NCAA Football News
KENNESAW, Ga. — It's one thing to build a program into a national power, but it's entirely different to build one from scratch.
The support, money and logistics associated with starting a college football program are enough to make an administrator's head spin.
Despite that, several startup programs have found success over the last 20 years, including Georgia State, Old Dominion and South Florida—which played its first game in 1997 and was ranked No. 2 in the nation in 2007.
Two decades ago, Kennesaw State University was a blip on the college athletics radar. A commuter school. A road sign on I-75 just northwest of Atlanta that, if you weren't paying attention, would miss as quickly as that Chick-fil-A a couple of exits ago that you desperately wanted to stop at for lunch.
Fast-forward 20 years, and Kennesaw State is much more than a road sign, it's a full-fledged destination university that's about to make a major splash on the college football scene.
A project that's been six years in the making, the Owls will join the world of college football as part of the Big South Conference in FCS in 2015, with their season opener taking place on Thursday, September 3 against East Tennessee State in Johnson City, Tennessee.
How will they do it? A blend of a coaching superstar, support from the community and a staff that's familiar with the state of Georgia.
A Front Man
Around most of Georgia, Vince Dooley is known as the man who brought a national championship to Athens. In Kennesaw, though, he's known as the man who became the first face of Kennesaw State football.
Dooley was named as the chairman of Kennesaw State's football exploratory committee in December 2009. That committee included 34 people, four subcommittees and was charged with coming to a consensus on whether or not to pursue football.
"It took us about seven months, but finally, with a document about an inch thick, the consensus was, overwhelmingly, that we recommend to the president that he move forward with starting a football program," Dooley told Bleacher Report.
Why take the risk of attaching his name to a startup program in rather uncertain economic times?
Simple. Dooley recognized that, for Kennesaw State, football was the logical next step.
"This is a school that started out as a commuter school, and then it became a residential school," he said. "Now it has dormitories and a dining hall, and the next big step is to give it a culture and something for people to be proud of with a mascot, their colors and a fight song. Football does that more so than any other sport on campus."
It wasn't without pressure, though.
The Georgia Board of Regents was the determining factor in whether or not to allow Kennesaw State to pursue football. It recently allowed Georgia State to start up a program just as the economic crisis of 2008 began to take hold, and requested that Kennesaw State find $5-10 million to cover startup costs before being approved.
"They took a little bit of a firmer stance than they have in the past," Dooley said. "Georgia State started football, and they didn’t have hands on as much now. They’re watching everything, and making us jump through a lot of financial hoops, and they’ve been able to do that."
Fifth Third Bank hopped on board and became the first business to partner with the Kennesaw State football program. Their investment will be prominent in Year 1. The 8,318-seat soccer-specific stadium built in 2010, which is located adjacent to campus and was used by the now-defunct Atlanta Beat of the Women's Professional Soccer, has been rebranded for football as Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
"This relationship has always felt like a great match due to the similarity in our growth plans, community commitments and values,” Hal Clemmer, President and CEO of Fifth Third Bank Georgia, said. "Our expanded relationship with KSU reflects our plans to continue growing in Cobb County, the broader Atlanta metro area and throughout the state, supporting our communities and building our brand."
The pressure to find a company willing to take a risk on a startup plan helped the committee focus on what's important and how to build the program the right way.
"It’s because of that, that we really think they have a sound plan, good leadership in position and got the right coach," Dooley said.
Homegrown Head Coach
The "right coach" was one who wouldn't take no for an answer, and one with more ties to the state of Georgia than roads named "Peachtree" in the metro Atlanta area.
Brian Bohannon didn't know much about Kennesaw State University when he was the wide receivers coach at Georgia Tech under Paul Johnson.
He barely even knew it existed.
"I live in Woodstock, which is eight miles from the Kennesaw State campus," Bohannon told Bleacher Report. "I’m commuting to Georgia Tech every day down I-75, which can be challenging. I had heard of Kennesaw State, but I knew nothing about it. I had never been on campus."
Yet, when Kennesaw State president Daniel S. Papp began the quest to get football approved, it was something that Bohannon pursued feverishly.
"As I’m hearing all of these rumblings of football starting at Kennesaw State, Chip Rogers—a former state senator—is coaching my 10-year-old son’s basketball team," Bohannon said. "He said that [the team] is going to watch Kennesaw State play basketball, and I asked if I could go because I’ve never been over there. I said, ‘Listen, I think they’re going to start football, and I might be interested in this job."
"So we go over to the Convocation Center, and they weren’t very good at basketball at the time," Bohannon continued. "They had just transitioned to a new coach. I walk in, and the place is packed. I’m going, ‘you gotta be kidding me?’"
Bohannon's connections in Georgia were a huge selling point for athletics director Vaughn Williams. As an FCS team in the talent-rich Peach State, the administration and various committees knew that they'd have to find a relentless worker who knew the recruiting grounds backward and forward.
Bohannon's work in the Peach State, his time as a Georgia receiver and his roots as the son of a legendary head coach (Lloyd) in Griffin made him a natural fit.
"I wanted somebody from this state," Williams told Bleacher Report. "Football in this state is huge, and I felt it was very important to have somebody who has recruited here, who has played here and who has lived here at all levels. Bohannon happened to have all of those attributes, and a lot of others did too, but it was important to have a native son."
Bohannon didn't sit back on his Peach State resume and assume they'd find him. He tracked down Williams in December 2012—two months before football was even announced by the school.
On a cold, rainy Christmas Eve at the Marietta Diner just southwest of campus, the two met for a job interview that would define the future of the program.
"We talked for a couple of hours, not really football—just stuff," Bohannon said. "He said, ‘Brian, have you ever seen the stadium?’ I said no, and we went up to the stadium. I walk in to basically a brand-new stadium, all chair-back, and my mouth drops. The thing about it is that I’ve been by the school the entire time, and I had seen all the buildings all the time."
"Now I’m walking through the football stadium after going to the basketball game and thinking, ‘You have to be kidding me. There’s a brand-new football locker room with 101 lockers, and they don’t even have football yet,'" he explained. "You see the support of the students and fans at the basketball game, the dedication of the program to a sport that doesn’t exist yet and I thought, ‘This is a no-brainer.’"
Bohannon got a taste of what Kennesaw State wanted to be, and wanted more.
"I went after the job. I hadn’t interviewed for a job in 17 years," he said. "I took the job with Coach Johnson and that wasn’t really even an interview. He took me out to eat at Snooky’s in Statesboro and asked what time can you be here. I went after this one. I’m contacting people on the committee. I’m doing everything I can, because to me, this was a no-brainer."
On March 24, 2013—just a month and change after the school announced football as a sport that will start in 2015, Bohannon was named its head coach. What's more, in an effort to provide stability, Williams signed Bohannon to a seven-year contract.
"We gotta lock down Georgia as much as we can, and we are doing a good job of that," Williams said. "Brian had an understanding of what he wanted to do. We needed individuals who wanted to be here for a while, and that’s the top priority. I signed Brian to a seven-year contract right out of the gate, because we need to keep this staff together as long as we can."
The combination of Williams and Bohannon leading the charge is a perfect fit in the eyes of Dooley.
"[Bohannon] was the right man for the job, and he’s done a terrific job in the two years of recruiting, organizing the staff," Dooley said. "He’s got an incredible enthusiasm. I’ve never seen two people, the AD and the football coach, with as much enthusiasm. The first game, Vaughn will be running out first with the flag leading Brian, whose eyes will be huge."
With Bohannon set and a small staff in place, it was time to spread the word.
The lifeblood of any program is recruiting. Kennesaw State isn't going to go toe-to-toe with the Georgias, Georgia Techs and big-time regional programs on the recruiting trail and win many battles. The skeleton staff of Bohannon, offensive coordinator Grant Chestnut, defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator Liam Klein and linebackers coach Shane Bowen set out to make it known to high schools that they're planning on acting like those programs with prospects.
"Not knowing what we could recruit was a challenge. Who can we get? Who can’t we get? I took the state and divvied it up," Bohannon said. "The first spring evaluation, four of us went to every school in the state of Georgia. It was the old-school, ‘come see us, this is what we have, this is what we’re doing’ type of thing."
It wasn't long until Bohannon and his staff got their first commitment in program history.
Quarterback Chandler Burks of nearby South Paulding High School became the first to commit to the Owls, and he has the pride in the program that the staff is constantly looking for on the recruiting trail.
"You have to start somewhere," Burks said in June 2013, according to Doug Roberson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "If it has to start with me, I don’t mind. This program is going to be successful. You look at who they are recruiting, they are going for the best of the best. We are going to start a tradition that will start a dynasty."
Finding commitments for the 2014 class proved to be incredibly challenging though. Anybody who signed as part of the first recruiting class in school history had to agree to a year-and-a-half of nothing but practice.
"We were fundamentally-oriented—four skill sets per position," Bohannon said. "That’s all you’re working on getting better at. We adopted the EAT motto—effort, attitude and toughness. We created competition, changed up what we did and did everything we could to keep them engaged. We involved them in leadership seminars once a week. The fall was devoted to that. Was it a challenge? Absolutely. Youth is a challenge."
Youth in players, but "youth" as a program and as coaches as well.
"Sometimes my walk from the locker room to the practice field, I talk to myself and remind myself, 'Hey, know where you are,'" Bohannon said. "We’re taking baby steps. Our kids have had a great attitude laying a foundation and being a part of history. They’ve really bought in."
On the field, Bohannon and his staff were busy laying the foundation for a successful program. But a program is much bigger than the product on the field.
Williams engaged other programs who recently started football, including Georgia State, Old Dominion, UNC-Charlotte and others, to find out what the right path to success is. They were all in consensus. It takes partners, fans and community to truly build a successful program, and Kennesaw State has that by the boatloads in suburban Atlanta.
"We have a game-day community football committee with around 95 people from around Kennesaw, including neighbors, mayors, commissioners, the Chamber, businesses," Williams said. "They’re all involved. We are all thinking about how game day is going to be and how it impacts the community, and it’s been meeting for almost two years now. You have to have your community involved."
Community involvement is great, but it also takes money. With Fifth Third Bank already on board, Williams and his staff set out to get in front of as many local and regional businesses as possible. Everything from the press box to the loge section to the student section will be sponsored—mostly by businesses that have ties to the program and local community.
"We’ll have a lot more fans 10 years from now, but right now, we have a community behind us," Williams said. "They’re supporters. They went to school in different places, and that’s fine. A lot of them said to use football to showcase the institution."
That institution, though, didn't have much of an athletic identity prior to the announcement that football would begin in 2015.
Things have changed.
"We wanted to make it easy, and start building traditions," Williams said. "There was no fight song before we got here. We changed the logo. All of these different thing are new, and we wanted to engage people in all of these things. Engage everybody in every part of the process, and people feel like they’re a part of this thing, because they are."
With a fertile recruiting ground in its own backyard and the path Georgia State took to FBS and the Sun Belt as a precedent, it might be assumed that Kennesaw State is on the fast track for college football's highest division.
The words of other startup schools that Williams spoke to during the process have stuck with him—"be who you are."
What Kennesaw State is, is a school that is only 32 years into athletics, has soccer and lacrosse using the football stadium and fills the FCS void left in the state after Georgia State and Georgia Southern moved up to FCS.
"Ten years from now, I think we are winning FCS championships," Williams said. "I think we will have the most amazing game day in FCS football. I think our supporters will have turned into rabid fans. We’ve spread that brand. This community will be painted in black and gold."
Bohannon disagrees with that goal, but in a way that pleases Williams and Owls fans.
"I told the first class, 'The goal here is to compete for a championship before you leave.' We aren’t here just to do it, we are here to win. We have a five-year plan, from scholarships to the whole ball of wax. The goal is to win an FCS championship."
After many steps off the field to accomplish that goal, the first step between the white lines takes place Thursday, Sept. 3 in Johnson City, Tennessee, at Kermit-Tipton Stadium.
It's only fitting that the field in Johnson City is named after a local legend who's well-versed on taking college programs from the outhouse to the penthouse—former Florida and current South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and 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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After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon Sayles, Sanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 200 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the class of 2016.Here we present the Top Wide Receivers.
- Overall Top 200
- Interior Linemen
- Dual-Threat Quarterbacks
- Defensive Backs
- Offensive Tackles
- Running Backs
- Defensive Tackles
- Tight Ends
- Defensive Ends
- Pro-Style Quarterbacks
Pass-catchers play a prominent role in the 2016 college football recruiting cycle, claiming more spots among top-200 prospects than any other position. It's a group that figures to elevate aerial attacks for offenses across the nation in coming seasons.
We've spent the past year scouting these dynamic young talents through in-person assessments at camps, showcases and live game action, along with film study. Here's a closer look at wide receivers who've emerged as elite members of a star-studded class, grading each recruit based on speed, agility, release, route running, blocking and—of course—hands.
All prospects scouted by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. Players ordered by appearance in 247Sports' composite rankings.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Notre Dame football squad loaded the bases and shuttled south through Indiana on Thursday, heading to Culver, Indiana, for the start of fall training camp Friday morning:
With the season opener against Texas quickly approaching, Irish head coach Brian Kelly met with the media Thursday morning to preview Notre Dame and its upcoming campaign.
What should Irish fans be watching when camp opens?
As hampered as Notre Dame was by its turnovers in 2014, the Irish defense did the squad no favors down the stretch in the regular season.
Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder enters his second year in South Bend and returns the bulk of the 2014 contributors.
“We have a number of guys who played a lot of football for us,” Kelly said. “The second year into Coach VanGorder's nomenclature, way of communicating the defensive structure, certainly everybody is much more comfortable with what they're doing, what their assignments are, what their task is, and we probably have some of the best leaders that we've had here at Notre Dame.”
Kelly called linebacker Joe Schmidt’s ability to communicate and recall information “off the charts.” The head coach also listed fellow linebacker Jarrett Grace, defensive tackle Sheldon Day, defensive back Matthias Farley and cornerback KeiVarae Russell as effective leaders on the defensive side of the ball.
“At times last year we struggled with communication,” Kelly said. “This year we feel so good about the ability to get the task done defensively because of great communicators.”
Confident and exuberant starting quarterback Malik Zaire will draw eyeballs Friday, as he steps into view as the undisputed general of the Irish offense.
With limited meaningful game experience at Notre Dame, we’ll see what the southpaw brings as a runner, thrower and leader.
Zaire rushed for 96 yards on 22 carries, including one touchdown, in the Music City Bowl victory over LSU. How similarly does Notre Dame run its offense in 2015, and what does Zaire bring to the read option?
“Anytime you have a quarterback in Malik Zaire that you feel confident that he could get the ball to your wide receivers and balance out the numbers in the running game as somebody that could run the football, it’s a great equalizer in college football today,” Kelly said.
As a passer, Zaire has only logged 35 attempts (21 completions) in his Irish career, totaling 266 yards and one score. Kelly said the Ohio native still has work to do technically, a continuation of a process from the summer, when Zaire worked with former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer at the Elite 11. For instance, Dilfer tutored Zaire on his stride and how it can affect Zaire’s timing.
Never lacking confidence, Zaire now takes over the offense.
“As a leader, he has some natural innate ability to stand in front of the group,” Kelly said. “What we're working on is clarity in message—tendency to get a little emotional in the way he talks—and you guys have interviewed him. He goes off on tangents a little bit, so we have to reel him in a little bit. And he'll do that a little bit in front of the group, and that's fine because he's comfortable in front of the group.”
Junior Greg Bryant won’t play for the Irish in 2015, changing the running back landscape.
Fellow junior Tarean Folston is still the top dog, and C.J. Prosise, a converted slot receiver, is now fully with the running backs.
Kelly praised Folston for his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and his improved pass protection, a noted sore spot in the middle of the 2014 season.
“He's going to be called on this year to carry a larger load for us as a featured back,” Kelly said. “But what we like about him is we know what we have there, and he is an established, national-caliber running back, and that is a strength for any football team going into the season.”
Kelly lauded Prosise’s “home-run” ability and said the 220-pound speedster will have the opportunity to land a lot of carries.
“Becoming more comfortable running north and south and being patient [is key for Prosise],” Kelly said. “The biggest thing with running backs is their patience and letting the offensive line work in unison and work up to that next level. I mean, that is the most difficult thing.”
Second-year wide receiver Justin Brent will get an “audition” at running back, Kelly said, a position the Indiana product played during his senior season of high school.
“If he takes it and he goes downhill and he plays physical, I'll find some carries for him, and I'll get him on every special team,” Kelly said. “If he wants to do that, then I think I can get him some playing time. If not, I think it's going to be hard for him to get on the field because we have such great depth at the wide receiver position.
“Will it work? I don't know. But he is a very gifted athlete.”
Perhaps unexpectedly, Kelly labeled running back as “a strength of our offense.” It sure helps when there’s an experienced, physical offensive line to plow ahead. And echoing his spring sentiments, Kelly highlighted his line.
“We're a much more physical group than we were last year,” Kelly said.
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, center Nick Martin and right guard Steve Elmer return plenty of starting experience, while right tackle Mike McGlinchey is an imposing figure at 6’7½,”, 310 pounds. Redshirt freshmen Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars will compete for the left guard spot.
“I think the strength there is experience, size and we now can really say that physically that we can match up with anybody,” Kelly said.
Martin, Kelly said, is fully healthy and weighs more than 300 pounds—“just a different football player,” Kelly said—now that he’s 100 percent heading into the season.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.
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One characteristic of this year's Tennessee football team as it opened fall camp that's been glaringly absent over the past near-decade is the Vols passing the proverbial eyeball test.
Everywhere you look, UT's players are bigger, stronger, faster and better.
But that doesn't mean coach Butch Jones' team is devoid of needs entering year three of his tenure. With depth and success come attrition and early departures to the NFL. It's part of the college football game, and it's about to start affecting Tennessee if the Vols continue to improve.
That's why recruiting will continue to be vital. And as UT looks to the future, Jones and company have to continue to recruit to the elite level they have been recently, pulling the seventh- and fourth-rated class in the 247Sports ratings the past two years.
With 15 commits already in the 2016 class in a haul that may only reach around 20 due to a numbers crunch, the Vols will be recruiting to address needs the rest of the way, unless they can take a luxury prospect they just couldn't turn down.
For instance, UT told running back commitment Carlin Fils-Aime it was only recruiting one player at his position in this class, but if an opportunity arose to flip a guy like Tavien Feaster from Clemson or swoop in and steal Elijah Holyfield from the Georgia-Auburn battle, it's tough to see the Vols passing.
Pie-in-the-sky prospects aside, let's take a look at UT's biggest remaining positional necessities and some targets who could fill the role.
Without question, this position is the biggest remaining need that Jones and passing game coordinator Zach Azzanni must address between now and national signing day.
This will be the last season for senior leading receiver Pig Howard. UT also will lose seniors Johnathon Johnson and Von Pearson (if he's cleared by the university, as expected) after this season.
There's plenty left for him to prove collegiately, but there is also an outside possibility Marquez North could play himself into the draft.
Several holes must be filled in the 2016 receiving corps. Even with probably North, Jason Croom, Josh Smith, Cody Blanc, Josh Malone, Preston Williams, Jauan Jennings, Vincent Perry and others returning, the Vols need more bodies.
Though Tennessee already has commitments from 6'6" JUCO receiver Jeff George and slot receiver Corey Henderson, the Vols need a couple more. Thankfully, there are plenty of options from which to choose.
The targets are really too bountiful to mention, but here are a few names to remember with which UT is currently involved.
Elite players such as the Georgia duo of Kyle Davis and Mecole Hardman have mutual interest with the Vols, though the Bulldogs are very much in the picture, if not in the lead, for both. Same goes for Marquez Callaway, who is an athlete who can play offense or defense.
Florida receiver Binjimen Victor recently said he'd return to Knoxville for an official visit, per 247Sports' Ryan Bartow, and the Vols remain in the top two for Diondre Overton, according to GoVols247's Ryan Callahan.
Donnie Corley is another long-shot target Tennessee is in the picture to sign, though getting him away from the Big Ten will be difficult. Other fringe prospects like Rontavius Groves remain in the picture.
You get the idea. UT has limited spots and is in on some marquee prospects. Receiver recruiting hasn't been an issue under Jones, so you have to like the Vols' chances to snag a couple of pledges before February.
The rest of the positional needs won't have so many prospects to discuss. Sure, there are a few fallback plans for each category, but with Tennessee running out of spots, the Vols have ample time to focus on top targets.
Offensive line coach Don Mahoney is trying to sort through which prospects go where this late summer, but Kyler Kerbyson will graduate after this year, so there's a left tackle out of the mix.
Brett Kendrick, Dontavius Blair, Drew Richmond and Chance Hall all look like tackles, and Jack Jones and Venzell Boulware can play the position, too. Tennessee already has a pledge from in-state tackle Ryan Johnson for the '16 class, but it needs at least one more guy.
Two who've emerged as viable, legitimate Vols targets are E.J. Price and Landon Dickerson. Jauan Williams and Scott Lashley still mention UT from time to time, but they seem a bit more off the periphery than the other two.
Price is a former Georgia commitment who recently went to UT's Orange Carpet Day event and left blown away by UT. Though the Vols will have plenty of competition for his signature, it appears they're in the mix with Georgia, Auburn and others.
Dickerson is a Virginia Tech legacy who at one time had Tennessee up at the top with the Hokies. Since he's reset his recruitment, however, Auburn and Florida State are a couple of teams that have been mentioned with him a lot lately.
There's a long way to go in his recruitment, and UT is fighting just to stay in the conversation.
Tennessee has enjoyed the recent emergence of two young, really good safeties in Todd Kelly Jr. and Evan Berry, a pair of rising sophomores. The Vols are also high on the potential of Stephen Griffin, and versatile sophomore Rashaan Gaulden is getting some work at the position this fall along with nickelback.
But the reason why this position remains such a massive need is because of the gigantic, can't-miss prospect who resides there in this class for the Vols.
UT legacy and safety prospect Nigel Warrior is an absolute must-get for Jones.
Warrior's father is Vols great Dale Carter, and he's coveted by the nation's top programs. He's a hard-hitting, fast, lockdown-coverage athlete who has the ability to step right in and be a difference-maker.
The Vols are in good shape to land Warrior, and he'd be the jewel of another strong class. He's that good.
With the Vols losing Brian Randolph and LaDarrell McNeil after this season, they need to add a safety. Other prospects such as Donte Vaughn could fill that spot, but Warrior is the top target at the position and most likely the top remaining target on the board.
Not only would he keep Jones' spotless track record with legacies he really covets, he also would give UT an inside track on another elite prospect—his cousin and 2017 standout defensive back Deangelo Gibbs.
A place where the Vols surprisingly don't have a ton of depth is at cornerback, which makes it a bit puzzling why it isn't a higher priority for the staff in this cycle.
Currently, the Vols have commitments from Marquill Osborne and athlete TaDarryl Marshall, who projects to be a cornerback on the next level. But they're trying with several more elite players.
Though Knott and Ladler are long shots, Williams is an in-state star who holds UT in high regard. The Vols are going to have to fight to earn his signature away from teams such as LSU and Auburn, but Jones really wants him to play his college days in his home state.
One of the best things about Williams is his versatility. He fits the big, rangy cornerback mold that defensive backs coach Willie Martinez loves, but he also could bulk up a little and play safety.
Knott is one of the top cornerbacks who is coveted by everybody in the nation. UT is trying really hard to get him in orange, but the Ole Miss legacy likes the Rebels, Florida State and Alabama a lot, too, along with several other schools.
The only real possibility for the Vols to have to replace this year is star junior Cameron Sutton, who could head to the NFL with a big third season. Considering UT only goes about six deep at the position, it wouldn't hurt to add another player.
Finally, Tennessee may be trying to lure a pass-rushing specialist to close out the class, but what the Vols really could use is another star defensive tackle.
They aren't in on as many studs as they were in the last cycle when they hit on elite tackles Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle, but Jones is swinging for the fences with two of the nation's best.
Though he'll be an extremely tough pull away from the home state Bulldogs, Lanier High School tackle Derrick Brown has UT firmly in his top four, and the Vols may be a sleeper to win his signature. The Vols also will get one of the 5-star's official visits, wrote Callahan.
Rashan Gary, the nation's top-ranked player, would be a prospect who'd get everybody talking about Tennessee's class. There's only one problem: He hasn't visited Knoxville yet and doesn't have one scheduled.
However, every time somebody asks Gary about UT, he gushes. Friend, fellow New Jersey native and Vols quarterback commitment Jarrett Guarantano is in Gary's ear "every day," he recently told Scout.com's Danny Parker. In that same article, he refers to McKenzie as being a bit of a friend and mentor to him.
Gary already has taken an SEC tour that didn't include Knoxville, so it's hard to take UT seriously in this race. If he ever makes it to Rocky Top, the Vols will have a chance.
UT must replace Trevarris Saulsberry and Owen Williams on next year's team, so getting another tackle to go along with JUCO stud commit Alexis Johnson would be big. Getting one of those two targets mentioned above would make this class special yet again.
All recruiting information obtained from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.
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Every season, numerous college football coaches at major programs across the nation find themselves on the brink of losing their jobs, and 2015 is no different.
Whether it is because of too much losing, like Purdue’s Darrell Hazell, or not winning enough with elite talent, such as LSU’s Les Miles, these Power Five conference coaches enter this season on the hot seat for unique reasons.
Not to say all of the following coaches will soon be gone, but another disappointing season could force the majority of these men to start looking for new work next offseason. Let us take a look at 15 head coaches from the nation’s top conferences who need strong 2015 seasons.
It was late in the fourth quarter of Ohio State's matchup against Indiana in 2012 when Urban Meyer looked at the scoreboard to confirm his defense had just given up 49 points to an eventual eight-loss Hoosiers team.
It was an embarrassing performance for the Buckeyes, who survived a late Indiana rally to secure a 52-49 victory.
"We were exposed,” Meyer said after the game, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors. “Spread offenses right now are really exposing us. We have got to get something fixed."
The biggest issue in need of repair?
That was the linebacker unit, which was short on depth and even shorter on talent. During the week leading up to that matchup with the Hoosiers, Meyer and the coaching staff moved fullback Zach Boren to middle linebacker because of a lack of production.
"When you take your starting fullback and start him at inside linebacker, you have a little problem," Meyer added, via Rowland. "I don't think you can pinpoint one thing right now. I have got to find out. I am going to increase my involvement with the defense."
That was a long and drawn-out process. A year later, at the tail end of the 2013 season, the unit was still Ohio State's weakest link.
"The linebacker position is still my biggest concern on our team," Meyer said in November 2013, according to Austin Ward of ESPN.com. "The depth is a major concern."
But after two years of futility, things started to turn for the Buckeyes during their championship run in 2014. And with three very talented linebackers in the starting lineup and loads of depth behind them this fall, Meyer could have his first dominant defensive unit since taking over in Columbus.
It stars with Joshua Perry, the senior outside linebacker who led the team with 124 total tackles and 73 solo tackles a season ago. But the 6'4", 254-pound standout brings more than just production to the field—he's also expected to be one of the team leaders.
He showcased his leadership while speaking at Big Ten media days in Chicago last week, and that quality will be invaluable to the Buckeyes this year.
Darron Lee will occupy the other side and build off his breakout redshirt freshman campaign.
The 6'2", 235-pound wrecking ball came to Columbus as an underrated 3-star prospect who projected as a safety, but he bulked up in Ohio State's strength program and moved to linebacker.
After beating out higher-rated players for the starting job last year, Lee emerged as one of the most disruptive defenders in the country. He ranked second on the team (behind Joey Bosa) with 16.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, showcasing a speed off the edge that proved problematic for opposing offenses.
But the biggest bump should come in the middle as super sophomore Raekwon McMillan takes over as the full-time starter.
As a true freshman a season ago, McMillan shared time with Curtis Grant and thrived, notching 54 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and an interception that he returned for a touchdown against Maryland. But even though the former 5-star prospect has yet to make his first start for the Buckeyes, McMillan's ceiling is very high, and proof of that comes from his inclusion on the initial 2015 Butkus Award watch list.
That trio should thrive in a defense that's expected to grow in 2015.
The Buckeyes, running the simplified scheme that co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash installed a season ago, should make a big leap, and the talented linebackers will be a big part of that.
“Last year was different. As a defense, we were establishing our culture," Lee said during spring practice, according to Steve Helwagen of 247Sports. "Right now, it is a lot more fun and we’re getting better.”
And if Meyer can pair a dominant defense with his already explosive offense, Ohio State's path to—and through—the College Football Playoff could be clean and clear.
All recruiting information via 247Sports.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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Alabama freshman running back Bo Scarbrough has been suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season because of an NCAA-imposed violation, head coach Nick Saban announced Thursday, according to ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough.
The Associated Press' John Zenor reported the suspension was "related to amateurism."
The Crimson Tide head coach failed to elaborate further on the nature of the suspension.
It's been a rough few months for the 5-star recruit, per 247Sports, who tore his ACL during an early-April scrimmage. And while Scarbrough is working his way back onto the field, he won't be able to start toting the rock until an Oct. 3 showdown with Georgia at the earliest, if his knee is even cleared by then.
As a result of the suspension, Scarbrough will miss showdowns against Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee, Ole Miss and the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
At his press conference Thursday, Saban also provided an update on the tailback's knee, noting the freshman can now practice "on a limited basis in a black shirt," according to the Tuscaloosa News' Cecil Hurt.
Furthermore, AL.com's Michael Casagrande noted Scarbrough "is a little ahead of schedule in practice" but that he has not been cleared for contact yet.
Matt Zenitz of Alabama Media Group added that Saban said the running back will "hopefully" be good to go by late September.
The good news for the Crimson Tide is they should have stellar runners in Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake ready to roll when their 2015 season gets underway Sept. 5 against the Badgers.
"Henry is poised for a big year as Alabama’s No. 1 back. Saban has praised Henry’s work ethic and improvement this offseason," Bleacher Report's Marc Torrence wrote. "According to AL.com’s Matt Zenitz, Henry—who is built like a linebacker at 6’3”, 242 pounds—ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and put 440 pounds on the bench press in spring testing."
With Henry and Drake comprising one of the nation's most imposing duos in the backfield, expect the Crimson Tide offense to open the season clicking on the ground despite Scarbrough's absence. And when he eventually returns, Alabama figures to have an embarrassment of riches for Saban to lean on.
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Former NFL coach and current analyst for ESPN Jon Gruden reportedly considers manning the sidelines for the Tennessee Volunteers a dream job.
Gruden discussed the program and how close he was to accepting the coaching job after it opened up following the 2012 season with the SEC Network, per Chase Goodbread of NFL.com:
I don't know how close. I love football. I'll be the first to tell you, I miss coaching. But I do look at my job here as a lot like coaching. i get a chance to be around it 364 days a year and I feel like I'm improving, but I don't have a team. Tennessee is a dream job for a lot of people, me included. Timing wasn't right. I'll say this about the Volunteers, they got the right guy. I think Butch Jones is going to put the Volunteers back on the map. It might happen this year.
Gruden coached for the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1998-2008, won a Super Bowl with the Bucs and counts five division titles on his NFL resume. It is no wonder that any pro team or college program with an opening would consider him a viable candidate with numbers like that, and he even has a Tennessee connection.
Gruden was a graduate assistant for the Volunteers in the 1980s, which is one reason why he was potentially linked to the coaching position after the 2012 campaign.
Alas, Tennessee hired Butch Jones (which Gruden praised in the above quote), and there is plenty of momentum in Knoxville after impressive showings on the recruiting trail and a dominant victory over Iowa in the Gator Bowl.
Gruden would have likely succeeded in the SEC based on his NFL track record alone, but Goodbread noted that fans should take discussions surrounding the ESPN analyst and potential coaching jobs with a grain of salt:
Gruden's name has routinely popped up for various pro and college coaching jobs since he left the Buccaneers after the 2008 season, but it seems as though a return to coaching for Gruden never gets past the flirtation stage.
It might never again, but coaching moves happen in the winter, not the summer.
Give it four months, and Gruden speculation will be back -- just probably not at Tennessee.
If the Volunteers cash in on elevated expectations this season, they won’t have to worry about any chatter surrounding the head coaching position.
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The Georgia Bulldogs have started fall camp, and the intensity level has been hot and heavy this first week.
One of the things that has stood out is the quarterback battle as all three quarterbacks will get to work with the first team this week according to Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Also, the wide receiver spots looked set with two speedsters being able to help stretch the field, which was something the Bulldogs were not able to do last season.
But there are still a few weeks left before the Bulldogs kick off the season against Louisiana-Monroe. And because of that, there will a lot of twists and turns along the way.
So here are some bold predictions for the Bulldogs as they continue to work in fall camp.
Clemson lost a key commitment Thursday afternoon when blue-chip defender Rahshaun Smith backed off his verbal pledge to the program.
The 6'3", 239-pound linebacker announced his intentions on Twitter.
"It is with a heavy heart, but clear conscience that I announce that I have decided to decommit from Clemson," he wrote.
Smith cited his desire to visit other universities as main motivation.
"Due to my need to further explore all of my options and make sure where I sign is 100 percent where I want to attend, I must take other visits. Since this is not allowed by Clemson, I have made my decision," he wrote.
The Tigers initially landed Smith in March, and he remained the team's top-ranked 2016 defensive recruit until Thursday. His departure leaves Clemson with 10 commitments in the class.
Smith, a senior at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, is considered the premier inside linebacker prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings. Rated 55th overall among 2016 recruits, Smith won't have trouble locating alternative collegiate opportunities.
His scholarship offer sheet features more than 30 schools. Smith started receiving serious recruiting interest early in high school and now anchors a defensive unit that includes LSU cornerback commit Saivion Smith and 5-star lineman Shavar Manuel.
His length and his ability to be a disruptive force as a pass-rusher separate him as an elite prospect. In pass coverage, he displayed a good feel for dropping into zones and breaking on routes. Plus, he's versatile enough to play on the outside or even at defensive end in certain situations.
While Clemson remains in the mix—Smith shared plans to use an official visit there—his focus will be elsewhere during much of the fall.
Auburn, Miami and LSU are locked in as trips, according to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports. Considering Clemson already made the cut, that leaves one unfilled official visit slot before national signing day.
Maryland could emerge as the landing spot since he previously attended high school in the state. The Terps appear to be on a recruiting upswing after 4-star wide receiver Tino Ellis joined elite quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the class last week.
Maryland sits in second place among expert predictions for 247Sports' Crystal Ball, trailing only Clemson.
A former Mid-Atlantic connection could strengthen the chances of him landing at Miami. Lawrence Cager, who played alongside Smith at Calvert Hall High School, is a freshman wide receiver with the Hurricanes.
Miami already claims a commitment from fellow 4-star inside linebacker Shaquille Quarterman. A date for his trip to Coral Gables is undetermined at this stage, per Bartow.
Smith is already scheduled to attend contests at Auburn and LSU.
He will head to Baton Rouge for an Oct. 17 showdown between LSU and Florida, before traveling to the Nov. 14 Auburn matchup against Georgia.
Expect Smith to enjoy a front-row seat at several highly anticipated games this season. His new uncommitted status should make him a welcomed guest at multiple contending colleges.
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The college football season is fast approaching, with everyone wondering who will become the next superstars.
Who do you think deserves the top spot? Watch the video, and let us know!
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UCLA bolstered its defense on Thursday when defensive end prospect Oluwole Betiku joined its 2016 recruiting class.
Betiku announced his decision on Twitter:
August 6, 2015
The 6’3 ½”, 240-pound Betiku checks in as a 5-star prospect, per 247Sports’ composite rankings.
While Betiku is officially listed as a California prospect, he is a Nigerian native who is still adjusting to life in the United States. He played soccer and basketball growing up in Nigeria and has yet to tap into his full football potential.
Former NFL linebacker LaVar Arrington is Betiku’s mentor.
Now, he joins a UCLA squad looking to make a run at a Pac-12 championship. Linebacker Myles Jack and defensive linemen Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes headline a loaded Bruins defense.
Head coach Jim Mora Jr. has to be thrilled about landing yet another potential star as the Bruins look to hold off USC, Arizona State, Arizona and the rest of the ultra-competitive Pac-12 South.
A number of schools saw Betiku's potential before he even made a mark in organized football. As a result, USC, Maryland, Penn State, Oregon, Miami and Washington, among others, were involved in his recruitment to varying extents, which is a testament to his sky-high ceiling as a developing prospect.
Betiku certainly caught the eye of Tom Lemming of CBS Sports in the evaluation process:
The overwhelming strength that Lemming mentioned is the first thing that jumps out about Betiku’s game. It allows him to overpower offensive linemen on running plays and make a push into the backfield on passing plays.
Throw in the athleticism and explosiveness off the snap and the footwork he honed during his basketball and soccer days, and Betiku has the opportunity to be a star in college. He is still developing in the nuances of the game given his relative inexperience (reading plays, reacting to play actions, etc.), but the talent is clear.
Betiku is also versatile enough to play defensive end in pass-rushing situations and outside linebacker, which will help him immediately contend for playing time as a freshman at his new school.
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OXFORD, Miss. — It was the kind of thing that Hugh Freeze didn’t have to worry too much about with his previous jobs and definitely falls into the “good kind of problem to have” at Ole Miss.
Last year, the Rebels were clearly led by their defense, which at times was so effective and tenacious that he had to go against his offensive philosophy of "Faster is always better."
“(When) you've got a defense that for most of the year is giving up 12 points a game, it doesn't take a lot of rocket science to figure out that if that defense is that stingy, you give the opponents lesser and lesser opportunities, you're going to have a chance to win some games,” the coach said on Tuesday on the eve of Ole Miss' first practice of training camp. “So we kind of played to our strengths. “
He’d very much like to see that again this fall, except for the way the 2014 season ended. After going 2-4 following a 7-0 start, “We didn’t finish” is something being heard a lot around the football complex.
“Fatigue, injuries,” senior linebacker C.J. Johnson said. “It’s been a multitude of things. Sometimes you just don’t get the lucky bounce and the ball doesn’t go your way.
“It’s a matter of staying in it, staying in the grind, and keep at it.”
There’s no denying that the Ole Miss defense was outstanding at times in 2014. When things were going well, its quickness and relentless play posed more than a few problems for opponents. Through its first eight games, only one managed to post more than 17 points on the scoreboard.
For the first time since 2008, Alabama didn’t finish atop the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense, snapping the five-year streak that was the longest in league history.
Ole Miss topped the nation in that category and was No. 13 in total defense, No. 16 in passing defense (and passing efficiency defense), and No. 29 in rushing defense.
But Ole Miss can’t afford any sort of a defensive drop-off if it wants to challenge for the SEC West title. Although the offense has nine starters returning and could potentially boast a very potent attack, there are still a lot of questions and concerns.
The most pressing at this point may be the quarterback competition, which doesn’t appear to be close to a resolution between former Clemson player Chad Kelly and sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade.
Numerous offensive linemen are coming off injuries, and starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil is also the subject of an NCAA inquiry.
Consequently, one has to wonder about the offense’s continuity—especially during the first few games.
Overall, the Rebels finished the 2014 season ranked No. 67 nationally in scoring offense, No. 73 in rushing offense, No. 75 in third-down offense, and No. 116 in red-zone offense.
That’s a lot to try to turn around with a new quarterback.
A year ago, many predicted Ole Miss might be the surprise team in the division primarily due to its defense, but attrition caught up to the Rebels—especially once the injuries started to stack up.
Not too many defenders finished with 13-13 at the beginning of their stat line, which indicated games played-games started. The only ones who did were Mike Hilton, Tony Conner, Cody Prewitt, Senquez Golson and Robert Nkemdiche.
It’s one reason why even though All-Americans Prewitt and Golson have moved on to the NFL, the players say there’s room for improvement.
“It’s definitely possible,” Johnson said. “I think the biggest thing for us is going to be how well we adjust, how good can we add on to what we’re already done. When guys get complacent there’s a drop-off, and that’s the stuff that you’ve already heard about, but as far as talent I think we have the talent to not only be as good as we were last year but be even better.”
The defensive line is again led by Nkemdiche, a second-team All-American who is listed as 6’4”, 296 pounds. When the Rebels want to beef up, there’s senior Woodrow Hamilton (6’3”, 319 lbs) and junior college transfer D.J. Jones (6’0”, 324 lbs), not to mention junior end Fadol Brown (6’4”, 280 lbs).
The rotation, which line coach Chris Kiffin wants to include at least eight players but have 10 if possible, also has undersized defensive end Marquis Haynes (6’3”, 220 lbs) and defensive tackle Issac Gross (6’1, 240 lbs). Haynes led the team with 7.5 sacks last season as a freshman.
“Even if you have a guy like Robert Nkemdiche, who is athletically freakish, he’s still going to need a breather, especially if you’re playing a tempo team,” Kiffin said. “He’s going to get exhausted in the first quarter.”
Johnson moved from the defensive line to inside linebacker, where he’ll line up next to senior Denzel Nkemdiche, who broke his ankle against LSU last fall.
In the secondary, Ole Miss has good size at the corners.
Junior Tee Shepard (6'1") is back after missing the 2014 season with torn ligaments in a toe, and junior college transfer Tony Bridges (6'0") played so well during the spring that coaches moved senior Mike Hilton to safety even though he led the Rebels in tackles with 71 and made three interceptions last year.
Factor in Hilton’s versatility and experience, senior Trae Elston’s improvement and the hard-hitting Tony Conner often playing near the line of scrimmage in the Rebels’ 4-2-5 base formation, and Ole Miss believes it could have the best secondary in the league.
“We do,” Hilton said. “Especially with guys like Tony Bridges and Tee Shepard, guys like that, and we have more depth actually than we did last year, and we got more experience so I feel like we’re not really losing a step.”
Now they just have to prove it, week in and week out, which of course is the hard part—especially in the SEC West.
Nevertheless, Robert Nkemdiche calls the possibility of having an even better defense this season “realistic.”
“I feel like the energy of the team and the cohesiveness that we’ve created this summer is at an all-time high. I don’t feel like it was like that the past two (summers),” he said. “I’m excited to see what we can do.”
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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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — With all due respect to the reporters in attendance, the highlight of Michigan's media day didn't stem from inquiries into the Wolverines quarterback controversy, questions about their practice schedule for the remainder of the month or even Jim Harbaugh's own unique spin on the start of fall camp.
Rather, the most memorable moment from Harbaugh's Thursday press conference came as the result of a question so simple that a first-grader could have asked it.
In fact, one did.
As Harbaugh took part in his routine, dodging and ducking as he was probed by beat writers throughout his first Michigan media day conference, sprinkled-in questions from children from the "Kids Go Blue Club" gave the first-year Wolverines head coach a chance to crack a rare smile on the eve of fall camp.
Such was the case when six-year-old Brady Carpenter stepped to the podium with a microphone in his hand and a carefully crafted question on his mind.
"How much milk do I have to drink to be big enough to be quarterback?" asked Brady, who was named after former Michigan quarterback and New England Patriots great Tom Brady.
The room exploded in laughter. And then Harbaugh responded with a question of his own.
"Can I give you a hug?"
Carpenter obliged, before listening to Harbaugh give his verbal answer.
"That is a great question. I love that you're thinking about that," he said. "Drink as much milk as your little belly can hold, at all times. It could be chocolate milk, it could be the 2 percent, but the ideal is the whole milk. That's the ideal. As much as your little belly can hold."
By the time Harbaugh's press conference had come to a close 25 minutes later, Carpenter was an unexpected social media star. Having attended the event alongside his parents and grandfather, Carpenter saw his question tweeted out by the official SportsCenter account in a post that has garnered thousands of retweets and favorites.
"It was very cool," Carpenter told Bleacher Report with a big smile moments after the press conference ended.
For his parents, it was more than "cool."
After all, it was Brady's father, Jason Carpenter, who came up with the question after viewing Harbaugh's appearance on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel in April. Speaking with Andrea Kremer, Harbaugh explained that as a child, he was obsessed with drinking milk, because he believed it was the key to his growing to be 6'2"—the ideal height, in his mind, for a quarterback.
"He was on HBO talking about how he used to hand milk out and steal all the extra milk," Jason said. "So I thought it was a cute question for him to ask."
The Carpenters figured the question would garner some laughs from the crowd and maybe even Harbaugh himself, but never did they expect the response that it received from both the head coach and social media. As other members of the Kids Go Blue Club left for lunch, the family found itself battling with the Internet connection at Michigan's Junge Family Champions Center to pull up Twitter and see all of the surprising attention their son was receiving.
"You're our little superstar," Brady's mother, Eva, told him.
But for the family from Ann Arbor—the head-to-toe maize-and-blue attire was a dead giveaway—the moment was about more than retweets and pictures.
"He's been coming here since he was two with his dad," Eva said of her son while fighting back tears. "It makes me really proud to see him here, with his grandfather."
At one point in his press conference, Harbaugh said that he hasn't gotten nostalgic often since returning to the town where he spent a part of his childhood and college career. But one would imagine that witnessing the Carpenters' joy on Thursday would count as one of those exceptions, as Ann Arbor's favorite son has created an excitement in his new and old hometown, one that's palpable even at a typically mundane event such as a media day.
And while the former Wolverines quarterback claims the creation of that buzz has been unintentional, it's very much real. That was evidenced on Thursday by the headlines a first-grader helped create at Harbaugh's final press conference before the start of fall camp.
"It's Coach's first main press conference, and he gets to give him a hug and ask about being strong and drinking milk," Jason said. "That's awesome."
Brady put his thoughts on the day in much simpler terms.
"I liked it a lot," the six-year-old said.
Based on the reaction from his parents, the Internet and—perhaps most importantly—Harbaugh, he wasn't alone.
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 cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
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As the third of four talented brothers preparing for his senior year of high school, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, standout Matt Farniok refuses to let the recruiting process work a nerve.
Farniok has had enough tutelage from his older brothers to let the process of finalizing his college future get to him. College football fans will recognize his older brothers, former Iowa State center Tom and current Oklahoma tackle Derek. Tom now is an NFL rookie for the Minnesota Vikings, and Derek is preparing for his redshirt senior year with the Sooners.
The older brothers have their recruiting stories, and now it's Matt's turn to choose a school that best suits him.
Wednesday evening, the 4-star Washington High School lineman—the No. 1 player out of South Dakota—confirmed to Bleacher Report that he has a top four of Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State and Florida State. All four schools, he said, are expected to receive official visits.
"They are all really good programs athletically," said Farniok, now 6'6" and 311 pounds. "They have really good O-line programs that I'm interested in. These schools have proven to help linemen get to the next level. Talking to all the coaches, they seem like good guys who I can learn from."
Farniok is a versatile lineman who can play either tackle or guard. He comes from a family of college athletes. In addition to his older brothers, his father, Brad, was a lineman for St. Cloud State in Minnesota in the 1980s. His uncle Bob Reeves played tight end at South Dakota State in the 1980s and was also a star pitcher for the school's baseball team.
Farniok has the size, length and first-step quickness to be a solid tackle at the next level and plays with a mean streak to where he can handle interior defensive linemen as a guard. He is ranked by the 247Sports composite as the nation's No. 22 tackle.
Farniok has 17 reported offers but will take his skill set either to the Big Ten or the ACC. Florida State is the only ACC school in his top four, and while he has yet to visit the campus, he's attracted by what he's seen on television and enjoys the conversations with offensive line coach Rick Trickett.
"They've been a really good program for a while now, and they have some really good O-linemen come out," Farniok said. "They have an excellent coaching staff, and they have all of the major criteria I'm looking for. I'd feel good with them."
Michigan State is another school he has yet to see, but he is looking forward to doing so on an official visit. Farniok likes how the Spartans are consistently winning football games in a competitive conference.
"Talking with the coaches and researching what the place is all about, they're standing out to me," he said of Michigan State. I'm really getting to know the coaches there. They have the style of football I like."
Nebraska and Iowa are two schools to keep an eye on as Farniok looks to make a decision. He's been to both campuses on multiple occasions and has established great relationships with the offensive line coaches from both schools. Nebraska has Mike Cavanaugh, while Iowa has Brian Ferentz.
"I like the atmosphere at Nebraska," he said. "I've been there a couple of times, so I feel like I can fit in there. I get along with the players, and meeting the new staff, I felt like we got along fine.
"I know Iowa produces really good O-linemen. That's a main thing with me. Talking with the coaches, I get along well with them. I'm able to talk and really be relaxed around them."
A noticeable fact is that Farniok has chosen to make his own path and not follow the footsteps of his brothers—even though he had offers from Oklahoma and Iowa State. He said his top four was decided with the help of advice of his brothers.
The objective was, he said, "Trust yourself."
"In all reality, there are people who say they want me to go here or go there," Farniok said. "When it comes down to it, it's all about what you want for yourself and not trying to please everyone. You have to make sure you go to the school you feel you fit the best."
Farniok said he will make his decision after his senior year. He wants to focus on becoming a leader for Washington and doing his part to ensure the team gets as many wins as possible.
As for selecting a winner out of his top four, Farniok said he will continue doing his research and conversing with coaches. It's a decision he wants to make sure is the right one.
"Some want me at tackle, and others say they can rotate me in all positions," he said. "I'm fine playing all positions. I just want to do my research closely. We'll see what happens from there."
Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles
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There are few things that compare to the experience of witnessing college football up close and personal. Tailgating, marching bands, high-decibel cheering and punishing hits all combine for a sensory overload that's unmatched in the sports world.
But for those not fortunate enough to live close to a college football venue or who prefer to stay home and catch it on TV, there's a perfect way to take in all the sights, sounds and hot takes of Saturdays in the fall from the comfort of one's own couch: social media.
Social media belongs to college football on Saturdays from September through December, as well as into early January, with the vast majority of tweets, many Facebook posts and quite a few Instagram photos dedicated to the game. There's probably a decent number of Pinterest updates related to the best tailgate foods or binge-watching recipes, but we'll leave it up to you to torture yourself with all those mouth-watering food pics.
The ability to monitor college football, not just through the games themselves but through the observations of others doing the same, enhances what is already a very fulfilling experience. It allows fans to avoid missing out on any minute detail while also getting a sense of what others think about a questionable call that might have altered the outcome of a contest.
With the 2015 college football season officially four weeks away, on Sept. 3, we've put together a list of some of the best social media accounts fans should be following if they want to be fully informed, educated and entertained this fall.
If you're looking for coverage from an across-the-board scale, following national writers is the way to go. Their job is to identify and react to all of the big college football stories, not just those that impact a certain team, league or region.
Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing)
Part of the Bloguin Network, this account focuses on how the media is covering sports and how that might affect the viewer. It's great at pointing out some of the odd things that come across the TV screen or get posted online, such as Twitter feuds and massive on-air gaffes.
Bill Connelly, SB Nation (@SBN_BillC)
Bill Connelly's team-by-team previews of all 128 FBS programs, which run one a day beginning in February, are a series of branches we can reach out and hold on to while navigating the never-ending quicksand that is the college football offseason. In season, he uses his keen analytical mind to highlight statistical anomalies and trends.
Bruce Feldman, Fox Sports (@BruceFeldmanCFB)
Bruce Feldman covers all the bases with his college football coverage, attending many of the biggest games and digging out great features. His game-day insights are spot-on as well.
Brett McMurphy, ESPN (@McMurphyESPN)
Brett McMurphy is best known as an insider who breaks news related to injuries, suspensions and upcoming notable home-and-home series. Without him, we wouldn't be able to pine for future matchups between orange-clad counterparts.
Paul Myerberg, USA Today (@PaulMyerberg)
Another national staple, Paul Myerberg has touched on topics and highlighted the statements of coaches and players from every major conference (and the American!) in the past three weeks. Just imagine what he'll bring to your timeline come September.
Darren Rovell, ESPN (@darrenrovell)
Darren Rovell, ESPN's sports business reporter, vacillates between highlighting food and drink trends and money-related sports news, such as apparel contracts and memorabilia values.
Ralph D. Russo, Associated Press (@ralphDrussoAP)
The AP is at nearly every game on Saturdays, but the big ones are reserved for Ralph D. Russo. He's been the international news outlet's lead college football writer for a decade and has plenty of institutional knowledge on the sport.
Andy Staples, Sports Illustrated (@Andy_Staples)
In addition to being one of SI's lead college football writers, Andy Staples does work for the SEC Network and is also a major foodie. His "Punt, Pass & Pork" columns will make your mouth water not just for game info but also for the delectable food items that Staples stumbles across on his travails.
Clay Travis, Fox Sports(@ClayTravisBGID)
Clay Travis' "Outkick the Coverage" blog is centered around college football but frequently strays to plenty of other topics. Whatever the issue, it tends to be on the incendiary side, as Travis is one of the best feather-rufflers on Twitter.
If you're looking for a more regional slant for your college football tweets, look no further than the part of the country that's home to the top conference in FBS. The SEC is overloaded with great Twitter accounts—far too many to highlight here—but Saturday Down South has done us a solid by putting together a list of the 100 essential accounts to follow.
There is one SEC-heavy account that all college football fans should be tracking, regardless of your love (or hate) for the conference. That would be that of radio host-turned-TV star Paul Finebaum (@finebaum), whose daily radio show is simulcast on the SEC Network and who is a regular part of that channel's Saturday game coverage.
Finebaum's tweets are occasionally provocative, but they're nothing compared to the things written by his followers...or about him in his mentions. Same goes for his show callers, a motley crew of diehard SEC fans who have made bellowing PAAAAAAAAWWWWWWL in reaction to something off-putting the college football version of "Where's the Beef?"
West Coast Bias
College football begins at noon on the East Coast, earlier if you're tracking the pregame and preview shows. By the time the featured prime-time games are over, most folks along the Atlantic coast and in the Midwest are plum tuckered out and need to sleep off a long day of action.
But there are still games being played out west, particularly in the Pac-12 Conference, and as we saw in 2014, some crazy things can happen during #Pac12AfterDark. A handful of the national writers will tweet about these late games, but not all of them, so to get a full sense of what's going on out there, fans need to get more localized.
Two longtime West Coast writers, Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times (@DufresneLATimes) and Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News (@wilnerhotline), are your best bets if you're looking for general coverage of the Mountain and Pacific time zones. They'll mostly be at games involving California, Stanford, UCLA and USC, but they also have their finger on the pulse of what's happening on that side of the country.
Coaches (Real and Faux)
College football coaches are an interesting bunch, and many are quite colorful. We're always waiting and hoping for them to say or do something wacky, and most don't disappoint. This usually occurs during press conferences or sideline interviews, but a select few spread their brand to Twitter and thus become must-follows.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan (@CoachJim4UM)
Jim Harbaugh's last game as a college football coach was in January 2011. His next one isn't until Sept. 3, but in the nine months since he was hired to coach his alma mater, he's become the darling of Twitter with nearly 300,000 followers. And Harbaugh hasn't just dipped his toe into the water. From day one, he dove straight into the deep end and has been splashing sunbathers on all sides of the pool.
Harbaugh wasted little time ramping up the rivalry with Ohio State with some early veiled shots at the Buckeyes, and since then, he's introduced us to the joys of shirtless-while-in-khakis football as well as a Twitter tour of France.
Whether Harbaugh will continue on this path during the season remains to be seen, but he's worth a follow just for the offseason antics.
Les Miles is one of the best wordsmiths in the game, though this doesn't always translate to his tweets. Last year, he only posted a handful of updates to his Twitter account during the season, though that did include an update on what Santa brought his son for being a good boy:
Steve Spurrier joined Twitter in March and has only tweeted 28 times—about once per 2,200 followers. It's hard to imagine the Head Ball Coach would ever be able to troll online like he does at the podium, but we can always hope.
One of the best—or worst, depending on your perspective—parts of Twitter is the humor element. This is most evident in the form of parody accounts, ones that purport to be some public figure but in reality are run by someone doing his best impression of what that person might sound like in 140-character bursts.
Nearly every college football coach has one of these parody versions out there, but none are as hilarious as the one devoted to former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.
One needs only to see the account's profile picture—a photoshopped glamour shot of Pelini posing with his cat—to understand that this is all meant in jest. Run by an unnamed Cornhuskers fan from Chicago, the account continues on even as Pelini has moved to the FCS ranks to coach Youngstown State.
Players and Students
Once the season begins, the vast majority of college football players will go on Twitter hiatus, either by choice or by team mandate. Occasionally, some will let a tweet slip out, either in exultation or frustration, and it gets passed around to every fan's timeline within an hour.
Long before he became an overnight sensation as the third-string quarterback who led Ohio State to three dominant wins last winter en route to a national title, Cardale Jones (@CJ12_) was most famous for a brief Twitter rant in which he noted that he and his teammates were there to play football, not "play school." Since he's become a superstar, though, he's had to up his Twitter game and turned it into a strong mix of trolling and fanboying.
Another notable college football player worth following, if only because he's got one of the sweetest Twitter handles in the game, is South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper (@KingTutt_chdown).
On the Instagram side, the visual element of college football comes through in bright and bold colors from USC's Dance Team (@uscsonggirls), ESPN's wall-to-wall coverage (@espncfb) or the videos that Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell (@successfulquon) posted to show his long road back from a horrific leg injury last November.
Ohio State senior Braxton Miller (@braxtonmiller92) also brings a strong Instagram game, both in terms of showing off what kind of a wide receiver he's going to be for the Buckeyes and through images that poke fun at his team's recent dominance of rival Michigan.
There are some non-people accounts that all college football fans should follow, too, especially if you want to stay informed on the big news items.
Granted, much of the information from the College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) folks and the people behind ESPN College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) will likely get favorited and retweeted thousands of times within the first minute, but each is an essential follow in order to keep updated on how the playoff rankings are shaping up as well as what wackiness might have happened on Saturday mornings outside one of the week's top games.
Lastly, we must plug our own excellent college football staff at Bleacher Report (@BR_CFB). Our team of writers, editors and digital-media gurus work nonstop on game days to produce tons of content that runs all day and night on Saturday and throughout the week, and along the way, they often have some pretty good comments.
Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod), Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs), Michael Felder (@InTheBleachers), Ben Kercheval (@benkercheval) and Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) will make sure you don't miss a thing throughout the season.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.
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As one of the nation’s premier pass-rushers in the 2016 class, 5-star defensive end Shavar Manuel’s recruitment is sure to be one that captures plenty of attention in the coming months.
According to Josh Newberg of Noles247, the 6’4”, 290-pounder from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, named a top three that included Auburn, Florida and LSU.
In Newberg’s report, Manuel also mentioned Clemson and Florida State as schools that are still in the running for his commitment.
This news is a stark departure from the theory of Manuel being a heavy lean to the Seminoles that was in place for most of the offseason.
Which school has the best shot of landing the nation’s No. 8 player overall in the 2016 class?
Let’s break down the chances for each of his finalists.
Clemson: Odds 20-1
The Tigers haven’t received a visit from Manuel in the spring, but they do have a history of recruiting the Tampa area—where Manuel originally hails from—well.
Additionally, the Tigers have had success in grooming defensive linemen in recent years, which, as Newberg notes, has gotten Manuel’s attention.
While the Tigers can’t be a legitimate threat until they get Manuel on campus, they could be a dark horse in the race if they are able to earn a visit from him in the future.
Florida State: Odds 12-1
Given that Manuel has been in Tallahassee five times since the beginning of last year, there’s no campus he’s more familiar with than Florida State’s.
Although the ‘Noles are still very much in the race for his services, he acknowledged that the club’s recent off-the-field woes have contributed to them being replaced as the leaders in his recruitment.
“I’m still going through the process, me and coach [Brad] Lawing keep talking and we’re close,” Manuel told Newberg. “FSU is a great team and a great place to be. But with everything going on right now, it’s just a mess, I want to see how it all settles out.”
It’s clear that head coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff have work to do in regaining Manuel’s trust. However, given their need along the defensive line, don’t expect the ‘Noles to go away quietly in the race to land Manuel.
Auburn: Odds 10-1
The arrival of new Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has given the Tigers a huge boost in their recruiting efforts.
In fact, Manuel cited to Newberg that Muschamp is the one coach he feels closest to dating back to the former Florida head coach’s tenure in Gainesville.
Like the Seminoles, one of Auburn’s primary needs in the 2016 cycle is the defensive line.
The next step for Auburn is securing a visit from the nation’s No. 2 strong-side defensive end.
LSU: Odds 7-1
The last school to host Manuel was LSU.
He was accompanied on that trip by 5-star corner and current Tigers pledge Saivion Smith, who is also his current teammate at IMG Academy.
As he noted, his first visit to Baton Rouge left a major impression on him.
“The visit there really put them in my top three,” Manuel told Newberg. “It’s a great place to be, in Baton Rouge—I fell in love with it—the players, the coaches, the people, I liked it all.”
LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron is helping lead the charge for the Tigers.
Given Orgeron's lengthy history at recruiting and landing elite defensive linemen, and with Smith already pitching his good friend on the idea of playing together in college, the Tigers have to feel good about their chances in plucking another elite defender out of the Sunshine State.
Florida: Odds 5-1
While Florida State has fallen back in his pecking order, the rival Florida Gators currently represent the top in-state option for Manuel.
As noted by GatorBait, the primary reason for the surge of interest in the Gators is Manuel’s bond with new defensive line coach Chris Rumph.
"It's been great," Manuel said. "He just tells me all the things he looks forward to me if I want to commit, the physical talent and ability as a pass-rusher. He just loves me as a recruiter."
He also told Newberg that Florida and LSU are the two teams he would consider signing with currently.
Given the recent surge Florida has had in recruiting the Tampa area and its proximity to home, the Gators get the slight nod as the favorite in the chase for Manuel.
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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Rahshaun Smith, the top inside linebacker in the class of 2016, announced his decision to decommit from Clemson on Thursday.
Adam Friedman of Rivals.com confirmed the news. Smith posted a message on social media to provide more insight into the choice to make himself available again: "It is with a heavy heart but clear conscience that I announce that I have decided to decommit from Clemson University and reopen my recruiting process."
Smith said he wanted to visit more schools but, after speaking with head coach Dabo Swinney, determined that wasn't an option if he remain committed to the Tigers. He's still going to make an official visit with the program but will make other stops before making a final call.
The linebacker is a 4-star prospect who, along with rating as the No. 1 inside linebacker, also ranks as the No. 55 overall recruit for the 2016 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.
If he does decide to join another program after making official visits—it's rare to recommit to the same program—it's a major loss for the Tigers. Starting middle linebacker B.J. Goodson is a redshirt senior and will leave a key void next season, which Smith could have filled.
That said, his comments made it clear he wasn't 100 percent sure of his original decision. It's better to examine the landscape again during the recruiting process than ending up in a bad spot and possibly losing a season to complete a transfer.
Smith didn't provide a timetable for his next decision. He could be hard-pressed to find a better opportunity than Clemson, however, given the immediate playing time likely available next fall.
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BYU was dealt a blow Thursday, as the school announced running back Jamaal Williams will miss the entire 2015 season due to person reasons.
"Jamaal has withdrawn from school for personal reasons and will redshirt the 2015 season," coach Bronco Mendenhall said, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports. "We plan on Jamaal returning for the 2016 season."
Williams is one of the most dynamic playmakers on a very good BYU offense. He rushed for 775 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, though he lost time due to an injury. For his career, he's rushed for 2,526 yards and 23 touchdowns in three seasons.
The Cougars were considered by some, including Feldman, to be a candidate to threaten for a playoff spot among teams outside of the major conferences, with star quarterback Taysom Hill leading a talented offense. Losing Williams, however, makes the Cougars a bit less dynamic.
Algernon Brown is likely to take over the starting role for BYU, though he certainly has big shoes to fill.
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