NCAA Football News

UCLA Football: First Impressions from 2015 Fall Camp

The UCLA football team has officially started its first week of fall practice in San Bernardino. 

As is the case with the commencement of such a period, there aren't a ton of conclusions to draw from the first day. A certain bit of rust has to be eradicated, and the players should undoubtedly be a whole lot better at the end of camp when compared to the beginning. 

With that said, personnel musings dominated the initial practice. Multiple players were absent from camp for a myriad of reasons. 

This piece will delve into the first impressions from fall camp for Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins. 

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Ohio State Football: How Virginia Tech Game Is Motivating Buckeyes in Fall Camp

The anticipation for the season-opening clash between Ohio State and Virginia Tech has been building for months.

The Hokies, fresh off of a disappointing 7-6 campaign, have been hyping the game, which will take place on Labor Day in prime time at Lane Stadium. Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer called it "the most anticipated game ever to come" to Blacksburg, Virginia, via Fox Sports, and the university has even canceled classes for September 7 in anticipation of heavy "campus traffic loads." 

But it's not just the folks in Virginia Tech's camp who are excited for the marquee showdown. The Buckeyes are also eager to make the trip south for the rare Monday night kickoff.

That anticipation stems from the 35-21 loss the Hokies handed the Buckeyes in their home opener last year in Ohio Stadium. It was the lone blemish of Ohio State's College Football Playoff National Championship season, and the Buckeyes are motivated to avenge that defeat in Blacksburg.

Proof of that came in early June when Ohio State safety Tyvis Powell posted a warning to Virginia Tech on Twitter.

On the other side of things, Virginia Tech is very aware of Ohio State's desire to get even. Defensive tackle Luther Maddy responded to Powell on Twitter, saying, "We got the same amount of time to put in work as you!"

Earlier this year, Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster told Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times that he knows the Buckeyes will be mad when they meet on the field.

"They’ll want to score 100 points on us, I know that," Foster said. "They’ll want to beat us down. But we’ll be ready to play."

The matchup is keeping the Buckeyes focused during fall camp.

After the first practice coming out of summer on Monday, J.T. Barrett mentioned the Virginia Tech game as one that he's had circled for a while.

"You can say I have that one marked on the calendar," Barrett said, according to Bill Landis of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. "It does mean a lot to me personally being that I did play the game that we lost and I wasn't prepared."

The Hokies completely overwhelmed Barrett in last year's meeting, sacking him seven times and forcing him into his worst throwing performance of the year. Making the second start of his career, Barrett completed just nine of 29 passes and threw one touchdown against three interceptions.

And Barrett's not alone.

Speaking at Big Ten media days in Chicago two weeks ago, leaders of the Ohio State football team talked about their eagerness to meet the Hokies again.

“Looking at a chance to definitely get some payback on them,” defensive tackle Adolphus Washington said, according to Mark Berman of the Roanoke Times

Offensive tackle Taylor Decker mentioned the unique "Bear" defense the Hokies deployed that confused Ohio State and lamented their lack of preparation, vowing that it will be different this year.

“But I think if our preparation was on the same level, we’ll beat them every time,” Decker said, according to Berman.

With all the expectations and preseason hype surrounding Ohio State, Urban Meyer is thankful they have a worthy Week 1 opponent to focus on. Instead of spending time getting his team to buy into the week-to-week mentality, Meyer can get his Buckeyes to hone in on one opponent.

“The fact that you’re playing an evenly matched opponent on the road — or at some positions, maybe more talented — that gets your focus,” Meyer said, via Berman. “We have to get much better than we are at this moment to win that game.”


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

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FSU LB Matthew Thomas Reportedly Ruled Ineligible for 2015 Season

Florida State linebacker Matthew Thomas arrived on campus in 2013 with high expectations, but he has struggled to see the field and will not play a single down during the 2015 season.

Safid Deen of the Tallahassee Democrat noted that “redshirt sophomore Matthew Thomas has been ruled ineligible to play next season, a source confirmed to the Tallahassee Democrat on Tuesday.”

Deen also pointed out that Thomas was not expected to immediately contend for playing time this year because “he’s still recovering from shoulder surgery in the spring.”

Gene Williams of said that: “A Florida State source indicated that the staff is still hopeful that the redshirt sophomore will be able to return to the team next spring. If that happens, the Miami native will have two years of eligibility remaining starting next fall.”

Thomas was a 5-star recruit, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, and a major part of the Seminoles’ 2013 recruiting class, but he only played in four games in 2013 and eight games in 2014. He has dealt with injuries and off-field issues throughout his career and is yet to fulfill the expectations that surrounded him out of high school.

John Taylor of College Football Talk added more context:

To say that Matthew Thomas‘ time in Tallahassee has been adventurous would be a rather sizable understatement.  And, unfortunately, that adventure continues.

A five-star member of Florida State’s 2013 recruiting class who apparently preferred USC even as his mom didn’t, and who wanted a release to transfer to either USC or Georgia in May of that year, Thomas ultimately decided to stick with the Seminoles… and promptly saw his true freshman season wiped out by a shoulder injury.  The following season, Thomas was suspended for the first month and a half of the year because of an unspecified violation of team rules and then had ankle issues when he returned; he missed part of spring practice this year with another shoulder injury, and was ruled out of summer camp because of the same issue.

Although Thomas is less than 100 percent healthy, this is still a blow to the Florida State linebacker depth. Senior Reggie Northrup is still recovering from ACL surgery from January, and Tyrell Lyons, Ro’Derrick Hoskins, Delvin Purifoy and Sh’Mar Kilby Lane are all relatively unproven commodities and redshirt sophomores or younger entering the season.   

What’s more, the team is still waiting on the arrival of a transcript for junior college transfer Lorenzo Phillips so he can practice, per the Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone.

Florida State is still one of the best programs in the country and recruits talented playmakers every year, but this is a young linebacker core behind Northrup and Terrance Smith. It will need to step up and make plays this season without Thomas if the Seminoles hope to return to the College Football Playoff.

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Georgia Football Recruiting: Bulldogs Infiltrating Backyard of Fellow SEC Power

In landing 2017 4-star athlete Devonta Smith, Georgia head coach Mark Richt and his staff were able to pluck an elite talent out of fellow SEC heavyweight LSU’s backyard.

However, the Bulldogs may not be done in their pursuit of top prospects from the Pelican State. 

As Smith told Kipp Adams of Dawgs247, he’s close friends with 2016 4-star corner and Kentwood, Louisiana, product Shyheim Carter—who announced he was backing off a commitment to Alabama on Monday.

"Shyheim is like my brother—we have known each other since we were little," Smith told Adams. "We have always said how great it would be to play together. I think Georgia has a pretty good shot to land him, and I plan to try and get him to go there. We really want to play together."

As his Crystal Ball page indicates, Georgia is trending heavily with the nation’s No. 5 corner and the No. 51 player overall in the 2016 cycle.

Another touted Louisiana prospect who is strongly considering Georgia is 4-star offensive lineman Willie Allen—who told Scout’s Chad Simmons that he will take one of his official visits to Athens in the fall.

Allen was in Athens for the Bulldogs ‘Dawg Night’ camp last month, and the fact that they will get a return visit is a signal of Allen’s legitimate interest in the ‘Dawgs.

Both Allen and Carter are among the Top 5 prospects in Louisiana in the 2016 cycle, and Smith is one of the state’s Top 10 recruits in 2017.

While their activity in Louisiana may seem unusual, a few factors are helping the Bulldogs make in-roads in the talent-rich territory.

For starters, new Director of Player Personnel Sam Petitto—who got his start in coaching in the prep ranks in Louisiana—has been singled out as playing a critical role in building relationships with prospects from his home state, as noted by Adams.

"Sam Petitto being at Georgia makes me feel even more at home there," Smith told Adams. "I know the type of man he is, and I know he will always stay on me and never let me slide. Sam says Georgia is a great place that fosters a strong, competitive environment while also building a family environment."

Petitto is part of a facelift of Richt’s staff that has seen several new coaches come on board over the last two years.

Those new additions have helped revitalize the Bulldogs program, and have them on the verge of landing the program’s second consecutive Top 5 recruiting class. To put that in perspective, Richt has only had two such classes, in 2006 and 2009, meet that benchmark since he arrived in Athens back in 2001. 

Alabama is one out-of-state program that has had success beating out LSU for blue-chip prospects in past years.

While Georgia has some work to do in landing touted prospects such as Carter and Allen, the Bulldogs appear to be on the right track in making a dent with a handful of elite prospects in the Pelican State.


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



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Alabama Football: Will Lane Kiffin Be Hot Coaching Commodity After 2015 Season?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — All rivalries are not created equal, especially when it comes to football in the Southeastern Conference.

Yet all are trumped when facing your own brother.

Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin had done that only once before last season. In 2004 he was quarterbacks coach for Pete Carroll at Southern California, and on Week 2 the No. 1 Trojans hosted Colorado State, where his younger brother Chris was a defensive lineman.

The final score was 49-0, Trojans.

Chris is now the defensive line coach and defensive recruiting coordinator for Ole Miss, which knocked Alabama out of the No. 1 spot in the rankings with a 23-17 victory last season. Think he might have said something during the annual family vacation in Florida?

“I really don’t need to, I think he understands,” a smiling Chris said, adding that he would have really rubbed it in had the Crimson Tide not won the SEC title.

“That was not a fun day,” the older brother said in response about the game. “But I did see him at the beach, and he did say something about it, so …”

Such bragging rights are “crucial” (as Chris put it) in such football families, and for a long time they were dominated by their father, legendary NFL coach Monte Kiffin, the architect of the “Tampa Cover 2” defense. Of course, another family showdown looms with Ole Miss at Alabama on Sept. 19 (9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN), but Lane could be on the verge of something special this fall. 

His history is well known. Despite being just 40 years old, Kiffin’s already won a national championship, coached a Heisman Trophy winner and has been the head coach of not only an NFL team but two prominent college programs.

However, none of them panned out as well as hoped. USC’s title and Reggie Bush’s Heisman have since been vacated, while Kiffin went 5-15 with the Oakland Raiders (2007-08) and a combined 35-21 with Tennessee (2009) and USC (2010-13).

But last season, Alabama’s offense had a record-setting year despite being led by a player who had tried running back, wide receiver and defensive back before settling in at quarterback. His mobility and comfort level playing at a faster pace helped lead to the decision to often go hurry-up, no-huddle.

“We changed what we had done for Blake,” Kiffin said. “We went to a different approach.”

Against Florida in Week 4, Sims threw for more yards (445) than any quarterback Nick Saban has ever coached and set the program record for total yards in a single game (484). He ended up breaking the Crimson Tide single-season passing record during the second quarter of the 2014 SEC Championship Game against Missouri.

Although Sims was a new starter, nearly every other offensive starter had returned from the 2013 team, including wide receiver Amari Cooper, who won Alabama’s first Biletnikoff Award for best receiver.

This year is the exact opposite. The only returning starters are offensive linemen Ryan Kelly and Cam Robinson. Tight end O.J. Howard played in every game in 2014, but with just three starts. While fans are still waiting for his breakout season, he had 17 catches for 260 yards and no touchdowns.

“It’s not Little League, where everyone gets the same amount of touches,” Kiffin said. “You saw it last year with Amari and everything being so lopsided. It came down to ‘OK, if he’s your best player, give him the ball.’

“It’s a basketball mentality. If LeBron’s got 30 at the half, you’re not going to stop passing it to him. I think Amari had 47 catches in the first quarter of games alone. Now he’s gone, so where are those catches going to go? I think O.J. could be a lot of that. He’s a very special player.”

So might be running back Kenyan Drake, who was beginning to emerge as a versatile threat out of the backfield when he sustained a fractured leg and dislocated ankle against Ole Miss. Florida discovered what a tough matchup he can be when on the first snap, Drake burned the man coverage of a linebacker for an 87-yard catch-and-go touchdown.

“I was very thankful to Kiffin for putting his trust in me to do that, and I look forward to seeing what he has up his sleeve this year,” Drake said.

However, as with the top three returning wide receivers, Robert Foster, ArDarius Stewart and Chris Black, who combined for 23 catches and 382 yards in 2014, the key word with all of Alabama’s potential playmakers has to be “potential"—even running back Derrick Henry. He’s never been the primary ball-carrier at this level.

Like last year, the winner of the quarterback competition will go a long way toward determining Alabama’s offensive philosophy, and even then it will remain a work in progress. Senior Jake Coker, who lost out to Sims last year, is the closest thing to an incumbent, and Alabama will give reps to all five contenders during Saturday’s first scrimmage of training camp.

“The one thing about Jake is that there was probably too much put on Jake right away,” Kiffin said. “You would compare it to an NFL rookie quarterback who held out because he didn’t have spring ball. People forget about that when all of the sudden the guy comes in and is supposed to be the guy.”

Consequently, should Alabama’s offense put up comparable numbers to last year, a lot of the credit will go to Kiffin, who would go back to being “the guy” for top-level job openings.

In addition to owning a football name, having been a top assistant for Carroll and Saban would be hard for anyone to overlook, especially since Kiffin, to play off his basketball analogy, didn’t do a one-and-done with the Crimson Tide.

“This chapter wasn’t over yet,” Kiffin said about the inquiries he received this past year. “There’s still so many things to learn from Coach.

“Just going into the offseason, it’s kind of like being a freshman. I’ve said that to one of our coaches. I feel like a sophomore now, where last year you’re a freshman just trying to figure it out, trying to get the scripts ready, get to practice and stuff. Now you really start to understand how and why he does it and why it’s so successful.”


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer.

Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Why 'Hard Knocks' Style TV Shows Are the Future of College Football

It's finally here. College football will get its own version of "Hard Knocks" during preseason camp. Fans looking for additional access will get it in the form of "A Season With Notre Dame" on Showtime this September. 

The news became official Tuesday afternoon. In a release obtained by Paul Skrbina of the Chicago Tribune, Showtime sports executive vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza said, “The passion of the players and head coach Brian Kelly will make for a compelling television series that will appeal beyond hardcore college football fans to all viewers who appreciate great storytelling.”

Scott Roussel of first reported the possibility of Notre Dame joining teams with Showtime to create college football's version of the popular HBO show, which tells the preseason camp stories of an NFL team every year. 

As Roussel notes, this kind of unique access is a good thing for Notre Dame's exposure: 

While providing an unquestioned financial boost to the university, certainly the potentially larger boost for Notre Dame is the national storytelling the series will provide and the expected bump in appeal for the program, the coaches and its players. Under Armour won’t hate the exposure, either.

The series should provide excellent insight into how Brian Kelly coaches his team, how new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. leads the offense, and there is no doubt that a large part of the population will watch just to enjoy Brian VanGorder’s exchanges with his players.

Access in college football is tricky these days. Unlike the NFL, there's not a uniform way for local and national reporters to have access to practices, players and coaches. Many programs, in fact, have invested heavily in in-house access to provide stories and content. 

As a result, what fans see is a limited version of what actually happens in practice, let alone how an entire program is operated. 

A "Hard Knocks"-esque show for college football breaks the mold there. It probably won't be a complete peeling back of the proverbial curtain, but it should lift it enough to give outsiders a refreshing view on major college football: the position battles, the injuries, the decision-making, life as a student-athlete.  

And, as it relates to Notre Dame specifically, Keith Arnold of Inside the Irish tweets that a "Hard Knocks" type of show could be good for the program's desire to increase its exposure to recruits: 

That's not to say a prospect is going to commit to Notre Dame because of the show, but it does open up Notre Dame to someone who may not have the Irish on their radar. 

If the show is successful— notes that "Florida State was very close to agreeing with a major cable production company to produce a similar series last season"—then don't be surprised if other big-name programs line up to do something similar. 

Notre Dame is the test subject, but Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State or even Washington State could always be next. Why? All of those programs have compelling head coaches and/or star players that even fair-weather college football fans know.

Notre Dame is a good place to start because it's a storied, polarizing program that people will want to tune in to watch. But imagine watching this type of show with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh or Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes specifically are loaded with star power at the moment. Coming off of a national championship, Ohio State would have been an excellent selection here, too. 

Since money talks, today's coaches (or athletic departments) would be fine with opening up practices and meeting rooms for some extra change. Television, money and exposure are all things that drive the sport. 

In that way, college football is much like the NFL. 



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

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The Battle to Become Jim Harbaugh's Next Frank Gore

Derrick Green could hardly hide his smile.

It was Michigan media day, and the Wolverines running back had just been asked to recall the day he found out his team had hired Jim Harbaugh as its new head coach.

It wasn't necessarily an uncommon question on that day, given the excitement that Harbaugh's hiring has elicited in Ann Arbor and the past seven months, but there was something genuine in Green's nonverbal response that couldn't be seen from the Michigan players at other positions on the eve of fall camp.

And the more Wolverines running backs you talked to, the more that trend continued to emerge.

"I was excited man," Green said. "An NFL coach who definitely likes to run the ball downhill. He's going to feed his backs. More so, he's a winning coach."

"He was just in the Super Bowl two years ago, he's our head coach now," fellow running back De'Veon Smith said. "That was my exact reaction."

One look at Harbaugh's track record during his time with the San Francisco 49ers, and the optimism of Green and Smith when it comes to their new head coach instantly becomes justified. In his four seasons as the 49ers head coach from 2011-2014, the team ranked a respective eighth, fourth, third and fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game, a stretch that included three consecutive NFC Championship Game appearances.

Even more exciting for the Wolverines running backs than Harbaugh's recent results in the run game, however, is the way he went about obtaining them.

Featuring 5'9", 217-pound running back Frank Gore, Harbaugh's teams in San Francisco relied heavily on a power run game. Harbaugh's preference for bigger backs was also proven in the 2014 NFL draft when the 49ers selected 6'0", 235-pound running back Carlos Hyde, who rushed for 333 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie season out of Ohio State.

That's good news for the 5'11, 234-pound Green and the 5'11", 228-pound Smith, each of whom possess similar power running styles. They'll compete with one another and with USC transfer Ty Isaac (6'3", 240 pounds) and Drake Jonson (6'1", 207-pounds) for carries this season, as well as the right to be the first version of Gore in Harbaugh's Michigan offense.

"It's a good thing," Green insisted. "It's competition, but at the end of the day, we're just trying to make each other better."

That might be easy to say at a position like running back, where two-player systems have been more common than not. It's not like the heated quarterback competition that's currently underway in Ann Arbor, with Shane Morris and Jake Rudock vying to become the Wolverines' starting quarterback.

But sooner or later, one would imagine that Harbaugh would prefer that a feature back on whom he can rely consistently will emerge. For his part, the first-year Michigan head coach has remained mum on the battle, saying only that it's a luxury to have as many options as he appears to.

"There will be plenty of license and plenty of opportunity for one, two, three of our running backs to assert themselves, come to the fore and be counted on," Harbaugh said. "That, we'll be watching very closely and hoping that it occurs early here in camp."

With the Wolverines having entered a "submarine"—code for "no media access"—with the start of fall camp, it remains unclear where Michigan's pecking order at running back stands. Smith, however, appears to be the de facto front-runner to be the primary back after rushing for 519 yards and six touchdowns during his sophomore season in 2014.

That may not be all that impressive, given the high standards that Harbaugh has for his run game, but it gives the Warren, Ohio, native an experience advantage over his fellow Wolverines running backs. Green, also now a junior, rushed for 471 yards and three scores a season ago, while Johnson rushed for 361 yards and four touchdowns before tearing his ACL in Michigan's season-finale loss to Ohio State.

As a freshman in 2013, Isaac rushed for 236 and two TDs while playing for the Trojans before sitting out the 2014 campaign with the Wolverines due to NCAA transfer rules.

"They're young guys, young football players who are hungry," said new Michigan running backs coach and running back great Tyrone Wheatley. "They want to play. All these guys want to play."

And if Harbaugh has his way, all of them will, although it will certainly be difficult to divide playing time evenly between the quartet. Isaac may have the most upside, but Smith and Green appear to have the inside track to the lion's share of the carries, with Johnson potentially being the odd man out as he returns from his knee injury.

Whom Harbaugh will ultimately rely on to be his next Gore won't be known until the Wolverines take the field for their Sept. 3 opener against Utah.

But if Michigan can find the same success on the ground that Harbaugh's teams did in San Francisco, it won't just be the running backs who will be smiling in Ann Arbor.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Strong Scrimmage Shutout Great Sign for Auburn's Defense Under Will Muschamp

When Gus Malzahn walked off the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Monday, Auburn's offense hadn't scored a single touchdown all day.

A pointless performance would probably cause the offensive-minded head coach's brain to short-circuit. After all, the Tigers have averaged at least 35 points per game during his two seasons in charge.

But Malzahn was surprisingly pleased with the outcome.

"The bottom line is the defense whipped the offense today," Malzahn said, per Brandon Marcello of "From a head coach's standpoint, I kind of like that."

Auburn reportedly ran 90 plays during its first scrimmage of fall camp, and the normally prolific offense only put up two field goals while fumbling three times.

Call Monday's scrimmage another sign of the Will Muschamp effect that has swept Auburn in 2015.

As Marcello noted in his post-practice recap, this performance is part of a growing trend under the Tigers' new defensive coordinator:

The performance by the defense is notable on the Plains, where offense usually dominates post-scrimmage headlines.

The development, however, does follow what can only be termed now as a trend for Will Muschamp's defense. The Tigers' A-Day scrimmage included only 38 total points, a stark contrast to the 58-3 score in 2014.

Whether the results translate in the season opener Sept. 5 against Louisville remains to be seen, but the early signs sure are promising for the Tigers' revamped defense under the former Florida head coach's guidance.

Muschamp's most identifiable characteristic as an assistant coach is his trademark intensity, and his defenses usually reflect that attitude out on the field.

Auburn players have remarked on the defense's physicality and intensity throughout the first few days of fall practice. On Monday, they had their first opportunity to show it in a completely live-ball situation.

"We were physical. That is something Coach wants us to be," senior cornerback Jonathan Jones said, per Ryan Black of Auburn Undercover. "I think we met his expectations today [of] being physical. We still have to improve a lot on X's and O's, but you can't beat how physical we were."

That physical nature has been lacking from Auburn's defenses under Malzahn and former coordinator Ellis Johnson. Across the last two seasons, Auburn has allowed an average of 410 yards per game.

Muschamp's defenses, however, have been elite everywhere he's been since his first stint as an Auburn assistant—especially when compared to the post-Tommy Tuberville years on the Plains.

One of the key figures in Auburn's defensive revitalization project under Muschamp excelled in Monday's scrimmage.

According to Black, Malzahn said sophomore defensive end and pass-rushing specialist Carl Lawson was "unblockable" Monday.

"You've just got to know where he's at. There's no doubt about that from an offensive standpoint," Malzahn said. "He disrupts. He's a disruptor, and a lot of times, even if he's not making the play, he disrupts stuff for other people."

Jones echoed his head coach and heaped praise on the Tigers' entire defensive line.

"Carl was great. The whole front, honestly, and that's going to help us this year," Jones said, per Marcello. "But having him back full go and out there pressuring quarterbacks, being unblockable—and the whole front, honestly, they dominated today, and I think that's really where the physicality started today, was with the front."

Monday marked Lawson's first live scrimmage since his ACL tear and subsequent surgery in the spring of 2014. He missed the entire season for the Tigers, who struggled mightily in pass rushing en route to a disappointing 8-5 record.

Lawson and the rest of the defense wasn't allowed to tackle junior quarterback Jeremy Johnson during the scrimmage, but Auburn's offensive leader still felt the effects of the strong performance.

"They were flying around, making plays," Johnson said, per Black. "They just beat us today."

Even though Johnson played a limited role in the scrimmage and the Tigers were still without top wide receiver Duke Williams due to a "discipline issue," Auburn's defensive performance is yet another sign of better things to come from the less successful side of the ball on the Plains.

And considering the amount of success Auburn has had moving the ball in game situations, one shouldn't worry about a rare scoreless performance from a Malzahn offense.

The Tigers offensive stars are already focused on rebounding from Monday's misfire in another scrimmage on Saturday.

"They definitely brought their energy today," senior wide receiver Ricardo Louis said, per Tom Green of the Opelika-Auburn News. "They brought that intensity. Offense is going to have to pick up next time we get out there."

They just know the bar is continuing to be raised by the new-look Muschamp defense.


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

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10 College Football Players with Most to Prove in 2015

Thousands of college football players are set to hit the field in less than a month when the 2015 season gets underway. After a long offseason, they'll finally get to see if they can reach the goals they've set for the year. It will also be the first opportunity to prove themselves worthy of playing at this level, and possibly beyond.

Some players have much more to prove than others. Based on what they've done to this point in their career, or because of things that might have happened since last season ended, several of the most notable players in FBS head into 2015 looking to show they're worthy of the praise or deserve more than they're getting. Others are looking to get back on track after a checkered past, either on or off the field.

Here's a look at 10 players who have the most to prove in 2015.

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Why This Is the Most Important Week of Florida's Fall QB Battle

Not all quarterback battles are created equally.

For some teams in certain situations, prolonged battles are acceptable based on learning curve, early-season schedule and similar contenders vying for the job. For others, a quick resolution goes a long way toward a successful season.

Consider Florida part of the group that could benefit from a quick decision.

Early in fall camp, first-year head coach Jim McElwain said the battle between true sophomore dual-threat Treon Harris and redshirt freshman pro-style passer Will Grier is close through one week, according to Landon Watnick of

"If you’re asking is there separation yet, I haven’t really seen it. But I will say this: their command is what I’ve been really happy with," McElwain said, according to Scott Carter of "They both have had really shining moments. They’ve both had some moments where you kind of scratch your head and wonder where that came from."

The Gators will scrimmage Friday, according to Watnick, which makes this the most important week of the Florida quarterback battle.

The primary goal for McElwain and new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is to establish what Florida's offensive identity will be this year. That identity could vary greatly depending on who is taking the snaps and, more importantly, how much trust the offensive line earns from the coaching staff.

It's clear McElwain wants to instill his pro-style system in the Gator program, but considering the uncertainty of the offensive line, it might be best for the 2015 Gators to write it in pencil this year rather than ink.

If the offensive line can't protect and opposing defensive fronts are teeing off on the quarterback, he might be best served to put a guy back there who can move like Harris and try to become more multidimensional within the running game rather than putting a big emphasis on stretching the field deep.

Instead of ripping the old system off like a Band-Aid, the staff might have to transition slowly, which could give Harris a great shot at winning the job.

However it plays out, it's something that needs to be decided quickly.

An offensive identity has been Florida's version of Sasquatch or a unicorn since 2011. It's been a figment of of the imagination of Gator fans. 

That needs to change, despite the fact that the schedule sets up in a way that might suggest the Gators could ease into it.

Florida doesn't need to be great this year in order to compete with the SEC's big boys. As was the case under former head coach Will Muschamp, the defense will keep them in virtually every game. If the Gators can focus on a few things they do well offensively, that's all the identity they need. 

That identity needs to develop in fall camp and be perfected early in the season so that the Gators can hit their SEC schedule running at Kentucky and vs. Tennessee in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively.

Choosing a quarterback is the first step in establishing that identity.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93 XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter: @BarrettSallee.

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College Football Awards for the 2015 Offseason

Channeling our inner Professor Farnsworth, we have good news for everyone: The 2015 college football season is drawing nigh. Congratulations, you've nearly made it through the grueling offseason. All that's left is to get through preseason camp. 

And stay healthy. For goodness' sake, nobody tear anything. 

But before we move straight into football, let's take a look back at what made the offseason so interesting with the official Bleacher Report College Football Awards—2015 Offseason Edition. From the best quote to the best viral video, from the MVP to the worst controversy, we look back at everything that made the last few months bearable. Additionally, we'll mix in some storylines for the upcoming season as part of our flashy awards ceremony. 

Also, there are no trophies or red carpets or anything like that. It's just us with an "attaboy" pat on the back. 

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Stanford Samuels III Names Top 3: Could 'Noles Legacy Recruit Head to SEC?

A trio of heavyweights is among the schools tied at the top for 2017 4-star corner Stanford Samuels III, according to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.

Alabama, Florida State and Georgia are the schools that have separated themselves early in the running for the nation’s No. 5 corner and the No. 38 player overall in the 2017 cycle.

However, the Seminoles are the perceived front-runners in his recruitment due to the fact that his father, Stanford Samuels Jr., played corner at FSU from 2000 to 2003.

With the news that two SEC powers are in the running for Samuels, is the possibility becoming more realistic that Samuels could land somewhere other than Tallahassee for college?

Given the success that both Alabama and Georgia have had on the recruiting trail in recent years, it’s tough to discount them as potential threats in the race for Samuels.

Bartow notes that Samuels took visits to all three schools in the summer.

According to Hank South of BamaOnLine, Samuels enjoyed his first visit to Tuscaloosa.

“I talked to Coach (Kirby) Smart and got had a lot of interest from Coach (Nick) Saban while I was up there,” Samuels told South. “They were going over some of the coverages and schemes that they run. Basically they were telling me to keep my head straight and stay focused on getting better at football every day, and not get lost in the process.”

He also visited Georgia for its annual "Dawg Night" camp in July. As Bartow details, Samuels was impressed with the momentum that the Bulldogs have been able to build with the nation’s elite recruits.

However, with that said, Florida State still has reason to feel confident in landing Samuels in the end.

As detailed by Chris Nee of Noles247, while Samuels admits he has grown up a fan of the ‘Noles, he said that he doesn’t feel any added pressure to go to FSU because his father went there.

Instead, the Seminoles coaching staff, particularly defensive coordinator Charles Kelly, has done a good job of building a relationship with him and helping sell the ‘Noles program as being the best fit for him in the end.

"Every time I come up here, he treats me just like I am his son," Samuels III told Nee about his bond with Kelly. "He treats me great. Home-style, makes me feel at home. He makes me feel comfortable."

Additionally, Florida State has a lengthy history of producing elite corners—with both of last year’s starting corners being selected in the first three rounds of the 2015 NFL draft. 

While the Tide and the Bulldogs can boast similar selling points, his comfort level with the FSU program will be tough to beat when it comes time for him to make his decision.


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

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Most Unique Academic Majors for 2015 Power Conference College Football Players

As last week's Most Popular Academic Majors story showed, college football players tend to run in the same packs when it comes to their courses of studies.

The vast majority of players in Power Five conferences are enrolled in some sort of business major, while other common majors such as communication, sociology and sport management followed. 

But a handful of athletes have decided to carve out their own unique paths in academics during their time on campus. They don't stick to the usual courses—in fact, some have interesting majors that no one else in the sport studies.

The SEC has two star players who have their eyes on the skies, while another one tends to focus on the bugs that crawl on the ground. Ohio State has an animal-loving leader on its offensive line, and USC has an established music producer already out in Hollywood.

Take a look at several players with some of the most unique majors in college football, and the paths they took to achieve their academic goals.

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USC Football 2015: Complete Preview of Trojans Offense and Defense

The USC Trojans finished off the 2014 season with a 9-4 record. Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer break down USC's biggest storylines on offense and defense heading into the 2015 season.

How well do you think USC will do this year? Watch the video and let us know!

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Texas A&M Football 2015: Complete Preview of Aggies Offense and Defense

The Texas A&M Aggies finished the 2014 season with a 8-5 record. How will they fare in 2015?

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee break down Texas A&M's biggest storylines on offense and defense heading into the 2015 season in the video above.

How well do you think Texas A&M will do this year? Watch the video and let us know!

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Ole Miss Football 2015: Complete Preview and Predictions for Rebels

The Ole Miss Rebels finished the 2014 season with a 9-4 record. How will they fare in 2015?

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee break down Ole Miss' biggest storylines on offense and defense heading into the 2015 season in the video above.

How well do you think Ole Miss will do this year? Watch the video and let us know!

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Tennessee Football 2015: Complete Preview of Volunteers Offense and Defense

The Vols finished off the 2014 season with a 7-6 record. Bleacher Report's college football analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down Tennessee's biggest storylines on offense and defense heading into the 2015 season.

How well do you think the Vols will do this year? Watch the video and let us know!

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Arizona State Football 2015: Complete Preview and Predictions of Sun Devils

The Arizona State Sun Devils finished the 2014 season with a 10-3 record. How will the fare in 2015?

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer break down Arizona State's biggest storylines on offense and defense heading into the 2015 season in the video above.

How well do you think the Sun Devils will do this year? Watch the video and let us know!

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Don't Expect a Resolution to the Georgia QB Battle Anytime Soon

One of the hottest quarterback battles in the SEC is taking place this August in the Classic City of Athens, Georgia, as junior Faton Bauta, sophomore Brice Ramsey and Virginia graduate transfer Greyson Lambert are squaring off for the top spot on the depth chart.

Don't expect a resolution anytime soon, because this quarterback battle could last a long time.

With a week in the books during spring practice, head coach Mark Richt isn't dropping any hints, and it appears, according to Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that approach has trickled down to the players, including running back Keith Marshall.

Expect that to be the theme of fall camp for the Bulldogs, because this battle is going to last quite a while.

This has been an offseason of change for the Georgia offense, despite the relative stability of running back Nick Chubb and an offensive line that's one of the SEC's best. Gone is one of the best offensive coordinators in college football in Mike Bobo, gone are reliable wide receivers Chris Conley and Michael Bennett, gone is redshirt senior Hutson Mason—who, while inexperienced going into last year, was fully comfortable with the personnel and system.

On top of that, new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has come in with an NFL-style install process that, while good for the players to prepare for the next level, still takes some getting used to.

"When he's teaching, he's rolling through. He's not taking five minutes to teach one play. It's like 10 seconds, and you better know it by tomorrow," wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell said following the spring game. "He's brought that in. Every time we install, it's quick. A 30-play install might take five minutes."

Considering where the quarterback battle stands right now, Schottenheiemer and Richt are best served to take their time.

Ramsey and Bauta went through spring, but Lambert just got to campus in late July after finishing up his degree in Charlottesville and has to play catchup early in fall camp. 

Shouldn't he deserve a fair shot at winning the job?

For that to happen, based on the new system and how it's being installed, a prolonged quarterback battle is necessary unless one of the contenders absolutely knocks the socks off of the staff over the next week or so.

Luckily for Georgia, the schedule sets up perfectly for the battle to linger into the season. 

The season opener vs. Louisiana-Monroe shouldn't be much of an issue and will give the staff a chance to judge whoever is still in the mix in a game setting. It's not so much the cupcake to open the season, though, that's important; it's Game No. 2 at Vanderbilt the following week.

It's not like Vandy is a tough place to play, but a road conference game is a fantastic place to separate the contender from the pretender prior to the Week 3 showdown with South Carolina. 

The scheme and the schedule are set up perfectly for this quarterback battle to shape up exactly like Alabama's did in 2011. Phillip Sims and AJ McCarron shared snaps in the opener vs. Kent State, and then McCarron took control on the road against a good Penn State team and never let it go.

Expect a similar script for the 2015 Georgia Bulldogs.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93 XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Penn State Football 2015: Complete Preview and Predictions for Nittany Lions

The Penn State Nittany Lions finished the 2014 season with a 7-6 record. But how will they fare in 2015?

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer break down Penn State's biggest storylines on offense and defense heading into the 2015 season in the video above.

How well do you think Penn State will do this year? Watch the video and let us know!

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