NCAA Football News

What's Stopping Jameis Winston from Winning a Second Heisman?

Florida State's Jameis Winston is an early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this season, which would make him just the second player to win it twice. With many other great players challenging for the trophy and some off-the-field issues following him, what will be Winston's biggest obstacle in the way of a repeat?

Watch as Adam Kramer, Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder break down what stands in the way of Winston's quest for history. 

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Auburn Football: Week 2 Fall Stock Report

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn returns a lot of talent across the board this season, but there are still plenty of questions on the depth chart with two weeks left before the 2014 campaign kicks off.

This second week of fall camp was focused on finding answers to those questions.

Over the last week of practice, Auburn had a scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium and an off day to evaluate the depth chart. Most starting jobs have already been locked down, but the coaching staff is looking for who will step up and take over several important roles, from third-down pass-rusher to top backups at key positions.

"There are a few more guys that will have a few more looks," head coach Gus Malzahn said earlier in the week. "Before you get into the season you just want to make sure you're right. The good thing is we have some very talented young guys and newcomers that could have a chance who can definitely help."

The Tigers will wrap up regular preseason practice this weekend and start preparing for the season opener against Arkansas on Tuesday.

Here is a look back at the biggest news and notes—mostly from the defensive side of the ball—from the second full week of fall camp:

 

Defensive depth continuing to take hits

After Tuesday's scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Malzahn said he and his staff would take the Wednesday off day to get closer to a two-deep depth chart.

Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson isn't at that point yet.

"The scrimmage was mainly what we call Blues, it was some guys who are competing for starting jobs," Johnson said Thursday. "I didn't think we made a lot of progress in that area. We've got a lot of information on some individuals, it did help us clear up a little bit, but I think our two-deep is still a little bit murky now."

Johnson said the murkiness has a lot to do with continuing health issues behind his first team, which he called his biggest frustration so far in fall camp.

Just like he did in his press conference last week, the defensive coordinator gave an expansive injury report for his defense:

"The nagging injuries kind of have us two steps forward, one step back," Johnson said. "There are some guys who've got the chance and the skill set to get right into the middle of things, but the limitations in practice have just been holding them back in fundamentals and understanding what we're doing in the scheme."

For a defense that struggled with depth last season, another rash of injuries during practice is definitely a problem. Auburn needed to see development at several positions this offseason, so the pressure is on for players to stay healthy and give clarity to the two-deep with two weeks left before the Arkansas game.

 

Therezie "may not play early" this season

One more major note from Johnson's time with the media Thursday was the status of senior Robenson Therezie, Auburn's returning starter at the Star position and a second-team preseason All-SEC pick.

"We're a little nervous about our depth behind Justin [Garrett]," Johnson said. "Therezie right now, we're not sure he's going to be able to play early, and the rest of them are freshmen. But a game like Arkansas, that guy is going to end up on the box a lot, so I'll have a linebacker that can play that spot also to back up Justin."

When asked for clarification on why Therezie would not be able to play early, Johnson said Therezie "just hasn't had a lot of practice reps."

"We're getting Justin ready, and right now, we've got to get some depth out there," Johnson said.

Rumors on Therezie's status have flown around message boards and social media for most of the week, but Auburn has not officially confirmed any suspension or injury for the senior. Malzahn is scheduled to meet with the media after Saturday's practice.

Losing a returning starter like Therezie, who emerged as one of the Tigers' top defensive players last season, is never good, no matter the length of time. But the staff sounds confident in Garrett at the position—after all, he was the breakout star of the defense last spring before recurring foot injuries caused him to miss most of the 2013 season.

 

Shakeup in the secondary

Through all of the injury and possible suspension updates, Ellis Johnson also announced there has been a shift among the Auburn defensive backs.

With the staff limiting Josh Holsey's reps, Jonathan Jones has moved ahead as a first-choice cornerback for the Tigers. The speedy junior is at the top of the chart at the field corner, and returning starter Jonathon Mincy is moving back to his old position at boundary corner.

"Holsey missed a whole half of a year last year, and, of course, Jonathan did, too," Johnson said on the shakeup. "The one thing we do know is that Mincy can play either."

Senior Trovon Reed, who has impressed coaches and teammates since his switch from wide receiver, is now behind Jones at field cornerback.

Another player who once roamed the field on offense is high up on the depth chart on defense—sophomore Johnathan "Rudy" Ford. The former running back is ahead of junior college transfer Derrick Moncrief, who missed a few practices with dehydration and a virus, for the time being at boundary safety. 

"I feel comfortable at either [safety position]," Ford said. "Both of the safeties, I’ve been very ready and open to both of the safety positions and all of the safety positions, and I’ve just been focusing, staying in the meetings and listening to everything Coach and Whitehead has to say to help me go along."

These new defensive back starters aren't set in stone at this point—Holsey and Moncrief could move back up the depth chart with consistent practice time. But the Auburn coaching staff should feel confident in having at least three strong options at both cornerback and safety this season.

 

Johnson stepping up as season opener looms

Numerous Auburn coaches and players have said second-string quarterback Jeremy Johnson would be a starter at any other school in the country.

And since he will get his first chance to start in an SEC game in two weeks, the highly touted quarterback is leading the offense like a full-time first-stringer.

"We're getting better throwing and catching the ball just because of repetition, timing and continuity," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "It's been really good the last couple of days. I'll say this: Just from a leadership standpoint, I've seen a little bit of a change, that he's more confident stepping up and it doesn't matter if it's a guy older than him or not—and taking charge of his group when he's out there."

Senior quarterback Nick Marshall will not start the season opener against Arkansas because of his July marijuana citation. He spoke to the media for the first time since the incident Sunday, and he took an opportunity to praise his backup.

"I see Jeremy coming out there and practicing [well] every day," Marshall said. "He's leading the team just like he's going to be the starter, and I'm just behind him 100 percent."

Although the coaching staff hasn't officially named Johnson the starter for Aug. 30 against the Razorbacks, it's a foregone conclusion at this point. Johnson struggled at the annual A-Day Game, but his teammates have full confidence in him heading into preparations for Arkansas.

 

Quick hits

- True freshman linebacker Tre' Williams could crack the two-deep in his first season at Auburn. Johnson, who is Williams' position coach, said the Mobile native has impressed in the team's search for depth at the position, and Johnson has made it clear that he is "not big on redshirting" as a SEC coordinator.

- Two more young players, running backs Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber, stood out in Tuesday's scrimmage. Wide receiver Tony Stevens said Thomas had a touchdown run and both backs are "hitting the hole pretty fast, and they’re breaking it."

- Redshirt freshman Daniel Carlson has solidified himself as the first-team kicker as he continues to battle for the starting punter job. Third-string quarterback Jonathan Wallace is getting most of the snaps at holder and "Batman" conversion specialist.

- Malzahn confirmed earlier in the week that Gage Batten, a former walk-on linebacker and current backup H-back, had suffered an injury. The head coach did not disclose the severity.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Will Malik Zaire Challenge Everett Golson for Notre Dame's Starting QB Spot?

Head coach Brian Kellyannounced that Everett Golson will be the Fighting Irish's starting quarterback for the opener against Rice. Golson was competing with redshirt freshman Malik Zaire for the starting job and will return to the position he last held in the 2013 BCS National Championship game. 

Can Zaire continue to challenge for the starting job? Just how short is Golson's leash as the starter?

Watch as Bleacher Report's Keith Arnold breaks down the latest with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. 

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Texas A&M Players Freak out After Practice Is Cancelled for Trip to the Movies

Either Texas A&M players really hate practice or they really like going to the movies.

When Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin cancelled practice for the surprise trip, his players freaked out. Most followed orders and took off running, while one player took time to perform a happy dance.

It's easy to see that the players were pretty psyched about going to the movies.

[AggieFBLife, Twitter; h/t The Dallas Morning News

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Alabama Football: Week 2 Fall Camp Stock Report

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Week 2 of Alabama's fall camp represents the halfway point of preseason training for the Crimson Tide. Two-a-days ended on Wednesday, and classes start next week, so this is the last week of uninterrupted practice the team has.

There's one more week of camp before game-week preparations begin for West Virginia next Monday.

But first, let's recap the goings on of Week 2. Here's the stock report.

 

Dog days of camp

Alabama coach Nick Saban and his players talked about how this was the worst week of camp.

"This is always a tough week," Saban said on Tuesday. "First week, people are always excited to start football, first scrimmage and all that. Then you kind of have this week, which is really kind of hump week, have another scrimmage, get a couple of days off, then you start school, and then we're practicing once a day."

Saban stressed the importance of focus and motivation during that time, dropping phrases like, "Content people are not really the kind of people that we would like to have on our team or in our organization" and, "One year from now, you wish you started today. Seventeen days from now, you're going to wish you started today."

The Crimson Tide practiced twice on both Monday and Tuesday, taking the field at 9:30 a.m. for two-and-a-half hours and then returning at 7:30 p.m.

Guard Arie Kouandjio said that "there's a lot of sleeping involved in between the two practices. A lot of eating. And we have meetings. Making sure you are ready for the next practice."

There was a bit of a break to the monotony, though: Alabama had visitors from a Japanese football team in town on Wednesday.

 

Returning players get acclimated; a competing starter goes out

Alabama saw the return of a few guys out with injuries or suspensions. But the Crimson Tide lost a guy competing for a starting role, too.

Most notably, defensive linemen Brandon Ivory and Jarran Reed returned from their suspensions and, after an NCAA-mandated five-day acclimation period, are back working full speed in practice.

That doesn't mean, though, that the two A-Day starters will pick right back up where they left off.

"Well, you know, they're on the third team, so they've got to work their way up," Saban said. "I don't think it's real fair to the guys that have been out there for 14 days practicing on the first and second team.

"They've got to beat them out. They're not entitled to anything. They're working hard. They're doing a good job. They're getting plenty of work, so they certainly have to improve as football players. But from a behavioral standpoint, they have done a really good job, and I'm pleased with them."

Saban also gave an update on an offensive and defensive lineman returning to practice:

The biggest blow, though, came during last Saturday's scrimmage. Saban said that offensive lineman Dominick Jackson, the top JUCO player in the class of 2014, has an ankle sprain that "might keep him out for a couple of weeks."

Jackson was expected to compete for a spot on the offensive line right away, likely at right guard. That competition now likely comes down to either Leon Brown or Alphonse Taylor.

 

Saban still not interested in talking quarterbacks

Alabama will hold its second and final scrimmage of the fall on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium, but don't expect much to change in the way of the quarterback competition between Jacob Coker and Blake Sims.

Saban told reporters at Thursday's press conference, according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com:

Nothing (different). Nothing. I mean, I don't know. What do you want me to say? They're both going to take an equal number of snaps, just like they did last week. And if you keep asking questions about it, we probably won't give you their stats again.

Alabama didn't release quarterback stats after last week's rain-slogged scrimmage. Just like in 2011, don't expect Saban to release any stats this week, either.

Saban did, though, offer a little bit of insight into the quarterbacks in a more controlled environment in an interview during the opening minutes of the SEC Network's debut.

"We are really encouraged by both players," Saban told analyst Marcus Spears. "Blake has really played well and probably developed into a more consistent player at that position than maybe I thought he could at some point in time.

"Jake has also come in and—a really talented guy, he's a big guy, he's got a good arm. And as he sort of gets more familiar with the system and gets more confidence in what he's doing, he's starting to show that he's a talented guy that could make a great contribution to our team as well."

 

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

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Michigan Football: Week 2 Fall Camp Stock Report

The biggest news out of Michigan football this week came when Brady Hoke confirmed that fifth-year senior quarterback Devin Gardner would be the starter for the team’s first game.

“I’d would expect him to start on the 30th,” said Hoke while detailing how Gardner has separated himself from his competition during fall camp. “His communication skills throughout, how the offense is run, his identification of the different reads that he has either in the run or the pass game has grown a ton.”

Earlier in the week offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier also praised Gardner’s dedication to learning the new offense.

“[Devin] understands…the plays we’re calling—was it built to be an explosive or efficient play,” said Nussmeier. “He’s really done a good job of spending extra time getting to know those types of things.”

Gardner provides Michigan its best chance to win this season. His return to the top of depth chart after recovering from last season’s leg injury locks down a critical question for the offense.


Running Back

Although Hoke announced that De’Veon Smith had seized the top position on the depth chart, the competition is still extremely tight.

“We’d love to get to one guy for sure, but right now we’re just not there yet,” said Hoke. “All four, five if you want to count Ty [Isaac], have done some really good things and they’ve all made bonehead mistakes.”

The surprising news was that Drake Johnson had surpassed Derrick Green for second position on the depth chart. Hoke was effusive in his praise for Johnson, who missed last season with an ACL injury

“Drake is a guy who really works diligently about everything…you know you’re going to get execution from him,” said Hoke. “As a running back he picked up things very well within the offense, he catches the ball in the backfield [and] has very good acceleration, he’s got a chance to take it all the way because of his speed…He’s really just done a tremendous job.”

The tight competition plays into offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s expectations for the position.

“We’re gonna play a number of guys,“ said Nussmeier. “We’re not gonna be a one-back team.”


Jabrill Peppers Watch

Hoke announced that top defensive recruit Jabrill Peppers had started taking reps at cornerback this week.

“Jabrill at the nickel has done a nice job,” said Hoke. “Jabrill moved out to some corner today, he’s kind of got his feet wet and knows what’s going on at nickel.”

In addition to playing cornerback Peppers has been practicing returning kicks on special teams. 


Offensive Line

Two weeks out from the season opener, Hoke reluctantly revealed the leaders to start on the offensive line.

For now it’s Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson at the guards, Mason Cole and Kyle Kalis at the tackles and Jack Miller at center. Kyle Bosch (sore back) and Graham Glasgow (suspended for the first game) are also in the running for reps.

Hoke continues to praise the progress made by true freshman Mason Cole.

“He’s smart, [and] he works really hard,” said Hoke. “He doesn’t back down from anything or anybody.”

Doug Nussmeier acknowledged the possibility that Cole might crack the starting lineup, saying,  “Performance has no age tied to it.”


Offensive Scouting Report

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison offered his assessment of Michigan’s new offensive under Nussmeier.

“They’re going to come out every day and knock you off the ball,” said Mattison. “We have great competition in practice.”

Nussmeier refused to share his statistical goals for the offense but declared, “We want to be physical, we want to be explosive.”


Suspension Update

Brady Hoke is standing by his player.

Despite the release of a video showing Csont’e York allegedly assaulting another man and breaking his jaw, Hoke insists that “York is still part of the program.”

"He's a guy who has been a part of this team, and we're going to go through the process."


Injury Update

Tight end Jake Butt (ACL) has not been cleared to return to practice yet. Hoke dismissed conjecture that Butt might return by the Notre Dame game.

Delano Hill (no contact) is still recovering from a broken jaw but is expected to be back before the team starts Big Ten play.

Offensive lineman Kyle Kalis (sore back) and wide receiver Devin Funchess were held out of the team’s Wednesday scrimmage as a precaution but are expected to be available for the team’s Saturday night scrimmage

Wide receiver Drake Harris is currently out due to a hamstring injury.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.

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@PSCallihan

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Texas Football: Week 2 Fall Camp Stock Report

Charlie Strong seemed disappointed during the second week of the Texas Longhorns' fall camp, and from the sound of it, he had every right to feel that way.

"During preseason camp, there are going to be days where you hit a wall, and you're just going to have to push through it. Just mentally, you have to have some toughness to you. Today we hit that wall and we weren't able to push through it," Strong said following practice. "When there are bad days, there are bad days from the coaching staff. We, ourselves, did not do a good job of pushing the guys and getting them prepared."

Strong's disappointment from practice was evident during his press conference. He was to the point and very clear that this team is not good enough to not be pushing it every practice.

"We're not a good enough football team to waste days. We only have so many opportunities, and we have to take full advantage of the opportunities," Strong said. "The first week was good because everybody was fresh and new. But here comes the second week and the battles begin. The mental battle, the physical battle, they're still trying to finish up school. But it's all about them, and putting in a good day's work."

With the poor practice behind them, the Longhorns are wrapping up Week 2 of fall camp. Unfortunately for Texas fans, Week 2 had some bad news on the injury front.

 

Injured Longhorns

Quarterback Miles Onyegbule suffered a torn ACL injury and will miss the 2014 season. Tight end Greg Daniels will get a knee scope and will miss the first game of the season, but Strong said he is hopeful of getting Daniels back at some point.

Tight end has been a somewhat non-existent position for the Longhorns for many years. But Strong has made it clear that will not be the case moving forward.

"The tight end position is a very critical position in our team and within our offense because there are different sets and different formations that we use," Strong said. "A tight end is a very valuable player. We're just going to have to sit down and see what candidates we have to move there."

Without Daniels, the Longhorns still have M.J. McFarland, Geoff Swaim and Blake Whiteley as tight end options.

McFarland is the most experienced of the group, and has played in a career-total 23 games, with four starts, and he registered eight receptions for 125 yards and one touchdown in 2012. He did not catch any passes in 2013 and was mainly involved in special teams because Swaim took over a lot of the starting role.

Swaim played in all 13 games in 2013, with nine starts, and caught three passes for 14 yards. Whiteley, meanwhile, was the first signee of the Strong era. He transferred from Arizona Western Community College, where he caught eight passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns.

Wide receiver Jaxon Shipley is still not practicing after he suffered a hamstring injury during the first fall practice of the season. There is no timetable set for his return, but the Longhorns desperately need him back in the mix to lead the receiving core.

Wide receivers coach Les Koenning has options if Shipley cannot return in time for the season opener. Junior Marcus Johnson, sophomore Jacorey Warrick, junior Daje Johnson and senior John Harris have been mentioned as valuable options for the Longhorns. And Texas has five true freshmen with the opportunity to get playing time early in the season.

And true freshman running back Donald Catalon is also dealing with a hamstring injury. Strong did not clarify when Catalon would return to the team; he just said he would be back "at some point."

Catalon was a Rivals.com 4-star prospect and has the talent to turn heads at the college position, but at this point, he is somewhat buried in the depth chart behind senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray.

 

Position Moves

Not a lot of news has been made public on any position moves or depth chart moves, but an area that seems to be settled is with the kicker and punter. Strong said Tuesday that junior Nick Rose is the kicker for the Longhorns and senior William Russ will be the punter.

Rose has played in 26 career games and was the No. 1 guy who handled kickoffs in 2012 and 2013. Russ has not seen much game-time action as a punter.

Strong made it seem like the defense is shaping out well following the second week of fall camp, but there are still a few position battles that remain open on defense.

"Defensively, we have three or four returning starters on the defensive front. Shiro (Davis) and (Caleb) Bluiett are still battling at the one end position. At linebacker, you have (Peter) Jinkens and (Steve) Edmond who are solidifying the linebacker position with (Jordan) Hicks. Then you look at the secondary, you have (Quandre) Diggs, (Mykkele) Thompson and Duke (Thomas). Then you have Dylan Haines running with the safety position."

Strong is a defensive-minded coach and has often been regarded as one of the best defensive minds in college football. He has a long track record of building stout defenses, most recently at Louisville, where he helped lead the Cardinals to the No. 1 defense nationally in 2013.

The offense may be another story. 

The running back and quarterback positions are settled, but the remaining offensive positions are still up in the air.

The Texas offense will be a storyline to follow this season, but one of the bigger positions will be the offensive line. The offensive line is looking to replace four veteran starters with a lot of young, inexperienced players. 

Offensive line coach Joe Wickline is moving and shaking up the offensive line, which is something he is known for doing. But he has a limited amount of time to find the right mix to protect the quarterback this season.

"There's going to be a lot of shuffling in camp, especially if you're trying to develop a new offense and trying to put in new schemes, new techniques and fundamentals, and you're trying to figure out what you have on hand," Wickline said. "We're going to move guys pretty often until we find the right combination."

Another position to watch will be the wide receivers. Koenning knows he has two starters in Marcus Johnson and Shipley, but with Shipley sidelined, he is looking at some of the young players to step up their game.

"We have got to get the number of reps for those kids so they can be successful," Koenning said of the young receivers. "It's not really a first- or second-team thing. We know Marcus is first. We know Shipley's first. We know that. But we're going to move those kids around so they can get an ample amount of reps, so they can be successful."

Koenning has also mentioned some of the young players by name who may have the opportunity to get on the field early this season.

"Lorenzo Joe, Dorian Leonard, Garrett Gray, Roderick Bernard and Armanti Foreman are all of those guys who are doing really good. All of them have done a really good job," Koenning said of the young wide receivers. "Right now we are going through the learning phase with them. Some of them are picking it up a little faster than others, but it's going really good."

 

Strong Takes the Stage for Annual Texas Football Kickoff Luncheon

When Strong was coaching at Louisville, he was the second priority of coaches. Louisville's basketball program has been the leader of the sports department, and football was second to it.

But that is nowhere near the case at Texas. Since taking over the Longhorns, Strong has had to get used to the amount of visibility that comes with the position. He told Hannah Storm how he was blown away by the number of media who attended his introductory press conference.

"I walked in the door and I was like, 'Oh my God. Where did all of these people come from?'" Strong told Storm. "I was walking with my oldest daughter Hayley, and she said, 'Oh my God, Dad.' And I just said, 'Keep walking. Everything will be fine.'"

Although transitioning into the public spotlight has not been an overnight deal for Strong, he has become exponentially better when dealing with the media. And that was clear at the annual Texas Football Kickoff Luncheon.

Strong discussed a multitude of topics at the luncheon, but none more important than his vision of Texas football's future.

The fans seemed excited about the speech. Some went to Twitter to discuss their feelings, while others used their applause as a way to support the first-year head coach.

Strong has yet to coach a football game for the Longhorns, but if his coaching ability is even a little similar to his ability to learn the public aspect of the job on the run, then the future could be bright for the Longhorns.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow her on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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USC Trojans Football: Week 2 Fall Camp Stock Report

USC opens the 2014 season in just over two weeks against Fresno State, and there is one priority for head coach Steve Sarkisian in that time: keep his team healthy. 

The Trojans' second week of fall camp started with the loss of linebacker Jabari Ruffin to a season-ending knee injury, and assorted other players sat out this week to heal minor maladies. 

But with some Trojans sidelined, others capitalized in the spotlight. One such opportunist is sophomore running back Justin Davis. 

 

Justin Davis, RB, Sophomore

Last season's leading rusher, Javorius "Buck" Allen, was held out Wednesday with a shoulder injury. His absence gave Davis additional carries, and he made the most of them.  

"I thought Justin played really well," Sarkisian said Wednesday, per Jordan Moore of USCTrojans.com. "We've been challenging Justin. He's coming off the foot injury and we're really just trying to get his confidence back. I thought he competed at a very high level."

Davis was promising in 2013, putting together games of 74 yards rushing against Hawaii, 96 yards against Boston College and 122 yards against Arizona State. However, a foot injury midway through his freshman campaign brought it to a premature end.  

A healthy Davis factors into a three-man backfield with Allen and Tre Madden. All that talent might translate into too few carries to go around, but Madden sees the rotation elevating the entire trio. 

"We just all work. We have our own talents and we push each other," Madden told Rich Hammond of the Orange County Register. "We always say that it’s steel sharpening steel. There’s a lot of good players making each other better every day."

Giving players with minor injuries time to recover is crucial. But even with the inherent risk, Sarkisian and his staff must keep repetitions high in order to ready the team for the nation's No. 17 most difficult schedule per Phil Steele, via FBSchedules.com

Such is the tightrope USC will walk all season, playing with fewer than 70 scholarship players on the roster. The limitations in numbers necessitate newcomers and reserves being ready to contribute, and the second week of fall camp offered promising signs to that end.

 

Defensive Backs

John Plattenburg and Jonathan Lockett are two such Trojans vying for a prominent role in the defense. 

Redshirt freshman cornerback Chris Hawkins continues to draw rave reviews. Hawkins had an opportunity to take on first-team repetitions in Week 1, with starting cornerback Kevon Seymour recovering from illness. 

Hawkins continues to establish himself as a potential difference-maker in a Trojans secondary seeking depth. 

Redshirt senior Gerald Bowman is also looking to make himself a prominent part of the Trojans defense. The nation's No. 3 overall junior-college recruit in 2012 per 247Sports, injuries stunted Bowman's progression last season. 

"To have another opportunity, I'm hungry man. I'm just trying to get better every day, get my unit better every day," Bowman told Evan Budrovich of ConquestChronicles.com

 

Quarterbacks

Cody Kessler is USC's Week 1 starting quarterback barring a drastic change. Sarkisian was complimentary of Kessler's grasp of the uptempo offense at last month's Pac-12 media days. 

"He won a lot of games and I think that shows in his play," Sarkisian said. "He's ultra-competitive."  

The redshirt junior took a tumble Wednesday that could have dramatically altered the complexion of the USC offense. After his spill, Sarkisian offered his diagnosis to Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times

"Bruised pride, bruised ego," Sarkisian said. 

Kessler regrouped, as Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News noted in his unofficial score sheet of Wednesday's scrimmage.   

Former 5-star recruit and redshirt freshman Max Browne also had an opportunity to show off his arm Wednesday.

 

Offensive Line

Sarkisian said at media days that all positions are fluid, but the quarterback competition has been more or less set since April. The Trojans' offensive line is only now beginning to take shape after two weeks of camp.

The biggest piece of the puzzle—literally—came into place this week. Zach Banner, the 6'9", 350-pound redshirt sophomore, is on track to start Week 1 at right tackle per Klein.  

Offensive line coach Tim Drevno must hope Banner is a chip off the old block; he's the son of former Washington All-American and NFL All-Pro Lincoln Kennedy. 

One Trojan Drevno will not have in his lineup is freshman Jordan Austin. 

A 3-star signee in February's recruiting class, Austin enrolled early and participated in spring practices. The other tackle prospect from the new class, Chris Brown, moves closer to a contributing role as a result. 

With the team's depth concerns, Sarkisian isn't bashful about giving youngsters opportunities. 

"We're going to need some...of these guys to be real contributors,” Sarkisian told Klein. "And the only way that's going to happen is by throwing them in there.”  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com. Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores. 

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Ohio State Football: Evaluating Braxton Miller's Over/Under Stat Projections

Las Vegas isn't expecting a lot of growth from Braxton Miller this year.

That much became clear when Bovada released its over/under stat projections for a number of collegiate football players this week. Even though Ohio State's star signal-caller has increased his game-to-game output in his three seasons with the Buckeyes, the online sportsbook has predicted modest numbers for Miller.

Here's a look at his forecasted stats for the 2014 season.

 

Is Braxton Miller Headed for a Letdown?

Bovada set Miller's over/unders surprisingly low, projecting 2,095.5 passing yards, 850.5 rushing yards and 32.5 total touchdowns. Comparing those numbers to previous seasons indicates Vegas is expecting Miller to flatline in his final year at Ohio State.

If these numbers hold up, that would actually mean Miller took a statistical step back in 2014.

The passing yards from 2013 and his projection for 2014 are nearly identical, but Miller missed most of three games last year after suffering a sprained MCL in his knee against San Diego State. 

During that three-game stretch, backup quarterback Kenny Guiton threw for 643 yards and 12 touchdowns. 

While Miller wasn't the polished passer Guiton was in 2013, those three opponents (San Diego State, Cal and Florida A&M) fielded three of the worst pass defenses Ohio State faced. The Aztecs ranked No. 98 in total pass defense, Cal ranked dead last among FBS teams and Florida A&M gave up six touchdown passes to Guiton—a new Ohio State record.

Essentially, Miller missed the three biggest opportunities to pad his passing stats.

Bovada also anticipates Miller's rushing yards and total touchdowns to dip as well. The rushing stats are particularly surprising because Miller has proven to be a lethal runner in Urban Meyer's offense. Miller has eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in each of his two seasons under Meyer.

For Miller, the biggest threat to a career year is injury.

 

Staying Healthy Is the Key

Miller has been plagued by injury throughout his otherwise illustrious career at Ohio State.

In fact, lingering soreness from a shoulder surgery in February is putting the start of Miller's 2014 season in question. The coaching staff has been easing Miller into full swing during fall camp, but if he's still battling his shoulder when the Buckeyes open the season, that would seriously impact his ability to produce.

Matt Brown of Sports On Earth wrote about the balancing act Meyer has ahead of him.

Ohio State's top priority is preventing [a serious injury] from happening again, through a combination of protecting Miller in the pocket and successfully managing the number of run plays specifically designed for him.

That starts with a change in offensive philosophy. The Buckeyes, who are working to replace Carlos Hyde and four senior starters along the offensive line, are aiming to attack the perimeter in 2014.

The result of that could be a drop in Miller's overall rushing stats, as Bovada projected, but it's safe to assume his passing numbers would spike. The Buckeyes have a host of offensive weapons with the likes of Dontre Wilson, Devin Smith, Jeff Heuerman and Ezekiel Elliott in the fold, but it all falls back on Miller.

If he can stay healthy, Ohio State's offense will be lethal and he will put up big numbers. If he battles injuries in 2014, he could fall short of Bovada's meager projections.

 

Unless otherwise noted, stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412

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Tennessee Football: Week 2 Fall Stock Report

With only snippets of Tennessee football practices open to the media, fans are left to interpret coach Butch Jones' coachspeak and alternating mood swings.

Throughout week two of fall drills, his interviews have seemed a shade less surly than they were a week ago as he has been quicker to hand out praise to his players. Then, he'll throw out a downer like his post-scrimmage thoughts Wednesday night.

According to UTSports.com's official transcript, Jones said:

As a whole, I didn't like our approach, I thought we lacked intensity, gave up way too many big plays defensively; I didn't think we came to play defensively. [Also] too many pre-snap penalties on offense. ... Some individuals now are starting to distance themselves from the pack, so we will go back tonight, we will grade the film and we will start to define people's roles on this football team in moving forward.

With just a bit more than two weeks left until UT kicks off against Utah State, the Vols have a long way to go. But they've seemingly made strides in solidifying roles and identifying a handful of youngsters who can help right away.

Now that they've named a starting quarterback in Justin Worley (per GoVols247's Wes Rucker), the team can get acclimated to him, and the offense can develop a comfort level before the Aggies roll into town.

Even though that's a big question mark out of the way, numerous others remain. Let's take a look at the biggest news from the past week on the Vols' practice field.

 

Wolfing Down the Reps

Anybody wondering aloud about the importance of quality tight end play in Jones' offense need not look any further than his final season at Cincinnati.

Travis Kelce led the Big East co-champion Bearcats with 45 catches for 722 yards and eight touchdowns.

So when the Vols experienced atrocious play from the position a season ago, it had a direct effect on the offense. Tight end is one of those areas where quality is crucial in Jones' power-spread scheme, so UT went out and recruited two potential immediate-impact players in Ethan Wolf and Daniel Helm.

Thus far, former 247 composite 3-star Wolf looks like one of the biggest surprises of the class. The 6'5", 240-pound tight end has earned some first-team reps along with Alex Ellis and continued to draw praise from Jones.

"Been really, really pleased with Ethan Wolf," Jones told GoVols247's Wes Rucker (subscription required). "I think Ethan Wolf continues to get better and better and better."

That's not just lip service from the top man either. Most of the folks who've witnessed practices have seen the immense all-around ability Wolf has shown. Not only can he be a force in the run game because of his size and blocking ability, but he also has used his athleticism to add a wrinkle to the passing game.

Volquest.com owner Brent Hubbs (subscription required) noted Wolf as his mid-camp surprise, stating:

I liked Wolf in the spring, but in my mind, he's really taken off this summer and is having a fabulous camp. I honestly expected his role this season to be more of just an in-line blocker in two tight end sets, but he has flashed the ability to get open in the pass game. The athleticism and agility he's shown in fall camp have been really impressive. And to go with that, he's been extremely consistent on the practice field every day. … He's making the tight end position dramatically different than it was a year ago.

Even Helm, who was the higher-rated of the two tight ends, conceded Wolf is farther along in his development. Both will be huge parts of the future, but Wolf will thrive right now.

Whether or not Wolf starts won't have any bearing on his impact to the offense. He is one of the two freshmen (along with right tackle Coleman Thomas) who don't necessarily get lumped in with all the excitement and anticipation surrounding guys like Jalen Hurd or Josh Malone.

But they'll be just as important to the success of the 2014 Vols as anybody.

 

Malone Snaps Out of Funk

Malone answers the phone when the lights come on.

If that's how things are going to be this season for the Vols' elite 6'3", 204-pound freshman receiver, it's better than the alternative.

The first couple weeks of practice haven't been kind to the Gallatin, Tennessee, native as he struggled to take another step forward following an electrifying Orange and White Game this past spring that saw him score three touchdowns.

But in the midst of a game environment during the Vols' second full scrimmage Thursday night, Malone woke up. Statistics were not released for the practice, but he reportedly flashed some of the skills that made him one of the most hotly recruited prospects in the Southeast a season ago.

It's going to be extremely difficult for Malone to win a starting job with Marquez North entrenched at one outside spot, sophomore Josh Smith playing so well and Von Pearson, Pig Howard and Johnathon Johnson battling for reps in the slot.

But there is plenty of playing time to be had. The Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown reported the Vols "will rotate heavily at receiver, and wideouts coach Zach Azzanni likes to play a handful of guys."

Malone is certain to be one of those guys. He's too talented to keep off the field. But his performance in practice will have a direct effect on the confidence coaches have in his ability to play at a high level, even if he does play his best on the big stage.

 

 While Curt Is Hurt, Barnett Reaps Rewards 

Tennessee defensive end and team leader Curt Maggitt is currently hobbled by a "minor, lower-leg injury," according to Rucker, that could keep him out for a few practices.

That's bad news for the Vols, but a silver lining is freshman Derek Barnett getting repetitions with the first-team defense.

The 6'3", 267-pound defensive end trotted out as a starter with Maggitt sidelined, according to Volquest.com's Brent Hubbs and Grant Ramey (subscription required). Though the Vols want to get their star junior back as soon as possible, they're developing some much-needed depth along the front.

Barnett continues a torrid camp that will wind up with him firmly entrenched in the defensive line rotation. While he'll surely take some lumps in his first year, he'll be an anchor in the trenches throughout his UT career.

As for Maggitt, nobody believes the injury is serious. He told Volquest.com's Hubbs and Lewis Thursday night, "I'm good. I appreciate it. I'm all good," before saying he was taking things "one day at a time."

 

Updates on Tennessee's Top Position Battles

Jones knows everybody wanted to know who was going to be the Vols quarterback prior to Thursday's naming of Worley as the starter.

But UT's coach is equally concerned about another position—kicker.

Last season, Michael Palardy held all three kicking responsibilities for the Vols and was arguably the team's MVP. This fall, there have been flashes from all three kicking candidates, but nobody has taken the job.

Jones told Callahan that sophomore George Bullock leads true freshman Aaron Medley in the race right now.

At outside linebacker, everybody is talking about UT legacy and true freshman Dillon Bates, but it's going to be extremely difficult for him to unseat Jalen Reeves-Maybin.

 In GoVols247 writer Rucker's "Five on the Rise" article, he notes of JRM:

The former safety from Clarksville, Tenn., has beefed up to 230 pounds and has taken great strides as a player and leader, according to his coaches and teammates. Tennessee's special-teams dynamo of 2013 looks like a potentially dynamic component of Tennessee’s 2014 defense.

The Vols needed a quarterback to step up and take control of the starting job. Once Worley finally did, naming him the starter was a no-brainer.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian told Volquest.com assistant editor John Brice (subscription required) just how well Worley had been playing recently: "The body of work over the long-term is important, but we want to know who is playing his best football right now. Justin is hitting on all cylinders right now. So we're excited about that."

 

Roundup from Rocky Top (News and Notes)

The Vols are holding their only open practice Saturday night in Neyland Stadium, and the coaching staff wants to eclipse the 39,000 or so fans they had for last year's event.

UT football's official Twitter account has been tweeting out reminders all week.

**

Under Jones, it's a tradition that the newcomers all have a black stripe on their helmets that is removed once they earn that privilege with their play.

This week, the older Vols removed stripes from the helmets of Barnett, Wolf, running back Jalen Hurd and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, according to The Daily Times' Grant Ramey. All are expected to start or at least be major contributors this season.

**

A freshman who isn't talked about much but is quietly having a strong camp is Jashon Robertson. The Nashville native and long-time Vanderbilt commit flipped to UT after James Franklin left for Penn State, and he has taken his new position by storm.

Less than a week into practice, the Vols coaches moved Robertson from defensive tackle to offensive guard, and he has excelled thus far. Offensive line coach Don Mahoney told GoVols247's Callahan: "I’m really, really excited about his future. I mean, he’s a lot more mature than his classification is. We’re going to keep pushing and demanding, and he keeps accepting the challenges."

 

All recruiting rankings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports composite rankings. All statistics gathered from CFBStats.com.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter here:

 

@Brad_Shepard

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Nebraska Football: Week 2 Fall Stock Report

The second week of fall camp has brought two-a-day practices for the Huskers. After the first week brought too many injuries and even a suspension, this week has been much more calm.

Position battles are really heating up now. That doesn't mean Bo Pelini and staff didn't find some time for a little fun this week. And with media once again being allowed at practice, the media really showed up.

 

News from the Week

Another injury for Nebraska kicked off the second week of practice. On Monday, Pelini confirmed tailback Adam Taylor has suffered a broken ankle during the Aug. 9 practice, per Jerry Hinnen of CBSSports.com. While the news was disappointing, the Huskers still have Ameer Abdullah, Imani Cross and Terrell Newby healthy.

In fact, Abdullah had something to say about all the talent that surrounds him, per Hail Varsity's Grant Muessel.

Offensive coordinator Tim Beck feels good about where the offense is right now. He said during the Aug. 11 practices that he believes roughly 80 to 85 percent of the playbook is installed, per Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald. “Our guys started reviewing more than learning," he said. "And it showed on the field.”

It's not major news, but it still got plenty of attention during the Aug. 13 practice. Husker coaches faced off in a little dance competition. The photos truly are worth a thousand words.

 

Important Position Battles

The quarterback competition continues. While it's hard to see Tommy Armstrong losing the No. 1 spot by the first game, it's clearer than ever that it's not a cake walk for him, Ryker Fyfe or Johnny Stanton.

During the Aug. 13 practice, Pelini said who falls where. "Right now, obviously the top three are Tommy, Ryker and Johnny (Stanton). Probably in that order," Pelini said, per Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald.

In the absence of Charles Jackson, Pelini expects Byerson Cockrell to now start at nickelback this season. That doesn't mean Cockrell won't have some competition, though. As the Lincoln Journal Star's Brian Rosenthal reported, Pelini believes that true freshman Josh Kalu “has made a big jump” at nickelback.

“I feel good about our nickel position right now,” Pelini said, per Rosenthal. “Those guys have really learned a lot, and we’re throwing a lot at them, so it’s good.”

 

Biggest Storylines

After the Aug. 9 practice, Armstrong was seen sporting the green non-contact jersey, according to Greg Smith of Black Sports Online. With the quarterback competition heating up, it was a bit of concern to fans as to how long he'd have to wear it. By Aug. 13, Nyatawa reported that Armstrong was no longer wearing it.

The defense definitely took a big hit during the first week of fall camp with injuries and a suspension. As a result, Pelini spent some extra time working with both the defensive backs and linebackers this week. Nyatawa noted that there was some good competition between the two units and quality reps as well.

As for special teams, there's a well-known player interested in helping out. That guy is Abdullah. He was seen taking punt return reps alongside Jordan Westerkamp, De'Mornay Pierson-El and Jordan Nelson, per Muessel. Abdullah explained:

I consider myself one of the better players on this team, so I want the best players out there at all times...Just because you play a pivotal role on the offense doesn’t mean you can’t contribute on special teams, because you want the best 11 out there at every phase of the game.

It should be interesting how it all shapes up in the next couple of weeks.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

LSU Football: Week 2 Fall Stock Report

The launch of ESPN's SEC Network on Thursday stole all of the college football headlines this week. And LSU was certainly not left out of the party. 

Head coach Les Miles was interviewed by the SEC Network's Peter Burns on Thursday. Two of the network's prominent analysts, former LSU All-American defensive linemen in Marcus Spears and Anthony "Booger" McFarland, made their debuts.

ESPN has also been at practice since the beginning of the week for an All-Access look at the Tigers. 

But outside of the bright lights of the worldwide leader, fall camp continued. 

Wednesday was an eventful day for LSU. The Tigers competed in their first scrimmage despite missing key players. Here are a few headlines from the entire week. 

 

Quarterback Battle Continues 

LSU's Wednesday scrimmage lasted approximately 50 plays, according to LSU Sports Information. Receivers Travin Dural and Avery Peterson both caught touchdown passes, though LSU would would not say which quarterback threw them. 

Miles said both sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris took an equal amount of snaps with the first and second units and played well 70 percent of the time. 

Judging scrimmage performances can be tricky. They are closed to the public and the media, which means all information is released from the team. 

Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will not make a decision on who will be under center until late August. 

 

Freshmen Injuries

Highly touted freshmen Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre were held out of Wednesday's scrimmage due to injury, per ESPN.com

Miles said the injuries are minor. He knows the importance of Fournette and Dupre to LSU's success this season. It will be their first time fighting through the grind of an SEC schedule, so staying on the side of caution is smart. 

 

Quentin Thomas Returns to Practice

The Advocate reported starting defensive tackle Quentin Thomas would be out for the season with torn biceps. Luckily for Miles, that looks like it will not be the case. 

Thomas returned to practice on Wednesday and Miles said he could possibly be back working out in full with the team, per The Times-Picayune.  

Miles will not need to rush Thomas back in to action. The Tigers have three talented redshirt freshmen that can fill the void in Frank Herron, Greg Gilmore and Maquedius Bain. 

 

Fall Camp Schedule

LSU will have split practices on Friday, with one practice in the morning and another in the afternoon. The Tigers will have a full padded scrimmage on Saturday and have an off day on Sunday.

Miles is heading into his 10th season in Baton Rouge. He understands the rigors of an SEC schedule as well as anyone. It is vital to have as many players healthy for the start of the season.

Fournette and Dupre probably could have played on Wednesday but risking their health in a meaningless scrimmage is unnecessary. Expect Miles to continue to be cautious with player injuries.

Here is LSU's schedule for next week, via The Advocate.

Monday, Aug. 18, 8:45 a.m. Practice & 4:15 p.m. Walk-through

Tuesday, Aug. 19 3:30 p.m. Scrimmage (closed)

Wednesday, Aug. 20 4 p.m. Walk-through

Thursday, Aug. 21 4:35 p.m. Practice

Friday, Aug. 22 4:30 p.m. Practice

 

Rankings and stats provided by cfbstats.com and 247Sports. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Bulldogs Football: Week 2 Fall Camp Stock Report

As another week of fall camp winds down, here's all the latest from the Georgia Bulldogs.

 

Merritt Hall's Career Ends

Last week, it became evident that Georgia's ongoing battle with the injury bug was far from over.  This week, that affliction vested itself in a medical disqualification for starting fullback Merritt Hall.  According to GeorgiaDogs.com, Hall suffered multiple concussions both in high school and in college, but the most recent (and final) injury occurred last week.

Hall's career ended all too quickly. He arrived in Athens, Georgia, as a walk-on, and after redshirting in 2011, he earned a scholarship and six starts in 12 game appearances in 2012.  Last season, he started one game and appeared in all 13 contests for the Bulldogs.

Statistics and participation, however, do not tell the whole story for Hall.  A fierce competitor, Hall was a tenacious lead blocker and pivotal in Georgia's success in the running game over the past two seasons.  

 

Depth Concerns

The premature conclusion of Hall's career makes the fullback position one of concern.  Currently, Taylor Maxey (a walk-on and a senior) and freshman Detric Bing-Dukes (who last week was a linebacker) are contending for the starting fullback spot.  This unexpected change in the depth chart was called "surreal" by Maxey (per Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald) but has many fans uneasy.

Obviously, the urgency resulting from Hall's medical disqualification is heightened given Quayvon Hicks' new role as a tight end and H-back. Hicks' move has proved invaluable, as Georgia has struggled to keep tight end Jay Rome healthy and there is a general absence of experience at the position.

While the trickle-down effect of lacking depth may seem insurmountable, don't rule out some offensive variation from coordinator Mike Bobo.  If Hicks is able to line up as a true hybrid athlete in the backfield, new wrinkles can be rolled out.  This may also provide for less traditional backfields and the use of two true running backs in the backfield at the same time. 

 

Secondary Questions

Meanwhile, the defensive secondary remains a bit of a mystery as far as personnel is concerned.  New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is giving everyone opportunities, but nothing is yet settled.  Head coach Mark Richt told Seth Emerson of Macon's Telegraph, "We've got so many working parts there.  Jeremy's really put just about everybody out there."

In the mix for major playing time:

  • Damian Swann: projected starter at cornerback
  • Rico Johnson: cornerback
  • Devin Bowman: cornerback
  • Shattle Fenteng: cornerback and star position
  • J.J. Green: star position
  • Malkom Parrish: star position
  • Quincy Mauger: safety and star position
  • Dominick Sanders: safety
  • Aaron Davis: safety
  • Corey Moore: safety

At this juncture, it's hard to tell if these players are struggling to differentiate themselves because the talent pool is so deep or if they're failing to execute properly.  

 

Pool Day

On a lighter note, Georgia took their annual trip to the Ramsey Center for a day of high-diving on Tuesday.  

 

Week 3 Storylines

Obviously, tracking the development of Georgia's new fullback rotation will be worth keeping an eye on.  Bobo has typically relied heavily on a blocking back, so it would be premature to think that role will be diminished greatly—particularly if either Maxey or Bing-Dukes can demonstrate mastery of the position.

Additionally, the offensive line rotation should soon be cemented. Currently, several players are continuing to shuffle.

On the defensive side of the ball, expect to see a few more starters or "leaders" emerge in the secondary.  That may be not be vocalized by Pruitt, but rep distribution should soon begin to favor the projected starters.

Lastly, Georgia is holding a special teams scrimmage on Saturday night.  This should be a nice opportunity for athletes like freshman Isaiah McKenzie to show what they can do in live situations.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Gators Football: Week 2 Fall Stock Report

Another week of practice in the books for the Florida Gators, another seven days that much closer to regular-season action. The Gators are now just 15 days away from their season opener against Idaho.

Florida’s second week of fall camp was once again heavily focused on the offensive side of the ball. With the defense set, the Gators continue to try and get their offense up to speed and to the point it can put points on the board on a consistent basis. There’s a lot of positive things going on offensively and a ton of confidence being displayed.

Here are the key updates from the second week of Florida’s fall camp.

 

These Aren't the Same Receivers

At times, it feels like Florida’s practices are all about quarterback Jeff Driskel. Everybody wants questions answered and updates on his progress. How is he going to pick up the new offense? Can he stay healthy? Is he really going to be that much better under offensive coordinator Kurt Roper?

Driskel is still improving and a lot of folks are impressed, which is something I wrote in last week's article.

However, what about the guys catching the ball? Last season, no Gator caught more than 44 passes, and there was only one receiver who had more than two touchdown receptions (Solomon Patton, who is no longer on the team).

A quarterback is only as good as his receivers, and those same receivers who weren’t contributing much a year ago have a different mindset this season, according to Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com.

"Since I've been here this is probably the most talented receiving group we've had," Quinton Dunbar said. "I feel like everybody is going to trust each other this year to get better. I feel like we've got depth, and a lot of people can make plays."

Andre Debose chimed in, per the report: "I feel like we can be great. We can be the best in the SEC. With the offense we have I feel like the coach puts us in a lot of good situations to make plays. I feel like with this offense we'll flourish."

That certainly doesn’t sound like a group of receivers who allowed Florida’s passing offense to rank 109th in the country. Then again, the Gators have been drenched in confidence all offseason and truly believe they can be the surprise team of the year that makes an honest run at an SEC title.

Speaking of Debose, he’s looked terrific in camp so far.

If Debose can remain healthy and productive, there's no question Florida's wide receiving corps will be light years better than last season.

 

Tempo, Tempo, Tempo 

If it’s not keeping an eye on every move Driskel makes, it’s making sure the offense is moving at a quick enough speed. Roper runs an uptempo offense that wants to get to the line quickly, gets a lot of plays off and simply wears down the defense by the time the fourth quarter arrives.

While things have progressed over the months, it’s not good enough yet, according to receiver Ahmad Fulwood, via Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports.

The biggest step (left) I’d have to say is the tempo. We watched the film of Duke last year. I feel like we should pick up the tempo a little bit more. We’re running it fast, but coach Roper said we could always do it a lot faster. The less time the defense has to prepare, the better for us.

That’s typical coachspeak. No matter how perfect it may look on film or what the results are, a coach will always find something to push his players that much further. Truth is, the tempo can always be a bit faster, which is why the Gators have been going through a brutal conditioning program to prepare them for what’s to come.

With several months to prepare, the Gators' tempo is certainly faster than it was in the spring. Still, Oregon probably believes it could run its offense faster than it has in the past, and it's a unit that ranks at the top of every offensive category. 

The speed of the offense is without question going to be the top thing to watch in Florida's first game of the season. 

 

Injuries Won't Go Away?

The first week of fall camp involved the close call to cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Now, last Sunday’s scrimmage finished with a lot of bumps and bruises, according to Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports, who listed all of the players' injuries and expected return.

Player (Injury) -- Projected Return

RB Kelvin Taylor (hamstring strain) -- Thursday or Friday 
RB Matt Jones (knee swelling) -- Tuesday 
RB Adam Lane (unspecified) -- Unspecified 
WR Andre Debose (knee swelling) -- Wednesday 
OL Trip Thurman (shoulder) -- Unspecified 
DE Alex McCalister (shoulder) -- Unspecified 
DE Taven Bryan (strep throat) -- Day to Day 
DE Bryan Cox Jr. (shoulder) -- Unspecified 
DL Jonathan Bullard (ankle) -- Tuesday 
DT Thomas Holley (hernia) -- Surgery Needed, Unspecified 
CB Vernon Hargreaves III (bone bruise) -- Tuesday or Wednesday 
S Duke Dawson (shoulder) -- Next Couple Days

Practicing in Non-Contact Jerseys

TE DeAndre Goolsby
CB J.C. Jackson 
S Marcus Maye

Yikes.

The good news is that the majority of those players have already returned to practice or are close to it. But Florida’s lengthy injury history and several incidents in just one scrimmage has the coaching staff thinking ahead. That’s why Dante Fowler was limited in Thursday’s practice due to a minor arm injury, according to Robbie Andreu of Gator Sports.

“Dante was in orange as a precautionary today,” UF defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “He’s fine. He’s ready to go. He did some of practice, and some we held him out. That was just precautionary.”

This is too close to comfort for Florida fans, as the regular season can't get here fast enough.

 

Extra Point

Ever wonder what it looked like from the eyes of a quarterback? Now you know.

Until next week.

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Every College Football Playoff Contender's Secret Weapon in 2014

Every national championship contender needs stars to thrive, but each also needs a secret weapon.

The teams need a player who can seemingly come out of nowhere to rip off a 100-yard rushing game, make an 80-yard catch-and-run touchdown or carry a game-changing kick return 99 yards for a touchdown.

If you’re a hardcore college football fan, you know about the nation's best players. You know the stars: Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Braxton Miller, Bryce Petty, Todd Gurley and more.

They’re the Heisman Trophy candidates, the players who grab the headlines, shine in the spotlight and are the first names off any color commentator’s lips on a crisp fall Saturday afternoon.

But they can't carry a team alone. They need help. 

Every great team has a guy waiting in the wings, in a secondary role that gets outshined by his team's biggest stars. Someone who might not be well-known right now but could become a household name by late November.

Here’s a look at every College Football Playoff contender’s secret weapon for 2014. For this list, we took the Top 10 teams in the Amway Coaches Poll and identified a player who might emerge as a secret weapon this fall. These are players who are entering their first seasons starting this fall or fighting their way up the depth chart, clawing for playing time. 

In this look, teams are listed alphabetically, not by their position in the preseason poll.

Begin Slideshow

Texas Football: Buying or Selling the Longhorns' Top Fall Camp Performers

Charlie Strong and his Texas Longhorns are almost through their second week of fall camp, and several players have made their unexpected case for a major role in 2014. As we hit the homestretch to the season, which ones are you buying and selling as true breakout candidates?

As expected, the stars have come in and handled their business. David Ash has been the best player on the field according to 247Sports' Jeff Howe, while guys like Cedric Reed and Malcolm Brown continue to set themselves up for nice senior seasons.

Those are the guys that Strong and his staff are supposed to be able to rely on. The surprises, such as walk-on Dylan Haines and freshman Armanti Foreman, are the ones that have the potential to help this team exceed expectations.

So far, these two are among several fall standouts that are ready to turn their solid camp showings into essential roles for the 2014 campaign. But not every camp standout is here to stay, as we will see with Jason Hall and M.J. McFarland.

Begin Slideshow

Braxton Miller's Health Most Vital Factor in Ohio State's 2014 Playoff Chances

Braxton Miller is accustomed to individual accolades.

He won the past two Big Ten Silver Footballs as the conference’s best player, has appeared on moreSports Illustrated covers than any Ohio State athlete in history (four) and is seen as a serious Heisman candidate heading into the 2014 season.

However, the only way he can take care of the team success vacancy on his resume this year is by staying healthy.

Miller had offseason surgery on his shoulder and missed spring practice. He has been limited in August training as well and is clearly easing back into things.

Co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner didn’t seem particularly concerned, via Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors:

We’re kind of bringing him along slowly. I think we have a really good plan to get him where he needs to be Aug. 30. We definitely don’t need to rush it.

I love Braxton’s work ethic, his attitude, his mentality. His mindset is awesome. His understanding of the game is great, and his leadership has improved. We’re just letting him come along physically.

It’s part of the plan. There was no he got the hook in the middle of the day. It was all planned out. We’re doing that with some other guys who started a lot who are coming off injuries, just watching their volume until they build into it.

It’s certainly encouraging that things are apparently going according to plan, but any Buckeye fan who remembers Miller trying to push the ball downfield with a barely functioning shoulder in the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson knows Ohio State’s College Football Playoff hopes hinge on the signal-caller’s health.

Miller’s value to Ohio State is clear when we look at the numbers.

His completion percentage, passing yards and passing touchdowns have increased every year since he arrived on campus, and he posted 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns through the air and 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground in 2013. 

Austin Ward of ESPN noted that Miller’s abilities have landed him on preseason Heisman watch lists already:

However, that production—particularly the running—comes with a cost. Every time Miller tucks the ball away and takes off downfield, Buckeye fans (and likely coaches) hold their breath in anticipation.

The video game moves in open space are sometimes breathtaking, but Miller is vulnerable. It would probably be in Ohio State’s best long-term interest if Miller limited his running to the situations where the team really needed it. You don’t want to handicap his game, but he probably doesn’t have to be sprinting outside the pocket against Illinois or Kent State.

So we know Miller is capable of putting up incredible numbers and leading the Buckeyes, but his health is even more important this year because the luxury that was Kenny Guiton is no longer around.

Guiton tallied 749 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air and 330 yards and five touchdowns on the ground in 2013. He carried the Buckeyes to a blowout victory at California, rescued them against Purdue in 2012 and played valuable snaps when Miller was briefly injured in a victory in East Lansing against Michigan State in 2012.

It was easy to mistake Guiton for a starting quarterback because of his poise and passing abilities. In fact, he may have been the best signal-caller in the Big Ten outside of his own teammate a year ago had he been given a chance to start all season. There was a point when Guiton actually led the nation in touchdown passes.

Without Guiton, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett assume the responsibilities that come with being Miller’s backup.

Sure, the potential is there, but the lack of experience doesn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence. National title expectations will be bearing down on the Buckeyes from the opening game, and Barrett and Jones have combined for zero meaningful snaps in their Ohio State careers.

Miller’s health is also incredibly important to Ohio State’s playoff chances because running back Carlos Hyde is no longer around.

Hyde barreled his way to 1,521 rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns in 2013 even though he missed three games. He was an absolute workhorse who took the pressure off Miller and the rest of the offense throughout the season.

Between Hyde’s absence and the fact that Ohio State is replacing four starters on the offensive line, Miller’s role is clear—playmaker and leader of the offense. He is the proven commodity in Urban Meyer's system and needs to stay on the field to prove it.

Despite the common narrative that the Buckeyes play a weak schedule, there will be plenty of tests in 2014. The Scarlet and Gray face off with dangerous Navy, Virginia Tech and Cincinnati teams in the nonconference portion of the slate and have to travel to Penn State for a game that will be the Nittany Lions’ Super Bowl under the lights.

The annual clash with Michigan is always a cliche throw-out-the-records showdown (just look at last year’s 42-41 thriller), but the one contest that every member of Buckeye Nation has circled is the rematch of the Big Ten championship game. Ohio State gets another crack at Michigan State, this time in East Lansing, after the Spartans ended its 2013 national title dreams in Indianapolis.

Considering the fact that the Buckeyes and Spartans are in the same division, the winner will have the inside lane to the Big Ten title game. Logic would dictate that in a four-team playoff with the SEC, Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten and ACC vying for spots, any Big Ten representative will likely need to win the conference.

The only way Ohio State can beat the stout Michigan State defense and reach Indianapolis is if its playmaker shines under center. 

That will only happen if Mr. Miller is healthy.

 

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College Football Freshmen Turning Heads in 2014 Fall Practice

Not all freshmen are created equal, at least in terms of hype and expectation.

For every Leonard Fournette, Jabrill Peppers or Raekwon McMillan, dozens of other incoming recruits show up at fall practice with little to no fanfare. Though armed with the same full-ride scholarship, these less-heralded freshmen don't arrive with much hype, and because of this, their early promise comes off as somewhat of a surprise.

But that surprise is really only reserved for the general public, as any college football coach will tell you he wouldn't have recruited those players if he didn't think they could contribute.

Through the first two weeks of college football teams' training camp, several freshmen are getting noticed for the talent they possess and the push they're making to play right away. Some of them are well-known prospects in recruiting circles, while others are relative unknowns, but they all have one thing in common: They're turning heads.

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Nebraska Football: Special Teams Are Cornhuskers' Biggest Question in 2014

Nebraska football fans have been freaking out a little about injuries, and rightfully so. Over the course of the last week, Nebraska lost a likely starting nickel (Charles Jackson), "Mike" linebacker (Michael Rose) and backup I-back (Adam Taylor) to injury.

In addition, the Cornhuskers saw likely starting safety LeRoy Alexander suspended for the entire 2014 season.

The reaction was predictable:

These Nebraska football injuries need to stop, holy moly. Feel for the guys #huskers

— Brian McMahon (@B_MacMan) August 9, 2014

.@Pontifex Do you have any blessings that you can say for the Nebraska football team? Something for injuries would be best.

— Bo's cat Bo Purrini (@boshuskercat) August 9, 2014

Those losses are all important and could impact Nebraska significantly in 2014. However, there is one loss to injury that hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention—one that could cost Nebraska wins.

Gabe Miller.

Who, you might ask (go to 0:41 of the video for the uber-geek reference)? Well, he’s Nebraska’s long snapper, and Corn Nation's Brian Towle reports he’s going to be out for “a while.”

That’s bad news for a special teams department that should terrify Nebraska fans at almost every level.

About the only area where Nebraska excelled last season was on kickoffs courtesy of Mauro Bondi. Nebraska finished No. 10 nationally in touchback percentage on kickoffs at 61.54 percent. Nebraska was fairly average on kickoff returns (No. 41), opponents' kick returns (No. 41) and opponents' punt returns (No. 68).

And we know how disastrous Nebraska was at punt returns, where NU was No. 123 (!) nationally with 3.04 yards per return.

Former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne and Brandon Vogel of Hail Varsity have pointed out the critical importance of field position in a team’s ability to succeed.

So has this guy, but who has time for that?

The place-kicking job was already a huge worry. Nebraska coaches clearly did not have enough confidence in scholarship kicker Bondi, as they brought in transfer Pat Smith in 2013. He won the job—and ultimately the game for Nebraska at Penn State.

This year, the team has brought in another kicker in true freshman Drew Brown. While nothing has been announced yet, it’s hard not to see Brown having every chance to win the starting job.

That would mean Nebraska would be rolling into the 2014 season with a true freshman as a place-kicker. We saw last year how a win in overtime in a hostile environment rested on the foot of a kicker.

How much harder will that be if the kicker is less than a year removed from his high school senior prom—and with questions at long snapper to get him the ball in the first place?

So, let’s assess. Awesome at getting touchbacks on kickoffs. Average at best in other areas. Massive questions at place-kicker—either a true freshman or second-choice kicker and an untested long snapper—the one area where stability and confidence is desperately needed. Tack on a punt return game that was an unmitigated disaster last year.

Forget about worries in the secondary. If Nebraska fans are going to panic about something, panic about special teams.

 

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

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Clemson Football: Week 2 Fall Stock Report

The Clemson Tigers just wrapped up their second full week of fall camp and are now just two weeks away from a trip to Georgia to open the 2014 season. After unseasonably cool temperatures at the beginning of the month, the heat picked up over the past week and so did the intensity.

After a scrimmage on Wednesday, the Tigers had a light practice on Thursday and plan to do the same on Friday. Saturday will be Clemson's next scrimmage, and head coach Dabo Swinney certainly hopes it goes much better than Wednesday's effort. 

"We would not have beaten anyone today," Swinney told the assembled media after practice, per Brandon Rink of the Anderson Independent Mail. "We had way too many mistakes. It has been a good camp until today, but there were just too many errors in all phases of the game."

What disturbed Swinney the most, however, was the amount of penalties on both sides of the ball:

We had situations where the offense jumped on third and one. We had a defensive back line up offsides. We had too many interference penalties on defense. We had a couple of running backs put the ball on the ground. I am glad we didn’t play a game today.

Was it simply a matter of players hitting the wall, or is it the sign of an undisciplined team? Fortunately for Clemson, it has 21 scholarship seniors on the roster—most ever under Swinney—and veteran teams are generally more mature and disciplined. 

 

Injuries

After two weeks of practice, of course there are injuries. The Tigers, though, are not in bad shape at the present time.

Left tackle Isaiah Battle was one player who returned to full participation this week after battling an ankle injury. Battle needs the practice time, as he's entering his first full year as a starter.

Tight end Stanton Seckinger is out for 3-4 weeks after suffering an ankle injury. Seckinger was third on the depth chart entering fall camp, and his absence has opened the door for sophomore Jay Jay McCullough behind Jordan Leggett.  

Fellow tight end Sam Cooper, also battling an injury, continues to improve and practice in a limited capacity this week.

Wide receiver Charone Peake, who missed the majority of last season with an ACL injury and had minor knee surgery at the end of July, continues to run on the side and should be ready to go for the season opener. 

 

Offensive Line Coming Together

Once the 2013 season ended, there were many concerns surrounding Clemson on the offensive side of the ball. Obviously, many wondered who would replace Tajh Boyd at quarterback and Sammy Watkins at wide receiver.

But what about the offensive line? The Tigers lost Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley from what was a strong group in 2013. 

Clemson returned a lot of experience along the offensive line in 2014, but the biggest questions centered around who would man each tackle spot. 

Battle is an extremely talented athlete. At 6'6", 288 pounds, he sometimes struggles to keep weight on and would like to start the season at close to 300 pounds. Battle sometimes lacks focus and was suspended one game last season for punching an N.C. State player. If Battle can put it all together, he could be an All-American left tackle. 

The biggest surprise of fall camp, though, has been right tackle Joe Gore. Throughout the spring, Gore was locked into a battle with Shaq Anthony to start on the right side. Gore, however, appears to have moved ahead of Anthony.

"Joe Gore has been outstanding," said Swinney, per Nikki Steele of TigerNet. "He's been as good as anybody in camp."

That was Swinney's response when asked about the right tackle position. No mention of Anthony. Expect this battle to continue into the season with Anthony suspended for the season opener. 

A plethora of experience returns to man the interior of the offensive line. Junior Ryan Norton returns at center, but he could also see time at guard. The offensive coaching staff has moved around each of the interior linemen throughout the spring and fall camp as a way to find the best five linemen. 

David Beasley, Eric Mac Lain, Jay Guillermo, Kalon Davis and Tyrone Crowder will also battle for time at the guard spots. For now, it appears that Beasley and Davis are the starters, but Crowder is a player to keep an eye on. 

 

Camp Standouts

The first name that comes to mind is sophomore tight end Jordan Leggett.

This is a recurring theme. Leggett was also terrific this spring.

On a team that lost over 50 percent of its receiving offense and lacks game experience at wide receiver, expect the tight end position to be heavily featured this fall. That's outstanding news for Leggett.

Wednesday's scrimmage may not have pleased Swinney overall, but Leggett didn't disappoint. The 6'5", 240-pounder caught seven passes and two touchdowns in the situational part of the scrimmage. Seckinger and Cooper's absences have also allowed Leggett to gain a rapport with quarterback Cole Stoudt. 

Offensive coordinator Chad Morris hasn't featured the tight end heavily during his time at Clemson, but that could also be a function of having so much talent at wide receiver. With the Tigers figuring out who will start at receiver, Leggett is showing coaches he may be the offense's most talented player. 

Another beneficiary of the injuries at tight end is McCullough. The 6'3", 248-pound McCullough is a talented athlete who can not only line up at tight end, but in the backfield, too. McCullough continues to rise up the depth chart.

In the team's first padded practice last week, McCullough put on a show. He had more than 100 receiving yards in the seven-on-seven drills and caught a touchdown in the 11-on-11 portion of practice. 

McCullough actually carried the ball in a game vs. Citadel last season, so he will allow Morris to be creative.

On defense, senior linebacker Tony Steward is having his best camp. Steward was once a top recruit, but he has struggled to stay healthy. Swinney is counting on Steward and Stephone Anthony at linebacker. 

All-American defensive end Vic Beasley continues to show why he is one of the top defensive players in the nation. In the scrimmage on Wednesday, Beasley had two sacks and two tackles for loss. He's poised for another big season. 

One of the biggest surprises of camp has been the emergence of redshirt freshman cornerback Ryan Carter. A high school teammate of Wayne Gallman, Carter entered camp at the bottom of the depth chart, but he has opened coaches' eyes by making several plays in practice, including a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown during the scrimmage. 

 

Dabo Having Fun

Professional billiards player Loree Jon Jones recently visited Clemson and provided some entertainment for the players, courtesy of the head coach.

Swinney laid down on the pool table and allowed Jones—a Clemson fan—to line up a trick shot off his lips. Once Jones took the shot, Swinney jumped up and asked if it went in.

It did, and Swinney displayed the same exuberance he does on Saturdays in the fall. 

Another reason why Swinney is beloved by his players. In the midst of fall camp and preparation for Georgia, the head coach took some time out to have fun with his players. 

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