NCAA Football News

Michigan Football: Power Ranking Landing Spots for Every Undrafted Free Agent

Offensive linemen Taylor Lewan (first round, Tennessee) and Michael Schofield (third round, Denver) join receiver Jeremy Gallon (seventh round, New England) as selections in the 2014 NFL draft.

But six of their teammates are facing a more difficult path—pursuing dreams of playing professional football as free agents. Some have signed contracts while others are relying on tryouts to show their value to teams. 

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Bret Bielema Blaming Bobby Petrino for Arkansas' Lack of Talent Is a Bad Look

What's the quickest way for a head coach to lose his football team?

Divide it.

That's the fine line Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema is walking now, thanks to an appearance on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly, a statewide syndicated radio program, earlier this month.

The second-year head coach was asked toward the end of the interview (11:17 mark) how long it will take for Arkansas to get back to a competitive level in the SEC West again and placed part of the blame on his predecessors (via

I really thought, coming in, because of the guy that I was replacing, I thought we would have a plethora of quarterbacks, wide receivers and offensive skill and expected the defense to have certain things in place. That really wasn't the case. It's not a knock on our guys. For what we need to do offensively and defensively, there was not as much as I thought was going to be there.

But that's just the thing, it is a knock on the players brought into the program by former head coach Bobby Petrino and one-year replacement John L. Smith; more so a knock on Petrino because it's not a big assumption to connect the dots and tie Petrino—who's known for his offensive prowess—to the offensive skill players Bielema thought would be on campus.

Fans may think he's right, and Bielema may privately think that he inherited a mess. But that's where those thoughts should stay. Private.

How should starting quarterback Brandon Allen, who signed with Petrino in 2011, feel about his coach throwing him under the bus? He should be pretty upset about it, especially since his younger brother, Austin, and true freshman Rafe Peavey, both of whom were signed by Bielema's staff, couldn't beat him out for the job this spring.

How should wide receivers Demetrius Wilson and Keon Hatcher, both of whom were signed in 2012 as part of Petrino's last class, feel about it? Wilson is coming off an ACL injury that cost him all of the 2013 season, but both are expected to either start or be key contributors in the wide receiving corps this year.

What about Jonathan Williams, the 6'0", 223-pound junior running back who rushed for 900 yards and four touchdowns last season, providing a solid "1B" options to Alex Collins, who just so happens to be one of "Bielema's guys?"

If they're mad about their head coach throwing them under the bus, they should be.

This is a classic diversionary tactic by Bielema. It's an insurance policy. It's an attempt to control the narrative if Arkansas struggles this year and divert blame if things go south.

It also won't work. 

A lot of the players expected to make an impact this season for the Hogs on both sides of the ball are "Petrino guys" who kept their jobs despite position battles from younger players brought in by the new regime.

Of course, Bielema feels more loyalty to his guys because if they succeed, his fingerprints are more on the success than his predecessor's. But even if the cupboard was bare, that's not something he should say publicly. The only thing it could accomplish is divide the locker room, which will only lead to problems.


* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of, and all recruiting information is courtesy of For full audio of Bret Bielema's interview on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly, click here.


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Florida Football: Where Dante Fowler Landed on First 2015 NFL Draft Big Boards

With a handul of Florida Gators selected in the 2014 NFL draft, it's time to start looking ahead to those prospects eligible for the 2015 draft.

While that might feel like a decade from now, defensive end Dante Fowler has a chance to become the fourth Gator selected in the first round in the last three seasons.

Fowler is easily the top NFL prospect on the Gators roster right now and could be a high selection if he fulfills expectations this season.

It’s never too early to put together 2015 NFL draft big boards, and Fowler is receiving major props despite just two quick seasons at the college level.

Let’s break down Fowler’s draft stock and see how things are looking heading into his junior year. 

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Auburn Football: Breaking Down Reese Dismukes' Place on 2015 NFL Draft Boards

Heading into the 2013 season, it seemed unlikely Auburn would produce any first-round picks.

But after its surprise run to the BCS National Championship Game, the Tigers had not one, but two first-round picks called out last Thursday night in New York City.

No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson and Senior Bowl MVP Dee Ford were joined by Tre Mason and Jay Prosch in the later rounds of the draft to complete the foursome of former Tigers chosen by NFL squads in the seven-round extravaganza.

In this day and age of 24/7/365 scouting for future NFL talent, there are already mocks and big boards out for next year's NFL draft—months before a single snap of the 2014 college season.

The rapidly rising draft stocks of Robinson and Ford show how players outside of the early projections can make big moves in the eyes of scouts and general managers.

Auburn has a wealth of playmakers who could make similar moves from off the boards to first-round recognition, from quarterback Nick Marshall to running back Corey Grant to wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams.

The top Tiger on many early draft boards right now is center Reese Dismukes, who will start for Auburn for his fourth consecutive season this fall.

Dismukes arrived on the Plains as one of the top offensive line recruits in the 2011 recruiting class. The Spanish Fort, Alabama, native was the nation's No. 1 center, according to 247Sports' composite rankings, and the No. 1 player in the state in the Top247 rankings.

The early enrollee immediately made an impact on the Auburn depth chart, winning the starting job for the defending national champions and later becoming a Freshman All-American.

Dismukes was suspended for Auburn's 2012 season opener because of a public intoxication arrest, but he has stayed out of trouble since the incident to become a leader on Auburn's squad.

In the Tigers' championship-winning 2013 season, Dismukes was referred to as a "second quarterback" for Auburn's offense by his coaches and teammates.

"He's the glue," Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes told's Joel Erickson after Auburn's SEC Championship win last season. "He holds it all together. [He is] the finest leader I've ever had, tough, smart, fast, quick, strong, balanced, just one of the best football players I've ever been around."

Dismukes applied for feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory Board toward the end of the 2013 season, but the third-team All-American decided to return for a heavily hyped senior season after Auburn's close loss to Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game.

"We've just got to get back to work and just keep getting better just like this season," Dismukes said in the Auburn locker room shortly after the loss. "We have the same motto, everybody will be together and the goal will be to get better each and every day. Come back even better next year."

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn gave the highest praise to his returning starter during a visit with fans last week:

Like Auburn's entire team, Dismukes will open the 2014 season near the top of the rankings.

The fourth-year senior is currently projected as the No. 2 center in the 2015 draft class by both B/R's Matt Miller and Miller lists Dismukes as the best run-blocking interior lineman in the class.

No center was drafted before the second day of last weekend's draft, so Dismukes is not projected in any of the first-round mocks currently making the rounds on draft websites:

So when could Dismukes come off the board next May?

One could look toward another successful SEC center, Arkansas' Travis Swanson, who was drafted in the third round by the Detroit Lions. Like Dismukes, Swanson was a starter in the nation's toughest conference all four years of his college career and was a Rimington Award finalist in 2013.

However, a couple of disappointing performances at the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine caused Swanson to fall to the third round, behind second-round center Weston Richburg and early third-round center Marcus Martin.

Dismukes will start the season on many All-SEC teams and award watch lists, and a fourth year of strong play as the bedrock of Auburn's veteran offensive line could see him shoot up mock drafts in a fashion similar to former teammate Robinson.

If Dismukes can continue to lead Auburn's high-powered offense to another successful season and then keep up his hard work in the offseason, he could continue an Auburn tradition of top NFL offensive linemen by breaking into the top two rounds of next year's draft festivities in New York.


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

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Georgia Football: Realistic Expectations for the Bulldogs' 2014 Season

Believe it or not, we are a little more than three months away from the 2014 college football season kicking off.

The new recruits are ending their high school careers and they will soon arrive on college campus to join the veterans for preseason practice.

Until then, we can only speculate what will happen this upcoming season, and for the Georgia Bulldogs many things can and will happen. But whether it’s good or bad depends on how the players work on and off the field before the season begins.

With the players the Bulldogs have coming back on offense and defense, they have a shot of winning the SEC and a chance to play in the SEC Championship. Whether they do it or not will depend on Hutson Mason.

The Georgia Bulldogs lead the way in our Spring SEC East predictions.

— Southern Pigskin (@SouthernPigskin) April 15, 2014

The rising senior quarterback did a lot of good things last year and looked even better during the spring game. If he is healthy, and the offensive line can keep him upright, Mason will throw for 3,000-plus yards and 25 touchdowns.

But the key for him to be successful as well as the entire offense is the play of the line. They will miss three starters from last season, but the reserves have a ton of experience. John Theus, David Andrews and Kolton Houston will be the anchors for the group. However, they will need production from Mark Beard, Brandon Kublanow and Greg Pyke.

If there is one player that can make the offensive line better than they are, it’s one of the best running backs in the country, Todd Gurley.

After an injury-riddled 2010 season, Gurley is healthy and ready to run over and past SEC defenders. And if he can remain healthy, there is no reason he can’t rush for 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns.

The offense will be expected to score a lot of points this upcoming season. But that won’t matter if the defense can’t stop opponents.

One of the reasons the Bulldogs struggled on defense is the secondary gave up a lot of big plays. But with new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt at the helm the secondary is expected to be better.

But will they actually improve or will it be the same old song?

The spring game did not do the fans any favors as each secondary gave up over 250 passing yards. However, it was only spring and the players were still learning the system. With preseason practice right around the corner, the secondary should make strides, but players like Damian Swann and Tray Matthews will have to be leaders and show they have made strides from last year.

When it comes down to it, the defense does not have to be elite or even good for that matter. They just need to be better than what they showed last year, which should happen when the season is all said and done.

As far as a final record, the Bulldogs have the talent to win 10 games, possibly 11. And the schedule plays into their favor with home games against Clemson, Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia Tech. However, there are away dates with Missouri and South Carolina, which will be swing games for the Bulldogs.

The realistic goal for the Bulldogs is a nine-win season with a top-ranked offense and an average defense. Sounds like a typical Mark Richt season. But with that said, it’s also not out of the question to think they can win 10-11 games and win the SEC East.

The only thing that’s a guarantee is the Bulldogs will make things interesting, just like they do every year.


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Boise State: Who Is Replacing Every Former Bronco Taken in the 2014 NFL Draft

Three former Boise State Broncos heard their names called during the 2014 NFL Draft.

The highest picked Bronco was defensive end Demarcus Lawrence who was selected by the Dallas Cowboys as the second pick in the second-round.

Other drafted Boise State players were center Matt Paradis who went to the Denver Broncos in the sixth-round, and offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. who was picked by the Chicago Bears in the seventh-round.

These three big, talented players now leave an equally large hole on the roster back in Boise. Replacing each one of them will be a challenge, and it will take a special player or players to do the job.

Let's look at the most likely candidates who will attempt to fill the void these three future NFL players left behind at Boise State. 

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South Carolina Football: Who Is Replacing Gamecocks Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

The Gamecocks didn't have as many players go in the draft as anticipated, though South Carolina was home to the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Jadeveon Clowney

Original expectations had as many as five or six former Gamecocks being drafted. Yet only Clowney and wide receiver Bruce Ellington heard their names called at the draft. 

South Carolina did have a handful of players sign as undrafted free agents, and they will all try to make rosters in the NFL this fall. 

The Gamecocks do not have too many players to replace, which is a positive. Though replacing Clowney and Ellington as well as former standout quarterback Connor Shaw will not be easy. 

Here are the Gamecocks who will be replacing former South Carolina players taken in the 2014 NFL draft. 

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Breaking Down Where Denzel Perryman Landed on First 2015 NFL Draft Big Boards

The Miami Hurricanes recently had a lackluster weekend at Radio City Music Hall, seeing only three players get drafted and many others forced to sign free-agent contracts.

But during the 2015 NFL draft, Miami will have an excellent opportunity to see its six-year drought without a first-round pick end. At the forefront, of course, is senior middle linebacker Denzel Perryman.

Though his draft status will obviously be much clearer after the upcoming season, the 'Canes' defensive leader is already one of the top players in all of college football.

And after the program's disappointing 2014 edition of the draft, Perryman is on track to provide a much-needed addition for the pipeline from Miami to the NFL.


What Has He Accomplished at Miami?

A homegrown product, the Coral Gables High graduate arrived at "The U" as a 3-star recruit, according to 247Sports.

Perryman made an immediate impression on the Miami defense, appearing in all 12 games as a true freshman and making five starts. He tallied 69 tackles (6.5 for loss) and forced two fumbles en route to being named a freshman All-American.

One season later, the Hurricanes expected great things, as he would help replace NFL-bound Sean Spence. Instead, Perryman was subjected to the renowned sophomore struggle, missing three games before managing 64 tackles, two pass breakups and one interception.

As a junior, however, Perryman made significant strides toward reaching that elite production. He finished the 2013 campaign with 108 tackles (5.0 for loss, 1.5 sacks), three pass breakups and one forced fumbles.

In January, Susan Miller Degnan of The Miami Herald reported the first-team All-ACC linebacker received a third-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Ultimately, Perryman decided to stay at Miami to exhaust his eligibility, and he already made a lasting impression this spring by de-cleating teammate Gus Edwards.

After such a successful junior season and noteworthy start to his senior year, the 'Canes are already appreciative of their 2013 Defensive MVP electing to stick around for 2014.


What the Experts Are Saying

Darren Page of studied Perryman's performance against Florida and came away impressed, noting he saw "a wide array of skills that translate to the NFL."

He was impossible to block at the second level, using his hands to play off offensive linemen and free himself to make plays. His footwork was strong in coverage and he was quick to pick up on routes. ... If his showing against Florida is what we can come to expect from Denzel Perryman, he'll be the next Miami linebacker to earn himself a starting spot in the NFL.

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports told me Perryman is among his top five senior linebackers for 2015. Brugler continued:

He has a shorter stature but is thickly put together with a stout build. He's a heavy, violent striker with excellent take-on strength to quickly engage and shed. Displays accurate reads and uses his disciplined eyes to mirror the ball at the line of scrimmage. Love his motor, never takes plays off and shows leadership traits. Smart, with a passion for the game and the coaches rave about his football knowledge and effort on and off the field.

Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated made the linebacker his No. 10 pick in Mock Draft 1.0: "Even though he does not have ideal height (listed at 6-feet even)," Burke said, "Perryman is a three-down LB who aggressively pursues sideline-to-sideline."


Where Perryman Stands in the Draft

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller touts Perryman as the No. 1 draft-eligible inside linebacker and gives him the edge in three aspects of the position, including most NFL-ready.

"He's my top inside linebacker, but not a top-32 player," Miller said. "Really agile, lateral movement. Instincts are a plus versus the run. A bit light in his legs and rear, but as far as athletic middle linebackers go, he's up there. Size will get questioned."

Perryman tops the rankings at his position on CBS Sports, where Frank Cooney marks him as the 44th-best prospect and No. 2 ILB behind Georgia's Ramik Wilson.

The writers of early mock drafts will more than likely tell you the same thing: Don't read too much into them. They serve as a starting point that is certain to change over the next 12 months.

However, the mocks give a first look at some of the top names heading into 2014, and Perryman is included in most outlets.

Brugler lists Perryman as getting selected at the end of the first round, while he just misses the opening day, according to CBS Sports' Pete Prisco. On the other hand, Kipp Adams of 247Sports has the linebacker dropping further, being taken 58th overall.

Regardless, Perryman rests among the top prospects at his position, which is a comforting sign as of now. Of course, Seantrel Henderson and Stephen Morris were once in the same spot, but Perryman has a better body of work than both players.

Whereas Henderson was highly regarded—albeit solely on unreached All-American potential—and Morris unleashed a scorching finish to the 2012 season, Perryman has had respectable stretches of production each year.

If he continues to showcase his excellent sideline-to-sideline speed, ability to shed blocks and dependability in pass coverage, Perryman will solidify his value as an early-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, perhaps even as a first-day selection.


Unless otherwise noted, quotes obtained firsthand. Stats and awards courtesy of

Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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Scouting Report, Video Highlights and Predictions for 4-Star OL Sterling Jenkins

Sterling Jenkins is one of the top offensive line prospects in the country. The big man hasn't even scratched the surface of how good he can be, which is why the future looks bright for him.

Jenkins, who is from Pennsylvania, has a chance to develop into one of the best blockers to come out of the 2015 class. Penn State has already gotten a commitment from him, which has put the Big Ten on notice.

Jenkins' potential as a prospect warrants a closer look.

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Texas Football: Why Charlie Strong Is Perfect Guy to Fix Horns' NFL Draft Issue

Seventy-five years had passed since a Texas Longhorns name was not called during the NFL draft. That streak ended last weekend.

Texas had 10 players eligible for the 2014 NFL draft, two of those players were projected to be anywhere from third- to sixth-round picks. But the 32 NFL teams found 256 players more worthy of using up draft picks than what the Longhorns had to offer.

Breaking a 75-year-old streak is a milestone, but in the case of Texas football, this milestone is one to forget. The 2014 draft was a shocking reminder to all Texas fans—and the college football world for that matter—of how far the Longhorns have fallen from grace. 

Some people may be wondering how Texas football could be in this place. The University of Texas has tradition, money and support, and can access pretty much any number of tools needed to bring in the nation's top talent each year.

But the recent issues Texas football has faced does not have to do with state-of-the-art facilities or even signing the best recruiting classes. It has to do with the lack of player development that occurred throughout the final years of former head coach Mack Brown's career. 

Getting shut out of the 2014 draft could be described as rock bottom for the Longhorns and speaks volumes on the current state of Texas football. However, all hope is not lost for the future, especially with head coach Charlie Strong at the helm. 

Strong has a solid record of developing players into NFL talent, which is something Texas clearly needs. While Texas fans watched their Longhorns get passed over round after round, Louisville fans celebrated one of their team's best drafts in history with three former Cardinals names called during the first round and another in the third round.

All four draft picks were players Strong recruited while he was the head coach of Louisville.

Strong's draft success began well before 2014. During his seven seasons as defensive coordinator at Florida, Strong developed seven future first-round draft picks and 18 players who were picked in the third round or higher, according to his bio on

The key to Strong's success as an assistant and head coach lies in his ability to develop players, and a perfect example of his player development is former Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith.

The 6'3", 251-pound Georgia native was a 3-star quarterback prospect with only two scholarship offers coming out of high school: Florida and Louisville, according to

Smith never played a down at quarterback for the Cardinals. Instead, he moved to the defensive side of the ball, led the nation with 14.5 sacks in 2013 and finished his career as the American Athletic Conference's Defensive Player of the Year.

Smith was drafted No. 26 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend.

Using Smith as an example of Strong's player development is more relevant to Texas fans than what meets the eye.

He was a part of the 2010 recruiting class, which is the same class as former Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. Unlike underrated Smith, Jeffcoat was a consensus 5-star prospect and had offers from 16 NCAA Division I football programs, per 247Sports

The two defensive ends have very similar game-time experience, similar physiques and both finished their careers as their conference's defensive player of the year. But the biggest difference between Jeffcoat and Smith was the way they developed in college.

Strong took an underrated athlete and molded him into a first-round draft pick. Jeffcoat did not get the same direction at Texas. He missed multiple games due to various injuries and was a part of a rebuilding program that saw three different defensive coordinators and two different defensive line coaches during his four years in Austin.

Even after a stellar senior season, which helped him nab the Ted Hendricks Award and projected him anywhere between a third- and sixth-round draft pick by and, Jeffcoat was left as the headliner of the group of Longhorns whose names were never called during the 2014 NFL draft.

Jeffcoat not getting drafted was not something many—if not any—NFL draft "experts" predicted, but it happened. And it's fair to say part of the reason is due to a lack of player development.

Strong has a lot of work ahead of him, and a lot of players who need to be developed. And any Texas fans who are expecting a quick-fix solution in his debut season need to recalibrate those expectations.

When Strong replaced Brown, he inherited a roster packed full of former 4-star and 5-star athletes who may not have been properly developed since their arrival in Austin. One could argue there is not a single first-round-caliber NFL prospect on the current roster, which could mean that the 2015 NFL draft may not be much better than this year's.

But with time and the right assistant coaches around him, Strong will put an end to the complacent, lackadaisical mentality the Longhorns have shown in recent years and help return Texas to a football program stacked with athletes who play smashmouth football.


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Arkansas Football: Razorbacks Fare Well in 2014 NFL Draft

The Arkansas Razorbacks are a very respectable team when it comes to churning out NFL talent. Since 2000, the Hogs have had 45 players selected in the NFL draft.

There weren't a ton of expectations for Hogs being drafted this year. Arkansas figured to have two players who would be drafted in defensive end Chris Smith and center Travis Swanson. However, by the end of it all on Saturday, four Razorbacks heard their names called.

Smith and Swanson were taken as expected, but the big surprises came in the seventh round when kicker Zach Hocker and fullback Kiero Small were selected. For the Hogs to have four players drafted this year is a huge win for the program.

Not only will it help recruiting, but it also shows that despite a rough couple of years, there is talent on this team. 

The Razorbacks had as many players drafted as Auburn, Florida, Oregon, Oklahoma and Missouri, to name a few. The only SEC teams to have more players drafted than Arkansas were LSU (nine) and Alabama (eight). If you want to dive into the numbers even more, only 11 teams in the entire country had more players drafted than the Hogs.

Not bad for a team that went 3-9 and failed to win a conference game.

Now, let's shift gears and take a look at the four Hogs who were drafted, how they fit into their new teams and what their roles will be, whether that's starting or just trying to make the team.


C Travis Swanson, 3rd Round, 76th Overall by Detroit Lions

Ever since Bret Bielema took over the reins of the program, he's raved about Swanson. The Detroit Lions have Dominic Raiola starting at center right now, but he's 35. The Lions were looking for a future starter to take Raiola's place when he's gone, and Swanson was their guy with the 76th pick in the third round.

What the Lions get with Swanson is durability, a hard worker and a student of the game. He tied the record for most consecutive starts with 50. That was against SEC competition, where he was good enough to be a Rimington Trophy finalist in 2013.

That was something Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told Tim Twentyman of he loved about Swanson:

He's got a lot of starts against really good competition. That usually bodes well for guys early, gives those guys confidence when they get here, so that's definitely a factor.

As Twentyman also pointed out, in his last two years of starting, Swanson had a 90 percent blocking consistency grade, the highest of any active player in the country. 

He wasn't the strongest, fastest or most athletic O-lineman in the draft, but he has a high football IQ and gets the job done. Don't expect Swanson to start right away or maybe even for the first few years. The Lions will allow him to develop behind Raiola before Swanson takes over the job full time when Raiola's time in Detroit is over.


DE Chris Smith, 5th Round, 159th Overall by Jacksonville Jaguars

Let me be clear, I absolutely love this pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not only was it a great value pick getting Smith in the fifth round, but he could end up becoming a key contributor on a D-line that needs difference-makers.

There's a good chance that the Jags could use him as both a defensive end and an outside linebacker who rushes the passer from a standing position, as indicated by Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union:

Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said Smith stood out in the 1-on-1 drills at the Senior Bowl and will get looks at the Leo spot and outside linebacker.

Smith doesn't have ideal size for an NFL rush end, measuring in at 6'1", 266 pounds. However, he does have excellent speed and quickness for a guy his size, clocking a 4.66 40-yard dash time at the combine, per He also has long arms, which allow him to get leverage on blockers in running situations or get by them with his arsenal of moves.

His strength is an underrated aspect of his game. Smith bench-pressed 225 pounds 28 times, which is a very solid number. If he's going to make a real impact, though, Smith must get more consistent with his burst off the snap and learn to drop into coverage, something he rarely did in college.

Smith showed that he can be an impact pass-rusher, racking up 22 sacks in his last three years as a Hog. It's a safe bet that he'll make the team, but it could be awhile before he contributes on the field. 

Then again, if Smith makes the necessary improvements and stands out in camp and practices, he could make an impact this season.


FB Kiero Small, 7th Round, 227th Overall by Seattle Seahawks

Small's stature might be small at 5'8", but his game is anything but that. He's firmly built at 244 pounds and hits defenders with the force of a truck.

His blocking ability is at an NFL level for a fullback, which could be a big reason why the Seahawks selected him. The O-line was a big reason why Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams had such great years, but so was Small. 

Once the ball was snapped, he would immediately go and hit a defender to carve a path for the backs. Just take a look at this video. On almost every single play, Small makes a great block or a big hit:

He also has good hands and is surprisingly nimble in the open field with the ball. However, it is his blocking ability that I think will be the reason he makes the team. 

Seattle currently has two fullbacks on its roster with Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware. Small is stronger and can block better than both of them. If he goes into training camp and shows off his bone-crushing blocks and good hands, don't be surprised if Small not only makes the team, but also ends up starting.


K Zach Hocker, 7th Round, 228th Overall by Washington Redskins 

The most surprising Hog to be selected was Hocker. Despite there being a number of kickers rated ahead of him, the Redskins took the four-year starter who showed he can make the long kicks from 50-plus yards. 

Kickers who are consistent from over 40 and 50 yards out are a valuable asset in the NFL, and Hocker definitely fits that mold.

During his career at Arkansas, he hit five of seven (71.4 percent) attempts from 50-plus yards and went 14-of-23 (60.9 percent) from 40 and over. He had longs of 50 his freshman year, 51 as a sophomore and 54 as a senior in 2013.

While he'll need to be more consistent at the next level, Hocker has the leg strength to be a starting kicker in the NFL.

Washington was intrigued enough to use a pick on him, which tells you he has a legitimate shot at winning the job if he can show more consistency. His main competition will be veteran Kai Forbath, who made 18 of 22 attempts last season with a long of 50. 

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden offered some strong words in favor of Hocker to CSN Washington's Tarik El-Bashir:

His leg strength is very good. He was a very productive kicker at Arkansas. I think he was ranked ninth or tenth in the nation as far as touchbacks, which is excellent.

Gruden also didn't rule out Hocker being the kickoff specialist while Forbath remained the kicker on field goals:

That's not out of the question. We'll see in training camp. Kai needs to kickoff better; that's a fact. He's obviously a very good field goal kicker, which is important. And we have a lot of respect for his talent as a kicker, but we also felt like we like we needed to bring another kicker in here and compete and look at for the kickoff specialist [role] and compete with Kai.

For a team that struggled so mightily, the Hogs can call the 2014 NFL draft a big success for the program. All four guys drafted have a great shot at making their respective teams and even making early contributions. 


Bryan Heater is the Featured Columnist for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team. Follow him on Twitter @BHeaterRivals.

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Why the Big 12 Could Soon Be Replaced as College Football's Offensive Juggernaut

The Big 12 wasn't recognizable last year. 

Forget for a moment that there were no elite teams—Baylor and Oklahoma came closest to that label—or that, with only six bowl-eligible teams, overall depth was lacking.

Rather, the Big 12 wasn't the offensive juggernaut that fans had come to know in recent years. Beyond Baylor, which had the No. 1 scoring offense in the country, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, no other Big 12 teams finished in the top 25 in that category. 

Not coincidentally, nine of the conference's 10 teams—Baylor being the exclusion—played multiple quarterbacks extensively during the season. Getting into a rhythm on offense was a chore for most Big 12 teams. 

Still, when looking at offenses over the last four seasons, the Big 12 remains the most prolific of any of the major conferences. According to the website College Football Statistics, no other major conference has had more teams finish with a top-25 scoring offense in a single year than the Big 12 (seven in 2012). 

Similarly, no other power conference has had more teams finish in the top 25 of total offense in a single year (seven in 2012). The Big 12 has had more top-25 passers over the past four years and is tied for second with the Pac-12 for most top-25 rushing teams in that same time span. 

That is a lot of numbers, and certainly, they only tell part of the story. For example, in 2013, Oregon State finished just outside the top 25 in scoring with 34.8 points per game. Fractions of a point are being split. No one could reasonably say that the Beavers suddenly didn't have a potent offense. However, they just missed the cutoff point. 

Statistically speaking—and this is a somewhat limited window—the Big 12 stands above all other power conferences in offense. However, whether or not the conference can keep up that production is questionable. Since 2010, the number of top-25 passers in the Big 12 has gone down each year. The number of top-25 rushing teams in the Big 12 also dropped to two in 2013. 

Remember the seven top-25 scoring offenses the Big 12 had in 2012? There were only three last year. No other conference suffered such a steep drop-off from one year to the next at any point over the last four seasons. 

It could just be a one-year phenomenon, caused in part by several big-name offensive players graduating or being drafted into the NFL. However, the 2014 recruiting rankings show the Big 12 is struggling to bring in premier offensive talent. Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon and Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon were the biggest names to sign with Big 12 teams in February. 

Compare that to Texas A&M, who has two signees—wide receiver Speedy Noil and quarterback Kyle Allen—who ranked among the top 10 players in the country. In all, the SEC signed roughly a dozen offensive players ranked in the top 50 of 247Sports' composite rankings

For what it's worth, the SEC has been leaning slightly away from the "defense wins championships" mentality. Last year, six SEC teams finished with top-25 scoring offenses, and five finished in the top 25 in total offense. Both numbers were the most of any conference. Meanwhile, only four SEC teams finished with a top-25 scoring defense. 

Could the Big 12 soon relinquish its offensive crown to the SEC, or even the Pac-12? If recruiting doesn't pick up, it wouldn't be surprising to see a changing of the guard when it comes to great offensive conferences. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

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Alabama Football: Breaking Down Amari Cooper's Place on 2015 NFL Draft Big Board

Heading into his junior season, the stars seem to be aligning for Alabama star wide receiver Amari Cooper to enjoy a banner year.

"So far this spring, he's been phenomenal in the offseason program as well as in the first three practices that we've had," Alabama head coach Nick Saban told's Michael Casagrande during the middle of spring practice. "Obviously he's a guy that we want to get the ball to as many times as we can."

The timing couldn't be better for the Miami native, considering that he's already among a handful of players being discussed as potential first-round selections in the 2015 NFL draft.

According to's Chase Goodbread, Cooper ramped up the hype machine after running blistering times in the 40-yard dash at Alabama's pro day last month, with 4.31 seconds being the fastest time recorded.

While Cooper has some unfinished business at the Capstone, it's hard to deny his potential as a candidate to forgo his final season of college eligibility.

Where would the Tide standout land if he chooses to test the NFL draft waters next spring?


The Resume

Cooper wasted little time in establishing himself as a superstar on the college level. His 11 receiving touchdowns as a true freshman broke the school record, and his 59 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards bested former Tide All-American Julio Jones' freshman totals.

After a standout freshman campaign, Cooper got off to a slow start last season due to a nagging toe injury. However, his best two games came in the Tide's last two contests against Auburn and Oklahoma, where he combined to haul in 15 passes for 299 yards and a touchdown.

As Andrew Gribble of points out, the dip in his production as a sophomore shouldn't alarm teams, considering that notable top wideouts such as Jones, A.J. Green and Sammy Watkins experienced similar circumstances during their second years in college.

Cooper led the Tide in receptions and receiving yards in each of the last two seasons, racking up combined totals of 103 catches for 1,736 yards and 15 touchdowns in the process. He has also accumulated seven games with 100 or more receiving yards, including each of the two bowl games he's played in.

More importantly, Cooper has been at his best when the Tide have lined up against top competition, as the chart below illustrates.


Early Projections

While it's still way too early to throw the word "lock" around when mentioning projections for the 2015 NFL draft, Cooper is among the group of elite talents who will find his name at the top of the early lists of projected first-round picks.

B/R draft expert Matt Miller has the Tide product ranked as the best wide receiver in his first 2015 big board. Fellow B/R draft analyst Michael Schottey has Cooper going third overall in his first 2015 mock draft.

Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead agrees with Miller and Schottey about Cooper being the first wideout off the board and has him going seventh overall in his mock. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports has Cooper going ninth overall.

While Cooper enters the season as the top-rated wideout in the 2015 class by numerous outlets, the fact that he had a down year in 2013 will only fuel him to return to his freshman form and secure a spot in the first round of next year's draft—should he choose to forgo his senior season.


Why Cooper Will Be a First-Round Pick

Saban's spring proclamation of wanting to get Cooper as many touches as possible bodes well for his chances to have a monster junior season.

Considering that he has produced at an elite level in his first two years of college, assuming he puts up big numbers this fall, Cooper has a chance to cement his status as the top receiver prospect available in the 2015 class.

With his size (6'1", 202 lbs), speed and route-running ability, Cooper has all the characteristics of an elite pass-catcher who teams will covet in the first round of next year's draft.

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5-Star Georgia Recruit Nick Chubb Looks Ridiculously Athletic

The Georgia Bulldogs are going to have one of the most feared freshman running backs in the country next season.

Nick Chubb, a 5-star recruit, has committed to Georgia for the fall. After seeing some photos of him running track, the SEC is going to have to find some way to stop him.

The 5'11", 216-pound back doesn't look like he will be easy to tackle.

Chubb is freakishly athletic:


Here's how he did in the event:

Chubb is already being compared to one of the greatest college running backs ever, who just happened to play for Georgia:

Bulldogs fans should be excited to watch Chubb put on the Georgia uniform for the next few seasons.

[Twitter,; h/t The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

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Jacob Daniel Commits to USC: What 4-Star DT Brings to Trojans

Jacob Daniel helped fortify the future of USC's defensive front Tuesday when he announced his commitment to the Trojans.

The 4-star in-state defensive tackle became the sixth member of Steve Sarkisian's 2015 class and unveiled his intentions on Twitter:

He is the third lineman pledge for USC in a three-week span, joining offensive tackles Roy Hemsley (Los Angles, California) and Chuma Edoga (Powder Springs, Georgia). Daniel adds to a defensive haul that includes 3-star cornerback Taeon Mason (Pasadena, California).

Rated No. 8 nationally among defensive tackle prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings, Daniel emerged as a key USC target earlier this year. The Trojans extended him a scholarship offer in February during a campus visit.

USC faced stiff competition from several Pac-12 foes, including Oregon, Stanford and Arizona. Suitors from beyond the conference include Texas A&M, Ohio State, Miami, Notre Dame and Alabama.

This is the second time Daniel has pledged to Sarkisian. He committed to the coach at Washington in November before eventually backing off that decision in late December.

The 6'4", 310-pound menace helped lead Clovis North High School to the Central California Championship as a junior. He displays excellent lateral range and short-area quickness that complements his massive frame.

His versatility presents plenty of options for the Trojans, who could be tempted to use him in a 3-technique setting during obvious passing situations. Depending on how the team decides to approach his training and physical conditioning, there's also a possibility of Daniel putting on additional bulk and anchoring the front interior.

If impressive physicality combines with quick comprehension on the practice field, Daniel stands a strong chance of contributing as a true freshman.

He spent time on campus with the USC staff in February, creating a lasting impression.

"They just told me that they really want me to be a Trojan and showed me what they had to offer," Daniel told Fresno Bee reporter Austin Kemp.

The sales pitch apparently stuck with him for the past three months, ultimately leading Daniel to pull the trigger on a commitment as his junior year comes to a close.

The 2015 USC class now includes two 5-star prospects and a 4-star recruit. It's rated 21st nationally in 247Sports' composite team rankings.


Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Marqise Lee Injuries Drop Him in NFL Draft but Lead to Insurance Payout

The NCAA often talks about its catastrophic insurance plan as one of the reasons that players should stay in school. For players like Johnny Manziel or Jameis Winston, forced by NCAA and NFL rules to stay at the amateur level, Loss of Value insurance is a must.Marqise Lee is certainly glad he had the Lloyd's of London policy now that a knee injury forced him down to the second round in last week's NFL draft.

Players like Jadeveon Clowney, Manziel and Lee are all at risk of injuries while in college and all three had coverage, though Clowney and Manziel are likely glad they didn't get to collect. Any injury could take them from a sure thing to a question mark, which could shift their place in the draft. Their financial prospects would take a major hit. By paying for this insurance, which does not come cheaply, a player is protected against that loss. 

What most don't know, including the players, is how difficult it is to get this kind of insurance to pay off. In fact, Marqise Lee, the former USC wide receiver, is in line to become the one of the first players to have the policy pay. After falling out of the first round, Lee could collect as much as five million dollars on the policy he bought in the summer before the 2013 season. Lee was selected in the second round, going to the Jacksonville Jaguars.  

It's not just Lee. Another USC player, linebacker Morgan Breslin, is in line to collect on his loss of value. His drop was more severe, going from a possible first rounder to an undrafted free agent. Breslin did sign after the draft with the San Francisco 49ers, but the odds of making the NFL are long for him, making his benefit perhaps his only payoff for his years of football. 

USC has long encouraged its players to get this type of coverage. Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer both had this type of policy, though neither got a payoff as Lee and Breslin are likely to. Lee's policy was in excess of the NCAA's policy, which is capped at $5 million. The $10 million total payoff will not be in place here. For the NCAA, the amount would only be in place for a "total disability," which is clearly not the case for Lee and is restricted to disability, not loss of value.

That has been an issue in the past. Ball State WR Dante Love was ticketed by many to be a first round pick before a devastating spinal injury ended his football career. However, Love was not covered under the NCAA's policy. While the school did pick up his significant medical bills, Love's dream of playing in the NFL ended before he could do the things many dream of. 

Another recent case that brought this type of insurance to the forefront was that of Nerlens Noel. The Kentucky and Philadephia 76ers player had a dramatic knee injury, but was selected high in the first round of the NBA draft despite it. The policy did not pay off because he had no major loss of value. 

Lee's drop from a top wide receiver pick to the second round was costly. Comparing what he'll get as a second round pick to what he might have gotten is easy due to the NFL's slotting system. Lee could have been projected to go somewhere in the same range as Odell Beckham, who will receive a bit more than $10 million under the current rookie wage scale

At 39th overall, Lee is likely to receive something near $5 million dollars, though the exact value is not known. Last year, Robert Woods, another USC WR, was picked at slot 41 and received a contract from the Buffalo Bills for $4.9 million. That five million dollar gap is where the Loss of Value insurance will come in, though it will not be matched dollar for dollar due to provisions in the insurance contract.

Marqise Lee suffered from a moderate (Grade II) MCL sprain during the 2013 season. While he was able to get back on the field, it was clear that he never really got back to 100 percent. That was confirmed at the NFL Combine in February, where several teams "red flagged" Lee due to laxity in the knee. While the MCL is usually not repaired surgically, many believe that that laxity can lead to more injuries down the line.

Breslin had a much more serious injury. He had to have hip surgery in November and was not able to return. While details of Breslin's injury has never been publicly disclosed, an internal hip issue that requires surgery is rare but not unheard of in the NFL. Colts TE Dwayne Allen missed much of the 2013 season after injuring his hip. Ed Reed and Percy Harvin had to have their hip labrums repaired, which cost significant time and value.

Chris Larcheveque, the EVP of Sports for International Speciality Insurance, the company that underwrites these types of policies for Lloyd's, explained to me that the players are valued at the time of underwriting. "We take a look at where he is expected to go. We talk to scouts we have relationships with and look at two or three trusted NFL voices, like Matt Miller." 

The value of the contract takes care of the gap between the evaluated value and the actual value. "There's a formula, since the benefit is tax free. Five million is really like nine million due to taxes, but it's relatively cut and dry. We'll know in a matter of weeks with Lee. It will will take longer for Breslin since he'll have to make the roster before he gets a contract," Larcheveque told me by phone.

The insurance is expensive, normally around $10,000 per $1 million in coverage. Since an NCAA player shouldn't have $100,000 lying around the dorm room, the premium is usually delayed and will be paid by the player's first professional contract. If a player is unable to be signed, the premium is deducted from the benefit at the time of payment. 

While the availability of these policies has been around for years, it is very difficult to meet all the conditions in order to receive the benefit. A player not only has to be injured while playing football, they also have to have a demonstrable loss of value, specifically due to the injury. A player like Lee could have slid to the second round on production or his team having a poor season, which has always been the previous argument. 

If NCAA stars are going to stay in school and risk their future earnings potential at the same time the NCAA is fighting to not pay them or even increase their in-school benefits, insurance policies become even more necessary. While a check can't replace a player's ability to chase his dreams, it can compensate his work in order to help him figure out what comes after football.


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Why the SEC Is the Real Toughest Conference in the Nation

College football fans used to love their team, hate their rivals and not give a care about what happened to anyone else. However, in the past decade or so, there has been a large movement toward conference affiliation trumping team fandom.

Who can forget the moment we all heard the first "S-E-C" chant?  

LSU winning that 2007 title was the second in a row for the Southeastern Conference against Ohio State, and little did we know that the college football world would be hearing that chant for the next seven seasons in a row. 

For conferences and the fans of schools in conferences like the Big 12 and Big Ten, the obsession over beating the SEC became almost all consuming. So much so that the other four conferences banded together in rooting for anyone to break the SEC's winning streak. 

It happened thanks to Florida State this past season, and for some around the nation, it was cause to point out that the SEC isn't the toughest conference in the country anymore. 

But what measure were they using? The SEC will always throw seven national titles in a row in everyone else's faces, but that's more about individual team success than anything the entire conference is about. 

It's not as if anyone is claiming the ACC is now the king of the hill because it houses Florida State. There has to be more than one category to consider when looking at the toughest conference to play in. 

So, here are the five criteria we used to determine which conference sits atop the standings heading in to 2014: 

  • SRS (Simple Rating System: a rating that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule. The rating is denominated in points above/below average, where zero is average—courtesy
  • Strength of Schedule (rolling four-year average for the conference) 
  • Returning Starters per team in 2014
  • Number of first-team all-conference players returning
  • Bowl teams

With each of these categories, we attempt to look at the past to predict the future, as well as give deference to the here and now. Each of the criteria are broken down with five points given to the best in each category on down to one point for the worst number in each category. 

So, let's get in to who reigns at the top of the conference ladder. 

When you look at the combination of offense, defense and strength of schedule, the SEC comes out on top—and it's not even close. The difference is by nearly two points, and the SEC's four individual year averages rank in the top six overall from all five conferences in the past four years. Only the Pac-12's 2013 season of 10.49 and the 2011 Big 12 season of 9.89 broke up the SEC party. 

Speaking of the Pac-12, it made things a little less of a run-away contest in our next category—strength of schedule: 

While the biggest criticism of the SEC from folks in the Big Ten and Big 12 is that SEC teams aren't willing to play anyone, the actual truth is that the Big Ten has a lot of work to do in the future to up its own strength of schedule. It also appears that the SEC has done a really good job over the last four years of highlighting matchups amongst its best schools, helping to negate any drawbacks from the nonconference schedule.

There's little doubt that the SEC and Pac-12 are giving the college football world some of the best competition we've seen over the last four years, but what about looking at what is about to come?

Let's take a look at the average returning starters per team:

In 2014, the Big Ten could put itself in a good position to be more competitive because it is more experienced on the whole. Not only does the conference lead the average, but it also has the top three teams—Indiana, Maryland and Northwestern—amongst all five conferences in returning players, with 18, 17 and 17, respectively.

What is most interesting is that Florida State's conference is ripe for the picking of a team with a really good recruiting class, as the team with the most returning talent is North Carolina (15). It is the lowest of the high total of any conference in the "Big Five."

With lower numbers returning overall, what about the talent of those returning players—a true indication of just how deep a conference may be. That story is one of the more interesting in our criteria, so let's take a look at it: 

Not only does the ACC lead the overall total, it happens to have perhaps the most explosive of the returning bunch thanks to six returning members of the first-team offense. That's the most of any side of the ball.

With those kinds of numbers for the ACC, one could see why it also happens to lead in our final category—bowl teams from 2013.

The 2013 season was a banner one for the ACC, as not only did it have the BCS national champions, but it also sent the most schools to bowl games in conference history. Even if you take away bowl-eligible Maryland and insert new conference member Louisville into the equation, the total remains at 11 bowl teams for the conference heading into the season.

Only the Big 12 failed to get more than half of its conference into bowl games last season, despite the tight race for the conference crown all season long.

So, when you add it all up, we see one conference that is at the top of nearly every measure available—the SEC. It means the winner is the obvious choice, the one that everyone outside of SEC territory loves to hate the most. 

As much as everyone across the rest of the college football world wants it not to be true: The SEC is the best conference in the country heading in to 2014.

However, its grasp on the top rung of the ladder isn't as firm as it once was. Another non-SEC national champion could go a long way toward knocking the conference off its top spot after this year. 

No matter your affiliation, one thing is for sure—college football has never been as competitive from top to bottom as it is right now. 


Andy Coppens is a national college football featured columnist. You can find him on Twitter: @AndyOnCFB. 

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