NCAA Football News

Malik Henry to FSU: Seminoles Land 5-Star QB Prospect

Highly touted 5-star quarterback Malik Henry announced he would play college football for the Florida State Seminolesduring a Thursday afternoon telecast on ESPNU.

Irish Sports Daily reported the news of Henry's commitment:

Henry hails from Westlake High School in Thousand Oaks, California, and is regarded as one of the prized gems of the 2016 class. According to 247Sports' composite rankings, he's the No. 1 pro-style QB prospect in the nation and the fifth-ranked player overall.

Josh Newberg of 247Sports spoke to a source who compared Henry favorably to Florida State Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston:

That is just about the highest praise a high school superstar can garner as Henry prepares for the transition to the collegiate level.

Henry looks to become the latest in a long line of highly-successful Florida State quarterbacks, recently including Christian Ponder, EJ Manuel and Winston. 

Perhaps the best traits Henry has are the most difficult for younger signal-callers to develop, and some never do. With a lightning-quick release and outstanding mechanics and footwork, Henry is already making the most out of his natural talent.

The arm strength is there for Henry to thrive in any offensive system, and his sound fundamentals help him deliver an accurate ball to all areas of the field. With enough athleticism to extend plays, opposing defenses will have to worry about Henry running the ball on occasion as well.

The Seminoles should be thrilled to land someone like Henry, who has all the makings of a multiple year starter who can emerge as one of the premier QBs in college football in the coming seasons.

As ready as Henry appears to be to take the reins of an offense, though, it's important not to fast track him at too quick of a pace.

Henry is too valuable of a prospect to be pressed into action before he's fully prepared. Beyond that minor concern, FSU is set under center for the foreseeable future by welcoming Henry to the fold.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star Malik Henry Commits to FSU: Resembles Recent Seminole Stud QB

Five-star quarterback Malik Henry has officially committed to the Florida State Seminoles. A California native, Henry is considered the top QB in the 2016 class. He chose FSU over Notre Dame, UCLA and Ohio State. Bleacher Report's college football analyst Michael Felder breaks down how this elite QB will fit into Jimbo Fisher's program.

How well do you think this stud will do in Tallahassee?

Check out the video, and let us know!

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USC Fans Look Past Cal Game, Vandalize UCLA Bruin Bear Statue

The USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins will meet for their rivalry game on Nov. 22, so both campuses better be on alert for pranks by the enemy.

Well, Trojans fans got things started a bit early this year, spray-painting "SC Runs LA" on UCLA's Bruin Bears statue.

It would be one thing to pull a prank this early if the unranked USC (6-3) were on a bye week. However, the Trojans have a game against the Cal Bears (5-4) on Thursday night.

First things first, guys.

This could be seen as the element of surprise, considering UCLA probably wasn't expecting anything with another team still standing between the Trojans and the Bruins. Or maybe USC fans don't think much of Jared Goff and the Bears.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Alabama Football: How Tide Can Stop Dak Prescott

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — If Alabama is looking for a blueprint in stopping Dak Prescott and Mississippi State, Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart only have to flip through their game plans from a few years back.

In 2009, it faced the mighty Florida Gators in the SEC Championship Game, an Atlanta re-match of the year before. That team featured a Heisman-worthy quarterback who, up to that year, had been coached by Dan Mullen, then the offensive coordinator of the Gators and now the head coach at Mississippi State.

It was a similar style of quarterback and play, and the Crimson Tide held Florida to just 13 points in a route that propelled Alabama to its first national title under Saban.

Prescott will likely be the biggest individual threat Alabama faces this year. He’s drawing a lot of comparisons to Tim Tebow for his playing style and what he’s doing for the Bulldogs.

“Just an all-around athlete,” Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones said. “A big guy who can run and has a great arm. Manages that offense well. It's going to be a challenge for us as a defense. But I think with our preparation we'll be ready."

He’s a Heisman front-runner who compares well to some previous Heisman winners, as Mississippi State is happy to point out.

Prescott could add another similarity among him and two of those other Heisman winners. Both Johnny Manziel and Cam Newton came into Bryant-Denny Stadium and beat Alabama, sending their campaigns into high gear.

So how can Alabama stop Prescott?

The Crimson Tide have a few ideas, and they’re similar to what happened in the Georgia Dome five years ago.

 

Contain, contain, contain

Prescott has had a lot of success because of his ability to make plays with his feet as well as his arm.

He showed off that ability early in the season against LSU.

The challenge for Alabama will be keeping him in check as much as possible, especially in passing situations. That starts up front.

“It's pushing the pocket and making the quarterback throw in the pocket when you press the pocket up against him so he can't step up and attack the middle of the field or step up and run,” Saban said. “We have to do a better job of being very disciplined in what we do up front in terms of how we rush pass rush lanes and how we push the pocket.

“[We have to] not be so worried about, 'I want to sack the quarterback so I'm going to lose contain or I'm going to be pushed by the quarterback and now he has alleys and lanes to scramble.' Those are the critical things I think we need to do as a front so that we have really good control of the pass rush lanes and pushing the pocket.”

There can be a temptation, though, to abandon the pass too early, which is when defensive backs can easily get beat.

“If he gets through the line of scrimmage, we sometimes have our backs turned or are covering way down field,” safety Landon Collins said. “They can get 15 or 20 yards on a quarterback run, especially if he's a quick quarterback. It could be detrimental especially if we're in a third-down situation and they just take off and run.”

 

Force bad throws

This could be a key to every game against any quarterback, but it’s especially important when facing one where there is such a small margin of error.

Prescott certainly qualifies there.

He’s seventh in the country in quarterback rating (158.49) and tied for fifth in yards per attempt (9.3). While he gets a lot of attention for his big plays on the ground, he’s just as—if not more—effective through the air.

“I think he’s one of the best passing quarterbacks that we’ve played against all year,” Saban said. “He’s probably one of the best in the country. It’s a difficult combination when you have a guy who is big, physical and has the ability to run the ball on quarterback runs, which creates another gap. … He has the ability to really effectively, and efficiently, pass the football, down the field, short, and really take advantage of the very thing that you do to try and stop him as a runner.”

One of the most memorable plays for Alabama in that 2009 SEC Championship was Javier Arenas’ interception of Tebow late, which effectively sealed the win.

Arenas made an athletic play to close a window Tebow thought was there to thread a touchdown over the top.

It was just Tebow’s fifth interception of the season. Prescott right now only has seven. Those kinds of plays will be the difference on Saturday.

 

Discipline

To be able to capitalize on the two previous points, it’s going to take discipline from Alabama’s defenders—a trust in teammates that they’ll have your back while you’re doing your job.

It could be tempting, for example, for a safety like Collins to be focused so much on stopping his running threat that he loses his man in the secondary, which could lead to a big play through the air.

“In the secondary, it's your job to play the pass first,” Collins said. “You got to look at your man and not look at the wrong things. And be ready if he runs to be there in run support and help the linebackers out. You definitely have to play your responsibility first and worry about the run second.”

There’s a trickle-down effect across the entire defense. The defensive line can’t over-pursue, as Saban mentioned, trying to make a big play and in turn give him a running lane. Linebackers need to play their assignments in the open field.

“It’s tough,” linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “You’ve got to read your keys and make sure everyone up front does his job. If you do that, you’ll be successful.”

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from cfbstats.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Texas A&M Football: Kyle Allen Gives Aggies Best Shot to Win out in 2014

The Texas A&M football team has the opportunity to improve on its 2013 record by winning the last three games of their season. The Aggies will have their best chance to win out with true freshman Kyle Allen starting at quarterback. 

Texas A&M's sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill will be eligible to start against Missouri after serving a two-game suspension. Hill leads the Aggies in all passing categories, completing 66.7 percent of his passes and throwing for 2,649 passing yards and 23 touchdowns. 

He was the quarterback when the Aggies endured a three-game losing streak with consecutive losses to Top Five opponents Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama. Hill struggled to consistently produce first downs and put points on the board in those games. 

Allen is the Aggies best choice to lead the team for the remainder of the season. This is a look at why Allen should start all of the remaining games in the 2014 season. 

Begin Slideshow

Buying or Selling Every Top 10 Team as Playoff Championship Contender

We've gained a bit of clarity from the College Football Playoff, at least as far as which teams are perceived as the best in the country when a group of impartial voters are locked together in a room for two days every week. But rankings only provide a pecking order; they don't always tell the true story.

Namely, who is really a championship contender and who's just ranked high on a list.

Four weeks are left before we'll know for certain which teams get to play it out in the first-ever playoff at the FBS level, but while we creep toward the official pairings announced on Dec. 7, we take a look at the Top 10 teams and gauge how realistic their chances are to win a national title.

Buy or sell? Check it out, and then let us know what you think.

Begin Slideshow

Ohio State's Jalin Marshall Is the Model for the Future of College Football

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After waiting more than a year for it, Urban Meyer finally received a national letter of intent from Jalin Marshall. And once he did on a cold February morning in 2013, the Ohio State head coach didn't sell the Middletown, Ohio, star short.

"Jalin Marshall is a young man that if he was a guy that wanted to play the game and wait until signing day to put the eight hats out there, he could have whatever many amounts of hats he wanted," Meyer said of the 4-star prospect who committed to the Buckeyes in January of 2012. "I would rather recruits do it the way he did it, but can you imagine Ohio State University and the state of Ohio and Buckeye Nation if he would have waited and put on a hat?

"That would have been a great day. Because we think he's certainly if not the best player in Ohio, one of them."

Upon arriving on campus six months later, a preseason concussion and standard freshman struggles would delay Marshall's ability to make good on Meyer's promise. But through the first nine games of his redshirt freshman season, the 5'11", 205-pounder has proved to be well worth the wait.

Helping eighth-ranked Ohio State reenter the race for a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff, Marshall has proved to be one of Meyer and the Buckeyes' most reliable weapons. Ranking fourth on the team in receiving with 14 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns as well as fifth in rushing with 107 yards and one score on 17 carries while also returning punts, Marshall seems to have done a little bit of everything for Ohio State, and his responsibilities are only growing.

In fact, you may have noticed that I'm yet to have listed a position for Marshall here. His role(s) on the Buckeyes makes it difficult to do so.

Ohio State's official roster pegs Marshall as an H-back, Meyer's preferred name for the wide receiver/running back hybrid position that Percy Harvin made famous in the spread offense at Florida. But even the versatility that spot entails doesn't do enough justice in describing all that Marshall is capable of.

With Braxton Miller on the shelf with a torn labrum and true freshman Stephen Collier being saved for a redshirt, Marshall has managed to also take on the role of Ohio State's third-string quarterback. That's not exactly a foreign position for him, either, as he first made a name for himself as a running quarterback during his storied prep career in Southwest Ohio.

"That's right where he should have played," Meyer asserted. "He was the best player on that team."

Accumulating 2,641 total yards and 26 touchdowns in his junior season, Marshall found so much success as a quarterback that the likes of Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and UCLA each offered him a scholarship to come play the position at their schools. But none were able to overcome the pull of Meyer and Ohio State, where Marshall knew that a position switch was likely. Yet that still hasn't prevented him from lining up from behind center.

As Meyer and Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman have continued to implement their hurry-up offense, Marshall has been used as one of the unit's most important interchangeable pieces. With the ability to line up at wide receiver, running back and, yes, quarterback, Ohio State has used Marshall as its Wildcat signal-caller, taking direct snaps against often unprepared opponents.

"The Wildcat's legitimate, especially at tempo," Meyer said on Monday. "We have a couple of passes ready for him, too."

Marshall has actually already attempted one on the season, letting an incompletion fly in the Buckeyes' Nov. 1 win over Illinois. And while his one pass attempt thus far in his college career was ultimately unsuccessful, don't be surprised if more are in his future—and not just because Meyer said so.

As explained by Heisman.com's Chris Huston, the future of football could very well be players like Marshall, ones capable of running, catching and throwing. In a pair of tweets following Ohio State's win over Michigan State, Huston was actually referencing Miller but might as well have been talking about Marshall as he explained his vision for a new age of offense.

Meyer doesn't seem to disagree with that notion, stating that when it comes to recruiting, versatility is a priority.

"We put the [all-points bulletin] out every year for the multidimensional athlete on offense," Meyer said. "That's the tight end 'H,' and it's the tailback 'H.' And just over the years, that position has evolved. You like moving those checkers around when you can have guys that can take direct snaps."

Marshall certainly seems to fit that mold—and then some—possessing the ability to line up at any skill position on the OSU offense while also taking on special teams duties. As a threat to throw, it's fun to think about what the Buckeyes offense could potentially look like next season with Marshall and potentially Miller lining up alongside current OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett.

And while such formations may be nothing more than fan fantasies at a school like Ohio State, don't expect players with skill sets like Marshall's to stop showing up in Columbus anytime soon. Asked by B/R on Wednesday about his status as one of college football's more cutting-edge players, Marshall didn't shy away from being labeled one of the prototypes of the future of the sport.

"Hopefully, it could be," Marshall said. "I definitely don't want to be deactivated from that role in this offense. I enjoy that, and I feel like it helps us out a little bit, and the role's expanding more and more each week. I feel like it's great for me and great for the team."

That's exactly what Meyer was envisioning when he raved about Marshall's potential on national signing day two years ago. And fortunately for him and the Buckeyes, the wait is finally over.

The future is now.

 

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

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The Class of 2016's Trendsetting Two-Sport Star

It was in the end of his second grade year when Tony Jones Jr. reached a crossroads in his life.

He was already on the path to follow in the footsteps of his father Tony Sr.—who was a standout athlete who played eight years of professional football.

However, he wasn’t as stimulated in the classroom as he was when he was out hitting home runs and scoring touchdowns as a rising two-sport athlete. 

At the time, Tony Sr. was coaching his son in both baseball and football when he received a call from one of his son’s teachers. She told him that she was afraid that he wouldn’t pass the FCAT to advance to third grade because of his lack of motivation.

The teacher knew that Tony Sr. coached his son, so she asked him what he did to motivate his son athletically.

At that point, he took Tony Jr. outside to talk. Though his son feared a scolding, he was instead taught an invaluable lesson that would shape his life moving forward.

Knowing that his son was extremely competitive as a standout young athlete, Tony Sr. asked him why he failed to compete in the classroom. 

“My message was, yeah, you can win in here too,” Tony Sr. told Bleacher Report. “You can be the first one to get an A. You can be the first one to finish an assignment. You can be the first one to answer a question. If you are going to be competitive, be competitive all-around at everything you do.’”

That one moment of dialogue between father and son sparked a complete transformation in young Tony’s habits in the classroom.

“Since then, my kid has made honor roll every semester since that conversation,” Tony Sr. proudly exclaimed. 

Almost a decade later, Tony Jr. is the first student-athlete to ever play both baseball and football at the prestigious IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

He doubles as a star outfielder—who hit .359 this season for the Ascenders in baseball—and as the leading rusher on a loaded football squad that finished 9-1 and ranked No. 21 in the MaxPreps Top 25 poll.

As his achievements keep piling up in both sports, he’s still continued to get it done in the classroom. But does he plan to follow in the footsteps of noted two-sport standouts such as Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Jameis Winston?

After their son spent the first two years of his prep career at Catholic High School in nearby St. Petersburg, Tony's parents (Tony Sr. and Natalie) made the decision to enroll Tony Jr. at IMG.

Despite Tony Jr. rushing for more than 1,000 yards in both his freshman and sophomore seasons, Tony Sr. felt that his son needed to go to a place where he had stiff competition for playing time.

“I want him to feel that pressure just like he would when he gets to college,” Tony Sr. said.

However, there was still a matter of convincing the coaches at IMG—a school that has never had an athlete play both football and baseball—to let him play two sports.

“When I first came here to visit, my mom told me to make sure to tell them (about playing two sports) the first time I saw them,” Tony Jr. said.

In January, a meeting was arranged with Tony Jr., his parents, IMG administrators and the coaches of the football and baseball programs.

Given the unique circumstances surrounding his arrival to the program, he was dealt a lucky stroke of good fortune in his quest to play two sports.

IMG head coach Chris Weinke—the former Heisman Trophy–winning quarterback at Florida State who spent six years playing minor league baseball before arriving in Tallahassee for college—is one of the few coaches who can understand Tony’s plight.

“I think very few guys get the opportunity to play two sports,” Weinke said. “He has the ability to be able to play two sports. My only advice to him is to have fun doing it. I’m a firm believer that you have to enjoy playing the game. The more you enjoy it, the harder you are going to work.”

Weinke knows the grind of trying to succeed in two sports, especially at a school such as IMG that has traditionally focused on training and developing athletes in one sport in the past. 

“It hasn’t necessarily been done in the past here, but that’s OK,” Weinke said. “When the rare student-athlete comes along [who] can do both, we encourage it here, actually. We just haven’t necessarily had guys that wanted to do it here in the past.”

That doesn’t mean it’s something that comes easily. Weinke has praised Tony Jr. as “one of the hardest workers on the team.” A quick glance at his daily routine in football is proof of his proclamation. 

The only change in his schedule comes during baseball season, when Tony will join the baseball team after lunch—which means that his level of dedication to two sports takes a lot of sacrifice and commitment. 

After receiving the blessing from the baseball and football coaches, Tony Jr. was on the diamond a week later, preparing to play with one of the top programs in the state of Florida.

However, his father admits that Tony Jr. was initially met with a bit of skepticism.

“It’s funny because the baseball team is like, ‘OK, here’s this football player trying to play baseball.’” Tony Sr. said. “He got up to hit the ball for the first time, and the coach was like, ‘whoa!’”

The coaches couldn’t even believe how natural Tony Jr. was at first. However, because IMG featured a senior-laden roster this year, the newcomer found himself at the bottom of the lineup.

That was all the motivation Tony Jr. needed to make an instant impact. According to Tony Sr., he ascended in the lineup, hitting anywhere from leadoff to the fifth spot by the eighth game of the season. 

With baseball ending at the beginning of April, Tony Jr. jumped into spring football practice two weeks later.

From Weinke’s perspective, he’s a natural born football player.

“Obviously, football bloodlines are in his family,” Weinke said. “His dad played. Tony just brings a nastiness and a toughness to the position that is hard to teach. From a skill-set perspective, physically, he’s very strong. In my opinion, he has great vision and great instincts.”

At 6’0”, 207-pounds, he’s become the hammer and the leader of IMG’s three-headed monster in the backfield. According to MaxPreps, he’s rushed for 649 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging more than 11 yards per carry for the Ascenders. 

Weinke notes that Jones is fully capable of being a workhorse back on the college level.

“He’s probably not getting as much carries as he would in your typical high-school program, because we have three good backs in Tony, Jack Wegher and Taven Birdow,” Weinke said. “We have a three-headed horse. But he’s a guy [who] can handle 30 carries a game.”

In football, Tony Jr. has already earned offers from Central Florida, Cincinnati, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and South Florida, and he has plans to visit Georgia this weekend for their game against Auburn. 

Of that group, Tony Jr. mentioned that he’s discussed the possibility of playing both sports with the coaching staffs from Cincinnati, Florida and South Florida.

While he’s yet to make a definitive choice on playing both sports in college, for now, he’s focused on having fun and enjoying playing both sports at a high level. 

Regardless of which sport he chooses, his future in athletics and in the classroom is as bright as any prospect in the 2016 class.

Considering that his current head coach was once in his shoes and achieved great feats in both sports, earning his stamp of approval gives Tony Jr. the confidence necessary to continue on a path in which few athletes have found success. 

“I’m sure he’s looking forward to finishing up strong and then going into spring and playing baseball,” Weinke said. “He’s been outstanding for us. We think he’s going to finish strong and then have a huge 2015. He’s a premier player and one of the best backs in the country.”

  

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Heisman Trophy on the Line for Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott vs. Alabama

Is Saturday's matchup between No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 5 Alabama an "elimination game"?

For Alabama, yes. For Mississippi State, it depends on the specifics of how the game plays out and what happens around the country.

This is, however, an elimination game for Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott's Heisman Trophy chances.

The dual-threat junior enters this game as one of the primary contenders for the award. He has completed 61.1 percent of his passes this year (146-of-239) for 2,231 yards, 18 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 779 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.

He has the stage all to himself this weekend as Oregon and quarterback Marcus Mariota—the unquestioned No. 1 in Athlon's weekly expert poll and the top contender in B/R's weekly Saturday night Heisman video—is off this weekend.

Head coach Dan Mullen is confident that Prescott won't be intimated by the big-game atmosphere in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.

During Monday's press conference, Mullen said:

I think his experience helps going into a hostile environment. That is always tough as a quarterback. I think he has been in that situation before. A couple of years ago he got in the game in Tuscaloosa. Now he has played in big games. He is going to walk on the field with confidence knowing that the situation is not going to be too big for him.

A strong performance against No. 5 Alabama—the top-ranked defense in the SEC (275.2 YPG)—would not only help Prescott stay in the Heisman race, it could help him jump back into the lead over Mariota and will certainly keep his team in the national title race during the home stretch. 

If he fails on the big stage, it would give Alabama the inside track to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta and knock Mississippi State off the national pedestal for the time being. That'd be devastating to Prescott's Heisman hopes, especially considering next week's opponent—Vanderbilt—won't move the Heisman meter at all.

Simply put, the Heisman is on the line in the game vs. Alabama. A game which, Mullen knows, is on Prescott's shoulders.

"In our style of offense, how we use our quarterback and what we put on our quarterback, if we are having success, a lot of it is going to be because our quarterback has played well," Mullen said on last week's conference call. "In our style of offense, that leads to a quarterback playing very well to get that national attention."

He's walking into the same building where former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel—also a dual-threat quarterback on a team that was one of the surprise stories of the season—lit up the Alabama defense with 253 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and 92 rushing yards in a 29-24 win. 

That game, like this one for the Crimson Tide, came after a late, dramatic win over the always-physical LSU Tigers.

Prescott poses the threat to run that Alabama's defense sometimes struggles with. Those instances—including Manziel two years ago, Cam Newton (Auburn) in 2010, Jordan Jefferson (LSU) in 2010 and 2011, Trevor Knight (Oklahoma) in January and others—don't mean much to Mullen.

He said on Monday:

I would say struggle is a strong term. Struggling for them might be a great game for other people. There have been plenty of dual-threat quarterbacks that have gone in there, and they have contained them pretty well. I think, in our offense, we are going to need guys like Prescott and [running back Josh] Robinson to make plays.

Whether he likes the term or not, this is still Prescott's team, this is still Prescott's stage and this is still Prescott's chance to make a major statement for his team and himself.

Buckle up.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

High School Trick Play Fails Terribly

Everyone loves a trick play. But when it backfires, you are setting yourself up for an epic fail. That was the case in the video above as the punting team's fake-out plan was coiled by Valley Center High School's (Valley Center, California) Ozzie Anderson.

Was this the best trick play gone wrong you've seen this season?

Check out the video, and let us know!  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Frank Clark Makes Opponents Respect the Michigan Defensive Line

With time running out, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald passed up a chance to force overtime and elected to go for the win with a two-point conversion. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Frank Clark and the Michigan defense were ready.

"We know the plays they like and what they like to run in the red zone, and I executed. I did my job," Clark told Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com. "I knew it was going to be a sprint out once I saw the double motion, and that's how I went about it."

Clark snuffed Northwestern’s two-point conversion attempt to seal the 10-9 victory for Michigan and led a defensive effort that totaled six sacks while holding Northwestern to negative yards (minus-nine) rushing.

It was another great effort for a defense that has steadily improved throughout the season and is now ranked seventh nationally. The Michigan defensive line had one of its best games of the season, sacking Northwestern quarterbacks six times for a loss of 59 yards.

The win brought Michigan back to .500 and keeps its slim bowl hopes alive. The offense struggled all game, squeezing out just enough points to win the game.

But Clark refused to criticize his teammates, taking to twitter after the game:

The tweet is an example of how Clark has assumed a critical leadership role for Michigan. The season has been a disappointment, but he has helped anchor a resurgent defensive line by helping his younger teammates prepare and being a positive force in the locker room.

“As a senior my job isn’t to give up my team, my job isn’t to have my head down when we’re losing,” said Clark earlier this season. “You need to keep your guys positive.”

It’s not a role that many might have expected from a player who, just two years ago, was in serious trouble off the field.

Trouble is what his family had hoped to help him avoid when he left California for Ohio. The move provided stability but separated him from his mother and siblings who remained in California. 

He played his high school football for legendary Ohio high school coach Ted Ginn Sr. at Glenville High School but didn’t get an offer from Ohio State. A 3-star prospect, Clark was part of Brady Hoke’s first recruiting class. But after a promising freshman season where he appeared in 12 games, he was arrested for stealing a laptop.

The resulting arrest was pivotal for Clark—it made him realize how close he was to losing everything he had worked for.

“My first year-and-a-half I was in the way, in trouble and really didn’t know what my place was on this team,” said Clark. “I finally figured it out my junior year.”

After the arrest, Clark worked hard to earn back the trust of his coaches and teammates. He vowed to learn from his mistakes and become a team leader.

“I’ve had challenges in the past where I wasn’t necessarily that guy,” said Clark. “I’ve struggled with some of those things in the past and I’ve really been challenging myself to focus on leading anyway I can.”

The hard work has paid off; CBS Sports projects Clark as a fourth- or fifth-round draft pick. It won’t be easy, but he will get an opportunity to play professional football.

But the NFL will have to wait. There are two more games to play and hopefully a final bowl trip. Clark leads a Michigan defense that needs to dominate every time it takes the field.

Next week he will head down the tunnel one final time at Michigan Stadium. It will be an emotional moment for Clark.

“Anytime you come to The Big House you get that feeling in your stomach. I get it, and I’ve been playing for four years,” said Clark. “Anytime I’m walking down the tunnel and I see The Team, The Team, The Team I get that special feeling in my heart.”

But there’s more to the story than just a player’s final home game.

Frank Clark’s twitter bio reads: "MichiganFootball #57 Glenville Alumni Simply, All I want to do is make my momma proud."

Many players share similar sentiments, but his has a poignancy that most can’t match.

Earlier this season, Clark spoke with MLive.com’s Brendan F. Quinn:

Frank Clark hasn’t seen his mother since they went to the airport in 2003 [when he left California]. It eats at him. During his junior year of high school, he returned to California for a football camp and hoped to see his family. An aunt and some cousins showed up. His mom and siblings didn’t. ...

Clark dreams, more than anything, that his mother will see him play this season; says it would be “the best thing ever” if she’s on hand for Senior Day.

Clark is hoping for a reunion that's been over a decade in the making.

He will lead the defensive line as Michigan attempts to make a bowl game and save Brady Hoke’s job. He knows that the odds are stacked against his team.

After Michigan's home finale versus Maryland, next comes Ohio State on the road.

Nobody needs to tell a kid who played his high school football in Ohio how hard it will be to upset the Buckeyes in The Horseshoe.

But Frank Clark has been overcoming difficult circumstances his whole life. Maryland and Ohio State are just two more obstacles along the way.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand.

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@PSCallihan

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How College Football's Offensive Masterminds Are Cheating

The "pop pass" is a play that has taken the college football world by storm. The play has been used successfully by many different teams this season.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder takes a deeper look into the play that is keeping many defensive coordinators up at night. 

Is this the most unstoppable play in college football?

Check out the video and let us know!

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USC DB Josh Shaw Discusses Lying About Ankle Injuries

USC defensive back Josh Shaw made headlines this past summer after getting caught in a web of lies, but the disgraced Trojan is finally explaining the reasoning behind his actions.

The senior cornerback was hailed as a hero in August when it was revealed he saved his nephew from drowning after jumping off a second-floor balcony. Shaw suffered two high-ankle sprains, but the injuries were understandably forgiven due to the circumstances.     

Things quickly took a turn for the worse, though, when Shaw admitted he had fabricated the story. He was ultimately suspended indefinitely, and he now regrets ever being dishonest about the situation.

According to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times, Shaw understands that he is the culprit of his own demise.

"I thought I could find an easy way out of something, but that doesn't work—I have made a mistake, and I have paid for it," Shaw said. "And whether I do play or don't play again, I'll be forever grateful for USC for giving me a chance."

In addition to that, Shaw went into the true circumstances regarding the injuries he suffered. Per Plaschke, Shaw jumped from the balcony of his apartment when police arrived following an argument with his girlfriend:

We were not on good terms when she left, I thought she had somebody call authorities. I was thinking the worst. If she did say anything, I'm a black man with dreadlocks, and with everything going on in the country at the time, all that stuff in St. Louis (Ferguson, Missouri) ... in my mind, I'm going to leap from the balcony so authorities did not see me.

Shaw said he then devised a plan to ensure that his coaches wouldn't be upset or disappointed in him for getting injured:

I wanted to come up with something that they would say, 'Josh, if you got hurt, that's a good reason to get hurt.' That's where fabrication came in. ... I didn't think it could be proved that story was not true. My sister (Asia) was having a party ... my cousin does have a balcony over his pool. It involved only myself, my sister, two or three little kids, and my cousin.

As it turns out, though, Shaw's story went viral, and it was only a matter of time before his lies caught up with him.

Even after seeing his false story all over the media and being confronted about it, Shaw continued to dig himself a deeper hole out of fear:

"I saw it on TV and it was like, boom, oh my gosh, wow. It's not true, what do I do? I didn't know what to do," he said. "So many thoughts went through my head. I wish my thought was, 'Tell them now, it's not true!' I thought I was in way too deep."

Shaw's reputation was undoubtedly ruined by the scandal, and it is entirely possible that he will never play another down at USC.

That is very much up in the air currently as head coach Steve Sarkisian isn't sure what the future holds for Shaw either, per Adam Maya of Rivals.com:

It took nearly three months, but Shaw has finally come forward with the truth. He acknowledges the fact that he should have done so much sooner, but perhaps it is better late than never.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Mississippi State Releases Hype Video Ahead of Showdown Against Alabama

No. 1 Mississippi State will play its biggest game in program history Saturday against No. 5 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

As if Bulldogs fans weren't fired up enough already, the team has released a video that is sure to get everyone hyped for the game.

A win over the Crimson Tide would keep the Bulldogs in great position to make the inaugural College Football Playoff as they chase their first national championship. However, the team has to forget about the past—which includes a record of 18-76-3 against Alabama—and focus on winning the game.

Saturday's showdown can't get here soon enough for Mississippi State. The team is ready to make a statement, and after seeing this video, Bulldogs fans have to be pretty hyped.

[HailState

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Watch 2015 WR Reveal Hilarious Story After Offer from Urban Meyer

Lawrence Cager, a 2015 wide receiver out of Towson, Maryland, is a popular man on the recruiting circuit. He has several offers from some of the top programs in the country.

Bleacher Report caught up with the talented wideout to get a sense of how the process has been going. 

Where will Cager commit to?

Watch the video, and let us know!

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NFL Draft Stock for College Football's Top Performers

With the college football season quickly coming to a close, attention is starting to turn toward the NFL draft.

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson is joined by College Football Analyst Michael Felder and NFL Lead Draft Analyst Matt Miller to highlight which top players are destined for the NFL.

Which player listed will make the biggest impact at the next level?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Georgia Football: Ranking the Top 5 Surprises for the Bulldogs This Year

It has been a whirlwind of a season for the Georgia Bulldogs. They are 7-2 (5-2 in the SEC) and even with the losses to Florida and South Carolina, the Bulldogs have a chance to win the SEC East and the SEC if they beat Auburn on Saturday.

It’s clear this year’s team is a lot better than last year’s squad, and there are lot of different variables that come into the equation when talking about why the Bulldogs are a much better team this season.

Here are the top five surprises for the Bulldogs this season.

Begin Slideshow

Saturday Is Perfect Chance for Arkansas and Bret Bielema to Get First SEC Win

"The waiting is the hardest part."

They didn't know it at the time, but Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' classic 1981 song could be specifically used to describe the Arkansas football program.

Arkansas is winless in the SEC this year (0-5), lost all eight of its conference contests last season—head coach Bret Bielema's first in Fayetteville—and lost four straight SEC games to close out former head coach John L. Smith's one and only year in 2012.

Arkansas' 49-7 win over Kentucky on Oct. 13, 2012 was the last time the Hogs were victorious in conference play, and as Aaron Torres of FoxSports.com notes, quite a bit has happened since then, including Tim Tebow playing for two NFL teams.

Bielema knows that this week's game against LSU in Fayetteville is the perfect chance for his Hogs to get off the schneid.

"We're owning a streak here of losses that unfortunately is long," Bielema said on Wednesday's teleconference. "The part for me that's really been fun is that we are right there knocking on the door. We're going to break through it. I don't know if it's going to be this weekend, or next, or the week after, or when it's going to be."

Saturday's matchup with the Tigers is the perfect time for Bielema's crew to break through that glass ceiling.

The Hogs are fresh off a bye week after taking No. 1 Mississippi State to the edge of disaster two weeks ago in a 17-10 loss. In that game, Razorback Brandon Allen was picked off by Will Redmond in the end zone with 15 seconds to play. It was Arkansas' third SEC loss this season that was decided by one score or less—all of which have come against ranked opponents (No. 24 Texas A&M, No. 5 Alabama and No. 1 Mississippi State).

Those heartbreaking losses are being used as positives by Bielema and his staff.

"Sometimes your greatest blessings come in the disguise of failure," he said.

His Hogs are catching LSU at the right time.

The Tigers are fresh off a heartbreaking defeat of their own—a 20-13 loss to visiting Alabama last Saturday night in Death Valley. Quarterback Anthony Jennings hasn't completed more than 50 percent of his passes in any game since Sept. 13 when he completed 61.1 percent (11-of-18) in a 31-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe. The running back depth LSU has enjoyed all season has taken a hit this week, with senior Kenny Hilliard's status uncertain for the showdown in Fayetteville.

"Kenny got a little practice time today," Miles told Gannett Louisiana's Glenn Guilbeau after practice on Wednesday. "But I'm not certain he's slated for duty. He's day to day."

With forecast calling for snow on Saturday night, the combination of a "Bama hangover" for LSU and an inconsistent offense have LSU ripe for the picking.

Arkansas is fresh, at home, has the heaviest offensive line in college football and also has a "weatherproof" offense that will lean on the Tigers' defense.

"Offensively, one of the reasons we go with this kind of offense is that it can play in all weather," Bielema said on Wednesday's teleconference. "It can play dry in 100-plus degrees and can play wet in freezing temperatures."

The folks in Las Vegas seem to like the Hogs. Arkansas opened as a 1.5-point favorite over the 17th-ranked Tigers and have since moved up to two-point favorites according to OddsShark.com. Those hotels weren't built by making bad lines.

Vegas knows Arkansas is on the brink of breaking through and LSU is vulnerable. The Hogs will do so in a big way in chilly Fayetteville on Saturday night.

 

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

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

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College Football Week 12: Top 25 Upset Alert

Believe it or not, Week 12 is upon us. As we inch closer to December, each game becomes important. That means potential upsets hold even more significance. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer blows the whistle and addresses which ranked teams are on upset alert. 

Which top team will fall this weekend?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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LSU vs. Arkansas: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

The LSU Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks will have a lot in common when the two meet in Fayetteville for what is sure to be a brutal SEC encounter.

Both programs tout similar philosophies: run the ball and play great defense. LSU enters after a crushing overtime loss to Alabama at home, but Arkansas surely understands that feeling—last time out for the Razorbacks, they fell narrowly 17-10 to No. 1 Mississippi State.

With inclement weather inbound, the run and overall physical nature of these two programs will put on a violent affair Saturday night as they vent their frustrations with how the season has unfolded.

Traditional, conquer-the-environment football is on the slate. Bask in the rare occurrence.

 

War of Attrition

LSU prides itself on its ability to run the football. Even though Les Miles sounds somewhat disheartened by a miserable forecast that calls for temperatures in the 20s and snow, one could bet the coach would have it no other way.

"Obviously, the weather is what it is," Miles said, per Mike Herndon of AL.com. "When you get there, you're going to have to make adjustments in the things that you're willing to or want to do, or you're not. We're both suited, I would guess, for what could be the possibility of bad weather. It might end up being 50 runs a team."

LSU has a three-headed monster at tailback that masks the up-and-down play the Tigers continue to get from under center:

Impressive, right? Arkansas does the same exact thing:

As one can imagine, the two are pretty close in the ranks. Arkansas comes in at No. 17 with an average of 248.2 rushing yards per game. LSU is 29th at 221.4.

Both defenses are predictably well-equipped to stop the run, too. LSU ranks fifth in the nation with just 16.3 points allowed per game on average. Arkansas has worse luck in that area, but keep in mind it is the same unit that held Alabama to 66 rushing yards earlier this season.

It should come as no surprise that the two annually put on close affairs, as LSU's sports information director Michael Bonnette details:

Saturday night may not have wide-ranging implications like some of the earlier games do, but LSU and Arkansas might just put on a classic, anyway.

 

One Play...

...Changes everything between these two.

Just look at last year when a deep ball from Anthony Jennings to Travin Dural allowed LSU to overcome Arkansas.

That would be the heart of the problem for Bret Bielema's team once again this season. The Razorbacks allow 10.5 yards per passing attempt against SEC opponents this season. Even Georgia's Hutson Mason looked solid against the up-and-down Arkansas secondary.

Thus far, Jennings has completed a miserable 47.1 percent of his passes this year with nine touchdowns to six interceptions. But he has a superb cast of talent to hit on each down, ranging from Dural (701 yards, seven touchdowns) to Malachi Dupre (271 and five) and beyond.

Should the Razorbacks get lulled to sleep in the sloppy conditions and Jennings heave a clunker deep, it may decide the game outright.

 

When: Saturday, November 15, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas

Television: ESPN2

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 47.5
  • Spread: Arkansas (-2)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

It is hard to trust LSU heading into a hostile environment after a gut-wrenching loss.

Sometimes Las Vegas is just right, no matter how silly the lines seem. The Tigers have a stable of talented backs but encounter an elite run defense and may struggle to get anything going through the air.

Conversely, Arkansas comes off a bye both rested and armed with an extra week of preparation for this very contest. It is a scary concoction that suggests the Razorbacks can pull off the upset in what is a traditionally close encounter.

Prediction: Razorbacks 24, Tigers 20

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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