NCAA Football News

New College Football Starters Poised for Breakout Seasons in 2014

In college football, change is the only constant.

Each fall, stars emerge to thrill us with game-breaking performances, big hits, big throws and unbelievable catches.

Each January, like clockwork, many of them declare for the NFL draft and leave college early after two or three seasons, depending on whether they were redshirted in their first season on campus. The rarest of all stars stay for four years, gracing us with their presence and talents for the maximum time allowed.
This is why recruiting is so important: Coaches are always looking for the next superstar, the next big thing.

Each year, new stars emerge, and each winter, many of them leave. As college football prepares for the 2014 regular season, we’re on the front end of that cycle.

Which players will take advantage of increased playing time and take the next step forward?
Here are a few new college football starters who we think are poised for breakout seasons in 2014.

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5 Issues We Would Love for Miami's Al Golden to Address at ACC Media Days

Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden will appear before a slew of reporters at ACC Media Day on July 21, answering questions about the upcoming college football season.

Followers of the program certainly have wondered aloud about a variety of topics and issues around the program we would love for Golden to address.

Of course, Golden is a master of sidestepping questions, finding a way around giving a direct response. Consequently, even if asked, a couple of the following topics will definitely not be answered, but it doesn't mean we can't wish.

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Every Power 5 Conference Team's Greatest Moment from BCS Era

On Monday we got our first glimpse of the hardware that's going to be given out to the winner of the College Football Playoff, the new system created to determine the FBS national champion.

The 26.5-inch, 35-pound trophy, that may or may not resemble a fountain pen holder, replaces the crystal football that was given out to the winner of the Bowl Championship Series title game each year from 1999 to 2014. That iconic award has been retired, along with the system that gave us 16 years of great championships and plenty of other memorable moments.

And that got us thinking: During the just-completed BCS era, what stood out the most for every power-conference program during that time? It couldn't always be something related to a BCS bowl, as only 45 of the teams currently in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC have earned an invite to one of the top-tier games.

We've culled through the history of all teams from the power conferences, as well as noted independents BYU and Notre Dame, to chronicle each program's greatest moment from the now-complete BCS era.

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Georgia Football: Why Damian Swann Will Shock All in 2014

There always has to be that one player on each team that is going to surprise everyone. The player is talented but has had issues either staying healthy, being in a position to make plays or just playing consistent football.

For the Georgia Bulldogs, there are a number of candidates that could be the surprise player of 2014, but when it’s all said and done, fans, coaches, players and media members will look back at the end of the year and wonder what got into Damian Swann.

The secondary for the Bulldogs has been the talk of the entire preseason because of all the changes that have been made. But the one thing that has been constant is Swann because he has started in every game since the start of the 2012 season.

The only problem is Swann did not have a great 2013 season. After leading the team in interceptions in 2012 with four and also getting two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, Swann did not have one interception and did not create one turnover.  

Many thought that last season would be the year Swann took the next step. But he struggled to get anything going for him because he did not have the experience surrounding him like he did in 2011 or 2012. He was caught up in helping players—like Brendan Langley, Quincy Mauger and Shaq Wiggins—so his game took a step back.

But that will not be the case this season, though, it’s true that he will have a different and younger cast around him and the entire defense will be different from what it was last season. But with defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt at the helm, he will put Swann in position to succeed.

Damian Swann with the one handed INT. that's how uga boys do ithttps://t.co/cTdhFmk1TT

— Bryce andrew dixon (@dixonbryce) June 22, 2014

The problem last season for Swann was he was responsible for a lot of duties when he was on the field, and former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham had a scheme that was very perplexing. Now that Swann is working with Pruitt, things will be simpler for him and the entire unit, which will lead to more opportunities to make plays.  

But for Swann, it’s not necessarily about making plays. Since he’s a senior and has started in every game the last two seasons, he has to provide stability to the secondary. And with Pruitt’s help and leadership, Swann will be able to do that, which will lead to the secondary being much improved.

Also, Swann does not want to end his career at UGA on a sour note. He wants to prove to the world that the 2012 version of him is still there and that not only he can lead the team in interceptions, he can create turnovers, shutdown receivers and get after the quarterback.

And if he can do that, the secondary will be better, which means the defense will be better, and that will lead to more wins for the Bulldogs.

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Every Top 25 Team's Best Recruiting Sales Pitch to Their Top 2015 Target

A great deal of recruiting boils down to what exactly is a team's sales pitch to a recruit. Some programs tell a prospect all he wants to hear to get him to come to their school, while others take a more honest approach.

No matter what the sales pitch is, every program in the final AP Top 25 poll from last season has something they're trying to sell their top 2015 recruiting target on.

Auburn is selling a 5-star defensive tackle on the chance to join a family-oriented program. Clemson is pitching a 5-star receiver on the idea of joining his close friend in college, while Baylor is trying to convince a 5-star linebacker to stay in his state and be the cornerstone of its defense.

All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

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Nebraska Football: 4 Backups Critical to Cornhuskers' Success in 2014

Nebraska football fans are legendary for their knowledge, and it is not uncommon for those diehards to know the backups (and the backups for the backups) inside out. Football is a rough game, and a long season means teams will frequently have to rely on their depth to get through a game or more.

So, which of Nebraska’s current backups will be most important for NU to challenge for a divisional title? Here are four backups who could prove vital.

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SEC Media Days: 'More Than 10' True Freshmen Will Have Huge Impact for Vols

Day 2 of SEC media days is in the books with Tennessee head coach Butch Jones and some notable Vols taking center stage. Tennessee's freshman class was the hot topic of the day with Jones and his players praising the class for its dedication and the impact it will have in 2014. 

Which early enrollee freshmen will have an impact this season? How many have a shot to start in 2014?

 

Highlights courtesy XOS Digital

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SEC Media Days Buzz: Biggest Stories of Day 2

Day 2 of the 2014 SEC Media Days is in the books in Hoover, Alabama. Texas A&M, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Tennessee were center stage Tuesday as players and coaches fielded questions from the media.

Watch Bleacher Report SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee break down the biggest stories coming out of Day 2, including how a new starting quarterback is adjusting to the spotlight. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

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Butch Jones Says QBs Will Be Strength for Tennessee, and He's Absolutely Right

Butch Jones took the SEC media day podium Tuesday as the coach of a Tennessee football team without a clear-cut starting quarterback a season removed from finishing with the 13th in the league in passing.

So, why did he proceed to tell the circus of conference media and millions of fans watching on ESPNU that the position would be a "strength" for the Volunteers in 2014?

Because with the praise Justin Worley and Joshua Dobbs received this offseason and the infusion of dynamic playmakers around them, he's confident the Vols are going to enjoy a passing revival.

He should be.

There's far too much talent at Tennessee's skill positions for the quarterbacks not to thrive if they've got time to throw the ball.

Sophomore Marquez North is a physical specimen who is poised to emerge as a top-tier receiver. With some of the pressure lifted thanks to freshman Josh Malone and JUCO transfer Von Pearson, North should become a force.

Jones also went out of his way to praise the offseasons of Jason Croom and Alton "Pig" Howard, who both appear ready to make a bigger impact.

Throw in the freshman tight end duo of Ethan Wolf and Daniel Helm, and whoever wins the quarterback battle will feel like he walked into a pinball game with all the targets.

A season ago, UT's quarterbacks were atrocious, but they had to feel at times like the weight of the entire team was on their shoulders.

They couldn't generate any big plays in the running game, and teams double-teamed North because there were no other viable weapons.

All the talent Jones and his staff brought in will certainly benefit the position, but it's far from the only reason why optimism permeated his media day signal-caller discussion.

Even with one of the two quarterbacks who'd earned first-team spring reps—redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson—bizarrely transferring, UT still has three quarterbacks on the roster with SEC starting experience.

Worley had his two most complete performances of 2013 in his final two full games, completing 36 of 65 passes for 394 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers against Georgia and South Carolina before being lost for the season against Alabama.

Dobbs played his best game of the year in the season finale against Kentucky then followed that up with an electric Orange and White Game where he completed 6 of 9 passes for 199 yards, three touchdowns and a long rushing score.

So, both had some momentum going into the offseason.

Even after strong springs for both, they went to work harder than ever. Rather than soaking up the sun all summer, both UT signal-callers absorbed themselves in the playbook and weight room.

They also sought external advice to improve their games.

Both Worley and Dobbs traveled on their own dime to San Diego to participate in the prestigious Whitfield Quarterback Academy earlier this summer, according to 247Sports' Brad Pope.

Worley also excelled at the Manning Passing Academy this month, making it all the way to the semifinals. Jones told the media horde in Hoover, Alabama, that he received a call from legend Archie Manning complimenting Worley's performance.

Worley's performance drew rave reviews from analysts on hand as well. The nation's top passers were present at the event, and Worley was in the competition until nearly the end.

The most surprising takeaway from the Manning Passing Academy experience in regards to Worley was that his accuracy—a major weakness last year—was lauded by NFL draft analyst Michael Detillier.

That alone is reason for optimism.

Throwing accurately in a camp setting and with a 260-pound SEC defensive end breathing down your neck are two completely different things, but the returns on Worley's progress have been encouraging, to say the least.

The words from Jones on Tuesday only strengthens the idea that UT has gotten much better at the position from a year ago.

Dobbs also has been making noticeable strides. He hit the weights, packing on 15-20 pounds to get to his now-listed weight of 203. In that spring finale, Dobbs boasted surprisingly improved arm strength from just a year ago, and now he has the physical strength to go along with it.

Considering he was thrust into action much earlier than he needed to be last season, it's difficult to hold his five shaky games against him. If Dobbs takes the next step, he will compete with Worley for the job and have a bright future.

So, Jones' words may have been surprising to some, but they are hardly far-fetched.

Both of UT's viable quarterback candidates made tons of progress, and the Vols' offense will be transformed by the talent around them.

Jones is an eternally optimistic person whose enthusiasm is infectious, and that translates well in recruiting and permeates his players. But the coach has been frank all offseason about the obstacles his young team faces and the very real struggles that come with rebuilding a program.

For him to call out his quarterbacks as a team strength isn't just lip service.

All the ingredients are there for Tennessee to turn around its passing offense. The Vols just have to put everything together.

 

All recruiting rankings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports Composite. All statistics gathered from CFBStats.com.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter here:

@Brad_Shepard

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UCLA Football: 5 Backups Critical to Team's Success in '14

There are five reserves in particular who are critical to the success of the UCLA football team this upcoming season. 

Three of the aforementioned five reside on the defensive side of the ball. UCLA's defense will in all likelihood provide multiple looks. Although the base defense is a 3-4, one can expect to see an array of alignments and formations. 

As a result, multiple "backups" could be seeing starter minutes. 

The other two members of the team in this piece will look to provide UCLA's offense with some explosiveness and effectiveness from the skill positions. 

 

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SEC Media Days: Why Playing in Kyle Field Is Best College Experience in Country

Day 2 of SEC media days is officially underway in Hoover, Alabama. Texas A&M made a showing with head coach Kevin Sumlin leading the way. Kyle Field, home to the Aggies, encompasses one of the most magnificent atmosphere's in all of college football, and Sumlin and company explained why. 

Watch A&M's head coach, punter Drew Kaser, offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi and defensive back Deshazor Everett break down why Kyle Field is the best college experience in the country.

 

Highlights Courtesy of XOSDigital.

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How LeBron James' Return to Cavs Could Help Ohio State Athletics

Before he was a two-time national champion, Urban Meyer cut his teeth as the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame. And while the current Buckeyes head coach doesn't hear "no" often on the recruiting trail, one of his biggest misses came when he failed to convince LeBron James to take his talents to South Bend.

Although to be completely fair, Meyer never really stood a chance.

After James put together a stellar sophomore season as a wide receiver at Akron, Ohio's, St. Vincent-St. Mary in 2000, Meyer extended him a scholarship offer. But as it turned out, the then-Notre Dame assistant was unaware of his target's talents elsewhere. 

"'Thank you very much, I'll consider it,' and his coach started laughing," said Meyer, recalling James' response to his scholarship offer. "I didn't know what he was laughing at, so we went down and sat in a room and he said, 'Do you know who that is?' and I said, 'No' and he said, 'LeBron James' and I said, 'Who's LeBron James?' and he said, 'He'll be the next Michael Jordan' and I go, 'Come on.'"

Meyer would go on to become the head coach at Bowling Green in 2001 while the Cleveland Cavaliers selected James first overall in the 2003 NBA draft. Both men would head to the Sunshine State to capture a pair of titles each—Meyer with Florida and James with the Miami Heat—before returning back to their Ohio roots.

Nearly three years after Meyer returned to Ohio to coach the Buckeyes in 2011, James followed suit by announcing his return to the Cavs. And while he may not have opted to catch passes for the Fighting Irish 14 years ago, the four-time NBA MVP has since maintained a relationship with Meyer, which will only benefit the Buckeyes upon his return to the Buckeye State.

 

The King's Pitch

It's no secret that James is a big Ohio State fan, having made his presence felt on the sideline for football games and courtside at Buckeye basketball games in recent years. Last year, the then-reigning NBA Finals MVP made a splash when he attended Ohio State's prime-time battle with Wisconsin, and Meyer did the most he could to maximize The King's presence.

As has been customary in Columbus since Meyer took over in 2012, there was no shortage of blue-chip prospects in attendance for the Buckeyes' nighttime affair. But these Ohio State targets were treated to something different, as they witnessed James publicly address a pep rally and privately deliver a pregame speech.

And from all indications, the best basketball player in the world's presence delivered Meyer's desired effect.

"Everyone loves Ohio State," 4-star prospect, per 247 SportsKai Locksley told Cleveland.com. "From doctors, to alums to LeBron James. It really made a difference having him there.”

With his schedule taking him back to the shores of the Biscayne Bay before the end of fall, last season's game against Wisconsin was the only one in which James was able to attend. But with James now just a two-hour drive down I-71 away and three September home games on Ohio State's slate, expect him to be in Columbus as often as possible during the Buckeyes' 2014 campaign.

 

Learning From Greatness

Perhaps more so than any other superstar of his era, James has enjoyed playing the role of mentor. That was evident in his essay explaining his decision to return to Cleveland as he discussed the Cavs' youthful roster.

"I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters."

It would be safe to assume that LeBron's lessons would extend to Columbus as well. In fact, some of them already have.

While James' relationship-turned-partnership with Johnny Manziel has drawn more attention, the 10-time NBA All-Star has also developed a bond with Buckeyes star quarterback Braxton Miller. The two have been exchanging tweets since Miller's freshman season and just this past year, James referred to the two-time Big Ten MVP as his "lil bro."

With Miller now right down the road and James having been issued an open invitation to the Ohio State facilities, the senior quarterback will only have more access to one of the world's greatest athletes. The same goes for any other budding star on the Buckeyes roster, as James has proved himself to be one of college sports' biggest fans.

 

Strive For Greatness

As for the basketball Buckeyes, Ohio State's offseason open gyms are often littered with NBA talent thanks to the likes of Mike Conley Jr., Evan Turner, Jared Sullinger and Greg Oden. But if James' time in Miami is any indication, these scrimmages may have just picked up a little more star power.

James became a fixture at Miami Hurricanes' open gyms, often bringing along fellow NBA friends. Former U-M coach Frank Haith admitted to James' presence being an advantage for the Hurricanes, in more ways than one.

"No question, it's great having those guys here," Haith said at the time, per the Associated Press (via ESPN). "It's a great influence for our players. They're some of the greatest players in the NBA, so it's obviously great for our guys and our program."

The drive might be a bit longer for James in Ohio than it was in Florida, but don't be surprised to see him mixing it up with the scarlet and gray on a regular basis. It would even be a mutually beneficial relationship for both, as James could provide his presence and Ohio State could give him the top open gym in the state.

And then there's the way that James raises everybody's game around him, whether he's playing or not. That was evident in Columbus when James was immersed in the NBA lockout in 2011 and opted to sit courtside for OSU's much-anticipated matchup with Duke.

The Sullinger-led Buckeyes beat down the Blue Devils, walking away with an 85-63 victory. Was James' presence a coincidence? Perhaps. But Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas insisted to me at the time that the arrival of King James—as well as Dwyane Wade—added something to the atmosphere in Columbus that night.

“I saw them over there. They’re guys you watch in the NBA every day,” Thomas said of James and Wade. “It was great motivation to show off for them, ‘cause they show off for us when they’re on the TV.”

Now that LeBron's back home, Buckeyes on both the hardwood and gridiron alike have an excuse to show off all the more often.

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Will Spurrier and the USC Gamecocks Make Their Way Back to the SEC Championship?

Day 2 of SEC media days is officially underway in Hoover, Alabama. The South Carolina Gamecocks made a showing with head coach Steve Spurrier leading the way. How well do you think this big-time program will do in the 2014 season?

Watch Bleacher Report's SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee and 107.5 The Game's Michael Haney discuss the latest buzz surrounding the Gamecocks at SEC media days.

 

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

Highlights Courtesy of XOSDigital.

 

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What Kevin Sumlin Meant When He Talked About Offensive Changes at SEC Media Day

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin dropped a bombshell at the end of his press conference at SEC Media Days when he mentioned that once the Aggies have the talent in place, they will change the offense. Texas A&M will eventually evolve into more of a traditional type of offense than what you have seen from the Aggies during their first two years in the league.

What we have done is given our program the best chance to win over the course of the last two years with what we have done offensively and maybe in the kicking game also. As we become more of a complete team, we might evolve into a little bit different offense and a little bit different defense. Does that mean we are going to huddle and do that? Probably not. We might change up a little bit as time goes on.

Sumlin has always been a proponent of the one-back or spread offense. He learned it from Joe Tiller at Washington State and Purdue then took the offense with him to A&M and Oklahoma. When he became the head coach at Houston, he installed his version of the spread and had great success

He then installed the hurry-up spread offense at A&M when he took over as head coach in 2012, and it has helped the Aggies lead the SEC in offense during his first two seasons. That kind of offense was necessary to win games in the SEC.

The Aggies did not have the talent and depth on both lines needed to line up and compete head-to-head with the elite teams in the SEC. They were not going to be able to line up and run the ball 40 times per game against Alabama and come out victorious.

In order to win those kind of contests, you need to have an elite defense, and the Aggies simply did not have that kind of talent on the defensive side of the ball. That is changing, as the Aggies have reeled in consecutivetop-10 recruiting classes.

They have a lot of young talent on the defensive side of the ball, specifically in the front seven. As that talent develops, the defense will improve and will allow the coaches to stop treating every game like it is a shootout.

Sumlin and his staff signed the No. 1 recruit in the country in the 2014 class, per 247Sports, in defensive end Myles Garrett. If he is able to help the defense generate more of a pass rush from the front seven in 2014, then it will allow the offense to be more traditional in nature.

The Aggies have three very talented running backs returning in 2014. Trey Williams, Tra Carson and Brandon Williams have all shown they are capable of making plays in the SEC.

If Garrett and his teammates can make more stops, the Aggies will be able to feed the ball to the running backs more often and take some pressure off of the quarterback. If the defense cannot get off the field in 2014, then the Aggies' young quarterback is going to be asked to throw the ball 40-50 times per game.

What Sumlin was referencing during the press conference was being capable of running when you want to run and not be so reliant on the quarterback. College football fans have seen this phenomenon before at Oklahoma when Bob Stoops took over as the head coach.

During his inaugural season in 1999, the Sooners ran Mike Leach's spread offense and ran the ball 291 times in 12 games while allowing 315.7 yards per game on defense. During the 2000 season, the defense improved and only allowed 278.9 yards per game.

The Sooners still used the spread offense but ran the ball 436 times in 13 games. They went undefeated and won the national championship. Aggies fans should expect Sumlin to follow a similar path.

The spread offense is a great equalizer in football. You can spread a defense out and get favorable matchups for your offense when you run the spread. The trade-off is that when you throw the ball that many times in a game, you are more susceptible to turnovers.

What Sumlin wants to do at A&M is build a defense that is good enough to where he can afford to get into a defensive struggle with an elite opponent. If a football team minimizes the opportunities for the opponent to beat you, then they increase their odds of winning.

As long as Sumlin is at Texas A&M, you will not see the Aggies huddle, and they will try to quicken the pace of the game. However, it is not likely that you will ever see a repeat of the 2013 LSU game when the running backs only carried the ball seven times. 

Sumlin has recognized that a great defense and an offense that employs more of the running game is what is needed in order to be an elite program in college football today. As the Aggies continue to add talent to their roster and build depth on both sides of the ball, they are getting closer to that vision. 

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With Manziel Gone, Kevin Sumlin Focused on Texas A&M's Defense at SEC Media Days

HOOVER, Ala. — Don't ask Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin about Johnny Manziel.

In fact, just avoid the past altogether.

The third-year head coach of the Aggies spent the majority of his mid-afternoon in suburban Birmingham dodging questions about the past, including the off-the-field social activity of his former quarterback.

"I thought this was SEC media days," Sumlin said. "That's a great question...for the Cleveland Browns."

It wasn't just the past, though. Sumlin opened his time in the main ballroom at the Hyatt Regency with a goal not to talk about his current quarterbacks either.

"I didn't come here today to tell you who the quarterback was going to be, so we can eliminate those questions," Sumlin said. "I think we're looking at a couple of weeks before we play South Carolina that we'll name a starter."

What he did, though, was talk up his defense—a defense that finished last in the SEC and 111th in the nation last year in total defense (475.8 yards allowed per game).

"Defensively I think we have, believe it or not, more depth in our front seven (than last year)—particularly the front four," he said. "We ended the year rotating five defensive linemen out of the four spots, and that took its toll. As anybody will tell you in this league, it's a line of scrimmage league."

Do you believe it?

With Julien Obioha, Gavin Stansbury, Jay Arnold, Daeshon Hall, Hardreck Walker and Alonzo Williams all featured prominently on Texas A&M's recently released depth chart (via the Houston Chronicle), there are certainly options at Sumlin's disposal.

However, the man everybody wants to hear about is hotshot prospect Myles Garrett.

The 6'4", 240-pound defensive end was rated as the top overall prospect in the 2014 class by 247Sports and the No. 2 prospect in the 247Sports composite index.

He arrived on campus this summer, and Sumlin expects his prized recruit to contribute right away.

"We don't go off lists and rating," Sumlin said. "When they rank guys No. 1, they usually don't screw that up. I don't think they screwed this one up this year."

Depth up front will be key, as the front four will have to create a pass rush in order to take some pressure off of Sumlin's biggest concern—his secondary.

"The key to our defense will be the rotation up front, the maturity of the guys who played last year and getting better safety play," Sumlin said. "We'll challenge those guys who played last year at safety early in camp, and we've got some young guys that we brought in, so we'll see what happens there."

A&M's defense doesn't have to be great. It just has to be adequate.

Whether it's Kyle Allen or Kenny Hill at quarterback, Sumlin knows how to produce a successful offense.

The reason he got the job in College Station was his ability to turn Case Keenum into a star at Houston with the air raid offense. Then he helped dual-threat star Manziel win a Heisman Trophy at Texas A&M.

If the Aggie front four is as good as Sumlin thinks it can be, it will go a long way toward fixing the problem at safety, easing the transition to the post-Manziel world and keeping the program in the national spotlight in the rough and tough SEC West.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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Alabama Football Recruiting: What 2 New 2016 4-Star Commits Mean for Tide

Nick Saban continues to put pieces in place for sustained success in Tuscaloosa. Demetris Robertson and Shyheim Carter are the latest top-tier prospects to join Alabama's star-studded recruiting haul, per Charles Power of 247Sports.

The 2016 athletes elected to end nationwide recruitments Tuesday by pledging to the Crimson Tide. They provide more building blocks for a program seemingly destined to secure its fifth straight top-ranked recruiting class in February.

While the 2015 recruiting cycle remains top priority, Alabama is on quite a run with rising juniors. Carter and Robertson are the second and third 4-star commits to join the 2016 class in a three-day span.

Benito Jones, a 4-star defensive tackle from Mississippi, committed to the Tide on Sunday. An eventful Tuesday further solidifies a strong foundation for future recruiting fortunes.

Carter, rated fifth nationally among 2016 cornerback prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings, pledged six weeks after receiving an offer. The Louisiana product from Kentwood High School earned his scholarship after attending an Alabama camp in early June.

He recently also visited Tennessee and Clemson for camps. Carter holds an offer from the Tigers, along with Texas A&M, Georgia and Mississippi State.

Alabama rival LSU hasn't extended an offer yet, but it wouldn't come as a shock if Les Miles eventually pursues the in-state defensive back.

Carter, who is also an effective rusher on offense, was rated the No. 10 player in Louisiana's 2016 class by James Smith of NOLA.com. He broke down the 6'0", 185-pound playmaker in May.

Carter is one of the most versatile prospects in this year's class. Most prospects who play a bunch of positions can do a little bit of everything, but aren't capable of doing anything that well, while Carter brings about some technique at multiple positions. He has tremendous speed, lateral quickness and will likely play at more than 200 pounds at the next level due to his thick build.

Alabama may utilize Carter at safety depending on how he develops physically during the second half of his high school career. He fits right in with a loaded secondary that includes 5-star 2014 signees Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, a 5-star cornerback commit, is currently the top-rated recruit in Alabama's 2015 class.

Robertson could also land in the defensive backfield, but he brings a lot to the field as a receiver. The 6'1", 165-pound prospect caught 36 passes for 556 yards and six touchdowns in 2013 at Savannah Country Day School.

He proved his worth on both sides of the ball during a strong sophomore season, tallying 90 tackles and an interception. Safety is a potential landing spot for Robertson at the next level, and his role at Alabama may be carved out based on what depth chart needs.

His versatility sets him apart, earning Robertson a No. 1 rating among 2016 athletes in 247Sports' composite rankings. Other offers include Ohio State, Auburn, Florida, UCLA and Notre Dame.

Robertson received an offer from the Tide during a campus visit in March.

Both new Alabama additions have the potential to blossom into elite performers at multiple positions. While many remain enamored with the Tide's impressive 2015 recruiting efforts, Saban is already surging toward another outstanding class in 2016.

 

All recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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SEC Media Days: Why Alabama Freshman OT Cam Robinson Will Be Starter Day 1

SEC media days have begun in Hoover, Alabama, with the Crimson Tide bringing some of their top players along with head coach Nick Saban. With the 2014 recruiting class being the best in the nation, according to 247Sports, we should expect to see some young athletes turn into big-time players.

Which freshmen do you think are going to break out for Alabama next year? 

Watch Bleacher Report's SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee and AL.com's Matt Scalici discuss who they think will dominate during their freshman year.

 

Highlights Courtesy of XOSDigital

Rankings from 247Sports Composite

 

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4 Issues We Would Love UCLA's Jim Mora to Address at Pac-12 Media Days

Months of eager anticipation are about to come to a head for third-year head coach Jim Mora and his UCLA Bruins.

Pac-12 media days mark the unofficial start of UCLA's 2014 season—a season rife with high expectations and unique challenges.

Meeting those lofty expectations—the Los Angeles Times' Chris Foster suggests those include sights on a championship—is contingent on the Bruins addressing the various challenges.

Next Thursday in Hollywood, Los Angeles, on the second day of the Pac-12's annual preseason media event, Mora will discuss how UCLA is tackling the obstacles between the program and milestones that have eluded it for years.

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What 2016 No. 1 All-Purpose Back Kameron Martin's Commitment Means to Baylor

Baylor collected a big-time commitment for its 2016 recruiting class Tuesday morning when in-state running back Kameron Martin verbally pledged to the Bears. The 4-star prospect announced his intentions on Twitter:

Martin is rated No. 1 nationally as an all-purpose back among rising juniors in 247Sports' composite rankings. He quickly emerged as one of the most coveted recruits in talent-laden Texas, garnering offers from more than 20 collegiate programs.

The 5'10", 170-pound playmaker has a scholarship list that includes Clemson, Miami, Tennessee, Cal and Ole Miss. Florida State was previously viewed as a favorite, projected to land Martin by 54 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

Instead, he plans to stay in his home state with an up-and-coming program. Art Briles has led Baylor to a 29-10 record since 2011, reaching the Fiesta Bowl last season.

The team's explosive offensive attack has attracted plenty of attention along the way. Baylor became an alluring option for Martin early, and that intrigue culminated with his commitment.

"I've always wanted to commit." he told Brian Ethridge of 247Sports. "This is the best feeling ever."

Martin rose to prominence as a sophomore at Memorial High School in Port Arthur. The East Texas standout rushed for 1,060 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013, averaging nearly eight yards per carry.

He shared handoffs with 2015 Texas Tech commit Corey Dauphine. The two-back approach kept both runners fresh and should continue into the upcoming campaign.

His decision to join Baylor's 2016 Class this early shouldn't be understated. It's a sign of changing tides in the Texas recruiting landscape, where the Bears spent years serving as a doormat for more successful Lone Star State schools.

The rise of Briles' program is a theme worth monitoring throughout the 2016 cycle. Aside from Martin, Baylor has already secured commitments from 4-star quarterback Zach Smith and 4-star cornerback KeShawn Somerville.

A strong 2014 season and possible Heisman Trophy campaign for quarterback Bryce Petty could ultimately push the recruiting climate to new heights in Waco. The team is already assembling an impressive offensive haul for the future.

Coveted wide receiver KD Cannon arrives on campus this year as a premier 5-star recruit, while 4-star running back JaMycal Hasty is a key member of the 2015 Class. Martin is next in line.

He serves as a speedster at Port Arthur, perfectly complementing the more powerful Dauphine. His 40-yard dash time is clocked at 4.39 seconds, per 247Sports.

While his game is built on quickness, Martin manages to cause damage between the tackles and already features a solid physique with two more years of high school to build. He should take over workhorse running back duties in 2015, which will further provide an indication of what Baylor is adding to its backfield.

Martin also makes an impact in the passing game and is a highlight reel waiting to happen when his offense can get him the ball in open space.

Perhaps more important than the potential of Martin is the promise of this class as a whole. Another heralded prospect is on board and, although Baylor may eventually have to fight off the likes of Texas and Texas A&M for his signature, the Bears just won a head-to-head recruiting battle with the defending national champions.

Baylor has officially caught fire on the 2016 recruiting trail.

 

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

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West Virginia RB Wendell Smallwood Accused of Witness Intimidation

Wendell Smallwood, a running back at the University of West Virginia, was arrested Monday and will be charged with trying to intimidate a witness in another trial for a friend, according to Robin Brown of the Wilmington News Journal:

Wendell Lynn Smallwood, 20, of Wilmington, was arrested as an out-of-state fugitive and is being held for extradition, Cpl. Mark Ivey said.

Smallwood tried to get a witness to recant statements implicating a friend of his charged with first-degree murder, Ivey said.

Brown's report also notes that there were reported incidents in early 2013 of Smallwood making calls in an attempt to "get a witness to come and make a false statement to police recanting previous statements."

Smallwood will be returned to Delaware, but Ivey said in Brown's report that he doesn't know exactly when the extradition will take place.    

A sophomore heading into the 2014 season, Smallwood played in 12 games for West Virginia last year. He was third on the team in rushing yards with 221, scored one touchdown and averaged 5.7 yards per carry. 

The 20-year-old also caught 11 passes for 132 yards and returned 30 kickoffs for 541 yards. Charles Sims, who led West Virginia in rushing last season, was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 2014 NFL draft, opening up a bigger opportunity at the position for the Mountaineers. 

Smallwood was poised to move up the depth chart this season, possibly even as the No. 1 guy. West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson raved about the sophomore after spring practices to Doug Walp of the Daily Athena:

He’s versatile. We’re finding a lot of ways to get him the ball. That kid’s skilled. Through nine practices he’s got the mental capacity to handle a lot of different things, so we’re really trying to push the limits with what we can do with that kid. And right now, we’re just seeing what he can do.

It is unclear at this time what action West Virginia University and head football coach Dana Holgorsen will take against the running back. 

Until Smallwood gets extradited back to Delaware, it's unclear what the immediate and long-term future for the running back is. 

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