback Elijah Blades.

Blades confirmed his commitment to Florida on Twitter:

Blades is a 4-star prospect who is both the 26th-ranked cornerback and player from the state of California, and he is ranked 222nd overall, per 247Sports

He's a long and lanky player at 6'2", 170 pounds. There's plenty of room for him to fill out his frame and get stronger to play one-on-one at the line against bigger wide receivers who will come at him in college. 

After giving the Gators his commitment, Blades went on to explain what went into his decision to Luke Stampini of 247Sports: “Just knowing Florida would show love to a California [defensive back], they must really want him. ... Plus, it’s my dream school.”

Andrew Spivey of Gator Country noted that Florida's recruiting superstar is quickly becoming Tim Skipper:

Blades has also undoubtedly taken notice of the success Florida has had developing defensive backs for the next level. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and safety Keanu Neal were both top-20 picks in this year's NFL draft, for example. 

Florida head coach Jim McElwain is known for his offensive prowess, having played quarterback in college and having served as an offensive coordinator at Fresno State and Alabama before he became a head coach.

McElwain and his staff are showing no problems appealing to defensive players, adding defensive end Antonneous Clayton and cornerback Chauncey Gardner and now Blades for 2017.

The SEC is known for its wealth of powerful and intimidating defenses. One key to that is having a secondary capable of shutting down the passing game. Blades gives the Gators another foundational piece at cornerback to build around as they slowly build a talented roster that will compete for conference titles.

 

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10 Upcoming College Football Home-and-Home Series We Can't Wait to Watch

Strength of schedule is always an important issue late in the season, and that discussion has only become more heated after the creation of the College Football Playoff.

Nonconference games can boost or hurt a team, so programs typically try to schedule a home-and-home series against a respected Power Five conference opponent. Over the next five years, college football fans will be treated to several potentially pivotal showdowns.

The list does not include a matchup in progress or Notre Dame's yearly five-game ACC affiliation. Each series will start in 2016 but end no later than 2020.

Additionally, annual clashes—and that includes nonconference bouts (Florida and Florida State, for example)—were not considered.

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12 College Football Players with the Most 'Take It to the House' Potential

The most exciting players in college football are the ones who can take any play and turn it into a potential touchdown. They're the ones who make fans in the stands sit on the edge of their seats and get the viewers at home to pay closer attention to their TVs.

Having explosive speed or incredible agility in the open field is one thing. It's another to be able to get opportunities to create big plays and then take full advantage of them.

The following dozen players fit both descriptions. They have the wheels to take it to the house on any play in which they can get some daylight, and they also have proven track records of doing just that.

Here are the 12 college football players heading into the 2016 season who have the most potential to create huge gains for touchdowns. This isn't an exhaustive list, but it's based on stats such as explosive plays, touchdowns and yards per touch, as well as their specific roles for their teams.

These are the players who have the best chance of turning a standard handoff, reception or return into something that gets the college football world to pay attention.

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Devin Duvernay to Texas: Longhorns Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Devin Duvernay, one of the top wide receiver prospects in the Class of 2016, committed to play college football at Texas on Wednesday. A gifted athlete with high-end playmaking ability, it shouldn't take long for him to make an impact for the Longhorns. 

ESPN.com's Gerry Hamilton was the first to report the commitment, and he provided the following comments from Duvernay:

[I'm] going to Texas. I just feel like they are coming up, and feel good about [head coach] Charlie Strong and his staff's plan and they are going to turn this thing around. I feel like [offensive coordinator] Coach Sterlin Gilbert is kind of the missing piece to help out the offense. I feel like he can add me in, and add some speed to the receiving core.

Duvernay is a 4-star prospect who ranks as the No. 4 wide receiver, No. 4 player from the state of Texas and No. 36 overall prospect in his class, according to 247Sports. The outlet noted he received interest from more than three dozen schools before making a choice.

He previously committed to Baylor but decided to reopen his recruitment in the wake of the school's sexual assault scandal. That became possible because Baylor failed to submit Duvernay's national letter of intent paperwork, per ESPN (h/t Julie Boudwin of the Times-Picayune).

At this point, the Sachse High School (Texas) product remains a raw talent on the outside. He's going to need more polish before he becomes a consistent threat in the passing game. What made him stand out from the crowd was his top-tier athleticism.

Here's an example from the Dallas Nike Football Combine (via Student Sports):

It's easy to see why he's also a threat on special teams. Get him the ball in space and he can make people miss. Once there's a lane, there aren't many players who can chase him down.

He's also planning to use that natural speed in other ways. Michael Taglienti of Saturday Blitz passed along comments from the receiver about his college plans back in August: "I plan on doing both track and football in college."

Given his need for more work in terms of route running, along with learning the offense, it wouldn't be a surprise if he initially makes his impact on special teams. Returning kicks and punts while playing a rotational role on offense would be ideal at the outset.

The short-term outlook should become clearer once he arrives on campus. His long-term potential is intriguing, though. As long as he becomes more proficient in technical areas, his natural talent could help him blossom into a major threat for the Longhorns.

Exactly how long it will take before Duvernay becomes an every-down contributor on offense is a mystery at this point. But there are certainly a lot of reasons for Texas fans to get excited about the signing. He's a major piece to add to the 2016 class.

 

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