NCAA Football News
The Tennessee Volunteers' participation in the 2015 NFL draft should look a lot like the one just completed—with very few of coach Butch Jones' players hearing their names called.
However, rising senior middle linebacker A.J. Johnson should be an anomaly.
He has the potential to experience a similar surge to that of former UT offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James, who saw his stock rise all the way to the 19th overall pick to the Miami Dolphins last week.
Nobody is predicting the 6'2", 245-pound Johnson to go quite that high next year, but he returned for his senior season on Rocky Top to marinate in the college game for another year.
It didn't hurt that WNML's Jimmy Hyams reported he was projected as a third-day draft pick.
Even though the Vols have had some lean times in the draft and on the football field, Johnson has enjoyed a standout career.
He could help usher in an era reminiscent of a time when UT was churning out NFL talents. Historically, Saturday Down South's Jon Cooper notes that UT still has more draft picks than any other SEC team.
With a strong senior season, Johnson has the opportunity to add to that list and help keep the positive vibes swirling around Jones' program.
This is not a mock draft or an attempt to predict a future that will get here in due time. Instead, consider this a friendly heads-up—a watch list for the spectacular—and a small group of immensely talented players who have the makeup to be the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
Heading into this past offseason, it was all about former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. He was an overwhelming favorite to be the top selection the following May—riding the waves of a hit that was replayed roughly four trillion times in the months leading up to the season.
He eventually delivered on these early expectations, although the path followed was anything but expected.
This year’s batch of likely candidates doesn’t feature a Clowney. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a transcendent player in this group, but the discussion is different. It includes more names, less assumptions.
Although terms like “need” and “fit” loom large when it comes to the No. 1 pick, greatness typically trump all. In the scouting world, however, greatness is typically appreciated at a handful of positions above all others.
Quarterback, offensive line and defensive line are where the scouts turn to first. It’s why you won’t see Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu or Alabama safety Landon Collins on this list, although all are mandatory viewing come fall.
As for the positions that scouts salivate over and the talents that look the part physically, here are a handful of players to consider for the top spot with vacancy to be had.
Marcus Mariota (Oregon, QB)
Over the past two seasons, Marcus Mariota has accounted for 78 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.
It’s also worth pointing out that his first interception last year came in Week 13 on a play (and a drop) that would have no business in a video game.
He is certainly aided by Oregon’s uptempo system, a system that he fits brilliantly in, but simplifying his success to an offense doesn’t take into account his plethora of tools.
At 6’4”, he has the size, and he is already listed at 215 pounds on his Oregon bio. If he can conquer his Stanford demons in 2014—and he’ll get an appetizer against Michigan State on September 6—you’ll have to dig long and hard to find holes in his game.
"He’s my top-rated quarterback and player for 2015 at this point in time,” Bleacher Report's NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller said. “If he continues to make big plays after adding some much-needed bulk in the offseason, he could be a surefire No. 1 overall pick if a quarterback-needy team lands the selection."
Those who tune in selectively will talk about the legs first—and he is gazelle-like in the open field when he wants to be—but it’s his arm that is most intriguing. It is spectacular, and he will continue harness it in ways that push Pac-12 defenses to the brink.
Oh, and he’s entering his junior year.
Cedric Ogbuehi (OT, Texas A&M)
The run on Texas A&M offense linemen will continue, at least for one more season. After Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews were taken in the top 10 of the NFL draft, Cedric Ogbuehi has the opportunity to take it one step further.
With Joeckel and Matthews stealing headlines, Ogbuehi has quietly excelled the last few seasons. Had he left after his junior season, he might have even cracked the first round. Instead, however, he’s back at A&M for his senior year, where he’ll inherit the left tackle spot and a new quarterback to protect.
"Texas A&M has become an offensive tackle factory, but Ogbuehi is the most athletic of all their recent studs,” Miller said. “He's played right guard, right tackle and now left tackle, which will help his NFL transition greatly. If I had to bet on a tackle being a top-five pick, it would be him."
He has the build (6’5”, 300 pounds) and a recent draft pedigree to stand behind. He’ll also be blocking for one of the nation’s best stable of running backs, headlined by Tra Carson, Trey Williams and Brandon Williams.
Look for him to move large human beings backward—at a new position—soon.
Jameis Winston (Florida State, QB)
The scouting process on him will be complex—whenever he decides to leave—although there’s clearly an abundance of talent. You don’t stumble into a Heisman; it doesn’t matter how much talent there is around you.
Mechanically, Jameis Winston can still tighten up his game, and he will. What Winston showed off in his one and only season as starter—which is easy to forget—is his powerful arm and massive 6’4”, 240-pound frame that can be taxing to bring down.
He also has the improv gene, the kind of thing that can be difficult to describe on a scouting report and taxing on your DVR. He is, despite still having ample room for growth, required watching.
“Winston is not the flawless prospect many will tell you he is, and he still needs work,” Miller said. “But he has as much raw talent as anyone in college football.”
What does Winston have in store for an encore? Despite the loss of wideouts Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, the team is still ripe with playmakers. And with a full lineup of less-than-stellar ACC defenses on the docket, the numbers will still be there.
Where the scouts take it from there is another conversation entirely.
Andrus Peat (Stanford, OT)
He’s not quite a household name yet, but that will change.
Andrus Peat is the latest and greatest in a recent run of magnificent linemen at Stanford, and he might be the most athletically gifted yet. At 6’7” and more than 310 pounds, he’s still growing into his body. And, as he enters his junior year, he’s still learning the nuances of the position.
Still, Peat started at left tackle for one of the nation’s most dominant offensive lines in 2013, and the buzz surrounding his play is only just beginning to churn.
“He's not getting enough love, and he’s tough as nails,” Miller said on Peat. "He's so good at locking on and driving defenders downfield in the run game, and I've seen him take guys to the third level. He could be in play for the top tackle spot."
The bigger question for Peat: Who will be running behind him?
Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney—the team’s lead rushers the past two seasons—are gone. They combined to rush for 3,230 and 34 touchdowns the past few seasons, which says plenty about the people creating holes.
Just pencil in the starter—whoever it ends up being—for 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns. With guys like Peat moving bodies, you could average 3.5 yards per carry in this offense.
Randy Gregory (Nebraska, DE)
In 2012, Randy Gregory was viewed as one of the top JUCO players in the nation. When he arrived at Nebraska, the 6’6”, 245-pound defensive end instantly became one of the most explosive defensive players in the nation.
Gregory closed out the season with 10 sacks in his final eight games for the Cornhuskers. With another offseason under his belt, he’s expected to add more weight to his Clowney-like frame and continue to develop at the position.
His interception and touchdown return against South Dakota State gives you an idea of just what kind of athlete he is. This all looked far too easy.
"He could have been the second defensive end drafted in 2014, and he is my top-ranked defensive player for next year,” Miller said. “His quickness, flexibility and violent style of play are all exactly what you want from a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker.”
He is, quite simply, a terror. And he will continue to be a terror, putting Big Ten quarterbacks in difficult positions while giving curious scouts plenty to think about.
Others To Keep an Eye On (and Enjoy)
Leonard Williams (Southern Cal, DT): A 2013 All-American and a defensive lineman who can play every position (and play them all incredibly well). His versatility is rare, and at 6’5”, 290 pounds he can fly. He’s coming off a torn labrum, but it shouldn’t slow him down once the season starts.
Brett Hundley (UCLA, QB): He’s not on the same development path as the quarterbacks mentioned above, but he has incredible physical tools and more room for growth than anyone mentioned. He’ll have to take significant strides to enter the conversation, but these are strides he can make.
Mario Edwards Jr. (Florida State, DE): The defensive ends listed here will certainly post better sack numbers, but none present the physical presence that Edwards brings. He’ll tip the scales at nearly 300 pounds this year, and there aren’t many 300-pounders built like this. A freak in every sense of the word, his development could be dazzling.
Adam Kramer is the College Football National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand.
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"Wake up, survive. Go to sleep, survive. Wake up, survive. Every day."
This is the daily regimen of Antoine Turner, a junior college commit for the Boise State football program who is currently homeless and has lived in transience most of his life.
Boise State alumni, having heard his recently discovered story, want to help Turner—who has spent the majority of his life without a stable home. Unfortunately, the school is discouraging boosters and fans from furnishing aid to the young man, fearing reprisal from the NCAA.
"My mom died when I was four of cancer," Turner told Tust. "I had this big of a hole in my heart."
The loss ruined what little relationship Turner had with his father, causing him to leave home to stay with various friends in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. Thus began the long chain of temporary and transient living conditions for Turner, who grew up to be a talented athlete despite his situation.
Growing into a 6'3", 290-pound frame, Turner found success on his high school football field but struggled to stay clear of gangs and find lodging in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Determined to play collegiate football, Turner spent all the money in his possession to make it to Fullerton Junior College in California. He made the team but was penniless. He says he began sleeping on park benches to pass the night.
"I ain't never really had no blanket or nothing like that," Turner said. "So I could either lay across this or I would sit (with my arms folded) and lay my head down. I constantly wake up, look around, make sure everything was good."
After dropping 70 pounds due to this lifestyle, things began to look up. Turner met a girl named R'Mya (now his girlfriend), whose family took him in and helped him to regain weight. Within a year, he returned to form and became the Division I football player Boise State wants on its team.
All the "We want you" letters in the world can't put a roof over Turner's head, however. Not at this moment, at least.
Unfortunately, Turner is homeless again. His newly forged living arrangement fell through due to housing regulations which preclude him from staying with his uncle in a government-subsidized house.
Until he's allowed to move in at Boise State in June, Turner will be sleeping in his girlfriend's car and staying at motels when he has the money.
And there's nothing fans can do about it, according to the Boise State compliance office (per Deadspin).
We need to make it clear to your viewers and Bronco fans that it is NOT permissible within NCAA rules for boosters of Boise State athletics to provide benefits to Mr. Turner. That would include money, loans, gifts, discounts, transportation costs, etc.
While Mr. Turner's need is abundantly clear, it is not permissible for Boise State, the athletics department or supporters of the athletics department to assist Mr. Turner at this time. Once Mr. Turner arrives on campus for the start of the summer school program, he will be well taken care of—receiving full tuition, room and board, books, fees etc. In the meantime, the compliance office is exploring a potential waiver with the NCAA that would allow us to provide assistance prior to the start of summer school.
Indeed, needs don't come much clearer cut than Turner's. Despite his situation, the young man still feels lucky to be on the cusp of a home and great opportunities.
"I feel like I owe Boise because they gave me something that I ain't never had before," Turner said. "Idaho fits perfect for me...my soul felt like it connected with [The Blue]. ... It's time to eat. And I'm hungry, too."
Do the right thing, Mark Emmert. Put the rubber stamp down, and let this man eat and sleep under a roof. Let's help a student-athlete today.
On the Twitters.
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Offensive linemen Taylor Lewan (first round, Tennessee) and Michael Schofield (third round, Denver) join receiver Jeremy Gallon (seventh round, New England) as selections in the 2014 NFL draft.
But six of their teammates are facing a more difficult path—pursuing dreams of playing professional football as free agents. Some have signed contracts while others are relying on tryouts to show their value to teams.
What's the quickest way for a head coach to lose his football team?
That's the fine line Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema is walking now, thanks to an appearance on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly, a statewide syndicated radio program, earlier this month.
The second-year head coach was asked toward the end of the interview (11:17 mark) how long it will take for Arkansas to get back to a competitive level in the SEC West again and placed part of the blame on his predecessors (via CoachingSearch.com).
I really thought, coming in, because of the guy that I was replacing, I thought we would have a plethora of quarterbacks, wide receivers and offensive skill and expected the defense to have certain things in place. That really wasn't the case. It's not a knock on our guys. For what we need to do offensively and defensively, there was not as much as I thought was going to be there.
But that's just the thing, it is a knock on the players brought into the program by former head coach Bobby Petrino and one-year replacement John L. Smith; more so a knock on Petrino because it's not a big assumption to connect the dots and tie Petrino—who's known for his offensive prowess—to the offensive skill players Bielema thought would be on campus.
Fans may think he's right, and Bielema may privately think that he inherited a mess. But that's where those thoughts should stay. Private.
How should starting quarterback Brandon Allen, who signed with Petrino in 2011, feel about his coach throwing him under the bus? He should be pretty upset about it, especially since his younger brother, Austin, and true freshman Rafe Peavey, both of whom were signed by Bielema's staff, couldn't beat him out for the job this spring.
How should wide receivers Demetrius Wilson and Keon Hatcher, both of whom were signed in 2012 as part of Petrino's last class, feel about it? Wilson is coming off an ACL injury that cost him all of the 2013 season, but both are expected to either start or be key contributors in the wide receiving corps this year.
What about Jonathan Williams, the 6'0", 223-pound junior running back who rushed for 900 yards and four touchdowns last season, providing a solid "1B" options to Alex Collins, who just so happens to be one of "Bielema's guys?"
If they're mad about their head coach throwing them under the bus, they should be.
This is a classic diversionary tactic by Bielema. It's an insurance policy. It's an attempt to control the narrative if Arkansas struggles this year and divert blame if things go south.
It also won't work.
A lot of the players expected to make an impact this season for the Hogs on both sides of the ball are "Petrino guys" who kept their jobs despite position battles from younger players brought in by the new regime.
Of course, Bielema feels more loyalty to his guys because if they succeed, his fingerprints are more on the success than his predecessor's. But even if the cupboard was bare, that's not something he should say publicly. The only thing it could accomplish is divide the locker room, which will only lead to problems.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com. For full audio of Bret Bielema's interview on Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly, click here.
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With a handul of Florida Gators selected in the 2014 NFL draft, it's time to start looking ahead to those prospects eligible for the 2015 draft.
While that might feel like a decade from now, defensive end Dante Fowler has a chance to become the fourth Gator selected in the first round in the last three seasons.
Fowler is easily the top NFL prospect on the Gators roster right now and could be a high selection if he fulfills expectations this season.
It’s never too early to put together 2015 NFL draft big boards, and Fowler is receiving major props despite just two quick seasons at the college level.
Let’s break down Fowler’s draft stock and see how things are looking heading into his junior year.