NCAA Football News

Everett Golson vs. Malik Zaire: Updates on Notre Dame's QB Battle

As the calendar moves over to August, Brian Kelly remains no closer to figuring out Notre Dame's best option at starting quarterback.

The Fighting Irish head coach admitted that neither Everett Golson nor Malik Zaire has done enough yet to earn the job, per JJ Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com:

In an ideal world, I think every coach would want one quarterback that has clearly demonstrated a consistency, great leadership and the ability to take you to a championship. And so if that guy shows himself, I'm ready to name him the quarterback on that day.

So I'm not playing a game where, you know, we are trying to create artificial competition within the ranks. I think we still have competition for that particular role to show itself.

Golson was suspended from the team last year for academic reasons and returned in March. He obviously has the experience edge on Zaire. The senior signal-caller played 12 games in 2012, throwing for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns to six interceptions.

Those who think Golson should be the starter will likely point to how much he helped Notre Dame reach the BCS National Championship two seasons ago.

However, Kelly appeared to downplay Golson's contributions to that success, per ESPN.com's Matt Fortuna:

Blue & Gold Illustrated's Dan Murphy saw that statement as less a critique on Golson and more an opinion that whoever is QB won't have the kind of defensive support the '12 Irish provided:

Zaire entered South Bend with a fair amount of hype. He ranked 168th overall and was the fifth-best dual-option quarterback in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. Since his style is similar to Golson's, Kelly's decision becomes even trickier.

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit thinks Golson should get the nod because of his time under center:

The Fighting Irish look to be in for a bounce-back campaign in 2014, and much of their success will hinge on how well Golson or Zaire performs.

Kelly has to make the right decision here. Notre Dame's season depends on it.

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Alabama Football: Early Suspensions Hit Crimson Tide Hard Up Front

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban took to the podium on Friday at the start of the Crimson Tide’s fall camp preaching discipline, buying in and a challenge to “resurrect our identity in terms of what we want Alabama football to be.”

And if his point weren’t clear enough, his next statement was.

Saban announced that defensive linemen Brandon Ivory and Jarran Reed, as well as sophomore linebacker/defensive end Tim Williams, were all suspended for “violation of team rules and policies.”

He didn’t go into any further detail regarding their transgressions (though Reed was recently arrested for DUI) and said that their return was conditional upon “completion of the requirement of what they have to do relative to their suspension.”

It’s obvious that Saban is putting his foot down early after a divided locker room and entitlement were cited for the two-game skid to end the 2013 season.

It also, though, leaves a few pretty big holes on defense, especially up front.

Nose tackle wasn’t really a strength last season, with the middle of the defense lacking the push it previously got from the likes of Jesse Williams, Josh Chapman and Terrence Cody.

Ivory is the returning starter, and Reed was expected to be his backup.

Both could be back before the season starts, and if so, all of this is moot. But if one or both have to miss playing time, it could mean some trouble up front.

Junior Darren Lake has played only sparingly during his career and had surgery on an injured pectoral muscle in the spring, though Saban says he is fully recovered. Another nose tackle from the spring, Dakota Ball, was experimenting with the tight ends at Friday’s practice.

Defensive end A’Shawn Robinson could slide into the middle in base, though it would limit the disruptiveness and productivity he flashed as a freshman a season ago, when he led Alabama with 5.5 sacks.

That normally would free up Williams, a 4-star defensive end out of high school, to build off of his freshman-year reserve duties, but he’s out indefinitely, too.

The talent is still there, though, to be a dominant group even without the trio. Allen joins Robinson as a rising sophomore who saw regular playing time as a freshman. D.J. Pettway is back after a year in junior college. Dalvin Tomlinson and Dee Liner were both 4-star recruits coming out of high school and will be sophomores in the fall.

Alabama would be in a tricky spot if one or all aren’t back by the West Virginia game. But if there’s one sport where Alabama could afford some discipline issues, it’s on the defensive line.

 

Other Notes from the Start of Fall Camp

Eddie Jackson

Cornerback Eddie Jackson, who had spring surgery to repair ligament damage in his knee, was out on the practice field on Friday going through drills. Saban said he is doing straight-line running but is still working on cutting and changing direction.

“We're very encouraged with where he's at,” Saban said. “We're making no predictions about when he'll be able to get back and play. We're just going to evaluate him one day at a time and try to bring him along so that at some point in time he's going to be able to come back and contribute for us.”

 

Quarterback

Saban gave his criteria for what he’s looking for in the new quarterback.

“It's going to come down to, in my opinion, three things,” he said. “It's going to come down to the guy that can basically have the best judgement, decision-making, relative to doing what we need them to do. The guy that is most accurate in throwing the ball to the right place at the right time to give guys the opportunity to make plays, and their leadership to affect other people. 

"Those are the three things that are the most important to me at this position right now, to see who can do that the best.”

 

Jacob Coker

The media got to see Florida State transfer quarterback Jacob Coker throw for the first time, as Coker went through his first practice in an Alabama uniform. He sported the No. 14 he wore at Florida State, showing off his strong arm, while letting some sail on him, which is to be expected early on.

“He's a good guy,” running back T.J. Yeldon said. “He's different. He's from my area—Mobile area. So we've kind of bonded with each other. I had class with him. We just talked and stuff. It was good.”

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from cfbstats. All recruiting information comes from 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Biggest Storylines Heading into Wisconsin Football Fall Camp

Coming off of a 9-4 season, the Wisconsin football team looks to build off of last season's successes and learn from its mistakes.  With a series of very winnable games coming after the opener against LSU, the Badgers have a chance to reach the inaugural College Football Playoff.  But to do that, they have a lot to figure out by opening day.

Gone is the entire starting front seven and then some, along with the two receivers who did anything last season.  Just to make things more interesting, even in positions where the incumbent is still on the roster, there is a position battle at both quarterback and kicker.

Without further ado, let's look at four of the biggest storylines heading into the Badgers' fall camp.

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Every College Football Playoff Contender's Most Important Fall Camp Battle

We have spent the offseason bickering about position battles in the abstract, but with fall camps beginning to open, and the season sitting weeks instead of months in the future, now is when the real decisions get made.

Even the deepest, best, most -complete teams in college football have multiple positional hierarchies to sort out this next month, and some are more important than others. If the battles take place at a position of need—at a rare spot where a good team is weakest—it can alter the course of the entire college football season.

So in honor of the first day of August—the start of the first month of the season—we've taken a group of the top College Football Playoff contenders and highlighted their most impactful fall battle.

The 13 teams included as contenders are the top 13 teams in the Amway Preseason Coaches Poll, which was not necessarily done on purpose. It does, however, feel like there's a pretty distinct drop-off between No. 13 and No. 14—two teams that ironically play each other in Week 1—and another between No. 17 and No. 18.

Chime in below and let me know where you agree or disagree.

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Ohio State Football: Inside the Florida Media's Beef with Urban Meyer

During Urban Meyer's appearance on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike—which was being hosted by two guys not named Mike—the Ohio State head coach managed to slip in a subliminal shot at the media when asked about his time as the head coach at Florida.

"The one thing I learned probably about five years ago is to focus on what you can control. We had a great run down there. I loved Florida," Meyer told fill-in hosts Jorge Sedano and Herm Edwards. "Sometimes you'll hear one or two people with pens in their hands saying certain things, and I don't understand."

At the time, I joked that the latter half of Meyer's quote was a nod to my poor wording of questions at Columbus press conferences. But anybody who's been following Meyer's relationship with the media since leaving Gainesville knows that he was referencing Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi, who holds an admitted disdain for the two-time national champion head coach.

"I've not been kind to Urban Meyer, but I don't like Urban Meyer," Bianchi recently said on his radio show on 740 The Game in Orlando, Florida. "I don't like the style of coach he is. I think he's disingenuous. I think he's dishonest."

And that's fine.

Bianchi isn't the only one to hold that opinion, and you could find plenty of people in Columbus with similar things to say about Nick Saban, despite having never interacted with the Alabama head coach as Bianchi has with Meyer. If that's how Bianchi truly feels about Meyer—and clearly, it is—he has every right as an American to express it.

But why now? Why four years after Meyer's last season with the Gators and on the eve of his third with the Buckeyes is Bianchi still spending time writing and talking about the Ohio State head coach?

Schtick aside, Bianchi's latest piece on Meyer stems from comments that Urban's wife, Shelley Meyer, gave to Bucknuts.com about Florida fans' treatment of her husband. "I think they feel like they were kind of left at the altar," Shelley said.

It's certainly possible the author went into the interview intending to rile up Gators fans—why else would the piece lead with that subject?—but whether Shelley was baited into her comments or not is neither here nor there. Intentionally or not, the first lady of Ohio State football needled her husband's former fanbase, and as one of the voices of Florida media, Bianchi felt compelled to respond.

But do his comments and criticisms really carry weight?

His admitted bias aside, Bianchi's recent shots at his adversary deal with the discipline that Meyer doled—or didn't dole—out during his time in Gainesville:

I don't much like coaches such as her husband; disingenuous coaches who run crime-ridden football programs; head-in-the-sand coaches who once allowed former player like Aaron Hernandez to stay on the University of Florida football team even after he sucker-punched a bar employee in Gainesville so violently that it burst the guy's ear drum; enabling coaches who actually kept former UF running back Chris Rainey on the team even after he was arrested for threatening to kill his girlfriend.

Never mind that Meyer has extensively denied enabling Hernandez during his time at Florida or that the death of former Florida corner Avery Atkins—who Meyer dismissed from the team in 2006—has admittedly "haunted" the former Florida head coach. Is it not possible that a man can change his philosophy?

Since arriving in Columbus, Meyer apparently has, telling reporters at Big Ten media days a year ago that he wanted Ohio State to have "as harder or harder" discipline than any other program in the country. And while that's certainly up for debate, he's certainly attempted to live up to his word, dismissing no fewer than seven players in the last two years at OSU and even suspending stars Carlos Hyde and Bradley Roby a year ago for incidents in which Hyde was never charged and Roby had charges dropped.

Say what you will about Meyer's discipline at Florida—and Bianchi has—but it's impossible to argue that it hasn't evolved since he arrived at Ohio State.

Bianchi's other primary argument is an old one: the manner in which Meyer left Florida. Quoting Gators great Lee McGriff, Bianchi attempts to paint the picture of a man who lied to spurn Florida, in favor of greener grass in Columbus, Ohio:

"Urban made such grand statements about, 'I'm a Gator. I love the Gators. This is utopia. This is paradise. This is my life.'" McGriff told me not long after Meyer took the Ohio State job. "And then he said he was done coaching [because of burnout]. And now, suddenly, he's at Ohio State, which is as big-time as big-time gets. He jumped right back into the frying pan. It's not like he's coaching Dartmouth in the Ivy League. That left a lot of Gator fans saying, 'Whoa, who is this guy?'"

Only this ignores that Meyer has repeatedly stated that Ohio State was the only job that he was willing to put an early end to his retirement for and that upon his departure from Florida, the Buckeyes already had an established head coach in Jim Tressel.

At the time of his retirement, did Meyer know that six months later, Tressel would resign from his childhood dream job? Probably not.

Having brought the Gators two national championships and their greatest run in program history, one would think that Meyer would have little to apologize for when it comes to his career in Gainesville. But Meyer, nonetheless, has shown contriteness for the way that his time in Florida ended, admitting to CBS Sports that it was an unnatural transaction.

"I look back now, the way it ended was certainly a regret. Does that mean it haunts me? Not at all. I've always felt our job is to do a good job and do it the right way," Meyer said in 2013. "It just wasn't a normal way to move on. There would have been if I would have stayed out. I was worried about survival for a little bit."

Having both evolved and apologized since his time at Florida, it's hard to understand why Meyer is now being criticized for events that took place then. Like Cleveland fans with LeBron James, Bianchi's criticisms may have held water in 2010, but it's 2014 and most rational people appear to have moved on.

Like Shelley Meyer said, get over it.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand, unless noted otherwise.

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Notre Dame Football: 5 Players Who Took It to the Next Level in Summer Workouts

Brian Kelly kicked off Notre Dame's 2014 season with an opening press conference on Friday.

With the Irish ready to start fall camp on Monday, the Irish's fifth-year head coach gave us a long-awaited update on the status of his football team. 

With a schedule that features 10 opponents with winning records in 2013, including six teams that are coming off of double-digit victories, Kelly knows the battle his team faces on a weekly basis.

So as he got the media and fans up to speed on the state of the Irish, he highlighted a few key players who took a big leap forward this summer. 

The Irish coaching staff used June to stage its own version of OTAs, while July was spent training with Paul Longo's strength staff. 

Here are five players who took their games to the next level this summer. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. Official heights and weights provided by Notre Dame Sports Information.

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USC Football: How Defense Can Lead Trojans Back to Top of Pac-12

Deantre Lewis capped Arizona State's ninth and final scoring drive last September against USC with a one-yard touchdown run. Seven of those drives ended in touchdowns, with five different Sun Devils crossing the goal line. 

As kicker Zane Gonzalez's extra-point attempt sailed through the Sun Devil Stadium uprights, Arizona State wrote its name in the USC record book in a dubious category—tied for most points a Trojans defense surrendered in one game.

Oregon set the mark with 62 points of its own the season prior. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams was on the field for both games. 

"I never really hold onto things of the past," Williams said last week at Pac-12 media days. "At the same time, you do want to get back on those teams you lost to. You want to be able to beat those teams." 

Williams, the leader of a talented defense in 2014, said that such recent missteps fuel the group's motivation. New head coach Steve Sarkisian's arrival is a chance to move beyond the failings of the recent past and an opportunity to replicate the high benchmark set by Trojan defenses of the previous decade.    

"[We] want to be more dominant than we have been the last few years," Williams said. "We're definitely going to come out with a chip on our shoulder." 

In the offensively inclined Pac-12, defense has proven key to winning the conference championship. Stanford claimed the last two Pac-12 titles by building up from a tenacious defensive unit. 

If the Trojans are to win their first conference crown since 2008, they must do likewise. Fortunately for them, they're similarly constructed. 

Sarkisian called the defense's front seven "the strength of our football team."

Last year, Williams powered USC to a No. 14 national rank against the rush. Opponents mustered just 3.95 yards per carry against the Trojans, and three times USC held teams below two yards per game for an entire game.

USC also grounded high-flying passing attacks in Washington State, Oregon State, Cal and Fresno State last season. Of those four, all of which ranked in the top 10 nationally for passing offense, not one reached the 300-yard mark against the Trojans. 

The problem for USC's defense came against teams with mobile quarterbacks and zone-read offensive systems. 

USC allowed just 14 rushing touchdowns all last year—nine came against Arizona State and UCLA, both of which run zone read. 

The Sun Devils and Bruins were also two of just three USC opponents to reach the 30-point mark. The third was yet another zone-read-based offense, Arizona. 

The Wildcats did not gash the Trojans for more than seven yards per carry as Arizona State had. Arizona also failed to reach the end zone via the rush, a feat UCLA accomplished five times in the regular season finale. 

However, the Arizona ground attack was effective enough to spread the USC defense, which quarterback B.J. Denker attacked through the air for 363 yards—the most the Trojans allowed all season. 

"The offense as a whole is really fast-paced. You've got to be ready to line up at any time," Williams said of facing zone-read quarterbacks. "Quarterbacks like [UCLA's Brett] Hundley are really good scramblers, so you've got to be ready to play situationally. They can run at any time, so you've got to be ready it.

"It's challenging," he added. "But we're ready for it." 

A new defensive coordinator is at the defensive controls. Justin Wilcox spent two years with Sarkisian at Washington, in that time transforming one of the Pac-12's worst defenses into one of the conference's toughest. 

The primary challenge for Wilcox is stopping the zone read, which USC sees throughout its Pac-12 South docket via Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA. Utah should also introduce elements in Dave Christensen's first season as the Utes' offensive coordinator. 

"I'm very confident in coach Wilcox and the whole staff," Williams said. "We have a lot of good, returning starters like Josh Shaw, Hayes Pullard and even Antwaun Woods is going to step up this year."  

The key to slowing these offenses could be as simple as talent. Last year, when Oregon wore down Wilcox's Washington defense in the fourth quarter, the defensive coordinator told Percy Allen of the Seattle Times Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota's playmaking abilities overwhelmed the Huskies. 

The secondary will play an integral role in USC's efforts to slow zone-read opponents. Dynamic sophomore safety Su'a Cravens is one Trojan to watch, as his speed and ability to read the field could make him a spy against mobile quarterbacks.

With its proven ability to contain passing attacks and skilled playmakers across each unit, the USC defense is that one step away from championship contention. 

As this group comes together under Wilcox's direction, a return to the top of the Pac-12 should be imminent—and nights like the Trojans' loss at Arizona State will be a distant memory.  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com

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Biggest Storylines Heading into Michigan's Fall Camp

Brady Hoke welcomes his team to fall camp this weekend. Michigan is looking to forget last season’s 7-6 finish that forced Hoke to shuffle his defensive staff and hire a new offensive coordinator. The changes have stopped the grumbling in Ann Arbor for now, but pressure is mounting for Hoke to deliver a Big Ten title.

With scores of students foregoing season tickets, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, and Michigan’s weak home slate threatening to snap its consecutive attendance record, the focus now turns to the field, where Hoke faces a Big Ten division with both Michigan State and Ohio State blocking his team’s path to the Big Ten title game.

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Preseason Top 25: College Football Playoff Predictions from Amway Coaches Poll

When the preseason top 25 Amway Coaches Poll was released Thursday afternoon, it generated significant conversation in the college football world, and with good reason: It signals the beginning of college football season and the march to the first College Football Playoff, which will pit the nation's top four teams against one another for the national title.

Multiple teams in the top 25 will begin preseason practice Friday, with scores more joining them by the day in preparation for the last weekend of August, when teams across the nation will take the gridiron for the first games of the season that truly matter.

If 2013 is any indication, we’re in for a wild ride. In January, Florida State and Auburn faced off in the final BCS National Championship Game, a classic decided in the final seconds with Jameis Winston’s touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin giving the Seminoles their first national title since 2000.

Where were the Seminoles and Tigers in August 2013? Barely on the national title radar.

Florida State was No. 11 in the coaches’ poll, and Auburn wasn’t ranked. Coming off a 3-9 season, Gus Malzahn’s bunch didn’t even receive a single vote.

Yet, there they were in Pasadena, slugging it out for the national championship.

We'll take a very early look at the teams which will compete for that championship in January, but first, here's the top 25 to begin the season:

1. Florida State

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Oregon

5. Auburn

6. Ohio State

7. UCLA

8. Michigan State

9. South Carolina

10. Baylor

11. Stanford

12. Georgia

13. LSU

14. Wisconsin

15. USC

16. Clemson

17. Notre Dame

18. Arizona State

19. Ole Miss

20. Texas A&M

21. Kansas State

22. Nebraska

23. North Carolina

24. Texas

25. Washington

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Michigan 5-Star Freshman Jabrill Peppers Raps for Instagram Followers

Michigan's highly touted freshman, Jabrill Peppers, made headlines recently after sharing a progression photo of his muscular gains over the course of four weeks.

Now he's taken to Instagram to show us his rap skills for #4BarFriday.

[Jabrill Peppers, h/t YouTube]

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Examining Direction of Michigan Football Tradition Under AD David Brandon

One hundred and thirty-five years of tradition speaks volumes, and to its followers, suggesting that Michigan football is anything short of a way of life—the way of life—is blasphemous.

However, recent seasons haven’t been so kind. The program hasn’t been truly relevant since 2006, the year it reached No. 2 in The Associated Press poll before suffering a season-ending, 42-39 loss to No. 1 Ohio State.

Compounding matters, Michigan hasn’t won or shared a league title since 2004, has lost five of its past six to Michigan State and has dropped who knows how many (all but three) of the past meetings with the Buckeyes since the turn of the century.

Along with fourth-year coach Brady Hoke, athletic director David Brandon faces the pressure of restoring the Wolverines to their former ways—the ones that led them to an NCAA-leading 910 victories. Since 2010, he's done well for sports at the university across the board, but he's been constantly criticized by fans and media for his perceived lack of comprehension in regards to the foundation of Michigan football.

Is the time-honored tradition in danger of slipping away? Is Brandon’s ideology wronging a team that’s shied away from bells and whistles since its inception more than a century ago?

For John U. Bacon, the answer is a firm "Yes." The recently proposed idea of fireworks—Brandon’s doing—didn’t sit well with the revered author, educator and historian. But the idea of fireworks wasn’t the main issue.

It just stoked the fire set by, among other things, hikes in ticket prices and changes in the seating policy. The embarrassing losses certainly don't help, either. 

“[It was] One more push into the direction of minor league baseball, basically,” Bacon said during an interview with the Sports in the Mitten podcast. He continued:

It was a new high-water, or low-water mark, depending on your view point. When I heard that they were going to do fireworks after touchdowns against Penn State [at home], that’s when I went "Holy smokes. That’s a different thing altogether." They’ve been singing "Hail to the Victors" after touchdowns since 1898—that’d be one heck of a tradition to put aside for cheap pyrotechnics, basically.

Ultimately shot down by Michigan’s board of regents just days after being suggested, the original idea was to have in-game fireworks versus Miami (Ohio) and Penn State. That didn’t fly, so Wolverines fans don’t have to worry about an already lukewarm home schedule being tainted by gimmicky explosives.

Bacon, a lifetime follower of Michigan football who also teaches at the university, doesn’t think that Brandon is the enemy. However, he’s been critical of his onetime friend, suggesting that Brandon is “disconnected” from those whom he’s supposed to represent.

Tickets can’t be given away, says Bacon, who spotted a table full of freebies at an art fair in Ann Arbor. Student interest is down as well. The decades-long streak of 100,000-plus at Michigan Stadium is in real danger of being broken, and that’s because many supporters feel as if their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

"If you have alienated your fanbase and don’t understand that it’s not a business to them, that it’s a religion, then you have the biggest problem that any AD can have," said Bacon, a New York Times bestselling author and syndicated columnist. "All of your plans [for the program], all of your dreams depend on your fans beings happy, in the church, and in the temple.

"If you don’t have that, you’re in trouble. And that’s what I’m hearing now. … He sees his fans not as fans, but as customers. They’re not customers. They’re believers."

 

Brandon's Actions

The AD's every move is immediately put underneath the microscope, even if he wasn't the one who did it. This past offseason, there were several media members and Michigan followers who thought that Brandon overrode Hoke's authority by initiating the hiring of new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. 

That wasn't the case, as tweeted by TheWolverine.com's Michael Spath:

But Brandon still rubs some the wrong way, as indicated by 97.1 The Ticket's tweet: 

Also, when Hoke's job was in question during the offseason, Brandon went out of his way to express his support with a blog post. In hindsight, that attempt wasn't very Michigan-like. It came across as a last-ditch effort to help the perception of his struggling football coach. 

 

Loyalty Over All

Matt Craw is a believer and has been since he could walk. His father, Garvie Craw, jumped into the history books with a pair of touchdowns during Michigan’s 24-12 victory over the Buckeyes in 1969, a blow that started the often-romanced “10-Year War” between Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes. 

Craw, a United States Marine, grew up around or has met what essentially boils down to a who’s who of Wolverines football, even becoming quite close to Schembechler, who assisted Crawfather and son—in making important life decisions. He’s a part of the family and reports having multiple one-on-one conversations with Brandon.

Recognizing the Schembechler lineage, Craw is confident that Brandon has the program’s best interest in mind. Tradition is tradition, and he doesn’t want that to get lost, erode or decay. Brandon may employ a different approach, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to destroy all things sacred.

Progression is the goal, and Craw doesn’t have a reason not to have faith in the Wolverines AD.

“With Brandon ushering in a business-savvy approach and spreading the Michigan man mentality that only a player under Bo's guidance could, Michigan seems poised to succeed,” Craw said by phone from his home in New Jersey.

“My dad did the same thing in living with the lessons Bo taught him—as does Richard Caldarazzo [attorney] and Dan Dierdorf [broadcasters]; Bo's boys, still spreading knowledge and making the University of Michigan a maker of men, and a pretty damn good football team too.

"All of my friends and contacts that are Michigan fans love what Brandon is doing. By keeping Michigan [fifth-most valuable NCAA football program in 2013, per Forbes] at the forefrontin terms of financial success—of college football, he is moving forward in a highly competitive world, competing with the SEC and the rest of the Big Ten for recruits and fan support.”

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

All quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer unless otherwise noted.

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Former 5-Star Prospect Bo Scarbrough Won't Join Alabama in Fall

For most college teams, losing a 5-star prospect would be devastating. For Nick Saban and Alabama, it's a notable blow but not one that will cripple the program. 

That's good news, because Bo Scarbrough won't be on campus in Tuscaloosa until at least January, according to Saban in a news conference held Friday (h/t Charles Power of 247Sports.com).

"We have an appeal in place because is very close to qualifying," Saban said. "Our goal is to get him here in January."

Scarbrough's situation has been up in the air for a few months. Saban told Andrew Gribble of AL.com on July 17 that the status of Scarbrough and another recruit, Montel McBride, was "incomplete" due to academic situations. 

"They won't be completed until the end of summer school," Saban said. "I can't really make a prediction on what their status will be until their summer school is over."

Alabama, not so shockingly, had the top 2014 recruiting class, according to 247Sports.com, thanks to 26 players ranked 3-star or better and six 5-star talents, including Scarbrough. 

The Alabama native was the 16th-ranked prospect in this year's recruiting class and told Gribble in February that it doesn't matter where he plays on the field.

"I think I bring a lot to the table," Scarbrough said. "I can be a (feature) player for that offense. I can play wide receiver. I can play tight end. I can play running back. As long as it's on the offensive side, I can do it."

Unfortunately, fans of the Crimson Tide and college football will have to wait to get their eyes on Scarbrough. The good news is that he should be on track to play with Alabama in 2015, which essentially enhances Saban's recruiting class for next year. 

It's not going to happen exactly as he wanted, but by potentially getting to campus early in anticipation of next season, Scarbrough can have a leg up on incoming freshmen and adapt to Saban's scheme with the goal of playing in games right away next year. 

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Is Jimbo Fisher College Football's Real QB Guru?

It's not like Florida State, the defending national champs, needed more attention, but it got it on Thursday. In the span of minutes, the Seminoles received verbal commitments from two 4-star quarterbacks: Kai Locksley and Deondre Francois

Suffice to say, it was a good day to be Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher

Francois, the No. 5 pro-style quarterback according to 247Sports' composite rankings, had his announcement planned. The Locksley commitment? It came as more of a surprise, especially given the timing and the fact that his father, Mike Locksley, is the offensive coordinator at Maryland. 

Even Francois was surprised, as he told Josh Newberg of 247Sports.com

I didn’t know he was going to commit. I got a text message from someone like two minutes before I was going to walk in. I’m not sure who the number was, they told me (Kai) Locksley just committed. I thought maybe it was a joke to get me to commit to Auburn. Then I think I looked on twitter or something and saw it was real.

The pair gives Florida State three quarterback commits for the class of 2015, the other being 3-star De'Andre Johnson. That's a loaded class—assuming all three keep their pledges—considering the number and talent. The quarterback spot, after all, is traditionally a defined position with a starter and a backup. 

For what it's worth, Locksley is listed as an athlete by 247. Furthermore, B/R's Tyler Donohue believes Francois' ceiling as a college quarterback may be higher than Locksley's. How that affects commitments and potential position changes down the road remains to be seen. 

The early takeaway, though, is that Florida State could have options at quarterback. That's a good thing for Fisher, who is building the reputation as one of the premier quarterback developers in college football. 

"Quarterback gurus" have sometimes gone hand-in-hand with coaches who run some variation of a spread or pass-happy offense. Washington State's Mike Leach, SMU's June Jones, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Baylor's Art Briles and Ohio State's Urban Meyer are just some of the active names that come to mind. 

But what about Fisher? As Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation tweets, Fisher's last three multiyear starting quarterbacks (EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder at Florida State, and JaMarcus Russell at LSU) were first-round draft selections.

It's impossible to ignore how some of those players fared in the NFL. Russell, selected first overall in 2007 by the Oakland Raiders, is widely considered one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory—if not the biggest. Ponder, selected No. 12 overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 2011, may very well be surpassed on the depth chart by rookie Teddy Bridgewater, another first-round selection for the Vikings. 

Manuel's career with the Buffalo Bills is still unfolding. 

Still, first-round selections mean first-round money. Manuel and Ponder signed four-year deals for nearly $20 million combined. Russell, of course, signed an enormous six-year $61 million contract in 2007 that would later be a driving force behind the rookie wage scale in the NFL.

One organization's financial carelessness is hardly Fisher's fault, however. For that matter, Fisher's job is pretty much done when a quarterback decides to go pro. When Fisher goes into a recruit's home, he can point to a pair of national championships, one at Florida State and one at LSU, and three first-round quarterbacks.

Fisher could have another first-rounder in Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston, should he leave after the 2014 season. Early mock drafts, like the one from Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com, have Winston as a top-10 selection next spring. 

Potentially, Fisher can lay claim to four first-round selections in a decade. Former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford can claim more, according to an ESPN.com article by Len Pasquarelli in 2005, though Tedford is no longer an active college coach. 

The point being, Fisher is in rare company. Not surprisingly, he's confident in his coach-up of his signal-callers. In a recent USA Today article by Dan Wolken, Fisher spoke out against the use of private quarterback coaches like George Whitfield: 

We've got good quarterback coaches. My guys aren't going out there. I'll coach them. When they go to pro ball, they can do whatever they want. We'll coach our guys. I don't think it benefits you. We know what we're doing, too.

Whitfield, who now has a regular analysis spot on ESPN, has gained a lot of attention in recent years for working with quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel. With the rise of quarterback camps like the Elite 11, quarterbacks are being taught by others not on their high school or college coaching staff. 

Fisher clearly prefers to keep that process in-house. Given his track record, it's easy to see why—and why there are quarterback recruits verbally committed to Florida State. 

It's also why Fisher deserves more credit as a quarterback developer. Looking at the number of players he's put in the NFL, one would be hard-pressed to find a coach who's done more in the past 10 years. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com

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LSU Football: 4 Games That Could Ruin Tigers' 2014 Season

LSU head coach Les Miles will coach one of his youngest teams ever. Miles' Tigers will likely go through growing pains in the arduous SEC.  

But youth will certainly not lower the expectations in Baton Rouge. 

LSU fans want to win championships. Some have grown impatient as the Tigers have not reached the SEC Championship Game since 2011. 

The Tigers report to camp on Sunday and will hit the field Monday. The season opener against Wisconsin is at the end of the month, which does not give much time for the incoming freshmen to get acclimated to the team.

Fortunately for Miles, the Tigers could lose to the Badgers yet have their championship hopes still in tact. LSU could go unbeaten for the rest of the season and make the SEC Championship Game. 

SEC games hold more weight, particularly those in division. Here are four SEC West clashes that will determine if the season is successful for the Tigers.  

 

*Rankings and stats provided by 247Sports.com and LSU Sports Information. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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College Football Recruiting DT Rankings 2015: Top 10 After The Opening

When it's time to set the tone on defense, coaches must be able to rely on a strong and steady presence up front. Defensive tackles who win battles consistently command attention and create increased opportunities for their supporting cast.

The 2015 recruiting class includes several standout linemen who leave offensive coordinators searching for answers, wreaking havoc in the trenches at all times. It's rare to locate a young player who combines massive size, coordination and quickness, which is why the elite members of this group have warranted scholarship offers throughout their high school careers.

The future interior disrupters of college football have put their talents on display during high school competition and football showcases, including The Opening, an invite-only event held in July at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

After examining game tape and watching many of the top performers compete with their peers at The Opening, here's our assessment of America's 10 best defensive tackles.

 

This article is part of Bleacher Report's CFB 200 Recruiting Rankings Series. The overall rankings are based on the 247Sports composite system, which takes into account every recruiting service's rankings. The positional rankings also correspond with those composite scores. Stay tuned over the next two weeks as we take an in-depth look at college football's stars of tomorrow.

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Oregon Football: 4 Games That Could Ruin Ducks' 2014 Season

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich talked at last week's Pac-12 media days about "the importance of preparing for everybody." 

As Oregon has encountered in each of the past three seasons, championship pursuits can hinge on a single outcome. 

While there's never an opportune time for a letdown, four matchups on the Ducks' Pac-12 slate are the most likely to present potential potholes on their road to Levi's Stadium and the conference championship game. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com

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Auburn Football: True Strength of Gus Malzahn's Offense Is in the Trenches

They do not fill the stat sheets like Nick Marshall, Tre Mason or Sammie Coates.

They are not the faces of legendary plays like Ricardo Louis and Chris Davis.

They were not the biggest stars of head coach Gus Malzahn's patented hurry-up, no-huddle offense in the Tigers' SEC title run last season—and they will not be the biggest stars of this year's offense.

But Auburn's offensive linemen are the strength of one of the nation's most feared offenses.

After a 2012 season in which it was the weakest link for a toothless offense, Auburn's front five roared back to life in 2013 under Malzahn and his staff.

"Any time you get to [the national title game], you’re going to be pretty good up front with your offensive line,” Malzahn said last December. "In 2010, we had a veteran group, one of the strengths of our team."

Last year was no different as the line paved the way for a record-breaking rushing attack and bought valuable time for an inexperienced quarterback in Marshall to make the most of his occasional chances through the air.

And this year should be no different for Auburn, thanks to the unit's elite strength in three key areas of offensive line play.

 

Experience

Auburn may have lost its star offensive linemen early to the pros—an early announcement that paid off in a big way for former left tackle Greg Robinson—but the other four starters from 2013 are back on the Plains for another season.

According to AL.com's Joel Erickson, if the Tigers went with the most experienced combination of linemen for the upcoming season, one that included former starting right tackle Patrick Miller, then they would have 113 combined career starts to begin the campaign:

The last time Auburn had a starting lineup of offensive linemen with more than 100 career starts between them, it won the national championship.

Miller is projected to back up redshirt sophomore Shon Coleman at left tackle this season. While Coleman does not have a single career start, he brings a level of unique experience to the position. He has been on Auburn's campus since 2011 and at practice since 2012 after his comeback from battling cancer.

The amount of experience and potential coming back with those six players has created a problem for offensive line coach J.B. Grimes, but he told the Montgomery Advertiser's James Crepea in May that it was a "great situation" for the team:

The hardest thing is to figure out who the best five are. That's a very difficult thing because obviously we have four returning starters with a guy like Pat Miller who started multiple games, I think he started 14 ball games at Auburn. He has really good experience and is a quality player. Then you've got an exceptional athlete like Shon Coleman who I think has great potential. He hasn't done it yet, but he has great potential to be one of those guys.

Some shuffling across the offensive line this spring created additional depth for the experienced unit, which has a few players Grimes believes could play any position.

One position that will not change this fall, barring injury, is center, where team captain Reese Dismukes is heading into his fourth year as a starter.

One of the nation's top centers last season, Dismukes serves as a "second quarterback" for the offense. The senior must read and react quickly to defenses as an offensive leader, and Malzahn said he thinks of him as an overall team leader.

"He's a tough guy, comes to practice every day," Malzahn said at SEC media days. "He demands that his teammates practice at the level that the coaches expect. He's an extension of the coaches. We're very fortunate to have him. He had a lot to do with our success last year."

 

Power

Spread offenses are designed to stretch defenses horizontally and capitalize on the space it creates. Teams that use this style of attack often base their running games outside the tackles.

Between wide receiver reverses and speed sweeps to running back Corey Grant, who led the nation last year with 9.8 yards per carry, the Tigers were the nation's best at gaining huge yardage on outside runs, according to ESPN:

But, despite all that success on the outside, Auburn's offense is based on a style that is completely opposite to most spread attacks.

“There are so many different spreads, and [Malzahn] is not a horizontal throwing game, zone-read guy,” Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson told ESPN.com's Chris Low last year. “He runs the power and the counter power...you’ve got the option, the element of power, and then you’ve got the pace and the tempo. That’s what I think really makes it hard to get ready for in college football today.”

Malzahn's offense is about power running at its core, and, as Erickson notes, it all starts with the front five:

But the Tigers' offensive line is the real key, as Dismukes pointed out at SEC Media Days. Unlike true spread teams, which build their running games around draws and counters, Auburn's offensive line is taught to play power football at the line of scrimmage, and the Tigers dominated opponents at the point of attack last season. 

No matter how many options are built into each play or how the Tigers line up in their shotgun formation, Auburn's offense is a power attack at its core.

New Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason arrives in the SEC from his defensive coordinator post at Stanford, a power team known for slowing down some of the nation's most prolific spread offenses.

But when Mason studies new conference neighbor Auburn, he does not see a prototypical spread offense—he sees an offense similar to other SEC West contenders.

"I shouldn't say it's changed, the package has changed," Mason said at SEC media days. "When you look at a team like Auburn, how they run the football, it's no different than Alabama, they just do it a different way."

Behind the offensive line, Auburn was the nation's top power-rushing offense, especially in situations when the Tigers wanted a few yards on first down or needed them to get a first down. In those situations, the "spread" offense became a "smashmouth" offense:

This season, when Auburn elects to air it out more than it did in 2013, neutralizing some of the SEC's tough defensive fronts will be a greater responsibility for the offensive line in a system built on winning the war in the trenches.

By controlling the line of scrimmage against those top-notch defensive lines, the Auburn offensive line allows Malzahn's offense to simply do what it's designed to do.

 

Speed

As a pioneer of the hurry-up offense from his high school coaching days, Malzahn wants his team to be the fastest in college football.

There are several important benefits an offense can get by not huddling between plays, from scoring points as quickly as possible to stopping the opposing defense from regrouping after explosive plays.

But in order to take all the advantages the scheme has to offer by playing as fast as possible, your offensive players must be in peak physical shape—including your 300-pound offensive linemen. If the big guys do not get set quick enough, the more those advantages shrink.

Surprisingly enough, some of the Tigers' most vocal proponents of the fast-paced offense can be found on the offensive line. Here is what senior right guard Chad Slade had to say about Malzahn's system this spring, per the Opelika-Auburn News' Alex Byington:

We love the pace. Some people don’t get used to it, but we’re used to it by now. Everybody is back, and we have high expectations for everything—the pace going faster, we can go faster than we did last year. One of the goals is to be connected to each other, so we believe that is going good so far.

Auburn's coaches expect their offensive linemen to be quick in the system, but they do not want them to cut weight and risk losing the strength needed for the offense's power football philosophy.

"(Grimes) is not really looking for us to be lean,” Slade said. "He just wants us to move. When I played in this offense the first time, I was 305. Now I'm 310, 315. He just wants you to be able to move with your weight."

A prime example of staying big and getting quick is none other than Robinson. His draft stock rose rapidly during the Tigers' championship season, but it did not explode until the NFL combine, when the eventual No. 2 overall pick stunned scouts with this 40-yard dash:

While Robinson's dash took the pro football world by storm, it was not a shock to an Auburn coaching staff that preaches speed and power at every position, especially the offensive line.

And although Robinson is off to the NFL, that speed and power will be back this season in an experienced unit that keeps looking for ways to improve.

"We’ve got a killer offensive line and an awesome offense," Miller said this spring. "It’s very exciting. I feel good and feel like we’re going to be a force. But we've got to get a lot better—we always have to get better."

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Preseason College Football Rankings 2014: Analyzing Teams Atop NCAA Hierarchy

The 2014 NCAA football preseason rankings have been released, with the reigning national champion Florida State Seminoles atop the Amway Coaches Poll as they seek to repeat.

This will be the first year for a new playoff system, though, so it will require the Seminoles to defeat multiple, high-quality opponents if they're meant to successfully defend their title. Standing in their way are a slew of quality teams, namely the No. 2-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, winners of three of the last five national championships.

Coming in at third are the Oklahoma Sooners, who defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to get a big win for coach Bob Stoops after some recent difficulties in the postseason. That bodes well for the Sooners' chances to contend for college football's ultimate prize in 2014.

All of these teams are experiencing quite a bit of roster turnover, though, so let's take a closer look at the established top three atop the NCAA hierarchy.

 

 

No. 1 Florida State Seminoles

Jameis Winston returns to quarterback the team he led to the national title as a mere freshman, but a number of absences at the skill positions will demand more from the sophomore signal-caller.

Wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw are no longer around, while running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. are also gone. That leaves Karlos Williams in the backfield, along with seasoned receiver Rashad Greene as Winston's likely No. 1 target.

Tight end Nick O'Leary will figure prominently in the passing game, too, and so as long as Winston continues to develop in coach Jimbo Fisher's complex offense, Florida State should be fine on that side of the ball.

As for defense, there is a plethora of talent gone from last year's starting 11 that the Seminoles need to account for, namely inside linebacker Telvin Smith. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan is a big subtraction from the trenches, and the secondary also took hits in losing safeties Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks.

Fisher is deploying a hard-line, intense approach in dictating to his players what it will take to repeat as champions, per ESPN.com's Jared Shanker:

We study guys who had attitudes of domination who won for long periods of time -- Joe Montana, John Elway repeated, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson. Those guys all had that killer instinct and were guys who wanted to be on top, stayed on top, and one championship wasn't enough.

[...] Michael Jordan, you never saw him not play to the max, and that, to me, to the players, sends a message. It’s a constant education to me, to these kids, to get them to think in that type of mold, because it’s human nature to win and relax.

There's the saying that it's better to aim high and fall short than to not shoot for the stars. It appears Fisher isn't afraid of challenging his players to succeed on an all-time great level. That's what it will take, especially with the playoffs and every opponent wanting to be the one that topples the mighty champions.

Winston's ability to carry the weight on offense will also depend on Williams settling into a feature back role. The defense also must reload and stop the run close to how it did in 2013 (via NCAA.com), where the Seminoles allowed a nation-low seven touchdowns on the ground.

 

No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide

Just as Florida State was last year with Freeman, Wiliams and Wilder, the Tide will go three deep in the backfield this year with T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake.

Yeldon already has 26 touchdowns on the ground in two years in Tuscaloosa, but Henry's emergence in the Sugar Bowl loss last year may lead to a more even split on carries. The big question for Alabama is: Who will be running the offense now that AJ McCarron is gone to the NFL?

The QB competition between fifth-year senior Blake Sims and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker is ongoing, but it appears Coker is the favorite to take the job. If these rankings hold up, it would be quite fascinating to see Coker battle the Seminoles for the national championship as a member of the Tide.

Here's what wide receiver Christion Jones had to say about Coker, per USA Today's Marq Burnett:

He definitely has sparks that he brings to the table that's shown that he can be one of the greatest quarterbacks to play here. But I can also say all our quarterbacks show those sparks at moments that they can be that quarterback. It's just going to be all about being consistent and coming out every day and competing and being consistent with your performance.

Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram responded to that in reporting that most expect Coker to get the nod over Sims:

Coker has the superior talent from the pocket, while Sims could still be deployed in a package thanks to his running ability. Either way, this figures to be a more dynamic offense under first-year coordinator Lane Kiffin than the Tide have had in the past.

The physical identity and ground-and-pound power playing will still be there, but with playmakers like Amari Cooper on the outside, this unit could be as special as it's been in years.

And coach Nick Saban always has an elite defense, though it will be interesting to see how he tweaks his schemes this year. After Texas A&M Heisman winner Johnny Manziel lit up the Tide two years in a row and dual-threat Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight put on a breakout show in the Sugar Bowl, Saban must find a way to neutralize more athletic quarterbacks.

That will ultimately determine how successful Alabama is. The Tide are bound to be among the best teams in the nation, but containing QBs in the open field and navigating a brutal SEC schedule are the chief concerns. A more explosive passing game and perpetually fresh legs at running back should help.

 

No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners

A lot of Oklahoma's high ranking seems to be predicated on the fact that Knight came to play against Alabama and Stoops won a big game. However, now the pressure is on in Norman for the Sooners to make the playoffs and become a true factor in the national championship picture.

Knight must play at the level he flashed against the Tide for Oklahoma to be a true contender. After all, quarterbacks often separate the good teams from the ones that are truly great at any level of football.

There's no question all the skills are there for Knight to be a threat with his arm and legs. What remains to be seen is whether he can sustain the brilliance he showed in dismantling Alabama.

"He can be the Sugar Bowl guy," said Sooners co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, per USA Today's George Schroeder. "Everybody in our program is really confident he's gonna be that. He's got a really high ceiling."

Lightning-quick pass-rusher Eric Striker will be screaming off the edge to give Big 12 QBs nightmares. Rising sophomore Dominique Alexander is bound to lead the Sooners in tackles with his nose for the ball, though, giving Oklahoma a formidable linebacker corps.

Former Sooners QB Blake Bell has transitioned over to tight end, so he could be an X-factor for the Oklahoma offense with his size and speed. As long as he can block and use his big frame to shield defenders, Knight could connect with him often in the red zone, giving the Sooners an added dimension.

All three of the top-ranked teams should be deep, but neither the Tide nor Oklahoma have a settled quarterback situation. That could wind up costing both a shot at the national championship, while Winston should prove to be an elite option for Florida State once again. The disparity will likely reveal itself if any combination of these teams meet in the new playoffs.

With the new postseason comes a chance for teams not as highly ranked at the moment to leapfrog the established powers with transcendent QB play. That's why the premier programs should be on the lookout for Marcus Mariota and the fourth-ranked Oregon Ducks, the Brett Hundley-led No. 7 UCLA Bruins and the No. 10 Baylor Bears, quarterbacked by Bryce Petty.

This college football season may not have quite the complications the BCS has tended to promote in the past. However, the playoff twist and talent depth at the all-important quarterback position should make it as compelling as ever.

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Florida State Football: Derrick Brooks' Florida Legacy Goes Way Beyond Football

Derrick Brooks was determined to be successful wherever he played football. From Pensacola to Tallahassee to Tampa, Brooks was not just an All-American or an All-Pro—he was a charismatic leader.

And on Saturday, Brooks will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after 11 Pro Bowl seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brooks didn't have to leave the Sunshine State to find success.

He was USA Today's National Defensive player of the Year in 1990 at Pensacola's Washington High. Brooks then transitioned from a 205-pound safety into a 225-pound linebacker at Florida State, where he helped the Seminoles win a national title in 1993 and was a consensus All-American in '93 and '94.

"From the time he came in to Tallahassee until he left, he was your model student, athlete and person," said former Seminoles defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, who recruited Brooks and coached him at FSU.

Brooks led by example and he set a high standard. He had 274 career tackles and five interceptions in his FSU career. But Andrews also remembers how Brooks prepared for games and cited the "depth of his knowledge" on the football field.

His leadership abilities were unquestioned.

"I guess you would say there's a place for privates, sergeants, colonels and generals," Andrews said. "The ones that get to be generals are the ones that lead by example but also vocally."

The lessons learned at FSU carried on to the NFL—even though he was drafted in the first round by the Buccaneers in 1995, one of the NFL's doormats for nearly two decades. In the 19 seasons since the expansion team began in 1976, the franchise had enjoyed just three winning seasons.

What Brooks brought to the Bucs was a dedication to football, to playing the sport at the highest level, preparing for each game and refusing to accept losing. It was something that began in Pensacola and continued in Tallahassee. Brooks knew how to not just win, but also win a championship. And he wanted to do the same thing in Tampa.

"He brought high character and he brought that desire to win," former Bucs coach Tony Dungy said. "That's what transformed the Bucs. They weren't used to losing (at FSU)."

The transformation took time. Brooks was drafted in 1995 and the Bucs went 7-9 in coach Sam Wyche's final season. But he played in 16 games, started 13, and had 78 tackles as a rookie. 

Dungy was hired before the 1996 season, and the Bucs went 6-10. But Tampa Bay then made the playoffs in five of the following six seasons. And Brooks was routinely anchoring the middle of the defense.

"He was just a perfect guy for us to play in that system," Dungy said. "The thing he brought was preparation. Not going to leave any stone unturned. He understood how offenses would attack us. He put us in position to make plays."

While Dungy was out as the Bucs coach after a Wild Card loss in 2001, the team enjoyed a special 2002 season. The Bucs capped a 12-4 year with playoff wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles, and they won Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2013 by dominating the Oakland Raiders 48-21.

Brooks helped put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter when he intercepted a pass from Oakland's Rich Gannon and went 44 yards for a touchdown.

"The Super Bowl touchdown is special because, you know, very few people get that opportunity to play in the game alone and have a turnover that effects the game in the way that my interception did," Brooks said in a teleconference on July 22.

Brooks had quite an effect on the NFL. He was 6'0" and 235 pounds (adding 10 pounds from his FSU days) but he "transformed the position by developing into one of the best all-around linebackers in league history," writes Fred Goodall of The Associated Press.

While Brooks gives credit to the 4-3 defensive scheme that the Bucs utilized, he feels that he played his position so well that other teams tried to copy what Tampa Bay was doing.

"Players play the game, the system don't," Brooks said in the teleconference. "The system puts you in a position to play the game. So I like to think I set the standard when it got to the 4-3 defense for a bunch of years to the tune where a lot of teams tried to emulate what we did and how we played throughout my career."

Brooks played all 14 seasons in Tampa, collecting 1,698 tackles. He was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection.

"He's a great player," Dungy said. "He's going in the Hall of Fame. But he's a much better person than he is a player."

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats are courtesy of FSU media guides, Pro-Football-Reference.com and ESPN.com.

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Adidas Unveils New Red Rising TECHFIT Alternate Uniforms for Nebraska

Thanks to Adidas, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are celebrating their 125th year of football in style.

Nebraska will be wearing new Red Rising TECHFIT uniforms for its Sept. 27 game against Illinois. The jerseys include ultra-light black and silver numbers, and the jerseys and pants use black metallic stripes.

Adidas used TECHFIT Shockweb technology, which makes players tougher to tackle because it clings to the body, on the uniforms.

It's a pretty drastic new look for Nebraska.

Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini got in on the fun of unveiling the uniforms:

The players had to be pretty pumped up to see their coach in the new gear.

[Huskers.com, Twitter]

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