NCAA Football News

Notre Dame Football Recruiting Offers of the Week

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — After a busy week in which the Irish staff dished out double-digit offers, Notre Dame football was quieter this past week, instead focusing on lining up visitors for the upcoming junior day.

Still, the Irish extended an offer at the all-important quarterback position, and other recruiting happenings rose to the surface.

Each week, we’ll be keeping tabs on the new scholarship offers the Notre Dame coaches send out, tracking the recruiting process as the Irish focus their attention toward the classes of 2016, 2017 and maybe even 2018.

 

Hunter Johnson

Irish head coach Brian Kelly has emphasized the importance of recruiting the state of Indiana. In targeting the quarterback position in the class of 2017, Kelly and the Irish staff were able to stay in state and offer Brownsburg, Indiana, native Hunter Johnson.

Johnson is the No. 1 pro-style quarterback and No. 9 overall prospect in the Top 247 and landed his Irish offer while visiting South Bend on Sunday, according to 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong.

“We got to the school, and the first thing we were going to do was tour the stadium, and they brought me and my family into the locker room area, and they had a thing written that Coach Kelly had sent out because he wasn’t there today,” Johnson told Wiltfong.

Per Wiltfong, Johnson and new Irish offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford had previously spoken multiple times, but Sunday marked their first time meeting in person.

“The offense they run is similar to what we run at our high school,” Johnson told Wiltfong. “I think Coach Sanford and I get along really well. I think we’re similar people. I think I could play for him and Coach Kelly, and I think it would be a good situation.”

Earlier in the weekend, Johnson took an unofficial visit to Northwestern. The 6'2 ½", 197-pounder also has spring visits scheduled for North Carolina, North Carolina State, Penn State and Tennessee, as well as a return trip to Northwestern. Other offers for the signal-caller include Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, Cincinnati, North Carolina and Northwestern.

 

Updates

In addition to Johnson’s scholarship offer, Notre Dame’s staff stayed busy lining up visits for the coming weeks and months.

Class of 2016 linebacker Lokeni Toailoa announced his top seven schools Saturday, and Notre Dame made the cut.

According to Wiltfong, Toailoa is scheduled to announce his commitment March 21. The No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 57 overall prospect in the class received an offer from the Irish in early May but has not visited campus.

Class of 2016 offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg, the No. 11 offensive tackle and No. 82 overall player, has had an April 10 visit to Notre Dame lined up. He’s also expected to visit Ohio State the following week before announcing a decision.

Spring practice begins Wednesday for Notre Dame, and the Irish will host a bevy of recruits just a few days later for a junior day. Wiltfong and Loy provide the full list of expected attendees, which currently sits around 30 strong.

Notable names include class of 2016 running back Tony Jones Jr., class of 2016 yet-to-be-offered cornerback Julian Love, class of 2017 defensive end and local standout Corey Malone-Hatcher and class of 2016 cornerback Damar Hamlin, to name a few.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com, and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports composite rankings.

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

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Ranking the Top 25 Colleges with the Best Football and Basketball Team Combos

With Selection Sunday past us, sports fans in America are thrilled about the NCAA tournament. We’re making our upset selections, predicting our Sweet 16 and trying to figure out if anyone can take down Kentucky and John Calipari.

At the same time, spring football is ramping up across the nation. While we watch March Madness unfold this weekend, it brings up an important question: Which teams have the best combination of men’s basketball and football programs? It isn’t the easiest combination, when you think about it. Here’s a look at which programs pull off the dual-sport dance best.

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Marlon Character Names Top 5: Breaking Down 4-Star DB's Favorites

Atlanta defensive back Marlon Character isn't quite ready to announce his collegiate commitment, but the 4-star prospect is focused on five favorites.

Character named Ole Miss, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia Tech his "top five" during a conversation with Jake Rowe of 247Sports. He also shared his intentions to use official visits at each university.

Despite identifying each member of the group as a desirable destination, he admitted that it's an even playing field at this point.

"I haven't put them in order yet," Character told Rowe. "They switch every day."

The 6'0", 170-pound Grady High School junior is rated ninth nationally among safeties in 247Sports' composite rankings, though several scouts see him projecting at cornerback in college. His skills quickly caught attention from marquee college programs, resulting in a scholarship list that also includes Auburn, Arkansas and Ohio State.

Character recently provided a glimpse of what it's like to be on the receiving end of so much FBS interest, spotlighting piles of recruiting mail on Twitter:

Here's a closer look at the five programs that stand out to Character.

 

Georgia

Considering Character's status as a top-tier Georgia recruit, it's no surprise to see the Bulldogs firmly in contention for his services. Coach Mark Richt secured 11 in-state defenders in his 2015 class, including safeties Kirby Choates and Rashad Roundtree

Character's proximity to the program and rapport with Richt's staff could ultimately give Georgia an edge. The Bulldogs currently lead in his 247Sports Crystal Ball with 71 percent of expert commitment predictions.

"I have a great relationship with all the coaches," he told Rowe. "It's just that every time I talk to Georgia it is always good news and that they want to get me up there."

Richt has assembled a top-10 class early in the 2016 cycle, headlined by No. 1 quarterback prospect Jacob Eason, but just two of the team's seven commitments have come from defensive recruits.

 

Alabama

Head coach Nick Saban perennially proves that he can pluck premier talent from anywhere in America, evidenced by 2015 signatures from 5-star New Jersey cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick and 5-star California dual-threat quarterback Blake Barnett. That haul also included elite safety talent from Florida (Ronnie Harrison) and Texas (Deionte Thompson), with a 4-star at the position enrolling early from each state.

Character would encounter an incredible level of competition for playing time in the Crimson Tide secondary, where top newcomers played sparingly throughout last season. After landing four 5-star defensive backs over the past two cycles, Saban also holds a longtime commitment from 5-star Louisiana cornerback Shyheim Carter in his 2016 class.

Alabama extended an offer to Character early in his junior season. However, it appears the Tide may be falling behind in this pursuit due to a lack of personal contact.

"I haven't been talking to Alabama much lately because my recruiting coach for them, coach (Lance) Thompson left for Auburn," he told Rowe.

 

Ole Miss

The Rebels are off to a tremendous start on the 2016 recruiting trail, carrying 10 commitments in a class that rates third nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings. The team's "Landshark" mentality on defense attracts plenty of attention from key prospects, and you can count Character in the mix.

Ole Miss enjoyed a breakout campaign last season, which was often spearheaded by its defensive stinginess. Coach Hugh Freeze is attempting to fine-tune his team's offensive attack, so commitments from 5-star quarterback/wide receiver tandem Shea Patterson and DeKaylin Metcalf should make a significant impact.

The Rebels are in need of some retooling on defense too and remain in search of pledges on that side of the ball, though former Alabama defensive tackle commit Benito Jones brings clout to the trenches. Ole Miss still hasn't secured a defensive-back pledge in its 2016 class.

 

South Carolina

Yet another SEC squad in the picture, South Carolina seems to be among the strongest contenders on this list. The Gamecocks hosted Character in late January, and he's seen the program play in person multiple times.

South Carolina currently sits second in Character's 247Sports Crystal Ball outlook, carrying 29 percent of expert commitment predictions.

Coach Steve Spurrier already claimed a pledge from 4-star Peach State athlete Kyle Davis and landed 10 Georgia products last national signing day.

Consider the Gamecocks as Georgia's primary threat at this stage of the pursuit. A personal visit from Spurrier played a key role in securing South Carolina's spot on this list.

"It really did something for me and my opinion of the school," Character told Rowe.

Co-defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has also spent significant time with Character, serving as a primary recruiter.

 

Virginia Tech

The Hokies are an outlier on this list as the lone non-SEC team. Frank Beamer and his staff have done quite well with 2016 defensive backs, earning pledges from four prospects who figure to play roles in the secondary.

Assistant coach Torrian Gray has been the catalyst in Virginia Tech's recruitment of Character. His effectiveness should keep the Hokies involved throughout this process and could eventually push the team atop this list.

"(Gray) always makes me want to commit right then and there," Character told Rowe.

Look for Virginia Tech to work toward a campus visit in the near future with hopes of locking in a return trip during next season.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football: Biggest Questions That Must Be Answered This Spring

The biggest questions of the offseason are obvious in the SEC.

Texas A&M and Auburn need to fix their defenses, LSU's quarterback situation has to be rectified and Alabama's pass defense can't continue to give up plays in chunks and maintain its perch atop the SEC.

Those are the 40,000-foot issues surrounding the entire offseason, but what specifically needs to be solved during spring practice?

Our picks, based on gaping holes, personnel and pressure, are in this slideshow.

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Davon Durant Suspended by ASU After Arrest for Alleged Domestic Violence

Arizona State has suspended linebacker Davon Durant, a highly touted junior college transfer due to make his debut with the school in 2015, indefinitely after an arrest on allegations of domestic violence.   

AZCentral.com (h/t CBSSports.com's Jerry Hinnen) reported on Durant's suspension, which stems from an alleged incident that occurred on March 7. He is slated to have a preliminary hearing this Wednesday.

According to a report from TMZ.com on Monday, Durant was arrested earlier this month on a felony aggravated assault charge. The TMZ report provided more specific details of the incident:

Cops responded to the scene...where the woman told police she was having an argument with Durant in a black Chevy Tahoe -- when he demanded they she escort him up to her apartment so he could get his stuff (it sounds like they were breaking up).

The woman says she refused to let him inside...and he freaked out -- "hit her one time in the face and then grabbed her around the neck."

Doug Haller of AZCentral.com mentioned the protocol that led to Durant's suspension even with due process still to play out:

The Sun Devils finished 81st in total defense this last season (h/t NCAA.com) and could have used an infusion of talent from someone like Durant to give that side of the ball a spark.

Durant is rated as a 4-star recruit, the No. 6 junior college prospect in the country and the top-rated inside linebacker from the 2015 class by 247Sports' composite rankings. This hype had Durant penciled in for a starting role, but now his future with the program in Tempe is in question.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Adrian Klemm Suspended by UCLA: Latest Details and Comments

UCLA Bruins assistant football coach Adrian Klemm has been suspended by the school for violating NCAA rules.

Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com tweeted an official statement from UCLA on the matter Monday:

Klemm is near the top of the Bruins staff, serving as the running game coordinator, offensive line coach and associate head coach just below Jim Mora. The program leans on Klemm for a lot of diverse duties, so it will be interesting to see how his absence impacts preparation for the 2015 season.

On the strength of a strong national signing day, UCLA turned in the 12th-best recruiting class in the country, according to 247Sports' rankings. There's no doubt Klemm was instrumental to that momentum, as Rivals.com points out:

UCLA's own profile of Klemm lauds him as one of the best recruiters in college football.  

Having played in the NFL as a part of three Super Bowl champions with the New England Patriots, Klemm brings plenty of clout to the recruiting trail and to the UCLA locker room. Based on how high up on the staff he's been, it seemed only a matter of time before a promotion or a head-coaching gig elsewhere presented itself.

Now, Klemm's future is a bit cloudier amid this ongoing joint investigation. The hope for Bruins fans is that the violations aren't too severe and that Klemm can return to the sideline soon enough.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Would NIT-Like Playoff Tournament Work for College Football?

It's only a matter of time before college football's novel new postseason changes. Because we are a people who want the next thing before we have what we actually have, the days of a four-team playoff are already limited. 

Look at it this way: We're entering year two of the College Football Playoff and already alternatives are being tossed around. 

TCU head coach Gary Patterson suggested implementing a six-team playoff. (B/R colleague Barrett Sallee took a closer look at the feasibility of a six-team tournament.) ACC commissioner John Swofford said months ago that an eight-team playoff would be better for college football—and that was before anyone knew what the first four-team field would look like. 

"In terms of the number of teams, [eight] would probably be ideal," Swofford said, via Shawn Krest of the Herald-Sun

The inevitability of "playoff/bracket creep," in which the playoff naturally expands (because of money), is real. It is also, however, overexaggerated. A 32-team playoff isn't happening. 

The thing is, we may have been looking at it all wrong. What hasn't been discussed in detail is a viable alternative: expanding the playoffs...by creating a separate four-team playoff from the one that already exists. In other words, if the College Football Playoff is the NCAA tournament, then create the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) for college football.

Would it dilute the product already in place? Hardly. The four-team playoff has created compelling storylines and tension throughout the season. That wouldn't go away. The impact of the regular season has been retained in the playoff era and would still be a heated battle for position among the top four. 

A college football NIT only adds to the number of top-end teams playing one another at year's end. 

The demand for college football inventory is at an all-time high, and this would be a quality product. If last season's CFP rankings were used to determine the NIT field, Baylor, TCU, Mississippi State and Michigan State would have made up the field. 

TCU could have played with, and perhaps beaten, anyone last season. Maybe the Frogs could have settled the Baylor debate once and for all. Michigan State had just two losses—to the teams that ended up playing for the national championship. 

Oh, yeah. That's some good stuff. 

Every week during ESPN's playoff rankings show, producers could dedicate one segment to teams "on the bubble." If the season ended today, which four teams would be in and which would be NIT bound? To take it a step further, which four teams would be the "first four out" of the NIT?

It would check off the major boxes. College athletics admins have cited concerns over how an extra three games in an eight-team playoff would stretch players physically and academically. Whether or not those concerns are valid is a debate for another day. 

Either way, those roadblocks are cleared by creating the college football NIT. It's more precious inventory without a single team having to play more than 15 games throughout the season. 

Like the CFP, the television rights to those games would be up for bid. ESPN, Fox, CBS, NBC—any one of the major networks would have a chance to broadcast the games. And just like college basketball, college football's NIT would have on-campus games; only the championship would be bid out to a neutral site. 

If you stumped for on-campus playoff games in the past, you may get your wish yet. 

But that also leads to the one chief question: How would the NIT fit in to the already existing postseason? Power Five conferences have long-term contracts with the six major New Year's Eve/Day bowls. Last season, all four of the would-be NIT-bound teams played in the New Year's Six bowls. Baylor and Michigan State squared off in the Cotton Bowl, Mississippi State played Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl and TCU faced Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl. 

Those bowls can still have conference tie-ins and at-large selections. Nothing would change there. The NIT would be a separate tournament, and the tradition of bowl season would be untouched. This would be a welcome alternative considering that bowl execs and conference commissioners squirmed at the notion of the bowl system going away in the playoff era. 

The NIT would operate on its own island, yet be a part of the new, compelling postseason format that has taken college football to another level. Want to expand the playoffs? Open up another tournament. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The 10 Greatest Freshman Seasons in College Football History

Twenty-fourteen was a strong year for FBS freshmen, chief among them Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, Georgia running back Nick Chubb, Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett and Virginia safety Quin Blanding. 

But none of those players were truly transcendent.

Especially after 2012 and 2013—years that produced the first two freshman Heisman Trophy winners—the standard for recording an immortal freshman season has shifted. There are two fewer spots on this list, which means two more great freshman fell out of the top 10. (In this case, apologies to Marshall Faulk and Andy Katzenmoyer.)

The biggest factors for creating this list were individual metrics (stats, awards, etc.), but now more than ever, that's not always enough. Team success plays an increasingly vital role, as the best freshmen post huge numbers and elevate their teammates.

Sound off below and let us know what you think.

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Alabama Football Recruiting Offers of the Week

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — As Alabama began spring practice on Friday, the Crimson Tide didn’t let up in their recruiting efforts.

Several top prospects from the 2016 and 2017 classes—as well as a 2015 signee—were on hand to witness the action before UA let out for a week of spring break.

Some of those prospects received offers while they were on campus, officially turning the wheels on their possible Alabama commitments.

Let’s look at Alabama’s offers of the week, which included a couple of 5-stars on name alone from the 2016 class.

 

Eddie McDoom, 2016 3-star wide receiver from Winter Garden, Florida

A week after offering West Orange high school quarterback Ervin Barrett, Alabama went after his teammate at wide receiver after getting the latter on campus for a visit.

And the returns are already coming back. McDoom told AL.com’s Drew Champlin that Alabama jumped up to No. 1 on his list after the offer.

“Alabama brings out the best in players," McDoom told Champlin. "They know how to win and know what it takes to win. I would love to be part of that program."

Don’t expect a decision anytime soon. McDoom said he is waiting until it's closer to national signing day to announce his decision. He holds offers from Florida, Clemson, Louisville, Ohio State and Miami, among others, per his 247Sports profile.

"They want to make sure he passes the eye test," West Orange coach Bob Head told Champlin. "He's got everybody in the country on him too. He's got about 10 SEC offers. He's a freak. He's a really good kid and a good player."

He also has one of the best names in this class.

 

Tre Threat, 2016 3-star outside linebacker from Spanish Fort, Alabama

Alabama got in on a fast-rising in-state prospect, offering Threat after a visit to Tuscaloosa this weekend. It capped a big week for Threat, who got a visit from Auburn last Saturday.

"It really feels great," Threat told AL.com’s Ben Thomas. "To get two big SEC offers two weekends in a row is awesome. It really makes me feel like I am doing something right. I have to continue to work, get my body prepared and just be a playmaker on the field."

Per Thomas, Threat played baseball on Monday and Tuesday and was contacted by new outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi Tuesday night via Twitter about visiting. He made a decision to go on Wednesday and was in Tuscaloosa on Thursday. He left with an offer.

"Two things really stood out to me," Threat told Thomas. "I was impressed with the academic facilities and also the campus and environment in general. It was all really nice."

Threat said he plans to wait on his decision but wants to enroll in January. Alabama made sure they won’t be on the outside looking in when that time comes.

 

Lowell Narcisse Jr, 2017 4-star dual-threat quarterback from Saint James, Louisiana

Alabama continues to go after dual-threat quarterbacks to plug into Lane Kiffin’s system, this time offering a 2017 prospect.

Narcisse, currently rated the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the class by 247Sports, is already drawing a lot of attention, getting offers from Auburn and home-state LSU, among others.

He told 247Sports’ Justin Hokanson last week that Auburn was in the lead.

"Auburn's leading," he said, per Hokanson. "It's about where I feel most comfortable, so I wouldn't have to make a big change from high school to college."

But that was before Alabama jumped into the mix.

Narcisse is the Crimson Tide’s second quarterback offer for the 2017 class and its only dual-threat so far. His crystal ball gives LSU the edge for his signature right now.

He told Rivals.com’s Jason Howell on Sunday that he did not have any leaders at this time.

 

Tyler Vaughns, 2016 5-star wide receiver from LaPuente, California

Alabama’s highest-rated offer this week was the No. 2 wide receiver in the 2016 class, per the 247Sports composite, and the top one per 247Sports’ own rankings.

Lupoi continued to show why he was so coveted for Alabama’s staff. Vaughns told Rivals.com’s Andrew Bone that the newly promoted outside linebackers coach and Nick Saban gave Vaughns the offer via phone.

"All I can say is Alabama is one of the ones at the top," Vaughns told Bone. "I don't have a visit scheduled yet, but I hope to get there real soon."

The Crimson Tide have offered 26 wide receivers for 2016 already, with a commitment from one.

Alabama is also showing why it wanted to bring in West Coast ties like those of Lupoi and Kiffin.

 

Other offers from the week

Garrett Bolles, 2016 JUCO 4-star offensive tackle from Lehi, Utah (BYU commit)

Tyrie Cleveland, 2016 4-star wide receiver from Houston, Texas (Texas A&M commit)

Jean Delance, 2016 4-star offensive tackle from Mesquite, Texas

Landon Dickerson, 2016 3-star offensive tackle from Hudson, North Carolina

Elysee Mbem-Bosse, 2016 inside linebacker from Ellenwood, Georgia

Jonah Williams, 2016 4-star offensive tackle from Folsom, California

Devon Hunter, 2017 4-star quarterback from Chesapeake, Virginia

Khalan Laborn, 2017 running back from Virginia Beach, Virginia

Cordarrian Richardson, 2017 running back from Memphis, Tennessee

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and reporting were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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How Les Miles and a Cancer-Stricken Alabama Teen Transcended an SEC Rivalry

For one day last week in Mountain Brook, Alabama—a town located squarely in the heart of the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn—the city was painted purple and gold in homage of fellow Western Division rival LSU.

As serious as fans in the Southeastern part of the country take their college football rivalries, the town of Mountain Brook came together to support one of its own in hopes of taking a life-threatening experience and turning it into a life-changing one.

For 15-year-old Sid Ortis, a diehard LSU fan who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma—a rare form of bone cancer affecting around 400 kids in the U.S. between the ages of 10 and 20—last August, that’s exactly what happened in the moments after he returned home following lung surgery last Thursday.

The Mountain Brook community banded together to litter the area's streets and businesses with purple and gold balloons and ribbons on Sid’s route home from the hospital. However, Sid’s biggest surprise came in the form of a phone call from LSU head coach Les Miles.

“We realize that Coach Miles did not have to do that,” Sid’s father, Scott, told Bleacher Report recently. “He doesn’t know us from Adam. They are in the middle of spring practice. I’m sure there are a lot of other things he could be doing. For some reason, our son’s story has touched some folks.”

The call lasted around 10 to 15 minutes, and topics ranged from general life advice to the two speaking about the Tigers' miscues against Alabama last season.

“[Miles] was just really encouraging,” Scott said. “Sid was laying on the couch literally like he was talking to one of his buddies. He was on speakerphone. Coach Miles was talking to Sid as if he was one of his own son’s good friends.”

Scott and his wife, Lynn, are originally from Louisiana, and the family—which includes four more children—have been LSU season-ticket holders for quite some time. The call was a thrill for Sid and the family, especially since it was unexpected.

“He asked if he could pray with Sid and they prayed together. It was very humanizing. All of our friends here, who are Alabama and Auburn fans, they were like, ‘I kind of like that Les Miles guy now.’”

Both the LSU community and the Mountain Brook community have been supportive of Sid’s fight since the beginning.

According to Scott, Miles learned of Sid’s condition shortly after he was diagnosed back in August of 2014. A few weeks later, Miles sent over a signed picture and a hat.

Scott recently learned the story of how Miles found out about Sid’s condition. The connection came through LSU assistant athletic director Dr. Sam Nader, whose niece lives in the Mountain Brook area. Once she learned about the Ortis family’s plight and their love of LSU football, she alerted her uncle.

A similar story unfolded when a Facebook post illustrating the town decorated in purple and gold made its way to the LSU football office.

“From what I understand, [Dr. Nader] showed that to Coach Miles and he apparently had tears in his eyes,” Scott said. “We got home Thursday afternoon, and this thing just exploded. We have no idea how they got my wife’s cell phone number, but yesterday afternoon, my wife got a call from his secretary asking if Coach Miles could speak to Sid. This is no fanfare. He just called out of the blue. It’s pretty amazing.”

Even a few former LSU players have reached out to Sid.

Around Christmas, current Tennessee Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger sent him an LSU jersey and a handwritten note offering support. Recently graduated Tigers fullback Connor Neighbors, himself a Huntsville native, got in touch with Sid and the two frequently communicate via text.

For the Ortis family, the support from friends, family and members of the community has been overwhelming.

Mountain Brook is located about an hour away from Alabama’s campus and roughly 90 minutes away from Auburn’s.

Scott said it’s not uncommon for his kids to wear LSU gear to school and endure some good-natured heckling from classmates and neighbors.

However, community members organized a mass email to around 200 Mountain Brook residents in order to flood the town with LSU colors for Sid’s trek home from the hospital.

“It’s surreal because it’s always Alabama and Auburn around here,” Scott said. “We were one of the few LSU families here. The businesses here even had those balloons up. When they ran out of balloons, they started getting purple and gold ribbons and putting those on mailboxes. It just snowballed. It was amazing. You just don’t see purple and gold here like that.”

While the Ortis family has welcomed the outpouring of support for Sid, Scott and the family are well aware that Sid still faces a challenging battle with his condition.

He’s already had tumors removed from his leg, and his newest battle is now getting the disease out of his lungs—which is where this form of cancer often spreads.

Sid's recovery period from his most recent surgery ends Friday. Then, he will begin a routine where he goes in for five days of chemo treatments, gets two weeks off and repeats that cycle.

As Carol Robinson of AL.com notes, friends in the Mountain Brook community have set up a foundation called Strike Out Pediatric Cancer—which allows supporters to make pledge contributions for every strikeout thrown by Mountain Brook High School pitchers this season.

The last few days have brought a welcome distraction to an ordeal that has been an emotional roller coaster for Sid and his family. 

“It means a lot,” Scott said of the whole experience. “Sid is a 15-year-old kid. So when a major college coach just calls you out of the blue like that, it was humbling to be honest. To have that kind of support from everyone here, just to know that people care that much and that people are interested in reaching out and helping, it was a humbling experience.”

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Swag Like Sherman, Game Like Peterson: Meet the No. 1 CB Saivion Smith

Saivion Smith is a 5-star cornerback, per 247Sports' composite rankings, who is committed to LSU. Smith is the No. 1 cornerback in the 2016 class, and he will join a long line of great defensive backs to play for the Tigers.

Watch as Bleacher Report sits down with Smith to discuss his future.

What sort of impact can Smith have at LSU? Check out the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Top-Performing Quarterback Recruits from 2015 Dallas Elite 11 Regional

ARLINGTON, Texas — Elite 11 head coach Trent Dilfer is a California guy, but he will always have respect and a soft spot for the Texas high school quarterback.

Sunday was proof why Dilfer speaks so highly of the athletes from the Lone Star State. Eighty quarterbacks were in attendance at the Elite 11 Dallas regional, and eight were chosen to compete in the "Pressure Chamber," the final passing drill to determine the event's MVP.

After watching all of the quarterbacks, Dilfer had a flashback of 2012, when six Texans were chosen to compete in the Elite 11 national competition.

"It's as good as the year of [DeVante] Kincade and [Davis] Webb and those guys," Dilfer said. "At the time back then in March, there weren't many stars or offers or commits. People didn't think they were as good, but they were. This group's just like that; this group's going to blow up.

"You fall in love with Texas kids every year. They don't just say, 'Yes, sir.' They try to fix it."

Dilfer called Sunday's group of quarterbacks "really good athletes who are passers first." When the Pressure Chamber ended, 3-star quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole stood the tallest. The son of former Texas A&M and NFL receiver Chris Cole, Sterling-Cole was named the event MVP and also earned an invitation to The Opening this summer in Oregon.

Here are five of the top quarterbacks from Sunday, with comments from Dilfer included.

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Ohio State Football: Week 1 Spring Practice Stock Report

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State took the field for its first pair of practices in this year's spring session last week, and unsurprisingly there was no lack of intrigue surrounding the defending national champion.

Between some of college football's biggest stars, a three-time national champion head coach and 14 returning starters from the first ever College Football Playoff winner, there may not be a team more capable of churning out consistent headlines this offseason than the Buckeyes.

Oh, and there's that quarterback controversy everybody seems to be talking about.

That was what took center stage in Ohio State's first two practices of the spring last week, as for the first time since last summer, Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett all found themselves in uniform for the Buckeyes.

All three are at varying points in their respective recoveries and have different availabilities for the spring, but the first week of practice did give us a preview of what we can expect in college football's most-talked-about quarterback competition.

 

QB Conundrum

If you haven't heard by now, head coach Urban Meyer has one of the most unique quarterback controversies in the history of college football on the horizon, with three qualified candidates with three very distinct resumes.

A quick rundown for those who may have missed out: Miller was the two-time Big Ten MVP heading into 2014 before a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder ended his senior season before it started. Barrett stepped up to lead the Buckeyes to the cusp of the playoffs, but a broken ankle cut his season short in the regular-season finale.

This opened the door for Jones to lead Ohio State to three consecutive postseason wins, including the national championship.

All three are back this spring, and for now, all three are expected to be back in the fall as well.

Yet despite the hype surrounding it, Jones insists nothing has made this spring any different from previous ones.

"It’s always been a competition to us. Ever since I stepped on campus, when Kenny [Guiton] was here, it’s always been a competition," Jones said. "[The media], it’s the first time you guys get to see all three of us get a chance to play, but it’s always been a competition."

Coming off the momentum of a national title run, Jones is the favorite to start for the Buckeyes in their season opener on Sept. 7, and it also doesn't hurt that he's currently the healthiest of the three signal-callers.

With redshirt freshman Stephen Collier as the only other quarterback at full strength right now, Jones has taken the majority of Ohio State's first-team reps thus far—something he hasn't been able to say about any other spring practice in his college career.

"Cardale is getting more reps than he's ever gotten,” Meyer said following the first spring practice of the year. "He's still almost a rookie—an older rookie that hasn't had a lot of reps."

As for Barrett, the redshirt sophomore appears to be ahead of schedule in his recovery, dropping back and throwing passes, although his mobility is still limited. The reigning College Football Performance Awards National Freshman of the Year, Barrett isn't putting a timetable for when he'll be back at full strength but anticipates he'll back back to full-go by the summer.

"I can't rush it. I'm not going to rush it," Barrett said. "I broke my leg, so I'm trying to get back as healthy as I can be so I can play the way I want to and be as healthy as I want to." 

As for Miller, he's the furthest behind of the three, as he's still unable to throw a football while continuing to recover from his injury. His refusal to talk to the media on Thursday left the impression that he still could be keeping his options open for a potential offseason transfer, but Barrett did his best to stop the speculation.

"I'm not Braxton, but being that I do talk to him like every day, I think we'd both be shocked if he was to leave," Barrett said. "I don't know. I think it's really ridiculous, honestly, but I don't know."

Regardless of how it shakes out, Meyer knows he has an unprecedented situation on his hands. Finding a quality quarterback won't be the hard part for the fourth-year Ohio State head coach—it's the benching of two others that he knows will cause stress.

"How's it going to play out? I don't know," Meyer said. "I've never been in this situation."

 

Freshmen Phenoms

Throughout their run to the national title, the 2014 Buckeyes received help from several redshirt freshmen, including Barrett, Darron Lee, Eli Apple, Jalin Marshall and Billy Price.

If the first week of spring practice is any indication, 2015 may follow the same script.

When asking the veteran players which younger teammates stood out in the first week of practice, a couple of second-year players consistently came up.

The first was wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, who actually saw game action last year before tendinitis in his knee brought an end to his freshman season. He is now back at full strength for the spring after receiving a medical redshirt.

Senior Joshua Perry was the first to bring up Dixon when asked about players on the other side of the ball who had caught his eye, before adding fellow redshirt freshmen Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin to the mix.

Jones also mentioned Dixon when asked how the Buckeyes plan on replacing Devin Smith, who was the country's best deep-threat wide receiver a season ago.

"So far we’re just running around in shorts, but guys like Johnnie Dixon and Parris Campbell and Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith—four guys right there have that deep-ball threat," Jones said. "It’s just all about who’s giving us the best chance to replace Devin."

On the defensive side of the ball, the name that's been brought up the most is that of redshirt freshman Sam Hubbard, who arrived at Ohio State as a linebacker, moved to tight end and now finds himself on the defensive line.

At 6'5" and 244 pounds, the Cincinnati native has great size for his new position and apparently has been putting it to good use.

"He's got speed off the edge...a motor that doesn't stop," former Buckeyes right tackle Darryl Baldwin said of Hubbard following his pro day on Friday. "He's just got really the whole package."

 

Race for Right Tackle

Speaking of Baldwin, he's just one of four starters from last year's team whom Ohio State will attempt to replace on offense from last season, and the only one on the offensive line. 

Outside of quarterback, the Buckeyes' race at right tackle might be the most intriguing position battle on the roster, as it features an elder statesman and a rising second-year player.

Although he's flipped between the offensive and defensive lines throughout his career, Chase Farris has consistently been mentioned by Meyer as one of the players who's added depth to a formerly depleted offensive line. This could finally be the year when he's used as a starter, as the senior from Elyria, Ohio was with Ohio State's first team at right tackle last Tuesday.

“He had an amazing offseason," senior left tackle Taylor Decker said of Farris. "I’ve always loved the way he works. I’m a big fan of his. He’s one of my friends, so I’m really excited to see him get a shot at that spot. Because if he wins it, it will definitely be deserving."

But in order to remain Ohio State's starting right tackle, Farris will have to hold off perhaps the better long-term solution for Meyer in sophomore Jamarco Jones.

A former 4-star prospect, Jones served as the Buckeyes' backup right tackle a season ago but was never asked to play significant snaps. At 6'4" and 306 pounds, the Chicago native already has good size for his age and position, and may simply be the more talented of Meyer's two current options.

“He’ll show you flashes and you’ll be like, ‘Wow, this kid could be a really great player,'" Decker said of Jones. "Consistency is a big thing for him."

If Jones can find that consistency this spring, the right tackle battle will only heat up in Columbus this fall. For now, Farris remains the favorite, but that only counts for so much one week into spring practice.

 

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

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Arkansas Football: Complete 2015 Spring Practice Primer

One hot month, and suddenly Arkansas isn't the punchline to a depressing SEC West joke anymore.

After shutting out LSU and Ole Miss in November and holding Texas to a shanked pitching wedge worth of total offense (59 yards) in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, the Razorbacks are being mentioned in the discussion to win the SEC West.

Is that real, or is it just a product of a hot month to close the season?

The answer to that question starts getting answered on Monday, when third-year head coach Bret Bielema raises the curtain on Arkansas' spring practice.

 

What to Watch on Offense

When former offensive coordinator Jim Chaney moved on to take the same job at Pitt, it left Bielema in a bind to find a pro-style college coach, which are rapidly become the coaching equivalent of unicorns. The answer for Bielema was in the head coaching ranks, where former Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos left the program to take over as an assistant in the SEC.

How much will change? Not much, considering four offensive linemen and running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins—both of whom were 1,000-yard rushers a year ago—are back with the Hogs.

"We've always felt really strongly about having two major guys and one role player, and I think J-Will will take the lead on the role that he'll play his year," Bielema told Bleacher Report.

The biggest question is whether or not quarterback Brandon Allen can evolve into a difference-maker rather than simply a game manager. He managed games well last year, throwing 20 touchdowns and only five picks while playing through injuries late in the year, and returns leading wide receiver Keon Hatcher and weapon Hunter Henry at tight end.

What's more, Enos produced 3,000-yard passers in four of his last five seasons as Central Michigan's head coach. Bielema has had exactly one of those—Russell Wilson at Wisconsin in 2011 (3,175 yards)—during his entire head coaching career.

He's not going to come to Fayetteville and sling it all over the field, but he could swing the pendulum slightly toward a more open offense, which would open those holes for Williams and Collins even more on the ground.

If Allen becomes a weapon this spring, it will signal that the Hogs will truly be dangerous this fall.

 

What to Watch on Defense

The catalyst to Arkansas' late-season success last year was a defense that finished second in the SEC in rush defense (114.62 YPG) and one of the most physical front sevens in the SEC. 

The problem, though, is that linebacker Martrell Spaight, defensive end Trey Flowers and defensive tackle Darius Philon—three of the most important pieces of last season's puzzle—are all gone. 

Talented big men return up front, including defensive ends JaMichael Winston and Deatrich Wise, as well as defensive tackles Bijhon Jackson and Taiwan Johnson. But can they impact the pocket in the same way as last year's crew?

As Josh Bertaccini of KSQM 92.1 The Ticket in Fayetteville notes, it's all about the youth on defense:

If Arkansas can finish the season with less than five yards per play, watch out for the Hogs. A new offense with veteran pieces when combined with a stifling defense is a dangerous combination.

 

Freshman to Keep an Eye on

With the defensive line being the most important piece of the puzzle, the focus will be on true freshman early enrollee Hjalte Froholdt.

The 6'4", 282-pounder from Warren, Ohio, hails from Denmark and only was introduced five years ago according to Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani, playing both defensive line and tight end.

"We put on some way oversized equipment because their club didn't have anything else," Froholdt told Kirpalani. "We got taught the fundamentals because we had some great coaches. We pretty much were taught everything because it wasn't like you just play offensive line or defensive line. Over there, you play everything because you had to play where you were needed."

That athleticism will be a huge benefit for Froholdt, who could earn early playing time as a rotational defensive end and perhaps a role player in specific packages that feature multiple tackles lining up at end. 

 

Coach Bielema's Toughest Task

Staying in the proper gear.

Arkansas' close to the 2014 season dramatically shifted the trajectory of the program, despite the fact that Bielema still only has two SEC wins over his first two seasons and boasts a sub-.500 record overall as the head coach of the Hogs.

Just how quickly have things changed? Sporting News has Arkansas ranked fourth in the country in its way-too-early top 25.

Not the SEC West or the SEC. The country.

Hello, expectations.

Bielema's biggest issue is making sure that his players don't buy into the hype, stay on the same path that Bielema and his staff has had them on over the last two seasons and continue the rebuilding process of a program that was in turmoil just two seasons ago.

Before Arkansas hits overdrive and speeds toward the College Football Playoff, it needs to prove that it can contend with the SEC's big boys on a consistent basis. 

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio 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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College Football's Most Important Offers of the Week

It’s safe to say that USC has emerged from its recent stretch of NCAA sanctions to regain its status as one of the nation’s premier recruiting powerhouses. 

Fresh off the heels of signing the nation’s No. 2 class in the 2015 cycle, Steve Sarkisian and his staff are busy laying the groundwork for success in the 2016 and 2017 classes.

Last week, the Trojans threw their hat in the ring with a handful of the nation’s top rising juniors.

In fact, four of the nation’s top 30 prospects in the 2017 class earned offers from USC.

The Trojans offered a pair of defensive line standouts in 5-star defensive end A.J. Epenesa and 4-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson.

Epenesa rates as the No. 2 player overall in the 2017 class, while Wilson—who also netted offers last week from Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee and UCLA—checks in at No. 13 overall.

Sarkisian also tendered 4-star quarterback Shawn Robinson, per Brian Perroni of 247Sports, and 4-star athlete Maleik Gray

Robinson is the nation’s top dual-threat passer in the 2017 class and the No. 15 player overall, while Gray—who was also offered by the Wolverines—rates as the nation’s top athlete.

It’s still early for 2017 recruits, but USC is clearly being aggressive in identifying the top targets in the country for the 2017 cycle.

Given the momentum within the program, expect elite out-of-state recruits such as this quartet to give the Trojans a strong look over the next few months.

 

Alabama Hits California for 2016

Nick Saban leaves no stone unturned in his effort to keep Alabama’s roster among the nation’s most talented outfits. 

Last week, he and his staff turned to the West Coast—specifically the state of California—to offer two of the nation’s top 100 prospects in the 2016 class.

Scout’s Brandon Huffman reports that the Tide offered 4-star offensive lineman Jonah Williams. The 6’5”, 272-pounder is the nation’s No. 9 offensive tackle prospect and the No. 73 player overall in the 2016 class.

Another Golden State standout who received an Alabama offer was 5-star wideout Tyler Vaughns. 

The 6’3”, 175-pounder—who is rated as the nation’s No. 2 pass-catcher—hauled in 83 passes for 1,578 yards as a junior.

Given the Tide’s recent history in attracting explosive receivers, the offer is likely one that Vaughns is bound to seriously consider.

 

FSU JUCO Commit Nets Trio of Impressive Offers 

Last week, Florida State landed a pledge from 4-star JUCO linebacker Tyree Horton

It appears the ‘Noles found a diamond in the rough before the rest of the nation, as Horton’s stock has seemingly exploded in the last couple of weeks. 

The 6’0”, 225-pounder picked up offers from Alabama, Oklahoma and TCU last week.

While Horton has given no indicators that he is wavering on his pledge to the ‘Noles, the new wave of interest is likely to keep FSU on its toes in its quest to keep his commitment.

 

Michigan Offers Pair of 2016 Georgia Skill Standouts 

Jim Harbaugh has been aggressive in handing out offers all over the country for the 2016 class.

Last week was another busy week for the Wolverines staff, as they were active in the Peach State in offering a pair of skill standouts from Georgia.

2016 4-star athlete Mecole Hardman and 3-star tight end Christian Roberson, per Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247, both netted offers from the Wolverines.

Hardman, who could play either receiver or corner at the next level, has a trio of SEC powers in Georgia, Tennessee and Auburn as schools standing out for him currently.

On the other hand, Roberson—who has picked up offers from Michigan State, Florida and Missouri since January—is still in the beginning stages of his recruitment.

Regardless, the Wolverines are making a concerted effort to target top athletes around the country, regardless of region.

 

Best of the Rest

Alabama is the newest offer for 2016 4-star offensive lineman Jean Delance—who decommitted from Oklahoma last week, per B/R’s Damon Sayles.

2016 4-star tight end Devin Asiasi picked up an offer from Auburn, according to Adam Gorney of Rivals

The Tigers joined Stanford in offering 2016 4-star safety Damar Hamlin.

Florida offered 2016 3-star running back Brandon Stephens.

2016 4-star quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was offered by Mississippi State.

USC, Arizona State and UCLA all offered 2016 4-star athlete Melquise Stovall.

Oregon offered 2016 4-star athlete Brandon Burton. The Ducks also offered 2016 4-star linebacker Darrian Franklin.

The Ducks joined Stanford in offering 2016 3-star corner Troy Warner.

Scout’s Greg Biggins reports that Oregon State offered 2016 4-star defensive end Oluwole Betiku.

Stanford and Florida State offered 2016 4-star linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch.

2016 4-star athlete Ahmir Mitchell picked up an offer from Wisconsin.

Michigan and California are the newest offers for 2016 4-star receiver Jack Jones.

2016 4-star defensive tackle and current Baylor commitment Jordan Elliott picked up offers from Michigan and Florida State.

Penn State offered 2016 4-star safety Craig Watts.

2016 3-star running back Abdul Adams was offered by Iowa.

The Hawkeyes joined Louisville in offering 2016 running back Malik Staples.

Florida State offered 2016 4-star linebacker Dontavious Jackson.

Washington offered 2017 4-star athlete Thomas Graham, per Adam Gorney of Rivals.

Gorney reports that Michigan offered 2017 4-star teammates in athlete Greg Johnson and receiver Joseph Lewis. The Wolverines also offered offensive lineman Jake Moretti.

Miami offered 2017 4-star receiver Trevon Grimes.

Andrew Bone of Rivals reports that Clemson offered 2017 athlete Malcolm Askew.

The Tigers joined Florida in offering 2017 4-star corner Stanford Samuels III.

According to Adam Friedman of Rivals, Alabama and Auburn offered 2017 running back Khalan Laborn.

The Tide also offered fellow 2017 running back Cordarrian Richardson, per Barton Simmons of 247Sports.

 

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

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