NCAA Football News

Michigan Football: 5 Takeaways from Wolverines' 'Under the Lights' Scrimmage

Maybe it was an attempt to give fans something more than what they received during the spring game—which was very little.

Or maybe Michigan just wanted to show its appreciation to the legions of Wolverines faithful—and maybe show off a certain freshman—by putting on a Saturday night performance just two weeks before 2014 kickoff.

Either way, it wasn’t a bad way to spend the evening; the “under the lights” scrimmage certainly provided a few answers.

And it prompted a few more questions.

 

Mason Cole Wasn’t Playing

As expected, the offensive line appeared to be a work in progress, a term that Michigan coaches have used for roughly two years…at least. There’s no question that 2014 will present hurdles—the Wolverines just lost their bookends, Taylor Lewan (LT) and Michael Schofield (RT)—so it’ll take some time to recuperate from their absence.

Quarterbacks Shane Morris, Devin Gardner and Wilton Speight were under constant pressure Saturday night. The running game had roughly three or four positive plays, and just about everyone up front was getting beat at one time or another.

Things aren’t anywhere close to being whole.

However, Mason Cole, a 6’5”, 292-pound true freshman, could help expedite that process. Sure, it was only a practice, but the new kid on the block continues to hold his own at left tackle against grown men. It’s hard to believe that he was battling “kids” a year ago.

Those poor kids.

Needless to say, Michigan coach Brady Hoke liked what he saw during the scrimmage, praising the former East Lake Tarpon Springs (Fla.) star’s discipline and technique.

“He didn’t have one penalty, he didn’t have one hold, and he lines up against a pretty good guy when Frank’s [Clark, a senior] on that side,” he said. “He’s a guy who can get off the ball and torture you a little bit. He just is very consistent. To be honest with you, I think sometimes, that’s the least of my worries when you look at it.”

Don't keep your eyes peeled for Cole—he’s not going anywhere and it seems as if he’s bound to become Michigan’s sixth true-freshman starter on the O-line.

 

Just Three QBs and One Game Day

Gardner, Morris and Speight all want the same thing: To win, and to be the guy leading the way, if possible. But if Gardner catapults the Wolverines to victory, you probably won't hear No. 2 and No. 3 complaining. 

But who are No. 2 and No. 3? Gardner's the top guy until he says so; but after Saturday, it's safe to say that there isn't a clear second fiddle, as Speight, a 6'6", 234-pounder with miles of range, did just as well or better than Morris. 

Each had their good and bad moments, but by night's end, Speight's arm seemed more valuable than Morris' exceptional set of wheels. That's not to say that Morris didn't throw well, because he did. In all likelihood, personnel (2 vs. 3, etc.) had something to do with the difference. 

 

Run it Back (Again)

Once Ty Isaac clears waivers, the 6’3”, 225-pound USC transfer will add size and should help breathe life into a backfield that just can’t get its motor running. Aside from a late touchdown from each, neither Derrick Green nor De'Veon Smith, two bruising sophomores, turned heads during the practice.

Of course, part of the issue was due to the lack of blocking—oh no, not that song and dance again—and part of it was because they weren’t hitting open holes. Isaac, who sat out due to a "stinger", may not be the savior, but he would certainly provide a fresh set of legs and maybe even better vision—which was something Hoke said he needs to see from his current stable.

So far, the rotation's pecking order looks to be this: Smith, Green/Johnson or Johnson/Green. Or, let's just say that it's unclear. That's probably better. 

 

Catch This

Depth. Depth. Depth. That’s been the buzzword surrounding the wideouts since 2012. Thanks to recruiting and development, the Wolverines have more toys to play with this fall, and they displayed a few during the scrimmage.

Stats weren’t kept, but DaMario Jones, a 6’2”, 196-pound sophomore, had at least three catches, two of which were made amid heavy coverage. Amara Darboh, a 6’2”, 211-pound redshirt sophomore, caught a couple of nice balls as well.

In regards to physical play, they appeared to be two of Michigan’s top options, right there alongside Devin Funchess, a 6’5”, 230-pound junior who left the party with the grab of the night: A backpedaling snag in the left rear corner of the end zone over Jabrill Peppers, who had his back to the quarterback the entire time (more on the super frosh later).

“DaMario made some good plays, had some good balls,” Hoke said. “But at the same time, he had some things he could do better. I think Funchess, obviously, we’re very excited about… Darboh’s had a great fall camp… I think Jehu [Chesson] has had a pretty good fall camp.”

According to Hoke, Maurice Ways, a 6’4”, 195-pound freshman, had one of his best outings since arriving to college. The former Detroit Country Day standout had a pair of approximately 25-yard touchdowns. Freddy Canteen, a 6'1", 190-pound frosh, had a deep catch but wasn't as visible as the other headliners.  

Overall, the receivers were OK. The point of Saturday was for everyone to get a spin, and just about everyone did: JaRon Dukes (6’4”, 197; RS Fr.), Bo Dever (6’2”, 199; RS So.) and, among others, Jack Wangler (6’1”, 196; RS Fr.), each caught some passes, blocked some defensive backs and logged well-rounded reps.

 

Fresh Peppers

Saturday night was the first time that thousands of people laid eyes on Peppers in action, in full maize and blue regalia. Yeah, he was used by Funchess during that touchdown catch. Not a big deal. Let’s not forget, like Cole, Peppers was checking preps at this time last year.

Give him at least a couple of series vs. Appalachian State before really breaking down his potential (oops, too late for that…)

All things considered, he did just fine during the make-up for the spring game, finishing the night with a handful of tackles and a couple of pass disruptions. Hoke said that he wanted to analyze film before casting real judgment, but he said he saw what the rest of us saw: A 6’1”, 205-pound freshman who’s going to do more than challenge for a position.

“The safeties are really, I think proving [themselves]…I think the competition at cornerback with Ray [Taylor], Blake [Countess] and [Channing] Stribling and Jourdan Lewis and Peppers—that’s real. It’s good.”

 

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

Quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer

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10 College Football Teams with the Best Chance to Pull a Week 1 Upset

The opening week of the 2014 college football season is less than two weeks away, and the slate of games that will welcome us back from the long offseason features plenty of great matchups. Gone are the days where all of the power programs open against Creampuff University, as there are 11 games pitting teams from power conferences, and four of those are league tilts.

There are also plenty of opportunities for early-season upsets—the kind of games that could serve as a launching point for the underdogs and major obstacle for the goals of the favorites.

In 2013 the first week of play gave us several upsets; FCS teams Eastern Washington, North Dakota State and Northern Iowa took down Oregon State, Kansas State and Iowa State, respectively. We also saw Virginia take out BYU and Northern Illinois triumph at Iowa, as well as a few near misses such as Auburn's narrow win over Washington State and Nebraska's slim victory over Wyoming.

Week 1 in 2014 could give us just as many upsets, if not more. Here's a look at 10 teams that have the best chance to pull off a season-opening upset.

Begin Slideshow

Alabama Football: Takeaways and Complete Stats from Tide's Second Fall Scrimmage

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.—The weather was much nicer for Alabama’s second and final scrimmage of fall camp inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.

After a soaking wet game simulation last week, the Crimson Tide worked under partly cloudy skies and temperatures around 90 degrees on Saturday. It was another closed affair, with only members of select booster clubs being let in for the scrimmage.

And things are heating up on the field with just under two weeks to go until Alabama’s season opener against West Virginia. The Crimson Tide will have Sunday and Monday off before finishing up fall camp next week and starting game preparations the following Monday.

First, though, here are some takeaways, and the complete (released) stats from Alabama’s scrimmage.

 

Big-play Drake

Running back Kenyan Drake had another big day on the ground and through the air.

A week after totaling 153 yards and a score, Drake once again led the wide receivers with three catches for 77 yards and a touchdown, which included a 65-yard score.

"He's done a good job today. I think he caught three or four passes today. He did a good job and had a couple runs," Saban said after the scrimmage in a press conference streamed live on RollTide.com. "Statistics don't always tell the truth, but Kenyan Drake has been doing a really good job. He made a 65-yard catch today for a touchdown. He's been doing a really good job for us."

Drake’s preseason success is a good sign for the Alabama running game, which already boasts two great options in T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry.

Yeldon and Henry are more than serviceable backs, but Drake’s elite speed easily makes him the most explosive of the group. The pass-catching acumen he’s shown during the spring also adds another dynamic to a passing game already loaded with weapons.

It looked like Drake would be in the doghouse heading into 2014 after his four fumbles last season and a July arrest for crossing crime scene tape. If his scrimmage performances are any indication, he’s set to be a key performer on offense.

 

Special teams improving

If you had to point out the biggest weakness for Alabama heading into the season, special teams would have been the runaway answer.

The Crimson Tide lost four-year starter Cody Mandell and punter, and a poor spring game gave fans little reason to trust redshirt sophomore kicker Adam Griffith. But, according to Saban, it’s been an area of improvement.

“The specialists were really good today,” Saban said. “The punting was good. Griff was really good on field goals—I don’t know if he was 4-for-4 or 5-for-5 or something like that and actually probably made a 42-, 47-, 45-yarder, couple of them. We punted the ball effectively. So the special teams part of it was good. I was encouraged by the specialists and the progress we made on special teams.”

 

Quarterbacks: Sims playing faster than Coker

Saban, as expected, chose not to release passing stats, like he did last week.

He said Jacob Coker and Blake Sims both got equal first-team reps, and each had their ups and downs. Saban is, though, noticing an advantage Sims has over Coker.

“I do think Blake probably is playing a little faster right now, been in the system longer, has better understanding, has a little bit more rhythm,” he said. “I think sometimes Jake is still trying to feel his way. He made some real significant strides at practice this week and really had some really good practices, so that's still going to be a competitive situation and until somebody clearly wins the job, we're not going to make a decision."

Nobody really expected Saban to name a starting quarterback before the start of the regular season, but the race is shaping up to be tighter than some thought.

Coker hasn’t come in and stolen the job from Sims—or if he is, Saban isn’t letting on—like many thought he would. It’s looking like a very real possibility that Alabama plays both quarterbacks in the season opener and into the regular season.

 

Complete stats

The following stats were provided by UA after the scrimmage. They include 11-on-11 work, situational drills, red-zone, goal-line and two-minute drills. Again, no quarterback stats were provided.

 

Rushing:

Tyren Jones: 12 carries, 44 yards, 1 touchdown 

Altee Tenpenny: 10 carries, 12 yards, 1 touchdown

 

Receiving

Kenyan Drake: 3 catches, 77 yards, 1 touchdown 

ArDarius Stewart: 3 catches, 68 yards 

Amari Cooper: 5 catches, 63 yards, 1 touchdown

Cam Sims: 2 catches, 53 yards, 1 touchdown

Chris Black: 5 catches, 46 yards, 1 touchdown

 

Defense

Trey DePriest: 7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss 

Dillon Lee: 6 tackles, 1 sack 

Jonathan Allen: 4 tackles, 2 sacks 

Landon Collins: 4 tackles, 1 sack, 2 pass break-ups

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Oregon State Football Players Create Slip 'N Slide with Tarp After Practice

With the college football season season nearing, the Oregon State Beavers coaching staff decided to give their players a break after practice with a team activity.

After practice, the Beavers turned a giant white tarp into a massive Slip 'N Slide for the players to slide down. Senior defensive end Dylan Wynn got to enjoy himself by using the hose to spray down his teammates.

[YouTube, h/t College Spun]

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Will Jameis Winston Win Another Heisman?

Watch as Adam KramerBarrett Sallee and Michael Felder break down what stands in the way of Winston's quest for Heisman history. 

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Florida State WR Isaiah Jones Ruled Academically Ineligible for 2014-15 Season

If the Florida State Seminoles are going to repeat as national champions this year, they will have to do it without the services of wide receiver Isaiah Jones.

The sophomore has been ruled academically ineligible, according to head coach Jimbo Fisher who spoke to Natalie Pierre of the Tallahassee Democrat:

Whispers of Jones' status for the 2014 season have been floating around for over one week. Fisher told Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel on August 8 that the school was going "to judge and see whether he can come out here."

As David Hale of ESPN.com noted on Twitter, Fisher hasn't been pumping up Jones the way he has other Seminole receivers over the summer, so this could be something the school has expected for some time:

Jones didn't have much of a role in Florida State's offense last year. The 6'4" wideout had just two catches for 31 yards , both coming in blowouts against Pittsburgh and Maryland, during the team's run to the BCS championship. 

However, with Kelvin Benjamin's 15 touchdown catches and Kenny Shaw's 933 yards going to the NFL, there was a chance for Jones to take on an increased role in Florida State's offense. Considering Jameis Winston's status as the top quarterback in the country to start the season, the sophomore could have taken off in 2014. 

The good news for Florida State is the team does have Rashad Greene, who led the Seminoles with 76 receptions and 1,128 yards in 2013, and tight end Nick O'Leary, who averaged 16.9 yards per catch, returning to help defend the national title. 

Jones has ruined a golden opportunity for himself. He's got tremendous talent and at 6'4", 198 pounds, plenty of size to be a dominating force on the outside but won't be able to show it on the field this year. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


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Preseason College Football Rankings 2014: Teams Destined to Climb Up Standings

Preseason coaches polls are sometimes exactly what teams need to get motivated for the upcoming college football season.

This year should be no different. Multiple teams will look to improve upon their rankings in the first official Amway Coaches Poll, via USA Today. In fact, there are more than a few teams that are destined to move up the ranks of the college football elite.

Some schools have a ton of younger talent that is hard to quantify. Others have a wealth of talent but consistency issues to deal with. There are even some schools entering the season with depleted rosters following the 2014 NFL draft. That said, there's still plenty to look forward to this season.

Below are three teams destined to finish higher in the rankings than the preseason Amway Coaches Poll indicated.

 

LSU

It all starts with true freshman running back Leonard Fournette for the LSU Tigers.

The 6'1", 224-pound back is going to be a force at the collegiate level. He was the No. 1 prep rusher in the nation, and now he has a legitimate shot to establish himself as one of the next great running backs in the country. He won't be redshirted, meaning that nobody has to wait very long to see his explosiveness.

Glenn Guilbeau of the Shreveport Times was very direct in his predictions for Fournette's first year at LSU: "Fournette will play this season, and he will start. And he will dominate. He is that good."

Fournette believes in himself, a good trait to have as a young player at one of the nation's highest-profile football schools. He has already clearly outlined his goals for this season, via Guilbeau: "For my freshman year – 1,000 yard rusher, All-American, All-SEC and hopefully Heisman candidate."

If Fournette emerges as a Heisman candidate, then that means the LSU Tigers will be well on their way to outshining the No. 13 spot they earned in the Amway Coaches Poll. Of course, Fournette will have to produce if the Tigers are going to be successful. Right now, their quarterback situation is a little concerning.

Head coach Les Miles spoke about the learning curve for QB candidates Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris, via ESPN.com's David Ching:

They’re young, they’re both engaged in leadership and want to have command of the offense -- and they do for the most part. They don’t know what command is. They don’t necessarily understand exactly what has to be communicated to make this thing go easy. They’re learning. 

I’d say 70 percent of today was just very, very well done and 30 percent’s probably not enough for anybody that sits in the stands to even notice. And yet that 30 percent we expect from our quarterbacks.

There's a lot to like about the Tigers and a lot to be concerned about. That said, Fournette's potential is enough to keep this team from falling below the No. 13 mark come season's end. The Tigers' chances of improving on that ranking are strong.

 

South Carolina

Sure, losing Jadeveon Clowney and Connor Shaw put the South Carolina Gamecocks in an obvious hole of sorts, but new strategies on both offense and defense will help mask their losses.

Without Clowney, the Gamecocks implemented a 3-4 scheme on defense. They don't have the overpowering edge-rusher like in seasons passed, so utilizing the abilities of J.T. Surratt on the inside will be of the utmost importance.

Losing Shaw, the best quarterback in school history, may prove to be a much bigger loss. Shaw had the ability to run when the defense presented that option to him, and new starter Dylan Thompson lacks that skill. He isn't particularly fast and isn't very graceful when running with the ball.

This will put the pressure on running back Mike Davis. He gained 1,183 yards on 203 carries with 11 touchdowns in 2013, and those numbers could improve this year with even more attempts. That said, defenses know the type of runner Davis is. When paired with a one-dimensional quarterback like Thompson, defenses could clog the box in hopes of stopping Davis early.

The Gamecocks are in good position to rack up double-digit wins, however. SI.com's Andy Staples broke down why:

South Carolina had one of the youngest teams in the country last season, and those kids accounted for 78.9% of their rushing yards and 74.8% of their receiving yards. Six of their top eight tacklers return, as do four offensive line starters, including three (guard A.J. Cann and tackles Corey Robinson and Brandon Shell) with at least 22 career starts.

Given the amount of young talent on the Gamecocks, the SEC East could be theirs for the taking. Currently No. 9 in the Amway Coaches Poll, South Carolina could sneak up to No. 6 or 7 by season's end.

 

Missouri

A concern of many watching Missouri's early practices is that the Tigers don't have a clear-cut option behind Maty Mauk at quarterback. But is that really a huge issue? If Mauk stays on the field, then there's no reason to worry about the No. 2 quarterback.

Sure, if Mauk gets injured, then that's an entirely different story. But for now, let's focus on what this team does have. Mauk became Missouri's starter last October when James Franklin injured his shoulder. This is Mauk's first training camp as the starter, however, and the sophomore is looking to continue his success from last year.

At running back, junior Russell Hansbrough is a proven commodity who will rack up big yards as the full-time tailback. Of course, senior Marcus Murphy will also see carries here and there. Primarily a slot receiver this year, Murphy's presence will be felt in multiple areas on offense.

The defensive line is also a strong unit, and one player to watch this season is Lucas Vincent. Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote about Missouri's history with talented defensive linemen and Vincent's goals for this season, via NCAA.com:

'He's playing at a different level than he's ever played,' Pinkel said after Tuesday's scrimmage, when Vincent was the most disruptive lineman from a front four that camped in the backfield all day.

Missouri has developed a reputation for churning out NFL-ready defensive linemen, with eight D-linemen from the Pinkel years currently in NFL training camps. Senior defensive end Markus Golden is widely considered the next elite pro prospect, but for now, Vincent has more immediate goals.

'I want to be All-SEC and All-American,' he said.

Currently unranked in the Amway Coaches Poll, the Tigers certainly have enough talent to overcome. Look for them to finish around No. 20.

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR.

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Alabama Football Hype Video Will Get Crimson Tide Fans Fired Up

The college football season is nearly here, and for Alabama Crimson Tide fans, that means another opportunity for a national championship.

One YouTube user created this hype video for the 2014 season, and it will likely fire up most Alabama fans. The Crimson Tide begin the 2014 season on August 30 against the West Virginia Mountaineers.

[YouTube, h/t College Spun]

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Power Ranking the 15 Best Quarterback Matchups on 2014 College Football Schedule

The 15 best quarterback matchups on the college football schedule—as judged during the preseason—are almost certain not to be the actual 15 best quarterback matchups.

A lot of this is subject to change.

Who, for example, could have known that as we look back on last season, a game between Central Florida and Baylor would have had one confirmed top-five NFL draft pick (Blake Bortles) and one potential first-round NFL draft pick (Bryce Petty) under center? No one!

What we can do, though, is rank the best matchups as they currently rest on paper. It's not a guarantee that they turn out as well as they look but a call to arms for people to circle some dates.

Based on the skill of the two players, the history between them and the meshing of their styles of play, here are the 15 scheduled quarterback battles we are most excited to see take place this season.

Or at least that we are right now.

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BYU Football: Building the Ultimate Cougar Quarterback

BYU's home opener against UConn is right around the corner, and led by junior quarterback Taysom Hill, the Cougars could have a stellar season. It's not surprising that a QB is stealing the spotlight in Provo, as BYU has long been known for being a "quarterback factory" of sorts.

If it were possible to build the ultimate Cougar quarterback, using the four main physical groups needed to be a quarterback—eyes and mind, throwing arm, torso and body, legs—how would it turn out?

 

Eyes and Mind: Ty Detmer

There's no doubt that Ty Detmer had the mind of a quarterback. His ability to pick apart defenses and make quick decisions is unparalleled by any other Cougar. As an undersized, six-foot-nothing player, his size was always a disadvantage. He made up for it through his IQ for the game.

“[Detmer] was the smartest player I ever played with and his knowledge was only rivaled by possibly Norm Chow," said former BYU receiver Eric Drage (via the Deseret News). "He was by far the best leader I've ever been around."

 

Arm: Jim McMahon

Jim McMahon has long been known at BYU for his fiery personality and leadership ability, but he should always be remembered for his throwing arm. If you've forgotten how dominant Jim McMahon was during his BYU tenure, take a minute to watch the video above. 

Jimmy Mac had a gun attached to his shoulder, which helped him shatter 38 NCAA passing records. There are more than a few great pocket-passers that have played as a Cougar, but I would choose none before McMahon.

 

Body: John Walsh

After having a brief, mediocre NFL career instead of staying at BYU for his senior season, many Cougar fans aren't fond of John Walsh. He was a basic pocket-passer, similar to many others that played under LaVell Edwards.

But he had the frame of a quarterback, which separates him from the others. At 6'4" and 215 pounds, he had the size to break tackles, but the strength to make good—and accurate—throws.

 

Legs: Steve Young

As an NFL legend and Hall of Famer, Steve Young is one popular guy in the football world. But, despite being a quarterback, his arm isn't what people remember him for.

Young had the mobility of a tailback during his career. He had the agility and speed of a young rookie, but a veteran's knowledge of when or when not to run. There's no doubt that Young is BYU's top mobile quarterback of all time, and if Taysom Hill can get close, it will be quite the achievement.

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Why Notre Dame Fans Shouldn't Panic About Potential Academic Suspensions

SOUTH BEND, Indiana — The Irish were dealt a major blow Friday when news broke of an academic investigation involving four members of the football team, per the school's website.

But this might not be as bad as it initially seems.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick confirmed that wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, linebacker Kendall Moore, cornerback KeiVarae Russell and defensive end Ishaq Williams are being held out of practice and competition during the university’s investigation.  

Held out of practice is not the same as suspended or dismissed. University President Fr. John Jenkins made that much clear.  

“At this juncture, no one has been judged responsible for academic dishonesty, no one has been dismissed from the university, and no sanctions have been imposed, and no judgment has been made,” Jenkins said during an impromptu Friday-evening press conference on campus.

For now, there are no suspensions. There are no dismissals. Irish fans can hold out hope that the four players will be reinstated.  

Innocent until proven guilty, right?

No matter what happens, this football teams goals and expectations, to win a national championship, stay the same.

— Austin Collinsworth (@acollinsworth28) August 15, 2014

Don’t get it wrong; this is still a massive headache for an Irish squad two weeks away from its season opener against Rice on Aug. 30. But, even in the worst-case scenario, those four players will miss (at least) the 2014 season. It would be a hefty hit heading into the season opener against the Owls without Daniels, the expected No. 1 wide receiver; Russell, the top cornerback; and Williams, the current starting strong-side defensive end.

Yet even without those three players, Notre Dame fans should refrain from entering full-fledged apocalyptic mode.

 

DaVaris Daniels

Wide receiver is one of the deepest positions on Notre Dame’s roster, and junior Chris Brown has garnered loads of praise through the first few weeks of camp. Behind Brown, sophomores Will Fuller and Corey Robinson would likely be next in line to shoulder the load on the perimeter, with Amir Carlisle and C.J. Prosise still handling the slot.

 

KeiVarae Russell

Cornerback could be an even stronger position for the Irish than wide receiver.

Head coach Brian Kelly tabbed Florida transfer Cody Riggs as the starter opposite Russell on Wednesday, and Kelly also praised the play of sophomores Devin Butler and Cole Luke. Freshman Nick Watkins could see action as well.

 

Ishaq Williams

Along the defensive line, Kelly described Williams as “solid” during the start of fall camp. The senior and freshman Andrew Trumbetti were the starting defensive ends as of Wednesday.

Without Williams, junior Romeo Okwara, who worked ahead of Trumbetti for much of the spring, could rejoin the first team.

Williams, by the way, tallied just 17 tackles and one sack in 2013.

 

Kendall Moore

Moore, who was invited back for a fifth season, doesn’t seem to factor much into the defensive rotation. Linebackers Jaylon Smith, Joe Schmidt, James Onwualu, John Turner, Ben Councell and Greer Martini—not to mention Jarrett Grace—have all drawn more attention and reps than Moore. Of the four players, Moore’s services are most easily replaceable.

 

Conclusion

There’s still plenty to be determined during the investigation. And there’s no doubt that Notre Dame’s preseason expectations drop significantly without the four players.

Once the shock of the announcement passes, once the university finally addressed the swirling, uncontrollable rumors, what are we left with?

For now, it’s a team without its top receiver, top cornerback, a starting defensive end and a backup linebacker.

Sure, that makes for a worse team, but maybe not as bad as might be expected.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Will Muschamp's Future as Florida Head Coach Rides on 2014 Season

No coach in the land sits on a hotter seat than Florida's Will Muschamp.

Really, no coach has been more inconsistent over the course of the past three years, either.

Blame it on injuries (they lost 15 players to season-ending injuries), simple bad luck or even voodoo emancipating out of Louisiana, but the simple matter of the fact is that a 4-8 finish last season falls directly on his shoulders. This isn't the NFL, where quarterbacks get the blame and then get cut or demoted, it is college, where the maestro in danger of losing a job is the coach.

Look, being the successor to Urban Meyer is nothing to sniff at. Things took a dip in his first year with a 7-6 finish and a 3-5 mark in the SEC—the Gators' worst since 1979. Fine. First-year coach, huge boots to fill, the whole shebang.

In his second season, Muschamp matched expectations in a major way with an 11-2 finish and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl. What could go wrong after that, right?

Everything, obviously.

Those four wins were also the worst mark since 1979 (for those curious now, let's cut out the leg work—Charley Pell was the head man and the team went 0-10-1 and 0-6 in the SEC). It was the first time the Gators missed a bowl game in 23 years. Quarterback Jeff Driskel missed most of the season with a knee injury.

Most embarrassing of all, though, was a loss to Georgia Southern, an FCS team that—in The Swamp, no less—amassed all of zero passing yards.

To his credit, Muschamp seems to have the right attitude as he goes into a career-defining season.

"There will be a lot of chatter about hot seat business and that's part of it," Muschamp said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "The way you combat that is by having a winning football team and winning football games, which is what we're going to do."

Muschamp has help this time around, as the program has elected to mimic schools such as Auburn and take an offensive-minded approach to the rebuild. Kurt Roper is now in town after his spread system led Duke to an ACC Coastal Division title. Those Blue Devils averaged 426.1 yards per game and better than 32 points.

The quick-twitch offense may have a positive ripple effect on the defense, too, as the unit must match in practices, which should, in theory, better prepare it for the real thing.

Further helping Muschamp's cause is the fact he returns seven starters on both sides of the football. He will have to once again lean on the defensive side, which has been his strong point so far, and hope that his third offensive coordinator in four years knows how to squeeze the most out of a talented cast.

Yahoo.com's Pat Forde best explains the disparity that has haunted Muschamp thus far in his tenure:

"In three seasons, Florida's average total defense ranking nationally is fourth. Its average total offense ranking is 112th. Eighteen times under Muschamp, the Gators have scored 20 or fewer points in a game – including the final seven games of 2014."

Roper's resume is great, Driskel is the right man for the job in a spread attack and the Gators will be one year the wiser and healthy, but not everything is perfect.

Those in charge of making the schedule must not like Muschamp all that much, as the Gators' two encounters with the SEC West come against Alabama and LSU. Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and a date with Florida State to end the season line what is an absolute minefield of a schedule.

So what does it all boil down to? What is the magic number for Muschamp to cool the seat and stick around?

It is impossible to say, but we do know another whiff at a bowl game or a losing record will finish him off. Winning the East would be nice and an obvious way to stick around, but even something such as an 8-4 record is very much a questionable outcome at this stage of the game.

It is very much a tightrope act. Somehow keeping a job after a four-win season would mean eight wins looks like a great improvement, but Muschamp is not afforded that logic at a prestigious school like Florida.

Muschamp has enough tools at his disposal to right this ship, although much of it leans on the high-upside gamble invested in a new offensive coordinator.

Either way, Muschamp has everything at stake beginning right now. No pressure.

 

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Clemson Football: 5 Tigers Who Could Have Breakout Seasons

When a team has star players such as Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins out of the mix, it’s only natural that new guys will have to step up and have breakout seasons. Boyd had his breakout year in his sophomore season, and Watkins was able to contribute right away.

This year’s squad has a lot of talent, but there are question marks about which players will step up and become stars.

We have put together a list of five players who could have breakout seasons in 2014.

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What Academic Suspensions Would Mean for Notre Dame on the Field in 2014

Just as the stars seemed to be aligning for Brian Kelly's Notre Dame football team, the cloud of another academic scandal threatens to push the season off course. 

Notre Dame has removed four players from practice as an academic misconduct investigation gets underway in South Bend. A year after the suspension of Everett Golson derailed the 2013 season, the uncertain future of starters KeiVarae Russell, DaVaris Daniels and Ishaq Williams could dramatically alter Kelly's squad. 

After rumors swirled for hours on Friday, Notre Dame acknowledged the ongoing investigation involving multiple students and four members of the football team. University president Rev. John Jenkins had this to say in the school's official release

Integrity is at the heart of our mission and academic misconduct will not be tolerated at Notre Dame. If the suspected improprieties are proven, we will use the experience to reinforce among our students the importance of honesty in all that they do. We are also examining ways of better conveying to students that they can avail themselves of legitimate academic assistance without resorting to cheating.

RedditCFB first reported via Twitter that the four players were dismissed from school. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports was the first of the mainstream media to confirm the report, with other major news outlets following.  

Jenkins and athletic director Jack Swarbrick acknowledged the four players were being held out from participation until they dig deeper, but vehemently denied dismissals or suspensions have taken place, with the Honor Code investigation in its early stages. 

"This is not an athletic process, it is an academic process. All will be judged as students first," Jenkins said. 

Regardless of how this all turns out, it is another black eye for a football program that boasts one of the elite academic profiles in the high-stakes world of college football. For the second-straight season, those standards have threatened to short-circuit the team before ever taking the field.  

No timeline has been put on the investigation, meaning Notre Dame's top cornerback, wide receiver and defensive end are all out indefinitely. That's a nightmare for a program looking to avoid distractions, something that's next to impossible with the deep dig for truth only just beginning. 

With so much still to be determined, let's look at how potential suspensions could effect the Irish on the field.

 

KeiVarae Russell

If there's a dagger in the side of the Irish, it's the loss of Russell. A 26-game starter who manned a cornerback spot from the day he stepped onto the field, Russell is one of the top players on the team, and expected to be the Irish's lockdown cornerback, a potential star in the making. 

A candidate to be a team captain and considered a great leader both on and off the field, Russell's inclusion on this list is a puzzler. Held up as an example by position coach Kerry Cooks and praised by Kelly during fall camp for his drive and determination, losing Russell takes one of the Irish's most confident players off the field, and robs defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder of a key coverman in a system that's reliant on playing man-to-man.

Notre Dame's depth at cornerback makes the loss something the Irish can absorb, with Cody Riggs, Cole Luke and Devin Butler all starting-caliber players. But losing a player many on campus believed to be an early-round talent is probably the toughest pill to swallow in all of this. 

Russell has never hidden his NFL ambitions. He'll be eligible for the draft after this season, so depending on how this works out, he may never wear an Irish uniform again. 

 

 DaVaris Daniels

After having to sit out the spring semester because an academic suspension forced him off campus, Daniels' loss robs Notre Dame of their one established receiving threat. Coming off a 745-yard, seven-touchdown 2013 campaign, Daniels was expected to serve as Notre Dame's No. 1 receiver this season. 

Without Daniels, the entirety of the Irish receiving corps has one official catch from Everett Golson, a 50-yard connection to Chris Brown against Oklahoma in 2012. Daniels expected to use the 2014 season as a springboard to solidify his standing as a top-flight NFL prospect.

This could be the second academic strike against Daniels, with Swarbrick making very clear to differentiate between the receiver's struggles to make grades and the current situation. 

"Don't confuse academic probation with academic dishonesty," Swarbrick said. 

There is talent and depth behind Daniels, and sophomores Will Fuller and Corey Robinson will team with Brown to form a talented trio of outside receivers. But primed for a big season, if the charges stick, we've likely seen the last of Daniels in a Notre Dame uniform. 

 

 Ishaq Williams

If this is it for Williams, it's a career that'll be defined by underwhelming results. After picking Notre Dame over Penn State as a 5-star outside linebacker, Williams was a headliner among the trio of Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch, with that group going out with a collective whimper. 

Williams was stuck behind Darius Fleming and Prince Shembo, never winning the job at Cat linebacker, a hybrid position Williams seemed the prototype to play. Set to start at strong-side defensive end, there was optimism that Williams was primed for a big season, but that could all be down the drain. 

Notre Dame already plans on starting freshman Andrew Trumbetti, after Kelly announced he'd surpassed junior Romeo Okwara for the job opposite Williams. But with zero experience at the position with Sheldon Day now shifting inside, how the Irish patch together their front four will be one of the season's most pressing questions.

 

Kendall Moore

The seldom-used fifth-year senior wasn't expected to play much of a role on the Irish defense. So while his potential loss won't be felt on the field, it's likely to cause a ripple effect through the locker room. Like reserve defensive lineman Tyler Stockton last season, Moore's return as a grad student for his fifth year was likely decided because of the positive influence he'd have on younger players, but this certainly changes that. 

Moore could have seen time on special teams or in short-yardage situations. But at an inside linebacker position that's among the thinnest on the roster, his suspension puts more pressure on first-year contributors Nyles Morgan and Michael Deeb, and forces the Irish into a tough situation if Joe Schmidt gets hurt and Jarrett Grace can't make it back from his slow-healing broken leg. 

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Ten 2015 Recruits Who Have the Ability to Turn a College Football Team Around

Players who become pillars of collegiate programs can't carry a roster approaching triple digits alone, but they are certainly capable of affecting the culture of a team. Whether prospects arrive on campus surrounded by hype or in anonymity, how they respond to the rigors of college competition ultimately determines their destiny.

Despite being limited to four seasons of game action, a successful player can send his team surging ahead with valuable momentum after he departs. Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel are recent examples of athletes who quickly reshaped the image of their respective squads.

We assessed members of the 2015 recruiting class who could make an immense impact at the next level and help change the fortunes of a team. Therefore, we left out prospects who are headed to programs that currently reside atop the game's hierarchy (go ahead and sit this one out if you're looking for an Alabama commit).

Here's a look at 10 young playmakers who are prepared to make a profound difference.

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College Football Big Ten Predictions for 2014

The Big Ten will be one of the elite conferences in college football with at least three teams that could contend for a national championship.

It starts with Ohio State and Michigan State, who are now division foes, after the realignment of the former Leaders and Legends divisions due to the addition of Maryland and Rutgers. The Buckeyes will be seeking revenge after ending their 2013-14 season on a sour note. Meanwhile, Sparty is coming off its best season in school history with a 13-1 record and a Rose Bowl victory over Stanford.

Urban Meyer and Mike Dantonio are among the best coaches in the conference, but second-year Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen could be moving up into that category as well. Andersen’s Badgers will be in the hunt to represent the West Division in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Wisconsin’s competition will come from both Iowa and Nebraska. Iowa hasn’t won a conference title since 2004, while Nebraska has gone through a 15-year conference title drought.  

Michigan and Northwestern have the talent to compete for a Big Ten Championship but must be more consistent and clutch after disappointing 2013 campaigns. 

The Big Ten will be a threat in the new College Football Playoff system and should have at least two teams in 2015's six bowl games. 

Begin Slideshow

Wisconsin Football: Week 2 Fall Stock Report

Week 2 of fall camp has come and gone for the Wisconsin football team with clarity at quarterback and kicker while the injury bug has struck a variety of key positions.  So call off the dogs, and let the two-quarterback experiment begin.  Without further ado, let's dive in to this week's stock report.

Trip to the Infirmary

Head coach Gary Andersen gave the team Thursday off after the Badgers saw player after player go down with minor injuries over the course of the first two weeks.  

Per Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the list of those injured includes fullback Derek Watt (unspecified), fullback Derek Straus (left arm/shoulder), wide receiver Robert Wheelwright (unspecified) and wide receiver Jazz Peavy (hamstring) on offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, the injury report includes linebacker Derek Landisch (hamstring), linebacker Vince Biegel (head), safety Leo Musso (unspecified) and linebacker Jesse Hayes (left foot/ankle).

Beyond those, linebacker Marcus Trotter participated with a "non-contact" jersey on, while Dallas Lewallen sat out Wednesday's practice with an illness.

Adding to the list of injuries is the news that running back/safety Vonte Jackson will be ending his football career.  Per Potrykus, Jackson has endured three major knee surgeries and suffered another knee injury in practice last week.  Jackson wasn't in line for real playing time, but one never likes to see a player's career cut short by injuries.

On a brighter note, earlier in the week, receivers Kenzel Doe and Jordan Fredrick both made their returns from injuries to become full participants in practice.

Freshmen Earn Their W's

In Monday's practice, the first five freshmen earned the "W's" on their helmets.  Freshmen come into camp without a W on their helmet and earn them over the course of fall camp.  This is a manifestation of earning your proverbial stripes and is a sign from coaches and teammates that they are progressing through the program.

The first batch of players to get their W's include kicker Rafael Gaglianone, all three freshmen wide receivers—Krenwick Sanders, George Rushing and Natrell Jamerson—and safety Lubern Figaro.

Four more freshmen earned their W's on Friday including offensive tackle Beau Benzschawel, linebacker D'Cota Dixon, defensive lineman Conor Sheehy and cornerback Derrick Tindal.

With good depth up front on the offensive side of the ball, Benzschawel will likely take a redshirt, but seeing him earn his motion W is a big step for the continued offensive line tradition at Wisconsin.

All three receivers earning their motion W's is incredibly important as all three have the chance to go down to Houston and contribute right away.  With injuries once again ravaging the receiving corps, there may be chances for any and all of these guys to contribute against LSU at the end of August.

In the secondary, Figaro has seen snaps with the first team, starting alongside Michael Caputo at safety while Tindal has seen snaps as the nickel cornerback.  While that is probably Devin Gaulden's role, Gaulden's history of injuries makes having a dependable backup there all the more imperative.

Dixon has made the transition from defensive back to linebacker rather seamlessly, providing good coverage instincts to go along with a willingness to make plays inside the box.  Dixon has certainly been one of the best surprises from camp thus far and hopefully he can provide key depth at the otherwise fairly thin linebacker position.

While coming into camp, all eyes were on nose guard Jeremy Patterson to step in as the backup to Warren Herring, it has been Sheehy who has impressed the coaching staff thus far.  While I still believe Patterson will be the better player down the road, the development of both is important, as the nose guard in a 3-4 defense is the anchor.

Last but not least is Gaglianone, but we'll get to him in just a bit.

A few players Badger fans would like to see earn their stripes include the aforementioned Patterson, as well as offensive guard Micah Kapoi and running backs Taiwan Deal and Caleb Kinlaw.

Position Battles

The two most important positions on the field (kicker and quarterback) are finally starting to see some more clarity in the depth chart.

Much to the chagrin of some, it appears as if Joel Stave will be the man under center for the Badgers for their first offensive series.  Stave has been incredibly consistent playing with both the first and second team offenses, and his experience will probably give him the eventual leg up.

While McEvoy may not be the starter, it still looks like there will be packages for him to play, as his athleticism gives the Badgers a completely different look and may help to soften up some stacked boxes.

At kicker, Gaglianone has continued to impress, and it looks like, barring a slump at the end of camp, he will be handling the field-goal duties.  As for kickoffs, Andrew Endicott was working with the top unit, followed by Gaglianone and then Russell, according to Potrykus.

To close things out, Tom Dienhart of the Big Ten Network spoke with offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who says he will pick a starting quarterback after Monday's scrimmage.

 

 

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Texas Tech Coach Kliff Kingsbury Responds to Arkansas Fan's 'Breakup' Letter

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury's resemblance to actor Ryan Gosling gets him more attention than his coaching ability, so he occasionally has to deal with female fans crushing on him. It's then up to him as to how he handles those adoring fans.

So far, he has shown that he knows how to handle them with great class.

One Arkansas fan sent the Red Raiders coach a breakup letter, along with a mixtape. Kingsbury had a great response.

That's a smooth move by the 35-year-old coach.

[SB Nation]

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Could Baker Mayfield Play for Oklahoma in 2014?

There's a soap opera airing in Norman, Oklahoma. The plot centers around four players who may or may not see the field for the Oklahoma Sooners this season. 

Among those in question—the other three are receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, linebacker Frank Shannon and running back Joe Mixon—is quarterback Baker Mayfield, a Texas Tech transfer. According to his attorney, Jim Darnell, Mayfield is requesting a waiver that would allow him to play immediately, according to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com

Though Mayfield likely wouldn't have been the starter for the Sooners anyway—that title goes to Trevor Knight—he was impressive in OU's spring game, completing all nine of his passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns. 

What are the odds of Mayfield, who played in eight games last year, being approved for immediate eligibility? According to John Infante of AthleticScholarships.net, the NCAA's Subcommittee for Legislative Relief would need a compelling reason to rule in Mayfield's favor. 

"The guidelines for waivers when a previous school refuses to grant permission to contact or use of the onetime transfer exception is pretty clear: They are not to be granted," Infante said in an interview with B/R. "And 'the rule is bad' is not really grounds for a waiver."

One way that could change, per Infante, is if Mayfield's "family is able to present something more compelling than what's been publicly reported." 

Mayfield, who left Tech after being named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year as a freshman in 2013, has to sit out a year to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. But Mayfield's story has an added element of intrigue because he was a walk-on at Tech. In a January interview with Jake Trotter of ESPN.com, Mayfield said he was not in line to get a scholarship at Tech during the spring. That played a role in his decision to leave.

Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury, when asked during Big 12 media days, said blocking Mayfield from receiving a grant-in-aid was "team policy. That’s it. The NCAA has the in-conference policy for a reason."

According to Infante, if Mayfield was in line to receive a scholarship, it would be less likely that his waiver request would be granted. He should receive a ruling one way or the other before Oklahoma's Aug. 30 opener against Louisiana Tech. 

Immediate eligibility in transfer waivers is ruled with a degree of subjectivity, though it's likely to be eliminated soon. As a result, there can appear to be a lack of consistency in those rulings. Green-Beckham, for example, may be eligible this year because of what Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com writes is a misapplication of the "run-off" rule, which allows players to transfer immediately "for reasons outside [their] control." 

(The specifics of the rule can be found on Page 15 of this NCAA document.) 

Green-Beckham has had his share of off-field issues, from a couple of pot busts to an incident in which he allegedly pushed a girl down "at least four stairs." Green-Beckham was not arrested related to the alleged assault. 

Still, the run-off rule doesn't seem to apply to him. But Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has publicly supported Green-Beckham, even though the wide receiver was dismissed from the team. Without Mizzou's support, Green-Beckham's immediate eligibility isn't even a conversation. 

Mayfield's waiver request appears far more black and white, and unlike Green-Beckham, he doesn't have the support of his former school. It would be surprising if Mayfield is ruled eligible to compete this season, barring something extraordinary coming to light. 

Of course, the Sooners are the No. 3 team in the Amway coaches poll largely because of Knight and their defensive front seven. Mayfield doesn't really play a role in Oklahoma's playoff expectations. Mayfield created an interesting storyline by performing well in Oklahoma's spring game, but there's no pushing Knight for playing time if he doesn't get the approval from the NCAA. 

That could change by this time next year. For now, the drama continues. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. 

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Notre Dame Football: Week 2 Fall Camp Stock Report

Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly isn’t big on releasing depth charts. But that didn’t stop the Irish coach from naming multiple starters—highlighted by Everett Golson—midway through the week.

Now two weeks into fall camp, the Irish are closing in on the start of the 2014 campaign. For the first time since the new FieldTurf was installed, the Irish practiced inside Notre Dame Stadium on Wednesday.

Beautiful sunny day to practice on the brand new ND Stadium turf for the first time. pic.twitter.com/QnqtPgK1nZ

Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) August 13, 2014

So with the season right around the corner, let’s check in on the second full week of action.

 

Everett Golson Named the Starting QB

Everett Golson, starting quarterback: pic.twitter.com/m7y4G71Hmk

— Andrew Owens (@BGI_AndrewOwens) August 13, 2014

“Everett Golson will be our starter against Rice.”

Those words, uttered by Irish head coach Brian Kelly following Wednesday’s practice, were expected yet still important. Golson appeared to be the front-runner throughout the first week of training camp, but redshirt freshman Malik Zaire had kept it competitive.

Now, there is no doubt with two weeks to go until the season opener against Rice on Aug. 30. Kelly said he was impressed with how Golson handled himself with the team throughout the winter and the spring, emerging as a leader. Compared to two years ago—when Golson was named the starter as a redshirt freshman—Kelly also noticed Golson possessing a better grasp of how the entire offense operates.

“I don’t know if I would call it relief,” Golson said to reporters after practice Wednesday. “I think it’s a heightened responsibility on my part knowing that everything is pretty set for Week 1 and I am the starter. It’s my job to get these guys right on the offense and just try to lead this team.”

That leadership could be one of the biggest takeaways from Kelly’s announcement. After returning from his suspension, Golson found himself lodged in the quarterback competition. In other words, there wasn’t an obvious, easy role for him as a leader. But it seems Golson has taken on that responsibility, nonetheless. Now as both the quarterback and a leader, Golson is in position to see how far he can take the offense—and the entire Irish squad.

Golson has had plenty of time to grow—physically and mentally—since the 2012 campaign. The bulked-up signal-caller seems ready to step up and deliver.

As for Zaire, the confident signal-caller is the No. 2 quarterback.

“I told Malik first and let him know what his situation was, and I got the right answer from Malik. He wasn't happy,” Kelly said. “If he gave me a hug, I'd be very disappointed. So he went out and practiced well and he wants to be the starter here, and he's going to keep working to be the starter.”

But there aren’t plans for Zaire to start—or even handle certain packages—at this point, per Kelly.

“Everett would play unless he was injured and couldn't answer the bell, so we're not looking to play two quarterbacks,” Kelly said.

“We've got one starter.”

The key with Zaire will be keeping him focused throughout the season. Kelly mentioned during the spring that the coaching staff felt it "lost" Zaire as the 2013 season wore on for the No. 3 quarterback on the roster. It will almost certainly be Zaire's team to quarterback in the future—but not now.

 

Freshmen Cracking the Defensive Two-Deep

While Kelly’s decision to tab Golson as the starting quarterback probably didn’t surprise many, the same cannot be said for some depth-chart updates on the other side of the ball.

Most notably, Kelly said freshman Andrew Trumbetti is currently penciled in as starting weak-side defensive end—opposite senior Ishaq Williams and ahead of junior Romeo Okwara.

“He's really separated himself, and I sometimes forget that he's a freshman because he's almost separated himself from this freshman class,” Kelly said of Trumbetti, who enrolled early for the spring semester. “We think that he's got a huge upside for us in so many areas that sometimes, like I said, I don't talk about him enough, but a great motor, physical, smart, does all the things that we ask him to do.”

According to @BGI_LouSomogyi, @AndrewTrumbetti would be #NotreDame’s 1st freshman DL starter in a season opener since Anthony Weaver in ’98.

— Blue and Gold News (@BGInews) August 13, 2014

I remember @SWiltfong247 telling me on Signing Day that Andrew Trumbetti would make huge impact in '14. He's the #NotreDame's starting DE.

— Keith Arnold (@KeithArnold) August 13, 2014

Kelly also mentioned linebacker Nyles Morgan, defensive tackle Jonathan Bonner, linebackers Kolin Hill and Greer Martini and defensive lineman Jhonny Williams as impressive freshmen. Morgan, Hill and Williams will all garner playing time, according to Kelly, and Martini is slated as the backup “Will” linebacker while Bonner is Sheldon Day’s backup as the 3-technique defensive tackle.

BK: Right now Jhonny Williams and Kolin Hill are situational players - not on the field for 70 plays

— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) August 13, 2014

Kelly and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder have repeatedly stressed their desire to utilize a lot of players defensively, with the hope of maximizing different abilities in certain situations. That bodes well for an Irish defense looking to be more aggressive in 2014. Constantly bringing on fresh bodies—especially hungry, athletic freshmen—should jolt the defense.

The downside is, well, they’re freshmen.

“It will be fun, but they'll cause a few moments of Coach VanGorder throwing his hat on the ground, I'm sure of that,” Kelly said.

Injury and Health Updates

On Thursday, Notre Dame announced graduate assistant Kyle McCarthy was diagnosed with “a very treatable form of cancer” a few weeks ago, and the assistant coach and former Irish safety will take intermittent leaves of absence from the program.

“Yesterday, I began chemotherapy as the next step in eliminating this disease,” McCarthy said in a statement. “I'm truly blessed to have such amazing love and support from family and friends. 

“Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers over the last few weeks. I expect a full recovery and look forward to returning to the team during and after my treatment.”

McCarthy’s 240 career tackles slot him second in school history among defensive backs, and the 2009 Notre Dame captain went on to a two-year career with the Denver Broncos before signing with the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. Injuries ended his playing career last season, and McCarthy is a first-year graduate assistant.

“Kyle’s attitude and outlook toward his treatment is remarkable,” Kelly said in a statement. “We will support him the entire way. We are very confident he’ll receive the necessary treatment to make a complete recovery.”

God gives his hardest battles to his strongest warriors. Can't find one tougher than Kmac! #roadtorecover@KMcCarthy28

— Daniel McCarthy (@DannyMac15) August 14, 2014

We continue to be amazed by former captain Kyle McCarthy’s fortitude as he continues to help the team while battling cancer.

— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) August 14, 2014

Irish offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock returned to practice in a limited capacity Saturday.

Denbrock, who underwent a surgical procedure before training camp began, still was unable to be at practice for long periods of time, according to Kelly on Saturday. The head coach added Denbrock might be able to go an hour each day for the next couple of weeks before gradually increasing his time.

Senior linebacker Jarrett Grace is still recovering from his leg injury.

“He was running today, going through bags, and I'd say looking at him today he's still a couple weeks away,” Kelly said Wednesday. “There is still a little bit of a limp there and you can see it, but he's making fast progress.”

Brian Kelly says LB Jarrett Grace is still running with a bit of a limp but recovery is moving very fast. Unclear if he's ready for Rice.

— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) August 13, 2014

Grace’s uncertain status further accentuates the importance of Joe Schmidt’s development. The former walk-on has ascended into a starting role, and Schmidt could be in position to be a rock of the defense. Without Schmidt and Grace at the “Mike” linebacker spot, the Irish would have to lean even more heavily on stud sophomore Jaylon Smith.

If Grace’s recovery stretches through the first few weeks of the season, that could equal more snaps for Morgan, the top-rated freshman in Notre Dame’s class of 2014.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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