NCAA Football News

Every SEC Team's Best 2016 Heisman Candidate

Derrick Henry got the SEC back on the board in a big way last year when he rushed for a conference-record 2,219 yards and became just the third running back this century to take home the Heisman Trophy.

Can the SEC make it two in a row?

Despite Henry, former Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott and others leaving, the conference is loaded with talented players who could make a run at college football's most prestigious individual award.

Who's the best candidate for each team? Our picks based on production, potential and voting trends are in this slideshow.

 

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Every Big Ten Team's Best 2016 Heisman Candidate

The start of the 2016 college football season is still more than three months away, but no matter the time of year, fans are always paying attention to the race for the sport's most prestigious award.

And when it comes to the preseason outlook for the Heisman Trophy heading into the 2016 campaign, the Big Ten finds itself with no shortage of seemingly viable candidates.

From dual-threat quarterbacks to two-way jack-of-all-trades to some of college football's most dynamic playmakers, the conference is littered with players who possess the potential to wind up in New York City on the second Saturday of this December.

In fact, each Big Ten team could lay claim to at least one Heisman-caliber candidate, should the right set of circumstances fall into place for both player and team.

Whether because of position or skill set, some players, however, are more carved out for potential Heisman Trophy runs. With that in mind, let's take a look at the player on each Big Ten team with the best chance to find himself in the Heisman race in the coming season.

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Tennessee Football: Former Top Recruits Who Will Finally Shine in 2016

During the first three years of Tennessee football head coach Butch Jones' tenure, freshmen have been forced into action early and often.

So, to discuss the topic of former top recruiting prospects who will finally excel in 2016, you have to understand the definition of "finally." In the midst of a decade-long program malaise, Volunteers fans were hard-wired to think that if a prospect couldn't come in and play immediately, he must not be that great.

After all, the on-field product was so mediocre (or worse) that each year's incoming crop of recruits needed to be spectacular to change the tenor on Rocky Top.

Back in 2013, Jones' first year, for instance, he told the Associated Press' Steve Megargee the following when the season opener rolled around and three true freshmen started.

"Some of it was that is just where we are at with the program," Jones said. "It is what it is. Then some guys have done a great job. Freshmen develop differently. I think this was a very talented incoming freshman class."

As Jones built the program, stockpiling players, the need of freshmen to come in and play immediately has dwindled. Even so, UT still has seen more than its share of first-year players getting on the field over the last three years.

Also, at the level Tennessee is currently recruiting, if some of these guys don't come in and immediately set the SEC on fire, folks are wondering if they weren't overrated.

That's why you'll see a lot of second-year players on this list. At somewhere like Alabama or Ohio State—more established programs—not seeing the field during the freshman campaign is a good thing and not out of the ordinary at all. Once the Vols get there, the program will have arrived.

Let's take a look at some of the players who were highly touted by analysts coming out of high school and who should make an impact in '16, even if it is a little later than a lot of people projected.

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Ohio State Football: Former Top Recruits Who Will Finally Shine in 2016

Few coaches and programs can recruit at the consistently high level that Urban Meyer has reached at Ohio State, and with five consecutive top-seven recruiting classes, there's blue chip talent at every level of the Buckeyes depth chart.

That buried talent was hidden during the 2015 campaign, when 15 starters returned from a national title-winning team to fuel a 12-1 season. But 12 former Buckeyes were taken in the NFL draft earlier this month, highlighting the enormous rebuilding job Meyer has on his hands in Columbus.

Ohio State needs 14 new starters in total before kicking its 2016 season off against Bowling Green. The Buckeyes will turn to these four former recruiting stars to fill some of those holes.

 

Dontre Wilson, H-Back

He was supposed to be the next coming of Percy Harvin, but entering his fourth and final season with the Buckeyes, Dontre Wilson hasn't been able to live up to the enormous hype that came with him to Columbus.

That hype started to build for the former 4-star standout in his first summer with the Buckeyes, when his teammates went into fall camp raving about his playmaking ability, according to Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com.  But with Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller in the backfield, Ohio State used him mainly as a decoy, and he still managed to register 460 total yards and three touchdowns.

But three years later, that's still his best season statistically after being hampered by injuries. 

After seeing limited time a season ago, Wilson should be fully healthy and ready to contribute in an offense that desperately needs playmakers. He still has elite speed and an elusiveness that's an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses to contain in the second level. 

If Wilson is healthy, he could register big numbers with J.T. Barrett at quarterback, who likes to distribute the ball in the passing game. 

 

Marcus Baugh, Tight End

Ohio State's tight ends have been woefully underutilized in the passing attack, averaging a meager 15.8 receptions for 204.2 yards and 2.4 touchdowns per season over the last 10 years. 

Marcus Baugh, the former 4-star tight end out of Riverside, California, is desperately trying to change that. 

Baugh ran into some legal trouble early in his collegiate career and seemed on the verge of leaving the Ohio State football program.  He stuck behind Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett—both of whom were selected in the third round of the last two drafts—and now it's his turn to step into the starting role.

And with co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner calling more of the shots, Baugh could be seeing a lot more footballs being thrown his way. 

"There are a lot more throws headed [Baugh's] way," Warinner said after a recent spring practice, according to Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch

 

Dante Booker, Linebacker

Ohio State has generated two of the most athletic linebackers in recent memory in Ryan Shazier and Darron Lee. Both were first-round selections in their respective drafts, running 4.4 40-yard dashes at the NFL combine.

Dante Booker, a former 4-star stud out of Akron, Ohio, is ready to step in as the athletic freak of the linebacker unit. The 6'3", 233-pound outside linebacker will fill the spot vacated by Joshua Perry, but he'll bring an elite speed to that side of the field. 

"Dante’s a good athlete, man," starting middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan said, according to Tony Gerdeman of The Ozone. "When he gets on the field, he does some stuff that you all haven’t even seen yet in practice. It’s amazing. One of the fastest guys on defense regardless of position. He just brings that pop."

The Buckeyes could use that kind of disruptive force in the middle defensively as they work to replace three starters in both the defensive line and the secondary. 

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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For Alabama, Do Rewards of JUCO Transfers Outweigh Risks?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The one-line announcement was released via email and got straight to the point.

"Charles Baldwin has been dismissed from the program for a violation of team rules," read the statement from University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban on May 12.

With that, the Crimson Tide had their first departure from the recruiting class of 2016, before most of the other signed prospects had even arrived on campus. He was the latest boom-or-bust guy who didn't pan out, as Alabama hasn't had the greatest luck of late with junior college transfers.

Baldwin was an offensive tackle from ASA College in Brooklyn, New York, the same junior college where Alabama found former offensive lineman Leon Brown. At 6'5", 297 pounds, Baldwin was said to be a weight-room junkie and was set to be the program's first scholarship player from Connecticut, having played at Windsor High School.

"Charles Baldwin was probably at least the best junior college offensive tackle type that we could find, which we thought we were a little short in tackle types, especially guys that had experience," Saban said on national signing day. "We recruit junior college guys because we think he's going to be good enough to play, because they need to play. So then we need for him to play. So he has a lot of athleticism to him as well and can play with power."

Baldwin lasted just four months in "the process," Saban's self-titled development program, and was dismissed exactly two days after the deadline for all spring-semester grades to be submitted.

He didn't make the expected splash during spring workouts and did not challenge to be the starting right tackle as hoped. On A-Day, when players were split into two sides to play a game-like exhibition to close spring practices, Baldwin was a reserve for the White Team, which had the second-team offense (and first-team defense). In other words, he never moved up from the bottom of the depth chart.

Overall, Alabama has added one or two junior college players every year under Saban, although some have done little more than provide depth.

The obvious exception to that was Jarran Reed, a defensive lineman who had been D.J. Pettway's teammate at East Mississippi Community College. A month ago, he was a second-round selection in the NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

In almost any other year, he probably would have been a first-round pick, but Reed and A'Shawn Robinson were in a draft oversaturated with quality defensive linemen.

"[They're] really, really good players," Saban said on Alabama's pro day. "They played on one of the best defenses in the country, and they were both bell cows and great leaders and affected other guys on the team in a positive way, and I think they have tremendous size, tremendous ability. I think whoever gets them, wherever they get picked, they are going to have a great career."

Last year, of course, Alabama took a controversial chance on former Georgia defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor, only to have it backfire with a public-relations black eye.

Specifically, Taylor had been kicked off the Bulldogs following two arrests, one being domestic violence-related. After Taylor spent a season at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi, Saban decided to give him a second chance, but with some "stipulations," including that another incident wouldn't be tolerated.

On March 28, 2015, Taylor was arrested and again faced domestic violence charges. The next day, he was kicked off the team.

The woman who filed the complaint would recant her statement, and Taylor eventually reached an agreement with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal mischief.

Although the Southeastern Conference reacted by passing a rule preventing incoming transfers of student-athletes who have been previously disciplined for "serious misconduct" at a different school, Taylor is back in football. He attended Southeastern Louisiana last fall and is on its roster for the 2016 season.

"While we are aware of past controversies, Jonathan has not been found guilty for the incidents he was accused of that led to his dismissal from his prior institutions," the school said in a release when he enrolled, per ESPN.com's Nicole Noren.

Taylor was Alabama's only junior college addition in 2015. The year before, it had four, including Reed and Pettway, who had been kicked out of school in 2013 and worked his way back. All four players earned their degrees, with offensive tackle Dominick Jackson and tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith being the others.

However, prior to Reed, the last ones to be drafted were 2011 additions Quinton Dial and Jesse Williams, both defensive linemen.

In 2008 and 2009, Alabama had success with nose guard Terrence Cody, who became a two-time All-American (although he is currently serving a nine-month prison sentence for starving one of his dogs to death) and offensive tackle James Carpenter, a surprising first-round draft pick in 2011.

Alabama also recently recruited quarterback Chad Kelly, now the starter at Ole Miss, when he was at East Mississippi after Clemson kicked him off the team.

"We thought he was a really, really good player and we'd have loved to have him in the program," Saban said. "We weren't sure we were ready to recruit a junior college quarterback right then at that time, but we certainly recruited him and wanted him in our program and thought he was an outstanding player."

Yet for every success story, there seems to be the opposite due to numerous players who didn't work out for whatever reason. Sadly, Aaron Douglas has to be mentioned among them. The offensive tackle died from a drug overdose while at a party in Florida after finishing his first semester at the Capstone in 2011. (Numerous school officials and players attended his funeral. The Crimson Tide wore black stickers of his No. 77 on helmets, and his locker was left open that season.)

That year, wide receiver Duron Carter was on the roster for a while, but despite his enormous potential he never played a down for the Crimson Tide. Brandon Lewis, a defensive end who moved to tight end and played in seven games in 2010, walked away from football with a year of eligibility remaining after earning his degree.

In 2012, Alabama was so short-handed at cornerback that it brought in two junior college players. Travell Dixon, from Eastern Arizona College, was the player everyone thought might make an immediate impact. But things didn't work out in Tuscaloosa, and he instead landed at Washington. The other player was Deion Belue, who became a two-year starter.

In a perfect world, Alabama would almost never recruit a junior college player simply because it wouldn't need to or wouldn't have the necessary opening on the roster. But that's also unrealistic.

Not all prospects work out, junior college transfer or not. Coupled with injuries and attrition, holes in the depth chart develop.

Sometimes a junior college player transfer can be a quick fix or at least a sort of safety net. Other times the player is considered so good that a program like Alabama is willing to offer a second chance despite his previous actions.

Maybe it shouldn't, or at least think twice about doing so.

That said, every JUCO prospect has a unique story, and the rewards can be worth the risk. Williams, for example, was Australian and needed time to get used to the game.

In addition to Baldwin, Jamar King—a 6'5", 285-pound defensive lineman who didn't have it together academically while at Denby High School in Detroit—was in the recruiting class of 2016. He's the cousin of Tuscaloosa-based boxer Deontay Wilder, used to have a full-time job and at age 26 is the kind of guy one almost can't help root for as he follows his dream.

Last season, King had nine sacks while playing for Mendocino College in Ukiah, California, and was named the California Community College Athletic Association's Region II Defensive Player of the Year.

Moreover, according to 247Sports, Dodge City Community College linebacker Gary Johnson has committed for the class of 2017, while Alabama is also after City College of San Francisco offensive tackle Elliot Baker.

Maybe one of them will be the kind of diamond in the rough that makes going after some junior college players worthwhile.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Every Power 5 College Football Team's Most Intriguing Freshman

Recruiting classes don't always produce superstar freshmen, but there's never a shortage of intriguing prospects for college football teams.

In 2016, that attention-grabbing group includes several of the nation's top running backs and receivers. Defensive standouts and quarterbacks appear less often, but it's harder—not impossible—to emerge as a freshman at certain positions.

We've identified one signee to watch on each power-conference program's roster. Prospects covered are not necessarily the best recruits or even the players who will receive the most snaps next season.

Instead, these are talents we're most interested in tracking for a variety of reasons, including potential to make an immediate impact, versatility and uncertainty.

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Josh Rosen Comments on UCLA's Reported Apparel Deal with Under Armour

Following Tuesday's announcement that UCLA and Under Armour agreed to a massive shoe and apparel deal, Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen spoke out.  

In an Instagram post, the sophomore signal-caller scoffed at college athletes being considered amateurs while schools rake in millions:

It was first reported by CNBC Now on Tuesday that the 15-year, $280 million agreement between UCLA and Under Armour was the largest in college sports history.

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Most 'Clutch' College Football Head Coaches

A college football program wants its head coach to do a lot of things, but none are bigger than the ability to consistently win close games—the ones that can define a season and a championship push.

Those who aren't able to do that usually don't stick around for too long. Those who do become known as "clutch" coaches and some of the absolute best in the business.

A clutch head coach finds ways to get his team on the right side of the scoreboard in high-pressure situations. He knows when to make the big gamble or the safe call in order to leave the field with his head held high when the clock hits all zeroes.

In order to determine the most clutch head coaches in college football heading into the 2016 season, I added up the career records in one-score games for the game's established head men. While some of these decisions could include late touchdowns to make the games seem closer, total wins and winning percentage in games decided by eight or fewer points are good overall benchmarks for success in the clutch.

Here are a dozen of the best head coaches in those clutch situations, and they are listed with several of their most notable clutch wins, from close victories against ranked opponents and rivals to high-pressure championship games. 

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5 Powerhouse Programs off to a Slow Start on 2017 Recruiting Trail

The college football recruiting trail can prove to be a fickle matter for programs across America. Each cycle presents new challenges for coaching staffs, and the successes of past national signing days don't ensure a repeat performance the following February.

Now approaching the eight-month mark on our countdown toward signing day 2017, it certainly isn't time to push any panic button. Still, the impending arrival of summer presents a pivotal span for teams to mount momentum as classes continue to take shape.

There will be increased impetus on several squads that enter each season with high expectations but haven't yet managed to develop a groove on the 2017 recruiting trail. Here's a peek at five programs firmly focused on gaining ground in the months to come following predominantly uninspiring starts this cycle.

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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

Auburn is one of the few traditional powers without a quarterback currently committed in the 2017 cycle.

At one point, Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn and his staff held a pledge from 4-star quarterback Lowell Narcisse, who subsequently decommitted and eventually committed to LSU instead.

However, the Tigers appear to still be in the market for a signal-caller as they tendered 4-star Texas passer and current Notre Dame pledge Avery Davis last week.

According to Tom Loy of 247Sports, the dual-threat standout threw for 2,148 yards and 25 touchdowns while racking up another 873 yards and 13 scores on the ground.

As Loy detailed, Davis has been committed to the Irish since March.

However, given the ability he’s displayed in making plays with both his arm and legs, his skill set appears to be a perfect fit for Malzahn’s uptempo, high-octane offense.

Davis rates as the nation’s No. 8 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 231 player overall in the 2017 cycle.

While Davis appears to be solid with his pledge, things could get interesting if he decides to take visits.

If he does leave the door open, Auburn appears to have a situation that would present Davis with an opportunity to pilot an offense suited to his strengths. 

 

Virginia Tech Offers North Carolina Commit

North Carolina has gotten off to a fast start in the 2017 cycle thanks to its stellar work in landing the best prospects in its own backyard.

The top-rated prospect in North Carolina’s class is 4-star offensive lineman Jonah Melton, who has been committed to the Tar Heels since October 2015.

Last week, fellow ACC stalwart Virginia Tech tendered an offer to Melton.

Melton, who rates as the nation’s No. 15 offensive tackle and the No. 91 player overall in the 2017 cycle, is also the No. 2 player overall from the state of North Carolina.

While he appears to be solid in his pledge, the Hokies will continue to push for him in hopes of at least securing a visit from the talented offensive line prospect.

 

Oklahoma After New Jersey DT

If there’s one hole in Oklahoma's No. 2-rated 2017 recruiting class, it’s the fact that the Sooners have yet to land a pledge from a defensive lineman.

Sooners head coach Bob Stoops and his staff will look to add potential difference-makers at that position in the coming months. 

Last week, the Sooners offered 4-star defensive tackle Fred Hansard.

The New Jersey native rates as the nation’s No. 10 defensive tackle and the No. 144 player overall in the 2017 class.

Alabama, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Rutgers are among the other programs coming after the No. 3 overall prospect from the Garden State.

 

Big Ten Powers Offer 2018 DT

The rivalry between Big Ten titans Michigan and Ohio State often spills over to the recruiting trail.

Last week, both Midwest rivals offered 2018 defensive tackle Austin Fontaine.

The 6’2”, 318-pounder out of DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland has been rated as the nation’s No. 6 defensive tackle and the No. 28 player in the 2018 class by 247Sports.

The Buckeyes and the Wolverines join other programs such as Clemson, Georgia, Maryland, Penn State and Tennessee as schools who have offered Fontaine.

With his offer list certain to expand in the coming months, the race is on between both Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh to build a strong foundation with Fontaine moving forward.

 

Best of the Rest

2017

 

2018

 

2019

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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UCLA, Under Armour Reportedly Agree on 15-Year Shoe, Apparel Deal

Under Armour and UCLA are reportedly set to announce the largest apparel deal in the history of college sports with a 15-year, $280 million agreement.

Darren Rovell of ESPN.com first reported the news. Jessica Golden of CNBC confirmed the details of the contract.

It's a massive increase of $28 million from the previously reported high of $252 million over 15 years between Nike and Ohio State, according to the ESPN.com report. Nike and Texas were close behind that deal at 15 years for $250 million.

The UCLA deal equates to $18.67 million per year. For comparison, the second-ranked school when Texas inked its contract with Nike last October to jump-start the massive numbers was Michigan at between 10.1 and 10.9 million per year, as noted by Kurt Schwerman of Campus Insiders.

"We knew that we were well-positioned to cut a deal. Under Armour came at us hard," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero told David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times.

Under Armour founder Kevin Plank explained to Wharton that location played a key role: "This deal was about geography. It was important for us to plant our flag in L.A."

It also helps that UCLA is the most successful program in NCAA history. The Bruins have recorded 112 team titles across both men's and women's competition, based on the most recent figures from NCAA.org, giving them a slight edge over rival Stanford for the all-time mark.

Now the question will be whether UCLA, which had previously worked with Adidas, gets a new look as part of the agreement. Under Armour has become known for pushing the envelope with its designs since breaking into the college game.

The company will surely have no shortage of options, given the Bruins' already bold blue-and-gold color scheme, which should allow for some standout looks in the years ahead.

 

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Overlooked or Overrated? Ohio State Is College Football's Great Unknown in 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Between the loss of nearly a starting lineup's worth of NFL talent, but the return of arguably the Big Ten's best player and one of college football's winningest coaches, this much seems to be certain when it comes to Ohio State's outlook on the 2016 season: nothing's for certain.

Despite very little having changed for the Buckeyes between the mass exodus of talent that occurred at the end of the 2015 season and the dead period that is this point of the offseason, prognostications on Ohio State's upcoming campaign have seemingly varied by the day.

The latest public projection has painted a surprisingly bleak picture for the Buckeyes, with Las Vegas' Golden Nugget sportsbook (via Covers.com) setting Ohio State's regular-season over/under win total at a meek 8.5.

Unsurprisingly, according to at least one Las Vegas patron, the line on Buckeye regular-season wins has already moved to nine following last week's initial posting.

And with good reason: Even with five first-round picks, 12 total draft picks and 16 former starters having moved on from last year's team, winning eight or fewer games would be a massive disappointment for an Ohio State program that's averaged 11.5 regular-season wins and compiled an overall 50-4 record since Urban Meyer arrived in 2012.

"We certainly don't lower our standards just because a player moves on," Meyer said this offseason. "That's not what this place is all about."

The early predictions when it came to the Buckeyes seemed to agree with Meyer, even after it had been known the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Michael Thomas, Darron Lee and Eli Apple were headed to the NFL. As early as February and as recently as a week ago, OddsShark.com listed Ohio State as either a favorite or co-favorite to win college football's national title in 2016.

While some of that can be based on wanting to receive even money across the board, there's a reason the Buckeyes have been viewed highly by some sportsbooks throughout the offseason. Despite all Ohio State's losing, the Buckeyes bring back a third-year starting quarterback in J.T. Barrett, who appeared to return to his 2014 All-American form by 2015's end.

Of the ultra-competitive Big Ten East's other contenders—Michigan, Michigan State and even Penn State—none can say they even know who their starting signal-callers will be in 2016 at this point in the offseason.

Add in Meyer's recruiting prowess and track record of player development and there's certainly a strong case to be made that the road to the Big Ten title—and in turn, the College Football Playoff—will once again run through Columbus this season.

"There's a lot of momentum at Ohio State," Meyer said. "We can't lose it because we've lost some good players."

And yet for all the goodwill Meyer has seemed to have bought the Buckeyes in his time in Columbus, skeptics remain—even outside of the inexact science that are sportsbook odds. As early preseason Top 25s become more prominent, opinions appear to be even less bullish on the Buckeyes, given the uncertainty surrounding this year's roster.

According to a composite Top 25 compiled by Bleacher Report's Justin Ferguson, major media outlets have collectively pegged Ohio State as the nation's seventh-ranked team heading into 2016. That's two spots lower than Oklahoma, who the Buckeyes will play in the third week of the 2016 season, and three spots behind rival Michigan, which has seen the Jim Harbaugh hype train only gain steam in its second offseason.

Factor in road trips to Madison, Happy Valley and East Lansing on Ohio State's upcoming slate and maybe that initial 8.5 over/under total makes a little more sense.

"OU's going to be a real tough one. [Michigan State] on the road is no fun, and this may be the year Michigan finally takes back the Big Ten," Golden Nugget college football oddsmaker Aaron Kessler told ESPN.com's David Purdum. "Wisconsin and Penn State [on the road] are far from 'gimme' games."

And yet still, "I do expect some over money to come in on the Buckeyes," he added.

So which is it: Is Ohio State being overrated or overlooked in 2016?

While it seems to change daily, the answer likely remains somewhere in between.

This Buckeyes team is probably too talented to lose four regular-season games, but still possesses too many question marks to be considered a legitimate national title favorite. At this point, Meyer and his program have earned a level of required respect, but the amount of talent and experience Ohio State has lost should also be taken into consideration.

Then again, the last time the Buckeyes found themselves in a similar spot under Meyer came in 2014, with star quarterback Braxton Miller out for the year due to injury, first-round picks Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby off to the NFL, along with Carlos Hyde, Philly Brown and four-fifths of Ohio State's offensive line. Despite the uncertainty—and an early-season loss to Virginia Tech—the Buckeyes went on to capture the first College Football Playoff championship, proving an old cliche true in the process.

It's not where you start, but where you finish.

"Very similar to the 2014 team," Meyer said of his own outlook and expectations for Ohio State in 2016. "You saw a steady improvement. And obviously, it culminated in a pretty good finish."

 

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. Recruit rankings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

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SEC Football Q&A: Which Teams Have Legit College Football Playoff Hopes?

The New Year's Eve ratings debacle gave this year's College Football Playoff a sour taste, but what the new four-team tournament has done is dominate the national conversation during the month of November. 

No matter where you turn, everybody is talking about who's in, who's out and who has work left to do in order to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee.

In the SEC, that should be a loaded conversation in 2016.

Defending national champion Alabama deserves the right to be in that conversation regardless of roster attrition, one more step forward should bring Tennessee into the national picture and several other SEC teams could jump into it if chips fall their way.

Which teams are legit playoff hopefuls? That question and more are answered below.

 

OK, before everybody heads to the comments section to release internet rage on this list, let's be clear about what's being asked.

To me, a "legit" playoff shot means any team that has the talent to be that good, even if there are roster holes in the offseason and/or problems that, in years past, have prevented it from reaching that level.

With that said, let's divide them into two groups:

  • Ready to roll: Alabama, Tennessee, Ole Miss
  • Legit if improved: Florida, LSU, Georgia, Texas A&M, Auburn

The three that are ready to roll are obvious.

Alabama has earned the benefit of the doubt over the last two seasons in which it has claimed the SEC title and made the playoff in spite of massive roster uncertainty.

There are even more roster holes than normal on the offensive side of the ball this year, but one thing offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has done during his tenure in Tuscaloosa is prove that he can figure things out.

Tennessee brings pretty much everybody back, and if head coach Butch Jones can find a wide receiver to help quarterback Joshua Dobbs stretch the field deep, there's no reason why Tennessee can't exceed Las Vegas' predicted over/under win total of 10 and join the CFP discussion.

People are going to panic over the stars who left Ole Miss. I get that.

Quarterback Chad Kelly just pulled off the third-most prolific offensive season in SEC history (4,542 yards), the wide receiving corps is loaded with Quincy Adeboyejo, Damore'ea Stringfellow and a group of about six highly touted youngsters, and the defense has studs like linebacker DeMarquis Gates, safety Tony Conner, edge-rusher Marquis Haynes and lineman Breeland Speaks to help out.

The other teams have obvious issues.

For Florida, it's offensive line and quarterback (likely Luke Del Rio). Georgia, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M all have quarterback and passing-game issues as well, but have done a lot in the offseason to address them.

If some of those measures work or newcomers like Georgia's Jacob Eason or Auburn's John Franklin III make an early impact, those teams can put together the final pieces of their championship puzzles.

 

In the East, it absolutely is a three-team race.

As I wrote in last week's Q&A, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia are the only legit division contenders, but other teams—namely Vanderbilt...yes Vanderbilt—can certainly shake up that race with an upset or two.

In the West, it absolutely isn't a three-team race.

As stated above, Alabama and Ole Miss are in it, but LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn can make some noise.

LSU is the king of offseason hype this year thanks to the return of several defensive stars who were draft-eligible, junior running back Leonard Fournette and the presence of new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.

But none of those positives actually address the issue at LSU, which is an ultra-conservative offensive scheme that prevents the Tigers from opening things up if their defense lets them down and teams stack the box against Fournette.

That can change, though. Now, it hasn't changed much during Les Miles' tenure in Baton Rouge, but perhaps a scorching backside entering the season could change that and force LSU into a more vertical attack.

People want to knock Texas A&M for the departure of 5-star quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray. But Trevor Knight was one of the best graduate-transfer quarterbacks on the market, the Aggies are loaded at wide receiver and running back, new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will preach more physicality and the defense is stacked with stars like end Myles Garrett, tackle Daylon Mack and safety Armani Watts.

"They are afraid of Texas A&M making that next jump," defensive coordinator John Chavis said on TexAgs Radio this month, according to CoachingSearch.com (h/t Ron Higgins of NOLA.com). "We're going to make that jump."

Auburn's defensive front features playmakers like ends Carl Lawson and Marlon Davidson, as well as tackle Montravius Adams. Illinois graduate-transfer T.J. Neal and junior Tre' Williams should provide a solid one-two punch at linebacker in what's going to be a 4-2-5 defense more times than not.

Carlton Davis is a potential All-SEC-caliber corner, and "Rudy" Ford and Tray Matthews are veteran safeties who know the ropes. 

If Auburn can find something—anything—to take pressure off running back Jovon Robinson, it'll be fine.

 

This isn't the first time this question has popped up, and for the life of me—other than perhaps fallout from the Title IX lawsuit—I can't figure out why it's even being asked.

Butch Jones won five games during his first season in 2013 and has improved his record by two games in each of the last two seasons.

The Vols went 9-4 last year, finished second in the SEC East (which is where they were picked at media days before the season), were one 4th-and-14 play versus Florida away from playing in Atlanta and lost close games to East champion Florida, two College Football Playoff teams and Arkansas.

If consistent improvement out of a roster hole that nobody would wish on their worst enemy, upward momentum and the development of the best roster in the division heading into the season earn a coach—any coach—a spot on the "hot seat," there will be no more football coaches.

After all, who would want to get into a business that volatile?

Now, of course, a 3-9 debacle with said roster would likely call his job into question. But that's true of pretty much any coach in the SEC at this point given the high salaries and expectations the big boys have created in the conference.

But barring off-the-field issues that could complicate things, Jones is on one of the coolest seats in the conference outside of Tuscaloosa.

 

Georgia early enrollee Isaac Nauta is certainly one of the best tight end prospects to come into the SEC in recent memory, and he certainly can put up the type of season that Hunter Henry did at Arkansas in 2015 when the then-junior tight end caught 51 passes for 739 yards and three touchdowns.

Nauta, a 6'4", 237-pounder from Buford, Georgia, by way of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, is a matchup nightmare who has the speed to stretch the field deep on defensive backs and linebackers, and the size to be a weapon on critical third downs.

The question is, how will offensive coordinator Jim Chaney use him?

J.P. Holtz and Scott Orndoff were Pitt's third- and fourth-leading receivers last year under Chaney, respectively, and combined for 594 receiving yards.

Chaney himself helped Henry top the 500-yard mark as Arkansas' offensive coordinator during Henry's sophomore year in 2014, and Henry topped the 400-yard mark as a freshman under Chaney in 2013.

For Georgia, in a year in which there's a bit of uncertainty at wide receiver and quarterback, a reliable tight end certainly has a chance to be a focal point of the offense.

Who will that be, though?

Jeb Blazevich is a veteran who will likely be that "1A" target at tight end for Georgia early. But there's room for two tight ends at Georgia this year, so it would not surprise me at all if Nauta takes a similar path as Henry.

He'll put together a solid freshman season that might be overshadowed a bit and evolve into a superstar by his junior year.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Brad Kaaya Has Potential to Be 2017 NFL Draft's Top QB

Early projections from the 2017 NFL draft started popping up almost immediately after the conclusion of this year's version. And a few early favorites have emerged for the top pick in 2017.

Obviously the edge goes to quarterbacks, which has put Clemson's Deshaun Watson and Miami's Brad Kaaya near the top of most early draft boards. ESPN.com's Mel Kiper Jr., for example, ranks Kaaya No. 13 overall and second among quarterbacks behind Watson.

At this very early stage of the draft process, it's important to remember that these projections are based off a combination of what the player has accomplished to this point in his career and whether or not he's shown steady growth.

In 2016, for example, Carson Wentz was viewed as a developmental mid-round quarterback prior to the start of the season—partially due to a lack of experience—but he quickly ascended the rankings as he continued to produce at a high level and gave scouts a larger sample size to evaluate.

After all was said and done, he went No. 2 overall the Philadelphia Eagles.

On the flip side, Christian Hackenberg was hailed as a future top pick, but when his growth stalled, he ended up falling into the second round, where he was selected by the New York Jets. 

With this in mind, understand that neither Watson nor Kaaya is a first-round quarterback prospect right now. But if they continue their steady development, both quarterbacks have the potential to establish themselves as elite prospects over the course of the next 11 months. 

Last week, I dissected Watson's areas for improvement, and now it's time to give Kaaya the same treatment. 

When watching Kaaya during the 2016 season, focus on these two areas to see if he is demonstrating the growth necessary to live up to his preseason rankings.

 

Throwing the Deep Ball

A common criticism of Kaaya throughout the draft process will be his limited arm strength, but that is an oversimplification of the issue he faces.

Kaaya's arm strength compares reasonably well to that of Jared Goff, who was just selected No. 1 overall by the Los Angeles Rams. Like Goff, Kaaya clearly has the ability to make every throw on the field, but he needs to adjust his approach in certain areas to make up for the fact that he doesn't have elite zip on his ball. 

On this play against Florida State, Kaaya provides an excellent example of how his limited awareness on the field exacerbates the issues created by his modest arm strength.

Kaaya is throwing to Stacy Coley, one of his primary deep threats. While he completes the pass, Coley is forced to turn and backpedal to wait for the ball to arrive. A more appropriately placed ball would have led Coley down the field, giving him the ability to continue running for a likely touchdown.

While it can't be seen in the frame provided, the first mistake Kaaya makes is waiting too long to see that Coley has gained a step. Like many young quarterbacks, Kaaya is more comfortable throwing to the open man rather than recognizing the man who will be open in a step or two.

Since Kaaya waits until Coley has already run past the Seminoles defender, he then lacks the arm strength to lead Coley down the field.

A more experienced quarterback would recognize that Florida State's single-high free safety look ensures that Coley will be locked in man coverage if Kaaya leads him toward the sideline (which he eventually does). But what he doesn't recognize is that this defensive look also would have allowed for an earlier throw with very little risk of a turnover due to the lack of safety help over the top.

This was a common mistake by Kaaya during the 2015 season, but it's also an area that is easily fixed with more experience. Coley is one of the returning receivers for Miami this season, which will further help Kaaya's development as the two get on the same page and continue to develop their timing.

If Kaaya can improve his awareness and simply pull the trigger more quickly on these types of throws, he will make fewer attempts which give the appearance of a weak arm—even if his arm strength remains the same.

 

Performance Under Pressure

Another area for Kaaya to work on this season is his decision-making under pressure.

Kaaya's strong accuracy allows him to get away with a lot of questionable decisions under pressure at Miami, but he'll need to continue to develop in this area to succeed against NFL competition.

The play below shows Kaaya's tendency to feel pressure and rush the throw to simply get rid of the football. On this particular play against North Carolina, Kaaya appears to see the pass-rusher coming from his right side and unloads to the closest receiver, which ultimately results in an interception.

On this particular play, the frustration with Kaaya's decision is compounded by the fact that he had a wide-open receiver at the top of the screen in position to gain an easy first down. But in a rush to release the ball, Kaaya never looks in his direction.

This play also demonstrates Kaaya's issue with handling the constant pressure he faced due to shaky offensive line play at Miami.

Kaaya ultimately releases this ball in plenty of time, but North Carolina was consistently in the backfield during this game, and Kaaya likely saw the defensive end get a good jump off the snap and assumed he needed to make a quick decision.

Unfortunately, Kaaya's offensive line may not be significantly better in 2016.

But he will need to learn to overcome the line's shortcomings and not exacerbate the problem by feeling pressure when it isn't quite there yet.

 

Final Thoughts

This article may feel like too much negativity aimed at a top prospect—especially to Miami fans—but keep in mind the intent behind this piece. No prospect is perfect at this stage of NFL draft evaluation process. So it's important to understand what weaknesses a prospect is dealing with in order to best be able to interpret their growth throughout the season.

These are two areas of Kaaya's game in which he needs to continue to show development—and he's certainly capable of doing so during the 2016 season.

It's also worth noting that Kaaya doesn't have to be perfect in these areas to prove his NFL value. These are common issues for young quarterbacks, and NFL teams don't expect perfection.

If Kaaya shows steady growth this season, NFL teams will be comfortable investing an early pick in him in 2017 under the assumption that he can continue to learn in the NFL and eventually play at a high level in the league.

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Jimbo Fisher Comments on Potentially Coaching in NFL, Says He's Received Offers

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said last week he received interest from several NFL teams over the past two seasons, but he is not interested in leaving the Seminoles at the moment.  

According to Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post, Fisher described the offers as "decently serious" in an exclusive interview, but he has not deeply considered them:

I love college and I had opportunities to go to pro football as an assistant coach and as a coordinator and I’ve had inquiries as a head coach. ... It’s got to be the right organization at the right time and the right situation if you’re ever interested. 

[...]

But I love what we have going and if we can keep the same culture of what we’ve able to create and keep progressing forward in the things we want to do and give us everything we need to do to be successful … I’d love to be here forever and ever.

Fisher did go on to say that "you can’t ever say never" in the football coaching world.

Gridiron Now's Buddy Martin reaffirmed Fisher's status at Florida State in a separate interview published Sunday: 

Considering what Fisher has done during his time at the helm of Florida State, it is no surprise he would have suitors from the NFL.

Fisher is 64-19 in six seasons in Tallahassee, including an undefeated, national championship-winning campaign in 2013. The Seminoles have been in a New Year's Six bowl in each of the past four years, and the team won the ACC championship every season from 2012 to 2014.

Recruiting prowess is a key to the foundation Fisher has built. Florida State has finished with a top-three recruiting class in each of the past three seasons, per 247Sports' composite team rankings.

Per USA Today, Fisher was the fifth-highest-paid coach in college football last season, making a little over $5 million a year. If an NFL offer does ever pique Fisher's interest, he would have considerable leverage to receive an even heftier contract from Florida State.

 

Coaching statistics are courtesy of Sports-Reference.com. 

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Former Auburn Tigers Running Back Tommy Lorino Dies

The Auburn Tigers football family lost a former national champion Sunday when Tommy Lorino died, as Charles Goldberg of Auburn’s official website reported.

Lorino played for the Tigers from 1956 through 1958 as a running back, punter and defensive back, using his versatile skill set to help Auburn win the 1957 national championship and finish undefeated in 1958. He also played outfield for the school’s baseball team that won the SEC title in 1958.

Lorino led the country in rushing yards per carry in 1956 (8.44) and earned a spot in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. The Hall's website noted Lorino was also a college football official for 30 years and worked two national title games after his collegiate career at Auburn.

He played one season in the Canadian Football League as well.

Phillip Marshall of 247Sports said Lorino was back on Auburn’s campus in April when the school honored former captains before the A-Day game.

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James Conner Announces He Is in Remission from Hodgkin Lymphoma

Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner announced Monday his cancer is in remission.

Doctors diagnosed Conner with Hodgkin lymphoma in December.

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Malcolm Askew Tweets Top 10 Schools: Breaking Down 4-Star's Top Contenders

Impressive Alabama athlete Malcolm Askew has collected more than 50 scholarship offers during his football career at McAdory High School.

Following a lengthy evaluation of the recruiting scene that featured several campus visits, the 4-star prospect puts an in-state program atop his list of collegiate options. Askew unveiled a top-10 list Sunday afternoon with the Auburn Tigers sitting a stride ahead of other suitors:

Aside from naming Auburn his official leader, the 5'10 ½", 183-pound playmaker revealed another nine universities under consideration. This collection, listed in order of preference, includes Clemson, Ole Miss, TCU, Alabama, Florida, California, Oklahoma, Miami and Oregon.

Askew, who reports he holds 54 total offers, received his first from Georgia when he was a freshman. Now a rising senior, he's focused on finalizing plans well in advance of early enrollment at the university of his choice in January.

"I would like to make my decision real soon," Askew tweeted. "[These 10 schools] have recruited me and stayed in contact with me the most throughout this spring. These schools have shown the most love and I can see myself playing at each one of them. So, these 10 will be my focus moving forward."

Earlier this spring, he told B/R's Sanjay Kirpalani a decision could occur before his senior season.

"[I want to] decide between August and October,” Askew said in late March.

A two-way standout at McAdory, he's drawn interest as a receiver and defensive back.

Askew collected 85 tackles and six interceptions during the past two seasons, according to Tony Crumpton of TigerNet.com. He added 65 receptions, including 13 touchdown catches, during that span.

Ultimately, Askew's intentions are to line up on defense during the next phase of his playing career.

“I’m leaning more toward DB because of the longevity," he told Kirpalani. "Defensive players usually last longer playing the game in comparison to offensive players, and that’s why I’m leaning toward defense right now."

Auburn has long been entrenched as a top contender for his commitment. The Tigers coaching staff identified Askew as a premier in-state priority early and continues to sustain a strengthening relationship.

Top Auburn defensive assistants Kevin Steele and Wesley McGriff both attended his spring game earlier this month, according to Drew Champlin of AL.com.

"They stay in contact every day," Askew told Champlin. "Coach (Gus) Malzahn and I talk every other day and I can see myself there even if I wasn't playing football."

That's a strong statement for any athlete to make while assessing a possible collegiate landing spot. Like Auburn, Clemson has also been a mainstay in this recruitment.

He enjoyed a firsthand look at the team's ACC title run last fall when he traveled to campus for a pivotal game against Florida State.

"It was a big game for them and the atmosphere was great. Fans were loud the entire game and some of them actually knew who I was. My family and I really enjoyed the whole visit," Askew told B/R.

Again, rapport with the coaching staff is a key piece of this equation.

"They made it clear how much they want me to become a part of the program," he said. "Coach Dabo (Swinney) preaches about family there and every member of that staff is going to treat you like a son. Clemson has a great graduation rate and some of the best facilities in the country. There's a lot of good things going on there."

Ole Miss rounds out his top three, presenting another SEC opponent to overcome for another in-state suitor at Alabama. Crimson Tide coaches compared Askew to a current standout defensive back this spring.

"They say I remind them a lot of Eddie Jackson," he told Champlin. "They signed three corners [in 2016] so they aren't really looking to bring in corners. They say if I come there, they'd use me more as a safety."

Indications during his recruitment point toward a preference to play cornerback so this could be a sticking point that prevents Alabama from climbing much higher on Askew's list. However, Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was the first college coach to present Askew with an offer during his Georgia tenure and that carries clout.

TCU, one of the newest offers on his sheet, is a fast-rising contender worth monitoring moving forward.

"TCU is climbing up there now," he told Champlin, who also notes Askew may use an official visit with the Horned Frogs. "I've been talking to (secondary coach Paul Gonzales) a lot. He came to the (spring) game so that shows they have a lot of interest in me so I'm going to show a lot of interest in them."

With 10 teams still in the picture, expect upcoming visits to alter his outlook toward his variety of choices. Auburn remains the team to beat and, at this stage, it appears the Tigers could be quite difficult to catch.

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow Tyler via Twitter @TDsTake.

 

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B/R Recruiting Notebook: 5-Star CB Darnay Holmes Has 2 Official Visits in Mind

Recruiting for members of the 2017 college football class is beginning to see its turn of events. More athletes are setting their summer visit schedules, and a handful of players are finalizing official visits for the fall and winter seasons.

Here are the latest updates from some of the nation's top athletes in the 2017 class:

 

5-Star CB Holmes to Take 2 B1G Official Visits

Look for Big Ten country to host Calabasas, California, 5-star cornerback Darnay Holmes at least twice in the fall. Holmes told Bleacher Report that two of his official visits will be Ohio State and Michigan.

It's fitting that one of college football's most active rivalries will include a fight for the nation's No. 1 cornerback and No. 8 overall player in the 2017 class.

"Ohio State's been there for me. Michigan's in it now," Holmes said. "Ohio State is definitely my type of school. I've been there three times, and I always have a great time. I like how they produce NFL draft picks every year and the great things going on there. I also like the coaches and the great environment.

"Michigan's getting my best friend David Long up there. Coach [Jim] Harbaugh is a great guy; I'll talk to him here and there. Plus, I like what they're doing with Jordan Brand. I'm taking an official visit to see what they have going on there."

Holmes added he also may take an official visit to Miami, a school that's intrigued him for a few years.

"My cousin [Desean Holmes] said they have a great receiver coach [Ron Dugans]. Plus, the new head coach [Mark Richt] seems like a great guy," Holmes said. "Since I was a kid, I've always like the Ed Reed and Ray Lewis eras. Miami's a place I'm interested in seeing."

This summer, Holmes said he's looking at unofficial visits to Oregon and Washington. He also said he is considering attending a camp at Ohio State. Holmes will compete at The Opening in July in Beaverton, Oregon.

 

Two Primary Targets for New LSU Pledge Deculus

Cypress, Texas, 4-star offensive tackle Austin Deculus ended his recruiting process Friday evening by verbally committing to LSU over offers from Michigan, Tennessee and others. Deculus said he isn't wasting any time in trying to recruit elite uncommitted targets to join him in the 2017 class.

For the immediate future, Deculus said he has his eyes on recruiting two top-15 players in Marvin Wilson, the nation's top-ranked defensive tackle, and Cam Akers, the nation's No. 2 running back.

LSU moved into the top 10 of 247Sports' composite team recruiting rankings with the help of Deculus' commitment. The Tigers could make a huge jump in the rankings by landing either Wilson or Akers—or both.

"Having Marvin commit will put the two most dominant interior defensive linemen next to each other to feed off each other and destroy other teams," said Deculus, who hopes Wilson can team with LSU commit Tyler Shelvin, the nation's No. 2 defensive tackle.

"Cam is another freak of an offensive player, and having him run behind the holes me and Edward Ingram create would make those two players the pieces of the puzzle to build a legacy along with the past recruiting class."

 

4-Star Kelly-Powell Likes Michigan...and Others

Detroit 4-star defensive back Jaylen Kelly-Powell has heard that his college future ultimately runs through Ann Arbor, Michigan, and with the Michigan Wolverines. Kelly-Powell reconfirmed his recruitment status Sunday and asked for one simple request: When it comes to his recruiting process, never assume anything.

"Personally, I'm open to every school," Kelly-Powell said. "It's OK if that's what people think, but I'm going to tell you that I'm still open to every school...because I am."

Kelly-Powell, a safety who can cover like a shutdown cornerback, has made recent unofficial visits to Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Florida State, Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio State, USC and UCLA. Kelly-Powell said he doesn't have any major summer plans as of yet, but he would like to visit Oregon.

With 39 offers, Kelly-Powell said he's been chatting with coaches and weighing all options to see where he fits best. A place with a quality degree is important to him.

"There's no such thing as a bad education, but there is such a thing as an elite education," Kelly-Powell said. "I'm looking for a great education. I know that you can't play football forever, so I want to have a good degree to fall back on. I'm also looking for a place with good people and a good environment."

 

Visits Coming for Rising 3-Star CB Johnson

It's safe to say Fresno, California, 3-star cornerback Jaylon Johnson had a good day Sunday at The Opening Oakland. Johnson has nine reported offers, but his recruiting stock could rise after Sunday's performance.

Johnson has offers from USC, Oklahoma, Cal, Florida and other programs. He told Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani that he recently took an unofficial visit to USC but doesn't have any major plans for set visits yet.

"I am in the process of lining up some visits in the next few months," Johnson said. "I want to go to some of the out-of-state schools I'm interested in. I just don't know [the visits] yet."

Johnson told Kirpalani that, as a California athlete, he'd like to hear from Big 12 schools Baylor and TCU, as well as SEC power LSU. He's looking for a school that produces quality defensive backs each year.

The X-factor in his recruiting process, however, could be academics. He told Kirpalani that he wants to open up his own business, possibly a sports training facility.

Look for Johnson to not only focus on being a standout defensive back but to also continue to improve as a student-athlete. He has plans of giving his already respectable grade-point average an 11th-hour boost.

"At the moment, it's a 3.5," he said of his GPA. "I'm trying to get it to 3.8 by the end of the semester."

 

DeeJay Dallas to Miami...Who's Next?

With 4-star Brunswick, Georgia, athlete DeeJay Dallas' commitment to Miami on Saturday, the Hurricanes moved to No. 3 in 247Sports' composite team recruiting rankings. Miami holds a narrow lead over Alabama and is trailing Ohio State and Oklahoma.

The Hurricanes have 15 hard commitments and still have room to add elite-caliber players. Among the guys head coach Mark Richt is targeting are linebacker De'Andre Wilder, defensive end Jarez Parks and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy—all 4-star athletes.

Another 4-star player to keep an eye on is Fort Lauderdale, Florida, offensive tackle Kai-Leon Herbert. Per 247Sports' Crystal Ball projections Florida is believed to be a front-runner in the race for Herbert, but he recently spoke with Nate Adelson of 247Sports about Miami's program, which includes head coach Mark Richt and offensive line coach Stacy Searels, two coaches who have been recruiting Herbert.

"Coach Searels and Coach Richt say I'm wanted but also that I'm a priority for them," Herbert told Adelson. "They've communicated very clearly how big their need is at tackle. The job would be there for me to go at as soon as I would get on campus. Of course I need to earn it, they don't hand it off, but the opportunity exists to grab that starting spot."

Miami has nine offensive commits, four defensive pledges and two commits classified as athletes.

 

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

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Top 10 College Football Wide Receiver Duos for 2016

Several college football teams boast a superstar target, but a select group of programs will showcase one of the nation's best wide receiver duos.

Productivity is the key factor for inclusion. Power-conference teams may have a "better" tandem when discussing NFL prospects, but they may not put up numbers like small-school players.

Additionally, though a young receiver like Ole Miss' Van Jefferson has immense potential, that's not a focus, either. Each of the following duos are proven at the college level. Anticipated larger roles were considered, but only for established wideouts.

While most of the duos starred in 2015, a couple of programs are anticipating the return of players who were injured last year—and in one case, a standout transfer.

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