NCAA Football News

Meet Nebraska's Next Stud CB, 4-Star ATH Avery Anderson

2015 4-Star athlete Avery Anderson has already pledged to play his college ball at Nebraska. The 6'0", 170-pounder will most likely play the cornerback position for the Huskers.

Bleacher Report caught up with Anderson, who discussed why Nebraska is the place for him, what schools have still been recruiting him and whom he looks up to at the NFL level.

Who is his favorite player? Who does he compare himself to?

Watch the video to find out.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Alabama Widening Recruiting Gap as Massive 4-Star DT T.D. Moton Picks Tide

Nick Saban may have stared up at the likes of Texas A&M and Penn State in national recruiting rankings during early periods of the 2015 cycle, but his team is back in a familiar position at No. 1. Alabama continued to distance itself from the pack Monday when it landed a commitment from 4-star defensive tackle T.D. Moton.

The dominant Louisiana product shared his decision on Twitter:

The 6'2.5", 310-pound prospect pledged in person while spending time in Tuscaloosa for a camp. He is the 18th member of a 2015 Crimson Tide class that now features 13 composite 4-star recruits.

Moton didn't play a single snap of football in 2013, as he was forced to sit out his junior season due to transfer rules after arriving at Woodlawn High School (Shreveport, Louisiana). He emerged as a disruptive interior defender during his sophomore season, tallying 50 tackles with Calvary Baptist Academy, per MaxPreps.

He previously pledged to Mississippi State but backed off that verbal pact in January. Texas A&M and LSU were also in the mix during recent months before Alabama emerged as his favorite.

Moton moves extremely well at his size and appears capable of lining up at 5-technique in Saban's system. He may quickly draw comparisons to former Crimson Tide star Marcel Dareus, who currently plays for the Buffalo Bills.

Moton's commitment maintains mounting momentum at Alabama. He is the third 2015 addition in eight days, joining 3-star linebacker Keaton Anderson (Florence, Alabama) and 4-star tight end Hale Hentges (Jefferson City, Missouri).

The Crimson Tide are quickly running away with the 2015 recruiting title, which would be the program's fifth consecutive consensus No. 1 finish.

According to 247Sports' composite team rankings, the talent gap between Alabama and Clemson's class (rated No. 2 right now) is equal to the gap between Clemson and South Carolina (No. 8).

At this point, it seems things would really have to unravel for the Tide before signing day in order for another team to surge into the top spot. Considering Saban's track record, that scenario is unlikely.

Alabama has again assembled a well-rounded crop of talent, featuring 11 prospects who rank among the top six players at their respective positions in 247Sports' composite rankings. 

Recruiting success spreads far beyond the Tide's home turf.

Saban landed the top-rated recruits in New Jersey (cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick) and Washington D.C. (offensive lineman Richie Petitbon), the No. 2 recruit in Missouri (Hentges), No. 3 in Mississippi (linebacker Leo Lewis) and No. 5 in Louisiana (wide receiver Daylon Charlot).

The team remains in pursuit of a quarterback prospect and could address the position by reaching out to California. Anaheim standout Travis Waller, a 4-star talent, has seen his recruitment intensify in recent weeks, with Alabama rising to the forefront:

There remains room for growth in Saban's latest star-studded haul, which should serve as a scary thought for opponents. Alabama is firmly in the mix for 5-star difference-makers like defensive end CeCe Jefferson (Glen Saint Mary, Florida), linebacker Malik Jefferson (Mesquite, Texas), defensive tackle Daron Payne (Birmingham, Alabama) and athlete Terry Godwin (Hogansville, Georgia).

The latest flurry of commitments gives Alabama eight pledges since its spring game on April 19. Not bad for a squad that finished last season on its first losing streak in five years.

Alabama was unseated as national champion five months ago, but the program continues to back up its claim as undisputed recruiting king.

 

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

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Why Success Might Not Be Guaranteed for the SEC Network

The SEC had another banner season at the bank, as the conference announced (h/t Kami Mattioli of Sporting News) its members reeled in around $21 million per school during the fiscal year of 2013.

That puts the SEC well ahead of everybody else and just behind the king of cash, the Big Ten, which distributed $23-$26 million per school in the same fiscal year. And the SEC has reasons to be bullish on the future, as its own SEC Network is scheduled to launch Aug. 14.

But any prediction that the conference will outpace the Big Ten in earnings with the SEC Network would be premature. There are still a number of issues involving the nascent network, not the least of which is that it has yet to reach agreements with some of the nation's biggest TV carriers.

With an asking price of $1.30 per subscriber within the conference's 11-state footprint, the SEC Network is demanding significantly more than either the Big Ten ($1) or the Pac-12 ($.80) for their networks. As a point of comparison, the NBC Sports Network, which carries the Stanley Cup playoffs and the English Premier League, costs merely 31 cents per subscriber.

So far, DirecTV (20 million subscribers) and Comcast (22 million) have not caved to the SEC's demands. DirecTV in fact has not carried the Pac-12 Network since its inception two years ago, and the impasse is expected to continue into a third season this fall.

Even with the SEC fans threatening to make a switch, these providers might not budge so easily, as the sports television landscape has changed dramatically over the past five years. The proliferation of regional sports networks and their exorbitant fees have forced the providers to reevaluate their business models.

In Houston, the Comcast regional sports network that carries the Astros and Rockets recently filed for bankruptcy after it was unable to get on any carriers other than its parent Comcast. In L.A., the popular Dodgers—even with the legendary Vin Scully in the booth in perhaps his final season—have been blacked out this season on virtually every carrier other than Time Warner, which owns the new sports network that broadcasts the team's games.

The SEC Network, of course, has one advantage over the others, as it's partly owned by ESPN, which is the most expensive and perhaps the most indispensable cable network. ESPN has already made sure that the SEC Network will not be stuck only with third-tier football games involving FCS schools. South Carolina-Texas A&M has been chosen to debut the network's lineup in the 2014 season.

But even with ESPN's clout, there is no guarantee that these carriers, facing considerable consumer backlash over rising cable bills, will play ball. For as popular as sports are in general—and, in particular, in the South—there is still a considerable number of people who don't care and don't want to pay for something they won't watch.

"A lot of the households would assign a very low value to an SEC regional sports network," Andrew Zimbalist, a noted sports economist recently told USA Today. "There is a real structural question of how important it is for a cable distributor to carry this, particularly in light of the fact the bottom income earners have had their wages stagnate over the last decade and cable bills keep going up and up and up.

"I think we've been in a bubble and there has been a lot of over-bidding, and these little fracases we're seeing are harbingers of sustained battles that will be happening."

SEC has quite a bit of brand power and fan loyalty. But given the current business climate, the success of the SEC Network is hardly a certainty. 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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New Florida Offense Perfect Fit for Jeff Driskel and the Chip on His Shoulder

The 2013 season didn't exactly go according to plan for Florida.

Coming off an 11-2 campaign and a berth in the Sugar Bowl, the Gators were expected to contend for the SEC East title and stay relevant on the national scene.

Things went south in a hurry. 

A Week 2 loss to Miami followed by a season-ending leg injury to starting quarterback Jeff Driskel suffered in the third game of the season vs. Tennessee sent the Florida program sputtering to a 4-8 season, which included a home loss to then-FCS Georgia Southern.

The Gators are angry.

"I think the whole team has a chip on their shoulder," Driskel said. "Our record doesn't show the kind of talent we have on our team, and I think we came back and attacked spring with the mentality that 'this is it.' We don't have years to waste, and nobody's going to feel sorry for us."

Head coach Will Muschamp certainly won't.

Now entering his fourth year, Muschamp enters the 2014 season coaching for his job. He made a philosophical change by bringing in former Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to run his hurry-up offense in place of former pro-style coordinator Brent Pease.

The change suits Florida athletes well, especially Driskel, a former 5-star prospect and the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country in the class of 2011, according to 247Sports.com.

"When Driskel came out of high school, the only real concern that we had was that he wasn't terribly productive and his team didn't win very many games," said JC Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247Sports.com. "That's somewhat important for a quarterback, but the arm, arm strength, athleticism, size—all of that was still enough to make him the top quarterback prospect in the country."

Finally, he's in the perfect offense to fit his skills.

Roper's new scheme will put more emphasis on getting athletes out in space, which includes Driskel in the running game.

"In the new offense, we really want to create space and that's going to be the best thing for our guys," Driskel said. "We have a lot of guys who can make plays in space, but when you don't have that space, it's kind of difficult. Spreading it out and getting more one-on-one matchups for our playmakers is going to be great for us."

As is the case around the country, tempo is a buzz word for the Gators this spring. They finished first in the SEC in time of possession in each of the past two seasons, but those offenses finished last and 12th in the SEC in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

If the 2014 Gators lead the conference in that statistic, something has gone terribly wrong. Pushing tempo is a big part of Roper's scheme, and Driskel is pumped.

"I really do like the tempo," Driskel said. "When you get in a tempo and don't huddle, you can really get into a groove as a quarterback. There were times in spring where I felt really comfortable and everything went smooth."

He was more of a caretaker in his one and only full season as the starting quarterback, passing for 1,646 yards, 12 touchdowns and five picks in 2012, leading the Gators to the Sugar Bowl against Louisville. But that was more a product of the system than Driskel.

The 6'4", 237-pounder from Oviedo, Florida, is as much of a threat with his legs as he is with his arms, and he finally has the scheme that fits his skills.

"I remember a pass he threw in the Under Armour game where he rolled out and slung it," Shurburtt said. "It was dropped, but it looked like something Brett Favre would do. My former colleague Gerry Hamilton and I were extremely impressed. I still believe he's got the tools to be a first-round draft pick, physically."

The offense, which will primarily be run out of the shotgun, will allow Driskel to use his legs more than he has in the past. The zone read was a part of Pease's scheme but will be a focal point with Roper.

That's great news for Driskel, who not only has experience running it, but has speed to burn.

"I think teams know that I'm fast," Driskel said. "I've put on film that I can run by DBs, and that's talked about during the week when defenses are getting ready for us. It's just something else that the defense has to account for, and is kind of where the game is moving. That's not just us. That's everywhere."

Driskel has weapons around him.

Demarcus Robinson has the ability to become a deep threat, Quinton Dunbar is a veteran who is a reliable target and 6'0", 190-pound slot receiver Andre Debose should be back this summer after tearing his ACL last August. 

Two of Roper's receivers who broke the 900-yard mark at Duke—Jamison Crowder and Donovan Varner—are similar to Debose. When he's 100 percent, Debose's versatility will be a tremendous asset for Driskel and the Gators.

"I don't think there's too many offenses that wouldn't want someone with his kind of speed," Driskel said. "Anytime you can get one-on-one matchups, it's tough to cover a guy like that throughout an entire game."

Muschamp's philosophical change, the tempo in the offense and the chip on Florida's shoulder has Driskel and this team motivated.

"Potential doesn't mean anything," Driskel said. "You have to show it on Saturdays, and we know that. There's a real sense of urgency on this team."

 

*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand and all stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

 


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Auburn in Position to Steal 5-Stars Terry Godwin, Trent Thompson from Georgia

With football nearing on The Plains, Auburn has no expectations less than reaching the national championship game again. The Tigers landed fullback Chandler Cox this weekend and brought in four 5-star recruits to visit for Big Cat Weekend. 

One of those 5-star athletes is No. 1 ATH Torrence Gibson. Will the Tigers land Gibson and the other three 5-star athletes? 

Watch B/R's College Football analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee as they break down the other top recruits who made the visit to Auburn this weekend. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital. All recruit rankings from 247 Sports Composite.

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Updated Torrance Gibson Odds: Where Will 5-Star Stud Land?

5-star athlete Torrance Gibson recently released his list of his top seven schools in order, so we updated our odds board for where he will play his college ball. The Tennessee Volunteers and the Auburn Tigers are tied for first on Gibson's list, but which is the actual favorite to land the stud dual-threat QB?

Check out Adam Kramer update the odds on where Torrance Gibson will land. 

 

Highlights courtesy XOS Digital. All recruit rankings from 247 Sports' composite rankings.

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Pac-12 Football: Power Ranking 5 Teams with the Best Chance to Win Conference

At the end of the Pac-12 season, only one team will be able to call itself a champion as it hoists the league trophy in the air with jubilation. Since 2009, only Oregon and Stanford have held the title, but the number of teams that could snatch it in 2014 is more than usual.

In fact, while both the Ducks and Cardinal are among the favorites yet again, no one would be surprised to see two or three other teams win the conference crown.

Finally, there are the long shots that have talent and may just sneak up on everyone if the heavyweights aren't careful.

We're power ranking the five Pac-12 teams with the best chance to win the league in 2014. Does your team make the cut?

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Position-by-Position Preview of Clemson's 2014 Roster

Preseason college football magazines are starting to hit newsstands, which means one thing; football season is right around the corner.

Spring practice is complete, and position battles have already been decided for several schools.

For the Clemson Tigers, however, a lot of work remains.

Yes, the Tigers know who their starting quarterback is, but who will replace Sammy Watkins at wide receiver? Or Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley along the offensive line?

Two months remain until fall camp begins, but here is a position-by-position preview of Clemson's 2014 roster.  

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5 Burning Questions in 5-Star CB Kendall Sheffield's Recruitment

At 5'11" and 180 pounds, Kendall Sheffield is a 5-star cornerback from Texas who attends Fort Bend Marshall High School in Missouri City. He's an elite athlete who has exceptional speed, quickness and movement skills.

Sheffield can work well in all three general coverage alignments, plus he could have some value as a returner on special teams in college. The Texan is among the most coveted prospects in the nation, as the recruiting spotlight is always on him.

There's several pressing questions surrounding Sheffield's recruitment that need to be answered.

All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

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8 Recruits with Best Shot to Finish No. 1 in Class of 2015

As recruiting moves into the summer, many players will be stepping out more often to showcase their skills. That means more evaluations will be made, which will lead to the fluctuation and fluidity of various recruiting rankings.

The No. 1 spot is the obvious aiming point of every recruit in the country. However, only a few prospects have a legit shot at finishing this recruiting cycle on top.

A 5-star defensive tackle is trying to continue his reign, while a 5-star linebacker is steadily rising up the rankings. The same can be said about an explosive 5-star defensive end, plus a list such as this one wouldn't be complete without a quarterback.

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Michigan Commit Jabrill Peppers Runs a 100-Meter Dash in 10.52 Seconds

University of Michigan commit Jabrill Peppers is one of the most highly touted recruits in the 2014 class, and his breakaway speed was on display at his state track meet this past Friday.

Peppers, a 5-star athlete who is set to play defensive back for the Wolverines, showed off his blazing speed in the 100-meter dash, which he finished in 10.52 seconds. Alabama signee and 5-star cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick finished second.

[YouTubeh/t College Football Talk]

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Position-by-Position Preview of UCLA's 2014 Roster

Both excitement and enhanced pressure categorizes the UCLA football team heading into the 2014 season. 

With Brett Hundley and the majority of the squad from last year returning, the Bruins are primed to launch themselves into the national discussion. The foundation built by Jim Mora and his staff has fortified a previously fractured and apathetic group. 

Primarily speaking, this team will rely upon a bevy of talented juniors and sophomores. 

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Position-by-Position Preview of Nebraska's 2014 Roster

It still feels far away, but the 2014 college football season is getting closer. With it, previews upon previews are being released in anticipation.

As for Nebraska, the glimpse at what each position brings for next season is what's capturing a lot of attention. From the quarterback to the defensive line, there are a lot of positives. However, there are still some question marks.

Does Nebraska have what it takes to compete for a Big Ten title and have a chance to play in the very first College Football Playoff?

Here's a position-by-position preview of the Huskers' 2014 roster.

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Breaking Down the Best Defensive Players in Each College Football Conference

Every conference lost some of its best defensive players from last season, but every conference returned some as well. Such is the natural ebb and flow of college football.

No league has been completely depleted at any layer of the defense—even if it lost every member of the first-team defensive line, linebacking corps or secondary. There will always be a group of players waiting to take those first-teamers' place the following season.

Here is a look at the projected top defensive players in each conference—one guy for each level of the defense.

Based on how they performed last season (or the last time they were healthy), how they have allegedly improved this spring and the players who were lost around them, they are good bets to be the top linemen, linebackers and backs in their respective leagues.

Sound off below and tell me whom I missed.

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Expect Notre Dame to Land 5-Star Recruits with Satellite Camps

Notre Dame recently announced that it will hold a satellite camp at Georgia State in an effort to land more recruits from SEC land. Penn State has had success in recent years with their satellite camp, and Notre Dame is looking to replicate this success and build their national brand. 

What does this mean for the top recruits in the south? How will SEC teams react to this plan?

Watch Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder discuss the Notre Dame Fighting Irish camp and how successful it will be. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

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5 College Football Blue Bloods Primed to Re-Enter the Spotlight in 2014

2013 was a down year for some of college football's traditional powers. As a result, some coaches, like Texas' Mack Brown, lost their job. Others are now squarely on the hot seat heading into 2014. 

Can this be the year that Texas or Florida turn things around? Can Michigan finally start trending upward again with head coach Brady Hoke? Usually, talent isn't an issue at these programs. But because of injuries, coaching struggles or both, results haven't been up to par. 

The good news for these programs is that they can bounce back quickly.

Which five blue-blood programs are primed to re-enter the national spotlight this season? Our answers are in the following slides. 

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3 Reasons 4-Star DE Jashon Cornell Will Sign with Notre Dame

James Onwualu. Michael Floyd. Ryan Harris. Rashon Powers-Neal. Marcus Freeman. 

Notre Dame's pipeline to St. Paul's Cretin-Derham Hall has been open and flowing for over a decade, with Minnesota's top Catholic football program feeding a handful of players to the Irish. Head coach Brian Kelly has another big reason to head back to the Twin Cities, with current CDH defensive end Jashon Cornell among the top prospects in the 2015 recruiting cycle. 

Cornell made early waves when some recruiting services had him pegged as the top recruit in the country heading into his junior season. And while his rating bounced around a bit after an injury-riddled 2013 season, Cornell has taken to the recruiting circuit this offseason to reestablish himself as one of the country's top defensive linemen. 

Cornell was in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend at the Nike Football Training Camp, where he was named the defensive line MVP of the camp. He also punched his ticket to The Opening, Nike's top invite-only football camp of the summer. 

The competition will be steep for Cornell. With offers from just about every elite program in the country, the 6'4", 255-pounder will likely choose between Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Alabama. 

Here are three reasons why Irish fans should still feel confident that Cornell will end up in South Bend.

 

Recruiting Pitch Will Be Different with Brian VanGorder and Mike Elston 

News breaking this weekend has Ohio State fans feeling very good about Cornell's recruitment. That's because Cornell called his visit to Ohio State one of his favorites, pushing the Buckeyes into the lead group of schools. 

The Buckeyes are relatively new players in the Cornell sweepstakes, though a desire to play with Ohio State target (as well as key Notre Dame recruit) linebacker Justin Hilliard has Buckeye fans hoping to double down with two elite defensive prospects. And while new Buckeye defensive line coach Larry Johnson built a reputation at Penn State as one of the best defensive line recruiters in the country, Irish fans shouldn't lose sleep over another recruiting war with Urban Meyer

One thing going in the Irish's favor is the coaching changes on the defensive side of the ball for Notre Dame. New defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will breathe life into Cornell's recruitment.

VanGorder's attacking schemes are much more appealing for pass-rushers like Cornell and better fit his body size. In former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's scheme, Cornell likely would've been a 3-4 defensive end, growing into a 300-pounder like Kapron Lewis-Moore. Under VanGorder, Cornell can walk onto campus and fit in at defensive end, playing upfield and aggressively chasing quarterbacks as opposed to holding the point of attack. 

The Irish were one of the first teams to recruit Cornell, identifying him before his sophomore season at Cretin-Derham Hall. And while the continuity of building relationships for the long haul is helpful, in recruiting, fresh and new is sometimes most important.

Cornell recently mentioned that his relationship with defensive line coach Mike Elston is getting better. He also plans on spending time with VanGorder on his next visit to South Bend. Add to that Kelly is taking on Cornell's recruitment personally and it's clear that Notre Dame has made Hilliard one of its priorities.  

 

Seantrel Henderson's Nightmarish 3 Seasons at Miami Will Play in Notre Dame's Favor

There's no question that Cornell wants to be his own man. And blazing his own path at a different school could be appealing for the blue-chip defensive end. 

But the tumultuous three seasons Seantrel Henderson spent at Miami should likely weigh on Cornell's mind. Another Cretin-Derham Hall prospect, Henderson's free-fall from No. 1 recruit in the country to seventh-round draft pick is a cautionary tale.

Henderson severely underachieved at Miami, choosing to play for the Hurricanes after passing up Notre Dame and backing away from a commitment to USC. 

If you are looking for appealing college destinations, it's no surprise that Notre Dame finished behind Southern Cal and Miami for Henderson. And while Kelly has never backed away from the academic challenges that come with going to Notre Dame, he can point to the success he's had not just graduating his roster, but developing players for the next level, with the Irish's resurgence in the NFL draft the past few years a key data point.

Cornell should have candid conversations with former CDH athletes like Onwualu and Floyd. The latter can walk him through the challenges he faced at Notre Dame before coming out victorious, as Floyd battled through adversity before earning his degree and becoming a first-round draft pick. 

But Cornell should also seek Henderson's counsel as well. It will likely help him understand the road in front of him and hopefully help avoid some of the pitfalls that got in Henderson's way. 

 

When It Comes to Aligning Incentives, Notre Dame Offers Too Much of What Cornell Wants 

Getting a grasp on Cornell's top school is difficult work. 247Sports.com's most recent Crystal Ball has 36 percent of experts picking Ohio State, 24 percent choosing the Irish, 21 percent choosing Michigan State, 12 percent picking Alabama and 5 percent guessing Michigan. 

But Cornell has identified three key factors to picking a school: academics, early enrollment and an opportunity to play early. All three of those desires line up perfectly with Notre Dame.

Academically, Notre Dame is among the top schools in the country, and the top institutional match of football and education on Cornell's list. If early enrollment is a key factor, Cornell only needs to ask his cousin how that went, as Notre Dame sophomore James Onwualu was the first CDH student-athlete to graduate early and enroll at a college for the spring semester of football. 

And early playing time looks like it won't be difficult to predict. Right now the Irish have senior Ishaq Williams and junior Romeo Okwara starting at defensive end. Behind that is a question mark. While Notre Dame brought in a large collection of talented edge players in the 2014 recruiting cycle, none are as highly-rated as Cornell. 

There's a reason that Notre Dame has had success at Cretin-Derham Hall, and that Irish head coaches Bob Davie, Ty Willingham, Charlie Weis and Brian Kelly have all landed top prep prospects from there. It's the institutional fit that has many CDH and Notre Dame grads feeling like the college experience is an extension of the one they had in high school. 

(This writer included.)

Cornell has more trips scheduled for the summer, including visits to SEC country and Penn State. He's also set to return to South Bend in the next few weeks.

So while there are more than a few twists and turns left in his recruitment, expect Cornell to end up at Notre Dame in the end. 

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Florida State Football: Position-by-Position Preview of Seminoles' 2014 Roster

Florida State loses 10 starters from the 2013 national championship team. But the Seminoles were so deep (and ahead by so many points in many games) that they were able to extend playing time to second- and third-team players last year.

There are holes to fill, but none are insurmountable. Years of top-10 signing classes by Jimbo Fisher have ensured that he and his staff have plenty of options. 

With Jameis Winston and so many playmakers returning, FSU's offense should again be prolific. And the defense is expected to be just as stingy, which could help the Seminoles win the ACC title and earn a spot in the new College Football Playoff.

 

Quarterbacks

Projected starter: Jameis Winston

Backups: Sean Maguire and John Franklin III

Incoming freshman:JJ Cosentino

It's impossible to do better than what Winston accomplished on the field as a freshman, throwing for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns (a single-season school record)—and, of course, winning a Heisman Trophy and a national title. Expectations are high for Winston again.

His numbers may not be as high in 2014, especially with FSU replacing two starting receivers in Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw. 

After Jacob Coker's transfer to Alabama, Maguire has the inside track to win the No. 2 job ahead of Franklin III and Cosentino. But if Winston leaves early, that trio will be battling for the starting job in 2015.

 

Running backs

Projected starter: Karlos Williams

Backups: Ryan Green, Mario Pender, Freddie Stevenson and Nigel Terrell

Incoming freshman:Dalvin Cook (early enrollee)

Williams' move from safety to running back helped FSU overwhelm defenses on the ground in 2013. He was often the No. 2 or 3 option, though, and the majority of his 91 carries, 748 yards and 11 touchdowns came in the second half.

But Williams could enjoy a breakout season. He loves to run outside the tackles and use his burst to get into the open field, so he is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball.

The big question is: Who will be Williams' backup? It's likely that FSU will use a mix of Cook, Pender and Green (Stevenson should start at fullback over Nigel Terrell). Even with Winston throwing the ball, FSU found a way to run 505 times in 14 games. Jimbo Fisher will again hand off as much as he throws in an attempt to wear out defenses. It worked in 2013 … will it work again in 2014?

 

Wide receivers

Projected starters: Rashad Greene, Scooter Haggins and Jesus Wilson

Backups: Isaiah Jones, Kermit Whitfield and Christian Green

Incoming freshman:Travis Rudolph, Ermon Lane and Javon Harrison

FSU's season will hinge on finding a No. 2 receiver after playmaker Rashad Greene (1,128 receiving yards, 9 TDs). Winston and Greene have excellent chemistry and should again be able to connect frequently in games. But the No. 2 option could be a senior like Haggins or Green. Or one of the talented sophomores like Wilson, Jones or Whitfield.

If he stays healthy, Haggins could win the slot receiver job. Winston said after the spring game that Wilson was ahead of the other sophomores, so he could hold on through August to start the opener. But if they don't, Fisher has plenty of choices. The three freshmen should be able to contribute more as the season goes on (Fisher's playbook is very complex), and expect all three to be vying for starting jobs in 2015.

 

Tight ends

Projected starter: Nick O'Leary

Backups: Kevin Haplea and Jeremy Kerr

Incoming freshmen:Mavin Saunders and Ryan Izzo

O'Leary had 33 receptions for 557 yards and seven touchdowns, and his 11 career TDs are already the most by a tight end in school history. O'Leary could have better numbers in 2014 simply because he's FSU's No. 2 receiving option at the moment.

Haplea and Kerr both suffered season-ending knee injuries in the summer. But the healthy return of both means that Fisher will be able to use more sets with two tight ends. Haplea is an exceptional blocker, and the 6'5" Kerr was a strong blocker in high school. 

With a wealth of talent, Fisher will likely redshirt Saunders or Izzo (or both). Saunders has played just two seasons of football, one at receiver and another at tight end. But the former basketball star has soft hands and is exceptional in the red zone. Izzo had nearly 1,100 receiving yards his last two high school seasons.

 

Offensive line

Projected starters: LT Cameron Erving, LG Josue Matias, C Austin Barron, RG Tre Jackson and RT Bobby Hart

Backups: Wilson Bell, Ruben Carter, Ryan Hoefeld and Alec Eberle

Incoming freshmen: Kareem Are (early enrollee), Roderick Johnson, Derrick Kelly, Corey Martinez, Chad Mavety and Brock Ruble

FSU is loaded with playmakers, but the reason for the Seminoles' success is an offensive line that pass-blocks well and clears holes for the running game. The Seminoles had 7,267 offensive yards in 2013, and they could again have one of college football's top offensive lines.

Erving opted to return for his senior season, and it's a decision that should help him in the eyes of the NFL but will also protect Winston's blind side. The ACC's Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner in 2013, Erving could be a first-round pick in 2015.

Matias and Jackson have both been All-ACC picks, and they are physical blockers inside. Hart has struggled at times and needs to develop more of a nasty edge. Barron has five games of starting experience and should start at center. 

 

Defensive ends

Projected starters: Mario Edwards Jr. and Chris Casher

Backup: DeMarcus Walker

Incoming freshmen:Lorenzo Featherston and Rick Leonard

After bruising quarterbacks with pass-rushers like Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine, FSU used linebackers and defensive backs to bring the heat in 2013. Of FSU's 35 sacks, just 6.5 came from Edwards Jr., Casher and Walker.

Edwards Jr. is a monster at 6'3" and 295 pounds, and he should increase his numbers from 29 tackles and 3.5 sacks. But he also likes to slide inside and play defensive tackle as FSU adjusts its fronts (a linebacker also often comes down to play on the line).

Casher didn't start in 2013, but he is in line for increased playing time. Walker earned valuable experience as a true freshman and will battle Casher for the starting job. Featherston was considered the top prep recruit in North Carolina by ESPN. Leonard was named Maryland's prep defensive player of the year in 2013, when he had 14 sacks.

 

Defensive tackles

Projected starters: Eddie Goldman, Nile Lawrence-Stample

Backups: Desmond Hollin, Keith Bryant, Derrick Mitchell, Giorgio Newberry and Justin Shanks

Incoming freshmen:Demarcus Christmas, Frederick Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Adam Torres and Arthur Williams

FSU will, of course, miss defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, who was a second-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens. Eddie Goldman, who was considered the nation's top defensive tackle in the class of 2012, may be poised for a breakout season.

He has steadily improved (19 tackles, two sacks in 2013), and while it's not likely he will have a Jernigan-like season, Goldman could collapse the pocket from the middle and be an effective run-stopper. Fisher praised both Lawrence-Stample and Hollin in the spring, and both will be part of a deep rotation of defensive tackles.

FSU reloaded in February, signing five defensive tackles. Coaches clearly must redshirt some, but not after what should be an entertaining competition in August.

 

Linebackers

Projected starters: Terrance Smith, Matthew Thomas and Reggie Northrup

Backups: Ukeme Eligwe, E.J. Levenberry and Ro'Derrick Hoskins

Incoming freshmen:Jacob Pugh, Kain Daub and Delvin Purifoy

FSU loses its leading tackler and emotional leader in Telvin Smith (90 tackles) as well as hybrid linebacker/end Christian Jones (56 tackles). The Seminoles will start junior Terrance Smith (59 tackles) and then surround him with some rising stars.

Fisher and new linebackers coach Bill Miller have plenty of choices. Northrup didn't start in 2013 but still showed his playmaking ability and accumulated 46 tackles. Levenberry (39 tackles) and Eligwe (28 tackles) both saw significant playing time as freshmen. The best of the group may be Matthew Thomas, a 5-star prospect who missed most of 2013 with a shoulder injury.

Daub, Pugh and Purifoy are all highly regarded and could contribute as backups in 2014.

 

Defensive backs

Projected starters: Jalen Ramsey, Nate Andrews, Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams

Backups: Tyler Hunter, Nick Waisome, Keelin Smith, Lamarcus Brutus, Marquez White and Colin Blake

Incoming freshman:Trey Marshall (early enrollee)

FSU allowed a national-low 156.6 passing yards per game. And even after losing senior corner Lamarcus Joyner and senior safety Terrence Brooks, the Seminoles could still have one of the nation's top defensive backfields.

Darby and Williams are both lockdown corners that helped FSU hold opponents to just 14 passing touchdowns in 14 games in 2013. Ramsey is a fast, physical safety. Andrews said this spring that he thought he would be taking a redshirt in 2013 but instead led the team with four interceptions.

Fisher raved about Marshall's versatility in the spring, saying that he could play corner, nickel corner or safety.

 

Specialists

Projected starters: PK Roberto Aguayo, P Cason Beatty

Backup: P Jonathan Hernandez

Aguayo won the Lou Groza Award as a freshman, making 21 of 22 field-goal attempts. He's a confident kicker with a strong leg. If FSU struggles in the red zone with a new group of receivers, Aguayo could be called on more often to kick a few chip-shot field goals.

Beatty averaged 41.1 yards per punt but needs to be more consistent. If he struggles in the preseason or early in the year, Fisher could look to the walk-on Hernandez or even Cosentino, who was signed as a quarterback but has a strong leg and punted in high school.

 

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

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Lane Kiffin Has Great RBs at Alabama, but He Took It Too Far with NFL Comments

It took a while, but we're finally getting a taste of the old Lane Kiffin we all know and love.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban generally doesn't let his assistants speak to the press very often, with the exception of once during fall camp and required press events leading up to bowl games. 

But Saban lets his assistants speak at select offseason events that, while they are public, technically aren't press events. 

New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was a guest speaker at the DEX Imaging 20th Annual L'Arche Football Preview late last week in Mobile, Ala. According to Mike Herndon of AL.com, the former USC, Tennessee and Oakland Raiders head coach had high praise for his running backs.

"As you guys know extremely well, I think the offense is led by the tailbacks," Kiffin said according to Herndon. "There probably aren't three more talented tailbacks in the NFL on a roster than we're fortunate to be able to work with at Alabama."

Well hello, Mr. Kiffin. The college football world—and live microphones in general—missed you.

He's referring to his trio of running backs—T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake—all of whom are talented and excel in different areas. That gives him the luxury of keeping any one of the three in as a feature back, but mixing and matching based on the scheme, strengths and weaknesses of the opposing defenses.

But better than NFL running backs?

Come on.

There's nothing wrong with Kiffin talking up his guys, but let's tone down the hype meter just a bit. 

Henry is going to be a superstar, and he will likely vault in front of Yeldon on the depth chart this fall—especially if Yeldon's fumbling woes continue. Drake has been solid as a backup and certainly has the burst to be a big-time weapon—especially when put in positions to succeed.

But better than NFL running back corps?

The Houston Texans had Arian Foster and Ben Tate in 2013, and the San Francisco 49ers currently boast Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore and Carlos Hyde. They're just two of several teams who would vehemently disagree.

This is the same conversation that popped up last October, when the question of "Can Alabama beat the Jacksonville Jaguars?" first arose. John Ewing of Prediction Machine (via USA Today) shot that down in a hurry.

No, of course not.

Now, are Alabama's running backs the best group in the SEC?

With apologies to Georgia's Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, as well as the small village Texas A&M boasts and Arkansas' trio of Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams and Korliss Marshall, yes, Alabama's running backs are the best.

With a new quarterback who's coming in during the summer in Jacob Coker, Alabama's running backs will be counted on to ease that transition. All of the eggs are in Coker's basket at quarterback, and if he struggles, the running back corps will be even more of an offensive focal point than it already will be.

Now they have some insurmountable hype to live up to on top of the razor-thin margin of error that exists at a place like Alabama, where championships are expected.

No pressure, kids.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com.


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Position-by-Position Preview of Alabama's 2014 Roster

You don’t want to say that any time the University of Alabama football program doesn’t play for the national championship under Nick Saban the season wasn’t a success, but last year essentially showed otherwise.

The Crimson Tide beat Texas A&M Johnny Manziel on his home field, won the always-difficult matchup against LSU and with an 11-0 start were incredibly close to being No. 1 from start to finish during the regular season.

Of course, the last time the Crimson Tide came up short they responded by winning the next two national championships, so Saban is hoping that history repeats itself. Even with major questions at quarterback and in the secondary, there’s no doubt that Alabama has enough talent to contend, so the big question this spring was if it had the right mental makeup.

“I’m very encouraged by the attitude that we have on our team,” Saban said.

So far Alabama has been able to avoid the major distractions it had to deal with a year ago and nearly everyone who signed on as part of the nation’s top recruiting class (the unanimous choice among top recruiting evaluators) are already on campus taking summer classes.

“Guys are just a lot more hungry,” senior linebacker Trey DePriest said. “We didn’t finish the season like we wanted to. Guys knew that and they just took a different approach to it, and are trying to get back to the standard to how we do stuff.”

Here’s a position-by-position look at the 2014 Crimson Tide:

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