NCAA Football News

Georgia Football: Bulldogs Secondary Must Make Statement Against Tennessee

Saturday afternoon's game against the Tennessee Volunteers could mark a lot of firsts for the Georgia Bulldogs.  If things go according to plan, the Dawgs' first of seven straight conference games will also yield the team's first SEC win of the season.  Along the way, Georgia could cap off its first five-game winning streak against the Vols since the early 1900s.

But if the Dawgs continue struggling against opposing passing attacks, crossing into new terrain may be more theoretical than practical.  

The Bulldogs defensive secondary must make a statement against Tennessee.

 

Consistently Inconsistent

After a strong second-half performance against Clemson in Week 1, new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was quick to dismiss the buzz surrounding his defense.  "For the first game, it's a starting point," Pruitt said according to Seth Emerson of the Ledger-Enquirer.  "We're not satisfied with how we played defensively at all."

While fans vehemently disagreed with such a macabre disposition following a shutout over the season opener's final two quarters, Pruitt was proved right—in the worst of ways—in Georgia's second game of the season.  

After holding Clemson to just 22 yards in the second half, Georgia was torched time and time again by South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson, as he racked up 240 passing yards and threw three touchdown passes in the first half.  With the front seven unable to push around the Gamecock offensive line, Thompson had time to exploit vast openings in the middle of the field as he found wide open receivers repeatedly.

Georgia's offensive play-calling was far from perfect against South Carolina, and special teams play was disastrous in Georgia 38-35 loss, but as Pruitt recognized to Gentry Estes of Dawgs247, "You score 35 points, you're supposed to win."

Georgia won big last week, outscoring Troy, 66-0.  But early on, the Bulldogs secondary struggled against the Trojans.  On the opening drive, Dontreal Pruitt, who started in place of an injured Brandon Silvers, completed four of his first five passes for 53 yards and drove an outmatched team to the 9-yard line before a field-goal attempt was unsuccessful. 

And yet, as bad as Georgia's secondary has been at times—allowing a team like Troy to march at will—it has also had its moments and shown flashes of improvement.  

South Carolina focused on the run in the second half, but the Gamecocks were still held to a meager 31 passing yards over that period.  Pruitt threw for 58 yards on his first five attempts, but Troy completed just 14 of its final 29 pass attempts while racking up 3.8 yards per attempt thereafter.  And again, the hype following the Clemson game was founded upon a stellar defensive performance to close out the contest.

Further, even when Georgia's secondary has struggled, stark contrasts are already on display under Pruitt's watchful eye.  

Most noticeable is the newfound emphasis on forcing turnovers.  Aggressive play against the pass and tackling in swarms has already paid off for Georgia—particularly the secondary.  Three of Georgia's four takeaways this season have been the result of opportunistic play by members of the defensive backfield.

Less obvious to observers may be Pruitt's ability to adjust schemes and alignments.  While it's apparent that teams are capable of having early success against Georgia's defense, it should not be overlooked that the pathways to that success are often blocked by game's end.

 

Put it All Together

At some point, however, Georgia's defense—its secondary in particular—needs to put everything together.  

Turnovers are welcomed by players, coaches, the Georgia offense and fans alike.  But the Bulldogs should not be dependent on turnovers as a bailout solution.  Nor should the Dawgs expect them as a reward for overly aggressive play.

Second-half adjustments are a fantastic calling card for this unit and a welcomed variation from what was seen under former coordinator Todd Grantham.  But, it's not always necessary that schematic alterations come at the expense of early drives.

And there is an element of timing that makes the need for a refined and complete effort by the secondary all the more urgent.  Georgia knows it's capable of stopping the run, but with the bulk of its conference schedule just around the corner, the Bulldogs must learn to consistently stop the pass.

Furthermore, Tennessee offers a perfect opportunity for this secondary to make a statement.  

Volunteer quarterback Justin Worley has been adequate at best this season.  The majority of his completions have come on shorter passes, and his six touchdowns in three games are not nearly as noteworthy as his three interceptions and nine sacks.  Worley, in other words, does not appear primed for a breakout game against Georgia.

He won't be helped by his offensive line, either.  Last year, with a veteran line in front of him, Worley was sacked just six times all season.  With an inexperienced unit playing in front of him, that number has already been surpassed in Tennessee's first three games.  If Georgia's secondary struggles, it won't likely be a result of a lack of pressure up front.  Bulldog pass-rushers like Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins should have a field day on Saturday.

 

Expectations and Implications

Against Troy, a host of defensive backs saw significant playing time for Georgia.  For the most part, the on-field product looked similar regardless of who was on the field.  Accordingly, expect a lot of Bulldogs to see playing time against Tennessee.

With frequent substitution and relentless pressure up front, this secondary should remain fresh against the Vols, and if Worley plays as expected and remains under duress, this will be a big day for the cornerbacks and safeties.  To be sure, Tennessee has a slew of talented receivers led by Marquez North, but this improving Georgia secondary should be up for the task.

As senior safety Corey Moore told the media Tuesday, per GeorgiaDogs.com, the secondary is ready. Though he added: "It should be a challenge this week to make great plays on the defensive side against their offense."

With six more SEC opponents looming, that readiness could not come at a better time.  

Georgia's secondary will make a statement against Tennessee.  The hope for Georgia fans, however, is that this game is just another in a series of stepping stones on the way to something much, much better.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand, and all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

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Predicting College Football's Biggest Headlines for Week 5

The 2014 college football season is heading into Week 5. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee throw out their predictions for the biggest headlines after all the matchups this week.

Which team will look most impressive in Week 5?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Jameis Winston's Attorney Reportedly Claims Extortion in Sexual Assault Case

Controversial Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston continues to be the subject of a sexual assault investigation by the university, but the Heisman Trophy winner is now reportedly claiming the accusations against him were made for monetary gain.

According to TMZ.com, Winston's lawyer, David Cornwell, wrote in a letter to Florida State University that the accuser demanded $7 million from Winston in exchange for keeping her allegations out of the media.

Cornwell alleges that the accuser's lawyer, Patricia Carroll, laid down the ultimatum, per TMZ.com.

"If we settle, you will never hear from my client or me again—in the press or anywhere." Cornwell notes he rejected the offer, and she went to the media four days later.

Winston ultimately was not charged with a crime in relation to the alleged sexual assault. In December 2013, which was one year after the alleged incident took place, state attorney Willie Meggs announced that there wasn't sufficient evidence with which to convict Winston, via ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach:

We've carefully examined all the evidence in this case and have concluded that no charges will be filed against anyone in this case. ... We have a duty as prosecutors to determine if each case has a reasonable likelihood of conviction. After reviewing the facts in this case, we do not feel that we can reach those burdens.

Despite the criminal case getting dropped, Winston has been the subject of an independent investigation by FSU. According to Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times, FSU's investigation relates to whether Winston has been in compliance with the school's code of conduct:

TMZ.com is reporting that Cornwell's letter to Florida State concluded with a word of warning regarding the nature of the investigation.

"Mr. Winston will cooperate with the investigation," Cornwell wrote. "He looks forward to clearing his name. But Mr. Winston will not walk into a honey trap. The investigation must be a legitimate investigation."

All of this comes with the Seminoles holding a 3-0 record and the No. 1 spot in the AP poll and the Amway Coaches poll. Winston was suspended for Florida State's victory over Clemson last week stemming from an incident when he yelled an obscene phrase in the student union.

Now that he has been reinstated, the focus shifts toward continuing to win games and making a push toward the College Football Playoff. Next up is a road game at NC State, followed by contests with Wake Forest, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Louisville.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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College Football Week 5 Schedule: TV and Live Stream Info for Every Game

College football fans are lucky. 

After a fireworks show over the course of the first few weeks thanks to brave scheduling, the past few weeks have appeared drab at best.

On paper.

The past few weeks have been the best to date thanks to jarring upsets, plenty of drama and downright competitive affairs defying the expectations of most. Games scheduled as practice sessions before conference play have proved anything but.

Now, conference play is in its budding stages too. It makes for yet another outstanding week of action. Below is a look at the full slate.

 

2014 College Football Week 5 Schedule

Schedule courtesy of ESPN.com. For games without national or regional coverage on a major network, check local listings.

 

Live Stream Resource

ESPN: WatchESPN

SEC: CBSSports.com

Fox: Fox Sports Go

BTN: BTN2Go.com

Pac-12: Pac-12.com

ABC: ABC Live

CBS: CBSSports.com

 

Matchups to Watch

Missouri at No. 13 South Carolina

The South Carolina Gamecocks are 3-1 and one of the best teams in the nation, but fans would not know it based on recent comments by coach Steve Spurrier, as captured by The Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

"We still believe we have a chance to have a good team this year," Spurrier said. "We're 3-1 and have won some close ones. We've played some pretty good teams. We didn't think Vandy was going to be that good, but they played their hearts out. Probably out-played us. Probably out-hustled us in a lot of areas."

Of course, Spurrier is upset about his team's 48-34 win on the road over Vanderbilt. That is what major programs that want a spot in the inaugural playoff do—get motivated by close wins littered with mistakes (two kickoffs returned for touchdowns) against beatable opponents.

Then again, Gary Pinkel has plenty to be upset about too.

His 3-1 Tigers rolled through a number of teams with relative ease to start the season but then welcomed unranked Indiana to town last week and suffered a 31-27 upset to fall from the realm of the ranked.

The Tigers are still in a transitional period, although sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk continues to look increasingly comfortable under center. To date, he has 978 yards and 14 touchdowns to four interceptions.

Steve Walentik of the Columbia Daily Tribune has a quote from a clearly concerned Spurrier on the topic:

The Gamecocks have had issues with strong quarterbacks. Kenny Hill out of Texas A&M went for 511 yards and three scores to start the season. East Carolina's Shane Carden threw for more than 300 yards. Georgia's Hutson Mason tossed two scores.

In other words, Missouri can certainly make this one a game, on the road or not. The idea is that Dylan Thompson, who has 1,140 yards and 11 passing touchdowns to three interceptions, and star back Mike Davis can score early and often.

Then again, South Carolina gave Missouri its only SEC loss last season in double overtime. Here's hoping for another competitive affair.

 

Arkansas vs. No. 6 Texas A&M

Speaking of those Aggies and Hill (not Johnny Manziel, folks), Kevin Sumlin's team is on upset alert this week.

Well, in theory. Texas A&M destroyed South Carolina to start the season, but dominant showings over Lamar, Rice and SMU should be taken with a grain of salt. Arkansas represents a serious test.

Bret Bielema's team is no joke on the ground, which means the Razorbacks could take control of the pace and never let Sumlin's offense on the field enough to make it a blowout. Peep the numbers so far:

Talk about wearing down a defense. ESPN CollegeFootball provides a deeper dive in visual form:

Texas A&M has inflated defensive numbers—it ranks No. 8 overall in points against at 11.8 per game—thanks to a soft schedule, which includes the opener against South Carolina, as it was technically Thompson's first real action as starter.

Still, behind the strong arm of Hill, who has 1,359 yards and 13 scores, Sumlin's offense figures to post big numbers once again. But we will soon find out if the Aggies defense is legit, as the Arkansas ground game is certainly capable of keeping pace.

If Arkansas can run, this will wind up as the week's most explosive contest.

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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Ohio State Football: Keys to a Buckeyes Victory over Cincinnati

After a week away from the action, Urban Meyer and the No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes (2-1) are set to host the Cincinnati Bearcats (2-0) under the lights in Ohio Stadium this Saturday.

Tommy Tuberville and his high-flying Bearcats will test the Buckeyes, who are looking to close out their nonconference slate on a high note before entering Big Ten play.

What does Ohio State need to do to notch a win against this week's in-state opponent? 

 

Limit Gunner Kiel and the Cincinnati Offense

Quarterback Gunner Kiel is off to a red-hot start this year. 

The redshirt sophomore torched Toledo in Cincinnati's season opener, completing 25 of 37 passes (67.6 percent) for 418 yards and six touchdowns against no interceptions. A week later against Miami (Ohio), he threw for 271 yards and four more touchdowns.

With Kiel triggering Cincinnati's pass-happy offense, Meyer knows his defense will need to be at its best.

“Here we go. This is the test," Meyer said of Cincinnati, according to Austin Ward of ESPN.com. "This is the one that we’re all shooting for."

The Buckeyes' new-look pass defense hasn't been truly challenged this season. Navy threw just four passes in the season opener, Virginia Tech was "uneven" offensively and Kent State was overmatched. Cincinnati will be the best indicator as to whether Ohio State has improved its pass defense, which ranked 110th nationally a season ago.

 

Protect J.T. Barrett

The Buckeyes are just two-and-a-half weeks removed from getting blitzed (in every sense of the word) by Virginia Tech. The Hokies piled up an unbelievable seven sacks against the Buckeyes, six of which came in the game's final nine minutes.

The offensive line protected Barrett much better against Kent State, but there will be a big spike in talent when the Bearcats visit Columbus.

Cincinnati's 5.5 sacks per game currently ranks No. 1 in the country, according to NCAA.com. The Bearcats attack from every angle—seven different players have recorded at least one sack.

The Buckeyes will need to be at their best to keep their quarterback on his feet.

 

Get Off to a Fast Start

In its losses to Michigan State, Clemson and Virginia Tech, Ohio State came out sluggish and fell behind early. Meyer recently lamented his team's slow starts offensively.

“We haven’t started particularly fast and we had a pretty good reputation for a while there coming out of the gates real fast, real hard and we haven’t done that yet,” Meyer said, according to Eric Seger of The Ozone. "So we gotta go take the lead and play Ohio State-style football.”

The Buckeyes can't afford another slow start Saturday night.

The Bearcats are averaging 44.5 points (which ranks 14th nationally) and 353.5 passing yards (ninth) per game this year.

If Ohio State starts slow against Cincinnati and falls into a big hole, it might not have enough offensive firepower to rally.

 

Unless otherwise noted all stats via Ohio State's official website.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Wisconsin Football: 4 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2014

Coming into the 2014-15 season, Wisconsin football fans had just as many questions as they did answers at some positions.  Who was going to be the starting quarterback?  How would their totally rebuilt front-seven fare?  Who was going to catch the ball?

Through the first four weeks, those questions have been answered, kind of.

Tanner McEvoy has been really sharp at times with his arm, completing 17 passes in a row against Western Illinois—a school record—but has also been woefully inaccurate at times, going 8-of-24 against LSU.  

His legs have really helped the team as his 253 rushing yards on just 26 attempts have kept numerous drives alive, and his 158 yards on 11 carries against Bowling Green set a new school record for rushing yards by a quarterback.

The front-seven for the Badgers has been very good by and large, suffering a pair of critical injuries Week 1 against LSU, which caused them to fall apart as the game wound down.  Last week, against Bowling Green, the Badgers held the Falcons to 93 rushing yards on 29 carries, 95 of which came on two plays.

In terms of receiving options, outside of the backfield, two players have established themselves as go-to targets for McEvoy: wide receiver Alex Erickson and tight end Sam Arneson, who have combined for 23 of the team's 41 receptions.

But which players have surprised fans thus far this year?  Melvin Gordon averaging 9.4 yards per carry is hardly a surprise to those who have watched him, and Arneson was primed for a big season this year after scoring four touchdowns on his 10 career receptions coming into this season.

On the other side of the ball, Michael Caputo was the second leading tackler last season while linebackers Vince Biegel, Joe Schobert and Derek Landisch played quite a bit last season, and if the Badgers were going to give up less than triple digits, that trio of linebackers needed to be at least good if not great.

In this slideshow, let's take a look at four players, two on offense and two on defense, who have surprised me, and by extension, Badgers fans this season.  

Three of the four players listed started their careers as a walk-on or a gray shirt, showing the team's remarkable commitment to the walk-on program and the benefits for both the players and the team.

Without further ado, let's take a look at these four players, starting with the team's leading receiver.

Begin Slideshow

Jameis Winston Still Needs to Prove He's Truly Learned His Lesson

Now that Jameis Winston has served his two-half suspension, the Florida State Seminoles have the primary piece back in place to defend their national championship.

But the verdict is still out on whether FSU handled its quarterback’s latest misdeed correctly, and that’s something that should weigh heavily on school officials for however long Winston remains on campus.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher assured the media this week that his guy has learned his lesson and that there will be no more shenanigans. Or shouts of gutter language inside the student union.

Fisher better be right, because if he isn’t it likely will unleash the biggest chorus of “told you so” that has ever engulfed college football.

One more misstep by Winston could derail a career that, in terms of raw talent, is every bit as promising as the ones Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton are savoring.

The buzzards are circling over FSU’s Doak Campbell Stadium, just waiting for one more mistake to turn Winston’s career into so much roadkill.

SI.com reports it has been told by NFL scouts and executives that Winston is now so loaded with baggage that he should forget about the 2015 draft and instead commit to cleansing his image with an additional year in college. If he doesn’t, the SI.com report said, GMs will worry that drafting Winston could jeopardize their own careers.

TheNew York Timesreacted to the latest Winston mess by reminding its readers that while the 2012 rape accusation against him never led to charges, there also were no other football consequences. “Winston did not miss so much as a day of practice as a result of that accusation,” The Times’ Marc Tracy wrote this week.

And there can be no doubt that ESPN’s ever-bombastic draft analyst, Mel Kiper Jr., will be looking to loudly justify his decision to drop Winston 22 spots on his so-called Big Board, from No. 3 to No. 25 overall for the NFL draft.

Bobby Bowden also is deeply worried about the 20-year-old athlete who has become the face of the FSU program the coaching legend took to the top of college football. Interviewed by WYCW-TV in South Carolina, Bowden had this to say about his concerns:

Are you kidding me? Dang right I'm worried. Yeah. I don't think anybody likes what they have seen off of the field.  These instances, you know, you expect them to end because he keeps saying I've learned my lesson. I won't do it again and yet, they keep cropping up. So I hope he's learned his lesson now because he has as much talent as any boy we've had come through Florida State. How many times do you see a freshman win the Heisman Trophy? I would recommend to him, I've never met him, I would recommend, son, if I was you, I'd behave. I don't think Jimbo Fisher and Florida State University are going to put up with that forever.

But, as we wait to see whether Winston can mind his manners and avoid any more incidents with pellet guns or pilfered crab legs, by no means is this a one-sided argument.

Winston’s teammates have rallied around their star, but perhaps the most meaningful voice sticking up for Winston belongs to Kevin Maguire, the father of FSU backup QB Sean Maguire. We’ve all seen parents who would do anything to thrust their kid into the national sports spotlight, but the elder Maguire clearly isn’t one of them.

He went on record with Natalie Pierre of the Tallahassee Democrat to say just how dedicated Winston was to helping Sean get through last Saturday’s pressure-packed survival in overtime against Clemson.

Looking for some middle ground in the Winston debate, I phoned sports psychologist Mitch Abrams, author of Anger Management in Sport. Besides working with athletes, Abrams writes a "Sports Transgressions" blog for Psychology Today that the magazine’s website describes as focusing “on the social dynamics and clinical underpinnings of athletes’ behaviour that crosses the line.”

Abrams said Winston’s athletic gifts may be an integral part of what’s causing him problems out in society.

“In order to be successful in sports, you have to ignore your fears,” Abrams said. “If athletes were afraid, the things they do would be hard to do. The problem is that off the field it can be dangerous to themselves and other people around them.”

Winston’s continued bad decision-making, Abrams said, “Begs the question of whether he realizes how much is on the table, that he is skating perilously close to throwing away millions and millions of dollars.”

“What you’re seeing is a pattern that has not stopped,” Abrams said. “What you have to understand is that now there’s a bull's-eye on your back. And, at least from where I’m sitting, I’m not sure the consequences are severe enough to shake him. ... He has to know he could flush his entire career down the toilet.”

That’s the tightrope FSU is walking by reinstating Winston as its starting QB for Saturday’s game at North Carolina State.

If Winston has a big game and regains his hero’s status a week after his absence nearly cost FSU its No. 1 ranking, how will he react? Will he remember his one-game punishment, or will he think he’s more untouchable than ever?

WarChant.com blogger Ira Schoffel last week chronicled the many friendly, compelling and engaging sides he has seen from Winston while covering FSU sports. That includes seeing Winston sign tons of autographs and give fans genuine quality time while also often being the funniest guy in the room.

But Schoffel adds this telling look into Winston’s personality:

The problem with Jameis Winston is not that he's a bad person, as some in the media have tried to portray. The only serious offense he has ever been accused of ended without him being arrested or charged with a crime. (That doesn't make him innocent, but it surely doesn't make him guilty.) And he has had more of a positive impact, between community outreach and encouraging young children, in two years than many will have in a lifetime.

The problem is we don't really know who he is, other than a brilliant athlete with tremendous charisma and a desire to perform. We want to appreciate his great qualities, but we can't ignore the rest.

And the real problem with Jameis Winston is this: It seems there's always a problem with Jameis Winston.

And, if the folks at Florida State didn’t get it right, his next problem could be his last problem.

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.

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Jeremy Cutrer to LSU: Tigers Land 4-Star Safety Prospect

While the LSU Tigers are coming off an upset at the hands of the Mississippi State Bulldogs over the weekend, they received some good news in the form of a commitment from junior college safety Jeremy Cutrer.

Zephaniah Powell, who coached Cutrer at Jewel M. Sumner in Kentwood, Louisiana, announced that the safety will head to Baton Rouge, via sports writer Will Weathers:

Cutrer was present for the Tigers' 34-29 loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday but tweeted out that "we will bounce back":

According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Cutrer is the No. 1 JUCO safety and seventh-best JUCO recruit in the country. With the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star on board, LSU sits 13th in 247Sports' team rankings for 2015.

As Geaux247's Nick Hollingsworth pointed out, this is the second time that Cutrer has signed with LSU:

In 2013, Cutrer was all set to join the Tigers, but he failed to have the necessary grades, which meant he needed to spend time at the JUCO level before jumping to FBS.

"I had to get used to the environment, but it's nice out there," he said of his time at Mississippi Gulf Coast, per James Smith of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. "I'm pretty glad that I came to junior college, really. It gave me a chance to grow up and be a better man. I'm out here, but it's really helped me in a lot of ways and it was the best thing for me at the time. It let me grow up."

Cutrer is a heavy hitter over the middle who can also move up and help defend against the run. As a rangy ball-hawking playmaker, he'll fit right in on a Les Miles-coached defense.

At 6'2" and 170 pounds, Cutrer looks more like a wide receiver than he does a safety, though, so he'll need to add a little more muscle once he hits Baton Rouge.

While Miles obviously would've loved to have Cutrer two years ago, his time in junior college should help speed up his transition to the FBS level.

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Tennessee Football: What Vols Must Do to Contain Georgia RB Todd Gurley

Tennessee's rush defense revival is about to meet the nation's best runner—Georgia's Todd Gurley.

If the Volunteers are going to have any chance to upset their division foe in Athens, they've got to find a way to slow the 6'1", 226-pound junior Heisman hopeful.

Nobody has been able to stop Gurley this year, and few teams have during his career between the hedges. He hits holes with authority and arrives with the power that every NFL team will covet come draft time.

So, the task facing UT coach Butch Jones and a revamped Vols defense that has impressed so far is daunting.

They know it, too.

Gurley will be accompanied by freshman phenoms Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, and possibly Keith Marshall, who tore his ACL in Knoxville last year. So, Jones told GoVols247's Wes Rucker (subscription required) he has several concerns:

When you think of the University Georgia, you think of their stable of running backs, and it is a stable—very talented, very physical. Gurley, Michel, Chubb, Marshall, they all bring a different element to their backfield.

Make no mistake, though, the Vols' game plan begins and ends with slowing Gurley.

So, what can UT do?

Beyond throwing at UGA versatile, multiple looks, stunting defenders and trying to confuse the Dawgs, there isn't much that goes into turning and handing it off. The Vols know that, and so they've got to have a method of attack. Here's how they should.

 

Stack the Box

Hutson Mason is a quality quarterback, but he doesn't possess the kind of dynamic arm or foot speed to consistently beat teams on his own.

That's why the Vols have got to make him beat them.

UT cornerbacks Cam Sutton, Michael Williams and Justin Coleman are pivotal because the Vols must sell out to stop Gurley and Co. at the point of attack.

UGA coach Mark Richt told reporter Seth Emerson of The Telegraph that receivers Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Jonathon Rumph likely won't play against the Vols.

So, those are three more reasons why UT should load up versus the run.

When the Vols do, however, they've got to be ready for play action. Having a running back stable like UGA's is the easiest way for an opposing defense to get sucked in and beat deep.

While Georgia still has some receiving weapons, they're nothing like the Bulldogs' runners.

The Dawgs are averaging 304 yards per game, and that includes a game against Clemson's vaunted defensive line and SEC foe South Carolina.

UT has allowed an average of 129 rushing yards, good enough for seventh in the SEC and 49th nationally. Considering those numbers were 13th and 101st in 2013, it's been a vast improvement.

With nimble, athletic defensive linemen like Jordan Williams, Owen Williams, Corey Vereen, Curt Maggitt and Derek Barnett, the Vols have gotten after quarterbacks and disrupted plays in the backfield many times this year.

But against a big, physical line like Georgia's, they'll need the help from the second tier. A.J. Johnson is one of the league's best linebackers against the run, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin has proven adept as well.

They'll need to be at their best against Gurley.

 

Beef Up the Line Rotation

Gurley has the ability to pummel defenses with his big body and demoralize them with his speed, so it's essential that Tennessee keeps a fresh group of defenders on the field.

Against Oklahoma, UT rotated in seven defensive linemen, but five of those played the vast majority of the snaps. The rotations at linebacker were even slimmer.

That has to change.

The Vols want to put Georgia in third-and-long situations as often as possible. UT is second nationally in third-down defense, and Johnson had a very matter-of-fact answer this week to a reporter when asked about putting UGA in those spots.

While the Vols have thrived using the smaller, quicker linemen, they need versatility matching up personnel Saturday. They need to be able to give Georgia some bigger, more versatile looks and throw waves of defenders at Gurley.

A couple of returns to the practice field may enable them to do that.

Rucker (subscription required) noted during the bye week that UT defensive tackle Trevarris Saulsberry and defensive end Dewayne Hendrix are now practicing. Neither played against the Sooners, and Saulsberry has been hobbled for various reasons much of his career.

When he has played, the 6'4", 296-pound redshirt junior defensive tackle from Gainesville, Florida, has been one of UT's most talented, promising linemen.

When asked if Saulsberry would play against UGA, Jones told Rucker in that same article, "Well, it is early. We don't know if he'll be game-ready yet, but just to have him back out there is big, and he's worked exceptionally hard to get himself back on the football field."

If Saulsberry and 6'4", 275-pound freshman defensive end Hendrix can play, UT can go big or small along the defensive front.

Keeping linemen fresh will be a huge factor considering Gurley has plenty of options to give him breathers throughout the game.

 

A.J. and Pray

Let's face it: This is going to be one of the two toughest offensive tests UT faces all season, along with Alabama.

If the Vols can devise a game plan to limit Gurley's yards, they are going to be a force for every other SEC offense to reckon with for the remainder of the season.

Jones acknowledged during Monday's press conference that rush defense has been a team strength so far. In the same breath, he added, "but now we'll really find out heading into the Georgia game obviously" how good the Vols are.

Tennessee must have one of its best tackling games of the season and limit those yards after contact upon which Gurley has built his reputation. They've got to hit him quickly and frustrate him the way South Carolina did in Columbia when Gurley came close to losing his cool a couple of times.

The best thing UT has going for it is the Vols have the best linebacker UGA will face in senior middle linebacker A.J. Johnson.

He probably has been dreaming about this battle with Gurley since deciding to return, especially considering Gurley missed last year's game.

Johnson did come back to Knoxville, and he's probably still got a bit of a chip on his shoulder after the Bulldogs failed to offer him a scholarship out of nearby Gainesville (Ga.) High School.

He's never beaten them since he has been at UT, and Saturday will be his final chance to take a bite out of Gurley. Johnson gave the running back his due to Rucker, but Johnson certainly wasn't heaping too much pregame praise:

I don't put nobody on a pedestal. I mean…nobody. But they've got good backs. That's all I really can say. But personally, I don't really care who we're playing. We play against good backs all the time. We've just got to do our jobs.

That job is going to be extra difficult this weekend. But the mentality of Johnson mirrors that of the entire Vols defense. They aren't afraid; this is just another opportunity for the Vols to show everybody that they're back.

Slowing down Gurley would be a trumpet blast that would make all of college football listen.

Unless otherwise noted all statistics gathered from CFBStats.com. All recruiting information from 247Sports.

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

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Leo Lewis to Ole Miss: Rebels Land 4-Star LB Prospect

Linebacker recruit Leo Lewis is considered one of the top defensive prospects in the nation, and he has finally made his verbal commitment for 2015.

On Tuesday, the 4-star prospect from Brookhaven High School in Brookhaven, Mississippi, committed to play college football at Ole Miss. 

Coach Warren VPreps of Scouting Varsity Preps reported the news of Lewis' decision:

At 6’3” and 225 pounds, Lewis is ranked as the 73rd overall prospect, the third overall player from Mississippi and the top inside linebacker of the class, according to 247Sports' composite ratings.

Lewis also had more than a dozen other offers from other top programs, including Mississippi State, Alabama, Florida State and Arkansas, among others.

John Talty of AL.com weighed in on what Lewis means to the Rebels recruit class:

In a report from Riley Blevins of The Clarion-Ledger, Lewis talked about the steady stream of messages he was receiving during the recruitment process and how he dealt with the pressure:

I don't really know which school sends me the most because it's way too much to read them all. But they ask me everything and anything. From like what I'm doing this weekend to football. It's just nuts.

It's normal to me. I guess it's a blessing in a way. When my phone is silent, it's almost weird. I think like, 'is something wrong?' So many coaches are always hitting me up.

Previously, Lewis had committed to Alabama in April, but according to Talty, he decommitted in July and once again tested all of his options. In the end, the right landing spot was Ole Miss.

During the 2013 season, Lewis racked up 100 tackles and became a force for Brookhaven using his size and hitting power. 247Sports gave him a rating of nine out of 10 in striking ability and the same score for reactive quickness. Those are two of the biggest factors when playing middle linebacker.

The scouting website also graded him as a seven out of 10 for tackling, athleticism, playing in space and lateral movement. Each of those traits can be improved with hard work, and he will have guidance from his new coaching staff.

You can’t teach the size Lewis possesses, though.

With the natural instincts to be a dangerous player at the next level, the ability to read a play and diagnose it and the willingness to stand his ground at the point of attack, Lewis has all the tools to make him a star at the collegiate level.

 

*Stats and information via 247Sports.

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Jameis Winston Still Has Time to Get Heisman Trophy Campaign Back on Track

This might be the first year in college football history that a Heisman Trophy campaign was killed not on a football field but at a lunch table.

By now, every college football fan is aware that Jameis Winstonsat out the entirety of Florida State's 23-17 win over Clemson after yelling a vulgar phrase on campus.

FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher quickly established that Winston would return to the field immediately after he served his suspension.

"At the end of the day we felt like the one game made the most sense, and I chose to keep that process internal," said Fisher, per USA Today's Dan Wolken. "Now he's served that punishment and he's ready to move forward."

Has too much damage already been done to Winston's Heisman campaign?

Missing a game for any reason is bound to have a deleterious effect. According to Cory McCartney, only two Heisman winners—Charles White in 1979 and Charlie Ward in 1993—have missed a game in their respective award-winning seasons:

Voters are going to be even less sympathetic given Winston's reason for missing the game. Why reward a guy who can't seem to get out of his own way?

Not only that, but Winston's numbers aren't otherworldly, either. Throwing for 626 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions is solid but not what you'd consider worthy of one of the most prestigious individual awards in sports.

There's no question that Winston's Heisman stock is in the toilet. He doesn't even warrant mention in ESPN's Heisman Watch. USA Today conducted a survey of Heisman voters, and Winston placed ninth out of nine players:

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston opened last season at No. 2 and ultimately won college football's top individual honor. In this season's first survey, however, he received a lone third-place vote from the 27 reporters and editors working at properties owned by Gannett, USA TODAY Sports' parent company.

Winston, hounded by multiple off-field issues, was suspended for Saturday's 23-17 overtime victory against then-No. 24 Clemson. FSU is ranked No. 1 in the Amway Coaches Poll and won last season's national championship.

Bleacher Report has him outside of the top five in its recent rankings.

With all of that said, it would be premature to rule the incumbent Heisman winner out completely.

All it takes is a huge string of games for Winston to get back into the discussion. If he can average 300-plus yards a game—or at least something close to that—against North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Syracuse, he will have positioned himself perfectly for what looks to be a huge matchup against Notre Dame.

That's the kind of game when a player has a Heisman moment that becomes synonymous with his season as a whole and gets replayed over and over again in the years following.

Not to mention that voters tend to reward the best player on the best team. After passing a major test on Saturday, the Seminoles took a major step toward qualifying for the four-team playoff. The hardest game they have remaining is home to the Fighting Irish.

It's difficult envisioning Florida State going unbeaten and not remaining the No. 1 team in the country. In the event the 'Noles go undefeated in the regular season, Winston would almost certainly be their only serious Heisman candidate.

As much as off-field issues have hampered Winston's chances of entering the same company as Archie Griffin, last year's results show that voters are willing to look past a lot if they feel a player is a deserving candidate.

In the same month Winston was cleared of sexual assault charges, he was present at the Best Buy Theater in New York City accepting the Heisman Trophy.

How can anybody be sure that voters will draw a line in the sand this time around?

Leaving that topic aside now, when you look at the rest of the Heisman field, you see plenty of players with possible holes in their candidacies.

Todd Gurley, Ameer Abdullah and Amari Cooper all play positions rarely given their due by voters. Running backs and wide receivers really have to go above and beyond to prove themselves as the best player in the country. The Heisman has almost exclusively become a quarterback honor.

Winston's stiffest competition is undoubtedly Marcus Mariota, but even there, you can see where the QB's hype train can ground to a halt.

Oregon's demonstrated an occasionally unhealthy reliance on the junior star. If the Ducks lose to a weaker opponent like Washington, California or Colorado, what would that do to Mariota's Heisman chances? That's to say nothing of what impact a defeat at the hands of UCLA or Stanford might have.

The door is still wide open for a few different contenders, Winston included.

In the immediate aftermath of Winston's suspension, it would be easy to proclaim his Heisman odds dead in the water. In the coming weeks, though, don't be surprised if this all blows over and he slowly climbs back to or least near his perch atop the rankings.

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Texas vs. Kansas Complete Game Preview

The Texas Longhorns will face their first true road test of the season Saturday when they head to Lawrence to face the Kansas Jayhawks.

The season has not begun the way many Texas fans may have hoped, but the Longhorns have the chance to gain momentum in Big 12 play with a win over the Jayhawks.

However, winning in Lawrence is not always an easy task. Just ask the players who were on the Longhorns' 2012 roster.

The last time Texas played at Memorial Stadium was a game to forget for Longhorn faithful.

Texas was down in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. But quarterback Case McCoy saved the day when he threw a touchdown pass to D.J. Grant with 12 seconds left on the game clock, and the Longhorns escaped with a 21-17 win over the Jayhawks.

Is it possible the Longhorns will have another near-death experience in Lawrence?

Let's take a look.

 

When: Saturday, Sept. 27, 4 p.m. ET

Where: Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kan.

TV: FS1

Austin radio: KVET 98.1/1300

SiriusXM satellite radio: XM 202; Sirius 117; Internet 969; Spanish 550

Last meeting: Nov. 2, 2013, Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas

Last meeting outcome: Texas 35, Kansas 13

Opening spread: Texas (-14), per OddsShark.com

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4-Star Recruit Kevin Henry Flips Commitment from LSU to Oklahoma State

Defensive back Kevin Henry supplied a surprise Tuesday when he backed off an eight-month verbal pledge to LSU. The 4-star Baton Rouge standout decided against staying home and flipped his commitment to Oklahoma State, per Sean Ceglinsky of 247Sports.

Henry, a 6'1", 200-pound Central High School senior, admitted he was still open to exploring other collegiate possibilities this summer. However, his allegiance to Les Miles' coaching staff never publicly seemed in doubt.

"I'm opening up my options a little bit, but I'm still committed [to LSU]," he told Jerit Roser of NOLA.com in July. "I really wanna go there, but I'm opening up my options, just because of a backup plan. You never know what's gonna go on in recruiting."

His decision to depart LSU's class serves as further proof of that sentiment. 

Oklahoma State lands a physically imposing prospect who will immediately upgrade the defensive secondary. He becomes the Cowboys' third 4-star commit this cycle, joining running back Ronald Jones II and cornerback Jaylon Lane

His flip continues a recent trend of one-time LSU pledges heading to Stillwater.

Texas cornerback Chris Hardeman committed to Oklahoma State last summer after initially creating a verbal pact with LSU. Fellow 2014 recruit Sione Palelei, a Louisiana running back, took the same path in December.

Henry, rated 19th nationally among safeties in 247Sports' composite rankings, does an excellent job against the run. He patrols the perimeter with confidence and displays enough physicality to be a factor in the offensive backfield.

His greatest strides will come in downfield coverage, particularly when he is tasked with shadowing speedy receivers. Henry has the strength to contend for passes in the intermediate zone and disrupts opponents' timing off the snap.

"I can jam at the line, and I can come up and make the tackle, and I can jump with the best of 'em," he told Roser.

LSU must look elsewhere to fill the void in a class headlined by 5-star defensive back Kevin Toliver. Tigers targets in the secondary include Iman Marshall, Donte Jackson and Tarvarus McFadden.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Tennessee Football: 5 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2014

The Tennessee Volunteers' 2014 season is off to an expected start with wins over Utah State and Arkansas State and a loss to the Oklahoma Sooners.

While the team's win-loss record to this point has played out like most analysts predicted, a few new and old faces have emerged as unexpected difference-makers on both offense and defense. 

Last season, cornerback Cam Sutton and defensive end Corey Vereen were the surprising standouts from a freshman class that arrived without much fanfare, while veteran kicker Michael Palardy completed one of the most impressive career turnarounds in Tennessee history. 

Likewise, the 2014 season has already produced a handful of surprises, as several of Tennessee's freshmen—as well as a few upperclassmen—have turned into the playmakers the Vols so desperately need. 

Here are five players who have surprised us the most on this young Tennessee team so far in 2014. 

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Cincinnati Professor Jokes He Will Fail Any Student Wearing Ohio State Gear

With a big game against intrastate rival Ohio State this weekend looming, people at the University of Cincinnati are taking football more seriously than ever.

If any student wears Ohio State gear to professor Steve Fuller's classes this week, he or she will be failed. That's the warning that Fuller recently sent out on Twitter.

All right, as much as he might want to, he's not going to do that.

Fuller did, however, say that he would do something "humiliating" if the Buckeyes beat the Bearcats.

The Bearcats are 2-13 all-time against the Buckeyes. They have lost the past 10 meetings and haven't pulled out a victory in the series since 1897. Ohio State hasn't lost to a team from Ohio since 1921, for what it's worth.

If history means anything, this professor better make sure that he has some Ohio State gear in his closet.

[Twitter, h/t Lost Lettermen]

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Mississippi State Lineman Dillon Day Suspended for Stomping on LSU Players

The Southeastern Conference has suspended Mississippi State center Dillon Day for the team's Oct. 4 game against Texas A&M for stomping on two defensive players in the Bulldogs' 34-29 win over LSU last Saturday.

Day, a senior, was shown on video leaping up and then stomping hard on LSU defensive tackle Davon Godchaux's stomach in one instance and the groin of cornerback Rashard Robinson in another instance, forcing the latter to be removed from the game. SEC commissioner Mike Slive announced the punishment Tuesday, citing Day's history of dangerous behavior.

"This action is the result of multiple flagrant and unsportsmanlike acts during the game, as well as previous disciplinary action for similar behavior," the conference's press release read, per Michael Bonner of The Clarion-Ledger.

Day was previously suspended for the start of a game against Troy last season after stomping on an Auburn player. He later entered the game, so Oct. 4 will be the first time since 2012 that Day is not under center for any portion of a Mississippi State game. For his part, Day maintains that he's been "wrongfully accused," claiming his momentum carried him into both defenders as he was attempting to finish the play.

"You never know when the ball-carrier will break loose and you can make another block or if a fumble may happen," Day wrote in a letter to Mississippi State fans, which he shared on Twitter. "It is essential to follow the ball. In the two clips, you can see I am doing just that."

The suspension is a black mark on one of the biggest wins in recent program history. Led by quarterback Dak Prescott, the then-unranked Bulldogs defeated LSU in Baton Rouge for the first time since 1991. Prescott had 373 total yards (268 passing, 105 rushing) and three touchdowns as Mississippi State got out to a 34-10 lead and held on late.

The upset vaulted the Bulldogs to No. 14 in the Associated Press poll and No. 16 in the Amway Coaches Poll. But almost immediately after the game the narrative switched to Day and whether the SEC would levy any punishment.

"That's already in the works," LSU head coach Les Miles told reporters, indicating the school submitted tapes of the stompings. "I think not only did TV catch that, but that was something that we caught and that we sent in and certainly the conference will do the right thing."

Though Dan Mullen has two weeks to reshuffle his offensive line, Mississippi State will be losing a key leader during the most onerous stretch of its schedule. The Bulldogs host sixth-ranked Texas A&M in two weeks, a game that will assuredly come down to which star quarterback puts his team in a position to win.

The Aggies vaulted into national contention themselves with an opening-week thrashing of South Carolina and boast a legitimate Heisman threat in quarterback Kenny Hill.

If that's not enough, Nick Marshall and fifth-ranked Auburn visit Davis Wade Stadium on Oct. 11—potentially Mississippi State's third straight meeting with a Top 10 opponent. While Day will be back in the lineup against the Tigers, Prescott and Co. need all hands on deck to survive this gauntlet. Without him, an already difficult matchup with Texas A&M just got a lot harder.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Softest Remaining Unbeatens Heading into Week 5

Not all undefeated teams are created equal.

Some (such as Texas A&M) have won road games against teams ranked in the national top 10, and others (such as Oregon) have proved their worth against the reigning Rose Bowl champion. Their records don't belie how well they've played.

For other post-Week 4 undefeateds, that is not the case.

This list is not a simple aggregation of the undefeated teams with the softest schedules. Who each team has played was one of the biggest factors, but if a team has looked dominant against inferior competition, it would not be fair to brandish it "soft."

Baylor, for example, has played a whole bunch of nobodies this season. It has also won by an aggregate score of 178-27 and outgained its opponents by 778 total yards (1,248-470). It has looked the way it's supposed to look, despite a rash of offensive injuries.

The teams on this list have not. There is time for them to fix their problems—Michigan State, after all, was a soft 3-0 after struggling against Western Michigan and South Florida and beating Youngstown State last season—but they will have to get better quickly.

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Is Notre Dame Ready for Big Boy Football vs. Stanford?

Circle your calendars for Week 6 of the college football season when the Stanford Cardinal will travel to South Bend, Indiana, to square off with Everett Golson and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.    

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer look ahead to the matchup featuring the two storied programs.

Who will come out on top? 

Watch the video and let us know! 

 

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Stat Correction Gives QB Blake Sims the Alabama Record for Most Yards in a Game

Blake Sims made history against Florida in Week 4, throwing for more yards (445) than any quarterback Nick Saban has ever coached.

As it turns out, that is not the only mark he set. An ex post facto stat correction credited Sims with 27 extra rushing yards, giving him 484 total yards on the game. That is the most by one player in the history of Alabama football.

Andrew Gribble of AL.com explains what happened:

On his second-quarter fumble, Sims was inaccurately docked 33 rushing yards—the distance between the line of scrimmage (Florida's 32-yard line) and where Florida ultimately finished with it (Alabama's 35). Sims, though, should only have been docked 6—the distance between the line of scrimmage and where it was recovered (Florida's 38).

Sims gained 53 yards on the ground and ultimately lost 14 on the day to finish with 39 rushing yards. He went from 457 yards of offense, which tied Scott Hunter (1969) for most in a single game, to all alone at the top with some significant breathing room. Hunter still has the single-game record for passing yards (484) but he lost 27 yards rushing in that same game.

Sims was one of the breakout stars of Week 4 even before this correction, and although getting an extra 27 yards tacked onto his rushing total doesn't actually change anything about his performance, it's nice to see him move into the Alabama record books—and to sit there all alone—after playing a near-perfect game.

For the season, the redshirt senior ranks fourth in the country in completion percentage (73.2) and QB rating (190.77), third in yards per attempt (11.2) and fifth in ESPN's Total QBR metric (89.7).

He has not just won but cemented the starting job over Florida State transfer Jake Coker, the man many presumed would be Alabama's quarterback after Sims struggled in the A-Day game. Coker is 6'5" and has the stronger arm, but Sims' mobility, accuracy and leadership have made him a star in Lane Kiffin's offense.

"Blake, from last year to spring, he improved a lot," said star receiver Amari Cooper, who caught 10 of Sims' passes for 201 yards, per Stewart Mandel of FoxSports.com. "From spring to camp, he improved even more. ... He used to just run. Now he runs out of the pocket and keeps his eyes down the field and tries to throw the ball."

And don't think people haven't taken notice.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, for example, had Sims No. 3 in his updated SEC quarterback rankings, right behind Texas A&M's Kenny Hill and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott and ahead of Auburn's Nick Marshall and Missouri's Maty Mauk.

Before the season, a ranking like that would have been heresy. But now that Sims has played his way into the Crimson Tide record book?

It seems like the logical move.

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5 Takeaways from Urban Meyer's Appearance on HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel

Urban Meyer is a notoriously private person, so when it emerged that the Ohio State head coach was going to be the subject of a segment on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on Sept. 23, many were surprised.

In fact, Meyer himself can't recall exactly why he agreed to willingly appear on the show.

"Oh, I don't know. Good question. I don't know why I did that," Meyer responded Monday when asked why he conceded to the segment. "It came across my desk and I said, 'No, of course not,' and I got a couple of phone calls that said, 'Yeah, it would be good for people to see.' That's why."

Regardless of the reason why he agreed, Meyer will be featured on the monthly sports magazine show at 10 p.m. ET Tuesday in a 12-minute segment reported by Andrea Kremer. With a primary focus on the success and turmoil that he enjoyed and endured at Florida, as well as his career's revival at Ohio State, there is plenty to take away from the in-depth look at one of the most fascinating figures in college football history.

 

The Making of a Meyer

Before Meyer was ever a two-time national champion head coach, he was merely a minor league prospect cutting his teeth in the Atlanta Braves organization. Although Meyer's time on the diamond was short-lived from a professional standpoint, it helped provide plenty of insight into the upbringing that made the Ashtabula, Ohio, native the man that he is today.

Drafted at the age of 17 by the Braves in the 13th round of the 1982 amateur draft, Meyer struggled in his first season with the Gulf Coast League Braves, posting a paltry .170 batting average in 20 games. The lack of success found from the 6'2", 180-pound righty caused him to doubt his future in baseball, leading to a more than memorable conversation with his father, Bud Meyer.

"I'm the third-string shortstop. The manager keeps mispronouncing my name. So I call up my dad and I say, 'I'm out,'" Meyer recalls to Kremer. "And he says, 'OK, you're a grown man now. You make your own decisions. But you will never step foot in this household again. Is that clear? There are no quitters in the Meyer family.' Bang."

Meyer would stick it out with baseball for one more season, hitting .193 while splitting time between the Braves' Gulf Coast League and Rookie Class teams in 1983. And while baseball may not have ultimately been his calling, it certainly played a key role in shaping his future career.

"It was very clear, the message: Don't quit," Meyer said of his conversation with his father. "Fight through it."

 

Success Addict

Although success never came for Meyer on the football field, the same couldn't be said when it came to coaching football, a career that he delved into after serving as a walk-on at the University of Cincinnati. Following stints as an assistant at Ohio State, Colorado State and Notre Dame, Meyer became one of the sport's fastest rising stars, taking over as Bowling Green's head coach at the ripe age of 36.

A 17-6 record in his two-year stint with the Falcons led to two years at Utah, where Meyer led the Utes to a 12-0 season and Fiesta Bowl victory in 2004. But all of that paled in comparison to the success that Meyer found at Florida, where he captured a national title in his second season with a 41-14 thrashing of Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game.

That may have been enough to satisfy most head coaches, but for the 42-year-old Meyer, it only increased his appetite for winning.

It wouldn't take long for Meyer to quench that thirst either, as the Tim Tebow-led Gators again captured college football's crystal ball in 2008. But despite being on top of the college football world, that's when it became apparent that Meyer was developing a problem, as evidenced by his postgame "celebration."

"I was in a panic situation and we just won it," Meyer said. "I closed the door and I started just recruiting. One of my friends came up to me and said, 'What are you doing?' and I said 'Well I gotta get this kid.' And he said, 'What's wrong with you? Enjoy this.' And I tried."

"Was he calling recruits?," Urban's wife, Shelley Meyer responds when asked by Kremer if she knew how her husband spent the moments following his second national title in three years, before admitting that Meyer's behavior had become obsessive.

As they'd soon find out, it was only the beginning.

 

"I thought I was dying."

The peak of the HBO Real Sports segment comes in 2009, when Meyer was polishing off two Ambiens a night with a beer just to get some sleep. Chest pains and weight issues soon followed, all the while Florida was still sustaining its success, carrying a 22-game winning streak into the SEC Championship Game.

"I go from 217 pounds to 180 pounds. I lose 37 pounds," Meyer says of his health in 2009. "And we're undefeated."

That perfection wouldn't last, however, with Nick Saban's Alabama getting the best of Meyer's Gators in the conference title game. That preceded what was the beginning of the end of Meyer's time in Gainesville, as just hours later he was rushed to the hospital as health issues became too much to handle.

"I remember a sharp pain in my chest. I was numb. That's all I remember," Meyer said. "I woke up in the hospital and they said, 'Well we don't believe it was a heart attack.' I said, 'OK, well what was it?' and they said, 'We don't know.' Then you start thinking, 'There's something wrong with me medically. What is going on here?'"

"Were you depressed?," Kremer asks Meyer.

"Absolutely," he responds. "Mentally, I was broke."

 

Florida Fiasco

So much so, in fact, that after leaving the hospital, Meyer opted to shockingly retire from coaching. But his hiatus would last less than a day, as he reneged on his decision to leave Florida fewer than 24 hours later.

"Did you pick work over your family in that sense?" Kremer asks.

"Probably," Meyer answers. "I'm not very proud of that."

The Meyers wouldn't have to wait long for Urban to return home, however, as he again stepped away from the Gators sideline following the 2010 season—this time for good.

Sure, Florida had just endured an 8-5 season, his worst as a head coach, but Meyer claims that the reasoning behind his second retirement in as many years delved deeper that. Watching his youngest daughter, Gigi, accept a scholarship to play volleyball at Florida Gulf Coast University, it finally hit Meyer how much in his life he had already missed.

"I get to the gym and this beautiful little girl stands up and says, 'Mom, I want to thank you, you were always there. And dad, you were never there, but I love you too," Meyer recalls. "And I remember I said, 'Oh my gosh, it happened.' I was the guy that wasn't there."

 

In a Better Place

In 2011, Meyer was there, parlaying his early retirement and expertise into a cushy analyst gig at ESPN that allowed him to spend plenty of time with his family. But as healthy and happy as Meyer was, coaching remained his passion, which is why Shelley was so heartbroken when she learned that Jim Tressel was resigning from his position as the Buckeyes head coach in May of 2011.

"If ever he would go back, it would be Ohio State," Shelley said. "When that news broke, I was devastated."

Shelley's fears come to fruition that November, when Meyer officially accepted OSU's offer to return to college football. But before signing his contract with the Buckeyes, he had to sign one with his family, pieced together by his oldest daughter, Nicki.

"I just started writing all of the things that he didn't do [at Florida]," Nicki said of her famous pink contract. "I made it very formal."

Meyer complied, beginning an Ohio State career that started with a 24-game win streak that lasted the entirety of the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons. But a span of three losses in four games—including defeats in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game and Orange Bowl—tested how far Meyer's come, and have proven to both he and his family that he's in a better place now than he was five years ago.

"I don't feel that at all," Meyer said when asked if the Buckeyes' defeats have made him as miserable as the ones at Florida did. "I'll never get to that point again."

 

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

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