NCAA Football News

Who Will Be Alabama and Nick Saban's Secret Weapon in 2015?

The Alabama Crimson Tide have no shortage of top offensive threats on their roster. Nick Saban has done a wonderful job of making sure his team is loaded on the offensive side of the ball.

Marc Torrence, Bleacher Report's lead Alabama writer, joined Adam Lefkoe to discuss who on the Crimson Tide offense will break out this season.  

Who will be the Tide's secret weapon this season? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Who Are USC's Must-Get Recruits in the 2016 Class?

After USC's monster recruiting class in 2015, Steve Sarkisian and his staff have turned their sights to the current crop of recruits. In order to build off their recent success, they must keep adding top-notch talent to the boat. 

Who are USC's must-gets in the 2016 recruiting class? 

Bleacher Report's National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani breaks down just who USC needs to land in the video above. 

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Why Oklahoma Transfer RB Keith Ford Would Be Perfect for Texas A&M

Former Notre Dame and new Florida State quarterback Everett Golson has dominated the transfer headlines this week, when he announced that he'll play his final year in Tallahassee.

Another high-profile transfer could make a big impact at a high-profile program too, just not in 2015.

Former Oklahoma running back, Keith Ford, announced his intention to transfer from the Sooners earlier this month, and it's no secret where he wants to go. According to Taylor Hamm of GigEm247.com, Ford—a native of Cypress, Texas—wants to play down the road from home at Texas A&M.

Ford commented on his options to Hamm:

Utah has called me, Louisville is showing a lot of interest and so has [University] of [Houston]. Texas A&M has also reached out to me. I don’t want to leave the state of Texas so I’m kind of leaning towards Texas A&M. It’s not official yet because I still need to talk with the coaches but I am leaning towards Texas A&M.

According to the report, Ford—who was suspended last semester due to academics and team policies—has spoken with Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin over the phone. Hamm reported on Thursday that the two are meeting on Thursday to discuss the possibility of Ford joining the program.

Ford will have two years of eligibility left and will have to sit out in 2015 if he transfers to an FBS school, but he would be a solid piece to the revitalized Aggie rushing attack. The former 5-star prospect and top-ranked running back in the state of Texas in 2013, according to 247Sports, rushed for 526 yards and six touchdowns over the last two years for the Sooners.

He got off to a hot start in Norman early in the 2014 season, when he rushed for 194 yards and five touchdowns over the first three games, but a foot fracture sidelined him for five games. That opened the door for then-freshman Samaje Perine, who ran through it with authority.

If all goes well and Ford—who says he's in the clear academically now—becomes an Aggie, it'd be a match made in Heaven. 

At 5'11", 202 pounds, Ford is a true all-purpose back. He has tremendous speed, sneaky power, can be a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield and has quick feet—particularly in traffic. If he plays in 2016, he'll instantly become part of a solid rotation in a system that's had time to evolve in College Station.

The Aggies will lose Tra Carson and iron man running back/defensive back Brandon Williams to graduation this year. That means James White—a 6'0", 218-pounder who will be a junior in 2016—will be the veteran of the running back corps in Aggieland.

White is much more of a power runner than Ford and can lean on defenses and open up those running lanes for Ford. The duo can essentially create a "thunder and lightning" situation in the Aggie backfield.

What's more, Sumlin realized that his offense was way too unbalanced last year (514 passing plays to 421 running plays) and brought in new offensive line coach Dave Christensen to bring a more downhill attack to College Station.

"It's not a dramatic change from what we were doing, but we are doing some things—without giving away any secrets—where we can run the ball not only when we want to run it, but when we need to," Sumlin said during the coaches teleconference in May. "That was a point of emphasis [this spring]."

Ford's agility in traffic and ability to turn two-yard gains into 10-yard gains will fit nicely into the more downhill attack.

Will Ford become a star in the Aggie offense?

Until we see the new scheme in action, it's hard to say. But he would give the staff a nice option opposite of White, and options are like gold to a bright offensive mind like Sumlin.

It didn't work out as planned for Ford at Oklahoma, but College Station would be a nice landing spot that could benefit both Ford and Texas A&M.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Michigan Football: How Wolverines Can Take Back in-State Recruiting

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio seems to have gained a clear advantage when it comes to in-state recruiting, especially recently. With that said, it has now become the job of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh to combat the moves of his rival.

The Wolverines can't afford to surrender any more ground to the Spartans. 

"I'm a big proponent of, 'You build your base in your backyard,' and then you branch out from there and try to cherry-pick top talent from across the country," Rivals.com recruiting expert Josh Helmholdt said during a recent in-state recruiting interview.

Having done well so far, Harbaugh's reputation, pedigree and methodology are of great influence with in-state recruits, according to Helmholdt. There is a buzz surrounding the new coach. In terms of perception, Michigan has experienced a huge in-state boost since Harbaugh's arrival. 

However, for the time being, Harbaugh seems glued to the national scope, as his creation of satellite camps evidenced. Those out-of-region events will certainly lead to success, but there needs to be a stronger emphasis on re-establishing a local presence. 

There is no substitute for being the big kid on the block. Luckily for Michigan, Harbaugh is one, and he has plenty of like-minded friends to help aid his cause. 

Defensive line coach Greg Mattison and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin are nationally recognized recruiters. Mattison was named recruiter of the year in 2013, and Durkin earned the honor while at Florida in 2012. Those accolades were won, in part, because of the grips they had on their teams' home state.

Mattison got the best locals for the Wolverines, and Durkin often did the same for the Gators.

Combine their efforts with the energy of tight end coach Jay Harbaugh and passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch, both of whom have recently tweeted from the trail, and Michigan has more than enough ambassadors to cover the Great Lakes State in maize and blue.

They just need to get Dantonio and Ohio State's Urban Meyer out of the way—or at the very least, do more to subdue their efforts. That's not a wish-list thing, that's a realistic thing. It can be done. 

 

Power Play

The act of flipping recruits is a common occurrence these days, as verbal commitments are anything but ironclad. Generally speaking, the practice of luring a kid away from a school is frowned upon. But the poaching of talent and extension of behind-the-scenes offers will never stop—those methods are ingrained into the culture.

Coaches who flip appear powerful. Power attracts talent.

Typically, converting a player from a rival, such as Michigan State or Ohio State, means a little more to fans than if their team were to steal one from School X. However, Big Ten foe Penn State has 4-star cornerback Lavert Hill of Detroit Martin Luther King, and outsider Louisville has 4-star wide receiver Desmond Fitzpatrick of Farmington.

Flipping one or both of the targets would be an ultimate display of authority, and it could make others reconsider their position on and perception of Michigan. 

Reclaiming Detroit Cass Tech, a prep powerhouse that has been jokingly referred to as one of the Wolverines' farm teams, would also assist Harbaugh in winning recruiting scrums within home boundaries. 

The "Cass Tech Pipeline" is certainly a real thing for Michigan, and it's been very good to the program in the past. Despite all of that, Dantonio has consistently poked around that well for the past two years. He hasn't fended off Michigan (or Ohio State), but it seems as if Cass Tech's doors are open wider than ever for Dantonio. 

At the moment, 4-star receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones is the No. 1-ranked player in the state's 2017 class. His teammate, 4-star safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell, is the No. 5-ranked sophomore in Michigan. They're each climbing the ranks, and like some before them at Cass Tech, they could be ranked among the nation's best come signing day.

They're each of high priority for Dantonio and Harbaugh. 

The swift formation of a relationship—and proper maintenance of said bond—with coach Thomas Wilcher could prove vital down the road for Harbaugh, who has five former Technicians on his spring 2015 roster. Jourdan Lewis, a junior cornerback, is among the most valuable players on the team and among the best cover men in the country.

It'd be wise to keep things flowing with one of the most prolific Division I player factories in the Midwest. Really, casting a broader net over the Detroit area would be smart decision. Schools such as MLK, home of 4-star receiver Donnie Corley, the No. 2 in-state player of 2016, continuously manufacture next-level talent. Cass Tech isn't the only major program around, but it's certainly one of the most important. Harbaugh mustn't compromise that connection. 

As Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod recently pointed out, there is an NCAA bylaw that could be finessed into a huge advantage for Harbaugh. According to the rule (13.1.2.1), there are loose regulations on camp-employment eligibility, and Harbaugh just so happens to be on a camp rampage.

The shoe fits.

Essentially, Harbaugh could hire just about anyone he wanted. He could, in theory, "employ" people close to prospects in order to gain a strategic edge. In addition to having former players in attendance, which also helps, the future creative usage of Axelrod's findings could certainly pave the way to in-state supremacy for Harbaugh.

 

Keeping Up

Dantonio's rise, coupled with the Wolverines' well-documented decade-long downfall, has turned the tables when it comes to recruiting. In the past, Michigan was the clear No. 1 choice for in-state talent. Recently, elite locals have gone as far to say that the state's best play in Ann Arbor, not in East Lansing.

Some may feel that way, but a string of Big Ten titles, a Rose Bowl victory and double-digit win seasons has Michigan State appearing as the better destination—for now.

Thus far, Michigan has the state's only 2017 commit, and that's 3-star tight end Carter Dunaway of Birmingham Brother Rice. Gaining an early pledge from the 6'6", 225-pounder was certainly a great start for Harbaugh, but his primary focus should be on the junior class—he has just one high-profile local commit, and that's 4-star running back (No. 9 RB overall) Matthew Falcon of Southfield.

As of May 21, the Spartans have two of the top seven commits in the state's 2016 class: 3-star safety Demetric Vance of Detroit Cass Tech and 3-star offensive tackle Thiyo Lukusa of Traverse City West.  They also have good chances of landing Khalid Kareem, a 4-star defensive end out of Farmington Hills Harrison, and Corley, a 4-star receiver out of MLK.

During this past cycle of 2015, Dantonio snagged four of the top 15 prospects in the state: 4-star offensive guard Kyonta Stallworth of MLK, 3-star outside linebacker Tyriq Thompson of MLK, 3-star cornerback Tyson Smith of Orchard Lake St. Mary's and 3-star athlete Khari Willis of Jackson Lumen Christi.

In February, the Wolverines signed a pair of former Brother Rice standouts in 4-star quarterback Alex Malzone and 3-star wide receiver Grant Perry, and they also acquired 4-star athlete Brian Cole of Saginaw Heritage.

Malzone and Cole were two of the best in the region, and in terms of in-state perception, they were hefty pickups for the Wolverines. Dantino heavily recruited Cole, the most coveted athlete in the state. 

It's not impossible to close, but the gap between Michigan and Michigan State's in-state recruiting balance is growing more noticeable by the year. Harbaugh has time to counter; it'll just take roughly two years of earth-moving on his part to even the playing field with Dantonio. 

 

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

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability. All recruiting information comes via 247Sports.

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Texas Football: Early Grades for the Longhorns' 2016 Recruiting Class

Sporting a mere four commits, incomplete is the only appropriate characterization of Texas' 2016 recruiting class, even this early in the game.

For a while there seemed to be little cause for concern with this group. Fresh off an epic finish to the 2015 class, Shane Buechele's February commitment gave the Horns one of the best quarterback prospects in the country and plenty of momentum on the trail.

Since then, Charlie Strong and his staff have gone ice-cold.

It's bad enough that they're seeing interest wane from some top targets. Kendell Jones, Tren'Davian Dickson and Brandon Jones all look SEC-bound, trimming down the list of elite in-state talents.

But what's becoming truly problematic is that former no-doubters like Baylor commit JP Urquidez, who nearly pledged at Texas' junior day, have been looking elsewhere. The offensive line has been hit especially hard, with Urquidez, Jean Delance and Chris Owens almost certain to never become Longhorns. Burnt Orange Nation's Wescott Eberts noted Owens' commitment:

This is a long process, and Strong has shown he's never out of the fight for the players he covets. There's also no mistaking that he's brought in good talent—it's just time for him to grab more.

 

Who's on Board

If you're only going to have four commits, you can do much worse than Buechele, Collin Johnson, Reggie Hemphill-Mapps and Demarco Boyd.

Buechele has a chance to be something special at quarterback. Horns247 scouts him as having "flawless mechanics" with a good football IQ and strong work ethic. With above-average athleticism, he can be a true "triple threat" who wins from the pocket, throws on the move and picks up first-downs with his legs.

The quarterback is the big name, but Johnson's the highest-rated player in the group. Already 6'5", 200 pounds, the son of Longhorn great Johnnie Johnson exploded as a junior, showing off the speed, quickness, hands and competitiveness of a No. 1 wideout. He should be a top-50 player by the time he signs his letter of intent. CBS Sports Network's Tom Lemming called Johnson a "major catch for Texas":

Hemphill-Mapps isn't quite the same physical specimen as Johnson, but he's a smooth route-runner with deep speed. Fans will see a lot of Marcus Johnson in him, though Hemphill looks a little more elusive with the ball in his hands.

The lone defensive commit in the class, Boyd possesses a stout build and knows how to hit. Strong will enjoy the latter trait, but Kris Boyd's younger brother has got to improve in space to be more than an early-down run-stopper.

With two potential stars and two with promising skill sets, this is a good foursome to have. They're just not enough to distract us from the fact that signing day is eight months away.

 

Outlook

Texas looks like it's in good shape with a few solid talents with the potential to end this three-month drought, but nothing's set in stone. Strong can only hope it doesn't take too long to break the ice.

Looking through the Longhorns' list of targets, few of them are trending toward joining this 2016 class. It'll be a dogfight for the best players in the state, and the staff hasn't generated much of a head start.

Right now, the most potential lies with the linebacker and pass-rushing crop, led by destroyer Dontavious Jackson. Though anything could happen with a guy who has 50 offers, the Horns hold a nice edge with Jackson, Jeffrey McCulloch and Jordan Carmouche, as well as Fox prospect Erick Fowler.

Any one of these guys could commit soon, which would help draw more of the state's best defensive talent.

Another name to watch over the next couple of weeks is Christian Wallace. The 6'2½", 211-pound athlete declared Texas as his leader at a 7-on-7 tournament and has the versatility to play running back, linebacker, safety or even receiver. Rivals.com also noted Texas holds the top spot on Wallace's list:

Past these guys, it's hard to be overly confident about any of Texas' top targets ending up in the burnt orange. There's a ton of work to be done this summer.

 

Final Grade: C+

As stated before, this class is incomplete, and we're a long way from giving it a fair assessment. At this point, there's a foundation to build on, and that's good enough for now.

This is a long process, and there are still a lot of uncommitted prospects out there. The problem at this stage is not many of them project to end up at Texas, and that has to change this summer before you can feel good about the trajectory of this class.

Still, there's no reason to hit the panic button just yet. Persistence is the name of Strong's game on the recruiting trail. After all, he pulled in 11 more recruits after nabbing Malik Jefferson and DeAndre McNeal on December 18.

If we're not singing a different tune by the time the summer camps and unofficial visits come to an end, then it might be time to worry.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Football: Early Grades for 2016 Recruiting Class

The recruiting efforts of the UCLA football team in 2016 are off to a fast start. 

To date, the Bruins have 10 public commitments. That is roughly half of how many they're expected to sign this coming February. Interestingly, eight of the 10 commitments hail from within the state of California.

This piece will take a look at the committed prospects, as well as targets and some misses early in the current recruiting cycle.

 

Grade For Committed Prospects: A-

It's a very good start for Jim Mora and his staff—especially on the defensive side of the ball. 

UCLA has shored up the middle of its future defense for years to come with the commitments of middle linebackers Lokeni Toailoa and Krys Barnes. 

Both 4-star prospects, Toailoa and Barnes rank as the No. 1 and No. 2 middle linebackers in the entire western region respectively. Landing both prospects was significant—especially considering each had offers from Southern California and other big programs across the country.

Another elite defensive player currently committed is 5-star defensive end/linebacker prospect Breland Brandt. The Los Angeles native is still raw from a technique standpoint. However, he's extremely gifted athletically.

Also a basketball player, he has the mobility to function as both a defensive end and as an outside linebacker rushing the passer. It was key for UCLA to land Brandt. Like Toailoa and Barnes, he had an offer from Southern Cal, among other schools. He is considered to have one of the highest upsides of any defensive-line prospect in the country.

The Bruins have also landed three very versatile 4-star prospects in Darian Owens, Michael Pittman and Jordan Parker. 

Parker is one of the most talented corner prospects in the state. With UCLA needing an influx of depth and talent at the position, his commitment was huge. Owens is slated to come in as a wide receiver but could play safety in a pinch.

Pittman is arguably the most intriguing of the commitments. At 6'4", he could end up at a multitude of positions—including safety, outside linebacker, defensive end, wide receiver or even at tight end. His physical development down the road will likely determine where he plays in college. Regardless, it's a nice problem for UCLA to have.

Continuing with its strong reputation for special teams, UCLA has landed long snapper Johnny Den Bleyker. According to the famed Rubio Long Snapping, Den Bleyker is the top long snapper in the entire country. 

UCLA needed to upgrade its speed and quickness from within its wide receiver corps, and it was able to do so with the commitment of 4-star receiver Demetric Felton. A local prospect from Temecula, Felton can line up all over the field. This sort of versatility enables UCLA to look at him as an inside receiver, an outside receiver and even as a running back. 

The Bruins are doing exceptionally well throughout the state of California with this class. They've effectively put themselves in position to land an extremely talented linebacker group—especially considering there's a very realistic chance Mique Juarez, Caleb Kelly or both could become Bruins. At the very worst, UCLA is in the top three for both prospects.

Above all else, there's real positional versatility within the committed prospects. This has been a real point of emphasis for Mora and his staff when targeting players. 

 

Minor Disappointments

There have been some minor issues to begin this cycle. 

UCLA lost out on 4-star quarterback Devon Modster, who opted for Arizona. With depth issues at the position, the Bruins had been targeting a signal-caller for this class. 

With Josh Rosen potentially starting as a true freshman, the general thought is that an elite quarterback prospect in the '16 class wouldn't want to sit behind Rosen for multiple years.

UCLA did garner a pledge from 3-star Colorado quarterback Matt Lynch. While not as highly ranked as Modster, Lynch does have some physical tools to work with. Perhaps most importantly, he's a developmental prospect who'll need time behind Rosen to mature physically. 

With the status of Adrian Klemm in limbo, UCLA's offensive-line recruiting efforts have been minimal. Many of the top OL prospects in California have already committed to other programs. The absence of Klemm has firmly put UCLA behind the proverbial eight ball with other offensive-line prospects. It will be fascinating to see when Klemm does return—if he indeed comes back in any capacity at all.

 

Areas of Need

The defensive line—particularly at defensive tackle—is arguably the biggest need in this class. 

There's a real chance both Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes will depart for the NFL after this season. Depth behind the starting duo is rather shallow and inexperienced. 

Boss Tagaloa, a 4-star defensive tackle out of De La Salle High School, is the top target for the Bruins. He's the type of prospect with the ability to play right away, which is something UCLA will likely need if it loses either of its starting defensive linemen after this year. 

Defensive end Oluwole Betiku is also a big target for the Bruins. The Serra High School product, originally from Nigeria, has considerable potential. One would be hard-pressed to find a more physically impressive specimen. He's eerily similar to how former UCLA Bruin Owamagbe Odighizuwa looked coming into college.

Betiku's guardian, former NFL player LaVar Arrington, played under current UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley at Penn State. This relationship surely cannot hurt the Bruins' efforts to land the talented defensive end.  

Speaking of Odighizuwa, UCLA's lone defensive-tackle commitment comes courtesy of his younger brother, Osa.

The Portland native is an excellent wrestler, ranking among the best in the country for his age group. While still raw to the position, Osa has all of the tools to eventually become a productive interior lineman. 

As has been mentioned, UCLA needs to address its offensive line. There's not a pressing need for a ton of signees along the offensive front, but it's always important to add depth. The Bruins could look to add a true tackle prospect more than anything. 

Finally, UCLA could stand to upgrade its talent at wide receiver. With a deep receiver class hailing from California in '16, the Bruins will likely attempt to add two, if not three, prospects.

Targets for the Bruins at the position include Damian Alloway, Dymond Lee, Steffon McKnight and Jack Jones. Jones, who is an excellent athlete, could ultimately wind up at corner. 

 

*All recruiting rankings come courtesy of Scout.com.

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Notre Dame Football: Predicting the Irish's 2015 Win-Loss Record

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Notre Dame football season is fast approaching, and with summer OTAs around the corner, let’s take a glance at the 2015 schedule.

We’re still more than 100 days away from the start of the season, but an early look at the schedule and how Notre Dame stacks up against its opponents can be instructive.

In breaking down the Irish and their 2015 prospects, we’ll consider the regular-season matchups in different categories. The following aren’t equal tiers; rather, they’re ranges of confidence.

Let’s have a look.

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Every Power 5 College Football Team's Toughest Nonconference Game

In just 15 (!!!) short weeks, the 2015 college football season will be upon us, and it won't waste any time getting to the good stuff thanks to a whopper of an opening-week lineup.

Now that almost every power program has seemed to buy in to the importance of lining up quality out-of-league competition, the weeks before conference play gets into full swing are no longer reserved for just walkover games. Nearly every team from a power conference has at least one nonconference game that has some level of difficulty to it, and in many cases, these contests are toss-ups that could go either way.

Here's a look at the toughest nonconference game that every team from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC (as well as Notre Dame) has on its 2015 schedule.

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Georgia Football: Early Grades for 2016 Recruiting Class

One of the best things Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt has done since 2001 is getting top recruits to come play in Athens. And it looks like it won’t be any different for 2016 as the class is ranked No. 4 in the country and No. 1 in the SEC, according to 247Sports.

Richt and his coaching staff never had an issue recruiting in Georgia. They may not always get the top player in the state, but they always get good players who have the ability to contribute right away.

But Richt also gets great players from the pipeline. A couple of good examples are Aaron Murray from Florida, and Todd Gurley from North Carolina. Richt has 12 players committed for the upcoming signing class, and he’s been able to keep the same formula that has helped him be a contender in the SEC consistently.

So here are some early grades for the 2016 recruiting class.

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Georgia Football: Mark Richt Is Under Immense Pressure to Deliver in 2015

Despite his 74 percent win percentage with the Georgia Bulldogs, Mark Richt will have to deliver more than just wins in 2015. In 14 seasons, Richt has won 132 games, a result that wouldn't have many coaches on any hot seat.

Most coaches would be safe averaging nearly 10 wins per year. However, at a powerful program like Georgia, nine- and 10-win seasons become irrelevant if there's nothing more than a Capital One Bowl trophy to show for them.

Even with success Richt has had, it's worth wondering if he's taken the Georgia program as far it will go under his watch.

This upcoming season, Richt will be under pressure to take Georgia's program to the next level and establish the Bulldogs as a legitimate contender in the SEC and on the national stage.

Since his last SEC Championship in 2005, the consistent knock on Richt has been his teams' untimely losses that have cost them spots in SEC and national championship games.

Georgia has often had above-average teams in SEC play but they've proven incapable of winning "the big one."

No matter how strong a Georgia team may look in certain parts of the season, slip-ups against an inferior opponent almost always seems to keep them out of Atlanta.

For example, last season Georgia should have almost been a lock to win the SEC East, but losses to mediocre teams like Florida and South Carolina paved the road to Atlanta for Missouri, a team Georgia pummeled, 34-0. 

Richt's most heartbreaking blown opportunity came in 2012, when Georgia blew a fourth-quarter lead to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

Instead, of playing Notre Dame in the national championship game that season, the Bulldogs took a postseason trip to Orlando for the Capital One Bowl. 

With the 2015 season quickly approaching, Richt will once again be given a chance to prove to Georgia fans that he can lead the program to another SEC Championship and possibly the College Football Playoff.

Each season that ends in disappointment for Georgia causes the temperature of Richt's seat to rise. Another season eight- to 10-win season without a trip to Atlanta might finally cause the end of Richt's 14-year tenure in Athens.

Talent has never been an issue with any of Richt's teams, as Georgia has consistently brought it highly rated recruiting classes and put players in the NFL.

Even though he's come close, in the past decade, Richt hasn't been able to bring that talent together to win the SEC or compete for a national title. 

Obviously, it's no easy task to win a title in the SEC, but in recent years, Georgia has had the benefit of having as fortunate of an SEC schedule as a team could hope for.

The Bulldogs play in the weaker SEC East division. Also, they haven't played the SEC's most dominant team, Alabama, in the regular season since 2008 and have matched up against LSU just once in the regular season in the same time span. 

Richt's Bulldogs will once again have high expectations in the 2015 season. ESPN's Mark Schlabach put Georgia at No. 8 in his initial preseason top-25 list for 2015. Once again, the Bulldogs will be among the favorites to win the SEC East. 

This year's schedule will feature a few tougher tests than previous seasons. Georgia will square off against Alabama in Week 5 and will also travel to Knoxville to take on a Tennessee team that Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee has already predicted to win the SEC East.

2015 has to be the year that Richt is able to break through and silence his many critics. He's tested the patience of the Georgia fanbase long enough.

Unless, he can deliver an SEC title or a berth in the College Football Playoff, it may finally be time for Richt and Georgia to part ways. 

Sami Harb is a Bleacher Report Contributor. Follow him on twitter @SamiPHarb

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25 Greatest Games in History of College Football

Here's a reminder, as if you needed one: College football is unpredictable. That makes this sport, however bass-ackwards it may be at times with the way it's operated, so much fun. 

Right now, we're missing out on the fun. Week 1 of the 2015 season is still more than three full months away. It's times like these that we feed the itch by looking back at some of the best moments from the game. 

Or, in this case, the games themselves. That's how this topic was born. Ranking all-time games is always a challenge, but we feel we have a healthy mixture of older and newer games, shootouts and defensive struggles, nail-biters, comebacks and improbable finishes. From regular-season games to national championships, everything was under consideration. 

Here are, according to us, the best games in the history of college football—which will undoubtedly be universally agreed upon by everyone, right? Right. 

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Why Nick Chubb Is the Best Candidate for SEC Player of the Year in 2015

In 2014, Nick Chubb backed up his 5-star status and then some.

The Georgia star finished second, behind Auburn senior Cameron Artis-Payne, for the most rushing yards in the SEC.

He did that as a true freshman despite limited touches in almost half of Georgia's games, when he backed up the later-suspended and injured Todd Gurley.

When he got his opportunity to take over, Chubb showcased an all-around running game that was beyond his years. Speed and strength, agility and acceleration, tiptoeing and trucking—Chubb checked off all the boxes for an elite back.

This season, if Chubb avoids the off-field trouble and on-field injuries that hurt Gurley, he should run away with the title as the best player in the SEC.

Here's why.

 

Time to Improve on a Stunning Debut

Three other true freshman running backs in the SEC (LSU's Leonard Fournette, Georgia teammate Sony Michel and Auburn's Roc Thomas) were rated higher than Chubb coming out of high school.

Even with more carries than Fournette, Michel and Thomas, Chubb averaged more yards per touch than the trio ranked ahead of him—and everyone else in the SEC.

His mark of 7.06 yards per carry was the best for any SEC running back with at least 100 carries since Arkansas' Felix Jones ran for 1,162 yards on 133 carries in 2007.

In the seven games following Gurley's suspension, starting with Georgia's blowout victory over eventual SEC East champion Missouri, Chubb averaged 189 yards per contest. That is more than Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon averaged per game, and he led the nation in that category.

Now that he will be Georgia's No. 1 running back from the opening kickoff of the season, Chubb has the potential to put up more dizzying stats in his sophomore campaign.

And if his spring break workouts were any indication, per 247Sports' Rusty Mansell, he definitely did the work to accomplish just that this offseason:

 

Strength of Georgia's Front Five

With that said, even the most talented of running backs will struggle at the college level if he doesn't have adequate offensive line play in front of him.

Good news for Chubb and Georgia fans everywhere: The Bulldogs' offensive line is so much better than adequate.

Georgia is returning four of its five starters on the offensive line that paved the way for Chubb, Gurley and Michel to average an SEC-best 257.8 rushing yards per game.

Although the Bulldogs have to replace longtime center David Andrews, they have a great amount of experience and talent in their projected starting line:

Not only is Chubb going to get better after his first season at Georgia, his blockers up front are going to continue developing their skills and chemistry with one another.

That's how you improve on a top-15 rushing attack.

 

Focal Point of Georgia's Entire Offense

With the Bulldogs breaking in a new quarterback and replacing their top two receivers from the 2014 season, a lot of Georgia's offense is going to rely on the legs of Chubb.

Bleacher Report's Andrew Hall wrote in February that Chubb's workload in 2015 might be something Georgia fans haven't seen since Knowshon Moreno was between the hedges:

In 14 seasons under Richt, Georgia's offense has averaged just shy of 480 attempts per year. If Chubb matches Moreno's usage rate of more than 60 percent of all carries, he could register 290 carries. That's 30 more touches than any Georgia running back of the Richt Era.

Georgia still has talented depth at the running back position behind Chubb in Michel and Keith Marshall, who missed most of 2014 with an injury.

But with the success rate he enjoyed last season and the injury history for both Michel and Marshall, the Bulldogs will probably be in the position to use Chubb more than what they're used to in a normal running back rotation.

Part of that change might come from new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who was more of a run-first guy in the NFL.

Simply put, Georgia fans can expect the Bulldogs to "run the dang ball" in 2015.

And that ball will mostly be carried by Chubb, whom Hall says has the potential to produce the best season in Georgia history:

290 carries split over 12 regular-season contests and a bowl game yield a per-game average of just more than 22 rush attempts. Over the final eight games of the 2014 season, Chubb averaged more than 24 carries per game.

With that workload and seven yards per carry—slightly less than what Chubb posted last season—would make him the first single-season 2,000-yard rusher in Georgia history.

If Chubb even comes close to those numbers, he'll definitely be on the path to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Although recent history suggests that award will most likely be handed to another quarterback, that's never been a problem for the top-player award in the SEC.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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FSU Insider Film Breakdown: Why Everett Golson Will Start for Seminoles in 2015

The Florida State Seminoles have a new quarterback to add to their depth chart now that Everett Golson has transferred from Notre Dame. The star QB enjoyed many fine moments for the Irish but also had his fair share of turnover-laden games.

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the film to illustrate why some of those miscues shouldn't alter your perception of his game.

Will Golson be FSU's starter in 2015? Check out the video and let us know!

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Braxton Miller Is the Only One Who Can End Transfer Rumors

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As the college football offseason enters its dog days of summer, everybody seems to be voicing an opinion about Braxton Miller.

Everybody, that is, except for Miller himself.

Rumors of the Ohio State quarterback taking advantage of his ability as a graduate transfer have been attached to his name ever since last fall, when J.T. Barrett—and then Cardale Jones—stepped up in his injury-induced absence during the Buckeyes' run to the national title. The rumblings hit a peak during the postseason, with high-profile names like Oregon, Florida State, Alabama and LSU all being attached but never amounting to more than message-board fodder.

And now that spring football is over and fall camp sits nearly two months away, all indications appear to be that Miller will return to Ohio State for an unprecedented quarterback competition.

"I am pretty confident," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said at the Big Ten meetings on Tuesday, via the Big Ten Network's Tom Dienhart. "Any kid could flip. In my conversation, which was well before spring ball started and he was rehabbing, he was committed to coming back. He was taking courses and coming back. I don’t have any reason to believe he won’t be back."

Smith's answer sounded a lot like Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer's response to a similar query during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show in April.

Obviously, young people or anyone is allowed to change their mind. I have not heard [Miller is transferring]. I did not ask him, one of our strength coaches did, and he said, 'I don't know where that's coming from.' So I would say Braxton is staying, is all indications that I'm getting. I don't go by hearsay. I just talk to the people involved and he seems to be very happy and excited for 2015 as a Buckeye.

But while both Smith and Meyer's answers may be truthful—and there's no reason to believe they're not—each are couched with vague terms and leave room for Miller to change his mind. They're the politically correct answers to a delicate situation, one that appears to still possess at least some level of uncertainty.

And until Miller ultimately decides to speak—or the 2015 season arrives with the two-time Big Ten MVP on the Ohio State roster—that uncertainty will remain.

In the nine months that have followed his senior season ending before it even started with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, Miller has declined to participate in media sessions at the Big Ten Championship Game, Sugar Bowl, College Football Playoff title game and Buckeyes spring practice. By contrast, Barrett has met with the media no fewer than four times since fracturing his ankle in November, including at a spring practice interview session Miller was originally schedule for but declined to attend.

There are a few ways to read into Miller's reluctance to talk to reporters—especially when you consider that he's an introvert by nature—but his ignorance to the transfer speculation is not one of them. Back when a new Miller-related rumor seemed to be making the rounds every day, the Huber Heights, Ohio, native caused a stir when he favorited a tweet indicating he was picking Oregon over Ohio State in the national title game, before taking to Twitter to call it an accident in a since-deleted tweet.

If Miller knew why he was temporarily facing backlash from Buckeye fans for appearing to favor the Ducks over his own team, then surely he's aware of of the transfer innuendo that's been attached to his name.

All it would take is one tweet from him to put an end to the rumors, or a meeting with the media to address all that's been speculated about for the past nine months. Instead, Meyer, Smith, his teammates and even his high school coach have been left to answer for him, with no one being able to say without absolute certainty that Miller will be in Columbus for the start of the 2015 season.

Miller's personal circle is small and has only shrunk since he left the starting lineup for the sideline last August. Those who do know Miller, however, have indicated that last season was a shock to his system, as he's never had to deal with a team not only succeeding, but excelling in his absence.

With that in mind, it'd be hard to blame Miller for keeping his options open, just as he appears to be doing. For everyone insisting if Miller were to transfer, he would have done so by now, it's worth noting that Russell Wilson didn't use his ability as a graduate transfer to move from North Carolina State to Wisconsin until just a month prior to the start of the Badgers' fall camp in 2011.

With so much still unknown, especially when it comes to the rehab of his injured shoulder which still isn't at full strength, Miller has the right to take as long as he'd like to before deciding where he'll be spending his final college season. At this point, it's more likely than not that place will be Ohio State, where the homebody Miller already possesses familiarity with his surroundings, a playbook and a coaching staff that feels indebted to the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.

But regardless of who says what, only Miller knows for sure what his future holds. And until he gives any definitive indication—whether it be with his actions or his words—questions will continue to persist.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Real Name, Real Game: 4-Star DT Boss Tagaloa Weighing Options in His Top 12

Few names fit a defensive lineman like the one of Concord (California) De La Salle's 4-star talent.

Boss Tagaloa.

And no, Boss is not a nickname.

"I get that all the time, but that is actually my birth name," Tagaloa said. "My dad came up with it. His dad used to call everyone 'boss' out of respect. That just kind of stuck with my dad, and he carried that with him and named his son.

"Every day. I get that every time I meet someone new. They'll ask what my name is, I'll tell them Boss and they'll say, 'What's your real name?' I'll have to explain it to them."

With the name comes responsibility, and Tagaloa fits the role. As the nation's No. 9 defensive tackle and a top-60 player overall, Tagaloa is balancing just south of 20 offers and has Pac-12 schools hoping he stays close to home.

Tagaloa, who measured at Nike's The Opening Oakland regional at 6'1" and 303 pounds, said he won't make a college decision until national signing day in February. Tagaloa trimmed his list to a top 12 last Friday, a list that includes seven schools from the Pac-12, four representing the SEC and one out of the Big Ten.

The 12 schools in alphabetical order: Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Michigan, Missouri, Ole Miss, Oregon State, Tennessee, UCLA, Utah and Washington.

"I'm looking at who can give me the best education after football," Tagaloa said. "It's all about life after football. I want to get a good education."

That, and be a boss—no pun intended—on the field. Per MaxPreps.com, Tagaloa finished his junior season with 31 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He had a breakout season his sophomore year, finishing with 57 tackles and 7.5 sacks.

Tagaloa is looking forward to a senior year he's considering as one to show his talents off to the schools that have been sleeping on him.

"I'm ready to show that I am better than the year before," he said. "I just want to prove it to myself and show these colleges that I am who they think I am."

For a 300-pounder, Tagaloa moves very well laterally and uses his leg and upper-body strength to frustrate offensive linemen. As good as he is on the defensive side of the ball, Tagaloa also is a solid interior lineman on offense.

The only knock on Tagaloa is his height. At 6'1", he doesn't have the prototypical size for a college defensive tackle.

But then again, height never stopped Tagaloa from being a dominant player on a team with a well-established reputation nationally.

"God blessed me with this height and to do something with it," Tagaloa said. "If it's not football, then I know he has something planned for me. I don't have to say anything to anyone. God doesn't put you in positions where you can't succeed in life. I feel like he blessed me with this height for a reason."

Tagaloa said UCLA, Utah, Washington, Alabama and Arizona are among the schools that could make the final cut before decision day, but there's still time for all 12 schools to make a major push. Until then, he said he is focusing on working hard and making sure he doesn't get complacent.

It's the right thing to do for an athlete with the fitting first name.

"Personally, I think it's the greatest name you can have," he said.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles

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Contender or Pretender: Which SEC Teams Are for Real in 2015?

The SEC has long been considered college football's premier conference. From Alabama's recent dominance to all the consecutive national champions, the SEC has been at the forefront of the game for the past decade. 

Looking ahead to the 2015 season, which perennial powerhouses are contenders and which are pretenders? 

Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee joined Adam Lefkoe to scour through the teams and determine which are for real and which are not. 

Who is the SEC favorite heading into 2015? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Nick Chubb's 9-Year Old Cousin Is Emulating the Georgia Star on the Field

Harlem Diamond, the nine-year-old running back and cousin of Georgia star Nick Chubb, is opening up eyes on the kiddie gridiron.

Check out this crazy highlight reel in which Diamond imposes his will on his opponents.


Highlights courtesy James Diamond

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Every Top 25 College Football Program's Dream 2016 Recruit

Recruiting never stops, and it definitely speeds up during the summer.

The next few months will be the perfect time for top college programs to make some serious progress in building their next recruiting classes. Between camps, visits and the blue-chip stars who want to make their commitments before their senior seasons start, recruiting junkies are about to enter a busy time of year.

Using Bleacher Report's Post-Spring Practice Top 25, here is a look at the one specific target each school would love to sign next February. 

Who's the one player who would make your fanbase go crazy? Take a look at our list and submit your own picks in the comments below.

Begin Slideshow

How Alabama QB Seth Franks Fought Bad Recruiting Luck to Walk on at Dream School

Alabama’s quarterback group is adding a new face this summer, but it’s not who you might think. It won’t be Everett Golson, Braxton Miller or any other big-name recruit.

Instead, it’s a 6’1” kid from just across the river in Northport, Alabama, who suffered some bad luck during his college recruitment but ended up at his dream school anyway.

Seth Franks, who grew up in Tuscaloosa county and played high school football just 10 miles from Bryant-Denny Stadium, will join the team as one of a small handful of preferred walk-ons—players who aren’t on scholarship but that the coaching staff still goes out of their way to put on the team.

For Franks, who was rated a 2-star prospect by 247Sports and Rivals, it’s an opportunity to continue playing football at the school he grew up a massive fan of, like anyone from Tuscaloosa, spending Saturday afternoons tailgating on the quad and cheering from the stands.

"He's just a really good player," Nick Saban said. "His size is probably a little bit of a factor that probably had something to do with how he got recruited. It's too bad that—I had the same issues when I was in high school—it's too bad that's the case. But some guys are really able to overcome that and do a great job anyway. So we just feel like he's a really good player and a fine young man and somebody that we're excited about having in the program."

Franks won’t have quite the same problems that Saban had as a 5’6” defensive back who wound up at Kent State. 6’1” isn’t an insurmountable disadvantage by any means.

But Franks’ size issues were only compounded just as his recruitment was ramping up.

The summer after his junior year, when he led Tuscaloosa County High School to a 7-3 record and a playoff berth, Franks had an allergic reaction and his throat swelled up. Doctors put him on a strict diet that made him shed almost 20 pounds.

He was down almost 20 pounds from 180 to about 162, he estimates, as he was taking visits to schools like Southern Miss and Louisville that summer.

The quarterback that schools saw carving up defenses on film was just another skinny kid once he got to their campus.

“That hurt me pretty bad, at least that’s what I think, as far as recruiting,” Franks said. “Only being 6’1” and then coming in at 160 pounds doesn’t look good, you know?”

His high school coach, Lee Gibson, was upset that schools wrote him off so quickly after seeing him in person.

“I just don’t think guys ever got past that,” Gibson said. “I don’t know what that says, I don’t know if they don’t trust their own training table or what, but I’ve had numerous guys say they thought he was too skinny. And my argument to that would be, that’s kind of your job to put back on him once you get him.”

In his senior year, Franks added that lost weight back, throwing for more than 2,000 yards, 20 touchdowns and four interceptions, Gibson said, taking the Wildcats to the second round of the playoffs. He was named to the Tuscaloosa all-region team by al.com.

At that point, though, he still only had offers from Jacksonville State and a handful of Division-III and NAIA schools.

So he had all but decided to quit football altogether to focus on academics when Alabama called.

Gibson is a longtime friend of Alabama’s new director of player personnel, Jody Wright, who had also recruited Franks at Jacksonville State. Wright called Gibson to ask if Franks had decided where he was going to play football. Gibson said he hadn’t.

So Wright called Franks, who wasn’t exactly a stranger to the program, going to camps and attending games as a fan and once as a recruit.

Franks visited an Alabama practice during the spring, sat in on a quarterback meeting and then got to talk to Saban as he came off the field from practice.

Wright told him they had a spot for a preferred walk-on. Franks took about a week-and-a-half to talk it over with his family to figure out how they were going to pay for school.

In the end, Franks ended up at his top school all along.

“Especially when I first started coming to high school, getting recruited by small schools, that was definitely the dream to play for (Alabama),” Franks said.

If recent history is an indication, Franks won’t be written off just because of his preferred walk-on status.

Luke Del Rio joined the team in the same capacity in 2013, turning down offers from Oregon State and Oklahoma State. After his first season on campus, he was going to be right in the mix to replace AJ McCarron before he transferred to Oregon State.

Franks should have that same chance, if not now then down the road, in a quarterback pool that doesn’t have a sure thing right now.

“It’s like anything, they’ll put me at the bottom of the depth chart,” he said. “You’ve got to start at the bottom and work your way up, they’re not just going to give it to you.”

For now, he’s just happy to be staying close to home, where an unfortunate turn on the recruiting trail still landed him where he wanted to be all along.

“It’s just great to see him get this opportunity because he’s one of the better players I’ve ever coached, and people passed up on for some reason,” Gibson said. “I’m looking forward to him to prove a lot of people wrong.”

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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2018 CB Verone McKinley III 'In Awe' over 1st Offer from LSU Tigers

Ask anyone who knows 2018 cornerback Verone McKinley III, and you'll rarely find someone utter a negative word.

McKinley in a very short time has blossomed into, pound for pound, one of the best defensive backs in his class. As a freshman at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, McKinley—known around the area simply as "V3"—recorded 28 tackles, four interceptions and four pass deflections in only nine varsity games, according to MaxPreps.com.

LSU likes recruiting young talent. LSU also likes recruiting star-caliber defensive backs. For those who follow LSU and national recruiting, it made perfect sense for the Tigers to surprise McKinley on Tuesday evening with his first scholarship offer.

"I was a little shocked, just in awe," said McKinley, who was offered by LSU defensive backs coach Corey Raymond. "I'm honored to receive the offer, especially this early. It's a blessing.

"[Raymond] said I fit into what they were trying to do, and they're trying to get their 2018 class going. I liked how he was open with me."

At 5'9" and 165 pounds, McKinley still has some growing to do, but instinctively he has the mind of a veteran shutdown cornerback. Part of that comes from his father, Verone McKinley Jr., who played in the secondary at Texas Tech from 1992-95.

The elder McKinley is a defensive backs coach at Prestonwood and gets the chance to work with his son daily. He's watched his son grow into an athlete worthy of having one of the premier SEC programs be the first school to offer.

"I've always told him from an earlier age that you've got to have fundamentals and technique," McKinley said of his son. "What he's grasped is being a smart football player. With him only being a freshman, his football IQ is on the level of a high school senior. I've always been a stickler on technique and football IQ."

When the younger McKinley isn't working with his father, he's doing training sessions with either George Adams or Clay Mack, two athletes who have extensive football backgrounds. Adams, the father of LSU safety Jamal Adams, was a running back at Kentucky who went on to play for the New York Giants.

Mack, who played in the secondary at Mississippi State, is one of the co-founders of Quick Twitch Training, which specializes in improving overall technique, quickness, control and agility for skill-position players. In fact, minutes after McKinley received the LSU offer, he asked his father if he could attend a Quick Twitch session the same night.

"V3's skill set at cornerback rivals that of Jamal Adams' skill set at safety at that age," said Mack, who trained Jamal in high school. "Jamal was advanced as it related to the physical nature, instincts and paying attention to details, as his primary position was running back, which allowed him opportunities to think the play and the game through. My job was to structure what he and his father had instilled in him and add a true DB skill set.

"V3, on the other hand, has always had a craft element to his disposition. He's natural at adjusting to angles and reacting, and by V3 having a more slender build, he has had to learn how to adapt his game as he physically natured."

Perhaps, Mack said, this explains why McKinley's feet, hips and overall movement compare to so many defensive backs older than he. The offer is valued by McKinley, who not only respects the culture of the LSU secondary unit but also a player in Adams, someone he considers a big-brother figure.

"It's DBU," McKinley said. "I like what they do and how they put DBs in the league. Plus, I know I can drop some questions here and there to Jamal and know that he'll be there to help me perfect my craft. He's a very physical player, and he also covers well."

McKinley has had his share of accolades in his young career. In addition to being an Adidas Freshman All-American, he will also be one of only 44 athletes nationally to participate in the inaugural NFL Prep Academy, which will be held June 17-20 in Philadelphia. The program is a leadership development initiative recognizing some of the nation's top incoming sophomore athletes.

McKinley's father said his goal is "to be the No. 1 corner in the 2018 class" and that he has a blueprint for success. McKinley's hoping to receive several more offers in the near future. If he stays healthy, he's expected to be one of the most talked-about defensive prospects nationally in his class.

"He's phenomenal to train and [to] watch grow in his craft," Mack said. "He pushes the older guys to the max in our training sessions."

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles.

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