NCAA Football News

Texas Football: 5 Backups Critical to the Longhorns' Success in 2014

David Ash is inching closer to a return, but that doesn't lessen the need for the Longhorns to get both of their backups ready to contribute in a big way. And that's not the only position where Charlie Strong will have to lean on his bench.

Through and through, the Longhorns are solid at the skill positions and at linebacker. The spots are stocked with reliable starters and enough backups that Charlie Strong can handle an injury or a bad game.

The rest of the defense and the offensive line are somewhat less stout. The secondary has no depth and only one reliable starter, the defensive line has talent without any reinforcements, and the offensive line is replacing three starters.

Because these groups are thin on experience and/or talent, the top backup from each one will be absolutely critical to how Texas performs this season. With the exception of the quarterbacks, each of these five guys will have to play, and play well, every single week of the season.

Begin Slideshow

Home-and-Home College Football Series That Need to Happen

Six weeks from now, the 2014 college football season will kick off, and with it, a number of marquee nonconference games.

Games such as Michigan State-Oregon, LSU-Wisconsin, Clemson-Georgia, Florida State-Notre Dame, Texas-UCLA, Auburn-Kansas State and Notre Dame-Arizona State will be fascinating intersectional confrontations along with traditional rivalries such as Clemson-South Carolina, Notre Dame-Southern California, Notre Dame-Michigan, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Army-Navy.

With the new College Football Playoff, strong schedules are as important as ever, but realignment and the advent of the nine-game schedule have changed college football scheduling, breaking up some classic rivalries and making others difficult to fit into the schedule, especially on a regular basis.

Here is a look at some college football home-and-home series that need to happen to make the game a more interesting and engrossing experience for fans.

Begin Slideshow

Predicting Every ESPN College Game Day Stop for 2014 Season

Where in the world will Chris, Herbie and Coach Corso end up this season?

The games themselves are what get us most excited about college football every fall, but there's also the added drama each week that comes with finding out where ESPN will be sending its famous traveling pregame show, College GameDay. If a program like that is coming to campus, it must mean two things: it's a big game, and it's time to come strong with your sign-making game.

Most sites are chosen on a week-to-week basis, with ESPN gauging the importance of the matchups and other factors to determine where to send host Chris Fowler, analysts Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit and the massive crew that builds the set either somewhere on a college campus or to a nearby off-campus venue.

Because it's often based on the marquee matchups being played that week, it's not surprising that the usual suspects end up hosting on a regular basis, and some teams end up being featured in multiple games in the same season.

But some wild cards can pop up, too, such as last year when College GameDay went to Fargo, N.D. in September to spotlight two-time (and eventual three-time) FCS champion North Dakota State.

Using all of these factors, we've picked our spots for where College GameDay will head during the 2014 season. There are plenty of old standards on the schedule, as well as some first-time locales.

Read on to see where Washington State alumni will need to head to get their flag on national television each Saturday.

Begin Slideshow

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

Thanks to Tennessee coach Butch Jones' dogged pursuit of the nation's top players, the Volunteers are prominently on the minds of many who participated in The Opening last week.

Following the ESPNU on-air commitment of 5-star defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie to the Vols, UT now has three pledges who took part in the best-against-the-best camp. Several other prospects who were in Beaverton, Oregon, are in Jones' future plans.

Thanks to McKenzie's commitment in the midst of a dominating performance at the event, the Vols yet again have momentum to fill out a class with an extremely limited number of spots.

UT currently has 20 pledges in a 2015 recruiting class that is ranked seventh in the 247Sports composite. Now, it seems the biggest question facing Jones isn't whether the Vols will fill spots with stars, but if there is enough room for everybody who may jump into the fold.

Let's take a look at what The Opening did to enhance UT's recruiting efforts and re-evaluate the position the Vols now find themselves in with the targets who participated.

 

Top Targets

Because of the ripple effect of McKenzie's commitment, some star prospects who didn't have Tennessee on their periphery are now giving the Vols a closer look.

Case in point: The nation's No. 5 offensive tackle, Matthew Burrell, wasn't heavily considering UT prior to The Opening. He hooked up with McKenzie at the event, the two earned a mutual respect for one another, and they went at it during one-on-ones with UT's newest pledge handling him.

On Saturday, a couple of days after McKenzie's pledge, Burrell tweeted that he is going to reconsider the Vols, along with Virginia. Currently, Alabama and Ohio State are among the favorites to land him.

Elite players want to play with other elite players, and McKenzie's much-publicized performance could be a big boost to UT's recruiting efforts.

Getting in the thick of the race for Burrell would give UT another offensive tackle target on its board to go along with in-state lineman Drew Richmond. The Memphis product told BamaOnline's Charles Power (subscription required) that UT was one of the seven teams recruiting him the hardest.

McKenzie knows how big a need offensive tackle is for the Vols, and he already has begun to recruit Burrell as well as Richmond.

Some of Tennessee's top targets who showed out—such as Josh Sweat and Christian Kirk—may be long shots to sign with the Vols, but UT had plenty of more interested and attainable prospects participating.

In-state 4-star receiver Van Jefferson recently has received a flurry of 247Sports Crystal Ball projections for UT that have put the Vols in front of Ohio State as the favorite to land his verbal pledge.

247Sports' Josh Newberg (subscription required) said of Jefferson following the seven-on-seven pool play:

"Wide receiver Van Jefferson didn't get thrown to as often as others, but when he did he made it count. Nearly every catch Jefferson made went for a score, usually on a deep ball."

Jefferson told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) he hopes to decide by the end of the month after returning from trips to his other two finalists, Ohio State and Georgia.

If Tennessee can survive those two visits, it seems to be trending.

Another Opening participant who is close to deciding on his college destination is quick Georgia linebacker Quarte Sapp, a 6'1.5", 200-pound outside 'backer who has 93 percent of his Crystal Ball projections pointing toward Knoxville.

He told 247Sports' Luke Stampini (subscription required) he has two July visits scheduled to Texas A&M and Tennessee and plans to make a decision before his senior season.

Despite this whiff on Texas running back Soso Jamabo, Sapp participated in events all week at The Opening, which isn't normally the best setting for linebackers to shine.

The recruitment of quarterback/athlete Torrance Gibson continues to be an odd one, as he went from participating in the Elite 11 as a quarterback to moving over to receiver some at The Opening, according to 247Sports' JC Shurburtt (subscription required).

The Florida product is the nation's No. 2-ranked athlete and a 5-star player. He's also a unique talent who has the ability to play quarterback but is such a dynamic athlete that he can play several other spots as well.

Gibson announced via Twitter on Sunday that he'll commit to his school of choice on Oct. 20.

Though UT has two quarterback commits, Gibson told SB Nation last week the Vols not only want him but also are recruiting him as a signal-caller. It's going to be interesting watching how his recruitment plays out over the course of the next three months.

Other UT targets such as 5-star defensive tackle Tim Settle and 4-star running back Bryce Love also participated in The Opening, as well as UGA defensive back commit Rico McGraw, who told 247Sports' Barton Simmons (subscription required) he was "still exploring my options."

 

Tennessee's Commits

All three of the Vols' commitments who earned invitations to The Opening are firm in their pledges right now, but it's the newest Vol who is becoming the most vocal recruiter.

Much like Vic Wharton, Jalen Hurd and Todd Kelly Jr. last year and Jack Jones and Andrew Butcher this season, McKenzie is burning up social media to recruit for UT.

After barking in the direction of Burrell and Richmond, McKenzie responded to a tweet from Pulaski, Tennessee, cornerback Cameron Ordway that he's going to visit Florida State.

After McKenzie committed to UT on Thursday night by putting on his signature bucket hat (orange and white to match the occasion), fellow 5-star defensive tackle Shy Tuttle tweeted this. He's heavily considering the Vols along with North Carolina.

The impact McKenzie's pledge already has had on recruiting is incredible. He's simply one of those charismatic characters everybody gravitates toward, and he's a vocal presence on social media.

Couple that with the fact that his father, Reggie, is an NFL general manager, and that exposure and networking capability bodes well for UT's recruiting efforts.

Following a week where McKenzie dominated on his way to winning the Defensive Lineman MVP of the camp, all the buzz surrounding him becomes even louder across the recruiting nation.

Simmons told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription required) that even though McKenzie is already 247Sports' 10th-ranked player, he should move up in the next rankings:

"When we address the rankings, he will absolutely be in the discussion for moves up. I don't want to put a number on it or anything like that, but he helped himself, for sure, with his performance."

Not only is McKenzie's commitment supremely important on the field, it could pay immediate dividends on the recruiting trail.

Another UT commit who performed incredibly was 5-star receiver Preston Williams. Bleacher Report's Michael Felder said Williams put on a show and "showed that he's a dynamic pass-catcher that, in that Volunteers offense, is going to make big plays."

Here he is going up against 5-star cornerback Kevin Toliver.

Simmons told Callahan in the linked story from above that even though Williams ran a 4.6, he didn't expect the Lovejoy, Georgia, receiver to fall too much (if at all) from his No. 1 receiver ranking:

Heading into the week with Preston Williams being the number-one receiver in the country, I don't think we feel like we're wrong in that ranking. Other receivers were more productive, and I think we're going to have to have a discussion about who the number-one receiver is. But I think, when you talk about size and skill set, and just athletic ability, there's still no doubt that Preston Williams a freak. He is who we thought he was. He is that guy that we thought he was—just a different breed, a different specimen on the outside.

Simmons also discussed UT linebacker commit Cecil Cherry, who, despite some limitations in his lateral game, is a punishing interior linebacker who will be a big hitter on the next level.

Though some of the faster runners were difficult matchups for the 6'0", 230-pound linebacker, one of the plays of the week was when Cherry closed on running back Mike Weber and forced a fumble in one-on-one action.

Given their myriad needs all over the field even after a huge 2014 recruiting class, the Vols are swinging for the fences with some of the top prospects in the country.

Of course, UT won't finish with all of its top targets from The Opening. But if Jones can land a few of them to close the class, the Vols will finish once again ranked in the nation's top 10 classes. Most importantly, they'll be one step closer to competing on the field.

 

All recruiting rankings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports composite.

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

@Brad_Shepard

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ranking 5 Most Shocking Commitments so Far in Class of 2015

The 2015 recruiting cycle is moving along, and so far there have been several shocking commitments.

Analysts and fans of recruiting make predictions on where they think a recruit will go, but some prospects surprise everyone with their decisions.

An offensive tackle from Georgia was thought to be a lock to sign with an SEC team only to commit to a Pac-12 school. And a Big 12 school came out of virtually nowhere to snag a 4-star running back. 

Then there's the 4-star receiver who spurned the chance to be a legacy player at his hometown school.

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

Begin Slideshow

Grading Top Big Ten Recruits' Performances at the Opening 2014

Last week, we identified the top high school prospects at Nike's "The Opening" on whom the Big Ten had set its collective sights.  Now that the emerging premiere summer football camp for the nation's elite recruits is behind us, it's time to take a look back and see just how these recruits performed.

We'll be grading these Big Ten prospects on an A-F grading scale.  No, we won't be grading on a curve, so there are no guarantees here.  Each player will be graded on the merits of his performance at "The Opening," and we're pretty tough in our grading.

Although these members of the Class of 2015 are among the best players in the nation, suffice it to say that earning an "A" from us this early in the process means that the recruit is indeed living up to the hype and should perform—at a bare minimum—at or above his expected level come his collegiate years.

Note: All recruit rankings and star levels are from 247Sports.com, unless otherwise noted.

 

Begin Slideshow

10 Uncommitted College Football Recruits Sure to Stay in-State

Summer is in full swing, which means uncommitted recruits will see their recruitment only heat up even more. Some prospects will be looking to leave home to experience college life elsewhere.

However, several recruits appear to love the idea of staying inside their state to play within their native borders. A 4-star receiver from Florida is just about a lock to stay inside the Sunshine State for college while a 5-star defensive tackle will not even leave his city.

Plus, it'll be one of the Oklahoma schools for a powerful offensive lineman.

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

Begin Slideshow

Georgia Football: 5 Backups Critical to the Bulldogs' Success in 2014

There are many factors for a team to win a conference and a national title. The star players have to play at a high level consistently, the team has to remain relatively healthy, and luck has to be on their side.

But as good as the starters need to be, the backups have to be just as effective because they are only one play away from being part of the No. 1 group.

And that is no different for the Georgia Bulldogs. As much as they need players like Todd Gurley and Ramik Wilson to be at an all-star level, the reserve players will have to do their jobs and more to help the Bulldogs win the SEC.

Here are five backups critical to the Bulldogs' success in 2014.

Begin Slideshow

What Nick Marshall Can Learn from Johnny Manziel's SEC Media Days Experience

HOOVER, Alabama — Up until late Friday afternoon, SEC Media Days was lacking intrigue, drama and the circus-like atmosphere that typically litters the annual event at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall changed that in a hurry.

The rising senior signal-caller and Heisman Trophy candidate for the Tigers was cited Friday afternoon in Reynolds, Georgia, for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and having illegal tinting on his windows, according to Joel A. Erickson of AL.com.

Brandon Marcello of AL.com reported Sunday that Marshall was very regretful and "teary-eyed" during the incident.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn commented on the incident late Friday night.

"I am aware of the situation that happened earlier today with Nick. I'm very disappointed and I will address it with him accordingly," Malzahn said, according to Erickson.

"Addressing it" is a little more complicated than it would be for other players at other times, though, because Malzahn, Marshall, center Reese Dismukes and defensive lineman Gabe Wright are slated to be the first four people, other than commissioner Mike Slive, to make the rounds at SEC Media Days on Monday afternoon.

Does this storyline sound familiar? 

It's quite similar to the one former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel faced this time last year, when the then-reigning Heisman Trophy winner—fresh off his early departure from the Manning Passing Academy, where he "slept in"—turned the Wynfrey into a three-ring circus.

For the most part, Manziel handled that situation well.

He stuck to the party line that was built around his time in Thibodaux, Louisiana, at the camp, sold his story to the media and didn't shy away from tough questions—even comparing himself to NBA star LeBron James in the process.

Now, Marshall finds himself in a similar boat. No, he's not James, nor has he had the rock-star offseason that Manziel has, but he's the most high-profile quarterback at the event and he's playing for a team that is expected to be in the national-championship picture, just as Manziel was last year.

So, how should Marshall handle this?

He doesn't seek out the spotlight like Manziel did, but as the quarterback of the defending SEC champs, a Heisman candidate and a national title contender, the spotlight is going to seek him out. 

Because of that, Marshall should view it as an opportunity.

An opportunity to be a leader and face his critics head-on, several of whom will likely be looking for any reason to chastise him in columns, on radio and on television.

He shouldn't let them.

SEC Media Days has evolved into a made-for-television college football convention, and that exposure provides Marshall an opportunity to make fools of his critics before they make a fool out of him.

Own it. 

Apologize to the fans.

Take the heat.

Don't shy away from the spotlight, because if all goes according to his and Auburn's plan, he will see a lot more of it during the season—albeit in a slightly different and more pleasant way.

Being a leader and owning the moment will make those columns published Monday night and the radio fodder that follows seem silly and outlandish. 

Marshall should take advantage of the cards he dealt himself, not fold when the stakes are high.

In the process, he'd show his team that, even though it's the hunted now and not the hunter, he's still the cool customer who led Auburn to within 13 seconds of a national title before even playing in a spring game for the Tigers.

 

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


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jarran Reed Arrested: Latest Details, Mugshot and More on Alabama DL

Alabama defensive lineman Jarran Reed was arrested on charges of driving under the influence after a traffic stop early Sunday morning.    

Tuscaloosa police have confirmed the news, per AL.com's Michael Casagrande.

An incoming junior-college transfer, Reed had 0.13 percent blood alcohol content, well above Alabama's 0.08 percent threshold. Police pulled Reed over after he was spotted crashing into another vehicle in a parking lot and then attempting to leave the scene. He was then put through a field sobriety test before complying with the officer's request for a breathalyzer. 

WSFA 12 News provided a look at Reed's mugshot:

Tuscaloosa police are holding him on $1,000 unsecured bond, according to Casagrande.

Reed, one of the highest-touted JUCO transfers in the nation, committed to the Crimson Tide last December. He spent the 2013 season starring at East Mississippi Community College, where he made 66 tackles and 3.5 sacks en route to leading the Lions to the NJCAA championship.

Tuscaloosa is slated to be the latest in a series of fits and starts for the talented lineman. He has bounced from Chatham Hargrave Military Academy to East Mississippi Community College and nearly to Florida, where he'd signed previously in 2013 before being unable to fulfill transfer requirements.

247Sports' composite rankings had Reed 13th among junior-college transfers. He was ranked second among defensive tackles and was considered a 4-star recruit. Alabama had the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation by nearly every nationally recognized service.

It will be interesting to see how this arrest affects his status with the program. Neither head coach Nick Saban nor the university has released a statement on Reed's arrest as of publication. Alabama law states a person found guilty of his or her first DUI offense may face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,100. Reed's license will also be suspended for 90 days.

In 2013, cornerback Geno Smith was suspended for the Tide's season-opening win over Virginia Tech due to his DUI arrest. The suspension wound up being a precursor to a jettisoning out of the cornerback rotation, as Smith failed to make a significant impact after being slotted as a starting nickel corner.

Linebacker Dillon Lee, who was arrested for DUI in April, has not been handed a punishment. It's unclear if the team will take disciplinary action against the expectant starting linebacker.

Reed, who will be a defensive end in Saban's 3-4 scheme, was expected to battle for a starting spot this season. He made a start in the team's spring game and has been impressive since his arrival in January.

"Reed is a monster," linebacker Reggie Ragland told reporters in the spring. "If you see our practice and the way he handles the offensive line, Reed's going to be a big-time force this year."

Jonathan Allen and A'Shawn Robinson will provide formidable competition on the outside and are the most likely Week 1 starters at this point. The arrest will put Reed in a difficult spot—especially if it results in a suspension.

Reed is the second Alabama player arrested this month. Running back Kenyan Drake was booked on charges of obstructing government operations, though further details of his crime were not provided. Saban said he would handle the situation when "appropriate" in a statement sent to reporters

The team will likely take a similar stance in this case. While driving under the influence is a serious crime, allowing the legal process to play itself out is typically best for all parties. Alabama will open training camp next month.

We'll have to see if Reed's legal troubles affect his trajectory.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Former LSU Running Back Jeremy Hill Gets Large Tigers Tattoo on His Back

Jeremy Hill is now a member of the Cincinnati Bengals after being drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, but he clearly still has a strong connection to his roots.

Hill showed off his very LSU-themed back tattoo on his Twitter account. Not only can he be seen in his No. 33 LSU jersey, but there is also a tiger and a large backdrop of Tiger Stadium.

If you gone go hard why not go the hardest #inky#tigerstadium#maserati#donthateonthebrodiepic.twitter.com/uBgavoRjId

— Jeremy Hill (@JeremyHill33) July 13, 2014

You geaux, Jeremy.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Re-Evaluating Texas A&M's Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

Texas A&M had seven members of their 2015 recruiting class in attendance at the 2014 edition of The Opening along with a number of recruiting targets. Their performances against some of the top athletes in the country reaffirms that the Aggies are going to bring in one of the nation's elite recruiting classes.

The Aggies currently have the No. 2 ranked recruiting class in the nation, but recruiting in college football is more of an art than a science. You are trying to project what teenagers will look and play like in four to five years.

The rankings and evaluations of recruits are inexact, even by the coaches who are paid to do it. When you have an event like The Opening where a number of the top prospects in the country get together and compete with one another, it provides a bigger picture of where these recruits stack up against one another.

The Aggies have a core group of elite players in the 2015 class who performed very well on this big stage. They need to land some of their targets in order to bring in the type of talent needed to compete with Alabama and LSU on a yearly basis.

  

Top Targets

The Aggies have a nice class right now but still need to add some difference makers on the defensive side of the ball. A couple of the top players left on the Aggies' recruiting board showed well in Beaverton, Oregon.

Malik Jefferson blew the competition away with his athleticism and range in the 7-on-7 games. The 6'2", 225-pound outside linebacker turned in a 4.39 second time in the 40. That is elite speed for any position, but it is freakish for an athlete of his size.  

Jefferson continues to make his case to be one of the top five recruits in the nation. The Aggies are right in the mix along with Alabama and Texas for Jefferson's services. He is the No. 2 ranked player in the Lone Star state and is expected to wait until signing day to make his decision. 

Kendall Sheffield showed his elite speed in Oregon. The 5'11", 180-pound cornerback was solid in coverage against some of the top receivers in the nation. 

Some people consider Sheffield the top recruit in Texas. The Aggies appear to be in the driver's seat to gain a commit from one of the top cornerback recruits in the nation. 

Christian Kirk made the All-Opening team for his play at wide receiver. The 5'11", 180-pound receiver developed a nice chemistry with Aggie quarterback commit Kyler Murray. 

 

Texas A&M's Commits

The Aggies' verbal commits performed well at the opening. At this point, none of them appear to be wavering on their pledges to sign with the Aggies in February. 

The Aggies did not pick up any commits during the week, but having their targets in such close proximity with seven commits has to help their chances. A few of the Aggies' commits drew rave reviews for their play. 

Defensive tackle Daylon Mack and safety Justin Dunning both performed well in the testing and the competitions. Mack turned in a 40 time of 4.98 after weighing in at 330 pounds. Dunning measured in at 6'3.5" tall and ran a 4.59. 

Quarterback recruit Kyler Murray impressed with his play in 7-on-7. He continues to prove that he deserves his ranking as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the nation. 

The Aggies are going to sign one of the top recruiting classes in the nation in 2015. The performances by their current commits at The Opening just re-affirmed the quality of their class. 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Media Days 2014: Full Schedule, Live Stream, TV Info and Particpants

Major college conference media days mean one thing: Football season is close.

The Southeastern Conference has set its schedule for media days and participants. From the looks of the lists of players set to appear, fans and members of the media will get an opportunity to hear the thoughts of a few of the most prominent members of each program.

Here's a look at the schedule, viewing information and a list of participants, per SEC Sports.

 

What: SEC Football Media Days

When: July 14-17

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

Viewing Info: ESPNU, and live streamed on Watch ESPN.

 

Monday July, 14
Session I: 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive
Auburn - Gus Malzahn

Session II: 2:40 - 5:40 p.m.
Florida - Will Muschamp
Vanderbilt - Derek Mason

Tuesday, July 15
Session I: 9 a.m. - Noon
South Carolina - Steve Spurrier
Mississippi St - Dan Mullen

Session II: 1 - 4 p.m.
Texas A&M - Kevin Sumlin
Tennessee - Butch Jones

Wednesday, July 16
Session I: 9 a.m. - Noon
SEC Officials Steve Shaw & Justin Connolly
Missouri - Gary Pinkel

Session II: 1 - 4 p.m.
LSU - Les Miles
Arkansas - Bret Bielema

Thursday, July 17
Session I: 9 a.m. - Noon
Georgia - Mark Richt
Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze

Session II: Noon - 3 p.m.
Alabama - Nick Saban
Kentucky - Mark Stoops

 

It's good to see the players on the list, but this event is more about the coaches. It's especially about the guys who are taking over new roles. This season, there's only one rookie head coach in the SEC, and that's the Vanderbilt Commodores' Derrick Mason.

He leads the list of people that fans should look out for during the event.

 

The Commodore Project

Mason is taking over for James Franklin who had held the head coaching spot for Vanderbilt since 2011. Franklin has since moved on to Penn State to lead that program. Mason steps in looking to continue the program's momentum.

Franklin led the school to back-to-back nine win seasons. That was something that had never been done before in program history.

Mason's ability to motivate will be key for the transformation from the Franklin era. If the speech he gives at the beginning of this hype video is any indication, Mason could be entertaining at media day, and all season.

 

Heisman Candidates to Speak

Auburn's Nick Marshall, Alabama's Amari Cooper and Georgia's Todd Gurley are all scheduled to represent their programs at media day.

All three players are at least dark horse candidates for the Heisman Trophy. Cooper may lose votes to his teammate T.J. Yeldon, but he is arguably the best wide receiver in the nation.

Gurley seems primed for a huge season at Georgia, and coming off a dynamic 2013 campaign, Marshall seems more prepared to carry the load for Auburn.

This may sound like a crazy endorsement, but Marshall has the athleticism, work ethic and talent around him to have a big year. Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated stated:

Johnny Manziel. AJ McCarron. Aaron Murray. Zach Mettenberger. A host of last season's star SEC quarterbacks are set to enter the NFL, leaving many to suggest that the conference has no big names remaining at the position in 2014.

Don't sleep on Auburn's Nick Marshall.

He's right. If Marshall can improve upon his passing accuracy, continue to use his legs to make plays and mature as a leader, he can be in the Heisman conversation by midseason.

Cooper, Gurley and Marshall's interviews at media day will almost certainly center around their potential for the upcoming season. We might just hear someone set a goal, or make a statement we hearken back to during their Heisman Trophy acceptance speech.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Elite 11 2014: Ranking the Top 5 QBs Following Star-Studded Competition

The top high school quarterbacks in America tested their skills in Beaverton, Oregon, this week. Challenges at the Elite 11 finals and The Opening revealed plenty about each passer.

The collection included several committed standouts and a strong collection of California prospects. We were on the sidelines for all of the action at Nike's world headquarters and ranked the top five quarterbacks in attendance based on their performance and potential. 

Begin Slideshow

The Biggest Takeaways from Clemson's Recruits Performance at the Opening

Clemson represented well at Nike's The Opening camp this week, with four commits taking part in the week's activities. Each of the four performed well in their respective events and could see a jump in the next recruiting rankings. The Tigers had some potential targets at the camp as well.

 

Deon Cain Is an 'Elite Talent'

ESPN ranks Deon Cain as the No. 4 overall athlete, but the 4-star could be moved higher in the rankings. Per Bleacher Report's Michael Felder, Cain is an "elite talent" and could have an immediate impact for the Tigers.

Cain is a guy who could potentially get that jump to being regarded as a 5-star prospect by recruiting sites. He looked very good in the seven-on-seven tournament as well, according to ESPN's Tom VanHaaren.

This is a great sign for the Tigers, who signed four quality receivers in the 2014 recruiting cycle. No Sammy Watkins or Martavis Bryant? No problem for the Tigers, who look to be set at the position in the coming years.

 

Noah Green and Mitch Hyatt Present a Bright Future

Even better news for Clemson is the fact that Noah Green and Mitch Hyatt did well at the camp. The pair of offensive tackles, along with Jake Fruhmorgen, will give Clemson a solid signing class at this position.

Per Jamie Newberg of Scout.com (subscription required), Hyatt had "two terrific reps against Austin Bryant." He won both of those matchups with Bryant and also had good reps against Byron Cowart, one of the nation's top defensive linemen.

ElevenWarriors.com recruiting director Jeremy Birmingham took to Twitter to show the level of respect for Hyatt from Josh Sweat, a top defensive lineman.

Scout.com's Greg Powers added that Green was able to hold off Rasheem Green, another big-time defensive lineman.

All of this is good news for the Tigers, who enter 2014 with some question marks about the overall consistency of the offensive line. Green is likely to see a jump in the recruiting rankings, as he is a 3-star prospect by Scout right now.

Hyatt, the nation's No. 2-rated offensive tackle on Scout.com, is less likely to see a jump in the rankings, but he definitely proved that he is worthy of the 5-star hype.

 

Chad Smith Is Underrated and a Guy Who Could Rise

Chad Smith is one of the guys the Tigers have committed who is a bit under the radar. He finished fourth in the SPARQ Championship—which tests athleticism through events such as vertical jumping and the 40-yard dash—with a score of 138.93.

ESPN's Jeremy Crabtree was impressed with Smith's performances during the week.

Smith is rated by Scout as the No. 51 overall outside linebacker, but the 3-star could be another guy who jumps up the rankings to a 4-star rating before signing day.

 

Other Potential Targets

Other Clemson targets who were participating at the camp were Tim Settle, Ray-Ray McCloud, George Campbell and Austin Bryant.

Settle decided to put recruiting to the side for now and focus on football, but Clemson should still feel solid about its chances.

B/R's Felder had good things to say about Campbell's performance at The Opening, saying he made "dynamic catches."

Also worth noting is that McCloud set a decision date for July 28 and will decide upon a list of schools that includes Clemson.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: 8 Best Recruits from the BCS Era

Elite defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie's commitment to Tennessee on July 10 was a huge get for the Volunteers, and he joins a long list of standout athletes who chose to spend their college careers in Knoxville.

Throughout most of his tenure as head coach of the Vols, Phillip Fulmer was widely regarded as a top-notch recruiter who pulled in elite talent to Rocky Top. In fact, he inked the No. 2-ranked class in 2002, the No. 4-ranked class in 2005 and the No. 3-ranked class in 2007, per Rivals. 

Lane Kiffin also managed to assemble classes that were highly ranked (but ultimately full of busts), landing the Vols at No. 10 in the 2009 team rankings. Derek Dooley salvaged much of the No. 9-ranked 2010 class after Kiffin's departure, but his classes slid down the rankings each year after that. 

Now that Butch Jones is working on his third class as head coach of the Volunteers and stocking it with talented players, it's time to take a look back at some of Tennessee's most elite recruits. These men established themselves at all three levels of the game: high school, college and professional. 

Begin Slideshow

Nick Marshall Reportedly Cited for Tinted Windows, Marijuana Possession

Nick Marshall was one of the biggest breakout stars in college football last season. His follow-up to that brilliant 2013 campaign has already hit its first snag.

Although the Auburn Tigers quarterback wasn't arrested, he was reportedly cited for tinted windows and marijuana possession equaling less than one ounce, per WSFA 12 News in Alabama, via Rick Karle of WBRC Fox6 in Birmingham:

Joel A. Erickson of AL.com has a few more details:

Marshall, the returning quarterback who was supposed to be part of Auburn's SEC Media Days contingent on Monday, was pulled over due to a possible window tinting violation at 12:45 p.m. on Highway 96 in Reynolds.

According to (Reynolds police chief Lonnie) Holder, the officer detected an odor of marijuana coming from the car, and upon search of the vehicle, police found "8-or-9" grams of marijuana, which is less than an ounce.

Marshall is due in court on Sept. 10 but will avoid that step if he pays the fines stemming from the two citations.

This isn't his first run-in with the law. In 2012, he was kicked off the Georgia football team after violating team rules, which ESPN.com's David Ching reported to be theft of money.

According to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, Marshall could be looking at a stiff punishment from Auburn:

Brandon Marcello of the Alabama Media Group pointed out that Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn has remained silent about Jonathon Mincy's June arrest for marijuana possession and wondered if the case will remain the same with this most recent incident:

On Monday, Marshall is supposed to speak at the SEC media day, which gives him a chance to clear the air a bit if he does step to the podium:

There's no question that Malzahn had high hopes for Marshall as Auburn looks to build on last year's BCS National Championship loss. The senior signal-caller threw for 1,976 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and ran for another 1,068 yards and 12 TDs last year.

With Tre Mason gone, even more pressure will be heaped on Marshall's shoulders in 2014.

Although these citations are relatively minor in nature, the drama they create off the field will undoubtedly make things a bit tougher for both Marshall and the Tigers as a whole.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Biggest Takeaways from USC's Recruits at The Opening

USC has been touted as Quarterback U and Linebacker U, but if The Opening is any indication, it may be building toward becoming Defensive Back U in the near future. 

Isaiah Langley announced his pledge to the Trojans this week, scoring another impressive recruiting victory for head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff for 2015. The 4-star cornerback and wide receiver from Foothill High School in Pleasanton, California, made it official on Tuesday. 

Langley detailed the process of his commitment to B/R's Tyler Donohue, telling him former Stanford standout and current Seattle Seahawks star Richard Sherman was in exclusive company as one of a limited few privy to Langley's decision ahead of time.  

Sherman's certainly not a bad associate for an up-and-coming defensive back. 

Langley was paired with 5-star cornerback and USC target Iman Marshall on Team Vapor Carbon. Marshall, a standout from perennial Southern California powerhouse Long Beach Poly, also has interest from Stanford, LSU and Notre Dame. 

But joining Team Vapor Carbon teammate Langley at USC, and reuniting with former prep teammate John "JuJu" Smith, just might give the Trojans the Pac-12's version of the no-fly zone. 

USC is also in play for 4-star safety Marvell Tell. Tell posted an impressive 125.16 SPARQ score, 16th-best overall among all participants at The Opening.

A local product out of Encino's Crespi High School, Tell has both USC and UCLA in his top three, per Erik C. Anderson of The OregonianTexas A&M rounds out his leading suitors. 

One highlight from USC's impressive triad of defensive back recruits was a Marshall interception of UCLA-committed 5-star quarterback Josh Rosen—a sight Trojans fans certainly wouldn't mind seeing in the future.

 

Painting the Town Cardinal and Gold  

Ricky Town, the Trojans' 5-star prospect from St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura, California, finished No. 8 in the Elite 11 quarterback competition. 

But Town wowed in seven-on-seven action, including a stretch of six straight touchdown passes on Thursday. As Scout.com's Scott Kennedy notes, one of Town's touchdown strikes went to 4-star running back Soso Jamabo. The Trojans extended an offer to Jamabo last month, per USCFootball.com's Ryan Abraham.  

 B/R's Michael Felder touted Town's "great accuracy." 

 

Chuma Edoga makes Final 5

Offensive tackle Chuma Edoga, the Trojans' other committed 5-star prospect in the 2015 class, added another impressive five to his resume. He ranked in The Opening's Final 5 for top offensive linemen on both Wednesday and Thursday. 

USC offensive line coach Tim Drevno has an NFL background, having previously worked with the San Francisco 49ers. Edoga told NFL.com's Bryan Fischer he recognized those credentials, which helped in the Powder Springs, Georgia, prospect's decision to become a Trojan: 

That was a big factor, just knowing that USC always puts tackles in the league. That was a big part of the pitch from coach Sarkisian and coach Drevno. It's great to know they have the most players in the NFL and if you go to USC, you're going to make it to the NFL most likely.

 

Recruiting news and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State Football: Biggest Takeaways from FSU's Recruits at the Opening

The Opening may be the best indication that the future looks very bright for the Florida State football team.

FSU's verbal commitments and a number of prospects that are considering the Seminoles were among the standouts at the four-day showcase event, which wrapped up on Thursday in Oregon.

Derwin James, a 5-star safety who has verbally committed to FSU, was named to the all-tournament team for the second straight year, according to  247Sports' Josh Newberg.

"Derwin James has been the most impressive performer at every camp or tournament he's attended in the last two years," Newberg said. "James simply plays at a higher level than everyone else."

A 4-star cornerback, Tarvarus McFadden, also made the all-tournament team, Newberg said. The 247Sports Crystal Ball predicts McFadden will choose FSU.

McFadden was "seemingly a regular returning interceptions" at the Opening, writes 247Sports' Barton Simmons. While he has not made a verbal commitment, McFadden is leaning toward FSU, writes 247Sports' Chris Nee and Newberg (subscription required).

"McFadden has a special size/speed combo," Newberg said. "He's a Richard Sherman type player with big time potential on the next level."

Here are a few takeaways from the FSU prospects at The Opening:

Derwin James can make immediate impact

FSU will start a pair of juniors at corner in 2014 in Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams. If one or both choose to leave early for the NFL, it's possible that safety Jalen Ramsey moves to corner. And that would open up a spot for James to start in 2015 as a true freshman.

At 6'2'' and 200 pounds, James has the size and physicality. He's fast (4.5 in the 40 in SPARQ testing), an aggressive tackler and should excel in both run support and pass coverage.

"He's faster, stronger and more instinctual than anyone else on the field," Newberg said. "It comes easy for him. Couple his instincts with his speed and you have a game-changer at safety."

 

FSU stocking up on QBs for future

Jameis Winston is eligible to declare for the NFL draft. While his father, Antonor Winston, told AL.com that he would play two more years at FSU, Winston would pass up millions if he stayed in Tallahassee in 2015. If he leaves after the 2014 season, the FSU quarterback competition could be wide open.

FSU has a verbal commitment from De'Andre Johnson, who Newberg said was listening and learning from the coaches in Oregon.

"Johnson was very inquisitive," Newberg said. "He could frequently be seen talking to Trent Dilfer or George Whitfield in-between drills. He was soaking all the coaching in like a sponge."

Johnson also displayed a quick release and touch, Simmons wrote.

FSU is also pursuing Deondre Francois, a 4-star quarterback who is leaning heavily toward the Seminoles in the 247Sports Crystal Ball. Francois is not concerned by programs that already have quarterback commitments, Nee and Newberg wrote.

"Francois has a strong arm and improved his accuracy, compared to other tournaments I've seen him in throughout the summer," Newberg said. "He had a great week."

 

Sweat likely won't visit FSU until fall

The nation's top defensive end, Josh Sweat, told Nee and Newberg (subscription required) that he would like to enroll early. So the big question? Where?

Sweat has visited Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Ohio State and Georgia this summer. He has not scheduled his official visits for the fall yet, but FSU remains in the mix for a player that 247Sports considers the top prospect in the nation.

He told 247Sports (subscription required) that two schools he would also like to make official visits to are Clemson and FSU. Both could happen in the fall.

"I do not expect him to visit (FSU) this summer," Newberg said. "His timeline will be sped up a bit due to his early enrollment. FSU will get its shot this fall and try to make the most of it."

 

FSU is making a run at Ridley

Calvin Ridley is an Alabama commitment. But Ridley, a 4-star receiver, will make a visit to FSU this summer, Newberg said.

The 6'2", 170-pound Ridley doesn't have elite speed but is a smooth receiver, Newberg writes.

"His visit to FSU this summer is a must if the 'Noles are going to flip him," Newberg said. "If something is to change, it will start with this upcoming visit."

 

All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. Results from the Opening courtesy of Student Sports

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The Biggest Takeaways from Notre Dame Recruits' Performances at the Opening

The marquee event of the summer recruiting season is over, with The Opening in the rearview mirror after three days of SPARQ (speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness) testing, Elite 11 quarterbacking and seven-on-seven touch football at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. 

For college football fans following recruiting, The Opening gave us a rare apples-to-apples comparison of some of the nation's top recruits.

With NFL combine-like testing, live drills and reps for linemen, and a seven-on-seven tournament between teams with ridiculous names like Vapor Carbon, Fly Rush and Apocalypse, the event may be a tribute to the Swoosh, but it's a great look at recruits who will be some of the best players of tomorrow in college football.

For Notre Dame fans, The Opening gave us a first true look at commitments Shaun Crawford, Tristen Hoge, C.J. Sanders and Jerry Tillery. And all four more than held their own among the country's elite.

Let's take a closer look at how the camp went for not just the four Irish commitments, but a few key recruits still taking a long, hard look at Notre Dame. 

 

Shaun Crawford

The diminutive cornerback recruit showed the athleticism and speed that he displayed to the local South Bend, Indiana, media at the Irish Invasion camp, backing up that performance with elite testing numbers and solid play during the seven-on-seven tournament.

Crawford measured in at 5'8.5" and 170 pounds but dazzled with an impressive 4.48 40-yard dash and a 3.94 shuttle time. The latter was good for a top-five rating in the camp, with fellow Irish recruit Sanders leading the camp with a ridiculous 3.80 time. 

Crawford and Sanders played on the same team in the seven-on-seven tournament, with Crawford pitching in interceptions while Sanders scored a few clutch touchdowns. It's hard to think of a recruiting class where Notre Dame found speed and agility like this on both sides of the ball, but both undersized recruits (Sanders is 5'9", 177 lbs) will look very good on the FieldTurf inside Notre Dame Stadium in the near future. 

 

Tristen Hoge

Few can question Hoge's commitment to Notre Dame, with the interior offensive lineman among the ringleaders of the Irish recruiting class. But as B/R's Michael Felder discusses, the Irish might also have the best center in the country.

Hoge checked in at 6'4.5" and 291 pounds, running a more than respectable 5.15 40-yard dash. He's one of the better-put-together offensive linemen at the event and looks ready to play at the college level already. 

Hoge won't be needed with Nick Martin and Matt Hegarty both eligible for a fifth year, but Notre Dame's staff identified Hoge early as a priority target on the offensive line and his performance in Oregon cemented that reputation. 

 

C.J. Sanders

We already spent Wednesday raving about Sanders and his future in the slot for the Irish, and his speed and athleticism will be keys to getting him on the field early. Notre Dame fans weren't the only ones who noticed Sanders' impressive SPARQ combine, with Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman putting Sanders on his blue-chip Freaks list in the class of 2015: 

The Notre Dame commit got a lot of ND fans pumped when word spread of him clocking a 4.31 40 and vertical jumping 45 inches. Maybe even more impressive, though, was his shuttle time of 3.80.

Sanders also has quite the background. He's the son of former Ohio State WR Chris Sanders and was actually the actor who portrayed a young Ray Charles in the hit movie ‘Ray’ that starred Jamie Foxx. He's also appeared in a bunch of TV shows, including ‘Grey's Anatomy’ and ‘Six Feet Under.’

Sanders' acting career is behind him for now, with football the focus as he prepares for his senior season at Notre Dame high school in Sherman Oaks, California. It's also worth noting that even though Sanders has a connection to Ohio State, he's sticking with his decision to play for the Irish, with Notre Dame fans expecting another late push from Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer

 

Jerry Tillery

Tillery showed impressive athleticism in Oregon, finishing second among offensive linemen in overall SPARQ testing—a nice bit of work for the Louisiana native who checked in ready-made 6'5.5" and 317 pounds. 

Probably just as important, Tillery did his best to debunk rumors that had him giving LSU another look. 

"I wouldn't read too much into that," Tillery told 247Sports.com's Tom Loy. "You can't believe the hype. I'm committed to Notre Dame." 

Still, Tillery will take his official visits, making it clear that Notre Dame won't stop recruiting the blue-chipper until he's on campus as an early enrollee or signed the first Wednesday of February. But Tillery is worth the effort, with 247Sports.com pegging him as the third-best prospect in Louisiana and the No. 78 overall recruit in the country.

 

Still Considering Notre Dame

In addition to the four prospects currently committed, Notre Dame got good news from a few top targets who are planning on visiting South Bend this fall for an official visit.

According to 247Sports.com, the following elite prospects are lining up official visits to Notre Dame.    

  • 5-Star cornerback Iman Marshall
  • 5-Star defensive end Byron Cowart
  • 5-Star defensive end Keisean Lucier-South
  • 4-Star outside linebacker/defensive end Porter Gustin
  • 4-Star running back Soso Jamabo
  • 4-Star defensive end Austin Bryant 

Notre Dame might have also received help in its recruitment of linebacker Tevon Coney, who also camped at The Opening.

With the quest for Coney's services looking like a two-horse race between Notre Dame and Florida, the Gators landing linebacker Jerome Baker on Friday, per 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong, might have made Coney's decision to pick the Irish even easier now that Florida has one fewer spot to fill.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages