NCAA Football News

Steve Spurrier Right to Call Nick Saban Greatest Recruiter in CFB History

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier took the podium at SEC media days—a place that's become his second home—and although his press conference was less incendiary than previous editions, it was still a great deal of fun.

The Old Ball Coach did throw a decent amount of shade—former Auburn coach Gene Chizik and the Big Ten Conference catching most of it—but for the most part, he spent time complimenting fellow coaches such as Gus Malzahn, Kevin Sumlin and Derek Mason.

The coach who got the biggest compliment, though, was Alabama's Nick Saban, whom Spurrier called the greatest recruiter in college football history, per Bruce Feldman of

Spurrier went out of his way to compliment Saban, refusing to take the bait when asked about his comments from June, per Josh Kendall of The Statewhich intimated that Saban might be underachieving:

How many SECs has (Saban) won there in eight years? He’s won two. He’s won three nationals, but he’s only won two SECs in eight years. Now, if you had the No. 1 recruiting class every year and so forth, I don’t know if he has maxed out potentially as well as he could.

Spurrier didn't back of this sentiment, necessarily, but reinforced his premise by continuing to praise Alabama's talent. "If the recruiting services are correct," he said, per Paul Myerberg of USA Today, "(Alabama has the) greatest collection of talent ever assembled.

And he's right.

According to the 247Sports team rankings, Alabama has finished first, first, first and first in the last four respective recruiting classes. The overwhelming majority of players on its roster have come from the top-ranked group of prospects in the country.

Even at a school like Alabama—a program with every conceivable recruiting resource, from money to facilities to tradition—that type of dominance is unprecedented. It runs counter predictable logic.

Why? Because 5-star prospects want to play. And they want to play soon. They don't want to sit behind other blue-chip underclassmen. There are enough prestigious programs to choose from, enough teams with a realistic shot to compete for a national championship.

Why choose the one with the most difficult path to playing time?

Spurrier touched on these topics during his presser. He harkened back to the top-ranked class he landed at Florida in the early 1990s, saying it was difficult to recruit the following season because kids didn't want to sit behind players from the previous year.

Saban has been able to sidestep that obstacle, which requires a unique recruiting aptitude. It's something neither money nor success can really buy. And he doesn't show signs of letting up this current cycle, as Spurrier himself made sure to point out:

Calling anyone the "greatest in college football history" at anything sounds hyperbolic, but with Spurrier and Saban, it seems fair enough. In 2014, teams from the Southeast must hold off sexy options such as Oregon on the other side of the country—something coaches in the pre-recruiting-service days of yore did not have to deal with.

That Saban might land his fifth straight No. 1 class is remarkable.

It's a feat worthy of the "greatest in history" discussion.


Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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SEC Media Days 2014: Top Highlights, Comments and Twitter Reaction from Day 2

After an eventful opening to SEC Media Days Monday, some of the conference's biggest names took the podium Tuesday in Hoover, Alabama with South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier leading the way.

Spurrier is well known for his entertaining interviews and brutal honesty, and he certainly didn't disappoint in that regard on Day 2. The Gamecocks are somewhat of a question mark this season with superstar defensive end Jadeveon Clowney now in the NFL, but Spurrier seems quite confident.

Here are some of the highlights from Spurrier's anticipated press conference along with more notable happenings from Tuesday's slate at SEC Media Days.


Day 2 Recap

It didn't take long for Spurrier to entertain the crowd Tuesday as he used his trademark sense of humor to describe SEC Media Days, according to Dennis Dodd of

Not surprisingly, it didn't take long for Spurrier to steer the conversation in the direction of quarterback Dylan Thompson. The maligned signal-caller had his ups and downs last season and he may very well be the key to South Carolina's success or lack thereof in 2014.

Spurrier stood behind his quarterback and referenced the fact that Thompson led the Gamecocks to a win over Central Florida last year, per Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee:

Spurrier had plenty to say about his own team, but he was also opinionated about the SEC as a whole. Alabama has been the toast of the conference over the past several years and Spurrier believes he knows exactly why that is.

He paid Alabama head coach Nick Saban the ultimate compliment by lauding his recruiting ability, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy:

Spurrier and South Carolina did an excellent job recruiting this offseason in their own right, but he wasn't surprised to see that they fell just short of the Crimson Tide, per Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated:

Also, Spurrier made no mistake in declaring Bama the team to beat in the SEC during the upcoming season, per ESPN's Edward Aschoff:

Spurrier's generosity wasn't limited to Saban and Alabama as he also had plenty of good things to say about Auburn. He has been especially impressed with the job that head coach Gus Malzahn has done with the Tigers over the years, according to Josh Kendall of The State:

In addition to that, Spurrier discussed championship aspirations for his team. He didn't make any guarantees in terms of winning the SEC or the national title, but he admitted that the Gamecocks will need some help in order to make that happen, per Sallee:

Despite how immense South Carolina's rivalry is with Clemson, Spurrier made it clear that beating the Tigers isn't necessarily his No. 1 priority, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

That naturally led to some discussion regarding the upcoming College Football Playoff. Spurrier seems excited about the implementation of the playoff, but also believes there is room for expansion moving forward, per Staples:

Perhaps most interestingly, Spurrier explained his philosophy regarding players going pro. While some coaches do everything they can to keep their players in school, Spurrier approaches things differently.

According to Kendall, players always have Spurrier's blessing if they approach him with the intention of entering the NFL draft:

Spurrier hit on pretty much every topic SEC fans can possibly think of and he did so with plenty of flair and strong opinions.

There are few coaches or people in general involved with college football who put on a more entertaining interview than Spurrier and there is little doubt that those in attendance got plenty of material.

Whether the Gamecocks vie for an SEC title or finish in the middle of the pack during the 2014 season, Spurrier will be an interesting mouthpiece throughout.

Although Spurrier may have been the highest-profile coach to take the podium Tuesday, the media had plenty to ask Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen as well. The Bulldogs have reached a bowl game in four consecutive seasons, but Mullen's expectations go even further beyond that this year.

According to McMurphy, Mullen believes his team can and should vie for an SEC title:

Mullen is fully aware of the fact that expectations are starting to get higher for Mississippi State now that the program is viable again, but he and his players have embraced it, per Aschoff:

Among the Mississippi State players who spoke, quarterback Dak Prescott may have been the most impressive. He is coming off a strong sophomore campaign as a dual-threat quarterback and is a definite candidate to breakout even more in 2014.

Being the conductor of the Mississippi State offense is something that Prescott enjoys and is excited about expanding upon this year, according to Sallee:

Mullen faced a wide array of questions including some about his love for soccer. He even managed to make an interesting connection between the SEC and European soccer in terms of the way that fans react to each, per McMurphy:

The Bulldogs certainly aren't favored to compete for a national title this season, but that didn't stop the media from asking Mullen about the new playoff format. According to McMurphy, Mullen admitted that there is some mystery surrounding how the selections will be made:



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Desean Holmes Commits to USC: What 4-Star WR Brings to Trojans

USC continues to compile playmakers for its passing game in a class headlined by 5-star quarterback Ricky Town. The latest addition is wide receiver Desean Holmes, a local 4-star recruit who fielded offers from several schools before committing to the Trojans on Monday,

The Los Angeles area pass-catcher confirmed his decision on Twitter:

Holmes, a 5'10.5", 170-pound prospect, will be a senior at Alemany High School in Mission Hills. Viewed as one of the premier offensive playmakers in Southern California, his pledge provides a significant boost for Steve Sarkisian's 2015 recruiting efforts.

USC was still searching for a receiver entering the final stretch of June, but the situation has quickly changed. The class now includes a pair of talented players at the position.

Holmes joins impressive junior college product De'Quan Hampton in a group that now features 11 commits and rates No. 1 among Pac-12 programs in 247Sports' team composite rankings.

The class is listed at No. 11 nationally and features three new members this month. Along with Holmes, USC has added 4-star cornerback Isaiah Langley (Long Beach, California) and 3-star offensive tackle Clayton Johnston (Anaheim, California).

Holmes participated in "The Opening" last week, flashing serious skills during a national showcase of America's premier high school talent at Nike's world headquarters. He spent time at USC on Monday before making up his mind.

“After the visit, I felt USC gives you the best connections,” Holmes told Tyler Keckeisen of 247Sports. “I don’t know what my major will be yet, but all I know is that USC runs ‘Cali’ for life after college.”

His field-stretching speed should quickly become an asset for the Trojans.

Holmes averaged nearly 20 yards per reception as a junior, catching 62 passes for 1,219 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013, per the Los Angeles Daily News.

He provides another potential star in a growing stable of USC receivers. Former high school teammate Steven Mitchell, a 4-star 2013 signee, is also on campus.

Holmes requires some refinement as a route-runner, but he is smooth in space and can make defenders miss with outstanding agility. His best plays occur when he is able to break through the back end of the defensive backfield, where it's difficult to beat him in a footrace.

That quickness could open things up for the Trojans' offensive attack in the years ahead.

"Coaches said I do a good job of catching the ball on tough downs, particular in longer situations,” Holmes told 247Sports. “They like my attitude of working hard and playing hard, and see that as a big part of USC’S offense.” 

Expect Holmes to challenge for playing time as an underclassman. He chose USC over a variety of schools, including Oklahoma, Arizona State and Washington.

The Trojans will continue to target talent at receiver. Equanimeous St. Brown, Cordell Broadus and Kanya Bell are among the team's coveted options.


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

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Biletnikoff Award Watch List 2014: Full List Released

No shortage of big names have won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in college football over the two decades of its existence. Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson highlight the star-studded group.

Last season, it was Brandin Cooks of Oregon State who earned the honor before getting drafted in the first round by the New Orleans Saints. He marked the fourth straight winner to accumulate at least 110 catches during the season. Just two of the first 16 winners reached that plateau.

It gives every wide receiver and tight end around the nation a benchmark for what they need to accomplish to become a contender in 2014. Furthermore, without clear favorite, the Biletnikoff Award race should be one of the most heated throughout the campaign.

With that in mind, here's a look at the preseason watch list as announced by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation:

As usual, the initial list of contenders casts a wide net over the top receivers in the country. Players can always get added during the course of the season, which is a strong possibility this season given the wide-open nature of the race.

Of those named on the first watch list a couple do stand out from the crowd.

Tyler Lockett of Kansas State is certainly among that group. The senior made 81 catches for over 1,250 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. All of those numbers were more than double the next closest receiver on the Wildcats' roster.

He should once again remain the clear No. 1 in the passing game. Working with quarterback Jake Waters for a second straight year should allow the duo the build off their success and push Lockett further into the national spotlight.

The versatile wideout told Chris Johnson of Sports Illustrated that he expects the offense to hit the ground running this season:

I think that we'll just be able to pick up where we left off and just continue to go in from there. I think that we can't do anything else but improve and I think that's what's going to help us out in the long run.

Given last season's success and the room for improvement that still exists, Lockett's final numbers should definitely be in the same range as recent Biletnikoff Award winners.

Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell is another player to watch closely. His freshman season seen him catch 72 passes for over 600 yards and five touchdowns. Those are solid numbers, but they only scratch the surface of his potential.

With Donte Moncrief having moved on to the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts, Treadwell should take on a much bigger role in the Rebels' offense this season. He should be one of the season's biggest breakout stars and a Biletnikoff contender.

Perhaps the most interesting case is Amari Cooper of Alabama.

He plays a critical role in helping the Crimson Tide keep drives alive with key grabs. The question is whether the Alabama approach, which is still based on establishing the run and strong defense, will prevent him from putting up the necessary overall numbers.

Cooper did reach 1,000 yards as a freshman, but dropped below 750 last season. He should bounce back, but whether it will be enough to contend for the award is up in the air. Either way, Bucky Brooks of is bullish about his long-term outlook:

Although his production and performance fell short of expectations a season ago, NFL scouts should be excited about his potential based on my film study. Cooper is a talented No. 1 receiver with a fundamentally sound game that should allow him to quickly blossom into an elite receiver at the next level.

He will be one of the most important wideouts in America. Where that translates into awards depends exactly how involved he becomes in the offense.

Other notable names to keep tabs on include Nelson Agholor (USC), Tyler Boyd (Pittsburgh), Stefon Diggs (Maryland), Antwan Goodley (Baylor) and Ty Montgomery (Stanford). More players will surely join the list by the end of the first month.

There may not be an established player to beat this season, but the amount of receiving depth ensures whoever ends up winning the Biletnikoff Award will have earned it.


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Jeff Driskel & Will Muschamp Explain Why Vernon Hargreaves Is Elite DB in Nation

The Florida Gators have some of their big-time athletes along with head coach Will Muschamp in Hoover, Alabama, for the annual SEC media days.

Bleacher Report asked this group why they think star defensive back Vernon Hargreaves is one of the best defensive players in the country. Where do you think he ranks among the top DBs going into the 2014 season?

Watch the video to see what they think.


Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings from 247Sports composite.

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B/R's Ohio State Lead Writer Reveals Urban Meyer's Soft Spot for the Media

When I was 14 years old, my dad scored two tickets to The Game. And while the annual matchup between Ohio State and Michigan is never just any game here in Columbus, this was a particularly important Game.

Because if the Buckeyes won, they clinched an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl—that year's national title game. Standing in the freezing cold of Ohio Stadium while wearing my Eddie George throwback jersey, I watched my hometown team accomplish just that, as the Buckeyes prevailed by a score of 14-9.

Unsurprisingly, nearly all of the over-capacity crowd in riot-happy Columbus spilled onto the field to celebrate the Buckeyes' first-ever BCS title game berth. Me? I stood there with my father, briefly soaking in the moment before demanding that we make it back to the car in time to hear the postgame press conferences.

Why would I want to be anywhere else?

Because for me, sports have always been about much more than stat lines and final scores. To me, sports are—and always have been—about the story.

I needed to know why, after not running it once that season, Jim Tressel opted for an option pitch on the most important play of the season. I needed to know what Will Allen felt as he came down with John Navarre's final Hail Mary attempt. And most importantly, I needed to know how the Buckeyes were going to beat the almighty Miami Hurricanes.

Five years later, my college career carried me to Ohio State where there was far from a story shortage. From Terrelle Pryor's arrival to Jim Tressel's downfall, there was never a dull moment on campus when I was in Columbus. And perhaps the highlight came one month before my graduation, when Urban Meyer was named the Buckeyes head coach.

Which brings us to where I am now, having spent the past three years of my life covering perhaps the most polarizing coach in college football history. For the past two years, I've worked for's and's Ohio State sub-sites, and I couldn't be more excited to bring my perspective and personality to the Bleacher Report family.


Best Coach To Interview

Meyer may not be the best talker in the world, but that's part of what makes him so fascinating. The man simply can't hide his emotions, for better or worse.

Get on Meyer's nerves, and an inevitable sneer is headed your way. Bring up a topic he was hoping to discuss, and the whole room will know it.

An example of the latter?

I was interviewing Meyer at his annual youth football camp two weeks ago on the same day that the Buckeyes happened to pick up a pair of big-time prospects. After I thanked Meyer for his time, he asked whom I was affiliated with. When I told him, his smile lit up the room.

"Big day for the Buckeyes, huh?"

"Yeah, I thought I noticed an extra pep in your step today," I responded.

"That helped. Big time," Meyer said with a wink.


Best Player Ever Covered

It's hard for me to go against Braxton Miller, who has done things with the football that I've never seen from a quarterback. The only thing more difficult than defending his patented high kick/sidestep in the open field is finding the words to describe it.

Even though he may not be the most proficient passer in the world, he has demonstrated a knack for making the right throw at the right time. But for Miller, it's all about what he does when the defense parts and he hits that hole, as it's usually not long before he's standing in the end zone by himself.


Most Memorable Game Attended

The 2002 edition of The Game may have been the most important in Ohio State history that I've seen, but when it comes to being memorable, last year's version is tough to top.

A final score of 42-41 with the game essentially ending on a missed two-point conversion? The high-scoring nature may have sent Woody and Bo rolling in their graves, but they would have done so highly entertained.


Is the 2014 Team Urban Meyer's Best Buckeye Squad So Far?

No. 2012 was.

Maybe their schedule was weak, and maybe they struggled to adjust to Meyer's scheme, but those Buckeyes "struggled" their way to a 12-0 record. Sure they were ineligible to play in the postseason due to violations, but that team was clicking at the right time, and it's not a stretch to think that they would have beaten the Notre Dame team that got spanked by Alabama in the BCS title game.

As for 2014, the Buckeyes are still talented—they always will be—and it may be Meyer's most complete team. But the defense will have to show significant strides, and the offense will have to replace its bread and butter after the departure of Carlos Hyde.


What Does Braxton Miller Need to Do to Win the Heisman?

Staying healthy would be a start. Miller simply hasn't stayed healthy for an entire season since arriving to Columbus, and it at the very least cost him a trip to New York a season ago.

Miller has made drastic steps in each of his three seasons in Columbus, as evidenced by his completion percentage jumping more than five points a season ago. With Hyde gone, the offensive load on Miller's shoulders will only grow in the coming year, and he'll have to prove that he can stay healthy enough to carry it.


Season Prediction (Record and Bowl)

10-2 in the regular season with an appearance in the Orange Bowl.

I don't like Ohio State's out-of-conference setup. Navy is an opponent that requires more than unique preparation, and night games against Virginia Tech and Cincinnati could both present scares. I don't know which one it will be yet, but I don't see the Buckeyes escaping September unscathed. The rest of Ohio State's slate actually sets up favorably, at least until its Nov. 8 trip to East Lansing.

As we saw last year in Indianapolis, Michigan State is at the top of the mountain in the Big Ten, and nothing has happened since then to change that. For the Buckeyes to get back to Indianapolis and the first-ever College Football Playoff, they'll have to get past the Spartans, and I don't see that happening just yet.

I've been wrong before, though. Buckle up. It's going to be a wild ride in Columbus this year.

It always is.

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SEC Media Days 2014: Day 2 Schedule, Live Stream, Participants and Predictions

The SEC is set to usher in a new era.

Tuesday marks Day 2 of SEC Media Days, a spectacle that has blossomed in recent years to span the course of four days before each team kicks off preparation for the season on approach.

Now, each day usually covers the typical topics. Departing players need to be replaced, off-field incidents need to be addressed, new coaches perhaps must seize the bull by the horns and turn a program around.

But not Tuesday.

Tuesday, Kevin Sumlin must walk to the podium in front of hundreds of hungry media members and break down how to replace Johnny Manziel. He's not alone in what will be a brutal, revealing sequence of events, but he's by far the highlight.

Here's how to catch the show.


SEC Football Media Days Information

When: July 14-17

Where: Hyatt Regency Birmingham—The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama

Watch: ESPNU

Live Stream: WatchESPN


Tuesday, July, 15

Session I: 9 a.m. to noon
South Carolina:Steve Spurrier; A.J. Cann, Offensive Guard; J.T. Surratt, Defensive Tackle; Dylan Thompson, Quarterback
Mississippi State: Dan Mullen; Jay Hughes, Safety; Benardrick McKinney, Linebacker; Dak Prescott, Quarterback

Session II: 1 to 4 p.m.
Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin; Deshazor Everett, Defensive Back; Drew Kaser, Punter; Cedric Ogbuehi, Offensive Tackle
Tennessee: Butch Jones; Mack Crowder, Offensive Line; A.J Johnson, Linebacker; Curt Maggitt, Defensive End



Butch Jones Gets Grilled About Turnaround and a Certain Arrest

Flanked by senior linebacker A.J. Johnson, who figures to be one of the top at his position taken in next year's NFL draft, Butch Jones will have plenty to answer for in the face of about 1,000 credentialed media members on Tuesday.

Last season was Jones' first with the Volunteers after leading Cincinnati for three seasons, two of which resulted in bowl berths (he coached one). Tennessee won just two games in the conference last year and finished a miserable 5-7 overall under his direction.

As of late, Jones has reached deep into every avenue possible to make sure the team turns things around, even by grabbing "legacy" recruits, players who are second-generation athletes whose families have played for the school. He has already spoken highly of the strategy, per Nick Cole ofUSA Today:

The legacy players are critical. We talk about being a Vol for life, and Vol for life encompasses everything. (It is great) to be able to bring back our former players and now their sons to be a part of something special. They understand the tradition and the pageantry but also the expectations that are placed upon them when you sign to play football at the University of Tennessee.

Jones is building something tangible with the approach, his latest get being defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, who possesses a last name many NFL enthusiasts will recognize—he is the son of Oakland Raiders general manager, Reggie.

Unfortunately, the focus won't just be on hope for the future—Johnson has some questions of his own to answer.

Thanks to 324 career tackles and a bevy of impressive film, Johnson flirted with the idea of leaving for the NFL but instead opted to return to Tennessee. According to The Associated Press, via Chase Goodbread of, Johnson was arrested in February for allegedly purchasing alcohol for an underage person and resisting arrest. The charges were since dropped, but questions linger.

Jones told Patrick Brown of the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

I’ll handle all punishment inside. I’ll handle it inside and [determine] what is appropriate. I think lost in the whole mix is … we have great character kids if you look at our academic success that we’ve had, if you look at our community service hours.

For Jones, it's the first major issue of this ilk he has had to deal with during his tenure at Tennessee, so how he and the team reacts, especially in the face of media scrutiny, is certainly something to monitor.


Steve Spurrier Faces Flurry of "Life After..." Questions

While no stranger to questions, Steve Spurrier sure faces a lot of them heading into the 2014 season.

Gone is quarterback Connor Shaw, who threw for 1,400 or more yards and 14 touchdowns in each of his final three seasons with the team. Speedy deep threat Bruce Ellington is gone, too.

It's even worse on the defensive side of the ball, with names such as Kelcy Quarles, Victor Hampton, Chaz Sutton and Jimmy Legree all on to greener pastures.

Even amidst all of the issues, though, Spurrier is sure to entertain as always. This is perhaps best captured by journalist Lisa Horne:

With quarterback Dylan Thompson and a host of others expected to carry the mantle after an 11-2 season, as many questions as that will produce on Tuesday, it's nothing compared to what one Kevin Sumlin will have to deal with.


Johnny Manziel's Shadow Reigns Supreme

It's funny because in reality, Texas A&M returns a wealth of talent on the offensive side of the football.

Trey Williams, Tra Carson and Brandon Williams averaged a minimum of 5.3 yards per carry last season. Tight end Cam Clear is still around. Cedric Ogbuehi, after being one of the most dominant tackles in the nation a year ago, will flip to the left side of the line.

Yet, who he protects—one of Kyle Allen or Kenny Hill—is hard to figure out.

Plus, with all due respect to Drew Kaser, Sumlin's decision to bring along a punter does nothing but make things more confusing.

KAGSluke of KAGS-HD Sports provided a close look at the mammoth of a stage Sumlin will field questions from on Tuesday:

No pressure.

Sumlin is no fool, and Manziel's contributions to the school on a broad level have made his job a bit easier in the recruiting department. But schematic and experience changes remain, and there's nothing that will make his life easier in the face of hundreds of reporters Tuesday.


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Grading Top Big 12 Recruits' Performances at 2014 the Opening

With The Opening wrapped up, it's time to look at how some of the top Big 12 recruits performed in the elite Nike camp of the summer. 

Malik Jefferson and SoSo Jamabo were among the standouts, while other under-the-radar players also shined. 

So let's cut to the chase and grade the performance of the Big 12's top recruits at 2014 Opening camp. 


All recruit information obtained from 247sports

Begin Slideshow

Grading Top SEC Recruits' Performance at 2014 The Opening

SEC football prospects rarely fly under the radar these days with recruiting having long since become its own multimillion-dollar industry.

The Opening now allows future Saturday standouts to take center stage even earlier.

The Oregon-based event hosts many of the nation’s top prospects and pits them against each other in workouts, drills and a seven-on-seven competition.

It should come as no surprise that some of the top performers are bound for SEC programs or potentially bound for SEC programs. Perhaps the best part of The Opening is that unless a prospect wilts, the added exposure generally serves as a positive.

Here is a look at some of the top storylines revolving around SEC-centric players from The Opening.


Tide Rolling at The Opening

Considering the continued success Alabama coach Nick Saban enjoys on the recruiting trail, it would be more of a shock if one of his prospects flopped than flourished on such a scene.

Receiver Calvin Ridley lived up to the considerable expectations that come with being an Alabama commit, bringing home The Opening overall MVP honors.

Saban likely took great pride in watching Ridley team up with fellow Crimson Tide commit Blake Barnett. The dynamic pair led Team Apocalypse to the seven-on-seven competition championship.

Ridley also turned in arguably the highlight of the event with his one-handed catch.

Currently, 247Sports has Ridley listed as a 4-star recruit.

Barnett shined during The Opening, winning the seven-on-seven championship and being named Elite 11 MVP.

Look for a bump to 247Sports’ 5-star rating class as a distinct possibility with Barnett’s superb showing, especially after 247Sports’ Barton Simmons wrote that he “showed the most consistency and one of the weekend’s strongest arms.”

While Barnett and Ridley stole the show, several other Alabama commits made splashes.

Deionte Thompson, for instance, turned in another solid showing after 247Sports wrote that the safety turned in a spectacular performance at the NFTC in Houston.

As a result, he could see a bump to 247Sports’ 5-star class.

Thompson earned an honorable mention spot on 247Sports’ The Opening Dream Team. The site also described his closing speed as “among the most impressive” at The Opening.

A pair of future Crimson Tide offensive linemen also impressed.

Lester Cotton and Richie Petitbon stood out—Lester despite not being allowed to compete in pads because of Alabama high school rules.

Petitbon might not have been as outstanding as Cotton—and possibly missed out on a bump to 5-star status as a result—but he still played well. Earlier in camp, 247Sports detailed Petitbon’s powerful punches off the line.


Big Week for Tennessee

The Opening gave Tennessee fans further hope that coach Butch Jones is in the process of putting the program back on the path to relevance.

Defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie provided the biggest highlight, committing to the Volunteers on Thursday.

As much as McKenzie made big news with his official commitment, his play did just as much talking. McKenzie left as the defensive MVP of The Opening.

Even against some of the best offensive line prospects the country has to offer, McKenzie physically overmatched the competition.

“You’re not going to see an array of swim moves out of the new Tennessee commit, just overwhelming strength that he used to put linemen on their back or take them on a walk back to the quarterback,” 247Sports’ Barton Simmons wrote.

McKenzie showed off his strength on the field and during the SPARQ competition.

Tennessee can expect McKenzie to provide an instant impact once he arrives on campus.

Receiver Preston Williams showed Jones also found a suitable tag team partner for the talented MarQuez North. “The Show” went to The Opening hoping to show out as the No. 1 receiver in the nation.

Not even constant attention prevented Williams from producing.


The Opening Shines Bright Lights on Florida Targets

Two of the biggest standouts remain uncommitted.

Nobody turned in a better showing along the offensive line than Martez Ivey, who entered The Opening as a contender for the nation’s top tackle and erased a lot of doubt.

Ivey left as the offensive line MVP and an even bigger target for SEC programs.

247Sports went from wondering aloud if Ivey was the top tackle to opining that perhaps no prospect at The Opening “can match the upside of Ivey.” It went on to say he “has franchise left tackle potential.”

Florida currently leads for Ivey, but Auburn remains in the race for his services.

Another Gators target, Byron Cowart, established himself as one of the top five defensive linemen at The Opening.

Cowart’s ability to consistently pressure the quarterback allowed him to make 247Sports’ The Opening Dream Team. Even more impressively, he displayed the versatility to generate a pass rush from anywhere along the line.

Florida has a big lead for Cowart, though Oregon and LSU are among the teams that could make a push.

Athlete Ray-Ray McCloud, another recruit for which Florida is considered a heavy favorite, earned a spot on Nike’s all-tournament team.


Something to Prove

Defensive end Terry Beckner entered The Opening with something to prove.

The small-school product developed a name for himself, but limited competition created a perception that perhaps Beckner simply hadn’t been properly tested.

Before the event, 247Sports wrote that Beckner was worth watching because he was “highly ranked, highly regarded but limited in how much he’s been evaluated against top end competition.”

Just a few days in, Beckner had won over skeptics.

247Sports finished the week with a far different impression of Beckner, who earned a spot on the site’s The Opening Dream Team.

Missouri leads for Beckner, though USC, Ohio State and LSU could make a push—especially after his performance.


QB or Not QB?

247Sports 5-star prospect Torrance Gibson says he’s a quarterback.

The Opening, however, refused to follow along, listing Gibson as an athlete.

An ankle injury precluded Gibson from participating much in receiver drills, though he might not be overly upset to primarily showcase his skill set under center.

Gibson made clear again he wants to be a quarterback, whether he ultimately chooses Auburn, Tennessee, Ohio State or any other of the litany of teams pursuing him. Currently, 247Sports thinks Auburn leads.

Two things became clear at the Elite 11 camp: Gibson is a freakish athlete (who ran a 4.46 40), and he has plenty of work to do.

Inconsistent footwork and overall mechanics don’t disqualify Gibson as a quarterback, but they likely mean he’s more of a project at the position than polished product.


Texas A&M Getting Defensive

Texas A&M already has a few high-profile prospects in defensive lineman Daylon Mack, cornerback Kendall Sheffield and safety Justin Dunning.

Coach Kevin Sumlin’s intentions to add linebacker Malik Jefferson to the mix were long established before The Opening.

Jefferson became an even bigger recruiting target with a sensational showing.

Consider this report from 247Sports in naming Jefferson to its The Opening Dream Team:

“It’s tough for a linebacker to shine in a 7on7 setting but Jefferson managed to stand out anyway,” Simmons wrote. “He had a pair of pick-6 plays on Wednesday and his athleticism and speed to the football was scary.”

Jefferson showcased phenomenal speed, clocking a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash.

That speed teamed with Jefferson’s strength and athleticism made the 247Sport 5-star prospect one of the biggest freaks at The Opening.

Jefferson entered as 247Sports’ No. 3 linebacker. However, the site recognized that a remarkable week could help him jump to the top spot.

It will be interesting to watch how 247Sports responds after Jefferson lived up to the challenge.

Dunning joined Jefferson on 247Sports’ The Opening Dream Team with the site calling him the breakout star of the event.


LSU Set to Continue Recent Run as Defensive Back U

Finding defensive backs hasn’t been a struggle for LSU coach Les Miles since he arrived in Baton Rouge.

He appears to have at least a couple of more talented prospects lined up to continue the tradition.

Xavier Lewis and Kevin Toliver both drew recognition for their solid showings during the seven-on-seven competition, each earning spots on Nike’s all-tournament team. Toliver also earned a spot on the 247Sports The Opening Dream Team.

Toliver entered The Opening in the discussion of the nation’s top cornerback prospects and did nothing to hurt his stock.

The Tigers might not be done in the secondary, either.

Justin Reid, who is currently uncommitted, made a splash early in camp with his ability to cover ground from his safety position.

247Sports' Luke Stampini reported Reid turned in one of the plays of the event.

As the defensive backs were doing a drill that worked on coming off the hash to make a play along the sidelines on corner routes, Justin Reid, one of the top overall performers, flashed his bouncy athleticism. Breaking towards the sidelines a pass was thrown high over his inside shoulder when he leaped high in the air, contorting his body enough to make an impressive one-handed catch.

247Sports has Reid rated a 3-star recruit, but he could see his stock rise after a strong performance.

Oklahoma and LSU are battling for Reid’s services.

The Tigers also have a commitment from athlete Kirk Merritt, who showed out as a freak athlete in winning the SPARQ National Championship.


SEC East Targets Stand Out

Jeremy Pruitt could have a couple of new weapons on his defense starting next fall if Georgia finishes strong on a couple of potential commits.

Athlete Donte Jackson and linebacker Roquan Smith both performed well at The Opening, earning spots on both the Nike all-tournament team and the 247Sports The Opening Dream Team.

Jackson played both ways during the seven-on-seven tournament and, according to 247Sports, was a candidate for overall MVP. He shined brightest in the defensive backfield, though.

Smith showed the versatility and skills to play linebacker, safety or a blend of the two positions.

Vanderbilt commit Josh Smith earned a spot on the Nike all-tournament team as well, also earning an honorable mention spot on the 247Sports Dream Team.

247Sports described the linebacker’s performance thusly: “Every year there is a linebacker that has the length and athleticism to totally disrupt an offense in the middle of the field. This year it was Smith, a recent commitment to Vanderbilt.”

Like Smith, South Carolina linebacker commit Sherrod Pittman placed on the honorable mention Dream Team for 247Sports, where the site reported he “was all over the field, creating havoc.”

Kentucky tight end commit C.J. Conrad showed out as the top tight end in the group, according to 247Sports.

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Grading Top Pac-12 Recruits' Performances at 2014 the Opening

With college football media days officially underway, we can start the clock on the countdown to Pac-12 football, not that you haven't been marking off the days since January.

But before we take a look ahead, we're going to look back at one of the marquee recruiting events of the offseason: The Opening, which took place at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

The nation's top high school talents all descended upon the Portland area from July 7-11 to showcase their skills and improve their respective recruiting profiles. Several Pac-12 commits were there as well as many other players schools from the conference are hoping to sign as part of their 2015 recruiting class.

We're taking a look at six of the more high-profile talents and giving them each a grade for the week. Obviously, this was just one camp, and the grade by no means defines the player's overall skills or what he can and can't accomplish at the next level.

Still, it was interesting to get a glimpse of what these guys looked like when going up against other elite players. Click ahead to check out our grades of the top Pac-12 recruits from 2014 The Opening.


All recruiting information via


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Re-Evaluating Clemson's Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

The beginning of the 2014 college football season is just a mere six weeks away for the Clemson Tigers. However, it's 2015 that has Clemson fans most excited. 

According to 247Sports, the Tigers currently have the nation's No. 3-ranked recruiting class. Clemson has commitments from 20 players, tied for most in the country.

Last week, some of the top prospects in the class of 2015 gathered in Beaverton, Oregon, at The Opening. Four Clemson commits were present: Mitch Hyatt, Chad Smith, Noah Green and Deon Cain. Hyatt is Clemson's only 5-star commit and arguably the best offensive line prospect in the country. 

There's a lot of time left in the 2015 recruiting cycle. Players haven't even started their senior season of high school yet. Some players will rise in the rankings, while others will fall. Some players took their opportunity at The Opening as a way to raise their individual profile before the 2014 season begins. 


Top Targets

Clemson's top targets are always the ones who have already committed. Head coach Dabo Swinney wants to keep players like Hyatt from jumping ship when another coach tries to poach him at the last second. 

But Clemson had some unfinished business at The Opening.

George Campbell, a 5-star wide receiver who is currently one of the Tigers' top remaining targets, was present at the event and put on a show. 247Sports currently has Clemson and Florida as Campbell's top choices. At 6'3", 184 pounds, Campbell has good size, speed and terrific ball skills. He has the potential to be a difference-maker early in his college career.

A former Michigan commit, Campbell is still undecided in his recruiting and doesn't plan to decide anytime soon. When asked to name a favorite, Campbell said, "I'm wide open," per Gary Laney of 

While Clemson didn't appear to gain any ground with Campbell, it did seemingly move one step closer to securing the services of one of the top defensive tackles in the country, Tim Settle of Manassas, Virginia. 

Settle said at The Opening, per Jamie Oakes of 247Sports (subscription required), that he was favoring three schools: Clemson, Penn State and Tennessee. The Tigers have been high on Settle's list throughout the recruiting process. One thing Swinney has to be encouraged about is Settle's insistence to leave the state of Virginia, therefore eliminating two ACC rivals in the chase for the talented defensive tackle. 

Defensive end Austin Bryant, of Thomasville, Georgia, stood out at The Opening. He is also high on the Tigers. While several other high-profile schools remain in the mix, Bryant was very impressed with Clemson and didn't rule out committing to the Tigers when he makes his second visit of the summer soon, per Chris Nee of 247Sports (h/t to Josh Newberg, who conducted the interview with Bryant):

"I don't know. It is just a matter of me talking to my family and making sure they are good with it. I might take some visits to other schools. I just have to take visits to make sure that I am sure about it."

All news out of The Opening wasn't positive for the Tigers. Running back A.J. Turner announced his decision to commit to Clemson's chief rival, South Carolina. 

Look for Swinney to continue to look for a running back in the class of 2015. 


Clemson's commits

Two of Clemson's four players performed well at The Opening.

Yes, Hyatt was impressive. He stood out in all of the pass-protection drills, per Tyler Donohue of Bleacher Report. 

Younger offensive tackles generally struggle with footwork. They win on athleticism and raw strength in high school. That changes at the next level. And no player understands fundamentals like Hyatt. He appears strong in his commitment to the Tigers.

The surprise for Clemson was running back/linebacker Chad Smith of Sterling, Virginia. 

Smith was outstanding in SPARQ testing. The SPARQ ranking consists of four tests: 40-yard dash, agility tests, vertical jump and a kneeling power ball toss, per Nike's official website.  

Out of 162 players tested, Smith finished No. 3 overall—in all positions—with a SPARQ rating of 140.97. Smith entered the weekend as a bit of an unheralded recruit.

However, he left Beaverton in a much different position and proved he belonged at The Opening with some of the nation's top recruits.

Smith even impressed himself, per Nikki Steele of "Being able to compete in the SPARQ Championship kind of opened my eyes to the fact that I can compete with these guys and with the best of the best in the nation. I can hang with them and some people even look at me with the best of the best as I do to them."

There's no doubt Smith is on the radar of coaches everywhere now. 

Overall, it was a quiet weekend for the Tigers. Most of Clemson's signees did not get invited to The Opening. But from all indications, Swinney is putting the touches on a special class and players likely sense that.

The Tigers' recent success on the field has put them in a position to be in the mix for some of the top players in the country. Players like Settle and Campbell likely won't decide until closer to signing day. Another 10-win season, with a new quarterback, would do wonders for Clemson in wrapping up what could be the best recruiting class in school history. 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. A subscription is required for most content. 

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1 Thing Each of the Top 10 2015 Pro-Style QB Recruits Must Improve On

Every recruit in the country must improve on something, but development as a player is most scrutinized at the quarterback position.

Looking at the best 10 pro-style quarterbacks in the country via 247Sports, each passer can do at least one thing to enhance his game. All of these players are talented quarterback prospects, but keep in mind that they're all still teenagers.

A 5-star quarterback needs to improve his mobility, while a 4-star field general must stop being so confident in his arm strength. Plus, there are a few quarterbacks on this list who need to get stronger.

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Ranking Every Power 5 Football Conference by 2015 Recruiting Classes

The Power Five football conferences rule college football. Comprised of the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12, each league features many of the nation's top programs.

Not only is it obvious on the field, but the five conferences also dominate the recruiting trail. Individual recruiting rankings naturally put the focus on specific programs, but it's time to look at the big picture and rank things from a conference perspective.

The SEC is recruiting at its usual clip, while the ACC isn't far behind. The Big Ten has an old power back on top, but the Big 12 is falling off.

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SEC Media Days Buzz: Carl Lawson, Not Nick Marshall, Is Biggest Story of Day 1

SEC Media Days has officially started in Hoover, Ala. The four-day long event for the conference marks the beginning of the end of the college football offseason.

Watch Bleacher Report's SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee break down the biggest stories coming out of Day 1, including a key injury for the Auburn Tigers.


Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.


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SEC Media Days 2014: Biggest Quotes and Reactions from Day 1

HOOVER, Alabama—Day 1 of SEC Media Days in the books, and the focal point was undoubtedly the defending SEC champion Auburn Tigers.

Most notably, the absence of star quarterback Nick Marshall.

The senior quarterback of the Tigers was cited for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana on Friday and was pulled from Auburn's Media Days lineup late Sunday night in favor of tight end C.J. Uzomah.

Florida highlighted the second session of the afternoon, with head coach Will Muschamp and the Gator contingent addressing a critical 2014 season that will make or break Muschamp's career in Gainesville.

What were some of the biggest quotes and storylines of Day 1? Our picks are in this slideshow.


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Kyle Allen vs. Kenny Hill: Who Should Be Texas A&M's Starting QB?

The Texas A&M Aggies have a very important offseason this year with the task of replacing star quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Aggies recently released their depth chart at SEC Media Days, which had Kenny Hill and incoming freshman Kyle Allen both in the mix for the starting position. Who do you think will be starting in 2014?

Watch Bleacher Report's SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee and's senior writer Billy Liucci discuss the future for the Aggies at the QB position. 


Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

Highlights courtesy of XOSDigital.

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Florida's Supreme Confidence at SEC Media Days Great Sign for 2014

It wasn’t Steve Spurrier-like, but the Florida Gators won the first round of SEC Media Days Monday afternoon. Coach Will Muschamp and his three players walked into Alabama with their chests poked out and showed no signs of last season lingering around.

It’s a new day for Florida.

Muschamp doesn’t want to hear about your hot-seat comments and is tired of being reminded about last year’s four victories. He plans on attacking the criticism the best way he knows how and just about the only positive way he can.

In Muschamp’s first season, the Gators finished 7-6, which included a stretch where they lost four straight games. People were questioning then if he was the right man for the job, but he silenced any concerns the following year with an 11-2 record and a trip to a BCS bowl game.

While 2013 may be the worst season young Florida fans have ever experienced, it will be a forgotten memory if another double-digit win total is posted.

Judging by what Muschamp said next, it isn’t far-fetched to think 10 or more wins is in the cards:  

There’s really no turning back after those comments, as folks who were watching are sure to have added a couple more wins to Florida’s projected win total. Muschamp was a bounce or two away from playing for a national championship a couple of seasons ago. If this is the most complete team he’s had in Gainesville, well, the possibilities are endless.

Muschamp is feeling a little bit like Superman, and your negative comments just bounce right off him: 

Other guys were also feeling a little big and bad when the questions were flying throughout the day:

However, the most shocking statement of the day may have come from cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Quarterback Jeff Driskel's struggles have been well documented, but the star corner wasn’t holding his tongue for anybody and came to the defense of his offensive leader. Brace yourselves:

Driskel, your thoughts?

Because, you know, why not?

Most of the country is probably going to laugh at these comments. After all, Florida couldn’t move the ball the length of a dinner table on offense and lost to Georgia Southern among other teams. However, this is the type of stuff you want to hear if you’re a Florida fan.

Never mind sitting around and moping about what happened last season. It’s a new day, new season and the possibility for a complete turnaround.

Just ask Auburn, a team that won three games in 2012 and found itself just seconds away from winning the national championship the very next season. That doesn’t happen without believing in yourself first. Nothing great is accomplished by anybody without confidence.

Why not Florida?

The team took the step forward during media day.

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Auburn Football: What Carl Lawson's Injury Means for the Tigers' Defensive Ends

HOOVER, Ala. — Head coach Gus Malzahn confirmed some of Auburn fans' worst fears in his opening statement at SEC Media Days.

Sophomore defensive end Carl Lawson is not going to be available for the start of the 2014 season.

"He injured his knee the last week of spring practice," Malzahn said. "Carl is working extremely hard, and he's determined to come back towards the end of this year."

With Lawson expected to miss a considerable amount of time in 2014, the spotlight is now on the rest of Auburn's defensive linemen.

While the loss of Lawson will be a major early test for the defense, one of Auburn's veterans believes his team can handle it.

"[Lawson] is a great player," center Reese Dismukes said. "But there are other great players behind him. We're hoping he gets back as soon as he can."

One of the players who could see an immediate increase in playing time is fellow sophomore Elijah Daniel.

Auburn's heavy rotation along the defensive line last year benefited not only Lawson but another former 5-star end in Daniel. The Indianapolis native appeared in every game last season, and three of his nine tackles were for a loss.

With an entire offseason under his belt, Daniel should make more of an impression alongside his experienced teammates in Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 defense.

"Defensively, we all focused on really just the techniques and fundamentals of our base defense to get more consistent," Malzahn said. "I really feel like we accomplished that."

Daniel and the rest of the Tigers will try to replace what defensive lineman Gabe Wright called Lawson's "freaky" athleticism as the former 5-star recruit rehabs from the injury and surgery.

"He's a phenom," Wright said. "He's definitely a guy who could be three and done."

Montravius Adams showed his versatility at several positions toward the end of Auburn's SEC championship season and the beginning of spring camp.

The spring's heavily hyped "Rhino package"—named after Wright, who goes by @NineORhino on Twitter—used Wright, Adams and several other Tigers defensive tackles at both defensive end positions.

Johnson and defensive line coach Rodney Garner originally installed the set to combat injuries to Auburn's defensive line in the spring and look ahead to some of the SEC West's top power-running offenses.

The rhinos may get more chances to run this season with the possibility of a long-term Lawson absence.

"That whole freshman class brought some talent and some things that I really haven't ever seen before," Wright said. "I like to think of myself as athletic, but [the sophomores] are guys who could play all four positions on the defensive line."

Becoming more athletic has been a personal goal for the defensive tackle, who said he cut his weight down to 284 pounds in the spring.

The slimmer Georgia native now has set his sights on becoming an all-around contributor instead of just a bruising defensive tackle in his final season on the Plains.

"I wanted Coach Garner to put me at end last year, but he said I wasn't mentally ready yet," Wright said. "I don't second-guess him, but I will be ready if I'm called upon this year. There's no doubt about that."

If Johnson and Garner want to go with another youth movement like they did with the trio of Lawson, Daniel and Adams last season, they have several options.

Auburn's trio of true freshman defensive ends—Justin Thornton, Andrew Williams and Raashed Kennion—are all 6'4" or taller, bringing the size and athleticism Auburn's coaching staff wants in an increasingly bigger defense.

While he has been impressed with the newcomers in workouts, Wright said he is especially excited about seeing his new teammates at fall camp.

"I just can't wait to get out there and do what we do—get after it," Wright said.


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

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Oklahoma, Michigan Announce Future Home-and-Home Football Series

A future home-and-home series between Oklahoma and Michigan, two of the six winningest programs in Football Bowl Subdivision college football history, was announced Monday afternoon.

The games will be played in 2025 and 2026, with Oklahoma hosting the former and Michigan hosting the latter.

"We remain committed to playing games that celebrate the history and excitement of college football," Oklahoma Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics and Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione told the school's official website.

"Oklahoma and Michigan represent two of the most iconic names in American sport and we look forward to a series that will be marked by mutual respect and admiration."

Castiglione isn't blustering about OU's commitment to playing exciting games. According to Brett McMurphy of, Michigan is only the latest in a string of difficult upcoming home-and-homes:

It's jarring to talk about a series so far in the future. Even with regard to nonconference series, which are famous for being planned far in advance, a game set 11 years in the future, extensive.

This explains the string of tweets that followed the announcement:

Still, thanks to the—regrettable—trend of neutral-site nonconference series, even something more than a decade away is worth looking forward to if it means iconic programs playing at iconic venues.

Chris Vannini of was wise to point this out:

There's not much analysis one can do on the actual matchup.

Michigan and Oklahoma have maintained success over decades in the past, but for reasons that are hopefully obvious, there is no way to say how they'll look in 2025 and 2026.

There's no way to say how football will look in those years.

But even if it's far down the road and 11 years provides more than ample time for the game to be unscheduled, you have to respect the courage of Michigan and Oklahoma to agree to play a true road game against a team with the resources to stay competitive.

That type of spirit has become increasingly rare.

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Gus Malzahn and Players Dish on Craziest Moments After Iron Bowl Victory

The SEC Media Days have officially started in Hoover, Alabama. The Auburn Tigers have had a long offseason to reminisce on some insane moments from the 2014 season. Bleacher Report asked a few star players how crazy Auburn, Alabama, became after the team's historic Iron Bowl win. Do you think it was the craziest game of the 2013 season? 

Watch Gus Malzahn and a few big-time Tigers discuss the craziest things they witnessed after the Iron Bowl.


Highlights courtesy of XOSDigital

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