NCAA Football News

4-Star QB Recruit Brandon McIlwain Tweets Top 6 Schools

Junior Brandon McIlwain, a dual-threat quarterback and one of the top 150 players in the 2016 recruiting class, narrowed his list of potential colleges down to six Tuesday evening.

The Pennsylvania prospect will officially choose between Auburn, Duke, Florida, Penn State, South Carolina and Virginia Tech:

McIlwain is the No. 149 overall player and No. 6 dual-threat passer in the country and the No. 4 prospect from Pennsylvania.

He is short for the position (6'0") but has a live arm and top-end athleticism. ESPN Scouts Inc. (subscription required) said he "slings the ball with authority," calling him "the perfect fit for a spread offense" and "one of those kids you can't help but like."

Among his final six, Auburn sticks out as the most spread-oriented team. Current quarterback Nick Marshall is a converted defensive back with great speed, questionable height (6'1") and a powerful arm who's being mentioned as a Heisman contender this season.

Duke, however, also runs a spread with quarterback Anthony Boone, and Florida, which just hired former Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, will be running a similar (if not identical) scheme this season.

Virginia Tech, meanwhile, is under a new offensive regime since hiring Scot Loeffler two seasons ago but has also been a top destination for mobile QBs such as Tyrod Taylor in modern years.

Having said that, South Carolina and Penn State are the two projected favorites to land McIlwain.

The Gamecocks have 73 percent of the votes on his 247Sports "Crystal Ball," and the Nittany Lions check in with the other 27.

Both of those teams already have a 4-star dual-threat quarterback committed in the 2015 class: Lorenzo Nunez at South Carolina and Brandon Wimbush at Penn State. 

However, even if that means added competition for McIlwain, it also signals that the teams are moving in the direction of mobile QBs.

And that's a good thing.

As far as his timetable goes, McIlwain will be active in recruitment this fall but plans on committing within the year. "I want to visit a lot of schools (this season) and make a commitment either in late-winter or early-spring," he told Phil Kornblut of

We'll keep you updated on his status throughout the season.


Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports Composite rankings

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Building the Ultimate College Football Coaching Staff for 2014 Season

What if money were no option?

What if contracts, school loyalty and recruiting ties weren’t an issue?

What if you could build the ultimate coaching staff?

As college football teams across the nation prepare for the 2014 season’s kickoff in just over two weeks, head coaches are garnering the lion’s share of attention.

Which coaches are national title contenders?

Which coaches are on the hot seat?

Behind the scenes toil the secret to their success: Assistant coaches. While head coaches serve as CEOs of their programs, their assistants do the bulk of one-on-one work with players, molding and shaping them for fall success.

Those assistants are becoming exceedingly well-paid, and with good reason. Without them, college programs would be in a world of trouble. They deserve the pay, as well as the recognition.

Here’s a look at one man’s idea of the ultimate college football coaching staff, across the board.

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SEC Football: 12 New Starters Who Will Dominate in 2014

After the SEC ushered out one of the most decorated classes ever, it's time for new starters to emerge as the next wave of superstars.

Opportunities abound for elite underclassmen everywhere.

With many of its top-tier quarterbacks gone to the NFL, the SEC could be run-heavy, so three running backs pepper this list. The list also includes a couple of signal-callers who could help restore the star power lost when Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron and Zach Mettenberger departed.

Several defenders are primed to stand out, and even a couple of freshmen have enough buzz surrounding them to warrant inclusion.

Players had to start fewer than half of their team's games a season ago to be considered for this list. They also have had previous college success, possess can't-miss talent or have a combination of both.

Let's take a look at a dozen new starters who are going to have an immediate impact in 2014.

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Ohio State Football: Will Braxton Miller Really Be Ready for the Season Opener?

Since undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, every indication has been that Braxton Miller will be good to go when Ohio State takes the field for its season opener against Navy on Aug. 30.

But will Miller be good to go?

You see, there's a difference between be ready to go and ready to go, especially at Ohio State and extra especially at the quarterback position in Urban Meyer's spread offense. Being ready to go would indicate that Miller will be able to put on his uniform and execute the necessary game plan to nullify Navy. Being ready to go? That means Miller playing like the reigning two-time Big Ten MVP he is.

We've seen enough from Miller in fall camp to know he can do the former. Through the Buckeyes' first nine practices of the preseason, Miller has participated here and there, as the OSU coaching staff has admittedly monitored his throwing reps throughout his recovery.

As for the latter, Meyer has admitted Miller isn't there—at least not yet. Asked on Sunday if the Buckeyes would need to rely on a run-heavy game plan if a game were about to be played, Meyer conceded that they would, before noting that's not the situation Ohio State finds itself in.

"If the game was tomorrow, because of where he's at, we would be very cautious with Braxton," Meyer said. "But we have three weeks."

That may be the case, and Meyer has repeatedly stated that Miller's limitations are part of a larger plan to ensure that he'll be healthy for the Buckeyes' upcoming meeting with the Midshipmen. But at the very least, it has to be concerning to not have the centerpiece of the OSU offense practicing with the OSU offense, as evidenced by Meyer's decision to hold Miller out of last Saturday's team scrimmage.

"He could have practiced yesterday, but we're in it for the long haul, so he's right on schedule," Meyer insisted on Sunday. "I've dealt with guys with arm issues before, and we're being very cautious."

But that doesn't change the fact that the Buckeyes are nearly two weeks away from the start of their season and their star player isn't on the practice field on a full-time basis. Mental reps may make for a solid sound bite or alibi, but even Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman has admitted to this fall camp having been frustrating without the constant presence of his star player.

“It’s been challenging,” Herman said. “But you try not to concern yourself with things you can’t change, and you can’t change it. It’s there. Would we like Braxton to be able to go through a 24-period practice all day, every day with two-a-days included and all that? Yeah. But he’s not there yet."

That's not to say that the OSU coaching staff has been surprised by Miller's limitation—both Meyer and Herman insist they expected it—but just because it was expected doesn't make it any less problematic.

With a relatively inexperienced receiving corps expected to be relied on, the Buckeyes wideouts could use all the reps they can get with their starting quarterback, and those have been hard to come by with Miller standing on the sideline.

For what it's worth, however, Miller insists that he's doing just fine. Asked about not taking part in his team's most recent scrimmage, the two-time reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year stuck to the company line, stating that his absence was part of a more important plan.

"I feel great," Miller proclaimed. "I took a day off to be where I need to be."

But as we learned from Meyer's comments, where Miller needs to be today and on Aug. 30 are clearly two different places. And while Miller may be good to go at the moment, the Buckeyes will need him to be good go sooner rather than later to enjoy a successful 2014 season.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information comes courtesy of 247Sports.

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USC Football: Power Ranking the Trojans' Top 10 Players for the 2014 Season

The 2014 season is almost upon us, and with it comes the high aspirations of a Trojan team that is extremely talented but also woefully thin on the depth chart.

With a starting lineup that may be as good as any in the conference, health will be a key issue if USC plans to return to the upper echelon of college football this year.

This slideshow will take a look at those top players and rank them in order of their value to the Trojans as well as their individual abilities.

Some of the criteria that went into formulating this list are based on statistics, while others are purely subjective.

Who are the top 10 Trojans of 2014?

Here is one person's opinion…

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Michigan Football: Brady Hoke Determined to Run the Ball, Is It the Right Call?

Brady Hoke is a fluent practitioner of coach speak. After a long career he can deflect uncomfortable questions with a deft array of cliches or the occasional funny quip.

He was in fine form during the team’s media day, whether making a crack about his girth or deflecting a question about whether his defense would be able to carry the offense until it got on track.

But after being pressed about whether he felt pressure heading into his fourth season and why his team lacked toughness, he made his expectations for the program crystal clear.

“I want it to be a football team that can run the ball and have a toughness at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” said Hoke. “The identity part of it is a toughness that this program has had for many years.”

Running the ball and toughness are things that used to be commonplace in Ann Arbor—when Hoke was an assistant coach.

Last season the only player who ran the ball hard and exhibited the toughness that Michigan was once known for was quarterback Devin Gardner—usually while running for his life.

During fall camp last year, Hoke declared the return of power football only to see his offense come unhinged behind an epically bad offensive line. The team seemingly rolled out a new scheme every game, introducing complexity while shuffling nine players through its five offensive line positions.

The lack of consistent offensive identity ultimately cost offensive coordinator Al Borges his job.

His replacement, Doug Nussmeier, was hired with a clear mandate to reinvigorate the Michigan ground attack. He has a stable of 4- and 5-star talent at running back and a fifth-year senior quarterback at the helm of his offense.

During media day, Nussmeier declined to share specific goals for this offense other than: "We want to be physical, we want to be explosive."

But he faces the same basic problem that plagued Borges last season—uncertainty on the offensive line.

As bad as the offensive line was last year, it did send two players to the NFL. Michigan needs to fill those spots while dealing with the one-game suspension of Graham Glasgow, who will play guard or center. Another expected starter, Erik Magnuson, will play either guard or tackle.

During media day, Magnuson expressed no preference where he played: "If you can play one position you can play them all."

One wild card in the mix is freshman tackle Mason Cole, whom Hoke mentioned as a potential starter.

“Performance doesn’t have an age tied to it,” said Nussmeier. “He’s had an outstanding camp.”

Hoke will determine the top-five players for the offensive line next week. How quickly those players form a cohesive group will determine whether his mission to run the ball will succeed or fail.

“We don’t feel any pressure, we’re out here just competing,” said Magnuson. “We have a deep offensive line this year and everybody is playing well, and we’re playing fast.”

With just over two weeks until its first game, Michigan doesn't have time to tinker much longer.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.


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Breaking Down LSU's Latest Depth Chart Moves Midway Through Fall Camp

It may not seem like it, but LSU has position battles outside of quarterback.

LSU's biggest offseason storyline has centered around the successor to gunslinger Zach Mettenberger. Freshman Brandon Harris and sophomore Anthony Jennings have been vying for that title. So far, Harris and Jennings have split time with the first unit.

LSU's depth chart is far from being set in stone. Head coach Les Miles has always been patient when making decisions on positions in question before the season opener. 

Nevertheless, there have been changes on the depth chart in fall camp. 


Defensive Tackle

LSU defensive tackle Quentin Thomas suffered an injury last week at practice. Ross Dellenger of The Advocate reported that Thomas had suffered a torn biceps and would be out for the season.

At LSU's media day, Miles indicated he has not ruled out Thomas' return and LSU Sports Information Director Michael Bonnette said Thomas could be back for the opener against Wisconsin, even though it seems unlikely. 

Thomas was projected to be the starter alongside Christian LaCouture. The duo served as backups to Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson last season and return as the only players at the position who saw meaningful playing time. 

Luckily for Miles, he has plenty of reinforcements

Miles announced that redshirt freshman Frank Herron is now slated to be the starter alongside LaCouture. But defensive line coach Brick Haley and defensive coordinator John Chavis said the vacancy is still up for grabs:

The backup duo of Greg Gilmore and Maquedius Bain form a physically imposing threat for offenses. Gilmore and Bain, both redshirt freshmen, will be playmakers despite their lack of experience. 

No matter who actually starts, expect Chavis and Haley to rotate frequently up front. The gap in talent between LaCouture, Herron, Bain and Gilmore is not that wide. Expect all four to see at least 10 snaps against Wisconsin. 



LSU safety Jalen Mills was arrested for second-degree battery in July, but the charge was reduced to misdemeanor simple battery, per The Shreveport Times. The decision came just in time for Mills to make the opening practice on August 3rd. 

Mills will play for the Tigers in 2014, but he might have to wait until after the season opener. There is a chance Miles will suspend Mills, a projected starter, for the first game, much like he did with running back Jeremy Hill last season. 

Luckily enough for the Tigers, they have talent to back up Mills. 

LSU has three returnees with starting experience at safety in Ronald Martin, Corey Thompson and Rickey Jefferson. Martin and Jefferson are the likely starters, with Thompson as a formidable backup. The Tigers also have talented true freshmen coming into the fold in Jamal Adams and John Battle. 

Defensive coordinator John Chavis is not ready to make any decisions yet. 

"Right now, we have five or six guys that are battling for those two positions," Chavis said, per Geaux247. "There’s competition all over the field. Ronald Martin has played a lot of football for us around here, and we've got several guys who have done that. It’s a battle that will continue up until game week."


Kick/Punt Returner

LSU lost one of its best kick and punt returners ever in Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason. New special teams coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto has been working out a wide variety of options, including some freshmen. 

"Right now they have me back there in the competition for kick returner and punt returner,” said freshman receiver D.J. Chark, per Geaux247. "But nobody knows who is going to be the guy yet...We have great players like Jamal Adams and Travin Dural, and obviously Leonard Fournette and Terrence Magee. We are just seeing who the coaches feel will put us in the best position."

An ideal situation for the Tigers would be Chark or Adams winning the job. Dural, Fournette and Magee are valuable assets to the offense LSU cannot afford to get injured. 


Rankings and stats provided by cfbstats.comSports-Reference and 247Sports. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower

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College Football: 2014 SEC Predictions

In the last national championship of the controversial BCS era, the mighty SEC's seven-year reign of dominance was finally halted by Jameis Winston and Florida State. The powerhouse SEC, though, should be the best conference again with more than enough teams to compete in the new College Football Playoff.

Alabama will be in the national title picture again, along with hated in-state rival Auburn. The Tigers hope to knock off the Crimson Tide again and make their third national title game in five seasons.

While Alabama and Auburn are the heavy favorites in the West Division, Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks and an underrated Georgia Bulldog team can’t be counted out in the East Division. 

There is no rule that limits a conference to only two teams in the new playoff system, meaning there are more than enough spots for the SEC to take part in the six major bowl games.

The SEC has the elite teams to compete for a national title, but which one will break away from the pack and put the SEC back on top?  


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Ohio State Football: How Offense Will Change Without Carlos Hyde

During the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Carlos Hyde was the driving force in Ohio State's offense—piling up 2,689 total yards and 34 touchdowns. The bruising running back set a single-season school record by averaging 7.3 yards per carry last year, and he was leaned on heavily in close victories over Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan.

With Hyde now suiting up for the San Francisco 49ers, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes are tasked with reshaping an offense that lost its most consistent producer.

How will Ohio State do that? What will the Buckeyes offense look like without Hyde in the backfield?


It Starts with Finding a Replacement

Thanks to Meyer's recruiting efforts, the Buckeyes are built to replace Hyde. A stable of running backs with five able candidates are vying for playing time in fall camp.

Ezekiel Elliott, the stud sophomore out of St. Louis, Missouri, is leading the charge.

The former 4-star prospect saw little action during his freshman season, but he made the most of his limited opportunities, rushing for 262 yards on just 30 carries (8.7 yards per rush) to complement three total touchdowns. He gained the trust of the coaching staff as the season wore on, which launched him into Ohio State's No. 1 running back spot this spring.

Elliott suffered a slight setback during the opening week of fall camp when he fractured his left wrist—an injury that required minor surgery. Miraculously, Elliott should be back at practice by week's end, although the coaching staff will limit his contact. A full return is expected by the Buckeyes' Week 1 matchup against Navy.

Behind Elliott are two running backs battling for the backup spot.

True freshman Curtis Samuel was leading that race when fall camp started, but Rod Smith, playing in his fifth and final season for the Buckeyes, has surged ahead after the first week of fall camp.

Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball, both of whom were 4-star recruits from Ohio State's 2012 recruiting class, give Meyer incredible depth in the backfield.

But none of Ohio State's current running backs have Hyde's blend of speed and power. With the additional loss of four senior starters along the offensive line, Meyer and the Buckeyes plan to shift their attack to the perimeter. 

That's where Ohio State's new offensive strength—speed—can dominate.


Finding the Edge

Coaches such as Meyer adjust their playbook toward the strengths of their best players. With Hyde and a veteran offensive line, Ohio State pounded the ball between the tackles. 

In 2014, the Buckeyes will spread things out to the perimeter, where loads of blazing receivers will have opportunities to make plays in space.

Meyer spoke about Ohio State's new identity during spring practice.

“It’s going to be a different…we’re going to have to lean on some perimeter ways of getting first downs and all that,” Meyer said, according to Eric Seger of The Lantern. “Where, last year when you rushed for 300 yards a game, it’s because [of] that offensive line. We have other weapons.”

The Buckeyes' primary weapon, of course, is Braxton Miller.

Miller is entering his final season at Ohio State with a chance to shatter every school passing record.

His top priority, however, is getting healthy. After having shoulder surgery in February, Miller missed all of spring practice and has been limited this fall due to lingering soreness. The coaching staff is easing Miller back into full swing, which was the plan all along.

When he's back at full speed, he'll get to work with a diverse group of playmakers—headlined by Dontre Wilson.

The Buckeyes used Wilson mainly as a decoy in 2013, but the blazer out of DeSoto, Texas, is primed for a breakout sophomore season. Wilson is replacing Corey Brown in Ohio State's offense, who led the Buckeyes in receiving in each of the last two seasons.

Along with Wilson, Ohio State will stack the edges with receivers such as Devin Smith, Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and Johnnie Dixon.

With all of those options, distribution will be key, according to co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner, via Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch.

The way we gained yardage last year a lot of times was five guys and the tight end blocking, hand it off to the big boy (Hyde) and let him go. Now, we have more speed and more options on the perimeter, so distribution of the ball in different ways, hitting different areas of the field, can be a way to gain yards.

Getting the ball to the perimeter is one of Miller's greatest strengths as a passer. In two of of his best performances a season ago, the Buckeyes attacked Iowa and Penn State on the edges with great success.

Credit: David Regimbal


Ohio State wants to implement this kind of attack in 2014.

“I’ve always been a perimeter (advocate) my whole career," Meyer said via May, "wanting to get great players the ball in their hands in space.” 


All recruiting information via 247SportsAll stats via

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

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Jameis Winston Must Overcome History, Fellow Contenders to Win 2014 Heisman

History is working against Jameis Winston in his campaign to become just the second player in college football history to win consecutive Heisman awards—an achievement only former Buckeye Archie Griffin can claim, in 1974 and 1975. 

It is a feat that Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Johnny Manziel failed to accomplish in recent seasons. 

Winston will need to overcome the following challenges in 2014 to earn serious consideration among the Heisman voters. 



Florida State's strength of schedule is tied for 47th out of 128, according to the NCAA's strength of schedule method, as the Seminoles face such competitors as Citadel, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Virginia and Boston College.

Some would argue that this helps Winston in his Heisman campaign, as a slew of light games would allow him to pad his stat sheet and emerge as a top contender.

However, strength of schedule is a factor that goes into determining a Heisman winner in addition to stats, and even if the Seminoles finish the season undefeated, voters may not be as impressed as if a player like Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has a statistically impressive season despite the Tigers' 16th-hardest schedule. 

Florida State does play Oklahoma State and nationally ranked Notre Dame and Clemson this season, which makes the non-conference schedule tougher.

The games against Oklahoma State and Notre Dame replace 2013's matchups against Nevada and Idaho. Winning those games will help in Winston's Heisman campaign. 



The field of fellow Heisman contenders is incredibly strong in 2014, which will make it that much harder for Winston to pull ahead in the voting. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty could all potentially push Winston out of contention. 

Mariota increased his production in 2013 despite the departure of Chip Kelly, racking up 3,665 passing yards compared to 2,677 in 2012. He had 31 touchdowns.

Gurley amassed 989 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Bulldogs in 2013 despite only playing in 10 games. 

Miller is a multi-dimensional threat for the Buckeyes, and if he can stay healthy, his stats are sure to wow voters.

He's thrown for more than 2,000 yards and rushed for more than 1,000 in each of his last two seasons despite missing time to injury. Ohio State's strength of schedule is ranked 35th. 


His Past Production

Ironically, Winston's monster 2013 season—the best freshman season by a college quarterback on the books and one in which he set single-season NCAA freshman records for passing yards (4,057) and touchdowns (40)—could work against him in 2014 Heisman voting. 

Thirteen players returned to play another season after winning the Heisman Trophy, and 12 of them were unable to repeat.

As Sharon Katz of ESPN Stats & Info points out, "the issue for many of these players is that they were unable to replicate or improve their production and team success from their Heisman-winning seasons."

Katz noted that repeat Heisman winners lost 1.5 more games the year after winning the award.  

Winston will have an especially difficult time matching or exceeding his record-setting 2013 production without top targets Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, whom the Seminoles lost to the NFL.

Rashad Greene will have to step up in a major way, and the 'Noles will need Isaiah Jones and Kermit Whitfield to contribute, as well. 

Currently ranked No. 1 in the USA Today Poll, if Florida State loses even one game, Winston could fall out of favor with Heisman voters. 

But if Winston can match his numbers from last season, and if Florida State finishes undefeated, he could have another record-setting year in terms of Heisman history. 


Strength of schedule rankings via

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5 Things We've Learned About Miami Through Fall Camp so Far

The Miami Hurricanes' fall camp is well underway, and news continuously emerges from the Greentree Practice Fields.

Seven days of practices have provided insight into a necessary schematic change, a position settling down, updates on the quarterback competition and more.

Before the opening scrimmage of the fall, these are the biggest things we have learned through the opening sessions in South Florida.

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Kansas Football Unveils New Crimson and Chrome Uniforms

Kansas football unveiled its new crimson and chrome football uniforms for the 2014 season featuring a bright look with chrome outlines for the numbers and a new logo on the helmets. The players were enthusiastic about the new duds at a recent unveiling, with the polished metal facemask really catching their eye.

However, some people on Twitter were not fans of the new look. 

What do you think of these?

[Kansas Jayhawks]

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Clemson Football: Ranking Tigers' Top 10 Players Heading into 2014 Season

Clemson lost some star power this offseason with the departures of Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and others. This year’s squad consists of a lot of talent, but there are question marks because of the lack of experience at some positions.

We looked at Clemson’s talent this year and ranked the top 10 players on head coach Dabo Swinney’s squad. It should be noted that players who haven’t seen the field yet, such as Deshaun Watson and Mackensie Alexander, were left off the list. It’s tough to judge their spot on player rankings when all they have is potential at this point.

Let’s take a look at the rankings.

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Re-Grading the AP's 2013 Top 25 Preseason Poll

There are many valid arguments against the idea of preseason polls in college football, but maybe the most credible one relates to their accuracy. Or, rather, the lack of accuracy.

When it comes to The Associated Press preseason Top 25, which is voted on by the media, or the Amway Coaches Poll, those submitting ballots must do so based on information that is either wildly outdated or incomplete.

Simply put, preseason rankings are a product of past performance and potential future results, and because of that, there's plenty of room for error.

The 2013 AP preseason poll was no exception.

Alabama was coming off back-to-back national championships and returned numerous key players from those title runs. Ohio State had gone undefeated in 2012, though that didn't include a bowl game because of a postseason ban.

And teams like Oregon, Stanford and Georgia had veteran-laden units that had all put up great seasons in 2012 and were expected to do so again the following season.

That quintet, which began the year ranked in the AP's Top Five, all ended the year seventh or worst. And one of them wasn't even ranked at the end.

In fact, 10 of the preseason poll's Top 25 were unranked when the final rankings were released in early January, while four teams that participated in the final crop of BCS bowl games began 2013 outside the Top 25.

If preseason polls were to be put on trial, the 2013 version would be Exhibit A in the case against them.

But these polls don't look like they'll be going away any time soon. The AP's 2014 version is set to be released on Aug. 17, and in anticipation of this, we're taking a look back at last year's preseason rankings to grade how well the media voters did with their votes.

Grades are based on where teams ended compared to where they began, taking into consideration a tendency for voters to drop teams farther than normal in final polls after bowl losses.

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College Football Playoff 2014: Projecting Final Playoff Contenders

With the introduction of the playoff system in 2014, college football will undergo one of the most significant shake-ups in its history, with the goal of instituting a merit-based system that ensures every FBS team has access to the playoff. 

A selection committee comprised of 13 individuals with experience as coaches, student athletes, athletic directors and more will create rankings seven times each year and will ultimately choose four teams for the playoff based on "strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents, championships won and other factors," according to

Let's examine four early contenders for those final seeds and, of course, project which one will come out of Arlington as the national champion. The No. 1 seed will face No. 4 and No. 2 will face No. 3. 


No. 4 seed: Ohio State 

The Buckeyes get the nod to top Michigan State in 2014 when they weren't able to in 2013, but it will depend on quarterback Braxton Miller's production and the performance of a defense that will be heavy in sacks if it can play to its potential. 

Coach Urban Meyer told reporters after Sunday's practice that Miller's recovery from his offseason shoulder surgery is "right on schedule," per Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch.

Miller has factored into early Heisman consideration for 2014. Despite missing time in 2013 due to injury, Miller threw for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for another 1,068 yards and 12 scores. If he is healthy for the opener against Navy, which Meyer expects he will be, Miller can begin a campaign to top his 2013 season. 

Though Miller can make plays with his legs, he'll need go-to receiver Corey Brown to be reliable underneath to help him extend plays and escape pressure. Brown was the Buckeyes' leading receiver in 2013 with 771 yards, and Miller's success will depend on him establishing enough of an offensive presence to keep defenses honest and help the run game thrive. 

Ohio State's defense is also primed to cause some disruption in the Big Ten. Defensive lineman Noah Spence led the team in sacks in 2013 with eight, which was second in the conference. Fellow defensive lineman Michael Bennett was right behind Spence last season with seven sacks of his own and 42 tackles. 

If the Buckeyes, currently ranked sixth in the nation, can dominate at the quarterback and defensive line positions, Meyer's squad has a great shot at the No. 4 seed. 


No. 3 seed: Oregon

As long as Oregon's young receiving corps can step up and become viable weapons for quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Ducks, currently No. 4 in the nation, could make a push for the No. 3 seed in the College Football Playoff. 

After Chip Kelly left Oregon prior to the 2013 season for the NFL, many thought it would result in a less productive offense across the board for the Ducks. But new coach Mark Helfrich led the team to an 11-2 finish while stressing the passing game. Mariota had 3,665 passing yards in 2013, compared to 2,677 in 2012 under Kelly.

In 2014, Mariota should continue to thrive in Oregon's high-octane spread offense, so long as his targets develop quickly. The Ducks lost two top targets from last season (Josh Huff to the NFL and Bralon Addison to a torn ACL in spring practice), which has created opportunities for Chance Allen, B.J. Kelley and Dwayne Stanford.

Mariota's knee injury in the game against Stanford had a noticeable impact on the rest of his season. If he can remain healthy this season, expect the Ducks to be serious contenders. 


No. 2 seed: Alabama 

Alabama's future at quarterback post-A.J. McCarron looks bright, with Jacob Coker and Blake Sims competing to replace him, but the position will need to be strong for Alabama to take the No. 2 seed.

Coach Nick Saban offered early praise for Florida State transer Coker in camp. "He's a very athletic guy, he's got the right character, attitude, work ethic," Saban said on Aug. 3, per Michael Casagrande of "He's really fit in well with the other players in terms of the kind of personality he has and how they can relate to him. All those things have been extremely positive."

Whether Coker or Sims starts for the Crimson Tide in 2014, Alabama's stable of offensive weapons keeps this team competitive at the highest level. The ground game should again be dominant in 2014 behind T.J. Yeldon, who rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013. 

And despite being loaded with pass-catchers, tight end O.J. Howard could be the team's star in 2014. Here he is making a freakish one-handed catch from Coker at practice. 

Led by Saban and stocked up on weapons, this Alabama team has a legitimate shot to trump conference rival Auburn and grab a No. 2 seed.  


No. 1 seed: Florida State 

It would be hard for anyone to top what Jameis Winston accomplished last season at Florida State, including Winston himself. 

In the best freshman season by a college quarterback on record, Winston set single-season NCAA freshman records for passing yards (4,057) and touchdowns (40). Though he lost receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw to the NFL, top weapon Rashad Greene returns in 2014, while Isaiah Jones and Kermit Whitfield are options on the outside and in the slot.

To earn the top seed, Florida State will have to win its slate of matchups, including games against Oklahoma State, Clemson and Notre Dame. But with Winston at the helm, that's completely feasible. 

National rankings courtesy of USA Today Poll.

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College Football Predictions 2014: Breaking Down Sleeper Heisman Candidates

For the second consecutive year, a Heisman winner returns to reclaim his throne atop the realm of collegiate football.

Except the task continues to become more difficult with each passing year. Jameis Winston is the defending champ at the moment, but as ESPN Stats & Info's Sharon Katz notes, he—like many who attempted a repeat bid before—simply set the bar too high for himself:

There have been 13 players who returned to college football the year after winning the Heisman Trophy, and only one -- Archie Griffin in 1975 -- was able to repeat.


Of those 13 Heisman winners who came back to school, two (Leinart and Walker) accounted for more yards of total offense in the season after winning the award. On average, these players accounted for almost 650 fewer yards of total offense the next year.

Plenty of household names will make a run at the hardware. Braxton Miller will run Urban Meyer's spread for Ohio State. Marcus Mariota and Bryce Petty orchestrate offenses that tally videogame-esque numbers. Running backs Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon are sure to do much of the same.

But a new problem has emerged, too—the landscape of college football continues to expand on its parity, and as that happens, players from all crevices of the nation enter the picture as contenders.

Below, let's take a look at a few under-the-radar names who certainly have the talent to steal the award from Winston and the major stars.


Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (Fla.)

Yes, the Heisman has pretty much been a bigger, better version of the Davey O'Brien Award as of late, but running backs can very much still steal the show if the gaudy numbers they post form a nice marriage with team success.

One candidate who has the skill to post such numbers and does not necessarily qualify as a household name? Miami's Duke Johnson, who in two seasons has flirted with serious totals on rather limited usage:

Only a broken ankle slowed Johnson last year, though, and coach Al Golden is rightfully eager to see what his junior tailback has in store for opposing defenses, as captured by's Mike Huguenin:

I think the biggest thing is we all want to see him pick up where he left off. He was pressing his runs, they were hitting where they were designed to hit, so he had great discipline at the end of last year. He was running between the tight ends really well; then when he got to the second level, he would allow his talent to take over. He was very disciplined in that.

So the natural talent is there, obviously. But what makes Johnson even better as a candidate is his ability to add bulk to his frame and not lose quickness. According to Pat Lammer of, he has done just that:

Want the team aspect to wrap up the picture? Last season, in Golden's third year, the Hurricanes seemed to finally turn a corner and wound up at 9-4.

Things are on an upward trajectory for the program on the field, and Johnson continues to spearhead the effort. An ACC title, bowl win and perhaps more might just be enough to allow Johnson to pull off the major upset and win the award before he jumps to the pro level.


Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina

That's right, two running backs might just have what it takes to steal the award in 2014.

Look, there are a ton of quarterbacks in the running for the award without even playing a snap yet this season, but a back who can capture the imagination of the country right away and never relinquish the grip stands a chance.

It might just be South Carolina's Mike Davis.

Free from the shackles of Marcus Lattimore last season, Davis erupted for 1,183 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on just 203 carries for a 5.8 per-carry average. Go ahead and compare that to Lattimore's highest collegiate usage rate—2010, when he took 249 carries for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns on a full yard less per carry.

The point is twofold. One, Steve Spurrier loves to run his backs into the ground with a traditional approach. Two, there is an argument to be made that Davis is simply a better collegiate back.

"He reminds me of former Florida Gators star Fred Taylor with his all-around combination of speed and power," says's Chase Goodbread.

The above numbers are even scarier when one realizes that Davis missed one game and parts of two others last year. This time, Davis and Co. enter off an 11-win season and stand a strong chance at a national title in the nation's most popular conference.

Should the Gamecocks live up to expectations, it will surely be thanks to Davis. The efforts certainly won't go unnoticed, especially if he can grab the attention of the nation in a nationally televised affair with Texas A&M to start the season.


Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State

Most of the quarterbacks who have a serious shot at the Heisman are known commodities.

It is not often, though, that we can kill two birds with one stone and peg a sleeper for the hardware and one of the most downright underrated players in all of college football at the same time.

That would be Arizona State's Taylor Kelly, a dual-threat quarterback who posts gaudy numbers in all areas, as one can glean from his last two seasons of work:

Suffice it to say, Kelly has a strong understanding of coach Todd Graham's offense as he enters 2014 after a 10-4 campaign. More importantly, he has his eyes firmly set on accomplishing the unthinkable, as captured by's Bryan Fischer:

I've always been an underdog my whole high school and college career. I just have to put up those numbers, get those wins in the column. Coach (Todd) Graham always tells me, 'If you win the national championship, you'll get all those individual goals and attention.' That's the ultimate goal for me, put my team in a good position and get my name out there that way.

It is an unthinkable feat that is all the more obtainable thanks to the college football playoff, and the Heisman Trophy will follow a similar trajectory.

Should Kelly thrive in the shadow of Mariota and UCLA’s Brett Hundley and nab a Pac-12 title, he will be a difficult signal-caller to ignore. He will have to turn down the interception numbers, but lofty numbers on the ground and through the air with a large dash of team success tend to work wonders for quarterbacks of his talent when it comes to individual awards.


Honorable Mentions


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Alabama TE O.J. Howard Cuts Snickers from His Diet, Replaces with Ice Cream

Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is on a strict no-Snickers diet. The only problem is that he basically just found a roundabout way to enjoy his favorite desserts.

This actually is a serious power move from the 6'6", 240-pound tight end that we think should be applauded. 

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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3 Things We've Learned About Michigan Through Fall Camp so Far

With more than a full week of fall practices in the books, the Michigan Wolverines are beginning to show their true colors.

Of course, the full brilliance of the maize and blue probably won’t be clear for several weeks; but Team 135 is making strides each day, according to quarterback Shane Morris, cornerbacks Jourdan Lewis and Blake Countess and defensive lineman Matt Godin.

In essence, they all said similar things during media day festivities Sunday—their team is growing stronger with each passing second, and players genuinely care for each other and want nothing more than to restore the Wolverines' luster. 

Continuity is at a high, said Lewis, who dazzled in the spring game. The defense, says coordinator Greg Mattison, is "without question" past the transition phase. 

Only 17 more days to go. Go pull that Charles Woodson jersey out of the closet and get ready for Saturday. 


Bulking Up on D

In 2013, Michigan’s defense allowed more than 40 points thrice, which certainly contributed to the Wolverines’ 7-6 record. However, and maybe surprisingly, it finished as the nation’s No. 13-ranked total defense.

Maintaining and improving a well-rounded defense is of top priority. 

“We’re coming along, everyone’s working hard here at camp—definitely with pass rush, we’ve been putting more emphasis on that earlier in camp,” Godin said. “We’re going to improve this year.”

The 6’6”, 286-pound redshirt sophomore out of Detroit Catholic Central wasn’t the only one propping the defense’s efforts. He said that his linemates have reached another gear and that the 3-technique position is among the most competitive.

Of course, the defensive backs will have a say in the season’s outcome as well. Countess, who led Team 134 with six picks, has also noticed an upward trend among his counterparts.

But there is always room to grow.

“I just think that we have to get better,” said Countess, a 5’10”, 180-pound redshirt junior out of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Owings Mills, Maryland. “We [the DBs] have the ability to be a strength. We have to make sure of that. We have to keep getting better, we have to keep pushing—not only ‘us,’ a corner group, but ‘us’ as a secondary.

"Just keep pushing the whole defense [and say] ’Let’s take that next step.’”

Taking "that next step" could be easier with Countess, who is considered one of the best cover men in the Big Ten. When asked if being on watch lists has changed his approach, he quickly and appropriately replied: 

"No, not all. At the end of the day, that's nice and that's fine. But you have to put that product on the field. If you don't put that product on the field, it means nothing. I'm just working with my teammates, trying to get better..."


Shane Morris is ‘100 Percent Ready’

Backups are always popular.

When the starter doesn’t get the job done, the No. 2 is often viewed as the savior—or at least a band-aid.

As a freshman, the former 5-star out of Warren De La Salle threw for 261 yards in three appearances. Two of them were quite brief, but his 196-yard effort during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl loss to Kansas State was noteworthy and should serve as a springboard for the 6’3", 204-pound sophomore.

When asked about his preparation for 2014, Morris said, without hesitation, “I’m 100 percent ready to play. If they need me to play the first game, then I will. Coach Hoke and Coach Nuss [offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier] are going to make the best decision for this team [in terms of personnel].

“But I’m 100 percent ready to play.”

Morris also noted that he’s “more engaged” and “understands the game more,” not to mention more mature and acclimated to college life. The training wheels have been removed. In terms of confidence and focus, there may not be a player on Michigan’s roster who wants to see the field more than Morris.


Run That Back?!

While giving an opening statement Sunday, Hoke said that sophomore running back De’Veon Smith and redshirt sophomore Drake Johnson are the top backs (as of now).

Of course, the obvious omission was Derrick Green, whose physical transformation and athletic development was recently praised by Nussmeier, per Brian Manzullo of the Detroit Free Press.

So why no Green in the top two? Was Hoke trying to motivate the former blue-chip recruit by publicly placing him behind a guy coming off an ACL injury in Johnson and another who entered college with a fraction of the hype in Smith?

Could be.

Either that or Green, a 5’11”, 230-pound bruiser out of Hermitage High in Richmond, Virginia, has simply fallen behind the pack.


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

Quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer. Video shot and edited by Jared Janssen of JJ Sports Video (Monroe, Michigan).

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Jameis Winston Won't Run Away with 2014 Heisman Trophy

All Jameis Winston did in 2013 was set national freshman records with 4,057 passing yards and 40 passing touchdowns, win the Heisman Trophy by the fifth-largest percentage points margin ever (32) and lead Florida State to a national title.

It’s not supposed to be that easy for anyone, let alone a mere freshman.

For as impressive as Winston was last year, his journey to a potential 2014 Heisman Trophy will be much more complicated. That’s not an indictment of Winston, who could be even better as an individual with a year of experience under his belt, but a comment on the difficulty of repeating as college football’s top player.

Sharon Katz of ESPN Stats & Info broke down the historical precedent in place for defending Heisman winners:

There have been 13 players who returned to college football the year after winning the Heisman Trophy, and only one -- Archie Griffin in 1975 -- was able to repeat.


Of those 13 Heisman winners who came back to school, two (Leinart and Walker) accounted for more yards of total offense in the season after winning the award. On average, these players accounted for almost 650 fewer yards of total offense the next year. 

Similarly, only Tebow in 2008 and Griffin in 1975 played on teams that increased their win total the season after the player won the Heisman (three others matched their win total). On average, repeat Heisman winners lost 1½ more games the year after winning the award.

So often, Heisman winners set such a high bar that anything short of drastic improvement is seen as a failure in the eyes of voters. Fair or not, if the Seminoles do anything short of finish undefeated and enter the College Football Playoff as the favorites, it will be a disappointment when compared to last year.

That potential disappointment could be reflected in the Heisman vote.

The historical element isn’t the only reason Archie Griffin’s spot in the most exclusive club in college football is set. Florida State lost deep threats Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw to the NFL, which means Winston will be reliant on unproven talent in the wide receiver department.

Winston's numbers could take a small dip simply because he doesn't have those playmakers around anymore.

If the Seminoles don’t run the table with their new-look receiving corps, even their schedule could be held against Winston’s Heisman chances. Zero of Florida State’s opponents are in the Top 15 of the initial Amway Coaches Poll, and only Clemson (No. 16) and Notre Dame (No. 17) are ranked at all.

A number of the other Heisman candidates will play much stiffer competition throughout the year, which could lend more merit to their statistical production.

Speaking of the Heisman field, it is absolutely loaded with challengers. Winston could put up incredible numbers and still fall short of some of the other superstars across the college football landscape.

Marcus Mariota has Oregon primed to compete for a title after throwing for 3,665 yards, running for 715 yards and tallying 40 total touchdowns in 2013. The Ducks’ high-octane offense lends itself to video game-like numbers every year, and Mariota is the one working the controller this time around.

Mariota put up those numbers last year while dealing with a knee injury down the stretch. If he can stay healthy and lead the Ducks to the College Football Playoff, he will garner plenty of Heisman love.

Elsewhere, Braxton Miller will get another go-around in Urban Meyer’s spread offense and look to improve on his more than 3,000 total yards and 36 touchdowns. Much like Mariota, Miller needs to stay healthy and lead Ohio State to the postseason if he wants to win the Heisman, and both of those things are well within the realm of possibilities.

Throw in Bryce Petty, who threw for an astounding 4,200 yards at Baylor last year, and Brett Hundley at UCLA, and it is clear that Winston is far from the only signal-caller who can make Heisman waves in 2014.

Don’t overlook running backs Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin or Todd Gurley from Georgia, either.

Gordon ran for 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns last year and will be the focal point of a run-heavy Badgers attack. Gurley tallied more than 1,400 total yards a season ago but missed three games with injuries. With no more Aaron Murray, a healthy Gurley will be asked to carry the load for the Bulldogs in the mighty SEC.

All of these players are Heisman threats, but it’s important to remember that the award winner could very well be a sleeper. Recent winners like Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III and even Winston himself snuck up on the college football world to take home the famous trophy.

To make matters even more difficult for Winston, he will play with a giant bullseye on his back all season. After all, he’s the defending Heisman winner and a national champion, so he will get his opponent’s A-game every single time out. 

Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman passed along an interesting quote from Oklahoma State’s James Castleman that fits that narrative perfectly:

Winston is going up against historical precedent, the insanely high bar he set a year ago, a loaded Heisman field and motivated opponents. He may very well win the trophy for the second straight year, but it’s not going to be another runaway victory.


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Trent Thompson to Georgia: Bulldogs Land 5-Star DT Prospect

The biggest chip of the 2015 college football recruiting class has fallen, as defensive tackle Trent Thompson committed to Georgia Tuesday, according to The Macon Telegraph's Seth Emerson:

Per 247Sports' composite ratings, the product of Westover High School in Albany, Georgia, is a 5-star recruit who ranks as the top defensive tackle and the No. 2 overall prospect in the nation, so there is no question that landing him is a major coup.

Thompson has been highly touted for quite some time, and he had no shortage of potential suitors. Among the schools that made a run at him, per 247Sports, were Georgia, Alabama, Florida State, Auburn and Clemson, along with a host of others.

Although Thompson didn't ascend to the No. 1 spot in the 247Sports recruiting rankings until February, many had him pegged for that spot long before, including 247Sports' Keith Niebuhr:

It is easy to see why Thompson has garnered so much interest. Not only does he have ideal size at 6'4" and 292 pounds, but his on-field production at Westover has been something special. Thompson truly took his game to the next level in 2013 with 83 tackles and 12 sacks.

Collegiate coaches have been salivating over his potential for a couple years, and it will undoubtedly be interesting to see how he translates to the college game.

Recruits are often tight-lipped when it comes to the recruiting process, but Thompson was surprisingly transparent. According to Wesley Sinor of, Thompson was in no rush to commit quickly.

"I do not want to commit early because I want to give everyone a chance," Thompson said. "I want to see how (Georgia's) season goes and if Coach Mark Richt is going to still be there."

Thompson also freely admitted to Sinor back in March that Georgia and Alabama were the top two schools that he was considering at the time:

Alabama is No. 2 for me now. When I went up there I had a great time with Reuben Foster, Blake Sims and everyone. I did not know it would be like that. Watching their workout film, I love their strength and conditioning coach and how crazy his voice is. He puts four quarters up and is crunk the entire time, so I cannot wait to go to one of their games.

Now that the marathon recruiting process has finally come to an end, the focus shifts toward what type of impact Thompson will have as a freshman and beyond. No. 1 recruits are normally expected to come in and dominate right away, but that doesn't always happen.

Thompson certainly seems to have the mixture of size, strength and explosiveness necessary to be an instant impact player; however, he'll quickly find out that elite-level college football is a different animal in comparison to high school football.

It's also important to note that the pressure to perform is something that Thompson has to cope with. He has certainly been a high school star, but the expectations are nothing compared to college football.

Thompson also has to adjust to the size difference. He is significantly bigger than most at the high school level, but that won't necessarily be the case moving forward. He is undoubtedly a big man, although there are plenty of offensive guards who have a larger frame than he does.

In fact, some might even argue that he is on the smallish side in that regard, so Thompson will have to be on point with the quick first step that he has become known for.

All of the potential is present for him to become one of the best defensive players in college football over the next couple years. Provided he puts the work in and adjusts well, that is an attainable goal.

Thompson is one of the most exciting prospects to come around in a long time, and there will be plenty of eyes on him from day one.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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