NCAA Football News

SEC Football Q&A: What Do We Really Know About Alabama QB Jacob Coker?

Players are gearing up for fall camp, summer workouts are well underway and position battles are ongoing.

Which players will shine? Which transfers will live up to the hype and what offseason questions remain in the SEC?

Find out in this week's Q&A, which was moved up a week to Thursday due to Independence Day.


@BarrettSallee Barrett what's your opinion of Jacob coker. If you can tweet me back

— My Info (@Ahavis8My) June 27, 2014

I don't have one. I'm not sure how anybody has one.

Coker, the 6'5", 230-pounder who transferred from Florida State to Alabama this summer and is the likely starter for the Crimson Tide, is very much a mystery.

What do we know? He completed 51.2 percent of his passes in Tallahassee over the last two seasons, has a big arm and can run a little bit. 

Aside from that, though, his reputation is built for the most part on hearsay.

I'm not going to base an opinion of him on what his former coaches say he did during closed practices, and I don't believe he pushed eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston for the starting quarterback job at Florida State last year for a second. Sure, he may have according to coaches, but that easily could have been a motivational tactic for Winston, who had all the buzz exiting spring practice in 2013.

The jury is out on Coker—at least it should be. Until he actually plays a game as Alabama's starting quarterback, it's really premature to have a definitive opinion on him one way or the other.

Luckily for Alabama, with all the weapons around him, he doesn't have to be Peyton Manning out there for the Crimson Tide to be successful.


@BarrettSallee what will have the bigger impact for UGA: new DC or attrition in the secondary?

— Chase Paris (@chaseparis) June 27, 2014

Definitely new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

The departures of safeties Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews aren't exactly ideal, but head coach Mark Richt told me in May that it's safe to assume that the transfer of Shaq Wiggins and the move of Brendan Langley to wide receiver meant that some of the pieces were starting to come together following spring practice.

Plus, Georgia has talent back there. Corey Moore, Quincy Mauger, J.J. Green, Damian Swann, Sheldon Dawson and several other members of the Georgia secondary are talented players; they were just lost last year. The reason they were lost is because former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is a terrible teacher.

Pruitt's strengths are his abilities to teach and simplify the scheme, which are precisely the two things that Georgia's secondary needs.

The beauty about Georgia this year is that the secondary doesn't need to be great, it just needs to be adequate. With all the weapons around new quarterback Hutson Mason, the Bulldogs will be able to move the football. If the defense can just force some turnovers and put the offense in good positions, they'll be all set.


@BarrettSallee Vandy's conference record? And does UK match it?

— Erik (@gothlaw) June 27, 2014

Oh man, it's going to be a rough year in Nashville.

Right now, I have Vanderbilt at 0-8 in the SEC and Kentucky at 1-7, with that one win being over Vanderbilt (subject to change before the start of the season, of course).

The overly simplistic reason is that Vandy is hitting the reset button with its personnel and coaching staff, while the rest of the division is taking steps forward. 

Georgia and South Carolina are legit national title contenders, and I wouldn't be shocked at all if Florida jumped into that mix as well. Missouri is the defending division champ, and Tennessee has more talent on the roster and more experience with its coaching staff. The 'Dores draw Mississippi State and Ole Miss from the west, both of which will be better and much more consistent.

Where are the wins coming from this year?

New head coach Derek Mason will have a rough go of it in Year 1, but that doesn't necessarily have to be permanent. The biggest challenge he has to face right off the bat is expectations generated from back-to-back nine-win seasons. With time, and patience, he'll be fine.


Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC Lead Writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee. If your question wasn't answered this week, it has been saved and could be used in the future.

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

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Is 4-Star Tyler Petite's Verbal to Duke over USC Starting a Trend or Aberration?

Stating the obvious is a good place to start because it is, if nothing else, a necessary reminder: Duke's David Cutcliffe is doing as good a job as any head coach in college football. 

Last season, the Blue Devils went 10-4, winning the ACC Coastal and recording double-digit wins for the first time in the program's history. Say what you will about the messy history of ACC divisional title races, but Cutcliffe won a division over Miami, Virginia Tech and even Georgia Tech with a roster full of 2- and 3-star players. 

And since things are coming up Milhouse in Durham, Duke got a pleasant boost on the recruiting trail Wednesday with the verbal commitment of 4-star tight end Tyler Petite

Petite, who is from Moraga, California, chose Duke over USC. Clearly, this is a big moment for Duke as a program, which grabbed a big-time recruit from across the country. However, since verbal commitments are non-binding, there's plenty of time for Petite to change his mind. 

But Duke has quietly been improving on the recruiting trail. Though the Blue Devils didn't exactly see a surge following last year's landmark season—the 2014 class was ranked 13th in the ACC by 247Sports—the early returns on the 2015 class are different. 

Duke has 17 pledges for the 2015 class, ranking sixth in the conference and 21st nationally. Though the quantity of pledges in a given class shouldn't be confused with quality, Duke is making more noise than ever before. ESPN's Andrea Adelson explains

Perhaps most impressive of all? Duke is getting pledges from players who are spurning more prestigious football programs. Not only did Petite pick Duke over USC; ESPN 300 receiver Keyston Fuller chose the Blue Devils over offers from Auburn, Clemson and hometown Georgia to name three. 

Just last month, Duke also picked up a commitment from 3-star offensive lineman Reno Rosene, who had offers from Notre Dame, Nebraska and Wisconsin. 

If Petite's verbal commitment is viewed in a vacuum, it's somewhat of an aberration. The highest-profile recruits to sign with Duke under Cutcliffe have been running back Desmond Scott in 2009 and quarterback Sean Renfree in 2008. 

In other words, blue chips have been a rarity for the Blue Devils. 

If Petite's commitment is viewed through a lens looking into the near future, it appears to be more of a trend. The overall quality of Duke's class would stand out if, by next signing day, it was still ranked somewhere in or around the top 25. 

Building and winning at Duke hasn't been an easy task for a long time. It's taken Cutcliffe a few years to get things rolling, but there's momentum for the program now. Perhaps one good class leads to two and divisional titles aren't so monumental. 

It has to start somewhere. Maybe it starts with Petite. 


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

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10 FBS Teams on Upset Alert vs. FCS Opponents in 2014

FCS upsets have long been a factor in college football—just ask the 2007 Michigan Wolverines—but they reached an apex in Week 1 of last season, when eight teams from the senior circuit were defeated by teams from the junior.

Eight more FCS teams would beat FBS opponents over the course of the regular season, raising the total to 16. Of those 16 wins, three came against Georgia State, lowering the number of teams that were upset to 14. And of those 14 beaten parties, only seven came from non-power conferences. The other half came from leagues with automatic BCS berths…but still lost to an FCS team. Valar Morghulis!

The headliners of that group included Florida—an SEC power that was one year removed from the Sugar Bowl—Kansas State and Oregon State. Three proud programs were not able to overcome Georgia Southern, North Dakota State and Eastern Washington, respectively.

Which raises an important question: Who will fall victim to the FCS curse this season?

It is not a matter of if it will happen but when, where and to whom. At least a few marquee programs will lose to "inferior" competition; we know this as an near-statistical fact.

Here is a look at 10 candidates to fall in 2014.

The list was based on the strength of the FCS team in question—major props to Athlon Sports for these thorough preseason FCS rankings—and where the game lies on the schedule. A good deal of these matchups stand out for their "trap game" potential.

Chime in below, and let me know where you disagree.

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Which Program Will Build 2015 Marvell Tell into All Pac-12 Safety?

Marvell Tell is one of the biggest hitters in the 2015 class. His size and speed will allow him to develop into an amazing safety at the next level.

The California native has not pledged to a program, but he seems mostly interested in west coast schools. Where do you think he will go?

Watch College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down this future star.


Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

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Georgia Football: 4 Bulldogs Who Are Poised for a Breakout Season in 2014

In some regards, an awful lot is known about the 2014 Georgia Bulldogs.  

Hutson Mason, who started the final two games of last season at quarterback, is coming back to throw to a handful of familiar receivers. Meanwhile, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will lead a host of talented running backs behind an offensive line that returns three starters.

Much is needed on the defensive side of the ball, but the majority of last year's key personnel will return in 2014.

Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera will anchor the middle of the field, while talented pass-rushers Ray Drew, Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd will chase quarterbacks.

Even the defensive backfield, which has been plagued by premature departures, returns Damian Swann, Corey Moore and Quincy Mauger—three players who started at least seven games last season.

Ultimately, however, the fate of this team will be decided by less-heralded players who rise to the occasion and establish themselves as household names among Bulldog fans.  

Just in time for the holiday weekend, here are four Georgia players poised for breakout seasons in 2014.

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The Opening 2014: Schedule, Dates, Invites, Roster and TV Info

Following months of buildup, one of the biggest recruiting events on the schedule will officially get underway on Tuesday. The Opening will see several recruits make their commitments during the week, with many hoping to shine and improve their ranking heading into the summer.

Both rosters have a plethora of talented 5-star recruits ready to take the big stage in Beaverton, Oregon, to make their case as the top player at their respective position. With only 162 players making the final cut, each team will have to wait until Monday to find out who their quarterback will be.

Though the prospects won't find out until Monday about the signal-caller for their squad, Elite 11 posted a preview of the finalists:

Between the 7-on-7 matchups and linemen challenges, there will be plenty of prospects for scouts to drool over throughout the three-day event. Though some have already become popular names thanks to committing to a school, others hope to prove their worth to fanbases as they continue on the recruiting trail.

Here's a look at everything fans need to know heading into Nike's The Opening.


Top Recruits to Watch

Josh Sweat, Defensive End, Uncommitted

The top defensive end in the 2014 class, according to 247Sports, still hasn't committed. Oh, you better believe there will be some watchful eyes on this outstanding prospect out of Chesapeake, Virginia.

With an astounding 57 programs reportedly interested in Josh Sweat, only one will ultimately add his immense talent to their roster in the 2015 class. Chris Nee of 247Sports notes the latest predictions for the huge recruit:

He added a new Crystal Ball prediction this week, which was for Virginia Tech. The Hokies lead on his Crystal Ball with 48 percent of predictions. Florida State is second with 38 percent. Tennessee (10 percent) and Ohio State (5 percent) claim the remainder of predictions.

He has visited all of those schools with the exception of Florida State. He is due to see the Seminoles in July.

Sweat posted 94 tackles and an absurd 22 sacks last season with Oscar Smith High School and has clearly made a name for himself with his elite-level play on the field.

In a loaded field with some of the best offensive linemen looking to knock him off, this will be a huge test for Sweat. If he can shine once again on one of the biggest stages on the recruiting calendar, Sweat might just secure the top defensive end spot heading into his final season.


Kevin Toliver II, Cornerback, LSU Commit

Unlike Sweat, Kevin Toliver II has already announced his intentions for his college future.

The LSU commit is the No. 1 corner in the 2015 class, per 247Sports, and will look to put his elite coverage skills to the test yet again. The young man might not have hit a college field just yet, but he's already had some great coaching at the position, as Josh Newberg of 247Sports notes:

Toliver is already viewed as the top corner and knows exactly where he's heading next year, so he surely doesn't have to worry about proving himself anymore. But gaining more experience from covering top receivers like Preston Williams, George Campbell and DaMarkus Lodge will be great for his future.

With all three of those receivers potentially landing in the SEC, Toliver will have his hands full in the years to come with the Tigers. Getting experience now against the big-name wideouts and best quarterback prospects will simply better him for the road ahead.


Josh Rosen, Quarterback, UCLA Commit

Do you like big arms? How about pinpoint accuracy from a pro-style quarterback? Well, quite frankly, who doesn't?

Josh Rosen offers all of those things and more from his 6'4", 205-pound frame and looks every bit the part of the future star quarterback at UCLA. The St. John Bosco signal-caller discussed why he ultimately chose the Bruins for his college future, per Erik McKinney of

I knew for sure it would be UCLA four days ago. I put UCLA in front a few months ago, but the Michigan visit made me go in depth about why UCLA was the right place for me. A lot went into the decision and it wasn't made just for football. I'm going to the university where I fit best in all aspects.

After throwing for 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns last season, Rosen burst onto the scene and is now viewed as the No. 1 quarterback by 247Sports. Already committed and showing flashes of what is to come in the next several years for the Bruins, Rosen might have to compete against players like Toliver and others to prove himself.

In a 7-on-7 setting, look for Rosen to yet again emerge as a star by finding his elite-level receivers down the field with his huge arm. With a huge Pac-12 audience expected in Beaverton, Rosen will prove yet again why he's the next in line of great quarterbacks for the Bruins.


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Elite 11 2014: Finals Schedule, Dates, Events and Trent Dilfer's QB Roster

When it comes to the best crops of quarterback prospects, the Elite 11 competition always brings out the biggest stars ready for the next level.

Trent Dilfer's quarterback roster this year includes several big names that have already committed to schools like Florida State, UCLA and Texas A&M. Then there are several others who have yet to announce their intentions and will look to prove their worth on the big stage.

Here's a look at the full roster provided by the Elite 11 Twitter account:

In an event that once saw names like Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford and recently Jameis Winston rise to stardom, the Elite 11 offers some of the best signal-callers from around the country in one competition. All 18 quarterbacks invited will hope they make the final list when it's whittled down to 11 at the end of the week.

Before the finals officially get underway, here's a look at the full schedule for the Elite 11 competition.


Dates and TV Coverage

Saturday, July 5: Not televised

Sunday, July 6: Not televised

Monday, July 7: Not televised

Tuesday, July 8: ESPNU at 8 p.m. ET

Wednesday, July 9: ESPNU at 8 p.m. ET

Thursday, July 10: ESPNU at 8 p.m. ET


Prospects to Watch

Josh Rosen, UCLA

Josh Rosen has all of the essentials for an elite quarterback. He has the big arm, pinpoint accuracy and a 6'4" frame that makes him a prototypical pro-style signal-caller.

After committing to UCLA, Rosen heads into the competition looking to only prove that he's better than any other player in the running. The St. John Bosco quarterback spoke about why he ultimately chose the Bruins for his college future, per Erik McKinney of

I knew for sure it would be UCLA four days ago. I put UCLA in front a few months ago, but the Michigan visit made me go in depth about why UCLA was the right place for me. A lot went into the decision and it wasn't made just for football. I'm going to the university where I fit best in all aspects.

The No. 1 quarterback by 247Sports threw for 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns last season. Given the immense talent also in the competition, Rosen will look to hold down the top spot in the rankings by outdoing every other signal-caller in Beaverton.

In a 7-on-7 setting, Rosen will yet again emerge as a star with his huge arm and outstanding pocket presence. With a huge Pac-12 audience expected in Oregon, Rosen will look to show UCLA fans why he is better than another quarterback set to play for their rival in the future.


Ricky Town, USC

That quarterback Rosen will be compared to is none other than Ricky Town.

The rivalry between UCLA and USC is always exciting on the football field, but it starts early for both Rosen and Town. Formerly the top quarterback in the class, Town spoke about the reasons he chose USC after decommitting from Alabama, per Blair Angulo of

I'm proud to be a part of the Trojan Family! I've seen many of the top programs and what they have to offer. However, when I had the chance to get on the USC campus last week and spend time with Coach Sarkisian and his staff, I knew after those meetings that USC is where I want to be. ... I chose USC because of the tradition, the academics and the incredible coaching staff.

Despite a knee injury, per the ESPN report, Town still threw for 2,300 yards and 25 touchdowns in just nine games last season. After a gutsy performance, he earned the final spot on the roster and will look to make the most of it.

Between the two top quarterbacks, both will put on a show for the fans on the West Coast. As for Alabama fans, they will have to watch and think, "What might have been?" while also enjoying Blake Barnett, who recently committed to the Crimson Tide.


Ryan Brand, Uncommitted

No, he's not the top overall, a 5- or even 4-star recruit, but Ryan Brand has proven he's worthy of being considered one of the top quarterbacks in the 2015 class.

Barton Simmons of 247Sports wrote about Brand's talent: "If we’re talking purely about performance and not factoring in how he projects to the future due to size, Brand was probably the best thrower in attendance."

Not to mention, he also got a pretty special shoutout when he earned his invitation to the finals:

When Russell Wilson gives you a shoutout, you know you've done something special. Wilson, a quarterback who had to prove a lot despite his short stature, has shown that quarterbacks of any size can be elite.

For Brand, it will be about showing that he deserves to be offered by a power-five conference. While he's earned offers from both Indiana State and Air Force, the 3-star signal-caller might be able to emerge and get the letter he's worked so hard for during the recruiting process.


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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One Commitment Every Pac-12 Team Wishes It Could Get This Summer

Earlier in this way-too-long offseason we wrote about every Pac-12 team's dream recruit, a piece which took realistic options out of the equation and went warp speed into fantasyland.

This time, we're tweaking the subject matter a bit and taking a look at one player from whom every team wishes it could secure a commitment over the summer. We're still a month away from the start of fall camp, so prime time for recruiting is happening as you read this sentence.

The following players don't necessarily have to be considered "locks" to the school, but we're focusing strictly on guys who actually have an interest in the program. So while Utah would love to get a commitment from 5-star cornerback Iman Marshall, the chances of that happening are nonexistent.

The quarterback dominoes have begun to fall, but there is still plenty of top talent available. Which players are Pac-12 schools hoping to get a commitment from in the next couple months?


All recruiting info via

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What Would Nile Sykes' Absence Mean for Notre Dame in 2014?

Blue and Gold Illustrated’s Dan Murphy (subscription required) reported Wednesday that incoming Notre Dame football freshman linebacker Nile Sykes won’t be playing for the Irish this fall, citing unnamed sources.

Soon after the report was published, Sykes tweeted, “I am still currently a Notre Dame student.” The tweet has since been deleted from Sykes’ Twitter account.

Further reports from Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune and Tyler James of the South Bend Tribune suggested the possibility of Sykes transferring.

If—and that's still an important distinction to make—the linebacker were to leave the university, what impact would that have on Notre Dame in 2014?

Sykes, a 3-star signee from Oak Park, Illinois, was slated as the No. 36 outside linebacker in the country and ranked at No. 459 overall. On national signing day, Irish head coach Brian Kelly called Sykes a “great addition to our class.”

“[We] really like Nile and his personality,” Kelly said. “He's got a great family. Mom and dad, really excited about being a part of the Notre Dame family. Listen, that matters, too. We want people that want to be part of Notre Dame and be part of our family.”

Kelly praised Sykes’ ball skills and instincts and said the Montini Catholic High School product has the versatility to play inside and outside.

Sykes is one of three linebackers in Notre Dame’s class of 2014. According to Murphy, Sykes has been projected to play outside linebacker for the Irish. While Sykes—the lowest-rated linebacker signee in Notre Dame’s class—likely would not be making major contributions as a freshman, a potential departure would further thin an already questionable position.

Notre Dame returns sophomore Jaylon Smith but must replace Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox and Prince Shembo in the linebacking corps. With Jarrett Grace’s status still up in the air and Ben Councell also returning from injury, Smith is the only healthy player with starting experience.

Still, Sykes probably would not be expected to leapfrog other returning players such as John Turner and James Onwualu on the depth chart.

Thus, a potential departure would mainly impact the Irish down the road. Should Sykes leave the program and free up a scholarship, Notre Dame could take on another player in the class of 2014. Thanks to a recent run of commitments, the Irish currently have 17 players in their class of 2015. Over the past 34 days, Notre Dame has landed 10 new commitments. The surge has bumped the Irish to No. 8 in the class rankings.

But Notre Dame may also be approaching its upper limit for commitments in the class of 2015. A host of players in the senior class could have fifth-year options, which would further tighten the strings on the size of this cycle’s recruiting class.

Whose is next to join? Class is closing out quickly. Go Irish!

— Kerry Cooks (@CoachKerryCooks) July 3, 2014

First, however, there is clarity needed on Sykes’ situation.

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports composite rankings.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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An Inside Look at the Complex World of College Football Recruiting Rankings

“Initially college coaches hated us. They didn’t want anything they were doing scrutinized. They didn’t want kids they were trying to hide being discovered. High school coaches didn’t trust us. They didn’t know who we were. Now that the high school and college coaches associate us with the rankings and they are more cooperative. We’ve earned our stripes."

– Mike 'The Godfather of Recruiting' Farrell

Over the last decade, I’ve had the opportunity to cover college football recruiting for ESPN and The most common question I get, is who has the better rankings? The answer is none. Rankings are too subjective. There isn’t a rankings formula where you plug in stats, height and weight, SPARQ Rating, or level of competition to get a star rating. 

As an evaluator, I watched a ton of football.  Every season I attended well over 30 games and watched countless other game tapes for up to 12 hours a week.  As you might guess, this is the most time consuming part of the job.  During the spring and summer camp season I traveled the country every weekend to scout players in person.   The other analysts and I teleconferenced for weeks at a time, 8 to 10 hours a day, going over thousands of players individually while breaking down film and fighting for star rankings.   

“Derrick Henry is a five-star to me.  But, is he better than Ty Isaac? They have similar body types and upright running styles and Isaac is a five-star right now.  If we keep him as a four-star it’s going to be difficult to justify. Let’s vote.” – Quote from a evaluation meeting for the final rankings of the 2013 recruiting class.

I’ve been asked countless times, are there industry requirements to evaluate and rank college prospects? The answer is no. Each site has a slightly different model in place.

The System:

247Sports, ESPN RecruitingNation (ERN),, and make up the “Big Four” of the recruiting industry. Each site is tasked with the difficult process of keeping up with the ever evolving college football recruiting landscape.  Everyday prospects are offered earlier and earlier such as middle schoolers like Dylan Moses and David Sills. Between new seven-on-seven events constantly popping up, fans hounding prospects on social media outlets, and student-athletes receiving over a 100 letters a day from persistent colleges, it’s a never-ending cycle.

The Big Four


Rivals was founded in 1998 as an advertising based site by Jim Heckman and his group out of Seattle, the first Rivals Rankings came out in 2002.  Rivals can be seen as the breeding ground for the Big Four recruiting services as early officers Shannon Terry and Jim Heckman went on to found 247Sports and Scout respectively.

Farrell has been there since the beginning and currently serves as the National Recruiting Director. Former Rivals Radio host Chris Childers gave him the “Godfather” of recruiting moniker when introducing him on his show. 

“In the beginning we were an ad based company that started ranking kids and doing recruiting updates," Farrell recalled. "Essentially we were doing what the magazines were doing quarterly on the Internet. We were giving people quicker access to what kids were thinking and where they were committing. Then we started ranking kids off video.”


247Sports is the new techy kid on the block. co-founder, Shannon Terry launched the service merely four years ago in 2010. The site has differentiated itself from the competitors with a couple of key components.

First, the 247Sports Composite is the only list to factor in rankings from other sites in addition to 247's own Top247. The Composite offers an unbiased look at where a prospect stands throughout the entire industry. Second, their Crystal Ball prediction engine also allows for fans and media to guess where prospects will end up. It’s considered the fantasy football of the recruiting space.

“There was a lot of excitement when we launched 247Sports in August 2010, Terry said. “Our industry had been stagnant for several years with very few editorial and product enhancements --while at the same time the digital sports media landscape was moving at warp speeds. We are just now starting to focus on what 247Sports is all about -- Your Team all the Time.”

Scout was founded in 2001 by the aforementioned Jim Heckman and was sold to Fox Sports in 2005. Recently, the North America Media Group led by Heckman purchased the rights back from Fox and led an impressive site redesign.

Scout has one of the most unique origin stories of any of the big four.

“Scout started as The Insiders,” explained veteran west coast recruiting analyst Greg Biggins. “You made money by 900 numbers. If you wanted to know about Notre Dame you would call a number and someone will tell you about this prospect.”

ESPN RecruitingNation

ESPN is the only one of the four sites to have a dedicated TV component to cover recruiting which gives their staff a credibility advantage when discussing recruiting on ESPNU, College GameDay, College Football Live, and SportsCenter. The network has come to own National Signing Day with it’s 12-hour show complete with live commitments, analysis, college staff reaction from the “War Room”, and a running ticker to track all the news. 

Another defining factor for ESPN is that they are not solely dependent on a subscription revenue model. 

When it comes to evaluators, ERN truly values coaching and scouting experience at the college or professional levels.  They also have a smallish staff ranking 2,500 players, so resources are limited.  But, what ESPN may lack in breadth they make up for in depth as their analysts pride themselves on viewing most of the top prospects in person.

The World Wide Leader in Sports also televises high school games, The Opening, and the Under Armour All-America Game.

“ESPN has made a massive commitment to integrating into all of their college football platforms.” said ESPN’s Director of National Recruiting, Tom Luginbill “We have a tremendous advantage when it comes to National Signing Day because our company treats it like the NFL Draft. We also are the only site to offer full player evaluation on who the player actually is and I care more about that than where a player is ranked.”

Showcase Events

As each site has grown over the last few years, the competition to stand out has evolved exponentially. In 2011, ESPNHS (later dissolved and renamed Student Sports) created Nike Football’s “The Opening”. The Opening takes place at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon and has since been combined with the Elite 11 Quarterback “Campetition” to come to be considered the nation’s top skills competition.  

“The Opening is the best [camp] from an evaluation standpoint because you at least have players that are equal caliber competing in things that you would actually see on the field at a football practice,” said Luginbill

Student Sports is in charge of selecting the 150-plus participants and all other player personnel matters. The team of experts selects players from in-person evaluations at Nike Football Training Camps, along with film break down and evaluation of student-athlete character. They have “Big Board” of all the prospects and devise teams in their “War Room”. Despite the fact that Student Sports has an experienced group of personnel of talent, they are not directly involved in rankings for any of the “Big Four”.

Rivals responded to The Opening in 2012 when they created their own showcase event called the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour.

At theses premiere events, a player’s stock can rise or fall depending on his performance. These camps serve as a unique platform for top prospects to compete against each other and see how they stack up. Your average four-star prospect may not face top tier talent in their region until they arrive at an elite camp or The Opening. If he doesn’t perform at a high level, he could plummet in the next round of rankings.

Who Cares About The Rankings?

The rankings are mainly for the fans. According to a story, only 29% of college coaches trust, they are the first to tell you they don’t pay attention to rankings or stars.  Fans, on the other hand, may know more about their team’s recruiting class than the Athletic Director. 

“The system is flawed. said Former Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) University School defensive coordinator, Chad Wilson. “You have reporter types without any intimate knowledge of the game trying to determine how much a kid is worth as a player. College coaches by and large don’t respect these opinions, but some for various reasons feel the pressure to govern themselves according to these opinions. Doing so usually ends up being a mistake. With that said, rankings aren’t going away anytime soon.”

Like it or not college coaches have to care about recruiting for two reasons: The fans care and it is a metric their bosses used to evaluate their job performance.

“Now the coaches have bought into recruiting more because the fan base talks about each recruit more, so it’s almost like they are accountable,” Biggins explains. “Where as before you could say oh well who cares how we recruit. At times you have fans that care more about recruiting than how their team does on the field.”

As for the players, some care and some don’t. 

“Stars and rankings don’t mean anything,’ said Florida State commit, Calvin Brewton. I’m a 4-star on Rivals and a 3-star on other sites. Rankings are determined by size, opinion, and what schools offer you. They can measure your height and weight, but they can’t measure your heart.” 

An Inexact Science

There isn’t a guideline or a specific set of criteria for analysts at any of the Big Four to rank and break down athletes consumed by the masses. Again each list is flawed to an extent and that’s all right. The debate gives fans something to talk about and college coaches something to gripe about.

College coaches will tell reporters they don’t look at recruiting sites and that star rankings are for the fans.

However, when a kid commits to their respective school and is considered under ranked or overrated fans are first to let you know via message boards and social media and college coaches will blow up your phone with complaints.

On National Signing Day in 2013, a head coach at a BCS program called to let me know we had one of his signees severely underrated and asked if I could change his ranking after the fact.

I replied, “I’m sorry, I’ve had the chance to see him in game action two or three times in the last couple of seasons and we feel we have ranked accordingly based on his talent.” His response, “I’ve been coaching college for over 30 years and I know South Florida talent. He is better than all the running backs rated in front of him in the state.”

How do you reply? Here is a coach at a major BCS program telling you he knows more about football than you ever will. And you know he is probably right. Yet, he is biased towards his recruit and it is my job to determine the player’s strengths and weaknesses. I saw some holes in his game, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a quality prospect. You do your best job with the information you have. It’s similar to the NFL Draft and every year the draft experts start the telecast with, “its not an exact science.” The boom or bust factor is evident when ranking high school players as well.

"Do the coaches believe we know more than they do? Farrell asks. "No. They never will. But when David Shaw at Stanford says he doesn’t look at rankings. You absolutely know 100-percent that if he isn’t looking then he should be. Not for the rankings, but you have to know who is out there, who’s hot, and what they are saying.”

Kynon Codrington is a national recruiting analyst formerly of  Unless otherwise noted all quotes were obtained firsthand. 

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Texas Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Start

David Ash's progress toward a clean bill of health decrease the chances that we will see Jerrod Heard start a game in 2014, but the 4-star recruit is far from the only incoming Longhorn that could run with the first team.

"[Ash]'s not all the way back, but he's out there competing," a source told's Jeff Howe. "He's throwing a little bit and looking good. He looks like he's going to be fine."

The health of Texas' fourth-year quarterback improves the outlook for the Longhorns and fans who are willing to wait for a little while on Heard. That said, it's too early to completely rule out seeing the future start as a freshman.

And for fans who are eager to get a look at Heard's 2014 classmates, there are three others with a chance to start in their first season on campus, listed in order most likely to least. 

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Nebraska Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Start This Season

Nebraska football fans will be studying the depth chart, looking to see who will be making an impact. While the established stars look pretty clear, success in college football depends on a constant influx of talent. So a good measure of a program’s health is seeing what incoming freshmen will be able to compete for starting positions.

Now, I will admit to cheating a little on this particular assignment. I’m not limiting my discussion to true incoming freshman, but broadening the base to include players who will be new to Nebraska’s roster in 2014. Yeah, it’s not quite the barometer of Nebraska’s recruiting acumen. But if the idea is to discuss how new faces for Nebraska’s roster will help shape the team next year, this criteria should work just fine.

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SEC Football: 2014 Stat Predictions for Every New Starting QB

Whether SEC football can retain the mantle of the nation’s strongest conference will largely hinge upon the success of the nine new full-time starting quarterbacks.

Normally staunch SEC defenses watched helplessly over the past few years while high-profile quarterbacks such as Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray picked them apart.

This year those defensive coordinators might exact a measure of revenge while programs break in new starters at the game’s most important position.

At least eight, and possibly nine, SEC programs will feature new starting quarterbacks in 2014.

Some—like Missouri’s Maty Mauk and South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson—have seen substantial game experience already but step into the primary starter role for the first time.

Other quarterback battles—like those at Texas A&M, Alabama and LSU, to name three—will continue when camps resume in August.

Today we attempt to predict the stats for the SEC’s new starting quarterbacks, which also means forecasting a starter in some cases.

One program that will be missing from this post will be Tennessee, which we are currently forecasting to return Justin Worley as the primary starter.

Since none of these quarterbacks have seen a full season of game action for one of these programs, it should go without saying that these projections are set for entertainment purposes only.

Here go our 2014 stat predictions for every new starting quarterback in the SEC.

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Power Ranking the Top 25 Elite 11 Alums of All Time

With the Elite 11 Finals starting alongside The Opening on July 5, it's time to be nostalgic. Without question, the Elite 11 camp is the most prestigious event and honor for a high school quarterback.

Some of the best passers of this generation are alums of the camp, and many of your favorite NFL teams and college programs have had an Elite 11 alum throw a touchdown pass for them. 

While arriving at just 25 for this list was a bit tough, it was done. A few field generals on this list are former No. 1 overall NFL draft picks, while a few others have a Heisman Trophy in their collections.

Plus, there are several interesting names on this list.

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Reassessing Notre Dame's Recruiting Situation After Commitment Frenzy

As the calendar turns to July, the structure of Notre Dame’s 2015 recruiting class is beginning to take shape.

Wednesday provided Notre Dame with both good news and bad news as the flurry of verbal commitments during the NCAA-mandated “dead period” in the recruiting calendar continued.

4-star New Lenox, Illinois, wide receiver Miles Boykin gave the Irish their third commitment in as many days and 17th overall when he chose Notre Dame over Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State and Missouri.

The addition of Boykin comes on the heels of commitments from Warrington, Pennsylvania, running back Josh Adams on Monday and District Heights, Maryland, cornerback Ashton White on Tuesday.

The day wasn’t all positive for Notre Dame, as two consensus Top 100 targets from pipeline schools committed to Ohio State. Minnesota defensive end Jashon Cornell chose not to join fellow Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul, Minnesota) products Michael Floyd and James Onwualu and attend Notre Dame. Cincinnati linebacker Justin Hilliard’s high school, St. Xavier, is among the most represented high schools at Notre Dame. Like Cornell, however, Hilliard will also attend Ohio State.

Notre Dame has 10 seniors entering their final season this fall, while 14 others are seniors academically but are eligible for a fifth year in 2015. Among the junior class, only defensive tackle Sheldon Day and cornerback KeiVarae Russell are realistic possibilities to enter the NFL draft after this season. The Irish are likely to enter the fall with 82 or 83 scholarship players.

Simple math and projections of fifth-year returnees show that the Irish can probably sign 20-23 players in this class and stay at or under the 85-scholarship limit. With 17 commits already received, Notre Dame will be very selective going forward with who will fill out the remaining spots in the class, currently ranked No. 7 in 247Sports’ composite rankings.

After Anaheim, California, quarterback Travis Waller committed to Oregon on Tuesday, the likelihood of the Irish passing on a quarterback in this class increased. While some interest remains in Texas Tech commit Jarrett Stidham, the Irish may wait until 2016 to sign another quarterback with Everett Golson, Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer all eligible to return in 2015.

Tight end also is not a need after signing four in two years, but the Irish would like to land two more offensive skill-position players after not signing a running back and taking just two wide receivers in 2014. Adams and wide receivers Boykin, C.J. Sanders and Jalen Guyton are presently the only skill-position commits.

Offensive line is likely complete with Tristen Hoge, Trevor Ruhland and Jerry Tillery. A fourth defensive lineman, preferably an end, is sufficient given the five signed in the 2014 class, and the Irish probably need just one more linebacker to join Josh Barajas in the 2015 contingent.

White became the third cornerback in the class, joining 4-star Shaun Crawford and 3-star Nick Coleman. Two safeties, Nicco Fertitta and Prentice McKinney, round out a solid secondary group.

With anywhere from three to six spots still available, Notre Dame will be looking for two skill-position players, one defensive lineman and one linebacker. After that, any other spots will likely be reserved for premium targets without any stipulations on position.

Missing on Cornell and Hilliard is not without significance, but going head-to-head in recruiting battles with Urban Meyer are more often than not going to be losing propositions, even for prospects with built-in connections to Notre Dame.

As always, recruiting is fluid. Will all 17 current commits sign with the Irish on Feb. 4’s national signing day? History would suggest no. But working with the current state of affairs, Notre Dame is in a strong position entering the home stretch in compiling its 2015 signing class.

Filling remaining needs, avoiding any last-minute flips (that never happens to Notre Dame, right?) and landing one or two blue chips are the goals for Brian Kelly and his staff over the next seven months. Now it’s time to buckle up and enjoy the wild and mostly bumpy ride that is the final stage of the college football recruiting cycle.

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Miles Boykin to Notre Dame: Fighting Irish Land 4-Star WR Prospect

Notre Dame added one of the best wide receivers in the class of 2015 after securing the commitment of Miles Boykin on Wednesday.  

Boykin tweeted the news himself:

Many college football fans had been waiting with bated breath to hear Boykin's decision. Just a few days ago, he tweeted out that he would be revealing his decision on Wednesday night:

Then on Tuesday, he teased fans on social media by revealing that he was heading out to buy a hat for his commitment ceremony:

Although Boykin had narrowed his choices to 10 schools, Bleacher Report's Tyler Donahue believed that Notre Dame was the firm favorite:

247Sports lists Boykin as a wide receiver/tight end, but he's almost certainly going to be a wideout right away at the college level. The website ranks him 23rd in its composite rankings at the position and has him as the second-best prospect coming out of Illinois.

At 6'4" and 220 pounds, he has the body of a tight end but the speed and agility a team looks for in a possession receiver in the passing game.

Boykin is fast, running the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds per his 247Sports profile page. He may not be the kind of receiver who is going to beat a lot of secondaries over the top once he continues to fill out his frame, but he'll break his share of big plays. Most of his damage will come in the middle of the field, though.

What he lacks in explosiveness, he more than makes up for with strength and power: Boykin can outmuscle opposing defensive backs. That will come in handy when corners try to press him at the line of scrimmage. Boykin still needs to work on his technique, but at the very least, he has the physical tools to avoid getting jammed.

With his height, he doesn't need to be a high leaper in order to outjump defenders, either. Early on, he'll at least have value inside the red zone.

Down the line, Boykin could transition to tight end and be an Eric Ebron-like hybrid. In order to do that, though, he'll have to bulk up quite a bit, which would rob him of some of his speed. Still, he'd be more than fast enough to create mismatches inside against linebackers and safeties.

Perhaps a move to tight end might be the best thing for both parties since versatile, athletic players at the position are harder to come by than possession-based wide receivers.

Whether it's at wideout or tight end, Boykin should grow into a reliable pass-catcher. He's not going to be one of the most exciting playmakers, but his consistency will make him a valuable piece on offense.

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Michigan Football: Over, Under Stat Projections for Devin Funchess in 2014

As a freshman, Devin Funchess showed glimpses of greatness. As a sophomore, he solidified himself as one of the Big Ten’s premier pass-catching threats. Today, Funchess, who is now known as one of the country’s best, could be months away from being a first-rounder in the 2015 NFL draft.

After being asked about the hype surrounding Funchess’ potential pro status and if it surprised him, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke tilted his head, paused for a brief moment, smiled and said: “No. He’s physically gifted, you know. But he has to keep maturing as a player…”

According to, the former Farmington Hills Harrison phenom is the No. 1-ranked draft-eligible tight end. However, as of last year, he’s now considered a wide receiver by collegiate standards.

Statistically, Funchess’ numbers have been on the rapid ascent. Of course, switching to wideout helped matters, but his experience is beginning to pay dividends.

In 2013, Funchess’ 49 catches were second to Jeremy Gallon’s 89. Now that Gallon’s gone, the offense, which returns just three receivers with 15 or more catches, will need to see next-level Funchess; Sunday Funchess—The real Devin Funchess. Judging by his progression, expecting anything short of a national-level, SI-cover-bound type of star would be aiming far too low.

This slideshow will examine key statistics such as receptions, total yards and, among others, touchdowns, before setting the over/under on what will probably be Funchess’ final year in Ann Arbor.


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The Opening 2014: Ranking the Top 25 Recruits in Attendance

If you enjoy elite athletes going toe-to-toe on the football field, you're going to love "The Opening." Nike's annual showcase in Beaverton, Oregon, takes center stage during the second week of July, offering competitors a chance to test their skills against fellow high school standouts.

The 2015 class will be well-represented in Beaverton, as more than 150 players received invitations to attend. Most of these prospects rank among the most elite recruits in this cycle, so the spotlight will shine brightly with bragging rights on the line.

We examined the event roster, ranking participants based on past performances and collegiate potential. Here's a look at the top 25 players, who can count on plenty of competition from those left off the list.

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Texas Football: Why Quandre Diggs Will Be the Longhorns' X-Factor in 2014

The spotlight on the Texas Longhorns is brighter than it has been it many years. Head coach Charlie Strong has a lot of players on his roster who have the opportunity to be important contributors toward the Longhorns' success in his first season.

It's obvious that a lot of attention will be on senior defensive end Cedric Reed, who ESPN's Mel Kiper projects as the No. 1 defensive end in the 2015 NFL draft. But one player who will be an X-factor for Texas is cornerback Quandre Diggs.

Diggs earned a starting role as a true freshman in 2011, and his growth has been evident since his first season. 

He is a bit on the small side, measuring in at 5'10", but he plays like a much bigger guy and earned the nickname "Quandre the Giant" because of his giant playmaking abilities.

Seeing the field in all 39 games during his three seasons at Texas, Diggs set the bar high during his freshman season when he was awarded the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year award and a variety of other All-American honors.

Opponents tried not to throw it in his direction as a sophomore, but he still managed to rack up a combined eight interceptions during his first two seasons.

In 2013, Diggs was moved to the nickel position, where he showed he could cause disruption in both the run and pass games. Although he did not gain an interception last season, Diggs managed to pick up 2.5 sacks and 10 pass breakups.

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford has commended Diggs for his toughness and said the defense needs more players with his attitude.

"Diggs has been a four-year player here," Bedford said. "He has that type of swagger, as a player would say. We need more guys with Diggs' attitude."

Whether he is playing at corner or nickelback, Diggs will always be a vocal leader for the defense, which is a trait he has carried since his freshman season. 

"Being a senior, it is my time to step up and be the leader for this team," Diggs said during spring practice. "Coach Strong has given us the reign to be senior leaders, and if we have something we need to say, we can say it."

It is typically the goal of defenses to force opponents to be one-dimensional. Strong and Bedford's defenses show a lot of aggressive traits and heavy rushes, which is part of the reason why Louisville was ranked as the No. 1 rush defense in the nation in 2013.

If the defensive line lives up to its hype and puts pressure on the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly, the backfield will have the opportunity to get turnovers. And that's where Quandre the Giant will have to step up and be the X-factor for the defense.


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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USC Football Recruiting: How Much Does the Loss of Petite Hurt the Trojans?

On a day when the recruiting bag offered mixed results, USC found out that one of their primary tight end targets will be taking his talents to North Carolina to play for David Cutcliffe and his Duke Blue Devils.

Tyler Petite, a 6'5", 225-pound smooth-running prospect, was thought to be a Trojan lean but surprised many with his decision to go east to ply his trade.

With tight end being a need for this class, it begs the question of how badly the loss of Petite hurts in this recruiting cycle.

Well, it depends.

USC still has offers out to others, such as 4-star prospects Will Gragg and Devonaire Clarington, though both would have to be considered long shots to sign with the Trojans.

There is one other possibility, though, and it comes in the form of Tyrone Wheatley Jr., a 4-star tight end who made a trip out to USC not too long ago.

Wheatley is a 6'6", 260-pound beast whose upside is almost off the charts. Blessed with a college ready body, nice hands and an NFL pedigree, Wheatley would look great in the Cardinal and Gold of USC.

As of this writing, Michigan probably has a lead in his recruiting, but the Trojans are also in the mix, and, to be certain, if I had a choice between Petite and Wheatley, I would take young Tyrone all day long.

Don't get me wrong, Petite is a nice player, but, after looking at his videos, the Trojans can do better, especially if they can land a guy like Wheatley.

Of course, there are no guarantees that Wheatley will sign with USC, and this is not a great year for prep tight ends, so the loss of Petite does hurt to some extent.

This is especially true given the depth of the unit in 2015, when only Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick and incoming freshman Bryce Dixon will remain after Randall Telfer graduates after this year.

Still, the fact that Petite did not give USC a verbal commitment may work in their favor.

Recruits at the position will undoubtedly note that the Trojans are thin in the unit and that early playing time is likely to come their way.

And, with that in mind, the prospects of going west to play for USC should become even more attractive for those considering the Trojans.

So in the final analysis, the loss of Tyler Petite may not be a bad thing after all.

We'll know for sure after national signing day, right?


Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan


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