NCAA Football News

Where Georgia and LSU Turn After Missing on 5-Star CB Tarvarus McFadden

Tarvarus McFadden committed to Florida State during a Friday morning announcement ceremony, capping off a frenzied nationwide recruitment process. The prized defensive back prospect picked the Seminoles from an offer sheet that featured dozens of teams:

The American Heritage High School standout is the second blue-chip recruit to join the Seminoles' 2015 recruiting class this week. Fellow in-state star Jacques Patrick, a running back who ranks seventh all-time among Florida rushers, pledged Monday.

McFadden, a 6'3", 198-pound playmaker, is rated fifth nationally among cornerbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings. He trimmed his list of potential landing spots in recent months, with LSU and Georgia emerging as the top threats to challenge Florida State, a longtime favorite in this pursuit. 

The Tigers and Bulldogs miss out on a rangy defender with rare size and smoothness. Both programs have already assembled impressive classes but must now search elsewhere for additional help in the defensive secondary.

LSU already holds a pledge from one of the country's top cornerbacks in Kevin Toliver, though the 5-star commit continues to explore other options. He visited Virginia Tech, Florida State and Ohio State.

The potential tandem of Toliver and McFadden would have given Tigers fans plenty to be excited about in coming years. However, there's still a chance head coach Les Miles matches Toliver with another 5-star prospect at the position. 

Coveted California cornerback Iman Marshall plans to use an official visit in Baton Rouge before signing day, presenting an opportunity for LSU to pull in another premier player in pass coverage.

"Toliver is a great athlete, and he's very competitive like me," Marshall told me earlier this season. "We could make some serious noise down there. LSU is known as 'DBU' for a reason. They send a lot of defensive backs to the league, which is important to me. It's a place where I feel like I could really develop and polish my skills." 

It may be difficult to lure Marshall away from the West Coast, but nearby defensive backs also offer potential.

Deshawn Raymond, a 4-star in-state target, has spent significant time on campus. The Tigers could quickly turn to him after missing on McFadden, though TCU, Nebraska and Mississippi State are also in the mix.

Georgia was actually viewed as a stronger contender than LSU for McFadden's commitment during the final stretch. Cornerback is a key area of need for this 2015 Bulldogs class, especially after losing 4-star Tennessee prospect Rico McGraw to Alabama in July.

Rashad Roundtree, a Peach State product, is widely viewed as a collegiate safety but could fill a variety of roles at the next level. He is expected to visit Ohio State this weekend, but the Bulldogs have been a strong competitor for his commitment throughout and hold 97 percent of pledge predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

The team is also targeting Nashville cornerback Justin Martin, a junior college player who competes at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Georgia extended an offer to the 4-star recruit in early October, but scholarships from the likes of Oklahoma, Miami and Oklahoma State have since followed.

It's imperative for Mark Richt and his staff to claim at least one top-tier cornerback in the coming months as available options continue to dwindle. Georgia could also end up landing a prospect who is currently committed elsewhere. 

Players like McFadden don't come in bunches, and now that he's headed to Tallahassee, it's time for LSU and Georgia to seek out Plan B.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Dave Brandon Reportedly Will Resign as Michigan Athletic Director

Dave Brandon is reportedly expected to step down as Michigan's director of athletics amid growing tension with the fanbase. An official announcement is expected Friday afternoon.

Brett McMurphy of ESPN broke the news:

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports provided further details about the press conference:

The move comes as the school's storied football program sports a 3-5 record. The results have steadily declined in recent years after initial success under Brady Hoke, whom Brandon hired after the exit of Rich Rodriguez.

David Jesse and Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press have more information on why Brandon was fired:

Once seen as the perfect blend of businessman, Michigan Man and fund-raiser, Brandon has been under intense fire since the summer, when U-M's Board of Regents took the rare step of publicly slapping down a request from the athletic department — for fireworks during football games — complaining that the traditions of U-M football were being lost.

Brandon was facing more potential embarrassment this weekend. Fans have been organizing a protest — "White Out, Dave Out" — by wearing anti-Brandon T-shirts for Saturday's homecoming football game against Indiana (3:30 p.m., BTN).

Some students, alumni and fans — growing more vocal by the month — have been upset with Brandon for some time. A survey of students early this month suggested that his relationship with them was irreparable. This week, the official alumni association ran a web post on its site rounding up comments critical of Brandon. And fans renewed their calls for his head after a popular blog reported this week on several rude e-mails it said were sent by Brandon to fans.

Jim Russ of the Detroit News reports on a replacement for Brandon:

Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated noted it will be billed as a resignation, though there was never another realistic possibility despite what may have gone on behind the scenes:

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports says the decision doesn't necessarily mean Hoke is going to follow Brandon out the door in the immediate future:

Brandon had faced mounting scrutiny in recent weeks. He was shoved in the spotlight after an incident involving quarterback Shane Morris back in September. Morris was allowed to re-enter a game shortly after taking a punishing hit, and it was later reported that he suffered a concussion.

Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News highlighted the aftermath:

After the story appeared on various national networks Sunday and Monday after the game, Brandon authored a lengthy statement after piecing together the events of that game night and the aftermath. The statement was publicly released just before 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Students then protested Brandon during a rally, and an online petition demanding the president fire Brandon gained steam and had more than 11,000 signatures when it was presented at the Regents meeting.

Brandon was never able to recover as the situation became more tense with each passing week.

Michigan students then organized a public protest over raised ticket prices earlier this month, demanding Brandon be fired.

It also didn't help that the football team wasn't showing any signs of serious progress to divert attention away from the other issues.

No further details about how Michigan plans to move forward were made available. Those should come at the press conference later in the day.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ole Miss Needs to Be Aggressive vs. Auburn, so "Good" Bo Wallace Better Show Up

It didn't take long after Ole Miss' 10-7 loss to LSU, tossing the Rebels from the short list of unbeaten teams, for quarterback Bo Wallace to say what needed to be fixed. 

With Auburn and its 39 points per game coming to Oxford on Saturday, the Rebels need to keep forcing turnovers on defense (they rank second nationally in that category). However, the defense can't do it alone, as it showed in the LSU loss. Wallace wants to see his offense open things up after totaling just 313 yards of offense and going 5-of-17 on third down last Saturday. From David Brandt of the Associated Press

The gameplan is "on the coaches — what they call and things like that," Wallace said. "Hopefully we can be more aggressive this week, but I'm going to run the plays that are called. That's all I can do."

...

"A lot of times when we were throwing the ball it was third down," Wallace said. "It's easy (for the defense) when you know it's coming - 3rd and 9, 3rd and long."

Play-calling is only part of the equation. Players have to execute as well. Behind a makeshift offensive line, Wallace struggled by going 14-of-33 last Saturday, averaging 5.3 yards per attempt. Ole Miss' controversial—if you want to call it that—final play against the Tigers, for example, had an opportunity to work. 

Rather than attempt a 47-yard field goal, the Rebels, with no timeouts, opted to try one more play to pick up some yards. As head coach Hugh Freeze explained, there were two options: Get a few yards and stop the clock—whether by running out of bounds or first down—or throw it into the stands without it being intentional grounding. The worst-case scenario, in theory, is that Ole Miss is right where they were before. 

"I thought we were plenty clear we were either going to take the flat throw or throw it out of bounds, and then try the field goal," Freeze said (via ESPN.com). "He must have felt like he had a shot at the touchdown play there. I wish I could do that over, for sure."

Throwing it into double coverage, which resulted in a game-sealing interception, is on Wallace. 

That brings up the "Good Bo Wallace" vs. "Bad Bo Wallace" debate.

Wallace plays fearless—give him that much—but it's also something by which Ole Miss will live and die. When Ole Miss' offense absolutely needs a play, Wallace is going to be the guy to make it happen. Conversely, there are going to be times when Wallace does something that makes you scratch your head. Sometimes, there are several of those instances in one game. 

Certainly, "Good Bo Wallace" has to show up against Auburn. If nothing else, the ability to move the offense could be on his shoulders again. The Rebels have not been a great running team and offensive line injuries haven't helped. As Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger writes, teams that have averaged fewer than four yards per carry (Ole Miss ranks 91st in the country at 3.87 yards per rush) haven't won the SEC in more than 10 years: 

Coach Hugh Freeze believes that No. 7 Ole Miss does run the ball well enough to win a Southeastern Conference championship and compete for the College Football Playoff.

But actually doing so, without a dramatic upgrade in production over the season's final month, will require something that has not happened in the SEC in more than a decade. Not since 2002, when Georgia gained less than four yards per carry and was the league's champion.

On the other side, Auburn is tied at No. 26 in the country in stopping the run by allowing just 3.37 yards per rush. To Wallace's credit, he may have a point that Ole Miss needs to be more unconventional against Auburn in hopes that it will open up the run—at least enough to have a semblance of balance. 

However it's sliced, Ole Miss as a team has to play better despite the fact that it's banged up on defense and along the offensive line. Wallace has had good games—251 yards and three touchdowns against Alabama, for example—and bad games against LSU and Boise State. 

If Ole Miss is going to be upend Auburn, Wallace has to play smart. He's not going to change who he is as a quarterback, so basically, he has to have one of his better days. As it's already shown once, the Rebels defense can't win a game by itself. And Auburn isn't a team you want to fall behind against.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Joey Bosa Is College Football's New Rob Gronkowski

COLUMBUS, Ohio — More than a year ago, at the free-for-all that is Ohio State's annual media day, I approached a 6'5", 270-pound man-child.

We talked about football for about five minutes; why he decided to come to Columbus from sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida, his expectations for his freshman season, how the first few weeks of fall camp had gone for him.

It was your standard media day stuff. But as the interview came to a close, I decided to go a bit deeper with the behemoth in front of me.

"So tell me about this music thing," I requested.

"Oh," Joey Bosa said, smiling sheepishly. "You heard about that?"

How could I not have?

Any follower of Bosa (@jbbigbear) on Twitter is well aware of his passion for music, particularly of the electronic dance variety. The Buckeyes defensive end has even gone as far as to give DJing a try, releasing a series of mixes on his personal SoundCloud account.

"I'm a big music guy. I've loved music all my life. I just look up to them and it seemed like an awesome thing to do and I thought I'd try it, so I just got into it," Bosa told me for a story that ran on BuckeyeGrove.com. "A lot of people, that's what they know me for, before football. But, it's definitely a big part of my life. Not as a career—football always comes first—but music is my second love."

Bosa's passion for music is just a glimpse into the personality that defines him as much as his on-field ability does. And now one-and-a-half years into his college career, he has managed to become an internet favorite for both.

Take last Saturday, for example, when his game-clinching sack in Ohio State's double-overtime win over Penn State set social media abuzz. Driving Nittany Lions running back Akeel Lynch back into quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Bosa became an instant Vine; six seconds of pure dominance captured in just one clip.

“That wasn’t what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to hit the guard and wrap up, but he blocked down so the hole opened, so I just took it,” Bosa said after the game. “I was tired of trying to work my way around the back, so I just ran him over."

If Buckeye fans had one gripe with the eighth sack of Bosa's sophomore season, it would be that it wasn't punctuated with his signature celebration.

After knocking down Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel for a sack-turned-safety in Ohio State's fourth game of the season, Bosa subtly threw his hands up into the air, shrugging his shoulders in the process. The celebration seemed to go largely unnoticed by fans at the time, until Bosa pointed it out on his Instagram account the following day.

Instantly, Bosa became a walking meme. Fans and media members alike couldn't help but link his name with the popular shrugging-text emoji, tweeting it whenever they could in association with the now-sophomore.

“It just happened,” Bosa said of the celebration. “I guess a bunch of people liked it so I feel obliged, like I have to do it every time I get a sack.”

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

That's the emoji that Bosa is mimicking, an inadvertent nod to his popularity with the internet crowd. He threw up the shrug—to much more fanfare—during the Buckeyes' Oct. 4 win over Maryland, again during an Oct. 18 rout of Rutgers and once more after his 2.5 sacks against the Nittany Lions.

But while Bosa's teammates mobbed him before he could even realize that he had just ended Ohio State's close call with Penn State, he still managed to let his personality shine through last Saturday night. Grabbing J.T. Barrett while walking off the field, Bosa let the Ohio State quarterback know that he should be thankful for his star defensive end's performance, in a moment captured by BuckeyeGrove.com

(warning: video contains NSFW audio)

"You're welcome, b---h," Bosa told Barrett with a smile as he pulled him in for a hug.

Mere moments later, Bosa took to Twitter to confirm that the comment was intended to be playful.

Only you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody in Columbus who took issue with Bosa's moment of exuberance, most aware that it fell right in line with the 19-year-old's personality. Despite his dominance, it's rare that a defensive lineman becomes as popular as Bosa has in the past two months, his techno tunes and sack shrugs adding color to an otherwise unglamorous position.

Of course, it also doesn't hurt that Bosa is pretty good at that whole football thing, too, his eight sacks on the season placing fifth in the nation, despite the Buckeyes having already endured two bye weeks. Having previously stated that Bosa could be as good as any defensive lineman he's ever had, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer admitted that the former 5-star prospect is living up to the hype, as evidenced by last weekend's walk-off sack.

"It was a tailback that was trying to block that big monster," Meyer said. "Obviously he's a tremendous physical specimen with what he was able to do. He's a fast-twitch guy that's real big and strong. A great player."

So what makes Bosa more popular: His personality or his football prowess?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State Football: Ranking the 5 Most Surprising Seminoles in 2014

With a 24th consecutive victory its rear view, No. 2 Florida State’s attention now shifts to the stretch run of the 2014 season in November.

Now 8-0 on the year and still in control of its own College Football Playoff destiny, let’s take a look at some of the surprising players on this year’s FSU football team.

Begin Slideshow

Remaining Games That Will Have Biggest Impact in 2014 Heisman Trophy Race

There’s only six weeks remaining in the college football regular season, but the Heisman Trophy is still very much up for grabs.

Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota still lead the pack in the latest ESPN Heisman Watch poll, but one slip up can change everything. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Alabama’s Amari Cooper and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah are among the names patiently hoping for one of the top two to lay an egg in the next coming weeks.

Fortunately for them, and for those hoping for an exciting stretch run, there are plenty of opportunities for the Heisman Trophy race to take some twists and turns.

Join B/R as we take a look at eight matchups that will have a major impact on the race for college football’s most-coveted trophy.

Begin Slideshow

Tarvarus McFadden to FSU: Seminoles Land 5-Star DB Prospect

One of the nation's most coveted defensive backs in the class of 2015 is headed to Tallahassee. Tarvarus McFadden, a 5-star defensive back out of the hallowed American Heritage School, announced his decision to attend Florida State on Friday.

Josh Newberg of 247 Sports had the news:

Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage five-star cornerback Tarvarus McFadden has committed to Florida State. McFadden announced his decision in front of his family, teammates and classmates at his high school.

McFadden decided on the Seminoles over Georgia and LSU. That final three came from a group of scholarship offers that included no fewer than 30 schools.

He has been pegged to stay relatively close to home throughout his recruitment. LSU and Florida State have been in hot pursuit throughout the process, while Georgia got into the fray as McFadden established himself among the nation's best.

The Seminoles were McFadden's first unofficial visit and were considered favorites throughout. A high-performing academic at American Heritage, Florida State helped its cause by enlisting the help of former Seminoles safety and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle.

“He was really impressive,” McFadden told Chris Nee of 247 Sports. “He was very well spoken. He treated me and my family with respect. He was a five-star who made it to the league and also did very well in school. He achieved one of the best achievements in college football (Rhodes Scholar). I think he is a big inspiration."

While academics played a huge part in his decision, McFadden also had to go where it made the most football sense. He chose FSU over other interested programs in large part because of its reputation developing defensive backs into potential pros. 

If 247 Sports' composite rankings prove correct, McFadden could have a future in the NFL.

He's considered the No. 31 prospect nationally, the No. 5 corner and has seen his profile rise as teams become more comfortable with his ability to translate to Saturdays. Initially pegged as a safety, McFadden now projects at either defensive back position, with some scouts more comfortable with him at corner at this point.

That's a boon for the stock of someone like McFadden, who at 6'3" has the height to match up against almost any receiver in the country. Although there were concerns about top-end speed, McFadden has slowly assuaged those fears and stands apart from his peers as a two-way defensive back.

He's physical enough to help against the run and drives through his tackles, while possessing the speed and quickness necessary to cover most wideouts.

There are few (if any) better all-around corners in the 2015 class. The weight room will become a second home as McFadden attempts to add bulk to his 198-pound frame, but that's the case for a majority of players hitting the next level. His football intelligence is also above-average, so he could see plenty of time as a freshman—even in a secondary as deep as FSU's.

If there are concerns, they revolve around his ultimate position. Safety would arguably allow McFadden to get onto the field sooner and may be his pro position should he reach that point. Corner will be more of a process, simply because Jimbo Fisher will need to ready him for ACC competition, but it's the more important position and ups McFadden's ceiling for effectiveness as a result.

These are all good problems to have. McFadden is joining a staff that specializes in coaxing the most out of defensive prospects and turning them into pro-ready talents. While his commitment is not official—all verbals are nonbinding until national signing day—McFadden stands to become the latest in a long line of stars.

At least, once they find a position for him.

 

Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter:


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star CB Tarvarus McFadden Commits to FSU, 'All-American' for Seminoles

Cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, a 5-star in-state recruit, recently committed to Florida State University, per 247Sports. This is a huge commit for the Seminoles, as he adds some amazing talent to their secondary. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses McFadden's talents and how he fits in Tallahassee.

How well do you think he will do at FSU?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Get Ready for the 'Next Aaron Rodgers,' Texas A&M Fans, Kyle Allen Is Ready

The Texas A&M Aggies have made a change at quarterback, and in comes highly touted freshman Kyle Allen. The Scottsdale, Arizona, product will replace Kenny Hill as the Aggies look to snap a three-game losing streak in Week 10 versus Louisiana-Monroe. 

Is Kyle Allen the next big quarterback at A&M?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Blackshirts Hold Key to Success in November

November is going to be a big month for Nebraska. As the College Football Playoff nears, the Huskers are going to need to be nearly perfect to stay in the discussion.

In order to accomplish that, the Blackshirts are going to need to be better than ever.

Prior to facing Rutgers, defensive coordinator John Papuchis was happy with what he was seeing. According to Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star, the DC felt the Blackshirts were improving every week—especially before the Illinois game.

“This is as good as I’ve felt about a group of young defensive players in a long time,” Papuchis said. “We’re seven games in and I feel like we’re starting to hit our stride.”

Now eight games in, Papuchis has every right to still feel that way—especially when it comes to the defensive line. Against Rutgers, the Nebraska defense had two sacks and six quarterback hurries in the 42-24 victory.

Dan Duggan of NJ.com reported that Rutgers coach Kyle Flood had high praise for Nebraska's defensive line: 

They are every bit as good as I thought they would be. No doubt, they have disruptive people. They have defensive linemen that can win 1-on-1s, and when you have that, then at times you only have to rush four. When you can rush four, you cover better. And I thought this was one of the better cover teams that we were facing this season.

Heading into November, the Blackshirts are going to have to remain disruptive. Ultimately, if the defense struggles, winnable games will become much more difficult for the Huskers. The defense may have found its stride in October, but the trick will be keeping that going.

It's not going to be easy, either. Rutgers running backs, for instance, averaged only 3.1 yards per carry against Nebraska.

Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, on the other hand, is going to be much different. He is currently averaging 7.6 yards per carry, per ESPN.com.

As Nebraska prepares to face tougher offenses, the Blackshirts seem to have the right mentality about setting their own offense up for success. Defensive back Nate Gerry spoke with reporters about this:

I think it’s the mentality where we just have to get off the field. We have to put our offense in positions where they can score. We can’t be putting them down at the end of the field where they have to make long drives and sometimes it’s tough for them to go 80 yards. So, we try to get off the field as quick as we can.

Third downs are one area where the Blackshirts have continued to improve. The team will also be able to use that strength against teams like Wisconsin.

The Huskers are sixth in the NCAA in opponent third-down percentage. Upholding that success rate will be imperative in November. Teams like Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa are going to make it challenging for the Blackshirts. How they respond will ultimately determine whether Nebraska can win the Big Ten Championship and be considered for the College Football Playoff.

“It comes down to execution," head coach Bo Pelini said. "It comes down to everyone being where they are supposed to be and doing their job.”

If the Blackshirts can accomplish that, November could be a great month for Nebraska.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Assessing the State of the Tennessee Volunteers Football Program

Tennessee's game against South Carolina on Saturday night carries plenty enough immediate importance that it's nearing must-win status. But there are significant future ramifications as well.

The Volunteers may be slogging through yet another flirting-with-.500 season, but the coming years look bright on Rocky Top, and another win over the Gamecocks could signify a seismic shift in power between the two programs.

UT needs three wins in its final four games to become bowl-eligible. But, beyond that, head coach Butch Jones' career is ultimately going to be measured by how he fares against the Vols' three biggest SEC East rivals—Florida, Georgia, South Carolina—as well as Alabama.

Another win over Steve Spurrier's bunch on the heels of a 23-21 upset of the Gamecocks in Neyland Stadium last season and an argument could be made that the Vols are on their way up in the division.

A loss means another year of waiting for a turnaround.

Trends don't equal wins, but a look at the way the Vols have been recruiting and how they've developed from a competitiveness aspect within the league indicates they'll soon be a contender.

Jones is about to follow up a seventh-ranked recruiting class of 32 players (of which the vast majority have played) with a growing 2015 class that already has 26 players and is ranked fourth nationally.

But can they surpass a Carolina program that, although struggling this season, has produced three consecutive 11-win seasons?

How about a Georgia team that has beaten its rivals five consecutive times?

Even though an embattled Florida program is likely on the verge of firing coach Will Muschamp, the Gators have still managed to beat the Vols 10 times in a row.

So, what's it going to take for UT to break through? The Vols will need more than just a win this weekend, but that would certainly be a positive first step.

Let's take a look at the state of the program moving forward.

 

Dobbs Development Vital for Vols Offense

Sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs holds the key to the immediate future of the Vols offense.

That may be putting a lot on his shoulders after just one strong game against Alabama, but it's true on several levels. Here's why:

First, Tennessee's marquee quarterback recruits will need time as understudies.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian may have struggled to lure a top-shelf quarterback prospect to Knoxville for much of his first year on the job, but recruiting has since picked up, and UT has a trio of solid commitments on the docket for the next two seasons.

  • Texas signal-caller Quinten Dormady is the nation's 13th-rated pro-style passer in this year's recruiting class and chose UT over offers from Alabama, Oklahoma State, Kentucky and others.
  • Murfreesboro athlete Jauan Jennings is a versatile player who could play receiver, linebacker or safety, but he'll get his first crack at quarterback where he's the nation's sixth-ranked dual-threat player on the 247Sports composite. His development has been impressive through his senior year.
  • The Vols also secured one of their top targets for the 2016 class in North Carolina's Austin Kendall, the nation's eighth-ranked pro-style quarterback in that class.

Still, UT has to bridge the gap between now and a promising future. You can't expect a freshman quarterback to come into the SEC and perform at a championship level, so a strong Dobbs is just what UT needs. 

Another reason Dobbs needs to be the quarterback of the present and future is to help out the young, inexperienced offensive line.

Given the undesirable position former coach Derek Dooley left Jones in the trenches, having a mobile quarterback in the interim until that position develops depth, talent and experience is vital to the program's success (and, therefore, Jones' job security) over the couple of seasons.

That's why Dobbs' development is imperative.

Nathan Peterman hasn't given any indications yet that he's an SEC quarterback. With Justin Worley out of eligibility, the Vols desperately need two strong seasons from Dobbs to bridge the gap.

Since Riley Ferguson left the program, it's him or a freshman.

At running back, UT is recruiting as well as anybody, and it appears position coach Robert Gillespie is going to have an able stable for years to come.

Already on the roster is Jalen Hurd, who has 581 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns as a freshman despite missing most of two games with injuries and running behind a porous line. He is going to be a star.

Fellow freshman Derrell Scott was coveted by some of the nation's top teams out of high school, and his ceiling is also high.

With former Alabama runner Alvin Kamara—the nation's second-ranked JUCO runner, North Carolina bruiser Rocky Reid and in-state speedster Vincent Perry already in the fold in the 2015 class, UT has some future options. And the Vols are in the mix for several other elite backs in this class.

Tennessee's receivers are young and extremely talented, and Jones is adding 5-star prospect Preston Williams to the mix next year to complement Marquez North, Josh Malone, Josh Smith and Co.

Combine that with the young tight ends who've already made an impact this season and the Vols are strong at the skill positions.

Offensive line issues abound, but the influx of four players into the mix next year should help. Tennessee has to build depth and talent there, but the only lineman who won't be back is redshirt senior Jacob Gilliam.

Though the group has taken knocks this year, the experience will serve the linemen well down the road.

 

Defensive Centerpieces Coming

Tennessee's defense is two impact defensive tackles away from being extremely difficult to handle.

Good news for the Vols is they've got those coming. Kahlil McKenzie is the nation's second-ranked defensive tackle and the bell cow of UT's class, and Shy Tuttle is the sixth-rated defensive tackle. Both are Vols commits.

Factor those two into a unit that already has improved dramatically in the two years John Jancek has been at the helm and it's exciting to think about the future of UT's defense. The Vols have gotten better in every facet of the game from a season ago on that side of the ball.

Though Jancek's scheme thrives on being able to throw different looks and waves of athletes at opponents, UT's depth and size struggles on the interior have manifested themselves into the SEC's 10th-best run defense.

UT already has run through the gauntlet portion of its schedule, so that number should improve. The remaining opponents (South Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky and Vanderbilt) should even out the stats somewhat, but the bottom line is the Vols' rush defense woes have to get fixed quickly.

McKenzie and Tuttle are expected to help.

When they are thrown into a rotation that already includes the league's top freshman defender in Derek Barnett (second in the league in tackles for loss) and future stalwarts such as Dewayne Hendrix, Corey Vereen and Dimarya Mixon, UT will be even more talented up front.

On the second level, there's no denying the impact of senior linebacker A.J. Johnson, the SEC's active leader in career tackles and Butkus Award semifinalist.

But with the emergence of Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Chris Weatherd and Cortez McDowell as well as the promise of Dillon Bates, Jakob Johnson and others, UT has some potential playmakers.

As a matter of fact, coaches feel so strongly about their depth and talent at linebacker that they've taken only two in this recruiting cycle and may not add another.

UT's stingy secondary is extremely young and features emerging stars like Cameron Sutton and Todd Kelly Jr. With the way he's coaching, DBs coach Willie Martinez is taking advantage of his prowess as a recruiter.

Cornerbacks Micah Abernathy, Darrell Miller and safety Stephen Griffin head a defensive backs class that is big and physical, so Martinez is going to have size and speed to develop, too.

Add the potential of local athlete Jocquez Bruce to play back there and UT will have plenty of options moving forward.

 

Bottom Line

While making a bowl game would be huge for the perception and direction of this program, the future of Tennessee doesn't hinge on this year's results.

This is only the beginning of Jones' massive rebuilding project that seems neither ahead nor behind of schedule. Instead, UT has performed as expected during an extremely difficult stretch of scheduling the past two seasons.

Tennessee losing hasn't affected recruiting, which is good for the Vols considering they've probably only got an outside shot of making the postseason again this year. Instead, UT remains one of the hottest teams in the nation in living rooms.

Problem is, most others in the SEC are recruiting extremely well, too.

It's going to be difficult for UT to catch up simply because the nation's toughest league is only getting stronger. While the Vols are fourth in the nation in recruiting, they're just third in the SEC, behind Alabama and Georgia, who are both perennially on the schedule.

The Gamecocks aren't far behind with a class of 27 players that ranks sixth nationally.

The Vols' past problems haven't centered on recruiting, even though Jones has that aspect going better than it has since the heyday of the late 1990s under Phillip Fulmer. It's been development of those players once they get on campus.

It's early still, but the defensive improvements are extremely promising in that regard.

Throw in how much improved Bajakian's scheme appeared with a mobile quarterback in place and there's reason to believe things are trending upward for the entire program.

Now, the only thing left is translating all that into wins. This week would be an ideal time to start.

 

All stats and information taken from CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information gathered from 247Sports.com.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2015 Recruits Who Will Bring More Speed and Athleticism to the Big Ten

Four years after a recruiting process that began with little traction for Alabama native Ameer Abdullah, the former 3-star recruit—who was spurned by in-state powers Alabama and Auburn—is dominating the Big Ten as a slashing running back at Nebraska.

One of the most notable perceptions as to why the Big Ten has struggled in recent years is its lack of speed and athleticism when compared to leagues such as the SEC or the Pac-12. 

However, many Big Ten schools are hitting the recruiting trail hard in the 2015 cycle in search of speedy athletes like Abdullah to supplement their rosters.

Powers such as Ohio State and Penn State are faring particularly well, but the rest of the league remain vigilant of their pursuit of some of the top prep athletes in the country.

Which 2015 recruits are set to stock the Big Ten with ample speed and athleticism?

*Recruits listed in alphabetical order. 

Begin Slideshow

Texas Football: The 5 Most Surprising Longhorns in 2014

Texas' road to 3-5 has been a disappointing exercise in self-destruction—one five-yard penalty and bad snap at a time.

At least the Longhorns and their fans have been able to enjoy the surprise development of Tyrone Swoopes, his go-to receiver and some new starters on the defense.

Relative to somewhat low expectations, these players have come out and established themselves as budding stars in 2014. Whatever reason for optimism lingers moving forward starts with these guys.

Begin Slideshow

NFL Draft Stock for College Football's Top Performers

College football's top players are looking to show what they've got in hopes of making it to the next level.

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder and Matt Miller discuss the underrated players who have seen their draft stocks boom.

Who do you think has seen a big rise in his draft stock?

Check out the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Ranking the 5 Most Surprising Cornhuskers in 2014

Nebraska fans have been pleasantly surprised by a number of players in 2014. While stars like Randy Gregory, Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell have been (in the immortal words of former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green) who we thought they were, some Cornhuskers have either stepped up performances from previous years or come completely out of the blue to become stars.

Here are five Cornhuskers who have given Nebraska fans far more than they expected this season.

Begin Slideshow

ESPN College GameDay 2014: Week 10 Schedule, Location, Predictions and More

No. 10-ranked TCU will venture outside the Lone Star State in Week 10 for an epic Big 12 matchup against the No. 20-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers, one of the more surprising success stories of the 2014 college football season.

TCU is coming off a staggering 82-27 win over Texas Tech, a game in which they scored 10 touchdowns and put up nearly 800 yards of total offense. The Mountaineers are no slouches, however, and have rattled off four wins in a row against Big 12 opposition.

This could very well be the game of the week, and ESPN's College GameDay announced, via Twitter, that the program will be on hand in West Virginia to capture the excitement:

Long-time prognosticator Lee Corso and the rest of the merry band of traveling pigskin predictors will make the trek up to Morgantown, West Virginia, on the banks of the Monongahela River, for what should be a highly entertaining contest between two rivals.

TCU, by virtue of their top-10 ranking, are still playing for a shot, however remote, at the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Here is all the info you need to watch the preview show and the big game later in the day.



ESPN College GameDay: Week 10 Info

Date: Saturday, Nov. 1

Time (ET): 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Location:
Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, West Virginia

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream:WatchESPN

 

Preview and Prediction 

West Virginia has been an impressively stubborn team in 2014, refusing to back down against even the toughest of opponents. That steely grit and determination will be absolutely necessary against an awe-inspiring Horned Frogs offense.

The Mountaineers are 1-2 against ranked opponents this season, but their overall point differential in those games is just minus-nine. Indeed, quarterback Clint Trickett and company have been playing their best football as of late, scoring signature wins over then-fourth-ranked Baylor and conference-rival Oklahoma State in Weeks 8 and 9, respectively.

Trickett may not strike fear into opposing defensive coordinators the way TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin does, but he's certainly had his moments this season. The senior slinger has 17 passing touchdowns against just five interceptions this season, and he certainly put up points in a hurry in the Mountaineers' 34-10 win over the Cowboys in Week 9, per SmartFootball.com's Chris B. Brown:

Trickett's favorite option is the virtually unguardable wideout Kevin White. The secondary-shredding senior has 72 receptions for 1,047 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014. He routinely makes unbelievable catches and will be the focal point for the Horned Frogs' defense on Saturday.

TCU should be able to scrounge up a couple of turnovers in this game, considering they've forced opponents to cough up the football 21 times this year, tied for sixth best in the nation per NCAA.com.

Early turnovers, or really any turnovers, are a dangerous proposition against the Horned Frogs, who are averaging 50.4 points per game, the best mark in the nation.

For a sampling of the absurdly high offensive standards at TCU, look no further than this quote from head coach Gary Patterson after his team put up 82 points against Texas Tech. Via a postgame report from GoFrogs.com:

I don't think we played well all game. We still had to kick three or four field goals in the red zone in the second quarter. If you want to win a championship, you have to play better. I'm way happy for them, but I told them before the ballgame they weren't ready after watching them warm up. Fortunately for us, we didn't play well and we won a ballgame.

It's tough to figure out who might've upset Patterson in that game, considering there were star turns all around. Boykin threw seven of his 21 total passing touchdowns against Texas Tech. The fleet-footed quarterback has been pure nightmare fuel for defensive coordinators all season long.

The Mountaineers' blueprint for success should be their 41-27 upset win over high-octane Baylor, but TCU is better suited to deal with West Virginia's blitzing strategy.

Bears quarterback Bryce Petty completed just 16 of 36 passes in that game and was under constant pressure. Boykin is much more mobile and should be able to buy time with his feet and find guys like Josh Doctson and Deante' Gray.

The only way to limit his effectiveness may be to move him to a different position, as Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen jokingly suggested, via Fox Sports Southwest's David Ubben:

The home crowd should give the West Virginia defense a boost, but it simply won't be enough for this team to keep pace. The score will be close, but in the end the Horned Frogs will come away victorious.

Prediction: 52-31, TCU wins

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks Week 10: Odds and Spread Predictions for Top 25 Teams

With the release of the first College Football Playoff rankings, each team now knows where it stands in the eyes of the committee. Of course, the only thing that matters is that the squads find ways to keep winning.

No matter where teams are at this point of the season, a lot can change over the next two months. Anyone can lose at any time, starting with this week, which features a number of dangerous matchups for the nation's top programs.

Here is a look at the latest official Top 25, Bleacher Report's Top 25 and predictions for Week 10 of the college football season.

 

Top Games to Watch

No. 3 Auburn at No. 4 Ole Miss

Ole Miss might have suffered its first loss of the season Saturday at LSU, but you cannot blame the defense. The Rebels allowed just 10 points in Baton Rouge, continuing a trend of great play throughout the season.

The defensive side of the ball is not only a strength for Ole Miss; it is arguably the best unit in the nation. Alex Brown of Optimum Scouting broke down the squad's talent level:

ESPN's Joe Schad provided some stats for how the elite defense matches up against Auburn:

As good as Auburn is with its read-option rushing attack, it will be difficult to move the football at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, and this will be another low-scoring battle.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace should be more comfortable at home, especially against a Tigers defense that ranks just 75th in the country against the pass. If he can find a way to get the ball to Laquon Treadwell in space, the Rebels will be able to get enough points to win.

Auburn has one of the more talented teams in the nation, but road games against Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama could end up dooming a run to the national championship.

This game will not be pretty, but Ole Miss will find a way to come out on top at home.

Prediction: Ole 17, Auburn 13

 

No. 7 TCU at No. 20 West Virginia

While that SEC battle is going to be all about defense, this Big 12 contest will look more like a track meet.

TCU has the No. 1 offense in the country, scoring 50.4 points per game. Even in the team's only loss, the Horned Frogs totaled 58 points against Baylor. While West Virginia's defense has improved lately, it will be difficult to slow down Trevone Boykin.

However, the Mountaineers have their own quick-strike offense with Clint Trickett throwing the ball to receiver Kevin White, one of three players in the nation with over 1,000 receiving yards in 2014.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com is impressed with what he has seen from the senior this season:

Of course, Trickett deserves credit on his own, as he has not let any defense slow him down this year. He has thrown for over 300 yards against top defenses such as Alabama and Oklahoma, and he gives his team a chance to win any game.

Considering TCU has only played in two true road games this season and zero outside the state of Texas, the offense could have some problems in the intimidating environment of Morgantown. If Boykin is slowed down even a little bit, it could be all West Virginia needs to pull off an upset in a back-and-forth battle.

Prediction: West Virginia 41, TCU 38

 

Stanford at No. 5 Oregon

There are two different matchups between ranked Pac-12 teams, but this is the one people really want to watch. Oregon is in position to play its way into the College Football Playoff if it wins out, but Stanford has represented a thorn in the team's side over the past few seasons.

Since Marcus Mariota became the starting quarterback in 2012, the Ducks have lost only four games. Two of them were against Stanford, with each seemingly knocking the squad out of the national title picture.

Despite this lack of success, head coach Mark Helfrich does not have any doubts about his quarterback, via Andrew Greif of The Oregonian:

Marcus Mariota doesn't need to beat anybody to prove the greatness of him. I know that he as a competitor wants to beat everybody and it doesn't matter if it's Stanford or whoever he's going to compete like heck to win as a competitor, as a teammate but again that's kind of an external factor that doesn't help him make a read better. If he prepares with a little chip on his shoulder great, and then just go out and play fast.

Still, it is not a coincidence the Cardinal have had success against Oregon. They consistently have one of the best defenses in the nation (No. 2 in scoring in 2014) thanks mostly to a defensive front that hits hard and tackles well.

ESPN's David Lombardi notes how consistent the unit has been in recent years:

As the Ducks deal with injuries and reshuffling along their own offensive line, Mariota could be under a lot of pressure throughout the game.

Playing at home will give Oregon a boost, especially with Kevin Hogan and the Stanford offense struggling to score on the road. The team is averaging only 14.7 points in three games away from home.

That should allow the Ducks to pull out a win, but it will be difficult to cover the spread.

Prediction: Oregon 24, Stanford 20

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top Big 12 Football Storylines Heading into November

The Big 12 is perhaps the most chaotic and unstable conference in the nation. 

Heading into October, the Oklahoma Sooners were a write-in for the College Football Playoff. Now they're an afterthought, being replaced by a three-way dash to the finish line between Kansas State, TCU and WVU—the latter two of which nobody would've predicted. 

The Big 12 also has a surprise Heisman Trophy candidate in Trevone Boykin, the revived Horned Frogs gunslinger who, had it not been for a monumental collapse at Waco, could very well be at the reins of the Big 12's most talented team. 

So what are the biggest storylines for the Big 12 in November, the month in which college football seasons are truly won and lost?

Begin Slideshow

LSU Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of November

The LSU Tigers have new life. 

Head coach Les Miles led his team to a 3-1 record in October. LSU is now 7-2 overall with an outside chance of making the College Football Playoff. 

The Tigers put themselves in an 0-2 hole in SEC play with an opening-month blowout loss in Auburn. LSU bounced back in its second consecutive road game against Florida, edging out the Gators late 30-27

LSU played its best game of the season against Kentucky the following week in Death Valley, blowing out the Wildcats 41-3. The Tigers rode that home momentum with a thrilling upset victory over unbeaten Ole Miss 10-7

LSU will only play three games and have two bye weeks during the month of November. The fun will start when Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide return to Baton Rouge on November 8. 

Here is a full preview of what lies ahead for the Tigers. 

 

LSU vs. Alabama, November 8

The Tigers and Tide have played each other after bye weeks every season since 2010. Saban has been victorious over Miles the past three times they have met.  

Alabama, like LSU, will be coming off a three-game winning streak. The Crimson Tide own the conference's best rush defense, holding opponents to less than 100 yards per game. On the other hand, the Tigers eviscerated the formidable Landshark defense of Ole Miss on the ground for 264 yards.

Saban will load the box and force quarterback Anthony Jennings to win the game through the air. Jennings must be able to complete intermediate throws to keep the defense honest. 

LSU will have its hands full stopping the powerful Alabama running game led by running back T.J. Yeldon, who scored the game-winning touchdown for the Tide the last time he visited Tiger Stadium. Quarterback Blake Sims and receiver Amari Cooper could be the best one-two combo in the country through the air. 

Alabama will likely be without starting left tackle Cam Robinson, though, per Cliff Kirkpatrick of the Montgomery Advertiser. That could spell trouble with the raucous Tiger Stadium crowd. Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil left last Saturday's game against LSU with an injury, which led to a dominant performance from the defensive line in the second half.

The game will be closely contested between the evenly matched teams. But the Crimson Tide have a slight advantage in talent and experience at the skill positions on offense. They will edge it out in a close one. 

Score: Alabama 21 - LSU 17

 

LSU at Arkansas, November 15

The recovery period for any team after playing Alabama is brutal. So it is not ideal for LSU to play the physical Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville the week after playing the Crimson Tide. 

Hogs head coach Bret Bielema has seen improvement on the field this year, though it has not necessarily shown in the win column. Arkansas only lost to Alabama by one and had a late collapse against Texas A&M. 

The weakness of LSU's defense has been up the middle, though it has improved with the insertion of Kendell Beckwith at middle linebacker. The Tigers will be tested by the powerful Arkansas offensive line and running backs corps. 

The key will be exploiting the Hogs' weaknesses. Quarterback Brandon Allen and his receivers are below average, so the Tigers should have no problem with stopping them through the air. On the other side of the ball, LSU receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre should shred Arkansas' porous secondary. 

Eight of the last nine games between LSU and Arkansas have been decided by one possession or less. The Razorbacks outplayed the Tigers in Death Valley last season but lost thanks to some late heroics from Jennings.

This one should be close as well, but expect the Tigers to win on a late field goal by Colby Delahoussaye. 

Score: LSU 24 - Arkansas 21

 

LSU at Texas A&M, November 27 (Thanksgiving)

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has not been able to figure out LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. 

The Tigers defense stifled Johnny Manziel in the team's two matchups against the Heisman trophy winner. Now, Sumlin must find a way to move the ball with sophomore Kenny Hill and a young offense.

But Sumlin's biggest issues will not be on offense, as LSU's ground game pounded the Aggies defense for 324 rushing yards last season. Texas A&M's run defense, as well as its pass defense, has not been much better in 2014.

Texas A&M will have a hostile crowd at Kyle Field. But one thing that will silence a crowd is a slow and steady beatdown in the trenches. A rested LSU after a bye week wins comfortably in College Station.

Score: LSU 38 - Texas A&M 24 

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by CFBStats.com,ESPN.com and LSU Sports Information. Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: Devin Gardner's Last Chance to Salvage Legacy

A year ago Devin Gardner was the unquestioned leader of a 6-1 Michigan squad that was battling for a berth in Big Ten championship game.

Then the bottom fell out.

Michigan has since gone 4-10, he was injured, benched for a game and coach Brady Hoke is squarely on the firing line.

Gardner now faces the last few games of his collegiate career with a final opportunity to salvage his tarnished legacy.

It’s difficult to imagine how last November could have been worse for Gardner.

  • A horrific 1-4 stretch that included bookend losses to key rivals Michigan State and Ohio State.
  • He was pounded mercilessly as his offensive line struggled to compete during the backstretch of the Big Ten season.
  • His epic fourth-quarter performance versus Ohio State ultimately fell short, and an injury during the game ended his season.

When Gardner returned from injury for spring practice, he had a new offensive coordinator, new plays to learn and new competition for the starting quarterback job.

This is not what most people expected when Gardner committed to Michigan in 2010. He was an elite 4-star recruit and one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the state of Michigan.

Unfortunately, his time at Michigan coincided with the collapse of the program first under Rich Rodriguez and now Brady Hoke. He also was stuck behind the singular talent of Denard Robinson on the depth chart for three seasons. The turmoil in the program also resulted in Gardner playing for three separate offensive coordinators (Calvin Magee, Al Borges and Doug Nussmeier), not too mention being switched to wide receiver for most of the 2012 season.

Gardner battled the competition and won back the starting position by the start of this season. But the same problems that plagued him during the end of last season returned.

The offensive line was only marginally improved, and Gardner continued to turn over the ball at a frantic pace.

Gardner personally has more interceptions (10) than 97 teams in the NCAA FBS division. And many of them are simply inexplicable. In an effort to make a big play, Gardner will sometimes see something that simply isn’t there.

In the aftermath of a 35-11 loss to Michigan State, Hoke tried valiantly to explain Gardner’s mistakes.

“He's constantly trying to make a play," said Hoke. ”The pick-six was a pretty athletic play in some regards by the defender. Tried to maybe put it in there in a small window. Part of it is he's aggressive, he believes in himself, believes in making plays. Do you coach [him] to try and not to? Yeah, every day.”

Gardner has four guaranteed games left in his collegiate career. His incredible performance versus Notre Dame last season is a distant memory. Unless he flips the script during these next few games, he’ll be remembered as the quarterback who threw too many interceptions, fumbled too many times, got sacked too often and whose performance got Brady Hoke fired.

Last week Gardner told Angelique Chengelis ofThe Detroit News:

"You can only control what you control…You can't control anything else. I can't control if a coach wants to bench me. I can't control tipped passes. I try to control the things I can control.”

The Devin Gardner who showed up last year against Notre Dame and Ohio State would tear up the next three teams on the schedule—Indiana, Northwestern and Maryland.

The next few games could be a small measure of redemption for Gardner.

He’s in control of his legacy—it's his move.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

Follow
@PSCallihan

All season statistics from mgoblue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department website.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages