NCAA Football News

Big 12 Football: Ranking the Top 25 Players Heading into 2014

Football in the Big 12 Conference has taken a reputation hit since the 2013 season ended, the product of only three players from the league leaving early for the NFL draft and a grand total of just 17 getting drafted overall.

Take those numbers for what you will, but one thing is certain: Those that will represent the Big 12 on the field this fall will be far more prized by professional scouts and teams. Bleacher Report NFL expert Matt Miller has four from the league projected in his early 2015 mock draft, double the tally that was taken in the first round this past draft, while many others are drawing interest for their future pro potential.

For now, though, they're all still college players, and together should make the Big 12 a heck of a league to watch this year.

Here's our look at the 25 best Big 12 players heading into the 2014 season.

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3 Reasons 5-Star RB Damien Harris Will Sign with Michigan

Once upon a time, Damien Harris was committed to Michigan's 2015 class. By verbally pledging to the Wolverines, the 5'11," 205-pound Berea Madison Southern (Kentucky) running back served as a shot of adrenaline to the arm of a program in need of 5-star services in the backfield. 

And then he changed his mind, causing a rift that hit fans like a ton of bricks.

Freed of his ties, Harris unofficially visited Florida, Florida State, Ohio State and Kentucky. According to 247Sports, he has "warm" interest in Alabama and Auburn, which complicates matters. 

However, as of early June, Harris remains as a possibility for coach Brady Hoke, whose talent-laden recruiting hauls continually quench the thirst of an extraordinarily dedicated fanbase. In essence, Hoke's success on the trail overshadows otherwise miserable seasons by Michigan standards. 

The 2012 and 2013 classes were more than kind to Hoke, finishing as the No. 6- and No. 4-ranked collections, respectively, per 247Sports. Without Harris, Michigan's 2015 class dwells at No. 33. But if he were to commit and sign, the Wolverines could finish among the top 15 come national signing day in February. 

On May 22, Fred Jackson, running backs coach, paid an in-home visit to the Harris household. When it's all said and done, the veteran's communication with Harris could prove as a difference-maker in the process. 

Now it's time to review what else Michigan has done, should do and could do to get Harris in a winged helmet. 


He Was Michigan's, First!

It was mentioned just moments ago, but it bears repeating: Michigan was Harris' original choice. The firing of Al Borges, the former OC, rattled him a bit.

But Harris has kept in close contact, keeping the door open and Maize and Blue fans eagerly anticipating the latest news. 


OC Philosophy

While at Alabama, Doug Nussmeier coached some of the best talent that recruiting could recruit. He's not a national name, but a well-known entity nonetheless. During a recent interview with SB Nation, Harris admitted that he wasn't overly familiar with Michigan's new OC but is working on changing that, per Luke Zimmerman:

"The coaches at Ohio State — Coach Meyer, Coach Hinton, Coach Drayton — I've talked to them for a long time. But you know Coach Nussmeier at Michigan, he hasn't been there for very long. I'm just now starting to build a relationship with him."

Nussmeier is best known for his work with quarterbacks. But he's also known for forming bonds with his athletes, and that'll come into play while Harris mulls over his options. Players should want to play for coaches who can advance them in life, on the field and in the classroom. 

Ringing public endorsements never hurt, and Nussmeier received them from Hoke and Nick Sabanvia


Doug is a highly respected offensive coordinator and has earned a reputation as being a great mentor to quarterbacks, specifically, where he's coached Pro Bowlers, top NFL draft choices and Heisman Trophy finalists. Doug has been successful at every coaching stop with his balanced and explosive offenses, and he brings national championship experience. He is an excellent addition to our coaching staff and football program...(goes on to welcome Nussmeier family)


Doug did an outstanding job for us during his time at the University of Alabama and I'm sure he will do a great job at the University of Michigan. He is a bright coach who works hard and brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to work each and every day. Our production and balance the last two years has been very good and he also brought a lot to the table in terms of coaching the quarterbacks...(goes on to thank Nussmeier family)

The Tide's past under and Michigan potential with Nussmeier could also be a deciding factor for Harris. 


Wolverines RB Tradition

In all likelihood, Jackson and the rest of the staff have recruiting down to a science. They should. Regardless of how smooth one is, it's often helpful to put the prospect in the mood. By doing so, it generates emotion—and in some cases, it can encourage desired results, which, in this scenario, would be a commitment. 

As the No. 1-ranked athlete at his position, Harris has his pick of the litter. But for fun, let's say that the Wolverines have hit him with something similar to the following narrative:

Damien, it's a brisk Saturday in late November at The Big House, and more than 110,000 loyal supporters are chanting your name—oh, and it's 4th-and-goal from Ohio State's 3-yard line with one tick remaining on the clock. And then it happens: Everything becomes a blur, and the ball is thrust toward your abdomen by the quarterback—seconds later, you find yourself being mobbed by teammates who are celebrating your game-winning touchdown. 

Doesn't that sound like something you'd like to do? Don't you want to be a major part of one of the game's most storied rivalries? Michigan is for you, Damien. 

OK, so it's not perfect, but the wooing technique is certainly an important part of the sales pitch. Again, for fun, let's assume that Jackson also has that part nailed. After all, in 2013, he convinced Derrick Green, who was once thought to be the top back of the class, and De'Veon Smith, a consensus top-20er, to look past the others and head to Ann Arbor. 

However, it's mandatory to tread lightly when using the tradition speech. Old stories don't win today's games, and Harris probably couldn't care less about being a featured back on a team that's spinning its wheels in the mud. But Michigan has to do much more than serenade the Bluegrass State's prized ball-carrier; it has to prove that it's worthy of rejecting the rest of college football. 


Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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Position-by-Position Preview of Tennessee's 2014 Roster

The Tennessee Volunteers are going to be full of new faces in 2014, and having a roster handy those first few games may not be a bad idea.

All of the Vols' signees—besides Chris Weatherd—are on campus, officially on the roster and ready to participate in summer workouts, which means the team is coming more into focus.

The good news is head coach Butch Jones is getting the same level of injected defensive talent now that he did offensively prior to spring practice.

The bad news is there isn't a lot of time to get them ready to play Southeastern Conference football.

"The challenging part is the individuals on offense, most of our recruiting class was here this spring," Jones told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. "They now have a spring under their belt from a maturation standpoint. (Defensively) now you’re relying on 17- or 18-year-old freshmen coming in, and all they have is June, July and August to get ready to play a full season.

"But the realities of where we're at is there are going to be a lot of freshmen that have to play defensively. A lot of it's going to be in the interior front and at the linebacker position and even in the secondary. It's going to be critical we extract every ounce of value from each day."

So, where do all the new players fit? A lot of that still needs to be sorted out, but now that everybody has arrived (besides Weatherd, who still has a shot to get into UT, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel's Evan Woodbery), the puzzle pieces are beginning to fall into place.

So, let's take a look at an early position-by-position breakdown of UT's 2014 roster.

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Position-by-Position Preview of the Georgia Bulldogs' 2014 Roster

Summertime is here and the preview magazines are starting to hit the newsstands. So the 2014 college football season is right around the corner.

With the new season coming, expectations will be high for every team in the FBS. And that is no different for the Georgia Bulldogs, who return a deep roster.

There will be some new faces like there are every year, and there are some key players who were on last year’s team who will be missed. But looking at each position, the Bulldogs could have the most talented roster in the SEC.

But is that good enough to win the SEC and have a chance to play in the College Football Playoff?

Here’s a position-by-position preview of the Bulldogs’ 2014 roster.

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5 Recruits Who Could Join 4-Star RB Taj Griffin at Oregon

Oregon has a commitment from 4-star speedster Taj Griffin. From Georgia, Griffin is a dynamic offensive recruit who can do damage as a runner and receiver.

The 5'10", 175-pounder has terrific quickness to launch himself through alleys, plus he is lethal in space. The Ducks will use Griffin's pledge to attract more talented recruits to join their class, and several top-tier prospects are keeping close tabs on what's happening in Eugene.

A 5-star defensive end digs Oregon a ton, while a 4-star safety could spurn both of his local schools to become a Duck. Also, a quarterback could choose to join Griffin.

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Big Ten Football: Power Ranking 5 Teams with the Best Chance to Win Conference

Michigan State was nothing short of impressive in 2013, blowing past the best the Big Ten could offer in route to an 8-0 conference record and a win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game—all by double-digit margins. Do the Spartans have another championship run in them, or will we see a changing of the guard in 2014?

Michigan State needs to reload its defense. Ohio State, unquestionably the second-best team in the Big Ten in 2013, has its own share of holes to fill. Both teams return impressive talent, but with conference realignment, both the Buckeyes and Spartans are now part of the new East Division.

What about the West and its soon-to-be divisional powerhouses? Can Nebraska shake off yet another four-loss season (its sixth straight)? Can Wisconsin reclaim its once dominant role?

We'll break down the five teams we think have the best shot at winning the Big Ten title in 2014, and we've broken them down into the top two teams in each division, plus a fifth "wild card" team.

Football is a crazy sport where anything can happen, but we're fairly confident these five teams have the best shot at making a run for the Big Ten title—and the likely College Football Playoff berth that could come with it.

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2015 College Football Recruits Who Deserve More Hype

The 2015 class has several prospects who are surrounded by a ton of hype. While many of them deserve it, the hype they've gained has taken the spotlight away from other recruits more than it should. 

Looking down the board, several players deserve more hype and acclaim than they're currently receiving. A 4-star receiver should riot over not having an extra star, and a speedy running back deserves to be ranked much higher than where he is.

Also, a talented 4-star cornerback and a 3-star pass-rusher are better players than many people think.

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