NCAA Football News

Ranking the Best Feuds in College Football

Is there anyone’s hand at work that you wouldn’t shake?

Let’s say it’s customary to gather around the fax machine and shake hands at the end of each work week—who wouldn’t you touch with a 10-foot pole?

Though the following coaches may not be in a full-on Hatfield-McCoy caliber feuds, they may not want to be friends on Facebook, either.

Whether it’s a few poorly-chosen words that the media plastered all over the internet, a recruiting battle or a perceived injustice in a game, these guys aren’t exactly what you’d call chummy.

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National Signing Day 2015: TV Schedule, Predictions for Top Remaining Recruits

National signing day can make or break the immediate future of any college football team. Some teams, namely Florida State, Alabama and Clemson, have already come away with a handful of top-ranked recruits; however, most schools anxiously await the decisions of the remaining uncommitted prospects.

Interestingly enough, three top-five players are still uncommitted, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. These 5-star recruits will surely be the main attractions when their ultimate decisions are revealed on Feb. 4. Until then, all we can do is speculate.

Due to the importance of these impending decisions, national signing day can be viewed in a number of different ways—top-10 announcements will be televised, other recruits' commitments will be revealed online and most schools have signing day coverage across the Web.

To ensure you don't miss the outcome for your favorite team or recruit, here's a look at the full national signing day schedule, followed by predictions for the top remaining prospects.

 

National Signing Day Schedule

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 4

Time: 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPNU

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Player Announcement List: ESPNMediaZone.com

School-Specific Coverage List: CBSSports.com

Twitter Announcements: @ESPNCFB, @CollegeGameDay

 

Uncommitted Recruit Predictions

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

 

Terry Beckner Jr., DT

Let's take an in-depth look at Beckner here. After all, the 6'4", 293-pound defensive tackle is one of the most sought-after recruits, and with five schools still in the running for his services, there isn't a clear indication of which he'll pick.

Currently, Missouri, Ohio State, Auburn, Florida State and LSU could potentially land Beckner, and each of those teams makes perfect sense. Missouri, Auburn and LSU have sound defenses, Florida State continues to compete for national titles and Ohio State just won the inaugural College Football Playoff.

So, what makes Beckner a highly coveted prospect?

While Beckner is already a mauler in the trenches due to his great combination of size and strength, he has a frame that will easily support more weight. Adding a bit of muscle to eclipse the 300-pound mark would make him a terror in the collegiate ranks and catch the eye of many NFL scouts.

Versatility is another of Beckner's sought-after traits. Not only is he one of the most talented defensive tackles in the class of 2015, but he has the skill set to flourish at any inside position along the defensive line. No matter if he resides on a 4-3 or 3-4 base defense, expect Beckner to excel at either the 3-technique, 5-technique or nose guard.

Adding to his well-rounded skill set is a great deal of athleticism. He has a great burst off the snap that allows him to explode into a would-be blocker and knock his off-balance opponent into the backfield. Once in the backfield, Beckner routinely causes problems, as he plays with a high motor and regularly makes plays in pursuit of the ball-carrier.

Now, the burning question: Which school is most likely to gain his services?

At this time, the front-runner has to be Missouri. During a recent visit to the school, the Tigers pulled out all the stops to make Beckner feel at home, including displaying some massive support in the arena, via Mark Kim of ESPNU:

While Beckner's trip to Missouri more than likely helped the Tigers' chances of bringing in the 5-star recruit, the school's reputation for churning out NFL defensive linemen should make the thought of attending Missouri even more enticing.

In 2013, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson went 13th overall to the New York Jets. One year later, defensive end Kony Ealy was picked in the second round by the Carolina Panthers. This year, defensive end Shane Ray is expected to be a first-round selection and potential top-10 pick.

Again, every school on Beckner's short list makes sense for the 5-star recruit, but Missouri appears to stand out above the rest.

Prediction: Missouri

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Miami (OH) Dual-Sport CB Quinten Rollins Is NFL Draft's Fastest Riser

One calendar year ago, the Miami Redhawks’ basketball team was sitting at 10-11 and preparing for the final month of the season before the MAC tournament. Their point guard, a four-year starter, was putting the finishing touches on a stellar collegiate career.

As the final buzzer went off on Quinten Rollins’ basketball days, he had clearly left a positive mark on the program. Rollins’ imprint on the Miami record books is significant; ranking second in career steals (214), fourth in assists (391), seventh in games started (106), and ninth in minutes played (3,448).

After the basketball season, Rollins toyed with the idea of playing football for his final year of eligibility. In an interview with Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Rollins decided playing football could help clarify his future.

…my senior year came around and I sat down with Coach (Chuck) Martin and we saw eye to eye. I gave spring ball a shot and it worked out pretty well. It was basically a tryout kind of deal whether or not he was going to give me a scholarship. And fortunately I was able to make enough plays for that to happen.

The last time Rollins had played football, he was primarily a running back and receiver. His experience on defense was as a roaming playmaker, or essentially a strong safety in the mold of Troy Polamalu.

Fast forward back to present day, and it’s almost unbelievable Rollins only played one season on the college gridiron. His one and only campaign resulted in 73 tackles, seven interceptions and nine pass breakups. The seven interceptions were tied for third nationally.

The NFL took notice of Rollins’ abilities and invited him to the 2015 Reese’s Senior Bowl. The Senior Bowl is a great test for small-school prospects that don’t usually get to play elite talent on a weekly basis, as every snap in practice is dissected. Almost unsurprisingly after seeing how far Rollins has progressed thus far, the cornerback held his own all week and showed the hype is warranted.

To get a better feel for what Rollins brings to the table, I went and looked at seven of his games in 2014 and wrote a scouting report based on his strengths and weaknesses. With some visual aids, let’s take a look at the dual-sport phenom’s football acumen.

 

Strengths 

When evaluating Rollins, the first thing that has to be mentioned is his frame. The NFL is filled with cornerbacks of all sizes, but some teams tend to avoid smaller cornerbacks. Rollins shouldn’t have that issue, as he measured 5’11”, 193 pounds at the Senior Bowl.

On the field, Rollins plays bigger than he is listed. He has a thick build that allows him be a physical presence in the secondary. Just to the naked eye, he looks like a dribble-drive point guard, and a bulldog-type cornerback. His frame fits his game.

His willingness to be physical with his body is one of the most impressive areas of his game. To be a strong run defender on the boundary, being effective is mostly about effort and functional strength. Some cornerbacks don’t care about this aspect of the game because effective coverage is a bigger part of their job description.

Rollins doesn’t take that liberty, though. Of the seven games I saw, he missed only two tackles he had a reasonable chance at getting. His form is nearly flawless, as he approaches the ball carrier low to the ground so that he can explode forward and deliver a blow.

He’s relentless fighting through blockers as well. Rollins is a pest for receivers that don’t want to put much effort into blocks, as he takes it very seriously. Below is a good example.

Looking at Rollins’ coverage talent, it’s clear he’s a natural playmaker. His seven interceptions were far from flukes, coming scattered throughout the season in different situations. He didn’t waste time to show his ability to read plays and stay in position, either, as he logged four interceptions in the first four games of his career.

Throughout football, collegiate and professionally, many cornerbacks have a bad habit of playing the receiver more than the ball. It’s maddening, as the ball belongs to the cornerback as much as the receiver. This results in many pass interference calls and blown opportunities for a turnover.

That’s why Rollins’ natural instinct to locate and play the ball is invaluable. A turnover is a premium result of a play for the defense and can be one of the few differences between a win and a loss. Make no mistake; it’s hard to find a defensive back that sniffs out the route as early as Rollins did.

Athletically, Rollins has the ability to stick at cornerback long term. His ability to line up directly over the receiver, mirror movements off the snap, and then turn and run downfield is crucial. Every defense in the league plays a variety of man and zone coverages to some extent, so that versatility is a major plus. Rollins has enough fluidity in his hips to smother comebacks, or go deep on post routes.

In zone, Rollins is a star. Zone coverage allows the cornerback to open his hips early and just read the quarterback and receiver. If the receiver gets into his assigned area, the cornerback acts. Rollins’ anticipation and play recognition are excellent, regardless of his inexperience.

 

Weaknesses 

Although Rollins measures and weighs well, his arm length is a bit of a concern. The premium placed on height can an overrated part of the puzzle for projection, but length isn’t. There’s a reason why the Seattle Seahawks prefer players with certain arm measurements; players with length help limit explosive plays.

Rollins’ arm length measurement of 29 3/8” could be an issue. He struggles in press coverage at times, which isn’t surprising because he is underdeveloped with technique and lacks experience. But without length, the receiver can get upfield without being touched easier. Take a look below, where Rollins loses on a slant route because he cannot recover from his length limiting him.

Overcoming this may not be a big issue as Rollins improves and gets more snaps to practice, but it narrows the margin for error greatly. Arm length can also help in jump ball situations against taller receivers and when breaking toward the ball to make a pass breakup.

Breaking down is where Rollins has the most issues; it is with deep routes. For the most part, he smothers underneath routes with impressive efficiency. His ability to trigger from his backpedal and explode forward is certainly above average.

But when going deep, either Rollins lacks straight-line speed, or he’s struggling with his footwork early in his coverage and doesn’t have necessary makeup speed. It’s hard to tell from his film because he wasn’t getting burned every game.

In the screenshot above, we see the receiver’s lead shoulder is well ahead of Rollins’, and Rollins is in a compromising position at this point. The quarterback notices his slot receiver has the leverage and targets him for a completion. By the time the ball arrives, Rollins is well behind the receiver.

At the Senior Bowl, Rollins didn’t appear to be lacking deep speed. It’s difficult to tell from television broadcast angles where Rollins is losing on deep routes, but if it turns out he is speed deficient, a move to safety is possible. For what it is worth, I think his footwork is the bigger issue than straight-line speed, or else he would be targeted deep on every play, and that isn’t the case.

Rollins should improve his technique as he receives more coaching in the NFL. His biggest issues just come from lacking experience, such as where to place hands when jamming, or when to be physical with the receiver downfield. Footwork wise, he needs to keep his lower and upper body aligned so he stays balanced, but this wasn’t a constant issue.

 

Conclusion 

The NFL is desperate for good cornerbacks and safeties. Even if a team has two good starters, injuries can ravage the position quickly, and in today’s NFL, that can spell doom to a defense. There is a premium on all defensive backs that are physical with good ball skills.

That’s a large reason why Quinten Rollins has skyrocketed in the 2015 NFL draft process. He currently ranks as the third-best cornerback and 31st-overall prospect in the class by CBS Sports. Again, one year ago, he wasn’t even committed to playing football for the Redhawks.

Everything considered, Rollins is a project at cornerback, but his innate ability to locate and play the football is special. He can become a very good and reliable starting defensive back if he’s given time to refine some of the smaller details that separate the good from being even better.

If his first year at the position is any indicator of how much he can improve, there’s no reason to think he won’t maximize his potential.

 

All stats used are from sports-reference.com.

Ian Wharton is a Miami Dolphins Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, contributor for Optimum Scouting, and analyst for eDraft. 

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