NCAA Football News

Surprises and Disappointments for Florida's 2016 Recruiting Class

The Florida Gators, under head coach Jim McElwain, have been hitting the recruiting trail with a vengeance.

What has Florida done well in recruiting, and what does it still need?

Bleacher Report college football analyst Michael Felder joined Stephen Nelson to answer those questions.

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Surprises and Disappointments for Texas' 2016 Recruiting Class

The Texas Longhorns, under Charlie Strong, have been hitting the recruiting trail with a vengeance.

What has Texas done well in recruiting, and what does it still need? 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder joins Stephen Nelson to answer those questions.

Recruit rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Who Will Be USC's Offensive MVP for 2015 Season?

The USC Trojans have excelled on both sides of the ball over their long, storied history. But in 2015, who will step up and become the team's offensive MVP?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder joins Stephen Nelson to answer that question.

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Big 12 Football: Who Is the Ultimate Dark Horse for 2015?

The Big 12 could have the most intriguing dark-horse candidate for conference champion in 2015: Oklahoma. If for no other reason, the Sooners aren't used to being in this position.

Consider first that Oklahoma has won eight Big 12 titles under head coach Bob Stoops, the most recent of which came in 2012 when the Sooners shared the conference trophy with Kansas State. Only four times in Stoops' 16 years as a head coach has OU finished with fewer than 10 wins.

One of those four times came last year, when OU lost four of its last seven games to finish 8-5. The 40-6 blowout at the hands of Clemson, which didn't even have starting quarterback Deshaun Watson, in the Russell Athletic Bowl was the period on a massively disappointing season.

OU, after all, was hyped as an early College Football Playoff front-runner.

But as athletic director Joe Castiglione told Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports in April, the bowl loss wasn't just a loss on the scoreboard—it was a true low point for the program:

The struggles we had last year were confounding, but the outcome of the bowl game was something we've never experienced before. I'm not talking about the score. I'm talking about the way the game evolved. Just the feel of that game, I can't say I've seen that before in all the years we've been together. It just didn't look like Oklahoma.

Suffice to say, expectations are dramatically more tempered this time around, which is why the Sooners are a perfect dark-horse candidate.

There's a case to be made for Oklahoma's Bedlam rival, Oklahoma State, as a dark horse as well. The Cowboys return 17 starters from last year's team and finally seem to have found a steady quarterback in Mason Rudolph.

There's some buzz around the Cowboys for sure, but the Sooners make for an interesting option behind runaway Big 12 favorites Baylor and TCU.

Let's go back to Oklahoma's 8-5 record from a year ago. As mentioned above, dipping under 10 wins a season isn't something Stoops has done often during his time in Norman. In fact, in the years following a seven- or eight-win season, the Sooners are 13-0 (2000), 11-3 (2006) and 12-2 (2010).

In each one of those years, Oklahoma won the Big 12 title.

But past success isn't always indicative of the future, right?

That's true, but understand this about Stoops: He's only two years removed from arguably his best coaching job ever at Oklahoma—2013, when the Sooners won 11 games and surprised Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. He's taken teams that weren't the best talent-wise and squeezed double-digit-win seasons out of them.

Additionally, last year's disappointment finally paved way to something Sooner fans have been demanding for a while: a much-needed staff shakeup.

Gone are co-offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell. In is former East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. It wasn't an easy decision for Stoops, who was tremendously loyal to Heupel and Norvell, but it was likely the right one in the end.

In all, there are four new assistants for Oklahoma in 2015 who have come from places like Stanford (defensive line coach Diron Reynolds), Notre Dame (defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks) and Washington State (outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons). Those assistants have worked for David Shaw, Brian Kelly and Mike Leach, respectively.

Those are some fine resumes for coaches who hope to inject some new energy into the program.

Sometimes, that's just what a team needs, especially when the head coach has been around for the better part of two decades. That kind of tenure doesn't happen much anymore in college football.

Mandel's key point in his April column was an accurate one: If Oklahoma flops again, it's on Stoops. But, certainly, you can't say he isn't trying. There's talent on the roster—it's more of a matter of development and finishing. Recall that three of Oklahoma's five losses came by a combined eight points.

Already, some key areas look improved.

Last season, Oklahoma's wide receiver group was made up of Sterling Shepard and, well, that's about it. If the spring game was any indication, Shepard will have help with redshirt freshman tight end Mark Andrews and junior college transfer wide receiver Dede Westbrook.

Both of those players were named potential breakout newcomers by Ryan Gerbosi of the Dallas Morning News.

The running back depth chart is loaded with Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon and Alex Ross. Defensively, pass-rushers Charles Tapper and Eric Striker return, along with key linebackers Jordan Evans and Dominique Alexander.

There are concerns, to be sure. What would a dark horse be if they were perfect?

The defensive secondary is young and lacks depth, and the quarterback question hasn't been answered yet. Will Trevor Knight win the job for the third year in a row or will it be Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield?

Whoever wins the quarterback job, the opportunity is there to get off to a hot start. It's entirely possible that Oklahoma enters mid-November undefeated. An early-season road game at Tennessee will be a huge test to see if there's been any improvement from last season.

Oklahoma's final three games are at Baylor (Nov. 14), vs. TCU (Nov. 21) and at Oklahoma State (Nov. 28).

By then, we should find out if the Sooners have enough confidence, momentum and chemistry to push through that final stretch—or whether they're still a tier behind the Big 12's best.

Oklahoma has serious questions to answer—there's no doubt about that.

Can Riley make an immediate impact with the new offense in his first year? Can the defense go from good to great under Stoops' brother, Mike Stoops? Can the program stop being outclassed by Baylor? The Bears have won the past two meetings by an average score of 45-13.

But Stoops has earned the chance to answer those questions, and history indicates he'll be able to do so. Will Oklahoma win a ninth Big 12 title this year? Baylor and TCU are awfully good—playoff-bound, perhaps. There's a reason for that.

Still, the Sooners should be able to improve on last year's effort if the roster talent meets development. The outcome of the season could come down to a game or two in November.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand.

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Alabama Football: Projecting Who Will Win Crimson Tide's Open Starting Positions

While Alabama’s roster is just about settled with the enrollment of the rest of its 2015 recruiting class, its depth chart can’t quite say the same.

During spring practice, a largely steady lineup emerged and culminated at A-Day, when players were split into teams based on first- or second-team status, the closest we’ll get to a depth chart until fall camp.

But a small handful of positions remain up in the air and could further be disrupted by the arrival of several top recruits to campus.

With a month to ago until SEC media days and less than two months until fall camp, here are predictions for who will emerge victorious in the Crimson Tide’s remaining position battles.

 

Middle linebacker

Reggie Ragland will be a major leader on the Alabama defense but still needs a steady inside linebacker partner.

Junior Reuben Foster and sophomore Shaun Dion Hamilton got about equal work in at that spot during the spring, both showing they’re capable of handling that role.

Nick Saban said the two played situationally, with the bigger Hamilton used during running situations and the more athletic Foster playing against the pass. But who will be the one in late against LSU? The fourth quarter of the Iron Bowl with the SEC West on the line?

Foster has been on campus longer and was the 5-star, can’t-miss recruit, but injuries stemming from poor tackling technique have cost him valuable playing time. Hamilton, meanwhile, doesn’t have the raw athletic ability, but his military-family background gave him incredible smarts, instincts and discipline needed to thrive as a middle linebacker in Saban’s system.

Foster and Hamilton should both get healthy amounts of playing time, but when the rubber meets the road, it’ll be Hamilton.

Prediction: Shaun Dion Hamilton

 

Right guard

The offensive line stayed largely the same through the spring, but that doesn’t mean that it’s totally set in stone.

Saban consistently mentioned during the spring that he felt he had four offensive linemen who could play “winning football.” He was referring to Cam Robinson, Ross Pierschbacher, Ryan Kelly and Dominick Jackson.

That leaves right guard, where Bradley Bozeman’s job isn’t totally secure.

Alphonse Taylor has seemingly always been on the cusp of a starting role for the last year or so. He rotated in at right guard last year with Leon Brown, with neither player grabbing solid playing time.

In a more extreme scenario, the staff could decide Jackson’s pass-blocking isn’t where it needs to be and slide him inside, creating an open position at right tackle.

But Bozeman has been a solid player since coming to Alabama, and Taylor’s window seems to have closed. He’ll be the one to complete an offensive line that should be its best since the vaunted 2012 group.

Prediction: Bradley Bozeman

 

Quarterback

And now, the million dollar question.

Predicting the quarterback here could mean a few things. Who starts against Wisconsin and who starts against Auburn are two very different propositions.

But this prediction is for the long-term—the guy the Crimson Tide live or die with late in the season with everything on the line.

Jake Coker and David Cornwell are the two front-runners, with Coker having a slight edge in seniority and playing time (the only quarterback on the roster, actually, who has thrown a pass in a game).

If the race continues to be this tight, which it likely will, it’s hard to see Saban not going with the younger guy who has room to grow. Do you really think he wants to do this all over again for the third year in a row next offseason?

Coker is probably the odds-on favorite to take the first snap in Arlington.

But for the long run, it’s going to be The David Cornwell Show.

Prediction: David Cornwell

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter@marctorrence.

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Who Will Be LSU's Defensive MVP for 2015 Season?

The LSU Tigers have always been known for their defense. 

Who will step up in 2015 and become the team's defensive MVP? 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder joined Stephen Nelson to answer that very question. 

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Who Will Lead the SEC in Receiving in 2015?

Crack open one of those preseason magazines, and you'll undoubtedly see that this is the "year of the running back" in the SEC.

The combination of several talented, established running backs with a quarterback crop that's relatively inexperienced has created a narrative that seemingly puts the SEC back in the dark ages of the "three yards and a cloud of dust" offense.

Wide receivers inside the SEC hope to change that narrative.

There are several top-tier pass-catchers who not only are talented enough to be superstars but also play for teams who will count on them to ease new starting quarterbacks into the fold.

Players such as Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell, Auburn's D'haquille Williams, South Carolina's Pharoh Cooper and Tennessee's Marquez North are all established downfield threats who have either brand-new starting quarterbacks or signal-callers who are getting their first offseason as the starter under their belts. 

Who will lead the SEC in receiving in 2015?

I'll take Cooper and watch him work his magic.

No, South Carolina doesn't have a quarterback set in stone, and yes, true freshman dual-threat QB Lorenzo Nunez could factor into the equation and take away from some of the Gamecocks' 2015 passing attack.

I don't care, because when South Carolina does let it fly, it'll likely be headed in Cooper's direction.

He caught 69 passes for 1,136 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago. Had it not been for Alabama stud and Heisman Trophy finalist Amari Cooper, the South Carolina superstar would have led the conference—and every "Cooper"—in receiving as a sophomore.

At 5'11", 208 pounds, he doesn't possess the size of Treadwell, Williams or North, and he won't have the benefit of having a quarterback with starting experience like North or Texas A&M's Josh Reynolds.

He also doesn't have the supporting cast in his wide receiving corps like the rest of those stars have, which means he'll be targeted early and often in head coach Steve Spurrier's system. 

He does, however, have the experience of being the go-to receiver in a system during a season in which his team is breaking in a new quarterback when he became Dylan Thompson's primary target a year ago. That was with Mike Davis, Shaq Roland and other established options around him.

This year, he'll be counted on even more.

Connor Mitch, the front-runner to start the season as South Carolina's starting quarterback, only has six career passing attempts. That puts more pressure on Cooper to keep defenses off Mitch and running backs Brandon Wilds and David Williams.

Despite the pressure on Cooper—and his success from a year ago—he's still flying under the radar, as Heath Cline of 107.5 in Columbia, South Carolina, notes:

Despite Cooper's success, teams will undoubtedly key on Wilds and Williams due to the inexperience of the eventual winner of the quarterback battle and the track record of running-game success for Spurrier's South Carolina's teams.

The lack of established wide receivers will force attention of defenses on Cooper as well. But the coaching staff has shown tremendous creativity using Cooper in a variety of ways, which will keep defenses honest and open up passing lanes when the Gamecocks decide to stretch the field.

Cooper will be to this South Carolina team what Amari Cooper was to last year's SEC champs.

In a year with a major unknown at quarterback, a go-to receiver has to step up.

That receiver will be Pharoh Cooper, and he'll ride it all the way to the SEC lead in receiving yards in 2015.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Vandarius Cowan Commits to Florida State: Noles Land 2017 4-Star DE

Florida State currently has the top-rated recruiting class for 2016, based on 247Sports' composite rankings, and is already making headway on being first overall in 2017 with Thursday's commitment from 4-star in-state prospect Vandarius Cowan.

The 6'5", 220-pound Cowan is ranked 167th overall in the 2017 class and is considered the ninth-best weak-side defensive end, though much of his highlight film shows him playing middle and outside linebacker.

"He has some of the best defensive front-seven range in the 2017 class," Bleacher Report recruiting expert Tyler Donohue said. "Several teams project him as a defensive end but he's expected to line up at outside linebacker in Tallahassee. He has a chance to become a feared pass-rusher from the stand-up position."

Cowan made his decision a day after attending the Jimbo Fisher Football Camp in Tallahassee. He had been offered by the Seminoles on April 30, and has since picked up offers from Auburn, Florida and Georgia. Louisville, Miami (Florida), Michigan State and Notre Dame were among the others who had previously offered the Palm Beach Gardens prospect.

"I always grew up a Florida State fan," Cowan told Chris Nee of 247Sports. "It is just one of those things. It made it better when they offered me. I wasn't expecting it, at so young in high school."

Being able to have contact with Fisher and defensive coordinator Charles Kelly while at the camp helped "push me over the edge" to make the commitment early, Cowan told Nee. He was also able to spend more time with linebackers coach Bill Miller, who has been Cowan's primary recruiter.

More than 350 high school athletes participated in the camp on Wednesday, per Safid Deen of theTallahassee Democrat. Additional camp sessions are scheduled through Saturday, with current FSU players expected to attend or help with instruction.

Cowan is FSU's fourth commitment for the 2017 class, all of which are Florida prospects ranked in the top 175 nationally. Zaquandre White, a 4-star running back, committed in February, while 4-star defensive tackle Ja'len Parks and 5-star wide receiver D.J. Matthews have been pledged to the Seminoles since July.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Insider Buzz: Where Will These Top Uncommitted 2016 Stud Quarterbacks Land?

In the Class of 2016, two top quarterbacks have yet to sign their letters of intent to play at the next level. 

Bleacher Report College Football Recruiting Analyst Damon Sayles joined Stephen Nelson to discuss where these players will land. 

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Which Conference Is Likely to Have Most Coaching Changes in 2015-16 Season?

Sometimes, El Nino hits college football's coaching carousel, and it just pours. In these instances, which come around every so often, it's not uncommon to see half of a conference (or more) experience coaching turnover within a year or two. 

Which conference is most likely to experience that kind of upheaval in 2015-16? It could be the ACC's turn. 

That prediction stems from the fact that the ACC could experience the two different kinds of coaching turnover—voluntary and involuntary—at the same time.

Coaches change jobs all the time, either by accepting positions at other universities or moving up to the NFL. Then, there are coaches on the hot seat who can't survive the year because of poor on-field performances or other factors, like NCAA violations or scandals. 

Of course, there are always coaches who retire, either expectedly or unexpectedly. 

It takes a perfect storm for a conference to experience so much turnover at once, but the conditions are in place for the ACC. Below is a list of coaches who could lose their jobs in 2015 if they fail to turn their programs around. Additionally, two coaches have been identified as potential candidates for other jobs. 

If all of those factors come together at once, here are the coaches that could be gone, for one reason or another, this time next year: 

 

Coaches on (or Near) the Hot Seat

Larry Fedora, North Carolina: To be clear, Fedora's "hot seat" talk is more of a whisper. As of June 11, 2015, Fedora's probably not in any immediate danger. But it's worth noting that the Tar Heels' win total has gone down in each of Fedora's three years—from eight to seven to six. A losing season would make things interesting regarding Fedora's future.

It seems like every year is "UNC's year," but 2015 might actually be it, according to Bill Connelly of SB Nation. Maybe. Possibly. With that in mind, another letdown could dramatically change Fedora's future. 

 

Al Golden, Miami (FL): The return of "The U" as the college football world knew it 20-plus years ago is a little bit like waiting for Godot. Golden's reputation as a program-builder was based on his excellent turnaround at Temple. To this day, in fact, the Owls are in a good spot and are even a trendy American Athletic Conference title pick.

The Hurricanes, however, haven't experienced any resurgence under Golden. In fact, the 'Canes had more players drafted (seven) into the NFL this year than total wins (six) in 2014. Golden has hit the recruiting trail hard for 2016, but it might take a divisional or conference championship to save his job. 

 

Mike London, Virginia: Last season, it looked at like London was finally turning things around for Virginia early on. Then, the Cavaliers lost five of their final six games and finished 5-7. London has had one winning season in five years with Virginia.

In this day and age, regardless of program expectations, that's a generous timetable for a head coach. There's no way London survives another losing season, and it's possible he won't survive a .500 one, either. 

 

Scott Shafer, Syracuse: Putting Shafer on the hot seat in Year 3 might be a touch too soon, but there was a pretty dramatic decline from Year 1 to Year 2. In 2013, the Orange went bowling and won seven games. Last year, that win total dropped to three. What does 2015 hold?

According to Chris Carlson of Syracuse.com, the Orange defense faces "the biggest rebuild in college football over the last six seasons." So there's that. If things go from bad to worse, it wouldn't be surprising to see Syracuse go in another direction.

 

Coaches Who Could Leave on Their Own

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: Back in April, during an interview with Mike Florio of PFT Live, Fisher said he recently "had people inquire" about his interest in joining the pro ranks. So far, Fisher hasn't actively pursued any of those opportunities. However, Fisher did add, "I never say never." 

Fisher has a deep history in the college ranks and seems to enjoy the teaching process for 18- to 22-year-olds. That drives some coaches more than the bright lights of the NFL. But Fisher has won a national championship with the Seminoles. He certainly knows a thing or two about player development as well. There could be a day when he finds himself ready for another challenge. 

 

Bobby Petrino, Louisville: The Cardinals are in a far better place than when Petrino left for the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. Additionally, dozens of articles have been written over the past year about whether Petrino, whose reputation as a job-hopper with questionable ethics is well-documented, is a changed person. Ultimately, though, those two things might not matter.  

Petrino won nine games with Louisville last season and could match or surpass that total again in 2015. Two solid years with the Cardinals and Petrino could again be a name circulating through the coaching carousel. Would he leave Louisville again? It wouldn't surprise a lot of people if he did, especially if it's for a job in the SEC. 

 

For what it's worth, the Big Ten could see numerous firings if Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Rutgers have bad seasons.

The key factor is coaches leaving. Who are the candidates? Mark Dantonio at Michigan State? Urban Meyer at Ohio State? Would Jim Harbaugh dare leave Michigan after one year, perhaps to return to the NFL? Meanwhile, the Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC don't have nearly as many coaches on the hot seat for 2015. 

The thing about the coaching carousel is that it is unpredictable. Who would have ever envisioned Bret Bielema ending up at Arkansas or Mike Riley going to Nebraska? 

But there are also indications that can lead us to believe a coach's shelf life at a school is more limited. That's all any of us can go off of during the month of June, anyway. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Years Later, Did Nebraska Make Right Choice Leaving Big 12 for Big Ten?

Five years ago today, Nebraska left the Big 12 for its new home in the Big Ten and set off a massive chain reaction of conference realignment that has just recently settled.

The Huskers' high-profile decision to switch conferences was the first of many moves that changed the landscape of college football.

The Pac-10 later became the Pac-12, the SEC added two Big 12 programs, the Big 12 managed to stay at 10 teams, the Big East rebranded itself in the name of football and the Big Ten expanded further years later. Some mid-major conferences were totally reconstructed and one even had to stop sponsoring football.

These changes led to bigger and better television deals for conferences and, most importantly, the creation of the College Football Playoff system and the fall of the BCS.

Nebraska's move to the Big Ten obviously had a huge impact on the rest of the country, but what kind of impact has it had on the Huskers themselves? Did they make the right move by leaving the Big 12?

On the fifth anniversary of the Huskers' game-changing announcement, let's look at how successful the switch of conferences has been by looking at three major areas of change to the football program.

 

Stability

When Nebraska went out of the Big 12, it went out with its guns blazing.

According to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com. university chancellor Harvey Perlman said on the day of the announcement that the Big Ten offered Nebraska stability "that the Big 12 cannot offer." 

Nebraska had long grown frustrated with problems with the league office and what it saw as favoritism from the conference toward South division powers Texas and Oklahoma. One of the biggest issues Nebraska had was the location of the Big 12 Championship Game, which was moved to Cowboys Stadium in 2009.

(The 2009 conference title game also featured a controversial ending to what would be a narrow Texas victory over Nebraska.)

At the time Nebraska's Big Ten move was becoming official, Texas and several other Big 12 schools were in discussions with the Pac-10, which ESPN reported was close to becoming the Pac-16 and destroying the Big 12 in the process (h/t Pro Football Talk). A frustrated Nebraska saw the writing on the wall and jumped to the Big Ten, which has not lost any members and added two more schools in Rutgers and Maryland.

And while the Big 12 lost its championship game—one that could come back as early as 2016—after the realignment frenzy, the Big Ten is not in any danger of losing its own. The Big 12 learned the danger of not having a definite conference champion last season, but the Big Ten's title-game winner was selected for the College Football Playoff and then won the whole thing.

Nebraska's former home is still in a state of transition as its current home remains rock solid for the future. Perlman's words from five years ago remain true today.

 

On-Field Success

Thanks to the consistency of the Bo Pelini era in Lincoln, this is an area that hasn't received much change.

On the field, Nebraska has had close to the same amount of success in the Big Ten as it had in the Big 12:

As shown by the records and the Sagarin strength of schedule ratings above, the final years of Big 12 Nebraska and the early years of Big Ten Nebraska look similar on paper.

If Nebraska makes it to the Big Ten Championship Game this upcoming season, the Huskers will be on pace for what they had as a member of the Big 12—six title-game appearances in 15 seasons. That, of course, would be the same ratio for two Big Ten title games in five seasons.

In terms of recruiting, the Huskers have slipped slightly in terms of 247Sports' Composite Team Rankings since joining the Big Ten. Their best class was signed in 2011, the year between the last Big 12 season and the first Big Ten one.

With similar records and almost similar results on the recruiting trail, the Huskers' decision to join the Big Ten hasn't changed much on the field except for the conference foes they play each week.

 

Financial Gain

When Nebraska jumped to the Big Ten, the move was heralded by many as a good move for the athletic department's financial future. 

That hasn't paid off just yet, as Henry J. Cordes of the Omaha World-Herald reported last year.

In 2013, Nebraska received only $15 million from the Big Ten, which was "substantially lower" than what several schools received that year from the Big 12.

The Big 12's passing of Nebraska in terms of finances might be surprising, but it's also by design.

From the World-Herald's report:

In 2017, when Nebraska will finally be on equal financial footing with the core Big Ten schools, the school's annual revenue from the conference could well swell to between $40 million and $50 million a year.

Such a figure is astounding compared with four years ago, when the Big 12 paid NU $9 million.

The university in 2017 also gains a full ownership share in the Big Ten's TV network, which analysts have valued at more than $1.3 billion. ...

Nebraska agreed to wait six years to gain a full share of Big Ten revenue. It received $14 million the first year, $15 million last year and will receive no more than $16.9 million this year — each figure roughly $10 million short of a full share.

The Big Ten has become a financial powerhouse thanks to its network deal, and the Huskers are set to reap the benefits of that money-making machine down the road.

Nebraska's deal to join the Big Ten wasn't a great one in the short term, but it will become one within the next few years. A share in the neighborhood of $40 million or $50 million is something the Big 12 couldn't come close to offering. While it requires patience, that's a huge advantage for Nebraska in the Big Ten.

 

The Final Verdict

Joining the Big Ten gave Nebraska a mixed bag of results, and opinions among fans are divided on if the move was the right call for the program.

While the Big Ten has offered more strength and stability to the football program, the move hasn't resulted in improvement on the field. Perhaps the change from Pelini to Mike Riley could break the Huskers' infamous four-loss streak and lead to a conference title down the road.

The financial benefits of the change are still a few years out, but they could be huge in shaping the future of the entire program.

And while a move out of the Big 12 signaled the end of the Huskers' classic rivalry with Oklahoma was a major negative after the announcement, the two schools are scheduled to meet again in 2021 and 2022. 

In the meantime, Nebraska is hoping to build on its budding rivalries with Iowa and Wisconsin—two Big Ten teams that now play the Huskers for new rivalry trophies.

Nebraska's decision to move to the Big Ten hasn't hurt the Huskers at all, and the short-term strength and long-term money of the move could be the keys in bringing back the glory days of national title contenders in Lincoln.

With a little more patience, the change might become the best decision the program has ever made.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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Business School as Important as Football for No. 1 2017 Safety Jeffrey Okudah

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — If Jeffrey Okudah doesn't fulfill his dream of playing in the NFL, he fully expects to be the best entrepreneur around. Choosing a college will play a major role in his ambition.

The nation's No. 1 safety in the 2017 class gets it. Playing professional football isn't a guarantee, no matter where a player is ranked or how many stars or offers he has. Building a future is key, and using his degree effectively is something Okudah is making a top priority.

But with all that said, don't think football is just another avenue for an education. Okudah—the Grand Prairie, Texas, standout with 30 offers—is one of the hardest-working players in his class, and his work ethic could make him a next-level star immediately.

"I'm looking for a school that can develop a DB to the next level, a school that has that tradition and one that has that established network for a player to succeed in life after football is over," said Okudah, who is a leader on and off the field for South Grand Prairie High School. "I want to major in business and marketing."

It's noteworthy that the 6'1 ½", 200-pound athlete has academics so high on his priority. For the casual recruiting fan, it adds to the fact that Okudah is a versatile player who can play multiple positions on both sides of the ball. In addition to being a standout defensive back, he also caught 19 passes for 460 yards—an average of 24.2 yards per catch—and six touchdowns for South Grand Prairie last season.

Okudah's next steps in finding a college take place next week when he begins his unofficial visit schedule for the summer. Okudah said he will travel to Tennessee and Ohio State beginning Wednesday and running through the rest of the week.

From there, he will venture west and take in USC and UCLA beginning June 24.

"Right now, I'm just taking things month by month," he said.

Okudah said he is viewing all of his offers equally. He has a Michigan offer and was in attendance for the Showtyme Elite Football Camp, which featured the Michigan coaching staff and head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Okudah had a chance to chat with Harbaugh and has a newfound respect for the energetic head coach, who was active throughout the day camp.

"This is the first time I've had a chance to sit and speak with the Michigan coaches, so that was pretty big-time," Okudah said. "It kind of moved them up on my list, but as far as the whole picture, they're up there with all the other schools right now."

Okudah said he hasn't compiled any lists or even trimmed his offer list in half yet. He added that could happen after taking summer visits, but he's in no rush at the moment.

If anything, he wants to just get out to schools, get to know coaches he hasn't met and see the facilities and overall environments various campuses have to offer.

He also wants to make sure that the business schools are solid.

"That's important, man. Real important," he said.

 

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

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Which Conference Has the Best Quarterbacks in College Football?

College football has become a pass-first, quarterback-driven sport over the years.

Which conference has the best quarterbacks?

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer answer that question in the video above.

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Alabama Players Are in Awe of Nick Saban's Sick New Mercedes

Alabama football coach Nick Saban wowed his players when he rolled onto campus in a sick new Mercedes on Wednesday.

The new whip is an AMG GT S Coupe, with a starting price of $129,000:

Freshman defensive end Mekhi Brown thought his coach's new ride gave Saban the appearance of a certain British spy:

Now that you mention it, he and Pierce Brosnan do have similar hair—sorry, Sean Connery and Daniel Craig fans.

The resemblance is truly remarkable in this commercial for Mercedes-Benz of Birmingham, where Saban is a partner:

Just don't forget: The name is Saban...Nick Saban.

[h/t Uproxx.com, 247Sports]

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What LSU's Defense Must Do to Keep the Tigers in SEC West Contention

When the LSU quarterbacks look up, they're going to see the offseason spotlight beaming down on them brighter than it ever has before.

On the periphery of that spotlight, though, is an LSU defense that has to improve under first-year coordinator Kevin Steele if the Tigers are going to jump back into SEC West contention.

But wait...LSU finished with the best defense in the SEC at 316.8 yards per game last year. Is it really that much of a problem?

Yes.

LSU being at the top of the defensive heap in 2014 isn't indicative of a top-tier defense. Rather, it's proof that the old adage that "games aren't played on paper" is true.

What must the Tigers do to give their offense a chance and get back into contention for the division title?

 

Get After the Quarterback

LSU has about as many monikers as any team can have, but one unit didn't live up to the hype in 2014. 

The doors were locked on "Defensive End U" a year ago, as LSU managed just 19 sacks—second fewest in the SEC. That's remarkable—in a bad way—considering starting defensive end Danielle Hunter jumped to the NFL early and was selected in the third round and fellow starter Jermauria Rasco was an established threat. 

Steele and new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron have to find a way to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks this season; otherwise, the talented secondary is going to have its work cut out for it trying to stop high-octane SEC offenses.

"Pressure can come from a lot of ways," Steele told Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com in March. "You can get a four-man rush if you've got the right four guys and get a lot of pressure on guys. You've got to generate a pass rush with a four-man rush. That leaves a lot of options open."

LSU has players who can provide that rush.

Junior Tashawn Bower established himself as one of the team's top defensive ends this spring. The 6'5", 237-pounder has an incredible burst off the edge and is the prototypical fast-twitch end who can make a living in the opponent's backfield.

"Tashawn Bower on the one edge was very difficult for us to block," head coach Les Miles said during May's coaches teleconference.

Maquedius Bain, a former defensive tackle, is a perfect fit to slide in on the strong side. The 6'4", 299-pound sophomore spent the spring adjusting to his new role and is in a fight with fellow sophomore Deondre Clark to earn snaps this fall.

"We're going to have real strong ends and really young ends...guys who have really improved this spring and showed that they can get to the passer," Miles said.

Inside, 6'4", 298-pound Davon Godchaux and 6'5", 300-pound Christian LaCouture need to be more consistent up front at getting pressure on the quarterback. While pressure off the edge has become a focus, a pocket that collapses inside is a quarterback's worst nightmare.

The duo impressed Miles this spring.

"We really think the two guys inside will give us great push and should be great rushers themselves," Miles said.

He better be right, because LSU won't contend for the West unless it generates more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

 

Stronger up the Middle

The LSU rush defense left a lot to be desired a year ago. The Tigers gave up 4.32 yards per carry a year ago—ninth in the SEC.

Godchaux and LaCouture learned on the job, as did middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith, who moved into a starting role in the middle of the season. Miles has been pleased with the way the middle of his defense has progressed this offseason.

"Davon Godchaux has had a great spring," Miles told Kleinpeter. "Centerpiece with him and LaCouture is really good. Kendell Beckwith is going to be a force inside. Right up the center of the defense includes Jamal Adams at safety. He's had as quality a spring as we've had around here at that position."

He better be right again, because the center of the LSU defense was soft in big games last year.

The Tigers gave up 20 rushing plays of 20 or more yards last season, ninth in the SEC. Of those, 12 came against ranked opponents (11th in the SEC), and 18 came against FBS opponents that had a winning record (11th in the SEC).

LSU lost the battle in the trenches against good teams last year, which is shocking considering the talent on the roster and former defensive coordinator John Chavis' track record of success.

 

Don't Force a System

LSU was successful defensively under Chavis in a 4-3 defense that allowed the athleticism of players on the roster—particularly defensive ends and linebackers—to shine through. Steele trotted out a similar lineup for the majority of the spring game; however, he comes from Alabama, a program that operates almost exclusively out of the 3-4.

As James Smith of NOLA.com noted earlier this month, Steele appears focused on switching to the 3-4 on more of a full-time basis in the future based on the way LSU is recruiting.

What will the Tigers' identity be in 2015?

That's the $64,000 question, and Steele is keeping that under wraps.

"And it's going to stay that way," Steele told Kleinpeter in March. "I've got no reason or advantage—as long as the players know—it's really an advantage to us that opponents for next year in their spring, summer and early fall camp work, they've got no evidence of what we are. Keep guessing."

With Bain pushing 300 pounds and playing defensive end this spring, at least some 3-4 will be mixed in. But since Bower—who's much lighter and not a fit to play end in the 3-4—is the clear-cut best pass-rusher of the group, Steele is almost forced to stick with the 4-3 for now while planning for a more permanent transition in the future.

New coaches always want to put their signature on the program, and Steele will do so eventually. But LSU doesn't have the personnel to run what he is accustomed to this year. As long as he doesn't force the issue and give the defense too much too quickly, the Tigers should orchestrate a nice blend of the two styles.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Should Texas A&M Fans Worry 5-Star Greg Little Visited Alabama and Ole Miss?

Texas A&M sent a resounding message last June by landing a commitment from prized offensive tackle Gregory Little. A year later, the Aggies appear to have some competition from the reigning recruiting king of college football—Alabama.

The burgeoning rivalry between these relatively new conference rivals extends far beyond on-field showdowns. Recruiting clashes are growing more prevalent on a perennial basis.

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin continues to increase his program's focus on talent-laden territory in the Southeast while the Crimson Tide claim six commitments from the Lone Star State since 2014, featuring a pair of 5-star cornerbacks in Tony Brown and Kendall Sheffield.

Alabama's efforts in that department have reached a new level during the 2016 recruiting cycle. Head coach Nick Saban holds pledges from a trio of Texas prospects after defensive tackle Kendell Jones and quarterback Jalen Hurts jumped on board in recent weeks.

Now the Crimson Tide have turned their attention to the state's top-rated recruit. 

Little, a 6'5 ½", 305-pound lineman from Allen High School, traveled to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday. He tweeted a photo of him and Alabama assistant Billy Napier.

His visit precedes the anticipated Friday arrival of No. 1 prospect Rashan Gary, a 5-star defensive tackle from New Jersey.

Gary and Little rate first and second overall, respectively, in 247Sports' composite rankings. Needless to say, this week looms large for Alabama's latest recruiting efforts.

The Crimson Tide, riding an unprecedented five-year streak atop national signing day ratings, have overcome a slow start by Saban's standards. Alabama surged to eighth overall in national class rankings with nine new pledges since April after sitting outside the top 15 for quite some time.

Earlier this spring, the program seemed primed to finally fall from its top perch on signing day. Entering the summer, that sentiment now seems far from a foregone conclusion.

Momentum in College Station isn't quite as strong right now, but Texas A&M is piecing together another impressive class. The 11-player group rates 14th nationally, putting the team in position to potentially secure its third top-10 class in four years.

Of course, things won't look quite as rosy if you remove Little from the equation. Without him in the mix, Texas A&M would tumble to 23rd overall in national recruiting rankings and 10th among SEC squads.

The sight of Little wearing a Crimson Tide jersey may send shivers down the spines of Aggies faithful, but this should simply be viewed as an exploratory phase of his recruitment—for now.

When you're the top player at your position, and perhaps in the nation, it makes sense to expand your collegiate horizons. 

Alabama isn't the only SEC team to host Little on campus this week. He traveled to Ole Miss on Monday.

Trips to Oxford and Tuscaloosa show Little and his family are at least curious about what options may lie beyond College Station. Given the unsteadiness of college staffs—the Aggies' offseason overhaul included the dismissal of offensive line coach B.J. Anderson—it's smart to be diligent and identify alternatives.

"He's obviously committed to Texas A&M, but kids may have a change of heart. I think he just wanted to check a couple of things out," Allen High School head coach Tom Westerberg told Drew Champlin of AL.com.

If things work out the way Aggies fans envision, Little will compete for playing time at Texas A&M in 2016 and reunite with 5-star 2015 quarterback signee Kyler Murray. He protected the promising passer at Allen during unbeaten state title runs in 2013 and 2014.

These same fans surely remember the uneasy moments they endured last winter when Murray—an Aggies legacy—visited Austin and flirted with the idea of flipping to Texas.

This situation shouldn't induce the level of panic that development brought, but as long as Little is spending time on the campuses of conference rivals, there will be some lingering doubt about whether he ultimately lands at Texas A&M.

If Alabama secures an official visit this fall, things get a bit more dicey. Texas A&M hosts the Crimson Tide on Oct. 17, and it would be a surprise if Little isn't in attendance.

Bookmark that matchup and this recruitment as intriguing storylines to monitor for these SEC foes.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Every Power 5 College Football Team's Top 2016 Recruiting Target This Summer

Recruiting is a year-round endeavor in college football, with coaches hitting the trail whenever they get a free moment. No time is more critical to this pursuit than in the summer, however, when prospects are participating in camps and all-star showcases that are meant to draw college recruiters to one place to find their next stars.

Every FBS power-conference team has been hot on the trail of 2016 recruits for some time, with schools like Miami (23), Florida State (17) and Michigan State (17) nearly done filling out their next class. Others have a lot more work to do, such as Iowa State, which has zero commitments for 2016, while four other power programs have two or fewer commitments.

This summer will be critical for each team's future, and each power-conference school has a particular player it's interested in more than any other. We've identified a top uncommitted recruiting target for every team in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC as well as Notre Dame and note why he's important to each school (as well as who else wants him).

Begin Slideshow

Dymond Lee Commits to UCLA: What Versatile 4-Star Brings to Bruins

UCLA secured a commitment from intriguing in-state offensive threat Dymond Lee on Wednesday, according to Tracy Pierson of Scout.com

The 4-star Chaminade Prep playmaker chose the Bruins over several notable scholarship offers, including Oklahoma, Miami, Tennessee, Utah and Washington. While several recruiting analysts envision his future at wide receiver, he plans to begin college behind center.

"They told me they want me as a quarterback. They said they're looking for a dual threat. They asked me to be that guy," Lee told Pierson.

He becomes the Bruins' second quarterback commit in the 2016 class, joining Colorado product Matt Lynch. UCLA missed a priority prospect at passer earlier this year when Devon Modster pledged to Arizona.

Head coach Jim Mora can't exactly sell early playing time at the position, but that's a good problem to have. UCLA signed No. 1 overall quarterback recruit Josh Rosen during the winter, and he's a strong candidate to start as a true freshman.

Unlike many prospects who arrive on campus at quarterback, Lee doesn't sound entirely attached to the position long term depending on how situations develop at UCLA.

"Obviously, I still have the skills that I've built up as a receiver, which I could use later on, but right now I'm 100 percent a quarterback," he told Pierson.

His willingness to be versatile makes Lee an excellent pickup for the Bruins. He caught 77 passes for 1,464 yards and 11 touchdowns during the past two seasons, serving as a primary target for current starting Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya in 2013.

Lee exhibits outstanding range as an athlete, showing off straight-line speed and lateral agility that keeps defenders off balance. His 6'2", 174-pound physique leaves room for growth, and that size suits him well for whichever position he ultimately lands.

Rated 37th among 2016 California recruits, Lee is the latest local talent to join UCLA's class.

Defenders Breland Brandt and Lokeni Toailoa lead the way, but there's a lot to like about what the Bruins have accomplished on offense. Mora claims commitments from 4-star wide receiver Darian Owens and multidimensional running back Demetric Felton.

This group is poised to add to a 2015 haul that featured several impact offensive players, headlined by Rosen. 

We likely won't learn where Lee is most effective until at least a couple of seasons into his college career, but he provides the Bruins with options across the depth chart.

 

Recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Tennessee Stat Projections: What Numbers Will Joshua Dobbs Put Up in 2015?

Joshua Dobbs will have much to prove as he tries to propel his team to the top of the SEC. The Volunteers are poised to make a run at the College Football Playoff.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer gives his projections as to the type of year Tennessee's quarterback will have.

What kind of season will Dobbs have? Check out the video and let us know!

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Alabama Football: Recapping the Biggest 2015 Offseason News so Far

It’s largely been a quiet offseason so far for the Alabama football team, but that doesn’t mean anyone in Tuscaloosa is complaining.

After a spring that saw four arrests and two long-term injuries, a light news cycle in May and into June has been a welcome silence for Alabama fans, coaches and players.

Still, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a couple of headline-makers during that period. Here’s a rundown of Alabama’s offseason to this point.

 

To transfer or not to transfer

Depending on who you asked, the Crimson Tide were at least somewhat in the running for two of the offseason’s hottest transfer quarterbacks. With no No. 1 starter coming out of spring practice, Alabama could have used the services of a grad transfer who could start right away.

First it was Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, the former Big Ten player of the year who was seemingly displaced to third-team duties after the emergence of J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones.

Miller spent time in Tuscaloosa in May, leading some to question whether he was visiting campus and meeting with coaches. Alabama linebacker and Ohio native Trey DePriest, though, revealed to al.com’s Matt Zenitz that Miller was rehabbing with Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham and hanging out with DePriest, a friend, in the meantime.

The further and further the offseason goes along, the more likely it seems that Miller will indeed stay in Columbus for his senior season.

Then, Notre Dame’s Everett Golson started poking around, and Alabama naturally came up as a possible destination.

Most notably, ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported that Alabama would be open to adding Golson but that the SEC’s restrictive graduate transfer rules would prevent it from doing so.

And that turned out to be the case.

Golson transferred to Florida State, leaving Alabama and other SEC schools without the services of an experienced quarterback because of their own rule.

 

Nick Saban speaks out on college football change

Sparked by discussion about the SEC missing out on a major transfer, Alabama’s outspoken coach made his thoughts clear that all Power Five schools should play by the same rules.

That didn’t just have to do with graduate transfers, though.

The SEC also has restrictive legislation on holding satellite camps and at spring meetings passed a rule banning the transfer of players who had previously been kicked out of a school for “serious misconduct.”

When asked about that new transfer rule, Saban broke off into a tangent about how he wants to see the Power Five under one umbrella rules-wise.

“What I’m most concerned about—I just think that we should have the same rules in the SEC as all the other big five schools have,” he said. “Because now we’re not just talking about the SEC. We’re talking about having a playoff, no different than the NFL. One division in the NFL doesn’t have different rules, different salary caps, different anything, because the league knows that parity is the best competitive balance that you can create.

“So when we pass rules that other people that we have to compete against, if that is really what’s best for the young people that we’re dealing with here, the student-athletes that we’re dealing with, then it should be best for everyone. Or otherwise we shouldn’t do it.

“So I’m hopeful that in some kind of way, we’ll be able to get the big five together under the NCAA’s supervision to try to create rules that we all see in the best interest of student-athletes, which I think we need to be thinking about here.”

 

Recruiting momentum built

Exiting spring practice, Alabama had just six commitments for the 2016 class—not catastrophic by any means, but not ideal for trying to haul in another top class and keep up with some of the other top schools.

But since A-Day, the Crimson Tide have landed five 2016 prospects and three for 2017.

Of note, Alabama finally landed a 2016 quarterback, when it got a commitment from 4-star dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts. It also got a commitment from a top JUCO player in the country, Charles Baldwin, who could start at right tackle next season after Dominick Jackson’s departure.

For 2017, D.D. Bowie has the makings of an instant-impact wide receiver when he gets to campus.

You can see Alabama’s full list of 2016 commitments here and 2017 pledges here.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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