NCAA Football News

Big 12 Football: Ranking the Top 25 Players Heading into 2014

Football in the Big 12 Conference has taken a reputation hit since the 2013 season ended, the product of only three players from the league leaving early for the NFL draft and a grand total of just 17 getting drafted overall.

Take those numbers for what you will, but one thing is certain: Those that will represent the Big 12 on the field this fall will be far more prized by professional scouts and teams. Bleacher Report NFL expert Matt Miller has four from the league projected in his early 2015 mock draft, double the tally that was taken in the first round this past draft, while many others are drawing interest for their future pro potential.

For now, though, they're all still college players, and together should make the Big 12 a heck of a league to watch this year.

Here's our look at the 25 best Big 12 players heading into the 2014 season.

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3 Reasons 5-Star RB Damien Harris Will Sign with Michigan

Once upon a time, Damien Harris was committed to Michigan's 2015 class. By verbally pledging to the Wolverines, the 5'11," 205-pound Berea Madison Southern (Kentucky) running back served as a shot of adrenaline to the arm of a program in need of 5-star services in the backfield. 

And then he changed his mind, causing a rift that hit fans like a ton of bricks.

Freed of his ties, Harris unofficially visited Florida, Florida State, Ohio State and Kentucky. According to 247Sports, he has "warm" interest in Alabama and Auburn, which complicates matters. 

However, as of early June, Harris remains as a possibility for coach Brady Hoke, whose talent-laden recruiting hauls continually quench the thirst of an extraordinarily dedicated fanbase. In essence, Hoke's success on the trail overshadows otherwise miserable seasons by Michigan standards. 

The 2012 and 2013 classes were more than kind to Hoke, finishing as the No. 6- and No. 4-ranked collections, respectively, per 247Sports. Without Harris, Michigan's 2015 class dwells at No. 33. But if he were to commit and sign, the Wolverines could finish among the top 15 come national signing day in February. 

On May 22, Fred Jackson, running backs coach, paid an in-home visit to the Harris household. When it's all said and done, the veteran's communication with Harris could prove as a difference-maker in the process. 

Now it's time to review what else Michigan has done, should do and could do to get Harris in a winged helmet. 


He Was Michigan's, First!

It was mentioned just moments ago, but it bears repeating: Michigan was Harris' original choice. The firing of Al Borges, the former OC, rattled him a bit.

But Harris has kept in close contact, keeping the door open and Maize and Blue fans eagerly anticipating the latest news. 


OC Philosophy

While at Alabama, Doug Nussmeier coached some of the best talent that recruiting could recruit. He's not a national name, but a well-known entity nonetheless. During a recent interview with SB Nation, Harris admitted that he wasn't overly familiar with Michigan's new OC but is working on changing that, per Luke Zimmerman:

"The coaches at Ohio State — Coach Meyer, Coach Hinton, Coach Drayton — I've talked to them for a long time. But you know Coach Nussmeier at Michigan, he hasn't been there for very long. I'm just now starting to build a relationship with him."

Nussmeier is best known for his work with quarterbacks. But he's also known for forming bonds with his athletes, and that'll come into play while Harris mulls over his options. Players should want to play for coaches who can advance them in life, on the field and in the classroom. 

Ringing public endorsements never hurt, and Nussmeier received them from Hoke and Nick Sabanvia


Doug is a highly respected offensive coordinator and has earned a reputation as being a great mentor to quarterbacks, specifically, where he's coached Pro Bowlers, top NFL draft choices and Heisman Trophy finalists. Doug has been successful at every coaching stop with his balanced and explosive offenses, and he brings national championship experience. He is an excellent addition to our coaching staff and football program...(goes on to welcome Nussmeier family)


Doug did an outstanding job for us during his time at the University of Alabama and I'm sure he will do a great job at the University of Michigan. He is a bright coach who works hard and brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to work each and every day. Our production and balance the last two years has been very good and he also brought a lot to the table in terms of coaching the quarterbacks...(goes on to thank Nussmeier family)

The Tide's past under and Michigan potential with Nussmeier could also be a deciding factor for Harris. 


Wolverines RB Tradition

In all likelihood, Jackson and the rest of the staff have recruiting down to a science. They should. Regardless of how smooth one is, it's often helpful to put the prospect in the mood. By doing so, it generates emotion—and in some cases, it can encourage desired results, which, in this scenario, would be a commitment. 

As the No. 1-ranked athlete at his position, Harris has his pick of the litter. But for fun, let's say that the Wolverines have hit him with something similar to the following narrative:

Damien, it's a brisk Saturday in late November at The Big House, and more than 110,000 loyal supporters are chanting your name—oh, and it's 4th-and-goal from Ohio State's 3-yard line with one tick remaining on the clock. And then it happens: Everything becomes a blur, and the ball is thrust toward your abdomen by the quarterback—seconds later, you find yourself being mobbed by teammates who are celebrating your game-winning touchdown. 

Doesn't that sound like something you'd like to do? Don't you want to be a major part of one of the game's most storied rivalries? Michigan is for you, Damien. 

OK, so it's not perfect, but the wooing technique is certainly an important part of the sales pitch. Again, for fun, let's assume that Jackson also has that part nailed. After all, in 2013, he convinced Derrick Green, who was once thought to be the top back of the class, and De'Veon Smith, a consensus top-20er, to look past the others and head to Ann Arbor. 

However, it's mandatory to tread lightly when using the tradition speech. Old stories don't win today's games, and Harris probably couldn't care less about being a featured back on a team that's spinning its wheels in the mud. But Michigan has to do much more than serenade the Bluegrass State's prized ball-carrier; it has to prove that it's worthy of rejecting the rest of college football. 


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

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Position-by-Position Preview of Tennessee's 2014 Roster

The Tennessee Volunteers are going to be full of new faces in 2014, and having a roster handy those first few games may not be a bad idea.

All of the Vols' signees—besides Chris Weatherd—are on campus, officially on the roster and ready to participate in summer workouts, which means the team is coming more into focus.

The good news is head coach Butch Jones is getting the same level of injected defensive talent now that he did offensively prior to spring practice.

The bad news is there isn't a lot of time to get them ready to play Southeastern Conference football.

"The challenging part is the individuals on offense, most of our recruiting class was here this spring," Jones told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview. "They now have a spring under their belt from a maturation standpoint. (Defensively) now you’re relying on 17- or 18-year-old freshmen coming in, and all they have is June, July and August to get ready to play a full season.

"But the realities of where we're at is there are going to be a lot of freshmen that have to play defensively. A lot of it's going to be in the interior front and at the linebacker position and even in the secondary. It's going to be critical we extract every ounce of value from each day."

So, where do all the new players fit? A lot of that still needs to be sorted out, but now that everybody has arrived (besides Weatherd, who still has a shot to get into UT, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel's Evan Woodbery), the puzzle pieces are beginning to fall into place.

So, let's take a look at an early position-by-position breakdown of UT's 2014 roster.

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Position-by-Position Preview of the Georgia Bulldogs' 2014 Roster

Summertime is here and the preview magazines are starting to hit the newsstands. So the 2014 college football season is right around the corner.

With the new season coming, expectations will be high for every team in the FBS. And that is no different for the Georgia Bulldogs, who return a deep roster.

There will be some new faces like there are every year, and there are some key players who were on last year’s team who will be missed. But looking at each position, the Bulldogs could have the most talented roster in the SEC.

But is that good enough to win the SEC and have a chance to play in the College Football Playoff?

Here’s a position-by-position preview of the Bulldogs’ 2014 roster.

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5 Recruits Who Could Join 4-Star RB Taj Griffin at Oregon

Oregon has a commitment from 4-star speedster Taj Griffin. From Georgia, Griffin is a dynamic offensive recruit who can do damage as a runner and receiver.

The 5'10", 175-pounder has terrific quickness to launch himself through alleys, plus he is lethal in space. The Ducks will use Griffin's pledge to attract more talented recruits to join their class, and several top-tier prospects are keeping close tabs on what's happening in Eugene.

A 5-star defensive end digs Oregon a ton, while a 4-star safety could spurn both of his local schools to become a Duck. Also, a quarterback could choose to join Griffin.

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Big Ten Football: Power Ranking 5 Teams with the Best Chance to Win Conference

Michigan State was nothing short of impressive in 2013, blowing past the best the Big Ten could offer in route to an 8-0 conference record and a win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game—all by double-digit margins. Do the Spartans have another championship run in them, or will we see a changing of the guard in 2014?

Michigan State needs to reload its defense. Ohio State, unquestionably the second-best team in the Big Ten in 2013, has its own share of holes to fill. Both teams return impressive talent, but with conference realignment, both the Buckeyes and Spartans are now part of the new East Division.

What about the West and its soon-to-be divisional powerhouses? Can Nebraska shake off yet another four-loss season (its sixth straight)? Can Wisconsin reclaim its once dominant role?

We'll break down the five teams we think have the best shot at winning the Big Ten title in 2014, and we've broken them down into the top two teams in each division, plus a fifth "wild card" team.

Football is a crazy sport where anything can happen, but we're fairly confident these five teams have the best shot at making a run for the Big Ten title—and the likely College Football Playoff berth that could come with it.

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2015 College Football Recruits Who Deserve More Hype

The 2015 class has several prospects who are surrounded by a ton of hype. While many of them deserve it, the hype they've gained has taken the spotlight away from other recruits more than it should. 

Looking down the board, several players deserve more hype and acclaim than they're currently receiving. A 4-star receiver should riot over not having an extra star, and a speedy running back deserves to be ranked much higher than where he is.

Also, a talented 4-star cornerback and a 3-star pass-rusher are better players than many people think.

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Alabama Football Recruiting: 4 Reasons Why Daron Payne Will Sign with Alabama

Daron Payne‘s recruitment is the latest extension of the most heated rivalry in college football between Alabama and Auburn.

Both in-state powers are trying to lure the 5-star defensive tackle from Birmingham, and he’s gone on record stating that each program has a special pull for him. 

“I grew up an Auburn fan, so I’ve been wanting to play for them all of my life.” Payne told Bryan Matthews of Auburn Undercover. “Then I got the Alabama offer, and then (it’s like) everybody wants to play for ‘Bama.”

Similar to the recruitments of Rashaan Evans and Reuben Foster, Payne’s recruitment will be a fight to the end between Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn. 

What are some of the main reasons Tide fans have to be confident in landing Payne?

*Unless otherwise noted, all rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Auburn Fan's Groom's Cake Commemorates Ending to Iron Bowl

Billy Gilley is apparently a huge Auburn Tigers football fan, so his family decided to do something pretty awesome for his groom's cake. 

The family got a cake made of Jordan-Hare Stadium with the score tied at 28-28 against Alabama with one second remaining on the clock. The cake is an obvious reference to Auburn's famous play this past season, when Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a game-ending touchdown.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Position-by-Position Review of Texas A&M's 2014 Roster

The Texas A&M football team has a roster that is almost completely stocked full of SEC-level talent. There are still some depth issues at certain positions, but the Texas A&M football coaches have done a tremendous job of turning over the roster in the last three recruiting classes. 

In order to be an elite program in the SEC, you need to be three-deep at every position. When the Aggies entered the SEC in 2012, they had good starters but suspect backups. In 2013, they lost a lot of those starters on defense and were forced to go with a youth movement that resulted in one of the worst defenses in the country. 

The Aggies will benefit from suffering through those youthful mistakes in 2013, with a more experienced roster in 2014. The Aggies are not three-deep across the board yet, but they are making strides in that direction. 

Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have recruited consecutive top10 classes to Aggieland. The team's fans will really begin to see some of the fruit of that labor in 2014. 

This is a position-by-position breakdown of the Aggies roster in 2014. 


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Lane Kiffin Comments on Alabama Football Offense and More

A new era is beginning in Alabama with Lane Kiffin now in charge of the Crimson Tide offense. The former USC and Tennessee head coach took over the role of offensive coordinator this offseason and has slowly integrated his system in Tuscaloosa.  

Apparently much of that system will revolve around an immensely talented backfield. Kiffin spoke about how the process has gone thus far, via Mike Herndon of

"As you guys know extremely well, I think the offense is led by the tailbacks," Kiffin said. "There probably aren't three more talented tailbacks in the NFL on a roster than we're fortunate to be able to work with at Alabama."

That trio includes T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, along with a healthy dose of Derrick Henry. While Yeldon comes into the season as the bell cow for Kiffin's offense, the junior clearly won't be the only player fighting for snaps during the 2014 season.

But are the three better than the top-three backs of NFL teams? Ben Maller of Fox Sports Radio gives his thoughts on a former NFL team that Kiffin coached:

If all three backs are able to produce during the upcoming season with a good share of the touches, Kiffin might be able to see all three live up to his hype. After losing a two-time National Championship-winning quarterback in AJ McCarron to the NFL, leaning on such a talented trio might be the perfect fix for their loss behind center.

After a stable of backs like Eddie Lacy, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson have made their impact in the SEC, Yeldon and company might just make a dent of their own this season.

With the three-headed monster that Kiffin believes he has in Tuscaloosa, this might be yet another championship season for the Tide. But if his expectations for the three backs fall short—which we've seen happen multiple times to Kiffin—the 39-year-old coach might have his name on the hot seat early in his career.


Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter.

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USC Football: 5 Reasons Why 5-Star CB Iman Marshall Will Sign with the Trojans

Though Steve Sarkisian has yet to coach a game for the Trojans, he has already made a significant impact on USC's recruiting fortunes.

Following up a fantastic finish to the 2014 recruiting class, Sark has already crafted what many think is a top 15 group of players, who have given the Trojans their verbal pledge for next year.

Now working with a full complement of scholarships after completing the NCAA imposed sanctions, the USC recruiting brain trust is not sitting on its laurels, though.

Indeed, the Trojans still have a bevy of high profile recruits on their radar and one of the most highly regarded of those players is the subject of this slideshow.

Iman Marshall is a big (6'1.5", 190 pounds) cornerback who is regarded as one of the finest prep players in the nation.

Rated a 5-star prospect by, the Polytechnic High School (Long Beach, Calif.) product has everything and more one looks for in a lock down corner.

Marshall, whose nickname is "Biggie," is a priority for USC and though he is giving the Trojans a very long look, outwardly he remains mum on where he will wind up.

However, here are five reasons why Marshall will wind up in the Cardinal and Gold when all is said and done.

Or at least why he should.

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Big 12 Football: Power Ranking 5 Teams with the Best Chance to Win Conference

With the emergence of the new College Football Playoff, 2014-15 may provide the Big 12 its best chance to win a national championship since 2005, when Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns electrified the nation with a thrilling victory over USC. 

Baylor stands the best chance to repeat at conference champs, and they were one fateful night in Stillwater, Oklahoma, away from going to the BCS National Championship. 

Oklahoma as always will be dangerous, while Bill Snyder and Kansas State could be a dark horse to emerge after an up-and-down season in 2013-14. 

With that, let's rank the top five teams in the conference most likely to hoist the Big 12 trophy this upcoming season. 

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Arkansas Football: Bielema's 3 Biggest Challenges for Razorbacks in 2014

Keep your sanity a little bit longer, because the start of the college football season is just three short months away. The Arkansas Razorbacks have an early start this year with their season opener at Auburn scheduled for August 30.

There's still a lot of work the Razorbacks have to do to prepare for their opener against the national runner-up from last year.

They don't just have to put in work for the Auburn game, either. As a member of the SEC, the Hogs have a tough schedule every year. So, they have to continue to get better to prepare for a number of tough battles throughout the year.

Head coach Bret Bielema and his team are going to have challenges—and lots of them. But what are the biggest challenges Bielema's Hogs will have in 2014?

We'll go over the three things that will challenge Arkansas the most in the upcoming season.

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Oklahoma State Football: Analyzing the Impact of Devon Thomas' Arrest

Earlier this week, the news came out that, on May 28, Oklahoma State running back Devon Thomas was arrested in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, after being accused with five different felonies related to an armed heist.

If you want to get into the gritty details of the case, check the linked news article above; however, this article will stray away from what the young man allegedly did and focus on the potential impact this event could have on the Oklahoma State football team.

Thomas was a talented, young back who was one of Oklahoma State's four early enrollees this spring. Given that extra practice time and his combination of size and power, he might have had a chance to take over goal-line and short-yardage duties in the fall.

Obviously, that's unlikely to happen now, but the Cowboys aren't exactly hurting for running backs.

Desmond Roland is back after a solid junior campaign that saw him rush for 811 yards and 13 touchdowns. With Jeremy Smith graduating, it would stand to reason that Roland's number should go up, as he'll be in line to start for the Pokes from Day 1.

Barring injury, I would expect Roland to fairly easily top 1,000 yards rushing. Additionally, he has the size to be serviceable in short yardage; that said, Thomas' skill as a short-yardage specialist would have given Roland a few much-needed rests throughout the course of the game.

Unfortunately, without Thomas there really isn't a guy on the roster who plays like Thomas or Jeremy Smith before him.

Behind Roland is Tyreek Hill, who just might be the fastest player in the nation this season. Hill certainly doesn't have the same size as Thomas, but given his playmaking ability, most assumed he'd get more touches than Thomas anyway.

After that, the Pokes have Rennie Childs, who showed a lot of heart in 2013. Childs has all the talent and many of his teammates have called him the "running back of the future." However, he plays more like a feature back than the short-yardage specialist we're looking for.

The best option might just be Jeremy Seaton. Seaton is a mountain of a man at 6'2" and 250 pounds, making him a perfect option to take over for Kye Staley at the fullback position.

Further, Seaton played tight end in high school, meaning he possesses good hands, something that makes him very versatile on the goal line.

If anybody is going to become the Pokes feature back on the goal line, it has to be Seaton. He's bigger than Jeremy Smith and has better hands. Don't be surprised to see Seaton amass double-digit touchdowns this season.

With 2014 seemingly taken care of by players already on the team, now it's time to look ahead and see if Thomas' arrest could have an impact on the Pokes in 2015 and beyond.

Obviously, Childs has already been mentioned as a guy many people have faith in, but the question of what impact this arrest could have is probably best answered in two words.

Ronald Jones.

ESPN ranks Jones as a 4-star running back, and he could easily add that fifth star with another big season in 2014. ESPN also calls him the third-best running back in the nation. 247Sports isn't far behind, naming him the fifth-best back in the country.

Jones isn't as powerful as Thomas, but that doesn't really matter when you run for 2,406 yards and 39 touchdowns in your junior year of high school. And he's playing Texas high school football, so you have to respect him. I mean, those are Adrian Peterson numbers.

Now, I'm not saying Jones is going to be as good as one of the greatest running backs to ever play football; however, I think it's fair to say that, if the Pokes can keep him committed, he's going to make people quickly forget about the loss of Thomas.

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Michigan State Football Team Hints at New All-White Uniforms

The Michigan State Spartans have had some interesting jerseys over the past few seasons, and it now looks like there's a possibility they could have some new all-white uniforms.

Chris Vannini from tweeted the picture of the mannequin above displaying the possible new uniforms. Spartan Nation posted pictures of the all-white jersey with the traditional helmet at the Duffy Daugherty Building on Facebook.

[Facebook, Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Vince Young, Mack Brown and Matthew McConaughey Pose in Most Texas Picture Ever

Three men symbolize the state of Texas: Vince Young, Mack Brown and Matthew McConaughey. The Texas Longhorns went 158-48 under Brown over his 15-year stretch as head coach of the football team, and Young led the Longhorns to the 2005 national championship.

As for McConaughey, well, that notorious Texas drawl says it all.

The three of them enjoyed dinner together Friday night and took this glorious group photo. Hook 'em?

Fun dinner with VY and Matthew Mc. Two of the best at what they do and even better people and friends.

— Mack Brown (@UT_MackBrown) May 31, 2014

[Mack Brown]

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