NCAA Football News

Florida Football: 5 Best QBs Gators Will Face in 2014

While they say defense wins championships, college football has become a quarterback league more than ever, and the position has made a massive impact on the outcome of the game. In other words, games a lot of times are only as difficult as the quarterback who is leading that particular team.

The good news is that the SEC lost a ton of last season’s starting quarterbacks, which should make life a little easier for the Florida Gators. No more AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray or Johnny Manziel. Instead, the quarterbacks the Gators will face this season have potential but aren’t nearly as accomplished as the guys who were just starting last season.

Besides a Heisman Trophy winner, the Gators have a rather easy slate of quarterbacks they’ll face this year.

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UCLA Football: 5 Best QBs Bruins Will Face in 2014

The Pac-12 in particular is no joke when it comes to quarterback play. Without question, the conference boasts the best collection of talent at the position in the entire country. 

Jim Mora and the UCLA football team will have to compete against quality signal-callers week in and week out. This piece will look at the best quarterbacks UCLA will face this upcoming year. The opponents will be listed in order starting with the fifth-toughest signal-caller, to the quarterback posing the biggest challenge. 

Here's a look at the top quarterbacks the Bruins defense will have to go up against in '14. 

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10 Biggest Position Battles to Watch in 2014 Fall Camps

Training camps are starting up all over the country for college football teams, the beginning of roughly four weeks of preparation for the opening games of the 2014 season in late August. It will be the first chance for coaches to see their returning players and a full crop of newcomers working together at one time, and the practices will help finalize lineups for those first contests.

The vast majority of starting jobs are locked up, either by returning starters or key reserves from 2013. In some cases, freshmen who enrolled early or transfers earned themselves a starting spot during spring practice. Whatever is undecided will get taken care of during training camp.

While every starting position is important for that specific school, there are a handful of unfilled jobs that are so critical to a team's performance and success in 2014 that they'll be the main focus of fall camp. And it's not just internally; it's from a national standpoint.

Here's a look at the 10 biggest position battles to keep an eye on during fall camp.

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1 Freshman to Watch for on Every Big Ten Football Team in 2014

There will be plenty of Big Ten teams eager to make a run at a conference championship in 2014 and secure the likely resulting berth in the College Football Playoff.  In order to make those dreams a reality, programs certainly need great coaching and steady on-field leadership from the upperclassmen.

Moving a team from good to championship-caliber greatness often requires some unexpected contributions from unexpected placed—like the freshmen.

Here, we'll take a look at each Big Ten football program and identify a first-year player (usually meaning true or redshirt freshmen) who can truly make a difference for his team.

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Michigan Football: First Impressions from 2014 Fall Camp

Brady Hoke won't accept anything less than full cooperation and genuine dedication. Players are either in or they're out, and he made that clear while opening Michigan's fall camp. 

Announced Sunday, via a press release, the fourth-year Wolverines coach has shelved wideout Csont’e York. According to the statement, due to rules violations, the 6’3”, 180-pound sophomore wasn’t invited to fall workouts.

“Csont’e York is suspended indefinitely for failing to meet team standards and will not report for fall camp,” Hoke said (via media contact Derek Satterfield). “We demand that every person in our program represent the University of Michigan and the Michigan football program the right way on and off the field. When people fall short of that, there are consequences.”

As of Sunday night, details of York’s transgressions hadn’t been made public. However, he’s allegedly "subject to an Ann Arbor Police Department investigation," according to Kyle Feldshrer of the Ann Arbor News (via Joshua Henschke of Maize n Brew).

Bouncing a likely contributor for who knows how long was the right move; eliminating the potential or probability of larger issues is the smart approach. Hoke needs his players and staff—not to mention the fans—to be focused on the guys on the field, not the ones screwing up away from it.

If you were looking for someone to immediately set the tone, look no further than Hoke, who is clearly all business as his team prepares to rebound from a disappointing 7-6 slide in 2013. By emphasizing the fundamentals, such as responsibility and chemistry, Hoke has the Wolverines in the position to move forward.

His players are developing, and he has Doug Nussmeier, the new offensive coordinator, to assist in jumpstarting Team 135. Plus there’s Greg Mattison’s defense.

This could be Hoke’s year.

 

Devin's the Dude (at WR)

By now, you’re aware that Devin Funchess is now a full-time receiver and no longer a tight-end-turned-receiver. In terms of the swap, the 6'5", 230-pound junior says he's all-in when it comes to his new post, per MLive.com’s Brendan F. Quinn:

Game on. With 748 yards in 2013, Funchess returns as the team's leading receiver and has two more years of destroying defensive backs ahead of him. However, his collegiate future has been the subject of rampant speculation for months.

He's a projected first-rounder. Will he decide to enter the 2015 NFL draft? If he chooses to do so, Wolverines fans should sit back, enjoy the ride and expect their team to get the most out of the former Farmington Hills Harrison star. 

While the onus is on Funchess to produce, he's not the only one who's in line to flourish: Freddy Canteen, a true freshman, seems like the best option for the slot position; Amara Darboh, a redshirt sophomore, could be a breakout contributor; and Jehu Chesson could get some serious playing time this fall, too. 

 

Dig Doug

The video is dated, but it reinforces the idea of getting more in 2014.

After falling flat during its 31-14 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Kansas State, Michigan turned to Nussmeier, then Alabama's OC, for guidance.

Renowned for his touch with quarterbacks, not to mention his success with the Tide's Grade-A running game, Nussmeier faces the task of turning Devin Gardner into a reliable leader and pushing the backfield to new (old Michigan) heights. 

To say that Wolverines fans expect the world from him would probably be accurate. After watching Team 134 struggle mightily just to score a few touchdowns, fans want to see Team 135's Nuss-infused offense properly utilize its talent and blow the doors off the opposition. 

During Big Ten media days, Gardner was praised by opponents as one the Big Ten's best. On top of that, Nussmeier has two highly rated running backs (maybe a third if Ty Isaac is cleared), a group of solid but generally untested receivers and a bunch of big guys up front. 

Needless to say, fighting just to get 17 or 21 on the board should be a thing of the past under Nussmeier, who has streamlined things in Ann Arbor. 

Want to hear Nussmeier at work? MGoBlue recently provided an inside look at one of his practices. 

 

O-Line

It's still under construction. What's new? With freshman left tackle Mason Cole in the mix, expect to see healthy competition for one of college football's storied positions. There are certain responsibilities that come with being a Wolverines blindsider. Whether Cole gets the job is entirely up to him. 

After serving his one-game suspension for a violation of team rules, Graham Glasgow should be the No. 1 center. Kyle Kalis and Kyle Bosch are likely in line for the guard posts. 

There will be more as camp rolls along. However, tying up loose ends and tightening up all the moving parts prior to full immersion seems to be Michigan's No. 1 priority.

 

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

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Ohio State Football: 5 Best QBs Buckeyes Will Face in 2014

Ohio State may not play in the SEC or face the toughest schedule, but in 2014, the Buckeyes will take on a number of quarterbacks capable of derailing their title hopes.

The Buckeyes had a hard time defending the pass a season ago, allowing 268 yards per game. That ranked 110th nationally, and their deficiencies in the secondary ultimately cost them a shot at Florida State and a national title. 

New co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash was brought in to overhaul Ohio State's pass defense. His ability to do so could determine whether the Buckeyes make a run at this year's College Football Playoff.

Some of these quarterbacks have hurt Ohio State in the past, while others are ranked mainly because of their elite skill set. One runs a unique and proven offensive system, while another has a supporting cast that makes him a dangerous threat.

Here are the five best signal-callers Ohio State will face in 2014.

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Georgia Football: First Impressions from 2014 Fall Camp

The Georgia Bulldogs are a mere three practices into fall camp, but already concerns are being addressed, new stars are emerging and injuries are taking a toll.  Here are some first impressions from the Dawgs' 2014 fall practice.

 

Jay Rome Establishing Himself at Tight End

When he signed with Georgia in 2011, Jay Rome was supposed to be the next great Bulldog tight end. The progression of Arthur Lynch and a series of untimely injuries derailed that destiny for Rome—at least temporarily.  Now, the redshirt junior is battling back to good health and a prominent role in the Bulldog offense.

His participation thus far has been somewhat limited, but he told Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald that he's making strides:

I’ve basically been working in and doing what I feel comfortable doing. I’m getting a lot better. I can see a whole bunch of improvement. Still a little rusty, a little shaky on a few different things but it’s just some stuff that I’m going to have to work through and just keep getting better every day and just monitor.

No other tight end on Georgia's roster boasts Rome's experience, and that will serve him well once he's back to full speed.  He told Weiszer that his play will "speak for itself."  

 

Freshmen Here to Play, Especially on Defense

Several of Georgia's newest Bulldogs are already making an impact on the defensive side of the ball.

Lorenzo Carter, the prize recruit of this year's class, has already made an impression on his teammates. Offensive tackle John Theus had nothing but praise for Carter when speaking to Seth Emerson of the Telegraph, pointing out the outside linebacker's speed, size and "nasty streak." 

In the secondary, freshman Malkom Parrish and junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng are turning heads in the early parts of fall camp.

Parrish is playing both the cornerback and star position, and as Jake Reuse of UGASports.com points out, fellow defensive back J.J. Green thinks the freshman can play: 

 

Meanwhile, Green told Emerson that size and length really set Fenteng apart at the cornerback position. "You see his size and think: He plays corner? He’s rangy, he’s lean. He can make plays that short people probably can’t make."

 

Injuries Still a Factor

Just a few short days ago, optimism surrounded Georgia's deep wide receiver rotation thanks to the return of Malcolm Mitchell, arguably the most talented playmaker of the bunch.  

As Chip Towers reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mitchell is now expected to miss at least "the first part" of training camp.  

Last year, Mitchell suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter of the Dawgs' first game. Now, his future is yet again unknown.  As a result of Mitchell's latest setback and an unknown timetable for the return of Justin Scott-Wesley, some fans fear the Bulldogs may once again be without a truly elite deep threat.

In reality, a number of Georgia players are capable of going the distance and getting behind opposing secondaries.

 

Storylines to Watch This Week

Georgia will move into full pad practices this week.  A few developments worth keeping an eye on:

  • Physical Freshmen: How will talented youngsters hold up against collegiate hits for the first time? Look for Carter and running back Nick Chubb to use their unique combinations of size and athleticism to make an impression.
  • Offensive Line Lock-in: John Theus continues to rotate between left and right tackle and both guard positions remain somewhat up for grabs.  With real pressure and real banging taking place in the trenches, a starting lineup should soon emerge.
  • Defensive Secondary: Similarly, pads should bring some separation in the secondary, where new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has thus far utilized a deep rotation with little differentiation.

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Miami Football: 5 Best Quarterbacks Hurricanes Will Face in 2014

"Ah, the quarterback. The player most responsible for making or breaking an entire offensive unit," says Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer.

The Miami Hurricanes will be tested by plenty of talented quarterbacks, but some are significantly better than the others. Strangely enough, every mentioned player's respective team must travel to Sun Life Stadium when slated to play the 'Canes.

A Virginia Tech player is missing, which is a noticeable change following successive years of a serious threat dating back to Michael Vick's college days.

Who was included instead?

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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LSU Football: Biggest Takeaways from Les Miles' Opening Fall Presser

BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU fall camp is officially underway, and Les Miles is undoubtedly excited. 

"We are looking forward to the practice schedule. Looking forward to improving," said Miles.  

The Tigers reported to campus today and practice will begin tomorrow. This will be the first official full practice that includes most of the highly touted 2014 recruiting class.

Unfortunately for Miles, the entire team was not on campus. 

LSU junior safety and projected starter Jalen Mills was arrested for second-degree battery in early June and was released less than 24 hours later, per The Daily Reveille. Mills was suspended indefinitely from the team.  

“I really don’t know. I have not tried to, nor do I intend to, pressure the process in any way. Jalen Mills has a responsibility to handle his business. This is his business," said Miles.  

Incoming freshman defensive tackle Travonte Valentine has yet to pass the academic qualifications required from NCAA Clearinghouse. Valentine has taken summer classes in South Florida and has yet to officially enroll at LSU, according to Geaux247.com

"The reality is the high school and the Clearinghouse have to communicate. I think they're doing that, I think they're trying," said Miles. 

Miles addressed a few more topics in his opening press conference. 

 

Quarterback

LSU's starting quarterback will be either sophomore Anthony Jennings or freshman Brandon Harris. Miles was asked if there was a deadline for naming a starter and his answer, as it has all offseason, remained the same. 

"Never have and never will. We'll have to see each day how they proceed," said Miles.

Miles did share what he was looking for from both Jennings and Harris.

"I think maturity is the key for both of them. Recognizing the style of throw, the kind of play and seeing them understand what we are trying to get accomplished. How we are attacking the defense," said Miles. "There is going to be that time in the game where you have the opportunity to extend the play and make a play. And their self interpretation at some point in time will be, in my opinion, the criteria in which you pick the starter."  

There is no telling who will win the job, but experts seem to believe that Harris is the more gifted of the two.

"In terms of pure physical tools, he (Harris) is more talented than what LSU has," said ESPN's National Recruiting Director Tom Luginbill at SEC Media Days. "He can make all the throws." 

 

Offensive Line

LSU's offensive line returns four of its five starters, led by projected first-round NFL draft pick La'el Collins. Miles was asked if the group is the best he has ever had. 

"I'm not ready to describe them as the best offensive line ever just yet. But I agree with how they are perceived, talented and capable," said Miles. "I need them to come to the field ready to play before I give them that tag." 

The only vacancy is at right guard. Miles has yet to make a decision between Hoko Fanaika and Evan Washington, but he did say to expect both to see the field. 

 

Freshman Wide Receivers 

Replacing Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry will not be easy, especially while breaking in a new starting quarterback. The Tigers will need to have young players step in and make plays right away. 

The Tigers' best overall position in their heralded 2014 recruiting class was arguably wide receiver, and the influx could not have come at a better time. Expect two of the four incoming freshman receivers, Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn, to eventually be in the rotation. 

Miles said despite their youth, they will be ready to go. 

"I've never had a problem with backup receivers learning how to play, especially with guys as talented as these guys," said Miles. "I can't imagine they won't have success doing the things we are going to ask them to do. I think they will put some real heat on the guys who might be starting." 

LSU's No. 1 option will be Travin Dural, who returns as LSU's leading receiver. The rest of the returnees, which includes talented redshirt freshman John Diarse and senior Quantavius Leslie, will need to perform at a high level to challenge for a starting spot. 

 

Defensive Tackle 

LSU lost starting defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson this offseason. Johnson and Ferguson played a majority of the snaps last season and often got tired as them game went along. 

LSU must have better depth at the position. If not, teams like Wisconsin and Alabama will wear them down with simple runs up the middle. 

Despite uncertainty with Valentine's future, Miles feels comfortable with his starters and backups. 

"(Christian) LaCouture and Quentin Thomas have had great summers, both of which played a lot of football a year ago," said Miles. "The next guys that go in the game, Frank Herron is a large defensive end with real mobility that has moved inside and I look forward to having a look at him. Qued (Marquedius) Bain has always been real athletic and (Greg) Gilmore has lost 20 pounds, which might be the lightest he has been since he has been here." 

 

Emphasis Period 

Miles is looking to make his practices as efficient as possible. LSU is only 29 days away from its season opener against Wisconsin and the coaching staff must make tough decisions at critical positions.  

Repetitions are as important as anything for the youthful Tigers, especially learning all the nuances of Cam Cameron's offense and John Chavis' defense. Miles has decided to create an "emphasis period" in an effort to simulate the speed of an actual game. 

At the back end of practices, we are going to call an 'emphasis period," said Miles. "We are not going to have contact, we are not going to have tackle football. But we are going to have competition. And the emphasis period is going to be as close to game-like conditions as possible and do it routinely...That will give those young guys getting snaps in game-like situations starting in the first practice even though it is not with the pressure of contact.

Miles emphasized his talented backups when further describing how the practices will be set up. 

"We are going to divide the practices. There will be a two-deep morning practice and a two-deep afternoon practice with the offense and defense. We are going to take our best seconds (second string) and start them in the afternoon practice." 

By switching up personnel groupings, Miles will also get a better look at who his most talented players are. There are plenty of backups who could easily take over starting roles by the season opener. 

Miles will also switch up his quarterbacks often. This will allow Harris and Jennings to work with the first group, which gives both an equal opportunity to work with the best receivers.  

"One day one will work with the morning group and the next day the guy will work with the afternoon group. We'll go back and forth between practices. 

 

Injury Report

Defensive end Jermauria Rasco and safety Corey Thompson sat out spring practice while they recovered from injury. Miles said both are full speed and ready to go for fall. 

Rasco is projected to start at defensive end alongside Danielle Hunter. The Tigers have plenty of depth behind them, but those two are the best and most experienced players at the position. 

The uncertainty of Mills' future makes the Thompson news even better for LSU. Miles mentioned the names of Thompson, Ronald Martin, Rickey Jefferson, Jamal Adams and John Battle as players who could fill the two starting openings at safety.

Martin and Jefferson are the likely front-runners for now, but anything can happen with the talent the Tigers have in their secondary.   

 

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

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Texas A&M Football: First Impressions from 2014 Fall Camp

The Texas A&M football team began fall practice Friday in preparation for their road-opener against South Carolina on Aug. 28. It was readily apparent that there have been some changes to this team since the end of the 2013 season. 

The 2014 version of the Aggies will be younger than their 2013 counterpart, but more experienced and more talented. Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have done an excellent job turning the roster over and replenishing it with SEC-level talent. 

The Aggies look like an SEC football team now. Whether or not that translates to more victories on the field remains to be seen. The absence of Johnny Manziel and his confident demeanor at practice is apparent. 

This is a new team with new players waiting to step up and make their mark on the program. This is a look at some of the first impressions from the first couple of day of the Aggies' fall camp. 

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Texas Football Announces 5 Players Have Been Dismissed, 3 Others Suspended

Charlie Strong's full-fledged cleansing of the Texas football program is approaching double digits, as the first-year Longhorns coach confirmed the suspension or outright dismissal of eight players Sunday afternoon.

Strong announced the dismissals of wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, running backs Jalen Overstreet and Joe Bergeron and defensive back Chevoski Collins at his preseason press conference, per ESPN Texas:

Offensive lineman Desmond Harrison, wide receiver Daje Johnson and safety Josh Turner were also suspended indefinitely:

The punishments come after a rash of off-field incidents involving Longhorns players. Sanders and Meander were charged with felony sexual assault of the second degree and improper photography after allegedly attempting to film themselves raping a woman in June. The charges carry potential prison time of up to 20 years, and bail was set at $75,000 for each.

"We've been monitoring and addressing the situation with Kendall and Montrel since it was brought to our attention," Strong said in a statement, per ESPN.com. "It's been made clear to everyone on our team that treating women with respect is one of our core values, and I'm extremely disappointed that two young men in our program have been accused of not doing that."

Neither player has officially entered a plea, though each is expected to plead not guilty.

While the dismissals of Overstreet and Collins are more clouded in their reasoning, they had been in the works since last month. Taylor Gaspar of Orangebloods.com first reported that Collins and Overstreet were barred from Moncrief Complex, the athletics facility where Texas players work out. Strong did not indicate the reasoning behind their dismissal, though he did make a general statement about the "core values" of his program, per ESPN Texas:

Bergeron and Turner were initially dismissed together about a week ago for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Bergeron and Strong have been through a roller-coaster relationship, starting with the former's first exit from the program in spring practice. While it was thought that Bergeron had re-entered the discussion at running back and repaired his relationship with Strong, Sunday's announcement indicates something additional went on behind the scenes.

Bergeron will likely immediately transfer, as he has just one year of college eligibility remaining.

Turner, while suspended, has been allowed to stay on the team. ESPN.com's Jake Trotter reported that Turner and Strong met last Wednesday and hashed out an agreement to stay on the team. It was not made clear at this time how long Turner, Harrison or Johnson will be suspended.

A source told Chip Brown of HornsDigest.com that Harrison and Johnson were on their "last strike." The reasoning for their suspensions was not made public. Johnson was previously suspended two other times under former head coach Mack Brown for violations of team rules.

News of his latest exit comes as part of Strong's push toward more accountability in the locker room. A strident believer in a disciplined culture, the 54-year-old coach came over from Louisville promising on-field dominance and off-field class.

"They're searching for that. They want discipline," Strong told David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest. "They've heard so much about what they haven't done. Now, they want to prove to everyone that they can do it."

If Strong's trajectory at Texas matches his previous stops, Longhorn fans shouldn't have a problem with his tactics. The Arkansas native went a combined 37-15 in four seasons at Louisville, including a 23-3 mark the past two seasons. He also holds a 3-1 bowl record and won the 2013 Sugar Bowl.

Texas has not won a BCS bowl game since the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. The Longhorns are also coming off a stretch of finishing outside the final Top 25 rankings three of their last four years. Much like he did at Louisville, Strong has a long way to go in rebuilding the talent crop and creating a winner again at Texas.

But even if he doesn't find on-field success in 2014, these latest suspensions prove Strong's commitment to culture.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Behind the Scenes of the New College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta

"This is a fun, celebratory, fully immersive attraction that takes the college football fan into the game as never before."

That's the description of the new College Football Hall of Fame from John Stephenson, CEO of Atlanta Hall Management.

He's not lying. 

The new 94,000-square-foot attraction opens in downtown Atlanta adjacent to Philips Arena and the Georgia Dome on Aug. 23—less than a week before the first of two Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games. The overwhelming theme of the facility is a new-school flavor of an old-school sport.

It's not your standard-issue museum—it's a fully-personalized, interactive, college football experience designed to offer unique experiences for visitors and new experiences on every visit.

Stephenson opened the doors of the facility to Bleacher Report for a sneak peek, and the experience was nothing short of magnificent.

 

Grand Entrance

When you walk through the doors of the Hall of Fame, there will be no confusion as to where you are. Designed like a tunnel coming out of the locker room, the round hallway is lined with screens that will display the sights and sounds of the pageantry of college football.

Great, right? What if you're an Auburn fan and Alabama's fight song is playing? What if somebody on the screen is "dotting the I" and you're wearing maize and blue? 

Those scenarios are much less likely thanks to radio frequency identification (RFID) technology that will be embedded within your ticket. Much like the "MagicBands" at Disney World, every visitor to the Hall of Fame will have the opportunity to fully personalize their experience with their favorite teams.

Designed as a virtual hype-machine, the tunnel will make you want to run through a wall. There's good news, too, because one will be waiting right in front of you. Don't run through it, though, because the helmets of every college football team will come tumbling down. 

The massive three-story helmet wall contains helmets that are lit in the front through the ear hole. Your favorite team will light up upon your arrival to the facility, which is a good thing, because it'd be like finding a needle in a haystack otherwise. 

"Everyone knows the top teams, but this wall exemplifies just how important college football is to so many people," Stephenson said. "There are helmets up there that people won't even know."

What's more is that the lights on the wall of helmets is fully customizable. Logos of all kinds can be programmed to be illuminated with the helmets.

"If we're hosting an Alabama alumni club, we can put a giant script 'A' up there through the lighting system," Stephenson said.

 

Mixing Old with New

The Heisman Trophy? It will be in the Chick-fil-A "Why We Love College Football" section, along with other historic awards and the new College Football Playoff trophy. 

What's next to them on the second floor is something incredibly unique. 

A 52-foot-long touch-screen wall with 12 stations allow fans to view past highlights, traditions and pictures from their favorite teams. The station, like virtually everything else in the facility, is equipped with RFID technology, so you won't have to search for your favorite team. It'll already know.

Upon standing in front of the screen, you'll become immersed in the sights and sounds of your favorite team.

Will it get loud? Nope. Ultra-directional speakers that resemble large rain shower heads placed above each station shoot sound down to each station that's virtually inaudible if unless you're standing directly underneath.

Stephenson says the goal of the Hall of Fame is to protect and preserve the history of the game with exhibits like Red Grange's jersey and the evolution of equipment, while creating exhibits that can be routinely updated with new and different information—making it attractive for repeat visitors.

The theme continues in the Coca Cola Fans' Game Day section, which is a wing devoted to all of the great things in college football other than the game. Historic mascots, cheerleading uniforms, band uniforms, programs and tailgates of yesteryear litter the section. 

Mixed in this exhibit and all exhibits are interactive features tailored for the individual fans. Want to sing karaoke to your team's fight song? Re-enact a radio call from one of college football's iconic plays? How about be the "guest picker" on ESPN's College GameDay? You can do it, and you have those videos instantly sent to an account you set up with your RFID for you to download from CFBHall.com once you get home.

It doesn't stop there.

Kia's Building a Champion section is devoted to the people who made the game great, with the most remarkable exhibit being an interactive version of John Heisman's playbook from 1905. The Heisman family allowed the Hall to scan each page of the book, which is featured in a station in front of a giant wall of cartoon images of coaches created by Mike Luckovich.

Do you want to learn the basics of Steve Spurrier's offense? Have Barry Switzer teach you the wishbone? Participate in a virtual Q&A with Peyton Manning? That's all possible through fully interactive displays.

The Xs and Os aspect of this section is fascinating. I ran one of Spurrier's plays at South Carolina, which was a four-wide set in which two receivers to the right run slants, the outside receiver on the left runs a hitch and the slot receiver on the left runs a corner. Spurrier (or whichever coach you select) goes through the concepts of the play, quizzes you on your memory and then shows you an example in a real game. In my case, it was a touchdown pass from Connor Shaw to Bruce Ellington in the 2014 Capital One Bowl vs. Wisconsin.

The actual Hall of Fame is a third-floor oasis where the game's greats are immortalized. There are no busts or plaques for those enshrined. Instead, flat screens on swivel stands allow fans to learn about each Hall of Famer through videos, biographies and images. Members of each Hall of Fame class are etched onto walls around the oval-shaped room, with giant screens above showing highlights of the Hall's members. Those highlights are—you guessed it—tailored to each visitor.

"If you're a Georgia or Auburn fan and you walk in this room, you'll see more highlights of the Bulldogs and Tigers mixed in with the other highlights of Hall of Famers," Stephenson said.

 

Video Versatility 

There are two main "event areas" of the Hall of Fame, a 45-yard-long football field with a giant HD screen and a 150-seat theater with a 40-foot by 10-foot 4K ultra high definition screen.

The field will primarily be used as a recreational area where kids can kick field goals, run through tackling dummies and throw passes; and the theater will show highlights of recent games in a 10-minute video in 4K ultra-high definition. The Hall has spent three years shooting and collecting more than 100 hours of 4K video at 25 games. 

Both areas can be reserved by alumni groups for viewing parties or local corporations for events. 

The versatility of each of these rooms allows the Hall to play host to a wide variety of events and keep the experience for the visitor up to date at all times, which is a primary focus of all exhibits.

The video experience is supplemented by 360-degree viewers that put fans on the field as their favorite team takes the field.

The new College Football Hall of Fame announced its formal name in July as the "College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience"—very appropriate.

It's truly an experience.

It's not a standard-issue museum, it's an interactive celebration of the past, present and future of the sport, with a mission to educate and entertain.

Judging from my brief tour, that mission will be accomplished.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


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Oregon Football: Why Marcus Mariota Will Win the Heisman in 2014

With six of the Pac-12’s teams appearing in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll, it’s becoming apparent that the conference is on the rise and finally gaining national prominence.

Sitting near the top of the list at No. 4 are the Oregon Ducks, who return one key player that could put them in the conversation, not only for an appearance in the National Championship, but also for the team to have their first Heisman Trophy winner.

Marcus Mariota, the stud quarterback who has led the Ducks to a 23-3 record over the last two seasons in Eugene, deserves to not only get a candidacy nod for the prestigious trophy, but also to earn his place among the elite few who have actually won it.

 

Factors Against Mariota

It won’t be an easy road to the Heisman for Mariota.

The Pac-12 conference is as tough as ever, and the Ducks will face off against improving Washington and Washington State teams, as well as Stanford, which Mariota has yet to beat. Though their nonconference schedule features two likely wins against South Dakota and Wyoming, the Ducks also host Michigan State, a team that beat out Stanford last season in the 2014 Rose Bowl game.

Pulling off 11 wins is no easy feat for any team—and the Ducks were one of the few teams in the country to do so last season, but Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston ended up taking home the coveted Heisman trophy last year. His team had a perfect 13-0 record by the time the final six candidates were announced, and along with impressive stats, Winston was a shoo-in for the nomination.

At the same time last year, Oregon had dropped two games—one at Stanford, as well as a curious blowout loss at Arizona. Had Oregon won both of those games, the Ducks would not have only been in talks for an appearance in the National Championship, but Mariota likely would have been nominated as a Heisman finalist.

It may seem strange that losing only two games put Mariota out of the conversation, when former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron was nominated as well. At the time, the Crimson Tide had only lost one game, but in some regards, McCarron’s stats weren't as impressive as Mariota’s.

In the chart below, compare McCarron’s and Mariota’s stats following the completion of the 2013 season, as both teams ended with an 11-2 record:

So why did Mariota get dismissed? Is there a bias against the Pac-12 when it comes to college football?

Quite possibly.

There were no players west of Texas nominated last year—another player who many thought deserved a nod and was snubbed was Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey.

Heisman voters, mostly members of the media, are asked to vote on who they believe has been the most outstanding player—because of the difference in the number of voters in various regions of the country and due to the fact that East Coast viewers may not watch Pac-12 games (they are aired later in the day), Pac-12 players are likely missing out on votes.

If Mariota wants to stay in the Heisman conversation come December, he needs to make sure his stats improve over last year and that they don’t drop any regular-season games. The Ducks’ biggest threat on their schedule is likely Stanford, which has cost them their championship hopes the last two years.

It’s unlikely they will lose again to the Wildcats, considering Carey has since moved on to the NFL, and this year’s game will take place at home in Eugene—and because they never should have lost to a much less talented Arizona team in the first place.

Though anything can happen in college football, Mariota’s Heisman hopes should remain high as long as both he and his offensive line stay healthy and Oregon football continues to dominate as they have been for the last several years.

 

Why Mariota Will Win the Heisman Anyway

Despite the challenges, Mariota is set up to win in 2014.

As long as he can navigate past Michigan State and Stanford with wins, the Ducks should be able to easily win the rest of their games, which means he will remain in voters' minds for the Heisman candidacy.

Luckily, the Ducks miss South Division contenders USC and Arizona State during the regular season, which will be to their benefit, as both teams are on the rise and would make the Ducks schedule much more difficult.

Maybe one of the biggest question marks is the annual Civil War—which takes place this year in Corvallis, against hated rival, the Oregon State Beavers. Though the Beavers haven’t won since 2007, they nearly knocked off Oregon last year with a score of 35-36.

Every college football fan knows that these games can be tricky to judge, because anything can happen in a rivalry game, but continuing the trend of the last six years, Oregon should come out of this game victorious as well.

Mariota’s struggles last year against Stanford and Arizona, can be attributed to his knee injury, which plagued him during the second half of the 2013 season. It looks to have healed well, per a report from USA Today's Gary Horowitz that says he was at 100 percent during winter workouts earlier this year.

With a healthy Mariota and a healthy offensive line, the Ducks will maintain their spot at the top of the rankings, and Mariota will finish what could be his final year in Eugene with a Heisman trophy in hand.

And if all else fails, Oregon will still have the most innovative season tickets in college football—because who doesn't want a ticket that smells like hamburgers?

 

Stats courtesy of sports-reference.com.

Mike Martinez is a contributor for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @MikeMartinezBR

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Texas A&M Fan Has Impressive Wedding Cake in Shape of Kyle Field

College football fans can be pretty dedicated, especially in Texas, and this fan made sure to have something big for his wedding.

One Texas A&M fan got a massive cake in the shape of Kyle Field for his wedding, and judging from the picture above, whoever made it did an incredible job.

[Twitter, h/t Next Impulse Sports]

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Notre Dame Football: Springmann Loss Increases Burden on Young DTs

After remaining a recluse for the past few weeks while his peers suffered through the circus of conference media days and trips to ESPN, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly returned to the spotlight Friday, holding his season kickoff press conference prior to the start of the Irish's fall camp Monday.

There was the usual gushing about the growth of certain players over the summer months and the standard coaching cliches about having the potential to be a really good team if everyone buys in, but there was also some important news from Kelly.

Kelly revealed that senior nose guard Tony Springmann was forced to retire from football following a complications from a chronic back injury. Like linebacker Danny Spond a year ago, who had to give up football in August due to repeated head injuries, Springmann will remain in the program.

"[Springmann] has come back from his knee injury, but he's had a lingering back issue and that is not going to allow him to continue to play football," Kelly said. "Tony has done a great job of mentoring a lot of our younger players in the program. He's shown great leadership, great resolve in coming back from his knee injury, and he'll stay connected with our program..."

Springmann missed 2013 with a knee injury but was expected to be part of the nose tackle rotation with junior Jarron Jones. With Springmann no longer available, defensive line coach Mike Elston will be forced to expedite the learning curve for freshmen Daniel Cage and Pete Mokwuah, the two newest members of the team who best translate to one-technique tackles.

"We think we have got some depth at that position," Kelly said. "We have got some size. We have got, if you count Jones, Mokwuah and Cage, you have got three guys that are over 300 pounds, and I think what in my conversations with [strength and conditioning coach Paul] Longo way and particular with Cage and Mokwuah, their volume is ahead of any of the freshmen that we have had at that position since we have come here."

Notre Dame will move to a 4-3 defense this year under new coordinator Brian VanGorder, but there will still be two defined tackle positions, usually 1-technique (between center and guard) and 3-technique (between guard and tackle). Junior Sheldon Day is a star in the making at 3-technique, so the concern is primarily at the 1-technique now that a reliable backup must be replaced on relatively short notice. 

Both Cage and Mokwuah were not on the Irish's radar until VanGorder took over for Bob Diaco in January. Cage, a Cincinnati native, chose Notre Dame over Michigan State, while Mokwuah, from Staten Island, decommitted from nearby Rutgers shortly after Irish offered.

Notre Dame's official roster lists both Cage and Mokwuah at 325 pounds, 10 pounds heavier than Jones, the presumptive starter. However, even for a defensive lineman, not all weight is good weight (see Stephon Tuitt circa 2013), so fall camp will give a better indication of just where the freshman duo is in terms of translating size to the rigors of playing in the trenches.

"We'll have to see what their football ability brings, Kelly said, "but from a work volume standpoint and from a strength standpoint, and obviously their size, we feel pretty good at that position right now."

For Cage and Mokwuah, going from no Notre Dame scholarship offer eight months ago to possibly being in the opening-day two-deep as freshmen is a quantum leap. The timing of their first on-field contributions remains uncertain, but with the loss of Springmann, they're bound to happen at some point this fall.

Notre Dame will practice off campus at Culver Academies in Culver, Indiana, for the first week of fall camp before returning to their on-campus practice facility on Aug. 9. The Irish open the 2014 season at home Aug. 30 against defending Conference USA champion Rice.

 

All quotes were obtained from UND.com.

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Nick Marshall Will Not Start Auburn's 2014 Season Opener vs. Arkansas

When Auburn takes the field to start its 2014 season, quarterback Nick Marshall will be on the bench. Head coach Gus Malzahn announced the news on Friday, per Joel Erickson of AL.com:

Auburn starting quarterback Nick Marshall will not start against Arkansas, Tigers coach Gus Malzahn announced after the first practice of training camp on Friday.

Malzahn made it clear that Marshall will play in the game, although he hasn't said how long it will be before the senior takes the field. 

"Nick is still our starting quarterback," Malzahn said.

Sophomore Jeremy Johnson will get the nod, becoming the eighth different QB to start an Auburn opener in as many years, as noted by Brandon Marcello of the AL.com:

Matt Brown of Sports on Earth drew a parallel between Marshall's suspension and the half-game Johnny Manziel was forced to miss last year:

CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli speculated Marshall won't be benched for long:

Considering that it was a relatively minor offense, and that Marshall has already paid the fine, I can't imagine he'll be held out of the game for too long. Were Auburn playing San Jose State to open the season instead of a conference opponent in Arkansas, it's possible he would be held out for the entire game.

This comes a few weeks after Marshall was cited for marijuana possession. The senior QB wasn't arrested since the amount of marijuana he possessed was less than an ounce. The case was closed when Marshall's mother, Shalina Cliett, paid the $1,100 fine—$1,000 for possession, $100 for illegal window tinting—stemming from the charges.

"Nick made a mistake and he'll have to deal with the consequences," Malzahn said during the SEC's media days, per USA Today's Paul Myerberg. "I'm not ready to say what those consequences are at this time, but he will deal with it."

Arkansas projects to be one of the worst teams in the SEC, and Malzahn admitted that Johnson will be taking more snaps this year independent of Marshall's punishment, per Ryan Black of the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Georgia:

Marshall's absence does open the door ever so slightly for the Razorbacks to pull off the upset. He's as important to Auburn's success as any other player. 

If he's only out for a few plays, though, his punishment will have little effect on the outcome. The Tigers are the far superior team and have won their last eight home openers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alabama Football: Early Suspensions Hit Crimson Tide Hard Up Front

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Other Notes from the Start of Fall Camp

Eddie Jackson

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

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

 

Quarterback

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

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

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

 

Jacob Coker

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

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

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Biggest Storylines Heading into Wisconsin Football Fall Camp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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