NCAA Football News

Tennessee Football: Biggest Surprises in Vols' Camp so Far

The first few practices of fall camp are in the books, and the Tennessee football team has enjoyed its share of headlines—not all of them positive.

Already, fifth-year senior left guard Marcus Jackson has endured an injury that will likely keep him out for much of the season. Freshman receiver Preston Williams' ACT score was flagged by the NCAA, and he was pulled off the field to retake the test.

The Vols have several bumps and bruises that are keeping players off the field, and that is allowing the door to be opened for other players who weren't expected to contribute.

Positional battles are being waged, and players who were perhaps favorites for the spots entering the preseason find themselves looking up at guys who many overlooked.

That's been the flavor of August so far.

Training camp is about experimentation. The season is coming into focus quickly, and pivotal positions such as middle linebacker and the entire offensive line need to be finalized.

UT head coach Butch Jones told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan what the main focus would be on this spring as it pertains to the offensive line:

We're going to move people around, and our job—when we get into training camp, we have to find the best five that'll play winning football for Tennessee. Not only the best five, but No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8, and then also continuing to develop our youth at that spot. But that's going to be critical, as we know it all comes to protecting the quarterback.

From a slew of talented newcomers to some wily veterans who are proving they're not going to go quietly into that good night without a fight, the training camp atmosphere is bringing out the best in a bunch of players.

Let's take a look at some guys who've surprised in early camp sessions.

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Michigan Football: The Most Underrated Player in Jim Harbaugh's Offense

Jim Harbaugh's hard-nosed, run-first scheme relies heavily on a strong offensive line, but fullback Joe Kerridge is poised to contribute as a critical part of the Michigan offense in 2015.

Kerridge isn't exactly a household name. He arrived in Ann Arbor as a walk-on and eventually earned a scholarship. A 6'0", 249-pounder, the fifth-year senior has only recorded four carries for 59 yards and 12 receptions for 90 yards through 35 career appearances.

However, while many college football fans haven't heard of Kerridge, he's indirectly famous thanks to a highlight-reel play in 2013.

Remember when South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney obliterated Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl? Kerridge—who insisted he made the proper block—sealed the cornerback, while Clowney slipped into the backfield and destroyed Smith.

But Kerridge's freshman season was an awfully long time ago. Three years later, he's a physical player who has flashed versatility in a limited role.

Former Michigan coach Brady Hoke brought the I formation back to Michigan—sort of. Though Kerridge logged 10 starts during 2013 and 2014 combined, he wasn't a mainstay in the backfield. Hoke shuffled Kerridge around, sometimes even using him as a tight end, which wasn't exactly ideal.

According to MLive's Nick Baumgardner, Kerridge is expecting a bigger, more consistent role under Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno.

"Over the years it's fluctuated from getting 40-some reps a game or just five or six," Kerridge said. "But now, it's been a big change (this spring) and it's been really good."

Power-focused football will return to Ann Arbor on a regular basis this season. The Wolverines are working to succeed on the ground against opponents who will be looking to stop the run.

Kerridge's fit in Harabugh's philosophy is simple, but it's tremendously important.

Now, first and foremost, the offensive line must win at the line of scrimmage. Led by Graham Glasgow and Mason Cole, Michigan returns a plethora of experience up front.

But Kerridge will complement that grunting, pad-pounding symphony. He will serve as the final piece of it, giving the Wolverines' stable of running backs room to operate beyond the second level.

Depending on the type of play, Kerridge will be tasked with blocking a variety of defenders. On an iso or draw, he'll hammer an inside linebacker. During an inside zone, Kerridge will seal the defensive end. Then, on an outside zone, he'll work toward the safety.

Blocking isn't the entirety of the job description, though. Kerridge will also have opportunities to showcase his pass-catching ability as a checkdown option in play action.

Kerridge isn't going to light up the box score. In fact, he'll record minimal numbers—maybe a catch or two—and bully his way onto film as a reliable blocker if all goes as planned.

Every time Derrick Green, Ty Isaac, De'Veon Smith or Drake Johnson break a carry for big yardage, it will likely be because Kerridge fulfilled his responsibility on the play. Fullbacks don't get the glory, but the running backs in Harbaugh's system will struggle to receive praise without someone like Kerridge leading the way.

If viewers don't catch his important blocks, it won't be anything out of the ordinary. Kerridge will remain the unheralded catalyst of the Michigan offense.


All recruiting information via 247SportsStats from Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Georgia Football: 5 Best Quarterbacks the Bulldogs Will Face in 2015

When it comes to the quarterback battle at Georgia, it's a tossup as to who is going to win the position. In fact, head coach Mark Richt hinted after Wednesday's practice, via Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald, that there could be two quarterbacks taking reps in the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe.

That will make things interesting for the Bulldogs because it's rare to have two quarterbacks take an equal amount of reps in a game. However, what makes things more interesting are the opposing quarterbacks the Bulldogs will face this season. These quarterbacks are talented, experienced and want nothing more than to beat the Bulldogs. So while the UGA offense is looking to solidify the position, the defense has to prepare for some good quarterbacks who can hurt them if they are not careful.

So here's a look at the five best opposing quarterbacks the Bulldogs will face this season.

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Ohio State Football: First Impressions from 2015 Fall Camp

Urban Meyer and the Ohio State football team reported for fall camp on Sunday and went through their first full practice on Monday, and after a week of action, there are plenty of storylines developing in Columbus.

From Braxton Miller's move to wide receiver to true freshmen stepping up, the Buckeyes have had an eventful first week on the practice field.

And there's that quarterback battle, too. 

Here's a rundown of the biggest stories to emerge as Ohio State prepares for the 2015 season.


A Coin Flip to Start an Unprecedented Quarterback Battle

After an offseason of relentless hype and conjecture, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones finally started the race for Ohio State's starting quarterback spot. 

And with two signal-callers possessing nearly flawless resumes, what better way to kick things off than with a coin flip?

That's how the coaching staff decided who would get the first crack at things with the first team, and when the coin was flipped, Jones came out the winner. It was too early for Meyer to gauge who performed at a higher level, but he did confirm when he'll declare the winner.

"We won't announce anything until the first guy takes the field against Virginia Tech," Meyer said, according to Austin Ward of

Until that determination is made, both guys will get an equal share of first-team reps, which is a first for Meyer during his long and successful coaching career.

"I'm trying to think if we've ever had to do that where it's 50-50 [with the practice reps]," Meyer said, via Ward. "I don't think we ever have."

But from what's been said and revealed so far, it's safe to bet that there won't be too many detailed updates on the battle throughout camp. Meyer and the Buckeyes plan to keep Virginia Tech guessing as long as they possibly can. 


Braxton Miller Has a Ways to Go at Wide Receiver

Miller made huge news when he announced his move from quarterback to receiver last month—triggering visions of the dynamic athlete slicing through defenses from the perimeter. 

In reality, though, it will take Miller some time to learn his new position, and that became evident on the first day of fall camp.

"He looked like this was his first time playing receiver," Jones said of Miller, according to Doug Lesmerises of the Plain Dealer. "Of course he's going to show speed, of course he's going to show quickness and catch the ball, but there's more than that in playing receiver. Understanding the depth of routes, getting in and out of breaks and things like that."

But it wasn't all bad. Ohio State's other quarterback was encouraged by what he saw from Miller on Monday.

"Fast," Barrett said of Miller's play, via Lesmerises. "We already saw that playing quarterback. Now he's out there playing receiver, it's like a different element to him that you don't get to see a quarterback do. He was out there making moves, he broke a couple people off today."

Miller will have all the resources he needs to thrive, though. On Monday, he had the unique opportunity to work with Joey Galloway, one of the greatest receivers in Ohio State history.

As of right now, though, there's a lot of work to do. 


True Freshmen Offensive Linemen Are Looking Good

The Buckeyes have officially welcomed their 2015 recruiting class to the ranks, and the coaching staff will spend the first two weeks of fall camp determining which of their first-year players are ready to make an instant impact.

Through the first few practices, Ohio State's outstanding offensive line haul is looking good.

The Buckeyes signed five linemen to their '15 class, headlined by 4-star offensive tackle Isaiah Prince, and they're already making a strong impression on co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner.

"That's a great group. Really pleased. They're big kids, but they're also very talented, they love football," Warinner said, according to Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors. "They're very coachable, they just have all the characteristics that you're looking for."

That's big news for Meyer, who lamented the lack of depth up front on both sides of the ball on Monday. And the Buckeyes head coach rewarded one of his prized freshman linemen by removing his black stripe and officially welcoming him to the team. 

With the lack of depth, Buckeyes fans should expect to see some of these freshmen on the field this year.


Raekwon McMillan is Primed for a Big Season

This time last year, Ohio State knew it had something special with true freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who performed well enough in fall camp to earn some playing time at middle linebacker alongside Curtis Grant.

Even though he shared duties with the senior throughout the 2014 season, McMillan had an exceptional freshman campaign, registering 54 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and an interception that he returned for a touchdown against Maryland. 

But with Grant having graduated, McMillan is ready to step into a primary role. And this year, he doesn't just want to leave a mark statistically. He wants to lead.

"My biggest goal is to become a captain of the defense," McMillan said, according to Tony Gerdeman of The Ozone. "To be out there when guys can trust me and they can look at me when we’re in hard times, that’s one of my goals. One of my goals isn’t to be the best linebacker in the world, it’s for our defense to be the best in the nation."

And to his credit, co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell thinks McMillan is up for the challenge.

"I think I’ve seen that maturity," Fickell said of McMillan, via Gerdeman. "That ability to be a true leader, to lead the Silver Bullets. I think he’s got what it takes."


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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Vernon Adams Keeps Dreams Alive with Most Clutch Performance of 2015

Imagine if the most meaningful moment of your life came down a single math test.

If you pass, you will be greeted with potential fame and fortune. All the stress, strain and turmoil will be washed away in a euphoric moment of academic ecstasy. You will be free of the anchor that has fastened you to the bottom of the sea floor for the past six months.

But if you fail, you will be shown a different path that leads to nowhere. It is a dead end. No more mulligans. All the work and hope will be snatched away in a colossal moment of disappointment right out in the open for the world to see.

This high-stakes scenario sounds like the pilot for a failed reality television show. But for former Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.—and I can write “former” and actually mean it, finally—this bizarre set of circumstances became his reality.

The wait was far longer than expected, but it is over now. 

On Thursday, the young man who has already accounted for 121 total touchdowns and 10,438 yards through the air passed his final exam as an Eastern Washington student.

Through his Instagram, he confirmed the news that he is now, officially, an Oregon Duck. He is eligible to play immediately.

Behind door No. 1 was Oregon, an offense seemingly constructed for his tremendous range of abilities. Behind door No. 2 was football purgatory—a place without options. The possibility existed that Adams would be without a team for the foreseeable future. The suspense over his test results was as absurd as it was tense.

But none of that matters now.

What matters is that Adams can still be Marcus Mariota's potential replacement come Week 1 (Sept. 5). What matters is that he will be able to operate in an offense that takes advantage of his arm and legs. What matters is that his chance at stardom has more than a pulse.

“It’s an opportunity to play on a big stage in one of the best conferences in the nation,” Adams told Bleacher Report earlier this year. “Being a shorter quarterback, I can do what I did here over there. Winning games and being successful at Oregon can also help me accomplish my dream of either being a college coach or playing in the NFL.”

Back in February, when his life was complicated—but not to this extent—I spoke to Adams shortly after he announced that he was headed to Oregon as graduate transfer.

With his eight-month-old son trailing him in the background, following his every step and offering up an orchestra of adorable sounds, I could sense the strain in Adams’ voice as he tried to talk over young Vernon Kash Adams III.

We talked of grandiose plans, but there was a hitch.

He spoke about the disadvantage of missing spring practice. He talked about the time and reps lost with his future teammates and how he wanted to be there. Perhaps he was looking into his crystal ball. Oregon quarterback Jeff Lockie delivered a brilliant spring, adding caffeine to a quarterback battle with excessive energy as it was.

Typically, these graduate transfer situations are somewhat cut-and-dry. A player graduates, transfers and plays immediately without penalty.

But in this instance, with a spotlight so grand on the line, there was some uneasiness regarding the arrangement from the start. There was no going back.

Still, even though the exhaustion was evident as he walked me through the months to come, Adams didn’t lack confidence.

“I want to earn the starting spot, earn everyone’s trust, win games, win a Pac-12 Championship, hopefully a Heisman [Trophy] and a national championship,” Adams said. “My goals are set high.”

The original plan for the 6'0"-ish QB—he's listed as 6'0" on EWU's site—was to arrive in Eugene on June 14, the day after he was supposed to graduate from Eastern Washington. Complications arose, giving him one last shot to complete his degree and join the Ducks shortly after they started camp.

On the eve of the exam, Wednesday, Adams posted the following message on his Instagram. My, what a difference 24 hours makes.

Although the journey hasn’t gone as planned, this is merely a detour at the moment. Now, however, is when things get deeply interesting on the football front.

While Adams has found his new team and home—avoiding the ultimate doomsday scenario—there are zero guarantees he will be the starter. In fact, right now, he’s likely the underdog to lead the offense in Week 1 against Eastern Washington.

Early on in the offseason, the assumption was widespread that the job was his to lose.

That was before Lockie delivered a mighty effort. That was before Adams’ plan to join the program mid-summer was temporarily derailed. That was before things changed.

Oregon’s second-week road matchup against Michigan State—one of the most critical games of the year, especially for a team holding playoff aspirations—is less than a month away. The next few weeks will happen fast. For Adams to win the starting job, he will have to ace the crash course.

In many ways, this latest development is somewhat appropriate.

Overlooked as an electric high school quarterback because of his size, Adams has had to claw his way to the next step. Nothing has ever been assumed by the remarkably gifted young man, and the last six months parallel a journey that stretches back well beyond six painful months.

The blueprint reads a bit differently these days, but a Pac-12 Championship is still within reach. A national championship is still a conversation we can have and actually mean it. A Heisman Trophy of the strangest, most unprecedented variety is still there for the taking.

Now that the math test has been mastered, a sentence that is as strange to write as it is to read, a star can be reborn. But just like always, he will have to earn it.

It will not come easy, although perhaps that's how it was always meant to be.


Adam Kramer is the College Football National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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Vernon Adams Eligible to Play for Oregon: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

After some initial worries Vernon Adams wouldn't be eligible to suit up for the Oregon Ducks before the start of the 2015 season, the quarterback ensured his plans to join the team remain on course.

Continue for updates.

Adams Hopes to Practice Friday Thursday, Aug. 13

Andrew Greif of the Oregonian reported in July that Adams' transfer to Oregon was being held up after he didn't officially complete his degree at Eastern Washington University. In order to join the Ducks, Adams would need to finish his coursework during the summer.

Both Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman and Sports Illustrated's Lindsay Schnell reported he crossed his final hurdle Thursday night. Adams confirmed the news with this Instagram post:

Ryan Thorburn of the Register-Guard provided Adams' tentative plans for his arrival in Eugene, Oregon:

Adams will certainly have big shoes to fill as he replaces Marcus Mariota in the Oregon offense. While he remains an unproven quantity at the FBS level, the former Eagles star threw for 10,438 yards, 110 touchdowns and 31 interceptions during his three years with Eastern Washington. He also ran for another 1,232 yards and 11 TDs.

Many Ducks fans will remember Adams torching Oregon State in 2013 for 411 passing yards and four touchdowns in a 49-46 win for EWU.

Barring an unforeseen development, Adams will eventually be Oregon's starting quarterback for the 2015 season, though Jeff Lockie has been manning the position in his absence.

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports 1 thinks Adams is a safe bet to start under center for the Ducks, even if it may not happen in Week 1 or 2.

Although Adams needs to make up for lost time in terms of learning the Ducks offense and building a rapport with his new teammates, Oregon doesn't start the season until Sept. 5, when it coincidentally plays Eastern Washington.

He'll need to adapt to the role quickly, with the Ducks taking on Michigan State on the road the following week. 

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Michigan Wolverines Become 1st Jordan Brand Program in College Football

The greatest basketball player of all time welcomed the college football program with the most wins of all time into his extended family Thursday.    

Michael Jordan and his Jordan Brand brought aboard the Michigan Wolverines, adding the “first football team to the Jordan family,” per the man himself:

While Michigan has struggled in recent years and fallen behind blue-chip programs such as Ohio State and Alabama on the field, there is plenty of momentum and energy building within the program. A major reason for that is new coach Jim Harbaugh, who returned to lead his alma mater this offseason after a stint in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. 

Darren Rovell of ESPN pointed out that Harbaugh was the driving point behind the new agreement:

Harbaugh wasted little time Thursday reacting to the news:

On paper, this pairing makes plenty of sense. The Jordan logo is one of the most iconic in all of sports, and the winged helmets and maize and blue jerseys of Michigan are some of the most famous uniforms in college football.

What’s more, this could help the Wolverines once again climb into the upper echelon of college football. It may take some time, but adding the Jordan brand to the program could theoretically help in recruiting. Harbaugh can pitch the opportunity to wear the Jumpman logo in practice and during games.

The combination of Jordan, Harbaugh and the prestige of being the all-time winningest program in college football history will be tough for opposing coaches to beat on the recruiting trail.

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Duke Williams Reinstated by Auburn: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Auburn Tigers fan can all take a deep breath because head coach Gus Malzahn reinstated superstar wide receiver Duke Williams to the football program “following a six-day absence because of an undisclosed ‘discipline issue,’” according to James Crepea of

Williams first missed practice on Aug. 7.

Charles Goldberg of provided some context and quotes regarding the situation:

Coach Gus Malzahn said Williams "took care of his business off the field, what I had him doing. He is in the process of every day earning his teammates’ and his coaches’ respect.

"He’s going to have the same standards as everybody else, and he' going to earn everything he gets, just like every other player would."

Malzahn said Williams is at the bottom of the depth chart and "will have to earn his way back."

"He's going to have to play catch-up, and he understands that."


"He's taken care of what he needed to take care of, but it's a daily deal, just like everybody else on our team. They're going to have to come out there and practice with a great attitude, great effort and earn their playing time on the field."

Williams was Auburn’s leading receiver last year with 45 catches for 730 yards and five touchdowns and earned a first-team All-SEC selection entering the 2015 campaign. His role figures to be even more important this season since wide receiver Sammie Coates is lacing it up for the Pittsburgh Steelers after running routes alongside Williams in 2014.     

The Tigers checked in at No. 7 in the initial Amway Coaches Poll and are serious national title contenders in a loaded SEC West. However, it is difficult to envision them living up to expectations without Williams on the field as arguably their best playmaker.

It is interesting to note that Malzahn said Williams must earn his way back to the top of the depth chart, but it is just as important to point out the first game of the season is against a dangerous Louisville squad that was 24th in the country in scoring defense in 2014.

It is probably a safe bet that Williams will work his way back up that depth chart quickly with such an important game on the horizon, assuming he stays out of trouble off the field. The Tigers need his ability to stretch the field with his speed and high-point passes in the corner of the end zone as a red-zone threat.

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Big Ten Football: Biggest Games That Will Determine Outcome of B1G in 2015

After being college football's favorite conference punching bag last year (and the year before that and the year before that...), the Big Ten has experienced a bit of a resurgence.

Ohio State, of course, won the national championship. Michigan State has experienced a golden age under head coach Mark Dantonio. Michigan got Jim Harbaugh as its head coach, and the Big Ten went 2-1 against the SEC on New Year's Day bowls.

Yes, those narrow-scope results may be for bragging rights only and mean nothing going forward, but it's 2-1, and by George, the Big Ten will take it.

Now the question is: Can the Big Ten keep the momentum? 

Moving ahead to the 2015 season, the conference has a number of intriguing games on the slate that could very well determine the outcome of each division leading up to the Big Ten Championship Game.

In the following slides, we've highlighted a number of divisional and cross-divisional games by date that could carry significant weight because they pit teams projected to finish at or near the top of their divisions against one another. As such, the preseason Big Ten poll was used as a baseline. 

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Kyle Davis Sets Decision Date: Which School Needs 4-Star WR the Most?

Dynamic Georgia wide receiver Kyle Davis is drawing close to his second college commitment.

The 4-star prospect, who previously pledged to South Carolina, posted announcement plans on Twitter Tuesday evening. Davis will reveal his decision Oct. 23, the day of Archer High School's Homecoming game.

Rated fourth nationally among players at the position in composite rankings, the 6'1 ½", 218-pound playmaker could potentially provide a top target in the passing game as a true freshman. Davis wowed at The Opening, providing further evidence of rare abilities.

We documented that performance in Bleacher Report's CFB 200 Recruiting Series:

Davis grades out higher than any receiver we've scouted in person after his dynamite effort at The Opening. Sure, this is based on seven-on-seven action that doesn't require competitors to block or take clobbering hits, but his skill set and athleticism are off the charts.

It was difficult to hold a conversation with analysts in attendance without Davis' name coming up, often accompanied by the words "wow" or "freak." He's more than just a workout warrior, displaying tremendously tight route running and reliable hands.

Davis collected 67 receptions last season, resulting in 1,183 yards and nine touchdowns. 

He admits that the national attention has created awkward moments at times, especially when unsubstantiated speculation surfaces.

“Probably people saying that I am silently committed to places. I haven’t even ever thought about committing yet to anywhere," Davis told Rusty Mansell of 247Sports.

That noise isn't likely to subside during the next two months leading up to his announcement. By then, he will be five months removed from an early South Carolina commitment.

The Gamecocks may still be under consideration given long-standing familiarity between Davis and the South Carolina staff, but our focus shifts elsewhere in the SEC when examining possible landing spots. Georgia stands out for reasons beyond regional proximity, though that won't hurt the Bulldogs' sales pitch.

Head coach Mark Richt missed out on elite in-state wide receiver Preston Williams in the 2015 cycle. Though the former 5-star is currently dealing with academic eligibility questions at Tennessee, his Peach State departure represented a less-than-stellar cycle at the position.

Georgia lost commitments from 4-star receivers Van Jefferson (Ole Miss) and Darius Slayton (Auburn) late to conference rivals. Elite athlete Terry Godwin helped alleviate those subtractions by sticking to his pledge through last signing day, but there was a sentiment the Bulldogs may have come up slightly empty-handed at receiver.

First-year offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, a longtime NFL assistant, already has future plans that feature a pair of top-tier quarterbacks (Jacob Eason and Bailey Hockman). Now he's looking to build a strong supporting cast around them.

Davis, 5-star tight end Isaac Nauta and in-state running back Elijah Holyfield likely land on the top of Schottenheimer's wish list. Georgia already holds pledges from four receivers on the 2016 recruiting trail, but only Charlie Woerner is considered a top-50 positional talent in composite rankings, and he projects as a hybrid tight end.

Davis is the game-changer Georgia is searching to pair with Eason for years to come. Fans in Athens would have hopes for an aerial connection rivaling eventual NFL stars Matthew Stafford and A.J. Green.

The Bulldogs are sure to face stiff competition from teams like Tennessee and Auburn during the last leg of this hotly contested recruitment, but no squad should value Davis more than Georgia.


Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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Alabama Football: How Kirby Smart Seeks to End Tide's Defensive Frustration

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It was the day after the Sugar Bowl, when most University of Alabama fans were still in a hung-over state—and not necessarily from spending another New Year’s holiday in New Orleans.

Alabama had just been eliminated from the inaugural College Football Playoff by Ohio State, and the numbers the defense had yielded were still standing out like a bright shining light: 537 total yards, 23 first downs, 10 of 18 third-down opportunities converted.

The Crimson Tide went from being ahead 21-6 to giving up 28 unanswered points, although the last touchdown was on an interception return.

Capping the 42-35 victory for the Buckeyes was an uncharacteristic 85-yard touchdown run by Ezekiel Elliott.

So while it was still fresh in his mind, defensive coordinator Kirby Smart picked up the phone and called one of the key people from the other side, Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who was about to start prepping for the title game and then take over the head coaching job at Houston.

“Coach Herman was really good to us,” Smart said. “Very beneficial to us. They helped because they looked at us so long and did such a good job against us.”

In addition to Smart asking, “Where are we vulnerable?” and “What did you see?” while picking his brain, the programs took things another step during the offseason.

Per Nick Saban’s invitation, Herman was a guest speaker during Alabama’s annual coaching clinic in the spring, and the entire Houston staff—including former Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Major Applewhite—visited.

Lane Kiffin led the Crimson Tide’s offensive coaches on a trip to Houston for another swap of ideas.

Although all of that that sounds unusual, it’s actually not. A lot of programs have coaching exchanges, and Alabama regularly calls opposing coaches the day after they play—especially if it’s a nonconference opponent.

Smart already plans to call Wisconsin offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph after the season opener in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 5 (8 p.m. ET, ABC). Chances are he’ll get some good intel since the only way they could play again over the next few years is in the playoff.

“There are no secrets,” Herman told both Chris Vannini of “There’s no magic formulas. There’s no kryptonite.”

Combined with extensive self-evaluation, which is also part of Saban’s coaching process, Alabama has subsequently targeted three areas for improvement by the defense this season: turnovers, big plays and third downs.

“Last year’s group was the worst goal-wise of the last seven years,” Smart said, and the numbers back that up.

In the four “major” defensive categories—total defense, pass efficiency defense, rushing defense and scoring defense—which Alabama led the nation in during the 2011 season, the defense had some of its worst national rankings since Saban’s first year at the Capstone in 2007. 

The most dramatic drop has been in pass efficiency defense, which was No. 30 nationally in 2014 and considered average by Southeastern Conference standards.

“We gave up explosive runs, which is a team defense thing,” Saban said. “We gave up some explosive passes, which sometimes we made mistakes in the secondary and didn't have enough respect for the deep part of the field. Other times we made mental errors.”

Additionally, for the first time since 2008, Alabama didn’t at least tie for the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense and total defense. Both streaks had been the longest in league history.

It improved in turnovers gained, ranking 80th in 2013 and 65th last season, but dropped in turnover ratio to minus-two, and slipped in third-down defense from 24th in 2013 to 41st in 2014.

"Third down is all about will and want-to,” senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “It's all about effort.”

Specifically, opponents converted 82 of 217 opportunities (37.8 percent). All three of those numbers were up from the previous year (61 of 176, 34.7 percent), which translated into more opportunities and points.

In 14 games last season, Alabama defenders were on the field for 945 plays, resulting in 4,598 yards for averages of 4.9 yards per play and 328.4 per game. That’s up across the board (771 plays, 3,725 yards, 4.83 YPP and 286.5 YPG in 2013).

For a little perspective, consider that opponents converted 45 of 184 third-down opportunities for 24.5 percent in 2011. The Crimson Tide defense was only on the field for 720 plays, during which it gave up 2,287 yards, 3.32 per snap and 183.6 per game.

Here’s the difference on the scoreboard: In 2011, opponents scored just 11 offensive touchdowns compared to 24 last season.

“Obviously the game has changed, the teams we’re playing have changed and we’ve had to evolve with it,” Smart said. “We’ve got to do more things, we’ve got to play more split-safety coverages, you’ve got to help your corners in a lot of different ways. And we’ve got to continue to grow in that area so we don’t give up big plays, don’t put those guys in tough situations. Which I did last year, probably too often.”

So Alabama changed its recruiting approach to focus less on specialists and more on every-down defenders, and it added former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker as its defensive backs coach.

Turnovers are being emphasized like never before during training camp, and Smart—who not long ago was considered one of the hottest coaching prospects in college football—has his best group of cornerbacks since the national championship teams.

The one thing Alabama hasn’t done is alter its defensive goals even though scoring is up, particularly in the SEC. By giving up 16.0 points per game last season, Ole Miss led the nation. Meanwhile, Alabama’s 18.4 was sixth.

Yet the Crimson Tide’s goal remains 13 or fewer points allowed for every game.

“We feel like we can do that regardless of what the other team does, if we execute,” Saban said.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of and unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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2015 Ohio State Offense Could Be the Best We've Seen in College Football History

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It may be hard to believe, but it's been 10 years since Matt Leinart lined up as USC's starting quarterback.

Behind him was tailback Reggie Bush, the player who would go on to succeed Leinart as the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner. Spelling Bush was LenDale White, the "thunder" to Bush's "lightning" and a 1,000-yard running back in his own right.

On the outside were Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith, a pair of All-American wideouts. And upfront was an offensive line comprised of five players who would go on to play in the NFL.

Forget how each player fared in the pros or the NCAA sanctions that would eventually wipe out the Trojans' accomplishments that season. Maybe you prefer 2005 Texas—the team that would beat USC in the Rose Bowl to claim the national title at the end of the year—2001 Miami (Florida), 2008 Florida or 1999 Florida State, but in my opinion, there hasn't been a better offense in modern college football history than that of the 2005 Trojans.

Athlon Sports agrees, ranking that USC team as the top offense of the BCS era. But a decade later, the '05 Trojans' title as the best offense in modern college football finds itself being threatened.

And it may not have been possible without the end of one era and the arrival of another.

After all, if it weren't for the advent of the College Football Playoff last season, Ohio State may not have seen its young and talented offense hit its stride on the sport's grandest stage. The 2014 Buckeyes were strong on offense throughout the year but hit an extra gear while defeating Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon in three postseason games en route to capturing the national title.

And with eight starters returning to that unit from a season ago—including six who were either freshmen or sophomores in 2014—the 2015 Ohio State offense has all of the tools to become the best we've seen in college football.

"Yes, hands down," Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones answered when asked if the OSU offense had the potential to be one of the best in college football history. "Because of the playmakers we got, because of the youth we got, the depth we got and because of the experience we have."

To be fair to Jones, it was a leading question that led to his proclamation. It would have been out of character for the confident signal-caller to downplay his expectations for his team, even with an inquiry that was just begging to be met with his exact answer.

But when you look at his reasoning, it's clear that Jones' boldness doesn't come from blindness.

Urban Meyer's teams are often littered with playmakers, whether it be in the backfield, on the outside or even at the quarterback position. The 2008 Gators staked their claim as one of the best offenses in college football history by possessing five players (Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey and Louis Murphy) who each totaled 600 or more yards from the line of scrimmage.

Having played one more game due to the implementation of the playoffs, last year's Ohio State offense also possessed five 600-yard-or-more players (Ezekiel Elliott, J.T. Barrett, Devin Smith, Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall). And the unit only figures to improve in 2014.

Especially with all but one (Smith) of those players returning, which speaks to that rare youthful experience that Jones mentioned. With running back Curtis Samuel (478 yards, six touchdowns) and former quarterback Braxton Miller (3,054 career rushing yards, 32 rushing TDs) figuring to see significant snaps at H-back—the same role Harvin excelled in under Meyer at Florida—the Buckeyes could see six or more players hit the 600-yard mark.

And with with four of five starters returning on an offensive line that paved the way for Elliott to rush for 2,098 yards and 18 touchdowns a year ago, Ohio State should have the ability to gash teams both on the perimeter and with its power running game.

"Tremendous options," Buckeyes offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said of his unit. "You have to base it on what can your signal-caller can do best?"

That, of course, remains up in the air as Jones and Barrett battle in a rare quarterback competition between two qualified candidates. Whether it's Jones—the winner of Ohio State's three postseason games and a potential first-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft—or Barrett, the reigning Big Ten Quarterback of the Year, the Buckeyes figure to be in good hands with whoever winds up taking snaps behind center this season.

"Our offense has the flexibility within the system and all the talent at all the different positions that we can kind of move it in the direction we want," Warinner said. "But we do want to have a power-running game and be able throw the ball down the field, play-action pass and spread it out to all of our skill players."

Although the Ohio State offense may appear to possess the ability to do all of that and then some, questions still remain.

Such as who will replace the speedy Smith, who led the nation with 28.2 yards per catch in 2014. That opened up plenty for Elliott, especially in the postseason, where the Buckeyes running back totaled 696 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

With Meyer still not sure how his team will replace that production, Miller an unknown as an H-back and a starting quarterback yet to be named, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the OSU staff is doing its best to temper expectations.

"Not right now," Warinner said when asked about Jones' answer to the "best ever" question. "Right now the appropriate level of swagger needs to be, 'Did we have a good day?' If not, what do we need to do to get better? Can we have a good day tomorrow?"

But even at this early point in the preseason, the Buckeyes offensive coordinator couldn't deny his unit's potential.

"We have a high ceiling. We're nowhere near that; we're just scratching the surface on Day 3. Hopefully we can build that chemistry and get the pieces together," Warinner said. "We're excited and optimistic—but we're not making any predictions."

That doesn't mean they aren't out there. And if Ohio State can live up to them, it could have historic implications.


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

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Predicting College Football's Offensive, Defensive Juggernauts for 2015

Wins and losses are the ultimate measuring stick in college football, but we still love our statistics. And with the game becoming becoming increasingly more up-tempo and fast-paced over time, there are plenty of numbers to crunch.

Last year saw at least eight schools average 40 or more points per game for the fifth consecutive year, while 11 schools gained more than 500 yards per contest. There were still some good defensive teams, but not like in the past, as the 16 points per game that top-rated defense Ole Miss allowed in 2014 marked the highest average for a national scoring defense leader (per NCAA records).

What does this year have in store for us, statistically? Follow along as we predict the top two rushing, passing and scoring offenses for the 2015 season, as well as the two best units at stopping the run and the pass and keeping teams off the scoreboard.

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Non-Power Five Teams That Could Crash the College Football Playoff

It seems no matter what type of championship format college football decides to use, schools from outside the Power Five conferences get the short end of the stick. 

During the BCS era, schools like Boise State and TCU were always on the outside looking in despite proving themselves against top competition and then dominating in conference play for perfect regular season records. 

For example: TCU finished 12-0 with dominating wins over ranked opponents Oregon State and Utah in 2010. The team also finished off the year with win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Yet, the team still finished third in the BCS.

With the College Football Playoff now in place, there is now slightly more of an opportunity for smaller schools to break into the championship hunt. In this case, teams like TCU in 2010 and possibly one of Boise State's several undefeated teams in the 2000s would have landed in the playoff.

Despite no team outside the Power Five really challenging for a spot in the playoff last year—Boise State finished the highest, at No. 20 in the final rankings—the crop of teams in this category is much stronger in 2015. 

In order to have a chance to challenge for the College Football Playoff, schools from outside the Power Five will almost certainly have to finish the regular season undefeated. The following three programs have a solid shot at doing so this season and have other circumstances in their favor to have a shot to play for the national championship. 

Before getting to those three teams, it should be noted that Notre Dame will not be one of them. It is technically not a Power Five school, but it has the same luxuries and is treated the same as any other major program in terms of garnering national respect. With its prestige, Notre Dame could still lose a game and have a great chance to make the playoff, unlike the schools that will be discussed. 

Now let us take a look at the three schools in question.


Boise State 

The Broncos ended last season as the only non-Power Five school in the playoff rankings, and they enter this season in a familiar position in the Amway Coaches Poll, which 670 KBOI’s Paul Schneider was quick to notice: 

There is a lot of reason for optimism for head coach Bryan Harsin’s team. Boise State returns 16 starters and plenty of depth from a team that finished 12-2 in 2014 with a win over Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. 

Despite losing top playmakers—Grant Hedrick at quarterback and Jay Ajayi at running back—the offense should be in good shape. Ryan Finley performed well in relief of Hedrick last season and the team has a stable of capable running backs led by junior Devan Demas and sophomore all-purpose back Jeremy McNichols. 

These new starters will be surrounded by a ton of talent. All five starters return on the offensive line, and leading receivers Thomas Sperbeck and Shane Williams-Rhodes, who combined for 119 catches for 1,462 yards and 10 scores, return as well. 

Boise State returns a plethora of talent on defense. Essentially the entire defensive line returns, including Mountain West Conference sack leader Kamalei Correa. Numerous other standouts also return. Take a look at some of the key pieces coming back for the Broncos:

The schedule sets up well for Boise State to make some noise. Nonconference games against major programs like BYU, Virginia and Washington will help the team earn some respect to boost its playoff resume if victorious. 

If Boise State can handily sweep its nonconference schedule and then dominate the Mountain West, which includes another strong team in Utah State, it could have a chance. Whether or not the playoff committee would vote in Boise State, or any other non-Power Five team, over a one-loss Big Ten or ACC team is tough to project at this point, but the Broncos will be in the conversation for sure.



Head coach Tommy Tuberville had a very successful 2014 campaign that saw Cincinnati finish with a 9-4 record and a three-way share of the American Athletic Conference championship. 

The team heads into this season as the media’s pick to win the conference, and for good reason. The Bearcats are loaded, particularly on offense. 

Quarterback Gunner Kiel is among the nation’s best signal-callers this season after throwing for 3,254 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2014. Those numbers are set to drastically increase. In addition to returning leading rusher Mike Boone and three offensive line starters, Kiel will have a dynamite receiving group. Check out the numbers of Cincinnati’s top six receivers from 2014, who all return: 

The Bearcats will be able to score as well as any offense in the nation. This is important since the defense has some questions marks. 

The unit finished 101st in total defense last season, and it loses leading tackles Jeff Luc and its leader in sacks in Terrell Hartsfield. Star safety Zach Edwards is back and the defense should expect some improvement with a new defensive coordinator in Steve Clinkscale. Edwards led the team with two interceptions and finished second in tackles with 121.

Cincinnati’s schedule presents several opportunities for statement wins. In addition to AAC foes Memphis and UCF, who also shared the conference title last season, Cincinnati has nonconference contests with BYU and Miami. 

The team has a very good shot to crash the playoff party if it can pull off an undefeated season. This will hinge largely on whether the defense can stop opponents just enough for the offense to outscore the other team. Expect Cincinnati to sweep its nonconference schedule against BYU and Miami since, outside of their quarterbacks, both teams lack the offensive explosiveness to keep up with the Bearcats. 

Cincinnati’s season will come down to its game against Memphis on Sept. 24. Speaking of which…



The Tigers were one of the biggest surprises of the college football season when they improved by seven wins to finish 10-3 with a share of the AAC title in 2015. 

Similar to Cincinnati, Memphis is primed for another big season behind a monster offense. 

Quarterback Paxton Lynch returns after a phenomenal sophomore season. Check out his improvement from his freshman season:

Lynch, who stands at 6’7” and 240 pounds, has a NFL frame and arm to go along with a deceptively strong running ability that allows him to power through for tough yards, particularly in the red zone. Take a look at his highlight reel to get a visual of his skills: 

Lynch will have five of his top six receivers from 2014 back, along with four offensive linemen, so his production should increase even more in his third season as Memphis’ starter.

The defense could be an issue with eight starters gone from a unit that finished 21st nationally last season. The team also lost defensive coordinator Barry Odom to Missouri but promoted linebackers coach Galen Scott to take over the defense. 

The team has some experienced depth players that could step into starting roles and play well, particularly in front seven. Safety Reggis Ball is back, but he will need to have a big season, as the rest of the secondary will be seeing significant playing time for the first time at Memphis. 

Memphis also has the benefit of playing a massive nonconference game against SEC power Ole Miss, who enters the season at No. 15 in the coaches poll. The Tigers struggled in a 24-3 loss to the Rebels in 2014, but this season could be different. 

Ole Miss loses key secondary pieces in Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt, which helps Lynch’s chances of moving the ball through the air. The Rebels also have questions on offense outside of star receivers Laquon Treadwell and Evan Engram. The team has not decided on a quarterback, and the offensive line is shaky other than Laremy Tunsil. With the game being at Memphis, the Tigers have a legitimate shot to pull off the upset and earn a marquee win for their playoff resume. 

Memphis will also need to knock off Cincinnati to have a shot at an undefeated season. The Tigers rocked the Bearcats 41-14 on the road. It will definitely be a shootout, but Memphis has the slight edge given it shown to have more talent on defense and it will have home-field advantage in 2015. 

Look for Memphis to be a dark horse as a possible surprise in the race to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.

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Marlon Davidson Sets Decision Date: Odds on Where 5-Star DE Lands

A back-and-forth SEC recruiting battle is approaching its conclusion.

Coveted defensive end Marlon Davidson will decide his collegiate fate in just a few weeks, declaring intentions to announce Sept. 4. The 6'4", 260-pound prospect is widely expected to pick between a pair of in-state powerhouses—Auburn or Alabama.

Both the Tigers and Crimson Tide have recruited Davidson since the earliest stages of a recruitment that's grown to include programs across America. Florida State, Michigan, Ole Miss, USC and Oregon are among alternative options on his expansive list of scholarship offers.

Davidson, a senior at Greenville High School, is rated third nationally among defensive ends and 23rd overall in composite recruiting rankings. He collected 69 tackles—16 for loss—and nine sacks last fall at Carver High School.

The playmaker will likely be the first to commit from a group of highly touted Alabama defenders. Fellow 5-star talents Lyndell "Mack" Wilson and Ben Davis, both linebackers, previously expressed plans to stay undecided until after this season.

Davis, an Alabama legacy whose father remains the Crimson Tide's all-time tackles leader, told Bleacher Report, he'd love to line up alongside Davidson and Wilson in college. They've traveled to multiple campuses together and could ultimately become a "package deal" on national signing day, though the likelihood of that occurring is slim. 

"We call ourselves 'The Trio.' Me, Mack and Marlon have really become close," Davis said.

All three prospects could develop into impressive collegiate athletes, and it's certainly easy to make a case for Davidson's potential.

"Davidson has the quickness of a speed rush and the size of someone who could dominate as a run-stopper," B/R's Damon Sayles wrote. "He's got a level of confidence that coaches love, and he uses that confidence to his advantage on the field."

Now that the clock is officially ticking toward a known commitment date, let's take a closer look at which teams appear to be in strongest position to land Davidson.


Auburn: 3-to-2

There are very few definitives in college football recruiting, so we're hesitant to proclaim this pursuit a done deal in favor of the Tigers. Still, Auburn is the prohibitive favorite entering this final stretch.

Personal ties to the program have been an overriding theme throughout this process. Davidson's brother, Kenneth Carter, was a member of the 2011 national champion Tigers team.

This connection and constant communication between Davidson and the coaching staff gradually convinced an overwhelming majority of recruiting analysts that Auburn is his ultimate choice. The Tigers currently claim all 25 expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

Signs have pointed toward an inevitable outcome, but Davidson himself never declared his recruitment anything except wide open.

"Everybody thinks that (I'm going to Auburn). I'm looking to go anywhere in the country," he told Drew Champlin of earlier this year. "It's where I fit in. More (about) coaches and me having a good relationship, players having a good relationship, structure with the school and how would I fit with my education."

There's no doubt Davidson has done research into other universities, but it would be an upset if Auburn isn't the choice.


Alabama: 3-to-1

The Crimson Tide can't be counted out in any head-to-head recruiting showdown with the Tigers, evidenced by the 2014 heist of heralded hometown Auburn linebacker Rashaan Evans.

If Davidson ends up teaming up with "The Trio" for years to come, it would almost certainly only take place in Tuscaloosa. While both Davis and Wilson are still exploring other opportunities, both linebackers are considered heavy Alabama leans.

Davidson recently visited the Crimson Tide and shares a strong bond with Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton, a former Carver High School star.

"Getting back up there to see the campus and the environment, it was great," he told Champlin. "They want to get me up there because they need more defensive ends like me. They really just truly trying to get me."

Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, a four-time national champion who signed No. 1 recruiting classes the past five years, often gets what he wants. Davidson could end up out of reach, but it won't be for lack of trying in Tuscaloosa.


Georgia: 12-to-1

If you're looking for a wild-card landing spot, consider Athens. The Bulldogs welcomed Davidson to campus last month for Dawg Night, and he left feeling positive about the overall experience.

"That's the environment you want to be around," he told Champlin. 

Georgia is brimming with talent along the defensive line, headlined by true freshman Trent Thompson and 5-star 2016 commit Julian Rochester. Davidson, in-state tackle Derrick Brown and top-ranked New Jersey lineman Rashan Gary are primary targets for head coach Mark Richt moving forward.

Even if Georgia fails to pull off a surprise by swiping away Davidson, the Bulldogs are still in great position to bolster an intimidating defensive front.


Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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Notre Dame Surprises Walk-on & Uniform Model Josh Anderson with Scholarship

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish got some new uniforms Thursday, but that wasn't even the best news of the day.

Walk-on running back and uniform model Josh Anderson was surprised with a scholarship at the unveiling of the new threads.

After the uniforms were unveiled, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly praised Anderson for his hard work and ultimately awarded the walk-on senior a scholarship. Anderson's Fighting Irish teammates went wild after the announcement, immediately mobbing and congratulating him.

[Notre Dame Football]

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SEC Football: New Starters Who Will Dominate in 2015

With quarterback battles galore in the SEC this year and another successful draft in the rear view mirror, 2015 is clearly a transition year for the nation's deepest college football conference.

That doesn't mean it will be down, though.

Several new starters in 2015 should emerge as stars. Who will they be?

Our picks based on talent, scheme and opportunity are in this slideshow.

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Ranking the Top 25 Freshmen Heading into the 2015 College Football Season

As the 2015 college football season draws closer, writers and fans of the game have put a lot of attention on the freshmen who will have chances to make big plays this fall.   

The majority of these freshmen are fresh out of high school and are hitting the field with their new teammates for the first time during fall camps. Others who benefited from redshirt seasons and early enrollments are now on the fast track to lock down key roles on the depth chart.

As practices continue all across the country, let's pool all these freshmen together, rank them for the upcoming campaign and check in on their progress so far this month.

This list of top 25 freshmen is based on a combination of factors, including prior practice experience, chances at cracking the starting lineup this year and their respective places in the 247Sports composite rankings, which combine several of the industry's leading grades for players.

Of course, the vast majority of these players haven't played a down of college football yet, and these are still preseason rankings based on potential and what their teammates and coaches are saying at practice. Sound off on who you think 2015's top freshmen will be in the comments below.

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Tate Martell Sets Decision Date: Where Will 5-Star QB Land?

The nation’s top dual-threat quarterback in the 2017 cycle will come off the board next week when 5-star passer Tate Martell will announce his commitment on Aug. 20:

According to Bleacher Report’s Tyler Donohue, Martell announced a top five consisting of Alabama, Michigan, Texas A&M, USC and Washington last month.

A quick glance at the 5’11”, 180-pounder’s Crystal Ball page shows that the Aggies and Trojans appear to be the front-runners in the race to land the standout from Bishop Gorman (Nevada) High School.

Where will the nation’s No. 12 overall prospect in the 2017 cycle land?

Both programs have selling points that Martell could find appealing.

He has plenty of connections to the Trojans program.

As Donohue notes, Martell grew up in Southern California, and he originally committed to Washington back when current Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian was leading the Huskies program.

"It's USC. It's where just about every young football player in California dreams of playing in college," Martell told Donohue. "The program had a ton of stars when it was winning championships and now it feels like they're reloading."

It doesn't hurt that in his first season working with Sarkisian, current Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler put together a banner season and enters this fall as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.

While the Trojans have a loaded depth chart at quarterback, the same could be said for Texas A&M.

Like Sarkisian, Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin also has a strong track record when it comes to grooming quarterbacks.

Sumlin was able to land touted 5-star passers Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray in the previous two cycles. However, Martell has made it clear he isn’t afraid of competing for the job.

"I love competition and that's exactly what there would be at Texas A&M if I joined those guys," Martell told Donohue. "I would get in there and compete, do everything I could to win the job. The best player will play no matter where you're at, so I can only control what I can do."

Martell—who took an unofficial visit to College Station last month—also told Taylor Hamm of 247Sports that the trip made him feel comfortable with life on campus at A&M.

“I liked it so much that I felt like if I didn’t even play football that I would want to go to college there,” Martell told Hamm. “That's the first time I've felt like that on a visit. I haven’t even seen the full gameday experience yet but I just liked everything about it. Coach Sumlin was real cool, Coach [Jake Spavital] was really cool, the facilities were amazing and it just felt right. I was real comfortable there.”

With both programs presenting similar opportunities for Martell, his decision could come down to which scheme he feels is a better fit for his skill set. 

Both programs run a spread offense, but his ability to create big plays in and out of the pocket make him a great fit in the Aggies’ high-octane attack.


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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Which Power Conference Champion from 2014 Is Most Likely to Repeat in 2015?

Repeating as anything—be it divisional champs, conference champs and/or national champs—is tough. There's far more involved in winning than most can appreciate. It takes, among other things, the right talent, stability, team chemistry and even a little luck. 

If all of those things come together, it can make for a special season. To repeat all of that for a second year in a row seems more comparable to lightning striking twice. For example, Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey admitted last month at the ACC kickoff that the Seminoles' team chemistry took a step back from 2013 to 2014. "I don't feel like we had that [last year]," Ramsey said, via Brendan Sonnone, the Orlando Sentinel

The Seminoles won all their regular season games in '14—26 in a row, in fact, spanning the two regular seasons—but we also saw how disjointed they looked at times. 

Keeping that winning edge will one of the challenges for Ohio State, which looks to repeat as Big Ten champs (and national champs) in 2015. However, the Buckeyes are better equipped to get the job done than anyone else in college football. 

Before getting into Ohio State specifically, let's take a quick look at the other Power 5 conference champions from 2014 who will try to hold on to their conference crowns this year: Alabama, Florida State, Oregon and Big 12 co-champions Baylor/TCU.

Everyone has question marks heading into a new season. Rarely, if ever, does a team come back with everyone, starters and coaches alike. But not all of those unanswered questions are created equally. Here's a snapshot of what each reigning Power 5 conference champ has to replace:

Alabama: Quarterback, leading rusher in carries, top three wide receivers, leading tackler.

Baylor: Quarterback, leading tackler.

Florida State: Quarterback, second-leading rusher, top two pass-catchers, three offensive linemen, sack leader, starting cornerbacks. 

Oregon: Quarterback, top cornerback, two offensive linemen, several members of the back seven on defense. 

TCU: top defensive tackle, top corner and safeties, top linebacker (and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year). 

That's not to say Ohio State doesn't have key players to replace. The Buckeyes' true deep threat in the passing game—receiver Devin Smith—is gone, as are defensive tackle Michael Bennett and cornerback Doran Grant. Additionally, starting defensive end Joey Bosa is one of four players who will miss the season-opener against Virginia Tech with a suspension. 

But make no mistake: Ohio State is l-o-a-d-e-d

Bosa, arguably the best edge rusher in college football? Back. Young defensive studs like defensive back Eli Apple and linebacker Darron Lee, whom colleague Ben Axelrod calls college football's most overlooked star? Back. Two quarterbacks, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, either of whom could lead the team to victory? Back. Ezekiel Elliott, one of the top running backs in the game? Back. The offensive line, much-maligned before turning into a powerful unit? Basically back. 

Braxton Miller, in his new spot at H-back? Back. 

As far as star power is concerned, you're not going to find a team in college football with more top-tier players at their respective positions. 

The overall talent and depth of a team is not equal to its strength of schedule. In fact, this is one of the biggest fallacies in college football. As David Hale of tweeted, last year's Buckeye team and the 2013 Florida State Seminoles are good examples of excellent teams playing in so-so conferences and/or schedules:

Looking ahead, no reigning Power 5 champion has an easier path to the playoff than the Buckeyes (albeit not by much). Using last year's rankings from Football Outsiders, we can gauge that Ohio State has the easiest schedule on paper heading into the season:

Granted, this doesn't mean things can't or won't change, but it sets a benchmark heading into the year. While critics might lambaste the Buckeyes for their schedule, it doesn't mean this team is any less talented or capable of playing (and beating) anyone in college football. 

It just means the route to the final four is easier. Nothing more. Nothing less. 

What it could mean, though, is that the margin for error for Ohio State is smaller if the schedule pans out as expected. Ohio State was able to get into the playoff last year despite an early-season loss to what would eventually be a slightly above-average Virginia Tech team, but there's no guarantee a similar type of loss would have the same results in '15. 

But if any coach knows how to carry over success from one year to the next, it's Meyer. From 2012 to 2013, Ohio State won 24 straight regular-season games. Easily, this '15 squad is more talented. 

The one test that stands out is the Nov. 21 game against Michigan State. The Buckeyes and Spartans have exchanged blows over the past few years and, with all due respect to The Game against Michigan, it has become the Big Ten's most exciting match-up. 

However, word broke on Wednesday night that Spartans linebacker Ed Davis had been lost for the season due to a knee injury. It's a tough blow for Michigan State, which already had major questions to answer on defense. 

The Spartans have been known for stingy defenses under head coach Mark Dantonio, but it's entirely possible Michigan State has to win with offense in 2015 (which it is more than capable of doing). However, Ohio State showed last season in a 49-37 win on the road that it can grab a victory in a shootout. 

Get past Michigan State again and Ohio State should be looking good to repeat as Big Ten champions. Of course, the Buckeyes will take everyone's best shot every week. This is nothing new. And if Ohio State does fall, it could fall hard. The good news for Ohio State fans, however, is that this team is better equipped to take the punches. 


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

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