NCAA Football News

Ohio State Football: How Jamal Marcus' Dismissal Impacts Buckeyes' 2014 Season

Even though it's May and Ohio State is still three months away from kicking off the 2014 season, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes just suffered a huge loss.

According to a report from Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors, defensive end Jamal Marcus has been dismissed from Ohio State for an unspecified violation of team rules.

The junior pass-rusher played sparingly in his first two seasons with the Buckeyes, but that was expected to change this season—especially early.

Marcus was primed to fill in for Noah Spence, who will miss the Buckeyes' first two games as part of a three-game suspension he received before last year's Orange Bowl. Spence's suspension was handed down by the Big Ten for using an "unapproved dietary supplement," according to Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch.

Marcus played in place of Spence against Clemson and was one of the few defensive bright spots during a game in which the Buckeyes surrendered 576 total yards and 40 points. Marcus piled up six tackles, which led all defensive linemen, and recorded a pass breakup in the loss.

Ohio State was counting on Marcus to provide a similar lift to start the season.

The Buckeyes are slated to open against Navy and its vaunted triple-option attack in Baltimore. A week later, Ohio State will play its home opener against Virgina Tech in a prime-time matchup.

Those are the two toughest nonconference games of the year, and Ohio State will be down its top two edge-setters outside of Joey Bosa.

That could prove particularly costly against Navy, which uses unique blocking schemes to attack and outnumber a defensive front. Players such as Noah Spence and Jamal Marcus are talented enough to neutralize that, but now the Buckeyes will turn to a host of unproven players to start the season.

The impact of Marcus' dismissal reaches far past the first two games, though.

As Rowland of Eleven Warriors pointed out, new defensive line coach Larry Johnson wants to take advantage of Ohio State's depth up front by using a heavy rotation. 

There’s not a first group, there’s not a second group. There’s a group of guys trying to get better. I’ve sold them on the idea that there are going to be eight or nine guys. The game has changed. You’re talking about spread offense, quick snaps, so that number of plays can go from 65 to 90 really quick. You add that times 12 games, that’s a lot of football.

What I want to do is play fresh. I want to play eight or nine guys every time and be relentless. That way every guy can play as hard as they can every play. That's how you play defense.

With Ohio State losing Marcus, Meyer is also losing out on one of the prospects he was most excited about in his first recruiting class with the Buckeyes.

Back in 2012, moments after signing the nation's No. 5 class that featured two 5-star defensive ends, Meyer couldn't stop talking about Marcus.

Then a 4-star prospect, Marcus' film stood out to Meyer, according to Tony Gerdeman of The Ozone.

The guy that when you flip him on tape, and not knowing anything else, without reading rankings or without listening to everybody else's opinions, the guy that is really impressive to me is Jamal Marcus. 

I just heard about him two weeks ago. We put on the film. He just blew us away on the videotape. I never heard of him.

Meyer was thrilled to sign such a talented player so late in the recruiting process. It's safe to assume he's just as upset about losing that player just as he was on the verge of making an impact.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports.

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

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Tennessee Football: What Riley Ferguson's Transfer Would Mean for Volunteers

The news of Tennessee quarterback Riley Ferguson's likely transfer sent shock waves through Vol Nation, and it could have accompanying tremors that are felt on the depth chart in the near future.

UT coach Butch Jones all but confirmed to Volquest.com's John Brice (subscription required) at the SEC's annual spring meetings on Tuesday that the promising redshirt freshman would not be back with the Volunteers.

"Based on our recent conversations, I do not anticipate (Ferguson) to be a member of our football family moving forward," Jones said.

If Ferguson doesn't return to UT, the Vols' four-man quarterback derby will be reduced by one.

It's a blow for the present—and future—Vols depth chart. The 6'3", 189-pound Matthews, North Carolina, native had surged to the top of the competition to split first-team reps with senior Justin Worley by the end of spring practice.

He was expected to battle Worley and sophomore Joshua Dobbs for the starting spot throughout summer and into fall after redshirting last season following a stress fracture in his right leg.

Even if Worley won the job, the Vols were anticipating a heated and healthy quarterback race between Ferguson and Dobbs as the young Vols matured over the next couple of years.

Now, it seems Tennessee's future offensive leader has become "Dobbs-or-Bust" unless redshirt sophomore Nathan Peterman takes a major leap forward or a yet-unsigned prospect seizes the future job.

"I'm not sure how much this helps or hurts Tennessee," GoVols247's Wes Rucker said in an interview with Bleacher Report. "I think Ferguson had the most upside of Tennessee's four quarterbacks, but he was arguably the least consistent.

"I thought before this came out that Justin Worley was the starter going into the season, and obviously, this news doesn't change that. I think this potentially creates more long-term questions than short-term questions."

Tennessee currently sits in the top two for 5-star quarterback Torrance Gibson, the nation's top-ranked dual-threat signal-caller on 247Sports, according to Ryan Bartow (subscription required). But it will have to battle Auburn and others to get him on the Hill.

Other quarterbacks UT is still recruiting include Deondre Francois, Sheriron Jones, Sam Darnold and Travis Waller, among others. Targets Zach Gentry (Texas) and Brandon Wimbush (Penn State) are off the board.

On the bright side for UT, all those players have taken as many game snaps as Ferguson.

But there's no downplaying Ferguson's promise and potential. He wowed many around the program with some of the plays he made, including Jones.

UT's head coach told B/R's Barrett Sallee recently, "You know, Riley has an innate ability to create plays. I've been very encouraged."

Though Dobbs outshone Ferguson in the Orange and White spring game, Ferguson still had a more consistent spring, evidenced by Jones promoting him to split those reps with the starters.

With Ferguson's likely departure, the Vols must have Dobbs step up and take his game to another level.

Also, UT absolutely cannot strike out in signing an elite quarterback in the 2015 recruiting cycle. Closing the deal on Gibson, Francois or a similar talent just became imperative, and the Vols now should attempt to sign two more quarterbacks to go along with athlete commit Jauan Jennings, who will start his UT career under center.

If UT misses on its quarterback of the future this year, it could be a major obstacle in Jones bringing the Vols from their recent doldrums back into contention for the SEC.

Calling the loss of a player who had never taken a live snap in a college football game catastrophic is a stretch, but Ferguson's pending decision does take yet another talented name off the roster at a position where the Vols desperately need somebody to step up.

Now, their quarterback question mark has one less potential answer.

 

All recruiting rankings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports.

Brad Shepard is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Brad on Twitter here:

@Brad_Shepard

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New College Football Playoff Format Won't Change for 12 Years, Says Bill Hancock

Your dream of a March Madness-esque 64-team postseason college football tournament? Not happening. At least not any time in the immediate future, according to College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock.

Speaking with reporters at the SEC meetings Tuesday, Hancock again indicated any talks of an expanded field were speculative, per ESPN's Brett McMurphy:

Hancock's 12-year timeline is no accident. That's the length of the television deal between the NCAA and ESPN, which announced a deal through the 2025 regular season in 2012.

While there have been numerous calls for an eight-team system and even talk of its inevitability, avoiding expansion initially is a logical decision. No one knows whether the system will be a success or a major failure, and high-profile bowl games remain a revenue giant.

Expansion would only further the disenchantment of fans who have bemoaned the decreased importance of games like the Rose Bowl, whose "Granddaddy of Them All" nickname used to mean a lot more than merely being the oldest.

There are also pretty obvious fiscal reasons. The NCAA and ESPN agreement is not for a "four-game" championship playoff—it's for the entire package. Expansion to eight teams gives the network four extra games without guarantee of the NCAA receiving any extra revenue. A renegotiation is possible, but it would behoove the NCAA to hold off on expansion until they can reap the biggest financial reward.

Publicly, the NCAA has shut down expansion talks at nearly every possible avenue. Hancock himself has discussed the matter twice now this month, saying each time that decision makers are committed to the four-team format.

"We wanted there to be stability in the system," Hancock told reporters at ESPN upfronts. "We wanted people to grow to love it and understand it. And we did 12 years on purpose. In our group of commissioners, I don't sense anybody wanting to go to eight—or our board, the presidents. They're delighted with where we are."

It's also worth highlighting the wording on each of those statements. Hancock does not say the College Football Playoff will never expand. Just that it won't in its current contract. 

"Really, it's four for 12 years and then we'll reevaluate," Hancock said.

Given the millions of dollars on the table for television networks and NCAA member schools, expansion only makes sense in the long term. ESPN is paying $470 million a season for three playoff games. Expanding the field to eight adds an entire other round and more than doubles the total amount of games. We don't know what the television market will look like in 2025, but the financial windfall could be huge.  

Eight teams is also in no way overbearing and should deter the inevitable snub talk that will probably come as soon as next season. (Though, as the basketball tournament highlights every year, "snubs" will never die regardless of the expansion number.)

Twelve years is a long time, and no matter how many public statements are released, expansion talk isn't going anywhere soon. The thirst for college football (and football in general) has never been higher, nor has the importance of holding a captive live audience. 

As far as the NCAA is concerned, that talk can wait. And it is doing its best to make the speculation die down while it's at it.

 

Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter:


 

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Biggest SEC vs. Pac-12 Football Recruiting Battles in Class of 2015

The SEC and Pac-12 both boast programs that can recruit nationally such as USC, Alabama, Stanford, Florida, Oregon and Texas A&M, among others.

That means the two powerful conferences bump heads on the recruiting trail from time to time, and several big recruiting battles are shaping up between schools from the leagues. A 5-star defensive end from Florida is thinking of playing in Eugene, while College Station could be calling the name of a 4-star running back from California.

Plus, a stud defensive tackle may be thinking of playing at the same school as his father and uncle.

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Every Big 12 Team's Strongest, Weakest Position Groups Heading into 2014 Season

With the spring season behind us, each Big 12 team knows its strengths and weaknesses. 

For example, Baylor may very well have the best quarterback in the country, but a gutted offensive line is a huge concern for head coach Art Briles. 

Let's checkout each Big 12 team's strongest and weakest positional unit heading into summer camp. 

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Top Schools for Each Uncommitted 2015 5-Star Defensive Recruit

Among the 34 5-star recruits in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, 16 defensive prospects remain uncommitted. College coaches from all over the nation are doing all they can to land them.

However, reading between the lines, one can get a solid feel for the top schools in each uncommitted 5-star defensive recruit's recruitment. At some point, these prospects will have to narrow their lists, and this piece could be a sneak preview.

A Pac-12 school could pluck a defensive end from the SEC, while a Big 12 program is looking to steal a defensive tackle from Alabama. Plus, several linebackers have multiple elite options.

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Best Fits for Top Uncommitted WR Recruits for 2015

The 2015 recruiting class is packed with premier wide receiver prospects who form an impressive list of playmakers ready to rise up in a growingly pass-centric sport.

Plenty of programs have already taken advantage of a deep group, collecting pledges from several outstanding pass-catchers. However, many of the marquee prospects remain uncommitted as their junior years come to a close.

We explored the current recruitment process for eight of America's most coveted receivers, peeking ahead to see which team might present an ideal fit in terms of offensive scheme and immediate need.

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Ohio State Football Recruiting: What QB Joe Burrow's Commitment Means for OSU

Ohio State finally added some offensive firepower to its 2015 recruiting class Tuesday, landing in-state quarterback Joe Burrow.

The 6'4", 205-pound passer became the first Buckeyes pledge in nearly four months when he announced his intentions on Twitter:

Burrow, a rising senior at Athens High School (The Plains, Ohio), is the first commitment to come on the offensive side of the football in Urban Meyer's latest class. He joins 4-star defensive backs Eric Glover-Williams (Canton, Ohio) and Jamel Dean (Cocoa, Florida) in a prospect haul that currently rates ninth among Big Ten Conference teams in 247Sports' composite team rankings.

The consensus 3-star recruit is listed at No. 10 among dual-threat recruits in this class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. He was named Ohio's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2013, when he torched opponents for 3,732 yards and 47 touchdowns through the air.

Burrow displayed serious wheels throughout a dominant campaign that featured an unbeaten regular season. He rushed for 589 yards and nine scores, averaging nearly six yards per carry.

His prolific statistics pile on those from a sensational sophomore season to create impressive career numbers.

Burrow will begin his senior season ranked seventh all-time in state history when it comes to touchdown tosses, per USA Today. He provides the Buckeyes with a promising passer to build around after Meyer came up empty on top quarterback targets who made up their minds earlier in the cycle, including 4-star Penn State pledge Brandon Wimbush.

Ohio State ends a severe recruiting drought with the addition of Burrow. The team's last commitment occurred in February, when 4-star safety Ben Edwards (Jacksonville, Florida) joined the class.

However, he flipped his allegiances to Auburn in April.

The Buckeyes remain in the mix for 5-star quarterback Torrance Gibson (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), who listed Ohio State as his No. 4 option in an ordered top 15 list released last month. He is expected to trim that collection of favorites to seven teams this week, and it will be interesting to see if Burrow's commitment factors into Gibson's decision.

The Buckeyes now aim to surround Burrow with offensive talent in a class that still needs a lot of work. Five-star running back Damien Harris (Berea, Kentucky), 4-star offensive tackle Patrick Allen (Reisterstown, Maryland) and 4-star wide receiver Christian Kirk (Scottsdale, Arizona) rank among Meyer's top targets moving forward.

The addition of Burrow is a long-awaited boost for the Buckeyes recruiting efforts and helps solidify quarterback depth in coming years. His offer sheet also included Boston College, West Virginia, Vanderbilt and Maryland, among others.

 

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

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USC Football: Will James Toland IV Be USC's Running Back Savior in 2015?

It wasn't so long ago that running back was perceived to be one of the deepest and strongest units for the 2014 Trojans.

And while that may still be the case this year, there are potential problems looming on the horizon in 2015 and perhaps beyond.

The trouble started when the school announced that sophomore running back Ty Isaac would be transferring closer to his Illinois home.

Though he is a very good back, in and of itself, USC could absorb his loss in a typical year when a focus could be made on replenishing the unit through this year's recruiting class.

However, as I wrote about not so long ago, this is not a strong year for high school running backs, and USC has not extended much in the way of offers to this position in 2014.

In fact, it would not be a surprise if the Trojans signed only one or perhaps did not sign any running backs in this class, and if this is the case, it could mean problems down the road.

Of course, I could be accused of doing my best impersonation of Chicken Little running around claiming the sky is falling when in reality, everything could work out just fine.

After all, USC has three outstanding running backs on scholarship in 2014, and not one of them is a senior.

Both Javorius "Buck" Allen and Tre Madden are redshirt juniors, and Justin Davis is only a sophomore, which means, in theory, that all could be back in 2015.

That is the best scenario for the Trojans, but what if everything goes to hell and both Allen and Madden declare for the NFL following this season?

That would leave Davisand a mystery running back recruit(s)as the only scholarship ball-carriers on USC's roster in 2015.

And that, my friend, is a scary thought for those who follow the men of Troy.

Still, things may not be quite as dire as they would appear.

USC will have one other option, and while his name might not be familiar to many, those who saw him in high school and even in the recently completed spring practice know him well.

Meet James Toland IV, and he might just wind up being the guy the Trojans turn to in 2015 when it comes to running the rock.

Though only a walk-on, Toland possesses scholarship ability.

At 6'0", 185 pounds, Toland is a quick, strong, elusive runner, and the only reason this kid wasn't a big-time recruit is because he played his ball at a small high school called Shadow Hills in Indio, California.

But man, did he play well, as evidenced by some truly eye-popping statistics in 2012, when he ran for 2,649 yards on 315 carries (8.4 yards per carry) andget this39 touchdowns.

I don't care if you're playing the little sisters of the poor; those are some big numbers.

According to The Desert Sun's Andrew L. John (courtesy of USA Today High School Sports), Toland had only one verbal offer (from Pittsburgh) when he decided to accept a preferred walk-on offer to join the Trojans.

For Toland, accepting the offer was a no-brainer, as John quotes him as saying, "I've been a USC fan since I was 8 years old. So this is a dream come true for me. I'm going to make the most of it."

So far, Toland has done just that, and when 2015 rolls around, USC may be very happy that he took the Trojans up on their offer.

Because if things go wrong next year, USC may be turning to the guy with big numbers from a small school.

And if Toland has his way, that may not be a bad thing after all.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan

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Florida State Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season

Florida State's 2014 schedule is without question tougher than the 2013 version. But will the result be the same?

FSU has bulked up its nonconference schedule, trading in the likes of Nevada, Idaho and Bethune-Cookman for Oklahoma State, The Citadel and Notre Dame (Florida remains a constant non-conference opponent).

A 12-0 record, a berth in the ACC championship game and a spot in the new College Football Playoff are the expectations of FSU fans. Are there roadblocks? Of course. But can the Seminoles go perfect in the regular season, especially with how the schedule is set up? Absolutely.

 

Oklahoma State, Aug. 30 (at Arlington, Texas)

This looked like a nice matchup to kick off the season, but FSU is a two-touchdown favorite against an Oklahoma State team that returns just nine starters and lost 29 seniors. The two-deep looks like Swiss cheese, and that's what FSU's offense will make of Oklahoma State's defense.

 

The Citadel, Sept. 6

This much we know: FSU will win, and The Citadel will receive a check for $440,000. This will be a good game for fans to enjoy watching FSU's backups, as No. 2 QB Sean Maguire will (likely) lead the offense in the second half and will have the chance to work with a deep corps of running backs and some young receivers.

 

Clemson, Sept. 20

FSU catches a few breaks with this game. The Seminoles not only get a bye week to prepare for Clemson, but they also face the Tigers without quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, both of whom are gone to the NFL. Note to ACC: realize that this is a better matchup later in the year, like mid-October or November. But a mid-September date really gives Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris very little time to get anything rolling, and FSU should grab its first ACC win.

 

at N.C. State, Sept. 27

FSU returns to the scene of its stunning 17-16 loss to N.C. State on Oct. 6, 2012. This game should be far different. While many of the FSU starters in that game have moved on, the reserves either played or were on the sidelines. They haven't forgotten. Jacoby Brissett has had a year to learn the offense, but he doesn't have much of a supporting cast—or a chance to upset the Seminoles.

 

Wake Forest, Oct. 4

Wake is starting over with a new coach, Dave Clawson, who will have to break in a new quarterback (Tanner Price has graduated) and will need to find him a No. 1 receiver after Michael Campanaro went off to the NFL. FSU won the last two games against Wake by a combined 111-3. This one could get ugly, too.

 

at Syracuse, Oct. 11

If there is a "sleeper" team to watch in 2014, give Syracuse the early nod, Athlon Sports says. The Orange return QB Terrel Hunt (10 passing TDs, seven rushing TDs), veterans on the offensive line and what should be an improved defense. FSU shredded Syracuse 59-3 last season at home, but this feels like a game where FSU could struggle early if it is looking ahead to the following week's showdown with Notre Dame.

 

Notre Dame, Oct. 18

This game is a wild card. In May, it's an intriguing matchup because Notre Dame returns dual-threat QB Everett Golson and plenty of talent at receiver and running back. But with just nine returning starters, the Irish could struggle, too. FSU will catch Notre Dame at the tail end of a very challenging four-game stretch (at Syracuse, vs. Stanford, vs. North Carolina, at FSU). Will Notre Dame be a top-10 team or a two-loss team when the Irish face FSU? It's just too hard to predict, but the Seminoles should win en route to a 7-0 start.

 

at Louisville, Oct. 30

Even without QB Teddy Bridgewater, new coach Bobby Petrino returns to Louisville and could put up a ton of points again. Petrino won 41 games at Louisville from 2003-06, and his Western Kentucky team aired it out for 5,502 yards in 2013. FSU shouldn't get too overconfident if, as expected, the Seminoles defeat Notre Dame. But a week off is again significant as FSU prepares for a Thursday night road game. The Seminoles have historically been sluggish on Thursday nights, but the Seminoles won 28-22 at Virginia Tech in Nov. 2012 and 38-7 at Boston College in Nov. 2011. Look for FSU's recent Thursday success to continue.

 

Virginia, Nov. 8

Is this the year that all of Mike London's recruiting success comes to fruition? It had better, or he could be on a scorching hot seat (or gone) by the time the teams face off. Virginia is just 6-18 the past two seasons. London has chosen sophomore QB Greyson Lambert to lead the offense after he threw for 220 yards and two TDs (along with two INTs) in the spring game. The Cavaliers need sophomore RB Taquan Mizzell to break out, but Virginia is overmatched against FSU.

 

at Miami, Nov. 15

Duke Johnson is in the backfield, and that's a concern for any defense. After hurting his ankle in a loss at FSU in November 2013, Johnson is expected to be back at 100 percent in August. But Miami has so many question marks. Will QB Ryan Williams make it back from a knee injury? Can Stacy Coley develop into an elite receiver? Is the defense, which returns LB Denzel Perryman, going to be better?  FSU fans would probably prefer to be facing Miami earlier in the year. If Williams returns and is effective, Miami could have some balance on offense to give the Seminoles a run for it.

 

Boston College, Nov. 22

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher wanted a nonconference cupcake in 2013 before Florida, and he was able to schedule Idaho. But the way the schedule worked out, FSU is facing what appears to be a weaker Boston College team before the Gators. BC loses RB Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams as well as QB Chase Rettig and WR Alex Amidon, who accounted for 1,032 of Rettig's 2,012 passing yards. But coach Steve Addazio landed a quality replacement for Rettig in Tyler Murphy, who graduated from Florida and is able to play for BC immediately. Murphy should do well, but BC needs to surround him with some pieces to make him successful. Still, look for the Seminoles to win this one comfortably.

 

Florida, Nov. 29

It simply can't get any worse than how 2013 finished for the Gators—a 4-8 season that concluded with eight straight losses, including a home defeat to FCS foe Georgia Southern and a 30-point blowout to FSU. Florida will surely be better in 2014 as new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper arrives from Duke. He has installed a spread offense that could play to QB Jeff Driskel's strengths. Florida has talented RBs in Kelvin Taylor and Mack Brown, but the Gators need a young group of receivers featuring Demarcus Robinson, Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson to emerge. The Gators should put up more than the seven points they managed last year against the Seminoles, but Florida will struggle to stop FSU's dynamic offense.

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter.

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Texas A&M or Oregon: Where Will No. 1 Dual-Threat QB Kyler Murray Commit?

The No. 1 Dual-Threat QB of the 2015 class, according to 247 Sports' composite rankings, is set to announce his commitment. Kyler Murray from Allen, TX, will commit to either Oregon or Texas A&M on Wednesday. Murray has the skills to be a huge playmaker wherever he ends up. 

Going into Texas and landing Murray would be a huge get for the Oregon Ducks and their increasing national recruiting presence. If Murray chooses Texas A&M, expect the Johnny Manziel comparisons to come rolling in. 

Check out Michael Felder predict where Kyler Murray will play his college ball. 

 

Highlights courtesy XOS Digital. Recruiting rankings from 247 Sports Composite.

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Penn State Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season

We're less than 100(!) days away from the 2015 football season which Penn State will kick off in Ireland against UCF in the Croke Park Classic.

The Nittany Lions have managed to hold things together thus far amid crippling sanctions that have depleted the roster and left them with around 50 healthy scholarship players at times in 2013. The upcoming season could be the most difficult to navigate through but a third consecutive winning season would give fans something to be proud of.

Gone are Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska but they've been replaced by the likes of Michigan State and a couple new additions to the Big Ten.

The out-of-conference schedule gives Franklin a test in week one followed by some winnable games. Will the kinks be worked out by the time the Big Ten schedule gets going or will growing pains and a thin roster prove too much for the Big Ten's newest coach?

Here's a week-by-week breakdown of the Nittany Lions' 2014 season.

 

All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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LSU Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season

LSU fans are always buzzing about the Tigers. Except, at the moment, it's not about the football team.

LSU Baseball just earned a coveted national seed for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. But, as head coach Paul Mainieri gets his team prepared for another run to Omaha, it is never too early to look ahead to the upcoming football season. 

One of Les Milesmany challenges heading into the season is the arduous schedule. The Tigers have a vicious eight-game SEC slate and a non-conference opponent that has been to three Rose Bowls in the past four seasons.

Here are some far too early previews and predictions for next season.  

 

*Stats and additional information via 247Sports, cfbstats.com, LSU Sports Information and ESPN.com

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Texas A&M Football: Analyzing Aggies' Top 5 2015 Recruiting Targets

The Texas A&M football team has 10 players committed in their 2015 recruiting class. They still have a number of players they are trying to add in order to sign one of the top classes in the SEC. 

Every good recruiting class has a "jewel" or bell-cow player that fans can point to as the leader of the class. The Aggies have two players committed in the 2015 class like that, in 5-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack and 4-star tight end Jordan Davis

There are multiple athletes in Texas this year who would qualify for that moniker. The Aggies are still in the running for a lot of these recruits. If Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff can sign these recruits, he will have legitimate shot at signing the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. 

This is a look at the top five recruiting targets for the A&M class. They are going to be listed from the least important to the program and class to the most important. 

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Power Ranking College Football's 10 Best QB Depth Charts for 2014

Quarterback depth charts are a difficult thing to evaluate. Do you err toward the team with the best No. 1 option or the team with the safest amount of protection behind him?

The safest way, I think, is to use a healthy combination of the two. A team with one Heisman candidate but no other viable players under center cannot be considered to have one of the best depth charts in America. Likewise, a team with two viable players but no viable starter is discredited in a similar way.

Thus, in order for a team to make this list, a combination of two things was needed: (1) a quarterback who can be trusted to compete for a conference championship and (2) a backup who can be trusted not to let the season implode if the starter gets injured.

Oregon, for example, fulfills the first criterion with Marcus Mariota but not the second with Jeff Lockie, which is why it has been excluded. On the other hand, Michigan fulfills the second item with either Devin Gardner or Shane Morris, but neither of those quarterbacks fulfills the first category.

There is definitely some wiggle room for argument, especially in regard to the teams with blue-chip starters.

I prefer certain young high-upside backups to others, but there are arguments to be made both ways, so feel free to chime in below and let me know where you disagree.

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Dylan Thompson Projections: Will New Gamecock QB Match Connor Shaw's Success?

With the Connor Shaw era coming to an end, South Carolina's Dylan Thompson will step into the QB role. Thompson is no stranger to the offense, but he will bring a different style to the Gamecocks.

With a dynamic receiving corps and run game, Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks should have a more traditional, balanced offense. Will Dylan Thompson be able to run a successful offense this season? Can he be better than Connor Shaw? 

Watch B/R's college football analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer break down the Gamecocks starting QB. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

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Dorial Green-Beckham Reportedly May Sit out 2014 Season, Enter 2015 NFL Draft

After being dismissed by the Missouri football program in April, Dorial Green-Beckham may sit out the entire 2014 college football season in favor of entering the 2015 NFL draft.

Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports reported the news Tuesday:

Chase Goodbread of NFL.com shared his thoughts on the potential move and recounted the issues that led to Green-Beckham's dismissal:

For a player with more years of college eligibility remaining (two) than productive years as a college player (one), it would be the riskiest of moves. A rash of legal problems have derailed the career of Green-Beckham, who was regarded as the nation's No. 1 wide receiver recruit out of high school in 2012. Two marijuana-related arrests preceded an incident in which Green-Beckham allegedly forced his way into his girlfriend's apartment and pushed another female resident down a stairwell.

If Green-Beckham does decide to sit out the 2014 season, he would finish his college career with just 87 receptions for 1,278 yards and 17 touchdowns. While he did put together a big 2013 season with 883 yards and 12 touchdowns, one season might not be enough to convince scouts to take a risk on him in the draft.

The former Mizzou receiver spoke about his struggles to stay on the field, per Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

First and most importantly, I take responsibility for my conduct and my mistakes. Don’t blame my girlfriend or her friends for anything. I am not looking for sympathy. I thank those who have given me concern.

I have been young and dumb. I want to be better. During my suspension I’m entering counseling. With help, I know I can be stronger emotionally and spiritually. My relationship with God, my family, friends, teammates and coaches are most important in my life, not football.

It may not be possible to fix everything, but it won’t be for not trying.

While Goodbread doesn't believe sitting out will be the best option for DGB, David C. Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune has other thoughts:

Meanwhile, Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead still sees the wideout as the top receiver in next year's draft if he enters:

While Green-Beckham has clearly made his fair share of mistakes, the 6'6", 225-pound receiver is viewed as one of the best players in the 2015 class. If he does skip the entire year, the former Mizzou wideout might still get a chance with an NFL franchise hoping to turn his career around.

Of course, it will be interesting to see how Green-Beckham handles himself if he does sit out. He will need to remain dedicated to staying in top physical shape as well as avoid further mistakes off the field.

After a mostly unsuccessful college tenure with the Tigers, the former No. 1 overall player in the 2014 247Sports composite rankings still has the talent to play in the NFL. As for which team might take that flier to see if he can still produce, that will be determined when the upcoming draft rolls around if he decides to enter it.

 

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UCLA Football: Analyzing Bruins' Top 5 2014 Recruiting Targets

UCLA's quick rise in the Pac-12 under head coach Jim Mora is due in no small part to the program's recruiting efforts. 

Mora's first three signing classes, starting in 2012, have ranked fourth, third and first in the conference, per 247Sports. It's no wonder then that the Bruins are primed for league contention. 

UCLA's 2015 signing class is shaping up to be arguably Mora and his staff's best yet. The Bruins currently have six commitments and are firmly in the mix for several coveted recruits. 

The theme atop UCLA's list of uncommitted targets is Southern California. Mora and Co. are working hard to plant their flag firmly in the local recruiting scene with highly rated prospects. 

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4 Likely Replacements for Jamal Marcus at Ohio State

Backup defensive end Jamal Marcus, who was expected to start the first two games of next season while Noah Spence finishes his three-game suspension, has left the Ohio State program.

The earliest report came from Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors and said Marcus had been dismissed from the team along with receiver Brandon Ojikutu for a violation of team rules.

But according to a later report from Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch, Marcus is simply transferring from the program, and his departure was a mutual decision between school and player.

Marcus started for Spence against Clemson in the Orange Bowl and played the best game of his career, finishing with six total tackles and frequently making plays in the backfield. "I feel like get me on the field, I can make plays whenever I get the opportunity," Marcus said after the performance, per Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com.

According to Rowland, however, Marcus was "conspicuously quiet" during spring drills and took reps with the second- and third-team defenses. The writing was kind of on the wall.

This loss does not cripple one of the nation's top defensive lines, but it does present some questions about depth on the edge. Here are some guys who must step up to help replace Marcus in the rotation.

 

Steve Miller

This is the luxury of being Ohio State. When one backup defensive end transfers, another capable replacement stands waiting in the wings.

And not just any capable replacement—a veteran one.

Steve Miller will be a senior in 2014 and has contributed for the past two seasons. He was the No. 61 overall player in the 2011 recruiting class, per the 247Sports Composite, and although he hasn't panned out like a star, he has always been a steady enough contributor.

Miller finished last season with 12 tackles and six tackles for loss, most of which came in garbage time. But his pedigree suggests he should be able to handle a bigger workload—and maybe even start the season opener against Navy—without too much trouble.

 

Tyquan Lewis

Tyquan Lewis took a redshirt in 2013, but he is not your average redshirt freshman. At least in terms of experience, that is.

He enrolled early last January and has now been through two full spring camps in addition to last regular season. Even though he has not seen a snap of live action, he has been through a lot with the team and should know the defensive playbook fairly well.

Lewis ironically came to Ohio State from North Carolina—just like Marcus, whose departure has provided this opportunity.

He was a 4-star recruit on the 247Sports Composite and the second-highest rated defensive end in the Buckeyes' 2013 class, trailing only Joey Bosa. Listed at 6'3", 260 pounds on the Ohio State website, Lewis should have the beef to contribute, at the very least, in run support.

That could come in handy against Navy, which runs a triple-option offense and finished second in the country (trailing only Auburn) with 325.38 rushing yards per game in 2013.

 

Rashad Frazier

Perhaps the most intriguing name on this list, Rashad Frazier transferred from Purdue as a walk-on but earned a scholarship.

According to Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch, he had two sacks in the first nine minutes of the spring game, recovering the first in the end zone for a defensive touchdown:

This success may have come out of nowhere to some, but according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors, Frazier was talked up all spring by defensive line coach Larry Johnson and teammate Michael Bennett:

As a potential contributor, it is hard to take Frazier seriously until he proves he can produce in a real game. Spence's suspension and Marcus' transfer might give him that opportunity early.

If the spring was any indication, Frazier is ready to answer the call.

 

Jalyn Holmes

The highest-rated defensive lineman in the Buckeyes' 2014 class, Jalyn Holmes was the No. 80 overall player on the 247Sports Composite and the No. 51 overall player on the site's subjective rankings.

Urban Meyer went to Virginia to land Holmes, who was also fancied by Florida State during his recruitment. And it's no wonder why all the big-name recruiters were after him: He is 6'5", 225 pounds with a rangy frame and good athleticism.

That said, 225 pounds does not sound like an ideal playing weight for the next level. Holmes did not enroll early and get a chance to work out with a college weight program, so it remains to be seen if he's ready to crack the defensive line rotation as a true freshman.

Marcus' dismissal ensures, if anything, that Holmes will be given a close look as a potential contributor in year one.

But it does not guarantee immediate playing time.

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4-Star ATH Deon Cain Sets Decision Date, Will Choose from Top 5

Deon Cain is days away from deciding where he plans to play college football, with five programs still in the picture.

The Tampa Bay Tech High School (Tampa, Florida) standout will announce his selection Friday, May 30 at 2:30 p.m. EDT, according to 247Sports reporter Ryan Bartow (via 247Sports' Shea Dixon). His head coach, Jayson Roberts, shared the details and said five teams remain in contention for Cain's commitment.

"He will choose from his Top 5," Roberts said. "Florida, Clemson, Georgia, Tennessee and LSU."

Cain, a 6'1", 190-pound playmaker, is viewed as a versatile prospect capable of playing a variety of positions at the next level.

Rated No. 9 nationally among wide receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings, he is reportedly viewed as a quarterback by LSU. The Tigers extended an offer earlier this month.

Cain completed 49 percent of his 245 pass attempts in 2013, per MaxPreps. The 4-star recruit threw for 1,945 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

His speed (clocked at 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash, per 247Sports) shined when Cain kept the ball as a runner. He averaged more than five yards per carry, rushing for 731 yards and four scores.

Though his high school snaps have occurred almost exclusively behind center, Cain is viewed as a legitimate downfield threat who can grow into his role as a receiver in college.

Jamie Uyeyema of Son of a Coach highlighted his raw receiving skills in a recent scouting report.

Cain did get take reps as a wide receiver at both the Rivals and Nike camps in Orlando. He ran routes against good defensive backs while looking explosive with his routes and flashing outstanding hands. He was a natural hands catcher and attacked the ball in the air.

LSU will compete with SEC rivals Florida, Tennessee and Georgia for his services. Receiver-rich Clemson also remains in the mix.

The decision may ultimately come down to which position he prefers to play. If there's a strong desire toward a particular spot on the field, that would greatly influence his thought process leading up to Friday.

Several notable squads were left off Cain's list of finalists. His lengthy offer sheet also includes Alabama, Miami, Michigan State, Auburn, Ole Miss and Ohio State.

Cain is projected to sign with Clemson by 67 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Prognosticators view Florida as the Tigers' greatest threat, giving the Gators a nod in 19 percent of picks.

 

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

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