NCAA Football News

Insider Buzz: The 5 Players Atop Florida's 2015 Recruiting Big Board

The Florida Gators are trying to put together a stellar recruiting class in 2015, and five names are currently at the top of their list.

Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe checked in with Nick de la Torre of GatorCountry.com to discuss the names atop the Gators' big board and which recruits will most likely end up at Florida.

Watch the video and learn the latest on Florida recruiting.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

South Carolina Football: Gamecocks Land Two Commits in One Day

South Carolina stayed hot on the recruiting trail Thursday, adding two commitments to its 2015 class. The Gamecocks reeled in pledges from offensive tackle Austin Clark and linebacker Jalen Henry, per The Post and Courier.

Head coach Steve Spurrier has landed eight prospects since May 8, expanding the program's 2015 talent haul to 13 players. The class rates sixth in 247Sports' composite team rankings

Clark, a 4-star recruit from Lexington, Virginia, is the third offensive lineman to commit to South Carolina. He views the team's success and national prowess as a major plus that played a key factor in his decision.

"They are already ranked seventh in the preseason and I think they finished fourth last season, so they are doing really good in the SEC," Clark told Wes Mitchell of 247Sports. "I had two amazing visits and it is a place that I really liked."

His most recent trip to Columbia occurred in late May. Clark chose the Gamecocks over Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Penn State and Miami, among others.

Rated 25th nationally among offensive tackles in 247Sports' composite rankings, the 6'6", 297-pound Rockbridge County High School standout is a dominant run-blocker who has room to grow when it comes to pass protection. His skill set and physical frame should put him in contention to crack the two-deep as an underclassman.

Henry is the less-heralded pickup of the two. He wasn't on the radar of many Gamecocks fans before committing during a campus visit and is currently unrated by 247Sports.

The 6'0", 219-pound defender from Foley High School (Alabama) missed the majority of his junior season with a foot injury, per The Post and Courier. South Carolina was the first team from a Power 5 conference to extend an offer.

His other opportunities included Northern Illinois, FIU and Southern Miss. Henry is likely to line up at outside linebacker with the Gamecocks.

He joins 4-star Florida linebacker Sherrod Pittman in a strong defensive class.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Who Will Fill Void Left from Monte Harrison Signing with MLB?

Nebraska fans know Monte Harrison chose Major League Baseball over being a dual-threat athlete for the Huskers. What fans want to know now is who will fill the void he left behind.

That player is likely Damore'ea Stringfellow. Transferring from Washington, the wide receiver is definitely a possible replacement for Harrison.

Regardless, Harrison's decision does leave a hole in the 2014 recruiting class. And neither Jariah Tolbert or Glenn Irons look to be the proper replacement from the group of recruits.

That's where Stringfellow comes in. At 6'3" and 225 pounds, he was rated the No. 6 player in California in 2013, per Sean Callahan of Rivals.com. Additionally, he did make a small impact in his time with the Huskies. As a true freshman, Callahan also notes that Stringfellow caught 20 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown.

As for Harrison, his high school football numbers were impressive. Per Huskers.com, he "finished the season with 60 receptions for 1,007 yards, an average of 16.8 yards per catch, and had 13 receiving touchdowns." However, Stringfellow has shown in his time at Washington that he's also capable of racking up the yards.

Stringfellow also matches Harrison in size, even holding a few more pounds over him. Harrison is 6'3" and 200 pounds, per 247Sports.com

But replacing Harrison goes beyond just how the two match up in numbers. For Stringfellow, he brings a lot to the table for the Nebraska receiving corp. For instance, Stringfellow is familiar with Nebraska and former Husker Quincy Enunwa. In fact, he hailed from the same California high school as the wide receiver and former defensive end Eric Martin.

Stringfellow's former high school coach even compared him to Enunwa.

“But String is more experienced than Quincy was,” Pete Duffy told the Omaha World Herald's Sam McKewon. “String was a three-year starter, whereas Quincy was just scratching the surface in his senior year. String was involved in a million 7-on-7 games. His experience level, coming out of high school, was much greater than Quincy’s.”

And Nebraska is just as familiar with Stringfellow. The Huskers recruited the wide receiver out of high school before he chose to play for Washington.

"Fortunately we had the experience of recruiting Damore'ea out of high school and understand what he's about and have a really close relationship with his coach," Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said during his appearance on The Jim Rome Show. "We pretty much knew what we were getting."

Ultimately, what Pelini and his staff are getting in Stringfellow is a solid replacement for Harrison. It's needed, too.

Stringfellow will have to sit out the 2014 season as of now, but he will be eligible come 2015. That's perfect timing also. Nebraska will say goodbye to both Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner at the end of this upcoming season, which makes Stringfellow an even bigger added benefit.

And Stringfellow knows the opportunity he has in front of him to make an impact.

"It's a great opportunity as you can see Nebraska produces good receivers like Quincy Enunwa, who actually went to my school and Kenny Bell, who's one of the best receivers in the Big Ten," Stringfellow told Callahan. "It's just up to me now to go there and take full advantage of the opportunity."

Losing Harrison to the MLB was not ideal, but fans knew it was very possible. With his departure, the Huskers will be seeking the best possible replacement for him.

That player will likely be Stringfellow.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Blake Bell Expects Oklahoma to Win National Championship in 2014

Oklahoma quarterback-turned-tight end Blake Bell has seen a steady rise in bowl prominence since his redshirt freshman season in 2011. He's gone from the Insight Bowl to the Cotton Bowl to the Sugar Bowl, and in 2014—his final season with the Sooners—he expects that progression to continue.

"National Championship," Bell said when asked about his expectations for the upcoming season, per Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman

He didn't even hesitate before answering.

It's not crazy for Bell to think OU can win it all. The Sooners return quarterback Trevor Knight, whose presence helped force Bell to tight end, and almost every meaningful piece from the defensive front seven that dominated Alabama in the 45-31 Sugar Bowl victory.

They also have the benefit of an easy-to-navigate schedule. Tulsa, West Virginia, TCU, Iowa State and Texas Tech are the only true road games OU has to play next season, which is why I ranked it No. 1 in terms of easiest road schedules among power conference teams.

According to B/R's Adam Kramer—writing at his blog, Kegs 'N Eggs—the Sooners were listed as 2-5 favorites to win the Big 12 this season, better odds than any other team in any other power conference. Winning the league would likely (but not definitely) put them into the College Football Playoff, and from there they would just be two wins away from the title.

Maybe Bell is not so crazy after all.

Still, in college football, "Championship or Bust" is a romantic but ultimately impractical mantra. For any team.

There are 125 full FBS members, and 15 or 20 of them can realistically hope to make the College Football Playoff and win the national title. The talent that separates those teams in often minimal, and the deciding factors between who does and who doesn't reach their goal are often hard things to predict: a tipped pass at the line, an oddly bouncing fumble, an egregiously bad call, a 109-yard field goal return.

Oklahoma is set up well for a run at the championship but so were Ohio State and Alabama in 2013. Both of those teams subscribed to the "Championship or Bust" mentality, began the season 11-0, lost their final non-bowl game and were unable to rebound in the Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl, respectively.

Now, despite each winning their first 11 games, Ohio State and Alabama look back on 2013 and consider it a failure. Perception is a matter of context, and the context they viewed the season through was "we expect to win the national championship." That is a lot to ask.

Which is to say, there are ways for Oklahoma to have a successful season without winning the national title. It could win the conference and lose a close game in the national semifinals against, say, Florida State. Would that really be so bad of a year in Norman?

Bell is not to blame here because, really, what else is he supposed to say? That he doesn't expect to win the national title? That would be far worse.

However, these goals are a little lofty—for any team—and they set OU up for failure more often than they set it up for success.

You want your players to be confident without being unrealistic. This borders a little too heavy on the former without a healthy-enough dose of the latter.

OU opens the season Aug. 30 against Louisiana Tech.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Penn State Football: 2014 Struggles Could Lead to Big Success in 2015

When Penn State takes the field against UCF in Ireland on Labor Day weekend, there will be several new faces wearing white helmets. On offense alone, up to seven players could be starting for the first time in their careers.

Four new offensive linemen, a new group of receivers and mixups with the defensive line and linebackers will likely lead to some growing pains. 

A year from now, a favorable amount of those "new faces" will be savvy veterans and returning starters.

A quick look at Penn State's roster shows 11 players who will use their last year of eligibility in 2014. Only about half of them are expected to be significant contributors, meaning the Nittany Lions will be returning an overwhelming majority of their key players in 2015.

Guys like Brendan Mahon, Garrett Sickels and Andrew Nelson have high ceilings and will shed their redshirts this season. Nelson is projected to start at right tackle, while Mahon could wind up next to him in the huddle. Sickels will be in the rotation at defensive end behind two of the conference's best. He'll be expected to start in 2015. 

No amount of hype or coaching in the past will fuel their success as much as a season on the field is going to. 

Perhaps the position that will see the most progress from 2014 to 2015 is wide receiver. The depth chart is wide open, and the incoming group of freshmen could include several key players. Nick Polak, the recruiting guru for BlackShoeDiaries.com, thinks De'Andre Thompkins and Saeed Blacknall could be early contributors of that bunch: "Thompkins already seems to have etched his name into early playing time," said Polak, adding "Blacknall is immensely talented, especially on the outside, and could easily play his way into the starting lineup."

Joining them will be Troy Apke and Chris Godwin, both of whom are capable of seeing snaps this year. That experience, plus the chance to gain familiarity with quarterback Christian Hackenberg, will pay dividends in 2015.

Defensively, several young linebackers will get a shot this fall and only Mike Hull will move on following the season. Who does Polak think will start in 2015? "Brandon Bell, Troy Reeder, Nyeem Wartman."

Polak has high expectations for true freshman Reeder, saying "I think Reeder will be a part-time starter by the end of the season in 2014 and will show enough to take over the middle linebacker role for 2015, keeping Bell on the outside." If he's right, Reeder will be flanked by two linebackers with two years of experience each.

Players like Hackenberg and defensive lineman Anthony Zettel will only improve with another year of experience, and there will be other young players who pop.

Malik Golden in the secondary and Mike Gesicki somewhere on the perimeter of the offense both expect to see the field this season. They'll be learning on the go but in 2015, they'll be comfortable and ready to play significant roles. 

If the youth Penn State has on its roster can learn fast, they may be playing significant roles on one of the best teams in the Big Ten when that time comes.


All quotes obtained firsthand.


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football Recruiting: 3 Top Targets to Watch at 'The Opening'

The Opening is an exclusive football camp for the nation's top high school recruits—a six-day gauntlet of drills at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. 

The event kicks off on July 5 and will run through July 10. Naturally, a number of Ohio State's top recruiting targets are scheduled to participate.

Players such as 5-star wide receiver Christian Kirk, 5-star defensive end Josh Sweat, 4-star offensive tackle Drew Richmond and 4-star tight end Chris Clark, all of whom have Buckeye offers, will get in on the action. Even Tyler Green, the 4-star safety who committed to Ohio State last Sunday, will be in attendance.

The following three recruits should be of particular interest to Ohio State fans. One is a player the Buckeyes are seriously vetting. One is a player they desperately need. The other is a player both Urban Meyer and Nick Saban are after.

 

Travis Waller

Despite landing a commitment from 3-star quarterback Joe Burrow two weeks ago, the Buckeyes are still in hot pursuit of another quarterback.

Many expected that quarterback to be Torrance Gibson, a 5-star dual-threat QB out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But according to Ari Wasserman of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, the Ohio State coaching staff hasn't reached out to Gibson in a while. The Buckeyes have plummeted in his top seven as a result, and Gibson doesn't know if he'll visit Columbus this year.

It appears that Ohio State has turned its attention to Travis Waller, a 4-star prospect from Anaheim, California. The Buckeyes reach out to him on a daily basis and have surged up his list, even though they haven't offered yet.

A strong showing at The Opening could change that. It would also dramatically shift Ohio State's odds of landing him.

 

Van Jefferson

The Buckeyes have loaded up at wide receiver over the last three recruiting classes. Meyer has brought some lethal speed to the position with players such as Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall and Johnnie Dixon.

Van Jefferson is a different kind of receiver.

While he has good speed—247Sports reports that he runs a 4.56 40-yard dash—he is highly rated because of his crisp route-running ability, his knack for catching the ball in traffic and his size.

Those are qualities Ohio State will need to complement all the speed on the perimeter. Landing Jefferson has to be one of Meyer's top recruiting priorities.

 

Matthew Burrell

Beating Alabama and Nick Saban on the field starts with beating them on the recruiting front. Meyer and the Buckeyes are very aware of that, and they don't back down from college football's most efficient recruiting machine.

Both schools are going after 4-star offensive tackle Matthew Burrell

The Woodbridge, Virginia, product has more than three dozen offers, highlighted by programs such as Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.

According to 247Sports' crystal ball predictions, Ohio State is the overwhelming favorite.

Burrell recently announced a top 15, so his recruitment is far from over. With the momentum they have, though, Meyer and the Buckeyes have to like where they stand with the 6'5", 290-pound tackle.

 

All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter: @davidreg412.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: Expect Big Things from Jeremy Pruitt, but Give Him Time

Quite understandably, the University of Georgia’s hiring of Jeremy Pruitt was met with high expectations.  After all, Pruitt, who arrived in Athens following a one-year stint as the defensive coordinator at Florida State and several seasons as a position coach with Alabama, might boast the best three-year resume in all of college football.

  • 2011: BCS National Champion
  • 2012: BCS National Champion
  • 2013: BCS National Champion

But merited as the hype may be, this won’t be an overnight transformation for the Bulldog defense. Fans should expect big things out of Pruitt, but give him some time.

 

Change Underway

Given the Dawgs’ recent struggles under former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, this project was never going to be a renovation. More accurately, the best way for Pruitt to reshape this defense is to tear it down and start over. Thus far, he’s done a lot of demolition work.

Even returning starters have been temporary victims of this rebuilding process. “There’s one thing about football coaches,” Pruitt said in his introductory press conference (according to GeorgiaDogs.com).  “Everybody may not agree with who we always play and all of that, but I think we always try to play the best players. We'll do that, and we'll give everybody an opportunity. I think competition is great.”

Opportunities for some have yielded demotions for others. Georgia has famously lost three defensive backs (Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaq Wiggins and Tray Matthews) to dismissal or transfer and another (Brendan Langley) to the offensive side of the ball. But none of those players started in the team’s spring game despite experience with the first team in 2013.

Ray Drew registered five sacks over the course of three consecutive games against SEC competition last year. As reported by David Paschall of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the senior defensive end bounced between the second and third teams during the spring.

Personnel changes will hardly be the only alteration under Pruitt. His defensive scheme is less exclusively a 3-4, an emphasis is being placed on both fundamentals and speed and even the physical shape of players is being altered to fit Pruitt’s desire. 

Pruitt wants a speedy, lean, aggressive defense with a knack for swarming the ball. He’s willing to tear the unit down to its core to achieve such results.

 

Change Takes Time

While there’s enough silver lining to more than encompass Pruitt’s efforts, it’s important to remember that rebuilding can and will take time. Last year, Georgia’s defense was young in the secondary. With the aforementioned departures and position changes, the unit could be equally green in 2014.

Furthermore, many longstanding habits—both on and off the field—need to be changed. And as last year’s defense proved, bad habits die hard.

Culturally speaking, a higher expectation has already been established. Last month, Wiggins told Kipp Adams of 247Sports he was looking for a team that would embrace his personality. Wiggins went on to describe himself as a “jokester.” Pruitt’s defense doesn’t have room for class clowns during practice or in the film room. Accordingly, Wiggins probably won’t be the last Dawg to depart in search of a more relaxed environment. Expect more attrition.

As far as on-field performance is concerned, progress may more closely resemble a slow-churning grind than a greased-up track to improvement, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing—at least not in the long run.

Optimism surrounding Pruitt is well-founded but paradoxically misplaced. Georgia fans should be excited about his arrival and quick start in Athens, but that excitement should not be rooted in exorbitantly high expectations for 2014. Rather, that eagerness should stem from an appreciation for Pruitt’s willingness to change the defense to a meaningful and lasting degree.

That process, as Pruitt will likely point out repeatedly this fall, will take time.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida Football: Projecting Who Will Win Gators' Open Starting Positions

It’s highly unusual that a four-win team from a year ago doesn’t have many open positions, but that’s the case for the Florida Gators this season. With seven starters returning on both sides of the ball, most have a pretty good idea of who will be where when they take the field in late August.

Most positions that remain up for grabs are on the offensive side of the ball, as the coaching staff is still trying to figure things out after such a horrible performance a year ago. There are also a few young defensive players who are competing for a starting role. Other than that, Florida seems to be in good hands as far as starters are concerned.

Let’s predict who will get the nod at the current vacant spots.

Begin Slideshow

10 Cities That Should Host a College Football Bowl Game

When it comes to college football bowl games, it is really an all-or-nothing mentality. You either feel there's too many, or not enough.

For those who think the number of bowls—which balloons to a record 39 this year, thanks to four new games and the championship of the inaugural College Football Playoff—far exceeds what seems reasonable, we've got some news for you: too bad, because they're not going away anytime soon.

For those who feel there are not enough bowls, well, you're in luck. There are more coming, as the Cure Bowl in Orlando is set to debut in 2015, and several other proposed games could be added next year or soon thereafter.

But why stop there? Why can't it be like Oprah Winfrey is handling the bowl season, throwing out games and game invites here and there? "You get a bowl game! You get a bowl game! Everyone gets a bowl game!"

Not enough 6-6 teams? Heck, let them all in! Who says the bowl games have to all pit great teams against each other? Those goodie bags that players receive from the various bowls could count toward whatever compensation college players might someday receiver for their services, with the cost of those items coming out of the massive heaps of TV profits collected by FBS football programs.

Truth be told, a system that in its current state will send nearly 60 percent of its teams into the postseason is far beyond one that is intended only to reward the best of the best. So with that in mind, we have identified 10 cities that would be a great place to throw yet another bowl game onto the schedule.

Begin Slideshow

Miami Football: Projecting Who Will Win Hurricanes' Open Starting Positions

Before the regular season begins at Louisville, the Miami Hurricanes must fill a combined nine open starting spots on offense, defense and special teams.

From a quarterback to a pair of linebackers to the punter, a few 'Canes are favored to become new No. 1s. The competition level is increasing at nearly every position on the roster, which is a clear improvement over recent years.

So in 2014, both upperclassmen and underclassmen are challenging each other for the available roles throughout the summer and will continue in fall camp.

But eventually, someone has to earn the starting responsibilities. Who comes out on top?

Begin Slideshow

Nebraska Football: Projecting Who Will Win Cornhuskers' Open Starting Position

Nebraska football fans have a number of ways to get through the summer months, and one of them is to figure out who will be starting for the Scarlet and Cream in the upcoming season. Rather than looking at box scores, Nebraska fans will pore through recruiting magazines and rosters from the season past to get an idea of what the next season’s crop of Cornhuskers will look like on the field.

So let’s put our guessing hats on and see if we can determine who will win the open starting jobs this fall. Note the emphasis on open starting jobs—you don’t need me to tell you that Ameer Abdullah will be the starting I-back and Randy Gregory will get the nod at defensive end.

If a position is missing, that’s because I don’t view it as an open starting position. Yes, that means there is an entire position group (offensive backs) that gets omitted as a result. But it helps keep our focus on the positions that are truly up in the air, at least based on what we know now before the start of fall camp.

Begin Slideshow

Texas Football: Which Spring Stars Will Make an Impact on Texas' 2014 Season?

Springs stars are just that. They look like good players against their own teammates or in drills, then come back to earth when wins are on the line.

Like most programs, the Longhorns have had their fair share of spring stars who never followed through. (John Harris, anyone?) This spring brought its own crop of such players, with one main difference.

The arrival of Charlie Strong means every player gets a fresh start. Given that chance, players like Josh Turner and Taylor Doyle have stepped up to make an impression. For others, such as Caleb Bluiett and Bryson Echols, the simple circumstances have afforded them the opportunity to grab a vacated role. 

No matter the how or why, six Longhorns enter summer conditioning already on their way to making an impact in the regular season.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: Identifying the Irish's Trap Game

Notre Dame's 2014 schedule looks quite a bit different than it has in recent years.

Gone is Michigan State, as the defending Big Ten champions roll off of the Fighting Irish schedule for the first time since 1996. Coming on to the schedule are four ACC opponents, as Notre Dame begins its alliance with the league that houses its basketball and Olympic sports programs. 

Like every schedule, however, the Irish's 2014 slate has hurdles of all sizes. Four defending division or conference champions appear, as do traditional rivals Michigan (for the last time), Navy and USC. 

But which of the Irish's 12 contests is their trap game—a game that could catch Notre Dame off-guard? We told you last year that it would be Purdue, and we were right. Notre Dame came out flat against the hapless Boilermakers (who would finish 1-11), needing a second-half rally to escape West Lafayette with a narrow 31-24 win.

This year, it will be the North Carolina Tar Heels who could catch the Irish in a vulnerable position.

To compare the 2014 Tar Heels to the 2013 Boilermakers is an insult to those in blue. North Carolina is a viable ACC Coastal Division title contender. But with where the Tar Heels' visit to South Bend falls, Larry Fedora's team has a chance to fly under Notre Dame's radar.

The week before the Oct. 11 game with North Carolina, Notre Dame will host Stanford. Fox Sports writer Bruce Feldman proposed a "body blow theory" involving the adverse effects of playing the Cardinal. Feldman (writing for CBS at the time) showed that, on average, teams regress from their mean in both rushing offense and defense in the week after playing Stanford, arguably the most physical team in the country.

Fortunately for Notre Dame, they only have a game after Stanford every other year, as the Irish close odd-numbered years in Palo Alto. This year, that is not the case, as the Tar Heels roll into Notre Dame Stadium seven days after the Cardinal depart.

It's not just the team that comes before North Carolina that presents a challenge for the Irish. It's the one that comes after: defending national champion and likely preseason No. 1 Florida State. In Tallahassee. North Carolina is a classic sandwich game for Notre Dame, one of the many criteria when attempting to define a trap game.

The Tar Heels' spread offense is a far cry from the ground-and-pound attack employed by Stanford. A change in scheme can wear on a defense, as we saw last year when the Irish followed two games with triple-option teams with its worst loss of the season to Pittsburgh and its pro-style attack.

Even the name North Carolina itself could play into the hands of the visitors. This is football, not basketball, so the name "North Carolina" doesn't carry much clout when compared to traditional powers. Miami (FL) could have a worse team than the Tar Heels, but there would still be a far smaller chance of the Irish overlooking the Hurricanes based on name alone.

Syracuse and Navy could be candidates for trap games, but both games are after Irish bye weeks. Notre Dame is 5-1 under Brian Kelly after a bye.

The Northwestern game on Nov. 15 doesn't deserve trap-game merit strictly because Notre Dame players will be reminded all week of the Wildcats' stunning upset in South Bend in 1995. Louisville a week later? The Cardinals are a dangerous foe, but Notre Dame is 4-0 on Senior Day under Kelly.

All factors point to North Carolina as the team that could come into Notre Dame Stadium as an underdog and ruin Notre Dame's hopes for a playoff berth or a major bowl game. Purdue simply wasn't good enough a year ago to capitalize on a poor Irish performance. The Tar Heels are too talented to let that opportunity slip away if it presents itself.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: How Brendan Langley's Position Change Will Impact Bulldogs

There have been a lot of position changes for the Bulldogs this offseason. James DeLoach has moved from outside linebacker to defensive end, Quayvon Hicks will play some tight end this season along with fullback, and J.J. Green will be a defensive back for the Bulldogs after playing running back in 2013.

But the most interesting position change is Brendan Langley, as he will play wide receiver this season after playing cornerback last year.

The move helps strengthen an already deep receiving corps, but it also makes the secondary thinner, especially with Shaq Wiggins, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews no longer with the team.

DB Brendan Langley to WR. Richt confirmed to @Dawgs247 MT @KingLang4: Gonna be fun going back to my roots on offense!

— Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) May 12, 2014

This move was made for the present as well as the future. The Bulldogs will lose Chris Conley, Michael Bennett and Jonathon Rumph after the 2014 season, so they will need some experienced receivers ready to go in 2015, especially with the Bulldogs replacing Hutson Mason next season as well.

Not only that, but Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are also coming off of season-ending injuries, so adding Langley will give the Bulldogs insurance just in case Mitchell and Scott-Wesley aren’t 100 percent this year.

Langley won’t be expected to be a Day 1 starter because he has to learn the playbook as well as getting the routes down before he can be a major contributor. But once he learns that, he will be a very dangerous player for the Bulldogs. Head coach Mark Richt told Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Langley is fast and can change direction well. Richt also said that as a staff, they thought he would be better suited at receiver than at quarterback.

Adding Langley to the offense will add another deep threat. As for Mason, he told Gentry Estes of 247Sports that he’s excited for Langley to be part of the group, and he can’t wait to see what Langley can do when they hit the field.

As it was mentioned, Langley will be behind when it comes to learning the playbook. But because he played a lot of receiver in high school, he will have no issues making the transition from defense to offense.

In fact, during his senior year at Kell High School in Marietta, Georgia, he caught 34 passes for 770 yards and 14 touchdowns. He did that while picking off six passes on defense and tallying 318 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. So Langley brings diversity to the offense, which is good, because teams will focus on stopping Todd Gurley but will have no answer for a player like Langley.  

And with a diverse player like Langley, he will have a chance to return kicks. Green and Sheldon Dawson handled the majority of kick returns last year, and both were solid. But the Bulldogs need that breakaway player who can change the field, and Langley could be that guy if the coaches give him the opportunity, especially if he won’t see too much time at receiver this season.

When push comes to shove, Langley has a great chance of being an elite receiver. He was a starter at cornerback for the first four games last year but was replaced by Shaq Wiggins. Langley won’t be the starter at wide receiver by the beginning of the 2014 season, but if he learns the playbook quickly, shows off his speed and makes plays when his number is called, he can be an All-SEC receiver when his career in Athens is all said and done, and the Bulldogs offense will continue to be one of the better offenses in the country.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: 5 Best Candidates to Win 2014 Heisman Trophy

The SEC lost so many stars, it's going to be difficult to replace them all—much less conjure up candidates for the Heisman Trophy.

Johnny Manziel. Aaron Murray. Tre Mason. A.J. McCarron. Jadeveon Clowney. Mike Evans. Odell Beckham Jr. Michael Sam. Jordan Matthews. Connor Shaw. Jarvis Landry. Dorial Green-Beckham. Jeremy Hill. Donte Moncrief.

All gone.

Those guys aren't just one-year wonders, either. Many had record-setting careers that kept the spotlight on the conference as it churned out national champions.

But this is the SEC, where teams reload with top talent. While there will be a youth movement in 2014, the league is still top-heavy with worthy candidates for college football's top honor.

The award normally goes to a quarterback or running back, so this top five is heavy on those. But even beyond this list, the SEC has several prime possibilities with the talent to get to New York.

Let's take a look at the five most likely candidates to ultimately hoist the hardware.

Begin Slideshow

5 Players/Programs Under the Most Scrutiny for the 2014 College Football Season

With less than three months away from the start of the 2014 college football season, players across the country are preparing with numerous hours on the practice field and working out in the gym.

College football said goodbye to Johnny Manziel with his entry into the National Football League. With him gone to the pros, so go the drama and scrutiny that surrounded him during his final season at Texas A&M. 

Although he is gone, certain star players might still be under scrutiny from media and fans due to past arrests and various incidents that have affected their image. This offseason, 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was in the media numerous times for the wrong reasons due to questionable actions.

Winston wasn't the only well-known college football player to have a negative spotlight associated with him since last season. Numerous other players and teams will be dealing with their public image and perception by sports fans.

Here are four players and one program who are under the most scrutiny heading into the 2014 college football season.    

Begin Slideshow

Jackson Harris to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 4-Star TE Prospect

Georgia has made a big addition—literally—to its 2015 class, securing the verbal commitment of 4-star tight end Jackson Harris on Thursday.

The Columbia Central (Columbia, Tennessee) star selected the Bulldogs over Alabama and Vanderbilt, according to 247 Sports' Barton Simmons:

247Sports' composite rankings list Harris as the 223rd-best overall prospect, 10th-best tight end and eighth-best prospect out of the state of Tennessee. Although with his kind of potential, it feels like those numbers are only going to improve with time. 

Although he still has another year of high school left, the 17-year-old already has the look of a SEC player. He is 6'6", 250 pounds and boasts impressive athleticism.

His size, at least for now, is his greatest attribute. He has the strength to make a smooth transition to the collegiate game as a blocker, and his height and length give him a massive catch radius that will be especially beneficial in the red zone. 

Don't think for a second this is just a big, lumbering load who's just going to try to out-muscle defenders, though. 

Harris displays good quickness (he runs a 4.85 40-yard dash) and hands for a player his size. While his route running needs some sharpening—not exactly a rarity for players his age—he has the look of someone who will be a productive weapon in the passing game at the next level. 

He recently earned an invite to The Opening—a showcase of the nation's top prospects: 

It's difficult to project a player who is still so far from stepping onto a college campus, but Harris' versatility is going to make it difficult for Mark Richt to keep him off the field for long. 

While he may not make an immediate impact as a freshman, his skill set is tantalizing. He's a true in-line tight end blocker but also has the amalgam of size and athleticism to create mismatches all over the field. 

It won't be long after he steps on campus before his presence is felt in the SEC. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Every Big Ten Football Team's Ace 2015 Recruiter

The Big Ten recruiting trail is awfully competitive. Head coaches can't do it all by themselves, so each of them must have at least one ace recruiter on staff.

Being an ace recruiter is a big job; that assistant coach is usually assigned to recruit the program's top targets. He is also expected to bring in the most commitments for his school's recruiting class.

With July not being too far away, the 2015 recruiting cycle is moving along. That also means ace recruiters in the Big Ten are starting to emerge.

Begin Slideshow

5-Star WR DaMarkus Lodge Changes College Announcement Date

Texas wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge has decided to alter his plans for a commitment announcement. The 5-star prospect will announce his decision Thursday, June 19, one day earlier than originally expected, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Lodge, a 6'2.5", 190-pound playmaker at Cedar Hill High School, emerged as a dominant force for the national powerhouse during his junior season. He capped off a breakout campaign with MVP honors in the Class 5A Division II state title game.

His championship effort featured 129 yards and two touchdowns on eight touches, including five receptions. Lodge finished the season with 72 catches for 1,255 receiving yards and 25 offensive scores.

His recruitment spans coast to coast, with several contenders still seemingly involved.

Notre Dame and USC extended scholarship offers in May, but they're late to a pursuit that started during his sophomore year. He has several in-state suitors, with Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech each clamoring for a commitment.

Lodge could be tempted to seek opportunities beyond state borders.

Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU are potential landing spots in the SEC. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State present high-flying offensive attacks in the Big 12.

Lodge is rated No. 4 nationally among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings. He is listed as the sixth-best rising senior in Texas.

With just one week remaining in his recruiting process, Lodge can expect attention from college coaches to hit an all-time high.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Teams Whose National Championship Chances Are Undervalued by Vegas Lines

Vegas doesn't often make mistakes. When it acts, it acts with reason. Whenever a line that looks anomalous gets posted, you must pause and take a second to question: Why does it look anomalous? Is it supposed to stick out as anomalous?

Am I slowly being lured into a trap? 

In this regard, it is hard to name with confidence any teams that Vegas has undervalued. However, the exercise takes place every year.

Hindsight tells us that Auburn and Missouri would have been good bets last season; even Florida State, which dominated from the first to the final whistle, was not one of the favorites back in June.

Here are three teams that might make Vegas look stupid—if that is even possible—come January. One is a bona fide favorite whose numbers seems a bit inflated, one is a name-brand program whose reputation has fallen back a bit and one is a scrappy upstart with enough young talent and the lack of competition to make a run.

Check out the odds at Vegas Insider, and sound off below with whom you think has been undervalued.

 

Alabama 7/1

Think of what these odds really mean. If the 2014 season was played seven times, would Alabama win at least one national title?

The smart money says yes.

Alabama did, after all, win three of the final five BCS National Championships. If not for a late-game collapse against Auburn last season—and make no mistake, that's what it was—it would have had a shot at winning a fourth. The Tide might have even been favored to do so.

There are questions at quarterback. We know this. If you think the stories about Jacob Coker and Blake Sims have been overblown this winter, just get ready for what will happen at SEC Media Days and in the run-up to the season. It is all anybody will be talking about.

A healthy part of that is justified. Quarterback is the most important position on the field, and Alabama doesn't have a proven commodity to follow in AJ McCarron's footsteps. That is the reason, ostensibly, that you can get the Tide at 7-to-1 when they usually cost a great deal more: uncertainty.

What's not uncertain, though, is the rest of that Alabama offense.

Running backs T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake might form the best backfield trio in America; the offensive line has a high ceiling and a great coach in Mario Cristobal; and according to Charles Hollis of AL.com, pass-catchers Amari Cooper and O.J. Howard were voted to the All-SEC first team by league Sports Information Directors.

On defense, the combination of tackle A'Shawn Robinson, linebacker Trey DePriest and safety Landon Collins gives the Tide a potential All-American at every level. Beyond them, there are questions, but Alabama has finished first in the country in recruiting the past four seasons, according to the 247Sports team rankings.

Do you really want to bet against Nick Saban and Kirby Smart coaching a defense filled with 4- and 5-star recruits?

Me neither. I would take Alabama on a neutral field against anyone.

(And no, commenters, I am not a fan of the team.)

 

 

USC 40/1

This seems like a pretty high number.

Despite coaching turmoil and uneven play at quarterback, USC was quietly one of the best teams in America last season. It finished No. 11 on the Football Outsiders F/+ ratings, two spots ahead of last year's Pac-12 South champion (Arizona State) and four spots ahead of this year's tentative Pac-12 South favorite (UCLA).

And both of those "despites" should be fixed. New head coach Steve Sarkisian comes over from Washington to provide some stability on the sidelines, and Cody Kessler—who, it should be mentioned, got better almost every week last season—has a full year of experience under his belt and looks like one of the Pac-12's best QBs.

And man, what about those skill players?

Nelson Agholor is one of the favorites to win the Biletnikoff Award, and he is just the tip of the receiving iceberg.

Sophomore Darreus Rogers, a practice favorite who has always been nicked up with injuries, appeared to be stronger than ever this spring and is drawing some flattering comparisons.

"He kinda reminds me of (NFL great) Sterling Sharpe," said receivers coach Tee Martin, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports (then with CBSSports.com). "He really competes and challenges for balls (in traffic), has great hands and is a great route runner."

On defense, end/tackle Leonard Williams is one of the best players in the country, checking in at No. 3 overall on Rob Rang's first 2015 big board at CBSSports.com.

There is some intriguing young talent at linebacker, and the secondary—led by cornerback Josh Shaw and safety Su'a Cravens—was ranked No. 3 in the country in Phil Steele's 2014 College Football Preview.

The only thing holding USC back is the offensive line, and on that front, bringing in new position coach Tim Drevno could have a major impact. Drevno previously coached the O-line for the San Francisco 49ers since 2011, molding that unit into (probably) the best in the NFL.

At 40-to-1 odds, I am willing to bet he can make a difference.

 

North Carolina 110/1

North Carolina got off to a disastrous start last season, losing five of its first six games—including a 55-31 beat-down on its home turf against Conference-USA foe East Carolina. Woof.

But things turned around in the second half of the year, when UNC won six of its final seven games—including five in a row—before barely losing to ACC Coastal Division champion Duke in the regular-season finale.

In 2014, the Tar Heels could prove to be a lot like Missouri last season. They have two capable quarterbacks in Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky, a deep group of running backs, some good receivers and a scrappy upstart defense, and they play in the (much) weaker division of a power conference.

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer wrote the following of North Carolina when the odds were first released, calling them a good value bet even when the number was 75-to-1 instead of 110-to-1:

For this season, North Carolina won’t be available at 200/1. At 75/1, however, the Tar Heels are intriguing and loaded with value. It’s a long shot, of course, hence the huge price. But there are a handful of items working in UNC’s favor.

For one, the College Football Playoff will open new doors. No longer a hunt for the two best teams in the sport, the four-team bracket will provide others a chance to play their way in. That’s significant, and it’s also why the days of live 150/1 and 200/1 shots for these bets are likely dead.

Yes, Adam, those days are dead and gone. But 110-to-1 is not the worst consolation one could think of—especially with a high-upside team such as UNC and a high-upside coach such as Larry Fedora.

Why not take a stab and let it ride?

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages