NCAA Football News

Auburn Reveals It Will Soon Have the Largest Video Board in College Football

Jordan-Hare Stadium, the home of the Auburn Tigers football team, will soon get a major upgrade.

How major? Auburn will upgrade its video board and become the proud owner of the largest big screen in college football. The picture above, uploaded to Auburn's Instagram account, shows how the transformation will look.

[Instagram]

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10 Most Underrated 2015 College Football Recruiting Classes

Alabama, USC, Florida State. Three programs with three outstanding 2015 recruiting classes. Everybody knows about these teams.

It's the potential sleeper classes that you have to be on the lookout for in a couple of years.

Part of the excitement of national signing day involves the last-minute targets who commit, which ultimately results in where a team finishes in team rankings. Alabama has dominated the team rankings the last five years, but USC and Florida State gave the Crimson Tide stiff competition this year.

But what about those teams that don't get the national publicity for their efforts on signing day? What about those programs without the 5-star names?

Here are 10 programs who signed recruiting classes some might consider under the radar. These underrated teams—not listed in any particular order—were chosen on overall talent level and includes players with the potential for seeing early playing time.

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Urban Meyer Beat Jim Harbaugh for Mike Weber, but at What Cost?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Standing at his signing day press conference, having just inked a fourth consecutive top-10 class, Urban Meyer was asked if he ever takes pride in beating a particular opposing coach for a prospect.

Initially, Meyer downplayed the premise. But as he realized that the inquiry was in reference to Ohio State besting Michigan and new head coach Jim Harbaugh for 4-star running back Michael Weber, Meyer saw fit to take aim.

"We do keep score against the rival in everything we do," Meyer said. "That's gone on for long before us and will take place long after us. Absolutely you keep score on that one."

It's Meyer 1, Harbaugh 0, and the Buckeyes head coach had every right to puff his chest. Despite already possessing a loaded backfield—both now and for the foreseeable future—Meyer walked into the Wolverines' backyard and took a one-time Michigan commit from one of its pipeline schools.

But at what cost?

Just one day after Weber made his gut-wrenching decision—the Detroit Cass Tech product was clearly torn between Ohio State and Michigan before announcing he'd be a Buckeye around 11 a.m.—OSU running backs coach Stan Drayton announced he'd accepted a job with the Chicago Bears.

Taking to Twitter, Weber's reaction spoke for itself.

The timeline of Drayton's departure remains unclear. ElevenWarriors.com reported that he interviewed with the Bears on Thursday—one day after signing day—and accepted a job in Chicago shortly thereafter.

It's hard to imagine him making a life-altering decision in such a short amount of time, and it doesn't seem coincidental Drayton left Columbus one day after signing day as opposed to one day before. But regardless of how long the now-former Ohio State assistant had been talking to the Bears—or what Meyer knew of it—the timing of his move isn't a good look for the Buckeyes, especially when it's dealing with a kid who was clearly as torn as Weber was.

OSU assistant Kerry Coombs led the charge in Weber's recruitment alongside Drayton and admitted that even he didn't know where the prized prospect would land until he told the Buckeyes staff shortly before announcing his intentions.

“It was close,” Coombs said on signing day. "But that just is what it is when you get down to these battles and you’re fighting and you’re scratching until the name is on the paper. So, yeah, I expected it to be close like that all morning and it was.”

"Even at 8:00, 9:00 this morning we all weren't sure," Meyer admitted. "Up until about an hour before he announced, we weren't sure."

Drayton was well-aware of Weber's concerns when it came to leaving his home state for its archrival.

"Just being a Michigan kid that’s going to graduate with an Ohio State degree, and he wants to be able to live in his state again one day and wants to have success,” Drayton answered when asked why Weber was wavering. 

“He wants to represent Detroit wearing scarlet and gray, and he absolutely can do that. He absolutely will do that. I have a wife from Detroit, and I told him, ‘If I sit here and I coach you and I don’t let you represent Detroit, my wife is probably going to divorce me. There’s no way in this world I’m not going to let you represent where you’re from.'"

Assuming Weber doesn't ask for a release from his scholarship—and there's no reason to believe he will at this point—he'll still more than likely have a successful college career in Columbus. After all, the Buckeyes have produced back-to-back 1,000-yard running backs in the past two seasons, and Meyer has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to hiring assistants and getting the most out of his players.

"The last two tailbacks are as good as anybody in America," Meyer said, referencing Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott. "We have a fantastic offensive line, and we believe in our tailback. It's not theory. It's real. You watch it on film."

And as Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee wrote earlier, kids should commit to a program, not a coach. Simply too much can change within a program on any given day, and Weber wasn't the only signee around the country to find that out this week.

But that doesn't change the fact that fewer than 48 hours after Weber inked his national letter of intent, the position coach who he figured he'd be playing for and trusted throughout the recruitment process left for the NFL. That won't be lost on Harbaugh, who will go head-to-head with Meyer on multiple occasions throughout the 2016 recruiting cycle and for the foreseeable future.

Whether that will yield tangible results for Harbaugh remains to be seen, but in recruiting, every edge can make a difference. Which is why the timing of Drayton's departure doesn't seem coincidental, as it very well could have resulted in a different choice for Weber on Wednesday.

Meyer won the first battle and knows it. But his war with Harbaugh is just getting started.

 

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

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Tennessee Football: Mike DeBord Is Not the Ideal Hire for Vols

Former offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian's surprise move to the NFL to become the quarterbacks coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left a void in the Tennessee coaching staff through national signing day, but it didn't take long for head coach Butch Jones to find his replacement.

Tennessee announced on Friday that Mike DeBord will join the Vols' staff and take over as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

DeBord discussed the move:

It is truly an honor and a privilege to be a part of the great tradition and culture of the University of Tennessee football program. I was very selective about the job opportunities presented, and I'm very excited to be a part of the building of something special here at Tennessee. The familiarity with the system, the staff, and Butch Jones will be a great asset as we build upon and enhance our offensive system at Tennessee.

DeBord most recently served in an administrative role for Michigan's Olympic sports teams and was its offensive coordinator on two separate occasions (2006-2007 and 1997-1999). His most recent on-field job was as the tight ends coach for the Chicago Bears from 2010-2012. He was Jones' boss when DeBord was Central Michigan's head coach from 2000-2003.

Impressed?

No?

Me either.

What does DeBord bring to the table that current wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni doesn't? What does he bring to the table that South Carolina wide receivers coach G.A. Mangus doesn't? What does he bring to the table that Alabama wide receivers coach Billy Napier, USC wide receivers coach Tee Martin and Arizona co-offensive coordinator Calvin Magee don't?

Familiarity with Jones?

That seems to be the most important factor. As an offensive coordinator in college, his experience doesn't exactly jump off the page.

According to Sports-Reference.com, his Michigan offense finished sixth in the Big Ten in total offense in 2006 (370.8 yards per game) and 10th in 2007 (385.1 yards per game). In his first stint at Michigan, his offense finished no higher than fifth in the conference in scoring offense.

This is a hire out of convenience rather than one for progress. His first order of business, as Bleacher Report's Brad Shepard notes, might be winning over the fans.

Azzanni would have been a much better choice, and FootballScoop.com expects him to receive a pay bump and promotion in conjunction with the Vols' staff shake-up:

He's an up-and-coming wide receivers coach who's more familiar with Jones' program, and Brian Manzullo of the Detroit Free Press floated his name as a contender for the Central Michigan job this offseason. However, he told WMNL (h/t Fansided's Zach Ragan) that he never spoke with CMU about the position.

As Shepard notes, Vol fans should be thankful for Azzanni while they have him:

Why not do everything possible to keep him longer?

He's an integral part of the recruiting efforts on Rocky Top, helping reel in stud wide receivers Marquez North, Josh Malone and Preston Williams during his time with the program, according to his 247Sports recruiter bio.

If the coaching carousel is indeed going to spin in favor of a promotion, he clearly has enough interest from other places to play the leverage game.

On top of that, he has much more familiarity with how Jones runs this particular Tennessee program.

Jones has his say with what goes on in the offense, so DeBord's presence certainly doesn't change much.

His hire does, however, seem like Jones is making the coaching hire equivalent of bringing in a pinch hitter for Barry Bonds during his prime.

If he hits a home run, that's great, but he's likelier to hit a ground-rule double instead.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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How New Offensive Coordinator Mike DeBord Can Win over Tennessee Fans

With so much returning talent and the Tennessee football program on the uptick, the hiring of Mike DeBord—Michigan's 58-year-old Olympic sports administrator—wasn't exactly met with a universal vote of confidence throughout the Big Orange Nation.

Message boards and the Twitter universe buzzed with equal parts snark and serious questions Thursday afternoon. There's even a fake account already set up lampooning DeBord as "Mike DeBoring."

Tennessee's official announcement Friday morning confirming the worst-kept secret in college football set off a predictable chorus of "Who?" and "Why?" from fans. The questions were so vocal the past couple of days that several national media members, including ESPN's Chris Low, reacted to the frenzy:

Assuredly, there's very little glitz and glamor to head coach Butch Jones' decision to hire DeBord. He hasn't been an offensive coordinator since 2007 or a coach of any sort since 2012.

The 30-plus-year veteran assistant served two separate stints as the Wolverines' offensive coordinator, winning one national championship, two Big Ten titles, two BCS appearances and coming within a three-point loss to Ohio State of playing for another national championship.

Still, the hiatus from coaching is odd for such a key position.

The hire, on its surface, is puzzling. After all, the Vols return all but one offensive starter to a unit that appears poised to break out in 2015.

With quarterback Joshua Dobbs, running back Jalen Hurd and others coming back, this would have been the perfect environment for a dynamic, innovative young mind to jump at the opportunity to come to UT.

Instead, Jones chose familiarity over fanfare.

DeBord was Central Michigan's head coach from 2000-03, where he hired Jones, who was eventually elevated to head coach. The duo have a history.

The biggest question remains: Who is going to mentor Dobbs and UT's young stable of quarterbacks? DeBord was also given the title of "quarterbacks coach" along with the coordinator position, but he hasn't served much time in the former role.

But graduate assistant Nick Sheridan is still on staff and worked a lot with the signal-callers under former offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian, so he'll continue to help in that role. Regardless, DeBord's hire gives Jones continued continuity, which always has been important to UT's coach.

Jones always has been loyal, as evidenced by his bringing most of his staff with him from Cincinnati.

Among that staff were Bajakian and defensive coordinator John Jancek, neither of whom UT fans were thrilled about. At the time, Jones told the Big Orange Nation, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown, "I can assure you we will put together the best football staff in the country."

Though Bajakian never really produced big numbers, the Vols finally were showing signs of improvement before he bolted a couple of weeks ago for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' quarterbacks coaching position.

Jancek has led UT to steady improvement over the course of his two seasons, and most Vols fans are thrilled about the progress on that side of the ball. Heck, the hire of Jones himself was ridiculed loudly and openly by a fanbase that thought they deserved better.

Two full seasons later, Tennessee is recruiting at the highest level in the country and is coming off a 7-6 season and a TaxSlayer Bowl victory. The Vols are also a B/R pick to win the SEC East next year with so much talent returning.

In other words, Jones has earned the right to be trusted. Just because the hires don't always appear to be what the fans want, they've worked out for the most part thus far.

If a search that began with DeBord but included names such as Boise State's upstart coordinator Mike Sanford Jr., Arizona State's Mike Norvell, Arizona's Rod Smith and North Carolina State's Matt Canada wound up coming full circle to DeBord again, how can anybody be concerned whether Jones did his due diligence?

Still, as was the case with Jones and Jancek, DeBord's going to have to prove his worth on the field. How's he going to do that?

 

Run Jones' Offense to a 'T'

With all the young stars aligned and in place to make a nice offensive leap next year, the last thing Jones wanted to do was change his offensive direction.

That's probably a big reason he was reluctant to relinquish the reigns to a coordinator who would have commanded control.

Instead, Jones gets a guy he can trust in DeBord, even though the assistant has a history of running mostly a Power-I formation.

Make no mistake: DeBord won't be running that scheme at Tennessee. If so, he wouldn't be coming. Rocky Top Insider's Daniel Lewis said the same in a radio interview with RTI Radio on Thursday:

This reeks of Jones' hiring somebody who will call plays within the framework of his zone-read-option offense, keep a lot of the same playbook and terminology and expand upon it with some wrinkles from his experienced resume. That's obviously the hope.

You can't blame Jones for wanting to hire someone he trusts who will keep the same scheme that has served him well at CMU and Cincinnati; the one that has shown signs of breaking through with a full stable of talent in the rugged SEC.

Ask yourself if you think it's best for the Vols to cram a new playbook into their offseason schedules? If so, it would burn all that time they spent hammering on the Jones-Bajakian formula last year.

DeBord is in a fine position to be successful. Bajakian already went through the struggles of getting UT's roster in position to run the scheme, and now in Dobbs, the Vols finally have a quarterback tailor-made for it. With the players in place, DeBord just has to take this offense and not break it.

In other words, he has to avoid being Dave Clawson, whose disastrous 2008 offense led to legendary coach Phillip Fulmer's dismissal.

This is Mike DeBord's job, but he's going to be running Butch Jones' offense. He's a caretaker with a garage full of shiny new cars. As long as he keeps the same navigation system and doesn't wreck them, he'll be just fine.

 

Lend a Much-Needed Hand

It's no secret that the position that has struggled the most since Jones took over is the offensive line.

Though the Vols put up relatively decent rushing totals in 2013, the line underachieved for a unit with four seniors (including three who went on to be rookie starters in the NFL) and a junior who left early. Then this past year, UT struggled mightily in the trenches.

Offensive line coach Don Mahoney really hasn't inspired a ton of confidence in his two seasons in Knoxville.

So it's an underrated benefit that DeBord's experience is chiefly as an offensive line coach. In 16 of his 32 coaching years he's helmed the offensive front, so it certainly doesn't hurt to have a longtime veteran aboard with that level of expertise who has coached in the NFL.

The Vols have a group of six linemen who started at times last year. They also have a strong class of Drew Richmond, Venzell Boulware, Jack Jones, Chance Hall and Zach Stewart coming in, so there are more kids for DeBord to help mold.

DeBord's main area of focus will no doubt be play-calling, facilitating Jones' offense and advancing it. But every offensive coordinator has a position of focus, and DeBord's will almost assuredly be the offensive line. 

While at Michigan, he helped groom linemen such as Steve Hutchinson, Jeff Backus and Jon Jansen. Hutchinson and Jansen were both first-team All-Americans, so DeBord has a track record of coaching elite linemen.

DeBord will help bring the new guys along and get the most out of the returning players. They need all the help they can get there, and some new blood will stir things up a bit.

 

Second Time's the Charm

Way back in 2008, Fulmer interviewed DeBord, a successful veteran with pronounced success, to be his offensive coordinator at Tennessee. Instead, the longtime UT coach chose Clawson, whose ill-fated "Clawfense" ultimately helped usher Fulmer into an early retirement.

All these years later, Clawson has experienced a successful head coaching tenure at Bowling Green and is going into his second season at Wake Forest. Fulmer is still retired, and DeBord has been semiretired.

Now DeBord gets a second chance to coach in Knoxville. He'll try not to follow in the footsteps of Clawson.

To be clear, Jones is in absolutely no danger of being fired anytime soon. He is still a darling among UT fans, has the program on the upswing, recruits with the best in the country and looks ready to win big.

But make no mistake: This is an important hire.

Any time a coach hires a coordinator, it's a pivotal point for his program. When one hires a guy who isn't universally loved throughout his fanbase—as is the case with DeBord—the magnifying glass begins to concentrate a little more heat on the head coach.

Tennessee has a quarterback with elite potential, a talented group of running backs, a stable of pass-catchers that rivals anybody in the league and an offensive line that is going on its second year of playing together. It has three incoming freshmen quarterbacks and a sturdy class full of 4- and 5-star prospects.

It all lines up for DeBord to be successful running Jones' scheme in a transitional period that is going to determine the trajectory of the program.

If he coaches them up, UT fans will look at this hire as just the latest in a long line of times they should have trusted their coach's judgment. If he doesn't, Tennessee will have much bigger concerns that who is calling plays.

 

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

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Michigan Football: Top Sleepers from the 2015 Recruiting Class

Michigan’s 2015 recruiting class, the first under coach Jim Harbaugh, isn’t a blow-you-away, stars-for-days collection—as a matter of fact, it’s pretty modest, ranking No. 38 overall and No. 6 in the Big Ten, per 247Sports.

And really, it pales in comparison, at least on paper, to the previous efforts of former coach Brady Hoke, who recruited a pair of top-10 classes before being released in December. 

But as Harbaugh said during Wednesday’s national signing day presser, the 2015 class is full of “winners” and has plenty in the “tough/toughness” department. 

Harbaugh signed 14 players on signing day, six of the 4-star variety, but he also landed under-the-radar guys who could make impressions come spring, such as 3-star running back Karan Higdon, 3-star wide receiver Grant Perry, 3-star offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr. and 3-star athlete Keith Washington.

The Wolverines’ running back situation isn’t written in stone, and they could use another receiver to strengthen the stable. The O-line could use an injection of talent, and a return job could be up for grabs. There are openings for Higdon, Perry, Runyan Jr. and Washington—and at least one of them could gain serious ground come spring.

 

Set Your Alarm for Higdon

Once committed to Iowa, Higdon didn’t receive a lot of play from major programs. That’s not to say they weren’t interested, but they weren’t beating down his door. Higdon had 14 offers, including invites from Arkansas, Tennessee and Arizona.

Florida looked at him. So did Notre Dame. No offer, though.

Harbaugh offered him this past Saturday and signed him Wednesday.

At 5’10” and 190 pounds, Higdon is average-ish—nothing too special, but he’s not a runt. He could hit the weights and enter the season as a 200-pound bruiser. He has the foundation—it’s on Harbaugh to build one of those houses he talked about during his intro on Dec. 30.

Circumstances and timing could easily create a path for Higdon to enter the rotation. He’ll have to fight Derrick Green, De’Veon Smith and Ty Isaac—who were three of the top backs of the 2013 class—for reps, but he could work his way into the mix.

He runs hard and has clocked a 4.5-second 40-yard dash.

And he’s worthy of your attention come spring.

 

Taken for Grant-ed?

Having chemistry with non-sleeper Alex Malzone could be a plus for Perry, as Malzone, a 4-star quarterback, is expected to at least challenge for a spot this spring and into the fall. That instant connection could benefit the both of them, actually. Quarterbacks make receivers look good and vice versa.

At 6’0” and 185 pounds, Perry is another average-ish player. However, the former Northwestern commit has great hands, and those are always in demand.

Within the right system, Perry could be a valuable secondary option or even leapfrog Drake Harris—who redshirted as a freshman due to injury in 2014—Jaron Dukes, Da’Mario Jones or even Maurice Ways, who had a small handful of nice grabs this past season.

Other than Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, the Wolverines don’t really have an experienced and established corps of wideouts. The story has been the same since 2013—they have depth at the position, but the development...well, you know the rest.

Perry was the only true wide receiver recruited in the 2015 class. Brian Cole, a 4-star athlete, was initially viewed as a running back but is slated to play wide receiver. He could immediately help, and being the No. 73-ranked prospect of his class obviously disqualifies him from “sleeper” status.

However, the next unheralded recruit could also lend a hand in the pass-catching department, among many others.

 

Ultra-Magnetic Keith

Washington received interest from home-state programs Alabama and Auburn, and they typically pursue the highest-profile, superbly talented bunch.

But they didn’t offer him. So there’s that.

Missouri and Miami (Fla.) offered, but Washington ended up pledging to Cal...then he executed a last-minute flip to Michigan after being recruited by secondary coach Mike Zordich.

The 6’2”, 170-pounder played cornerback in high school, which is probably why Zordich went after him, but he also played quarterback. He could squeeze into certain sets as a gadget back or even serve as a return man—in addition to playing wide receiver.

His versatility makes him one of the most intriguing signees. He’s a lot like Cole in some regards, and the potential of that tandem is endless. While it’s easy to get carried away while projecting roles of players who are classified as “athletes,” it’s important to remember that they’re tagged as such for a reason: They can do pretty much anything.

Washington is one of them. Punts, kicks and picks—the freshman should get a few opportunities to showcase his talent come April 4, the date of the Wolverines’ spring game at The Big House in Ann Arbor.

 

Jon Legacy?

Being the son of a Michigan great probably carries a level of responsibility. It’s somewhat natural for fans and media to expect a little too much from someone due to his last name.

That’s fine—some of the time. However, it’s not entirely fair to evaluate the kid on what dear old dad did in the 1990s. We’re talking about two different eras and two very different programs.

At 6’4” and 276 pounds, Runyan Jr. ended his prep career as the No. 121-ranked tackle of his class. He was recruited by former offensive coordinator Al Borges and O-line coach Darrell Funk—so yeah, he’s been on board for some time. He was one of six who didn’t bail when the stuff hit the fan for Hoke’s staff.

There are obvious openings up front too. In 2014, true freshman Mason Cole earned the No. 1 left tackle job. He wasn’t a sleeper by definition, but he was the first frosh to start on the line for Michigan on opening day.

Runyan, in essence, could do something similar—not because he’s Jon Runyan’s kid but because he possesses the Harbaugh-approved characteristics of being incredibly strong-minded and dedicated to the idea of team and program.

"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Harbaugh said. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability.

Recruiting info via 247Sports.com

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Georgia Football: Why 2015 Signing Class Will Give Bulldogs a National Title

National signing day has come and gone, and the Georgia Bulldogs finished the day with one of the 10 best classes in the country.

However, there were some doubts as to how the class would turn out, because there were a few players who decommitted to the Bulldogs at the last minute. However, some players decommitted from one school to the Bulldogs, too.

At the end of the day, Mark Richt was able to come away with 28 players, including Trent Thompson, the No. 1 recruit in the country.

But this class is different. This class may not be the best in the country according to most recruiting media outlets, but this class has a bit more of an edge to them than any other class in the Richt era.

That reason, along with a few more factors, is why the 2015 class will help the Bulldogs win a national championship.

Since Richt has been the head coach at UGA, he has had no issues signing talented players. However, he has never landed an individual who won National Player of the Year.

Congratulations to #UGA commit DT Trent Thompson on winning 2015 @247Sports Composite National Player of the Year! pic.twitter.com/QWV64GfvNd

— UGA Football Live (@UGAfootballLive) January 26, 2015

That changed when Thompson signed with the Bulldogs this week, which was huge for the Bulldogs moving forward. Bringing in a guy like Thompson will help strengthen the defensive line, which is needed if the Bulldogs want to have an elite defense.

But adding Thompson was only the beginning.

The Bulldogs also signed Jonathan Ledbetter, who could be a better defensive line NFL prospect than Thompson. The 6’5’’ defensive end is quick and physical and can get after the quarterback. Those two, along with Natrez Patrick, D’Andre Walker and Michael Barnett, make up possibly the best defensive line class in the Richt era.

As good as the defensive line can be, the offensive line is no slouch either. Sage Hardin, Sam Madden, Patrick Allen and DeVondre Seymour are all guys who can run-block, which is needed in the offense the Bulldogs run. Also, the line has a ton a size, so new O-line coach Rob Sale will have a lot to work with the next few seasons.

Adding depth and talent to both lines was needed for the Bulldogs to get over the hump in the SEC. But another thing they did was add depth, talent and versatility to the entire defense.  

The linebackers the Bulldogs signed can do a number of things, especially Gary McCrae. He can play outside linebacker, defensive end and inside linebacker. The same goes for Chauncey Rivers, who can also play various linebacker and defensive line positions.

The pass defense improved vastly for the Bulldogs in 2014, but defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt knows that it could have been better. That’s why the Bulldogs got Rico McGraw, Shaquery Wilson and Deandre Baker. Wilson and Baker could play offense, but the fact the Bulldogs added players with the ability to help in the secondary is huge.

Out of the 28 signees, 14 are from the state of Georgia. And of those 14, four are ranked in the 247 Sports Georgia Composite Rankings. The Bulldogs have had their struggles landing the top talent in Georgia in the past, but that wasn’t the case this year thanks to the coaches, who stayed on Thompson and Terry Godwin.

Georgia is a hotbed for college talent, and the fact the Bulldogs were able to sign nearly half of the 10 best players in the state is not a bad thing.

This class was about building the line of scrimmage, adding depth on defense and keeping the talent in-state, and the Bulldogs hit on all those three in more ways than one.

This team may not help the Bulldogs win the College Football Playoff this upcoming season, because most of them won’t see too much action. But watch out for the Bulldogs in 2016, because they will finally reach their goal thanks to 28 young men who on February 4, 2015.

 

All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted. Rankings courtesy of 247Sports Composite Rankings.

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Nebraska Football Recruiting: Meet the Cornhuskers' 2015 Class

National signing day has officially come and gone. For head coach Mike Riley, it was his first recruiting class for the University of Nebraska, and he believes it's a "good class."

“This is a good class that started with the guys that were committed to Nebraska when we got here,” Riley said during his national signing day press conference.

By the end of the day, Nebraska landed at No. 35 on 247Sports' 2015 recruiting team rankings. In the Big Ten, Nebraska finished fifth, behind Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, respectively.

So, who exactly did Nebraska sign to its 2015 recruiting class? Let's meet the new Huskers.

 

Much Needed Attention at Key Positions

Riley knew there were certain positions that needed more attention that others. With this in mind, it helped the new head coach focus his time, as he told ESPNU (via Sean Callahan of Huskers Online):

Well linebacker for sure. There had been injuries there, there had been some attrition and we had to start getting some guys that could play and also be good in the way of depth in numbers at that position. We knew we had to do that and then we kind of earmarked we would like three offensive linemen in this class, we looked at that the quarterback thing hard because it's kind of fun to look at the quarterback - that one guy you are going to recruit.

We opted not to because we didn't want to make a late decision without a lot of background. We feel good about the guys here. We'll focus on that for next year. I'd say though the No. 1 spot we had to look at that we noticed was linebacker.

The focus allowed Riley to snag players like Mohamed BarryTyrin FergusonAdrienne Talan and Dedrick Young. Had Nebraska not been focused, the depth at positions like linebacker and defensive end likely would not have been fully addressed. As a result, the Huskers would have been back at square one.

A true testament to Riley's focus is that all four linebackers that signed, committed to Nebraska after Riley was hired.

"As we looked at the linebacker situation, it was pretty glaring that we needed some numbers there," Riley said. "So we went right after that."

Riley's ability to focus and snag much needed players was not ignored by Bleacher Report's own Michael Felder and Adam Kramer, either:

 

Making a Statement in the Big Ten

During his national signing day press conference, Riley talked about competing for recruits with his good friends. Who would those coaches be? None other than Michigan's Jim Harbaugh and Wisconsin's Paul Chryst.

However, Riley ultimately viewed it all as just a little friendly competition.

"I've been in all kinds of situations in my life, including coaching against people that I know," Riley said during his national signing day press conference. "I coached against my dad up in the Canadian Football League. What I really try to do is enjoy it, but we always want to win."

Against Harbaugh, Riley did win.

Both tight end Matt Snyder and defensive end Daishon Neal were offered by Harbaugh and Michigan. Both could have easily made the choice to flip commitments. Instead, Riley made a strong enough case, and both Snyder and Neal stayed committed to the Huskers.

Going forward, Riley isn't concerned about the other Big Ten programs. 

"I take a step back and just remember what we’re doing here," he said. "We’re talking about our school, our program, our state and what we’ve got, and we’ll take it up against anyone."

The Big Ten better watch out, too. Riley believes in what he's building at Nebraska and will put it up against anybody who wants to compete for recruits, even if they're friends.

"We’re going to focus on who we are and what we do," Riley said.

Fans have to like that strategy.

 

A Promising First Class

As Hail Varsity's Brandon Vogel noted, the 2015 recruiting class had a strong start. Under Bo Pelini, the "class was ranked in the top-10 nationally according to Rivals with six verbal commits."

Riley was quick to give credit to Pelini for that. 

“I was impressed with the work that Bo [Pelini]’s staff did with these kids and really impressed with the film we saw," he said.

It was all on Riley after that, though. He could have easily lost quite a few of those original commits, but instead, he stepped in and re-secured the commitments. That included Colorado cornerbacks Eric Lee and Avery Anderson, as well as twin defensive tackles Carlos and Khalil Davis of Blue Springs, Missouri.

Additionally, Riley started to build the recruiting identity he wants to have going forward with the 2015 class. He wants to focus on the 500-mile radius surrounding Lincoln, Nebraska, but he understands the players the Huskers might need could be outside of that area.

“I really think if you’re good at home, and we’re good in this area, then we know now where we need to go to supplement that,” Riley said. “But we can get a really good foundation from Nebraska and all those surrounding states that send their kids to our camp. It may not fill up our recruiting class but it’ll be a nice foundation for any class if we can maintain a number in this area.”

For the 2015 class, Riley signed players from 13 different states; however, Riley's staff made sure the attention to local recruits was established.

“You look stupid when you're playing against kids that you could have gotten,” said director of player personnel Ryan Gunderson said before national signing day, per Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald. "So we need to do our homework. At least recruit them, at least give them a shot. … Because I don't want to play against good players that we could have got."

Looking at Nebraska's 2015 class, Husker fans can get a good idea of what to expect in the future. Riley's strategy will clearly be finding solid local talent and then moving outside of the 500-mile radius to make it all come together.

For Riley, the 2015 class was a promising start to his career at the helm of Nebraska football. Only time will tell what he will accomplish going forward, but for now, it's a pretty solid way to kick things off for the Huskers.

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

Quotes obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

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10 Players Who Can Boost NFL Draft Stock at Pro Day

With Super Bowl 49 in the record books, the NFL has officially shifted into draft mode. We’re less than two weeks from the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where coaches and executives from across the league gather to analyze, measure and interview the top prospects for May’s NFL draft. It’s the most high-profile scouting event of the NFL draft cycle, but it isn’t the only one.

For players who have questions about their games, are rebounding from injuries or are attempting a position shift, pro days are just as important as the combine. They’re a chance for scouts and coaches to focus more attention, dole out one-on-one time and perhaps take a closer view than they’re able to in the meat market that is the Indianapolis scouting combine.

Here are 10 players who can benefit from a big showing at their pro days, whenever they are.

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National Signing Day Drama Shows Recruits Should Sign to a School, Not Coach

Flipping season for recruits starts when the dead period ends in January and lasts until national signing day.

For some coaches, flip season starts after recruits sign on the dotted line. 

There were several key coaching moves that took place shortly after national signing day, including UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich heading to the Atlanta Falcons according to FoxSports.com and Florida defensive line coach Terrell Williams' jump to the Miami Dolphins, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Shady? You bet, especially considering the slanted contracts high school football players signed on Wednesday, as Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples notes:

This brings us to what should be the No. 1 rule of thumb for top-tier prospects during the recruiting process: Commit to the school, not the coach.

Several prospects in the class of 2015 found this out the hard way.

Roquan Smith—a 4-star linebacker from Montezuma, Georgia, committed to UCLA on ESPNU on Wednesday, but opened back up his recruiting process shortly after the cameras turned off and he found out that Ulbrich was leaving the program.

"We just got the news on Coach Ulbrich getting the offer from the Atlanta Falcons," Smith's high school coach Larry Harold told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Roquan just holding his UCLA papers to see what Coach Ulbrich is going to do. We’re just sitting tight right now."

Ohio State 4-star running back Mike Weber found out running backs coach Stan Drayton is leaving for the Chicago Bears according to the Chicago TribuneWeber took to Twitter to vent his frustrations.

CeCe Jefferson—a 5-star defensive end from Glen St. Mary, Florida, committed to Florida later in the afternoon on ESPNU, but has yet to send in his national letter of intent after learning that Williams is leaving the program.

It should never get to this point for either side.

From a player's perspective, it's incredibly disingenuous for a coach to sell a program for two or more years only to bail the day after signing day, leaving the kids with a different product than they purchased. But it does happen a lot, and prospects should know this. More importantly, the program should be upfront about these possibilities.

From a program's perspective, it shouldn't matter.

There are assistants like Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and others who are long-time assistants at their respective schools, but those coaches are the exception, not the rule.

Most assistants—position coaches, in particular—are in very volatile positions on coaching staffs. If they succeed, plenty of coordinator jobs open up every offseason that present options. If they fail, they're easily replaceable, especially in this day and age of growing off-the-field staffs.

Over the last five years, we've seen eight of the 14 SEC programs make wholesale changes to their entire coaching staffs, not just position-coach movement. 

Assistants often provide the day-to-day contact for prospects along the way, and of course those relationships are important. For proof, look no further than 4-star linebacker Jeffery Holland, who directly credited defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson for his commitment to Auburn.

"That was just a big deal right there," Holland said, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. "I've been loving Auburn and that just put the icing on the cake."

That's fine. 

If an assistant is the deal-breaker but a player is happy regardless, that's the appropriate way this process should work. But an assistant coach being the primary reason a player commits anywhere is silly.

Players should know that post-signing day coaching moves happen every year. Coaches should be upfront about opportunities and even if the marriage lasts for a little while. Players should recognize that, even if position coaches stick around for the prospect's freshman year, the coaching carousel spins pretty fast every offseason, and that could change the structure of the staff at any given school.

Coaching is a nomadic business, but playing college football isn't. As a result, player should commit to schools, not people.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Jim Harbaugh Is Building a Recruiting Machine at Michigan

Recent moves made by the Michigan Wolverines athletic department make it clear that Jim Harbaugh is upgrading his recruiting infrastructure hoping to shift the balance of power in the Big Ten East Division.

While Harbaugh was crisscrossing the nation on the Michigan private jet to complete his first recruiting class, his recruiting support staff was being transformed in Ann Arbor.

Harbaugh acknowledged his strategy of continuous improvement on national signing day:

"We'll make some improvements in all areas of our organization," Harbaugh said. "I look at it that way and always be striving to get a percent better, a mile an hour faster, better today than we were yesterday, better tomorrow than we were today in all areas in everything that we do. We'll take a look at how we're doing it, start with why and attack, even a .01 percent improvement if we can find it."

The most visible addition is the hiring of Chris Partridge as recruiting coordinator.

Harbaugh has already assembled a coaching staff with nationwide ties and both collegiate and professional experience. He now adds Partridge to the mix to serve as liaison to high school coaches. He brings experience as a high school coach who has won two state titles while developing a number of college football recruits.

"[He] coached current Michigan players Jabrill Peppers and Juwann Bushell-Beatty at Paramus Catholic in New Jersey," Harbaugh mentioned. "His job is an increasingly popular position on college football staffs. Among their many other duties, similar folks at other schools develop camps, recruiting events and high school relationships to help their coaches identify and connect with future prospects."

If Harbaugh had any doubts about his staff relating to high school coaches, Partridge’s hire should erase that concern.

It also doesn't hurt that he has ties with a future top recruit, Rashan Gary.

While Harbaugh is expanding both the reach and depth of his staff, two recent Michigan recruiting targets learned how quickly circumstances can change once they sign their letters of intent.

Mike Weber, a 4-star running back, was a longtime Michigan commitment before switching to Ohio State. After signing with Ohio State, he found out that the coach who recruited him was leaving for the NFL.

Roquan Smith, a 4-star linebacker, had a similar situation develop as rumors broke that UCLA’s defensive coordinator was leaving for the NFL, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell. But unlike Weber, Smith hadn't signed his paperwork yet, so he has a chance re-evaluate his decision.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, and players have huge restrictions on changing schools while coaches are free to leave without penalty. Players have the upper hand during recruitment, but the balance of power shifts quickly to the coaching staff after national signing day.

 

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

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Texas Football: Charlie Strong's Recruiting Is Proof He Belongs at Texas

Through his core values and persistent approach, Charlie Strong has set the foundation for Texas' future and proven he belongs as the Longhorns' head coach.

The Horns came out of national signing day with the nation's No. 11 class, which was tops in the Big 12. Led by 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson, the 29 signees include 10 of the country's Top247 players along with some lesser-known talents with plenty of upside.

It's not quite the dream finish Strong had almost pulled off with Kyler Murray, Daylon Mack, Soso Jamabo and DaMarkus Lodge. But the Horns filled every need, per SB Nation's Wescott Eberts, and did so in spite of a dreadful finish to the 2014 season.

The credit for the recruiting resurgence goes to Strong, and his unusual list of demands that drew so much public criticism.

Less than three months after booting that ninth player, Strong rode those same core values to the commitment of Jefferson, the state's top player. As Jefferson told WFAA's David McNabb, it was Strong's firm hand that made the difference in his recruitment.

"Charlie Strong is a guy of discipline," Jefferson said. "He has the same core values as my father. The same core values of my (Poteet) coaches. He's a pretty good fit for what the guy is and what he is about and I love and respect him for that."

Once Jefferson bought in, the Longhorns had the face of their program for the foreseeable future. In turn, they unleashed him on everyone they could get to campus, as Strong said on Wednesday:

I made the statement earlier in December, I said that anytime you're in a recruiting process, there's got to be a player, there's got to be a marquee player – that was Malik Jefferson for us. When he got on board, it got us started. With him getting the program jumpstarted, he was able to sell the program. There were recruits that were kind of sitting on the fence, and then when they saw Malik jump on board, some of them jumped on board. Then the ones that were not trying to make a decision on where they wanted to go, he was able to sell the program.

From there, the rest of the class took form with 12 more recruits following the elite linebacker's lead, including top cornerback Holton Hill.

But beyond the values around which he has molded his approach, Strong has recruited right down to the wire. As explained by Eberts, Texas' head coach has been relentless in his pursuit of his prized recruits, yielding results unheard of under Mack Brown.

Chris Warren, Ryan Newsome and PJ Locke join 2014 signees Poona Ford and Chris Nelson as recruits Strong has pulled on signing day. Under Brown, only defensive end Shiro Davis waited until the bitter end to make an official pledge to Texas.

A few days before, Strong was working to secure commits from John Burt, Hill, Kris Boyd and Kai Locksley. All three ended up signing, with Burt, Hill and Boyd ready to contribute immediately, while Locksley adds quarterback depth.

Even the failed attempt to land the likes of Murray, Mack, Jamabo and Lodge should excite Longhorn fans. The Horns had no business getting the state's best quarterback and receiver on campus, and they were in serious contention with all four until the end according to 247Sports' Bobby Burton.

So, along with the ratings, rankings and sheer number of commits, let's look at the hustle stats for Strong and his staff. 

Of the 29 signees, eight were flipped from other programs, nine come from another state, six committed within the final week of the cycle and one recommitted. Just as important is that only Jamile Johnson left the class in the week leading up to signing day.

Down 10 starters, including each of its All-Big 12 performers, Texas will be in rebuilding mode next season. The Longhorns are going to be young, and they just won't have the experience necessary to win a conference title.

That said, this team will play hard for its head coach, just like it did in 2014. 

So long as that holds true, Strong's work on the recruiting trail proves he and his core values belong at Texas.

Unless otherwise noted, all stats and information courtesy of TexasSports.com and 247Sports.com.

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Meet DeAngelo Gibbs: College Football Recruiting's Next Big Thing

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”

Alabama Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart uttered and then repeated that phrase to Peachtree Ridge (Georgia) High School head coach Mark Fleetwood upon seeing then-rising sophomore DeAngelo Gibbs in action for the first time at a Lions practice during the spring.

Smart heard the whispers about a young, dynamic athlete who had set the metro Atlanta recruiting circuit on fire since the end of the 2013 season. Still, what he saw left him lost for words.

“Golly, that No. 8, he looks like one of ours right now,” Fleetwood recalls hearing Smart expound on Gibbs. “Look how he comes off the ball.”

According to Fleetwood, that story is one of several versions of the same conversation that played out when college coaches descended on this campus just north of Atlanta last spring.

Such praise isn’t supposed to be heaped on players with little more than one year of experience playing high school football. Then again, Gibbs isn’t your typical 16-year-old football player.

Last year, the 6’2”, 200-pound athlete stunned onlookers in attendance at the Atlanta NFTC in March by winning the camp’s MVP award for the defensive backs segment over notable attendees such as 2015 5-star corner Kevin Toliver.

Considering that he wasn’t invited to the camp until the day before the event, and only after days of his family lobbying with the camp’s organizers, his performance spoke louder than words ever could.

“The same guy that wasn’t going to let him in the camp was the same guy who fought for him to get MVP,” said Derrick Tatum, who trains DeAngelo at Atlanta’s Elite Talent Football Academy.

It didn’t take long for colleges to begin taking notice. His father, Deon, estimates that “14 or 15 schools” have offered his son. Fleetwood notes that “almost the entire SEC” checked on him in the spring. Included in his group of suitors are powers such as Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia and South Carolina.

However, Gibbs’ journey to being the next can’t-miss recruit isn’t just about his athletic prowess.

Long before he ever surfaced on the recruiting radar, Gibbs has been trained for these moments on and off the field. He carries a 3.7 GPA and plans to graduate high school early. He’s heavily involved in his church’s youth programs, which Deon credits for keeping his son grounded and humble amid his growing celebrity. 

Genetics were kind to DeAngelo as well. His family lineage is littered with athletic excellence.

Two of his uncles, Jake Reed and Dale Carter, starred in the NFL for more than a decade. His mother, Karen—who now works as an assistant principal in the metro Atlanta area—competed in four sports in college and is a member of the Miles College (Alabama) Hall of Fame. His older sisters, Destinie and Lydia, are currently playing college basketball at USC and Truett-McConnell College, respectively.

While it’s only a matter of time until he becomes a 5-star recruit, it’s the years of learning from a 5-star support system that have DeAngelo Gibbs on the fast track to success on the field and in life.

“I tell DeAngelo all the time, ‘we’re built for this! The bloodline is real.’”  Jake Reed

Destinie Gibbs remembers receiving her first letter from a college program when she was in 10th grade. More so than the joy of receiving her first offer, her fondest memory from that experience was the comical reaction from her baby brother.

“He was like, ‘why am I not getting any letters…I work so hard,’” Destinie says while laughing. “I was like, ‘DeAngelo, you’re in the fifth grade!’ I told him to calm down and that his time was coming. He’s always been very competitive.”

Back then, DeAngelo was a bustling young athlete excelling in baseball, basketball and football. However, he began to slowly gravitate more toward the gridiron.

Around five years ago, DeAngelo’s parents started an annual tradition by sending him to Dallas for the summer to stay with his uncle Jake, who spent the majority of his 12-year NFL career with the Vikings as part of a dynamic receiving trio with Cris Carter and Randy Moss.

“As he got older and started coming down here (Dallas) every summer and he started working with me, you could see the football side of him come out more,” Reed said. “We didn’t do basketball because I’m a football guy and we’re a football family. You could start to see his talent come out more when he was with us.”

Jake—who still refers to DeAngelo as “Papa,” a name which he gave him when he was very young—would take him and his son, J.R., through a series of daily workouts led by trainers and former NFL players Omar Stoutmire, George Adams and Clay Mack. These workouts also featured some of the top prep players in Texas, such as Adams’ son—current LSU safety and former 5-star recruit Jamal Adams—and J.R., who enrolled at Tulsa last month.

DeAngelo spent his early years in football playing skill positions such as quarterback, running back and receiver.

Reed worked diligently with his nephew on the finer points of playing receiver. In fact, Reed recalls Baylor offering DeAngelo a scholarship as a receiver just months prior to his freshman year. But as DeAngelo returned home to Georgia and began to gain weight and mass, he worked with Tatum on learning the nuances of playing corner.

The rigorous training schedule helped him learn the work ethic and techniques necessary to maximize his enormous potential.

“He’s training with guys who can and do push him,” Reed said. “He’s able to see how hard he has to train to be elite. He works like a dog because he knows he has to get better. A lot of kids don’t have that outlet.”

Destinie credits the family environment that DeAngelo has grown up in as a critical factor in allowing him to develop as a student-athlete. Eric Lee, who is the pastor of Springfield Baptist Church in Conyers, Georgia, where the Gibbs family have been members for more than a decade, agrees.

“The community that surrounds him and the family that surrounds him, those factors gave him such a great head start to where he is today,” Lee said. “And as his father typically says, it’s taken a village of people to continue to allow him to cultivate and maximize his God-given talent.”

“We don’t raise dumb jocks in our family. That’s just not what we are trying to do. With a 3.7 GPA, he hasn’t been given that. That’s something that he’s worked for and something his mom has been very involved in.” — Jake Reed

Given Karen’s background as an educator, the Gibbs family has always placed more emphasis on the student aspect of being a student-athlete with DeAngelo.

Even during his summer trips to Big D, and despite a training schedule with two, and sometimes three, workouts a day, Reed noted that his sister made a list of books for her son to read and then write subsequent reports on.

“Just as hard as he’s working on his athletic skills, he’s doing classwork all summer long,” Reed said. “She pushes education first. He just doesn’t have school off in the summertime. Not in that house.”

DeAngelo learned the importance of academics in the recruiting process after watching Destinie go through it.

“We always try to make sure that he understands that in order for him to be the best player he can be, or the player he aspires to be, you have to be the best scholar you can be,” Destinie said. “Because without those grades, Nick Saban doesn’t want you. UGA doesn’t want you, or any other colleges, because you can’t even get into their school.”

Fleetwood notes that DeAngelo has asked for and received his blessing on occasion to arrive late at football practice in order to put extra time in the classroom. It’s something that he encourages because of the attention and focus that his star pupil displays with regard to his classwork.

“He’s serious about it (academics),” Fleetwood said. “He’s a student-athlete. I believe deep down there’s a correlation between the two. A true competitor wants to compete as much in the math classes as he does on the football field. He’s got that burning desire in him. He doesn’t just want to get by. He wants to do the best he can do. I think a lot of times, that comes from home.”

Lee—who notes that as an eighth-grader, DeAngelo used the Heimlich maneuver to save the life of a classmate who was choking—said that part of what makes him rare is the maturity he displays in everyday life.

“He’s a very unique kid,” Lee said. “His social development is not second to his football development. People want to follow him. I would suggest that is more out of the way he carries himself more so than being a vocal leader. You can see it in how he treats other people. He never makes people feel less special or important than he is.”

“You would think he’s a senior the way he goes about doing things and the way he carries himself. He’s serious. He leaves that locker room door to go to work, and he really goes to work. He is not a guy that takes it for granted. I think that’s a really good thing.” — Mark Fleetwood, head coach, Peachtree Ridge HS

One day.

That’s how long DeAngelo lasted on the ninth-grade team before being moved up to varsity. An injury to the team’s best corner pressed Fleetwood to plug in his talented freshman against defending 6A state champion Norcross.

Gibbs’ assignment was to cover Blue Devils star receiver Chris Herndon, a 6’4”, 230-pound senior who was verbally committed to Miami. Tatum recalls watching film with DeAngelo that week in preparation for the first major test of his playing career.

Figuring they would have a mismatch, Norcross tried to attack Gibbs early in the game. On their first attempt throwing at him, Gibbs picked it off.

“It wasn’t a badly thrown ball either,” Fleetwood said. “It was an out route, an intermediate out route about 14 or 16 yards, and he stepped right in front of it on our sideline and picked it off.”

According to Tatum, Norcross would target Herndon another eight times that evening. He ended with zero receptions, while Gibbs recorded four pass breakups.

“I remember it because it was one of the best games I’ve seen a corner play against a top receiver,” Tatum said.

Two weeks later, Gibbs drew 4-star Missouri commitment Nate Brown—who entered the game having caught 18 touchdowns on the season, including at least one in every game.

Gibbs ended the streak, limiting him to just three receptions.

“After that, I told him he will be the No. 1 cornerback in the country next year,” Tatum said. “Some people laughed at me when they heard that.”

Less than a year after his prep debut, Tatum’s prediction came true. 247Sports named Gibbs as the No. 1 corner prospect and the No. 5 player overall in its initial 2017 class rankings.

He was also one of just three 2017 prospects to earn a coveted invitation to the 2014 Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, joining Louisiana phenom Dylan Moses and fellow Georgia standout Richard LeCounte. As Mike Farrell of Rivals noted, Gibbs turned in a dominant performance in a showcase featuring the nation's top prep talent.

With the recruiting process set to crank up for Gibbs, it’s just the next step in a journey he’s prepared for his whole life. Hype, social media and the notoriety that comes with being a top recruit are all things his inner circle have preached to him about.

“You want people to take him seriously when he opens his mouth,” Reed said. “We tell him about all of the pitfalls and how to handle himself around people. We’ve talked to him about social media. We want to teach him about these things so that he can see them before they are coming and try to head them off.”

Another thing the Gibbs family has focused on with him is handling the attention from colleges and coaches. Regardless of whether it's Georgia or Georgia State showing interest in him, his approach in dealing with every school will remain the same.

“His mom told me about a story of him speaking with a coach from a smaller school who was talking to some of the other kids on his team, and that coach told him, ‘I know you are probably not going to come to our school, but I appreciate you stopping by and talking to us,’” Reed recalls. “He’s that type of kid. He’s not going to get on his high horse and say a school is too small to visit with or things like that. He’s going to give them that time and respect because they came out to see him.”

Before he took over at Peachtree Ridge, Fleetwood spent 22 years coaching on the college level, with most of them coming under Larry Blakeney at Troy (Alabama) University.

He discovered and recruited the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora to the Trojans program. While the pass-rushing duo were lightly regarded as recruits, Fleetwood notices some similarities between them and his new protege.

“I see a young man right here that’s a 10th-grader in high school, and I watched those other guys when they were coming out. He is going to be a lot farther along than those guys when he gets to his senior year if he continues on his current path,” Fleetwood said. “It’s because of his work habits and his maturity and his desire to want to compete and practice well and do the little things.”

While there’s a long time in between now and national signing day for the 2017 class, DeAngelo is well on his way to becoming a household name in recruiting circles.

His sophomore season got off to a fast start. Playing receiver, he caught six passes for 142 yards and a score against Archer—a team that features a trio of defensive backs who possess offers from Power Five schools.

However, most of his work came in one half of football, as he left the game with a knee injury in the third quarter that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Still, it was yet another glimpse of the talent that people around Gibbs feel is destined to lead him to big things in the future.

“He’s one of those kids that works hard and enjoys life,” Reed said. “I think he’s going to be a great asset to any university. He’s got the grades, he’s going to work hard in the classroom and he’s going to be a leader on your football team, and he’s going to make the team better.”

“He’s just that type of talent that any skill position on the field, he can play it. He’s just that talented. That’s the joy of working with a kid like that. When you get a kid like that, you can put him anywhere.” — Jake Reed

The scary part about the exploits of DeAngelo Gibbs is that he’s still only scratching the surface of his immense potential.

Regardless of what the future holds, DeAngelo and his family have a plan for it.

Thanks to a support system littered with experience and wisdom surrounding him, he’s been aptly prepared for the pitfalls and spoils that come with the increased attention.

If his past is any indicator, Gibbs is primed to take the recruiting world by storm.

“He’s a true student-athlete,” Fleetwood said. “To watch his work ethic, he comes here every day thinking he needs to get better. It’s a really neat thing to see a young man as talented as he is with that type of attitude. He has the desire to want to be great and to be recognized for doing things the right way.”

  

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

 

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Can Ohio State, Urban Meyer Continue Raid of Michigan's Top Recruiting Pipeline?

Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes have made a habit of beating Michigan.

The Buckeyes have dominated on the field, coming out with victories in 12 of their last 14 meetings with the Wolverines. On the recruiting trail, Ohio State has signed the higher-rated class in each of the last eight years.

And over the course of the last two recruiting cycles, the Buckeyes have found a new way of besting their chief rivals—by invading their backyard and raiding their top in-state recruiting pipeline. 

Detroit's Cass Technical High School—which is to Michigan what Glenville High School is to Ohio State—routinely produces some of the state's top football prospects. For years, those recruits were sending their letters of intent 42 miles west to Ann Arbor, pledging to play for the home-state Wolverines.

But that hasn't been the case since Meyer got involved.

It started in January of 2013, when Cass Tech's top prospect—4-star cornerback Damon Webb—spurned Michigan in favor of Ohio State. It was a surprising move, as most expected the ball-hawking defensive back to wind up at Michigan, but Webb told Miles Joseph of Eleven Warriors that the Wolverines were never at the forefront.

"Michigan was never my leader," Webb said, via Joseph. "I think people thought they were because I live near the school and a lot of my Cass teammates have gone to Michigan."

At that point, those assumptions were fair. It would have been easier for Webb's family to make it to games with The Big House less than an hour's drive away. And the familiarity Michigan offered—six of Webb's former high school teammates were suiting up for the Wolverines—would have made his transition to college much easier.

On top of that comes the pressure Cass Tech blue-chippers feel from their friends and the surrounding community to stay home and play for the team they cheered for growing up. Those ties to the Wolverines run deep in Detroit-area high schools, and that's especially true at Cass Tech. Just ask the head coach of the football team—Thomas Wilcher—who was a running back at Michigan from 1982 to 1986.

But the Buckeyes found a way to overcome those obstacles to land Webb, in part because their program was trending up while Michigan was struggling with Hoke at the helm.

"The chance to win championships," Webb said of why he chose Ohio State, via Joseph. "I think the Buckeyes are going to start winning national championships."

That thought turned to reality for Ohio State in 2014. And while the Buckeyes were marching toward their eighth national title, Meyer was continuing his assault on Michigan's biggest in-state resource. 

Webb's commitment opened the door for Ohio State to gain a July commitment from 3-star defensive end Joshua Alabi, Cass Tech's second-best prep prospect for 2015. Five months later, the Buckeyes snagged 4-star running back and Cass standout Michael Weber, who had decommitted from the Wolverines after Brady Hoke's termination. 

Scout recruiting analyst Allen Trieu told David Briggs of The Toledo Blade that Ohio State's assault on Michigan's bloodline was both practical and personal.

"[The Buckeyes] realize that's not only a place that they can get good talent, but they're also taking it to their top rival," Trieu said, via Briggs.

But now that Jim Harbaugh has taken over at Michigan, will Ohio State be able continue its Cass Tech success?

That run almost came to a halt on Wednesday when Harbaugh nearly flipped Weber back to the Wolverines. The bulldozing ball-carrier was on the receiving end of Michigan's most intense recruiting pitch, but the last-minute signing of running back Karan Higdon soiled those efforts.

Meyer knows that Harbaugh's presence will make things more difficult.

"We felt it," Meyer said of Harbaugh's recruiting impact, according to Austin Ward of ESPN.com. "They contacted all of our players. They really went after Mike Weber and Josh Alabi."

The Cass Tech studs.

How long will it take Harbaugh to loosen Ohio State's hold over his top in-state pipeline? According to 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions, the Buckeyes are favored to land 4-star lineman Michael Onwenu and 4-star wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones—Cass Tech's top prospects in 2016 and 2017. 

Stealing those recruits away from Michigan is something Meyer would relish, something he made very clear after Weber reaffirmed his commitment to Ohio State over the Wolverines on national signing day.

“We do keep score against our rivals in everything we do," Meyer said, according to Ben Axelrod of Bleacher Report.

And if Harbaugh can't change the momentum, that score will continue to swing drastically in Ohio State's favor.

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football Class: Super 6 of Cornhuskers' 2015 Class

While it sounds far more like the name of a B-list superhero team, the “Super Six” is the cliche for laying out the best six recruits in a team’s class. Nebraska’s 2015 class signed 20 players, ending up No. 31 nationally and No. 4 in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports.

So who is Nebraska’s Super Six out of the 2015 class? Here’s the view (along with a bonus sleeper) from one smart and particularly handsome analyst.

 

No. 6: Dedrick Young (ATH/LB, 3-star, .8609 composite)

Given Nebraska’s desperate need to build depth at linebacker, it’s almost impossible to fill out a Super Six without including one. Young looks to be the most promising of Nebraska’s three linebackers in the 2015 class (four if you count Adrienne Talan). He’s also an early-enrollee, meaning Young will get to participate in spring practice. Don’t be surprised to see him competing for playing time as a true freshman in 2015.

 

No. 5: Matt Snyder (TE, 3-star, .8523 composite)

Under Bo Pelini, the tight end position was maddeningly under-utilized. While being blessed with a number of offensive threats at the position (Mike McNeil, Kyler Reed and Cethan Carter), Nebraska’s offense never found a way to really utilize the kind of matchup problems a pass-catching tight end can cause.

So to see Nebraska land another threat in Snyder, to compliment what will hopefully be an expanded role for Carter going forward, is a promising sign of things to come.

 

Nos. 4: Carlos Davis (DE, 3-star, .8891 composite) and Khalil Davis (DT, 3-star, .8730 composite)

Yeah, I know it’s cheating (and kind of trite) to list them both in one spot. But honestly, they’re both incredibly talented. Both will be playing on the defensive line, and landing the twins was very much a package deal for Nebraska.

So while they may not see the field at the same time (given the depth issues, Carlos has a better shot at freshman playing time), listing them both at the same time feels about right.

 

No. 3: Daishon Neal (DE, 3-star, .8588 composite)

While raw, Neil looks to have the potential to be a dominant defensive end. Enough potential to draw interest from a number of big-time programs around the country, particularly a late push by Michigan once Jim Harbaugh arrived, as Neal explained on 1620 The Zone (h/t Corn Nation's Brian Towle).

Given the position of need he is filling, the potential he is showing and the ability of Nebraska to protect a home-state kid (Neal is a graduate of Omaha Central) from being poached by a conference rival, Neal’s signature is a big deal.

 

No. 2: Eric Lee (CB, 4-star, .9414 composite)

Cornerback is one of the most difficult positions on defense to play, combining the need for speed, aggression, ball skills and the knowledge to read both an offensive play and the receiver being covered. Lee possesses all those skills and has the potential to make an immediate impact for the Blackshirts.

While not getting the top overall nod, Lee’s retention in the class after the coaching change was one of new head coach Mike Riley’s biggest successes in his young tenure at Nebraska.

 

No. 1: Jalin Barnett (OG, 4-star, .9207 composite)

You could make a pretty good argument that Lee is a better overall player than Barnett, or at the very least a better NFL prospect. But during his national signing day press conference, Riley repeatedly referred to his offensive linemen as “gold,” per Huskers.com.

And for good reason, given the importance of the offensive line to everything a football team is trying to do. Barnett looks to be the best of the bunch, even at a position of depth for Nebraska at the moment. While he may not make the field in 2015, Barnett’s potential still makes him the top pick of the class.

 

Sleeper: Lavan Alston (WR, 3-star, .8832 composite)

I have somewhat of the same propensity as Al Davis, the late owner of the Oakland Raiders, in that I think you can never have too much speed on the field. (I also like white jumpsuits and little chains to hold my glasses, but that’s another story for another day.)

One thing that will improve a running game immensely is a wide receiver who is a threat to stretch the field. When Kenny Bell was injured last year, Nebraska’s ability to take the top off opposing defenses was limited, and the running game suffered as a result.

Alston is the kind of deep-threat receiver who can make a difference not only in the plays he makes, but in the way he forces defenses to adapt to his presence on the field. Don’t be surprised to see him in the mix this season.

 

All rankings from 247Sports.

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

You can also use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

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Ranking College Football Conferences Based on 2015 Playoff Potential

There may not be unanimous agreement on the level of success the College Football Playoff had in Year 1, but it's safe to say that the formula worked and the best team in the country took home the trophy.

One thing we shouldn't do, however, is assume that the 2015 season will play out in similar fashion with regard to the committee, because college football can look completely different year to year. We have a good idea of what criteria are valued, but with new teams at the top and different games to judge, the route to the Final Four won't look the same.

What we have here is a twist on power ranking the college football conferences. While the Power Five will be ranked, the depth of each conference won't matter as much because the subject is how likely each conference is to be represented in the playoff. Even if you think the SEC is the deepest conference, the teams that finish 11th and 12th cannot make the playoff, so it doesn't matter how good they are.

The Group of Five conferences are not taken into consideration because from what we've seen out of the selection committee, it almost seems impossible that a team from that level will make it into the Final Four. The schedules just aren't tough enough unless a conference happens to have an all-time great year led by a dominating team that wins several out-of-conference matchups against top competition.

Outside of BYU, Notre Dame and potentially Boise State, teams that don't belong to a Power Five conference have little to no shot of making the playoff in the current format.

Here are the conferences rankings for 2015 based on playoff potential.

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Illinois Assistant Mike Bellamy Suspended 1 Game for Improperly Helping Recruit

Illinois Fighting Illini receivers coach Mike Bellamy has been suspended one game for a violation of NCAA rules related to helping a student-athlete receive an associate's degree.

Bellamy will serve his suspension during Illinois' season-opening game against Kent State, per an Associated Press report (h/t Fox Sports).

''It was disappointing to learn the NCAA chose to classify this as a violation,'' Fighting Illini head coach Tim Beckman said.

The NCAA ruled Bellamy committed a violation by helping an unnamed student-athlete complete his associate's degree after the school uncovered he had not done so. A report from Sean Hammond of The Daily Illini indicates Bellamy visited the college and convinced administrators to allow the student-athlete to complete a placement exam in exchange for his missed credits.

The player, who had withdrawn from the university, completed the exam and was awarded his associate's degree. He has since re-enrolled at Illinois, but the university cited a privacy policy in not disclosing the student-athlete's name.

“I want to be very clear that no member of the University of Illinois football staff may be involved with arranging academic credits, questioning or influencing grades or otherwise intervening in the academic affairs of prospective student-athletes," Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas said in a letter to Beckman and Bellamy.

Bellamy, who played five NFL seasons after starring at Illinois as a receiver, has been the team's receivers coach since 2012. He is expected to return to his position for the Fighting Illini's Sept. 12 game against Western Illinois. The NCAA has not said whether it plans any further action.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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