NCAA Football News
Two weeks ago, Nebraska fans were happy with their two 3-star commitments in wide receiver Jaevon McQuitty and linebacker Willie Hampton. But there were those who silently wondered when the class would have its breakout opportunity.
Monday was another huge day for Nebraska fans, as the program landed a 4-star quarterback in Tristan Gebbia. Ranked the nation's No. 8 pro-style quarterback, Gebbia chose the Cornhuskers over West Virginia, Washington, Washington State and Ole Miss—the school where his father, Rich Gebbia, played tight end.
"I've spent a lot of time with Coach Lang [offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf] and [head] Coach [Mike] Riley," said Gebbia, a 6'3", 180-pound quarterback. "I've gotten to see them practice up close and personal. Plus, Keyshawn loves it there. He'd been telling me he wants me to come with him. We've had a pretty good connection the last three years, and he said, 'Why not take it to the next level?'"
Nebraska picked up a quarterback who had great numbers as a junior, according to MaxPreps. He threw for 4,435 yards and 45 touchdowns and completed 63 percent (278 of 442) of his passes. Additionally, Gebbia rushed for five touchdowns.
Quarterbacks like Gebbia tend to be keystone commitments for programs. Offensive athletes want to make plays with him. Defensive athletes want to get better practicing against him. In Nebraska's case, Gebbia's commitment is a huge win for a variety of reasons.
First, Gebbia gives Nebraska a quality option at one of recruiting's most competitive positions. There are only 14 pro-style and 10 dual-threat quarterbacks nationwide listed as at least a 4-star prospect. Of those 24 total quarterbacks, prior to Gebbia's commitment, only four were uncommitted targets.
Second, Gebbia's pledge helps establish what appears to be a budding pipeline between Nebraska and Calabasas High School. Safety Marquel Dismuke signed with Nebraska in February, and the Cornhuskers are expecting to add Johnson and Gebbia next February.
Perhaps one of the more intriguing discussions of Gebbia's commitment involves depth at the position. Nebraska, upon Gebbia signing his national letter of intent, will enter the 2017 season with three players competing for the starting QB job. Gebbia, early enrollee Patrick O'Brien and A.J. Bush, who just finished his redshirt freshman year and was listed as the team's third-stringer last season, will compete for playing time. If Gebbia doesn't start as a freshman, he'll definitely push his competition to be better, which will help Nebraska in a tough Big Ten Conference.
Having Gebbia as a part of the Nebraska roster is huge for Riley and his program. Now it's all about keeping Gebbia committed. Look for Ole Miss to continue recruiting him, as he is a Rebel legacy. Before committing, Gebbia took an unofficial visit to Ole Miss over the weekend.
"The trip's been great," Gebbia said Saturday. "I've spent a lot of time with the coaches and watched their scrimmage. I just wanted to see the SEC up close and personal. As an athlete who wants to get better, you look forward to seeing all you can and getting as much out of it as possible."
Gebbia's recruitment will be one to watch, but for now, all arrows point to him becoming a Cornhusker when it's time to sign his letter of intent.
"It's pretty great," he said of Nebraska. "You get great football, and the life outside of football is great. That's what I wanted."
Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles
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Not all incoming college freshmen football players are looking to put their family name on the map. While the vast majority of newcomers aren't necessarily accustomed to an expanded spotlight, others grew up in environments that commanded one.
Whether their parents were entertainers or celebrated athletes in football or some other sport, several 2016 signees have plenty to live up to when it comes to family success. We examined a collection of prospects who inherit some level of fame from parents who previously gained public affection.
Freshmen are the future, juniors are the next batch of pro stars and seniors are the veterans who know how to get it done. Where do sophomores fit into the equation?
It's like the crossroads class in college football, the purgatory between being a newcomer and an upperclassman. Quite often, sophomores are the most forgotten of any group unless they managed to stand out as freshmen.
That's what we have with our list of the 25 best sophomores heading into the 2016 season. It's a group that began to draw attention last year, but in most cases, that was just the start of their run. We've ranked them based on what they've achieved to this point and what they're in line to do this fall, when their role expands from being a first-time contributor to a go-to asset.
Several universities remain in the mix to sign heavily pursued Illinois wide receiver Isaiah Robertson, with six standing out for the 4-star recruit.
Robertson, a 6'3", 190-pound prospect from Neuqua Valley High School in suburban Chicago, revealed a list of favorites on Tuesday afternoon:
His top options, in alphabetical order, are Illinois, Iowa, Notre Dame, Penn State, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt. The collection is heavy on Big Ten contenders, which is to be expected considering his proximity to conference programs.
Robertson, rated No. 27 among wide receivers and No. 214 overall in the 2017 class, picked these schools to highlight from a large group of scholarship offers. His alternatives include Maryland, Indiana, Iowa State and Syracuse.
He began collecting offers as an underclassman, with in-state Illinois extending an offer shortly after his breakout sophomore campaign. Robertson racked up 721 receiving yards (24 per catch) and five scores in 2014.
His offer total surpassed double digits last fall, when he commanded attention on both sides of the ball.
He tallied 81 tackles and four interceptions at safety, according to Allen Trieu of Scout.com, adding 50 receptions for 803 yards and nine touchdowns on offense.
While Robertson is ranked among receivers, the jury may still be out when it comes to determining his ideal collegiate fit.
He seemed receptive to a variety of roles during a September discussion with Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.
“I really think that I’m more of an athlete recruit,” Robertson told Wiltfong. “Defense and offense and returning the ball, I really feel like I can get the job done anywhere it needs to be done with the right preparation."
Notre Dame was the latest school to open its doors. The Fighting Irish presented an offer on Saturday, setting the stage for an appearance in his top six.
Robertson's rapport with the program continues to accelerate, courtesy of recent visits to South Bend, Indiana. These campus trips proved vital as both sides advanced from mutual flirtation to a full-fledged scholarship offer:
His decision to drop a list of favorites just days later hints that he's ready to move forward to the next phase of a widespread recruitment. The Note Dame offer may have served as motivation to do so, as Wiltfong wrote it's one Robertson "wanted as the process picked up."
The Irish have netted each commitment projection in his 247Sports Crystal Ball, but there will be substantial competition from Big Ten schools.
Penn State has seen its passing attack sputter for stretches under head coach James Franklin, and the program failed to make a major splash at receiver last signing day. Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton, the only Nittany Lions to surpass 20 catches in 2015, will be seniors when Robertson enrolls.
Illinois is attempting to redefine itself following the hiring of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith. The 2007 NFC champion will attempt to capitalize on new Illini buzz by capitalizing with local talent, and he may not discover a more impressive player than Robertson while assessing the Chicago area's recruiting landscape.
Wisconsin gains an edge due to family ties with the school. His father, Pollis Robertson, was a Badgers basketball player in the 1980s, though there's been little to indicate a legacy commitment is imminent.
As an in-depth search for Robertson's ideal fit continues, look for further diligence through visits and communication with coaches to determine what comes next in his career.
“We have certain criteria that we look for,” Pollis Robertson told Matt Freeman of Irish Sports Daily. “First and foremost would be academics. Second to that, it’s definitely the football program and in his case, we look at the tradition, coaching staff, players that are there and the position needs."
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Many schools around the country visit the state of Florida in hopes of finding talent to supplement their rosters with.
One program that has frequented the Sunshine State with a decent amount of success is the USC Trojans.
Head coach Clay Helton and his staff are hoping to find more talent from Florida in the 2017 cycle.
Cowan, who is committed to Florida State, is the nation’s No. 5 outside linebacker and the No. 78 player overall in the 2017 class.
The 6’0”, 170-pound Wright—who holds more than 30 offers—rates as the country’s No. 8 safety and No. 102 player overall in the current cycle.
Last month at the Miami Opening Regional, Cowan spoke on the strength of his commitment to the Seminoles.
“I’m 80 percent committed. I just keep the other 20 percent open to other schools,” Cowan said.
Meanwhile, Wright has FSU among his group of early leaders, but he doesn’t plan on making a decision until after his senior season at the earliest.
If the Trojans can find a way to get either Sunshine State defender on campus, they could once again become a factor in the state of Florida in the 2017 cycle.
Georgia Offers Ohio DB
While it’s commonplace for Big Ten schools to recruit in the SEC’s backyard, it’s more of a rare occurrence for the reverse scenario to unfold.
Last week, SEC power Georgia looked to the state of Ohio to offer 4-star corner Amir Riep.
The 6’0”, 180-pounder—who rates as the nation’s No. 14 corner and the No. 131 player overall in 2017—from Colerain High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, has collected 40 offers.
The offer comes on the heels of Riep visiting Athens. If he schedules a return visit, the Bulldogs could become a major contender in the race for his services.
Clemson After New Jersey ATH
After its race to the national championship game, Clemson is building momentum nationally with top recruits in the 2017 class.
Last week, the Tigers hit the state of New Jersey to offer 3-star athlete Markquese Bell.
Bell has 16 offers to date, with Michigan—who hosted him on an unofficial visit last week—being one of the main contenders in his recruitment at this stage.
Penn State After Stud 2018 CB
The 2018 class is loaded with recruits who are the sons of former NFL players. One such talent is corner Houston Griffith—whose father Howard was a fullback who won a pair of Super Bowls during his stint with the Broncos.
The younger Griffith is a 6’0”, 180-pound corner who has landed offers from programs such as Michigan State, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Tennessee before his junior year.
Penn State is the latest powerhouse to jump in the mix for Griffith, who netted an offer from the Nittany Lions last week.
Given his size, athleticism and bloodlines, Griffith figures to become a national recruit sooner than later.
Best of the Rest
- Arkansas, Colorado and Notre Dame offered 4-star defensive end and current UCLA pledge Hunter Echols.
- North Carolina offered 4-star offensive lineman Grayson Reed. The Tar Heels also offered fellow 4-star offensive lineman Walker Little.
- Alabama offered 4-star safety Grant Delpit. The Crimson Tide also offered 3-star defensive end B.J. Sharpe.
- Auburn offered 4-star receiver Jhamon Ausbon. The Tigers also offered 4-star receiver and Texas A&M pledge Mannie Netherly.
- Alabama offered offensive lineman Christian Armstrong. Adam Friedman of Rivals reported that the Crimson Tide also offered quarterback Phil Jurkovec.
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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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It was media day for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Arizona and a radio show had asked University of Alabama defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand if he would participate in a live interview.
The players were all wearing their jerseys, but the person introducing him obviously never saw the name on his back. It led to an awkward moment when the first question was about the other guy who wore No. 9 for the Crimson Tide.
“Yeah, Bo Scarbrough, how does it feel to be behind Derrick Henry?” Hand said while telling the “crazy” story. Needless to say he was taken aback while the co-host quickly jumped in with, “Well, I don’t know about that, but he might be hitting Derrick Henry in practice. He’s one of the 14 guys on the D-line.”
Hand can joke about it now, but he still shakes his head at the memory. At least the radio personalities didn’t say he looks like a young Mike Tyson.
“Awww, man. C’mon. Don’t do me like that,” Hand said about the slight resemblance.
“I like to think I just look like Da’Shawn Hand.”
Players tying to make a name for themselves can be tough enough at Alabama, but some come in with an expectation level that borders on the ridiculous even though they can go unrecognized when walking down the street.
Crimson Tide fans in particular are guilty of the over-optimism regarding big-time prospects, especially at high-profile positions. For example, this time a year ago every Alabama beat reporter was asked nearly non-stop about new quarterback Blake Barnett like he should have been starting already.
This spring there have been comparable comments like, “Hey, I hear Jalen Hurts is pretty good,” but it hasn’t been as relentless.
They always seem to ignore the fact that every quarterback Nick Saban has brought in has redshirted his first year to give him a chance to develop, get accustomed to the college game (and lifestyle) and learn the offense.
AJ McCarron was nearly the exception to that when Greg McElroy suffered cracked ribs against Florida in the 2009 SEC championship game. Instead, he helped lead Alabama to back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012, and with the extra year nearly pulled off the three-peat.
For Hurts to play this season it would likely be because either 1) Alabama had numerous injuries at quarterback, 2) he beat out every else on the depth chart, and/or 3) the dual-threat player brings such a unique element to the offense that the coaches felt it’s worth giving up a year of eligibility to play him.
But Scarbrough falls into a different category when it comes to fan buzz: big playmakers who they can’t get enough of. We’re talking about Julio Jones- and Henry-kind of hype.
Even his own teammates have regularly drawn physical comparisons between Scarbrough and last year’s starting running back.
“There’s not really a difference,” said linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton, who practiced for two years against Henry. “They have the same body style.”
During his testing at the NFL combine, Henry measured 6’3” and 247 pounds, and still ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds.
Scarbrough is listed as being 6’2” and 240 pounds, although he came into the spring having lost 10 pounds because Alabama believes 230 to be his ideal playing weight.
“We give everybody a muscle mass, body fat, hydration, functional movement test,” Saban explained. “We try to work hard with [team nutritionist Amy Bragg] to come up with what’s the most efficient, effective weight for a guy. We see how this guy’s moving, how he’s running relative to how he used to run.
“Sometimes these guys keep lifting weights and they just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I think at certain positions, especially skill positions, that’s not always advantageous.”
It also signaled one important thing everyone needs to remember: Scarborough isn’t Henry and it’s unfair to expect him to be.
Maybe eventually he’ll post comparable or even better numbers, but for now here’s what Scarbrough’s done: Seven games, 18 attempts, 104 rushing yards (5.8 average per carry), and one touchdown. His longest carry was just 24 yards.
He’s still learning the offense, the blocking schemes, his teammates, the opposition and so forth. It took Henry two years to put all together to the point he could make his Heisman Trophy run, but if Alabama had to open the 2016 season tomorrow, Damien Harris would probably start at running back.
“I certainly see a more confident and knowledgeable guy in Damien this spring so far," Saban said.
Together the two could potentially form quite a combination this season, especially if Alabama’s offensive line takes a step forward as many believe could happen. But for now the key word is "potential" because no one knows things like how they’ll hold on to the ball on third-and-short and pick up blitzes until they do it.
Consequently, take last Saturday’s scrimmage when Scarbrough had a 95-yard touchdown and was credited with 132 yards on nine carries, as verification that he’s fully arrived.
Consider it an important first step in following his own path, albeit one of which few will want to get in the way.
“Man, he brings it, so you better bring it,” Hand said. “He’s a man.”
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.
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If March Madness has been completely consuming your sports brain over the last several weeks, we don't blame you.
One of the most exciting NCAA men's basketball tournaments of all time ended Monday night with one of the greatest plays in championship game history for any sport—a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Villanova's Kris Jenkins to take home its first title since 1985. It was the perfect end to a tourney that included other last-second winners, crazy end-game sequences and more than a few Crying Jordans.
But now that March Madness is in the books, it's time for many college sports fans to switch back to football.
From the time the NCAA tournament's first round tipped on March 17 until last night's grand finale, college football has been making some headlines of its own. They might not have gotten much attention nationally as brackets or Buddy Hield, but there wasn't a total shortage of news from the spring practice cycles.
In case you completely checked out on offseason college football news during the NCAA tournament, here's a refresher on the top stories from the past few weeks.