NCAA Football News

The NFL Comparison for Top 10 LB Recruits from Class of 2015

Comparing recruits to NFL players allows people to see specifically which type of player the recruit is. NFL players are seen by millions of fans on Sundays, while college football recruits are mainly only read about.

As the series continues, the position of linebacker is the subject of this piece. The 2015 class has a solid crop of 'backers, and many of them figure to be cornerstones in college.

The nation's best linebacker compares to a player on the Tennessee Titans, while a 4-star linebacker was awfully tough to find a professional comparison for. Also, a linebacker on the Dallas Cowboys has a similar skill set to a recruit from Los Angeles.

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Lorenzo Nunez Commits to South Carolina: Gamecocks Land 4-Star Dual-Threat QB

Lorenzo Nunez is the latest coveted quarterback recruit to reveal college plans before the conclusion of his junior year. The 4-star prospect announced his decision to attend South Carolina with a Thursday evening announcement via Twitter:

The 6'2.5", 190-pound Georgia playmaker unveiled intentions to cap off his recruiting process late Wednesday, setting the stage for a showdown between three teams from different conferences:

Nunez spent time on campus at North Carolina State and South Carolina last month. He visited Ohio State midway through his junior season.

Offers from his finalists arrived at a staggered pace.

Urban Meyer was among the first coaches to extend a scholarship to Nunez, awarding him with an offer at Buckeyes camp last June. The Wolfpack officially joined the pursuit in February.

Steve Spurrier was much later to the party, waiting until the final week of March to offer Nunez. Ultimately, the timing didn't matter.

Nunez remains a relatively raw prospect but displayed multidimensional talents during a junior season at Harrison High School (Kennesaw, Georgia) that saw him make strides. He passed for 1,148 yards and five touchdowns, adding 786 yards and seven scores on he ground last fall, according to Phil Kornblut of The Post and Courier.

He earned praise from Scout.com recruiting analyst Chad Simmons during a recent assessment (via Pack Pride's James Henderson):

Nunez is a quarterback who is comfortable when working outside the pocket. He throws well on the move and his feet are a weapon as well. He is a quarterback who can move and who can make big plays with his legs. The ball comes out quickly. He needs to improve his consistency as a true passer and continue to work on his mechanics.

His efforts earned him a rating of No. 8 nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings. He joins Tyler Queen (Auburn) and Andre Brown (Georgia State) as Peach State passers committed to FBS programs.

Nunez is the seventh commitment for South Carolina in the 2015 recruiting class. The group now features five 4-star prospects. 

 

Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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How 4-Star DE Mekhi Brown Helped Alabama Land Epic Spring Game Recruiting Haul

It didn’t take Mekhi Brown long to realize something special was unfolding among the group of recruits in attendance for Alabama’s spring game last month.  

However, even Brown—a 6’6”, 220-pound defensive end who has been committed to the Tide since April of 2013—couldn’t envision a one-day haul that netted Nick Saban’s club commitments from four recruits all rated among the top 100 nationally, according to 247Sports.

“I wasn’t expecting five commitments,” Brown said with a chuckle. “I was expecting more like one or two. Once that happened, we all just clicked instantly.”

The haul included corner Minkah Fitzpatrick, receiver Calvin Ridley, athlete Shawn Burgess-Becker and linebacker Leo Lewis—all of whom rank among the top six nationally at their respective positions.

Brown, who has served as the de facto lead recruiter among the contingent of Tide commitments, did his best to ensure all of the recruits were having a good time, including speaking to each player before they committed.

“I just tried to make them feel welcome,” Brown said. “I just asked them about how the coaches were treating them and making sure they were being treated well. It was cool because I felt like I had something to do with it.”

The key to his approach, he says, is building relationships and keeping in touch with players without being too aggressive.

“Basically, with me, I try not to force the issue,” Brown said. “I just try to be like a regular coach or recruiter. I tell them, ‘just do what is best for you.’ I’m not just going to bug them or anything like that. ‘Just keep in contact with me.’ That’s what I tell them.”

Selling the Tide to fellow recruits is easy for the Columbus, Georgia, product. The main factor that led him to commit to the Tide was how Saban and his staff laid out their plans for him on and off the field.

“I feel like the personality there on the field and off the field fits me perfectly,” Brown said. “They do a lot of community things. Coach Saban and those guys basically have a mentality where you have to be perfect and try to do things the right way. On the field, their tradition is great. The defense is really good and the coaches put you in positions to be successful.”

With Alabama steamrolling its way toward a fifth consecutive No. 1 recruiting class, Brown mentioned 5-star athlete Terry Godwin—who is committed to Georgia—and 5-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson as players he’s targeting in hopes of getting them to hop on board.

As for Brown’s summer plans, he mentioned LSU and Mississippi State as potential destinations. However, his only planned trips are a pair of visits to Tuscaloosa in June for the Tide’s summer camps.

In the meantime, before he gets to college, he has a few areas of his game he plans to work on before his senior season. Although he’s being recruited as a Jack linebacker in the Tide’s 3-4 scheme, one key characteristic defines what makes him such a coveted recruit—versatility.

“I know this year at my high school, I’m playing middle linebacker too,” Brown said. “So I’m doing a lot of coverage stuff instead of rushing the quarterback. I haven’t really rushed the quarterback since my sophomore year. I’m just trying to add more versatility to my game and sharpen up my coverage skills to play against those quicker receivers. That’s what they (Alabama) want me to do in college, so I feel like I’ll get a lot better at it.”

While he is focusing on his upcoming senior season, he’s already doing his part to make sure he helps assemble a 2015 class that will find success on and off the field at Alabama.

“We just know that when we get there, we are going to keep winning,” Brown said.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand. 

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UCLA Recruiting: 5 Recruits Every Bruins Fan Should Be Watching This Summer

Although the UCLA football team won't be competing on the gridiron until Aug. 30 against Virginia, every Bruins fan should earnestly pay attention to the recruiting efforts this upcoming summer. 

A majority of UCLA's current commitments will be participating in various camps throughout the next few months. Dually, the Bruins' top targets on their recruiting board will also be active in the summer. 

With the impressive amounts of coverage on the events, it gives the respective fanbases of the programs an even greater glimpse at the top talent in the high school ranks. 

This piece will look at UCLA's highest-ranked commitment. It will also analyze four elite prospects, two of which reside in California. 

Here's a look at five recruits every UCLA fan should be watching this summer. 

 

Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted. 

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5-Star DT Recruit Tim Settle Tweets Top 15 Schools in Order

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones hasn't landed any new commitments, but it's been an epic recruiting week regardless for he and Vols nation.

The most recent boon came Thursday, when 5-star defensive tackle Tim Settle, a 6'3", 318-pound monster from Stonewall Jackson High School in Bull Run, Va., tweeted a list of his top 15 schools in order, and UT was at the top:

As you can see, the Vols were followed in order by Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and Texas before Settle listed his two home-state schools, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Whoever lands Settle will be getting a good one. Although he is only the No. 6 defensive tackle on the 247Sports Composite, he is the No. 19 overall player. (Yeah. It's a good year for tackles).

ESPN Scout's Inc. (subscription required) said Settle moves well for a player his size and offers a lot of scheme versatility, too, so it's not like he's your average 318-pound stiff. He can move the line or shoot the gap and plays with an energetic motor.

But Settle's not the only one fond of Tennessee. Earlier this week, the nation's top-ranked dual-threat quarterback, Torrance Gibson, tweeted his top 15 in similar fashion—and with a similar result:

Landing one or both of these players would be a coup for Jones, who already has Tennessee moving in the right direction after scoring the nation's No. 7 class in 2014, per the 247Sports team rankings.

In 2015, the Vols already have 11 committed players and place No. 7, once again, on the current team rankings.

We'll see if Jones can close the deal on Settle. With coaches such as Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher and Charlie Strong on his tail, holding onto this lead for another nine months might be difficult.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Which College Football Star Will Have the Hardest Time Translating to NFL Game?

Anthony Barr could and should develop into a nice 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, and he is well worth the investment that a team will make for him in (likely) the early-middle part of the first round of the NFL draft Thursday evening.

That needs to be made clear at the top.

Because even though Barr is a fascinating prospect, he is, more than anyone else projected to go in the top part of the first round, a raw one, having only moved from offense to defense two seasons ago.

His success since that transition has been remarkable, as he helped transform the tenor about UCLA football and quickly developed into one of the nation's top pass-rushers:

But can he fare so well so soon against superior competition?

When you think about Barr the linebacker, the first thing that comes to mind is athleticism. He is big (6'5", 255 lbs), and at the scouting combine, he graded as the fastest per-pound prospect in the draft when you incorporate all three speed drills, per B/R's Ryan Riddle:

This helps explain his smooth transition to defense.

Without taking anything away from Barr or then-linebackers coach (and new defensive coordinator) Jeff Ulbrich, a player with such great size-speed measurables does not need pristine technique. He could get away without it, for the most part, because college linemen were not athletic or disciplined enough to stop him.

That all changes in the NFL. Just ask Dion Jordan: last year's freakishly-athletic-but-raw pass-rusher who started his career on offense before being drafted at the top of the first round.

Jordan went No. 3 overall to the Miami Dolphins last year—a spot generally reserved for instant-impact defenders—but generated only two sacks in his rookie season, grading out at minus-1.8 as a pass-rusher at Pro Football Focus. Being athletic was not enough.

Barr might struggle in a similar fashion next season, although that doesn't mean I dislike his long-term prospects. His capacity to learn the position was impressive at UCLA, and even though that learning curve will level off at some point, I do expect him to become a meaningful player. It just may take some time.

"If a team gets me, if they like what they see," Barr said, according to Chris Burke of SI.com, "they’re going to love what they get because I’m just going to continue to get better."

Exactly.

But many teams do not want to be patient. I guess that's a trapping of the modern NFL. I'm young, but I swear even I can remember a time when a rookie got to play a second year before being labeled a bust. Even Jordan is already being tossed around in trade rumors.

The fear that Barr might be a project—or worse, a not-worthwhile project—will evoke mixed reactions in teams. It will be interesting to see where he goes—both in terms of draft order and in scheme.

B/R's Michael Schottey sums up the mixed opinions pretty nicely:

Some team is going to spend a high pick on Barr, and he's likely to reward that pick with good pass-rush productivity. But the chance he doesn't will keep a bunch of teams from pulling the trigger. 

No other pick in the first round has that kind of range. Teams starting in the top five will be asking themselves whether he's the pick. If numerous teams say no, it shouldn't surprise anyone. 

Then again, it shouldn't surprise anyone if most of those teams end up kicking themselves down the road.

Barr is what some might call a high risk, high reward-type player, and players like that don't always reveal which outcome they'll be in Year 1. In fact, that it usually the case.

It obviously isn't a perfect comparison, but think about someone like Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery, who contributed 24 catches and 367 yards as a rookie before exploding for 89 catches and 1,421 yards as a sophomore in 2013.

Yes, one plays offense and the other plays defense, but Jeffery and Barr are similar in that they have always relied on athleticism to dominate their position. Once they're put into a situation where their athleticism, while still very good, is not in a different stratosphere, it is fair to expect a grace period while they learn how to adjust. 

Might Barr be great immediately in 2014? Sure. I wouldn't be shocked if he logged eight or nine sacks—just surprised.

He's a good one for sure; it just may take a little time.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Is Nebraska Basketball Team Really More Championship-Ready Than Football Team?

In the midst of both college football and basketball offseasons, a couple of questions have surfaced in Husker Nation. Is Nebraska now a basketball state? Better yet, is the Nebraska basketball team really more championship-ready than the football team?

For as many who may be rolling their eyes at these questions, there are plenty who find them valid. After a big season for Nebraska basketball, it's not hard to see why.

Head coach Tim Miles led his team to a 19-13 overall record and 11-7 in the Big Ten. The team was ultimately invited to the NCAA men's basketball tournament for the first time since 1998.

As for the football team, head coach Bo Pelini finished with a 9-4 overall record and 5-3 in the Big Ten. While the team failed to make it to the Big Ten Championship Game, they did secure a 24-19 Gator Bowl win over Georgia.

But it's not how each team's season ended that has people talking. Instead, it's Bovada's recently released odds for both collegiate football and basketball national championships.

That's right. Nebraska basketball is listed at 66/1, per Bovada (via Rob Dauster of College Basketball Talk) to win the 2015 national championship, while Nebraska football is listed at 75/1, per Bovada. These odds rank Nebraska 26th in college basketball, while the school ranks 27th in college football as of this point in time.

So does that really mean Miles and his team are more championship-ready than Pelini and his?

To start, the comparison can be very misleading. Comparing football to basketball is like comparing apples to oranges. Actually, it's more like comparing apples to bowling balls. There isn't a great way to put one sport's odds against another.

However, after a very successful season as Nebraska basketball's head coach, Miles has fans talking.

To put it in perspective, the collegiate basketball tournament is very different from the new collegiate football playoff. Nebraska basketball faces a 68-team playoff, where they would be required to win five games to win it all. And while the odds aren't necessarily in a lower-seed's favor, anything can happen.

For example, UConn was a No. 7 seed before earning its way to the national title game (becoming the first seventh-seeded team to do so) and taking home the coveted title. For Nebraska basketball, it's very possible Miles' coaching could be instrumental in helping his team get a higher seed next year and make a run at it.

As for Nebraska football, Pelini and his team could make the four-team playoff if they win the Big Ten Championship and manage to only have one loss.

That's where fans start to wonder. Through six seasons as head coach, Pelini hasn't been able to break the habit of losing four games per season. Fans are cautiously optimistic that the 2014 season will be different, though. Even the Big Ten Network's Gerry DiNardo thinks so.

As for Miles, he made a big jump between his first and second seasons coaching at Nebraska. That jump is what has led many to believe he's capable of taking his team even further much quicker than Pelini.

Honestly, it's all about perception. The odds of winning a national championship are difficult to compare from one sport to another. That doesn't mean fans can't have a little fun thinking about it, though.

Is Nebraska basketball really more championship-ready than Nebraska football? Time will tell.

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Power Ranking College Football's 9 Best Dual-Threat Quarterbacks

College football is all about the latest fads—whether it be uniforms, chrome helmets or corporate sponsorships on everything. However, there is one fad that is likely to stick around, that of the dual-threat quarterback. 

In fact, one could argue that it never really left the game at all. Instead of the triple-option, the dual-threat quarterback was put in the shotgun formation and a new type of offense was created. 

With the rage being all about spreading things out on offense, there are plenty of quarterbacks showing off athletic ability across college football.

That leads to the inevitable comparisons, so let's take a look at the nine best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country heading in to the 2014 season. 

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2014 NFL Draft: A Conversation with Arizona State's Marion Grice

The 2014 NFL draft is a time when some of the nation's top collegiate prospects finally get to realize their dreams.

No matter what round they wind up being selected in, each of these young men deserve a chance to soak up the spotlight and celebrate with their family, friends and loved ones.

Arizona State running back Marion Grice gets to realize his dreams at a time when the position he plays has become "devalued."

Historically, the NFL has always had an infatuation with halfbacks.

Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and, more recently, Adrian Peterson are guys who will always be remembered as poster children of their respective eras.

But like everything else in life, things change.

Last year, for the first time since 1963, there wasn't a single running back selected in the first round of the draft—Giovani Bernard was the first guy to come off the board when the Cincinnati Bengals took him at pick No. 37.

Between the 2011 and 2012 draft, four tailbacks were drafted in Round 1. If the current projections hold up, that number will shrink to zero between 2013 at this year's soiree.

Don't tell that to Grice though.

The young man from Houston, Texas has plenty of ambition and a firm belief that he is exactly the type of runner teams can't live without.

During the two seasons he spent at Arizona State, Grice found a way to become the team's most effective weapon.

Rushing for 1,675 yards and 25 touchdowns on just 294 carries, the Sun Devils running back was always out there making defenders miss with his repertoire of video game-like moves.

But it was his aptitude in the passing game that allowed him to make the biggest imprint on head coach Todd Graham's program.

Tallying 91 receptions for 863 yards and 14 scores in that same two-year span, Grice's versatility served as the catalyst of Graham's offense.

The question now becomes, how does Grice's savvy pass-catching expertise translate over to the NFL?

Bleacher Report's own Ryan Lownes threw in his two cents:

One of college football’s most versatile performers over the last two years, Marion Grice proved to be a Swiss army knife capable of pitching in on offense and special teams.

Though lacking elite speed or power, his north-south running style and ability to catch the ball set him apart from others in this class. He is sure to fall in the draft due to a late-season leg injury, but has the tools to become a valuable contributor in a backfield rotation

Leading up to the draft, I got a chance to talk to the talented Arizona State product about a wide range of topics. The result of our conversation is featured below.

 

What's your feeling on "experts" saying the running back position has become devalued?

Marion GricePeople are saying the position is devalued because of the passing game being such a large part of the game.

Doesn't bother me though, teams that win championships run the football. You have to be able to run the ball in December and January. 

 

How do you think your skill set helps you stand out from some of your peers?

MG: I catch the ball like a wide receiver and I have really good vision.

I've also never really been hit, because of my playing style, so I have low mileage on my wheels. Some of these guys have 650 carries in two seasons. I have that in four seasons. 

 

Being drafted has to be an incredible feeling. Growing up, what running backs did you look up to?

MG: I've always just been a fan of the game and I've tried to take pieces from every great's game that I grew up watching.

Right now, I like Matt Forte and Arian Foster. And of course, AP (Adrian Peterson).

 

If you could describe your game to fans in two words, what would those words be?

MG: Naturally smooth.

 

Going off topic for a second, I'm going to name three teams. Tell me who you would root for. New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox or the Arizona Diamondbacks?

MG: Not a baseball guy but Derek Jeter is an icon. New York Yankees.

 

I have to ask, who's the best athlete in this year's draft?

MG: Since I can't pick myself, Sammy Watkins from Clemson.

 

Who do you think is the top quarterback prospect in the entire class?

MG: Teddy Bridgewater and David Fales.

 

Finally, in five years, Marion Grice will be...?

MG: A Pro Bowler.

 

 

All 2014 draft projections provided by NFLDraftScout.com (viaCBSSports.com), unless noted otherwise. All CFB stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com unless noted otherwise. NFL draft history via NFL.com.

 


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Texas A&M Football: Can Kenny Hill Bounce Back from Troubled Spring?

The starting quarterback for the Texas A&M football team will not be decided until August. Sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill will be able to overcome a minor offseason incident in order to compete for the starting job. 

Hill will battle it out with true freshman Kyle Allen for the chance to replace Johnny Manziel in 2014. Manziel left some big shoes to fill after passing and rushing for 9,989 yards in two seasons and winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy. 

If head coach Kevin Sumlin holds true to form, the competition will be decided about two weeks before the opening game on August 28. Sumlin waited until two weeks before the Aggies' season opener against Florida in 2012 to announce Manziel as the starter over Jameill Showers. 

Sumlin has been a head coach for six seasons. During those six seasons, his starting quarterbacks have averaged 380 yards passing per game. Those expecting a huge drop-off in production from Manziel are going to be disappointed.

Sumlin knows how to put quarterbacks in a position to succeed. He will tweak his offense to take advantage of the strengths of each individual player. Whether that player will be Hill or Allen is yet to be determined.

 

The Incident

The incident that everyone has been referring to, as detailed by The Eagle's Andrea Salazar, occurred a couple of days before the final scrimmage of the Aggies' spring practices. There is an area behind the bars in the Northgate bar district in College Station that has picnic tables and gazebos for people to congregate around. 

Hill lay down on one of the decorative planters in that area and fell asleep. He was eventually awoken by the College Station police and arrested for public intoxication.

Hill was suspended for the remainder of spring practice for his indiscretions. An arrest that is comparable to a speeding ticket would typically not cause much of an uproar, but there have been multiple football players arrested since the end of the 2013 season, so the athletic department came down hard. 

Hill was reinstated to the team a few weeks later. He will be able to participate in the team workouts and lead the voluntary seven-on-seven sessions during the summer. 

According to Kate Hairopoulos of SportsDay DFW, Sumlin has indicated that the summer is one of the most important times for his quarterbacks. They develop their leadership skills during the summer sessions and take more of an ownership role in the team. 

 

What Does Hill Bring?

Hill brings more experience to the quarterback position than Allen. Hill completed 16 of 22 pass attempts in 2013 for 183 yards and a touchdown.

A year of experience in the system is important since the Aggies will be starting the season on the road against South Carolina on August 28. Hill has played in SEC games before. He completed all five of his pass attempts for 43 yards and led a touchdown drive against Vanderbilt in 2013.

Hill is also a different type of quarterback than Allen. He offers more of a running option than Allen does. He is a thick-bodied type quarterback who resembles some of the old option quarterbacks at Nebraska like Scott Frost and Jamal Lord.

He offers Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital the option of keeping a lot of the running plays they employed with Manziel in the offense. A running threat at quarterback is advantageous for the offense because it makes the defenders account for all 11 players on the field.  

Allen is not a statue, but he is not as mobile as Hill. With Allen, you will run the zone-read four or five times a game in order to keep a defense honest. With Hill, you can run it 20 times per game and have it be a major part of your offense.

Hill's legs can carry an offense to the win. That is not the case with Allen. That is something to keep in mind when you have three experienced running backs in Trey Williams, Tra Carson and Brandon Williams on the roster. The Aggies could conceivably win a football game with their running game alone behind those running backs and Hill's ability to run the ball.

Hill and Allen both have strong arms. The difference is that Hill has already shown the ability to take a snap in a college game, read the defense and deliver the football to the right place. Allen has not shown that ability yet. 

Hill has overcome the blip on the radar that was his arrest for public intoxication. Whether or not he wins the starting quarterback job in 2014 will be determined solely by how he and Allen perform on the field between now and August 28. 

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No. 3 WR Christian Kirk Announces Plans to Visit Multiple SEC Powerhouses

The whirlwind recruitment of wide receiver Christian Kirk is about to hit the road.

He shared his plans to tour several campuses in SEC country during the final week of May with a Wednesday announcement on Twitter:

Kirk, rated No. 3 nationally among 2015 receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings, will celebrate the arrival of summer break by packing in four visits. The Arizona standout is set to spend time at Georgia, Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee as his recruiting process approaches a pivotal stretch.

The 4-star prospect garnered scholarship offers midway through his sophomore year, and they've continued to arrive at a steady pace. He now has more than 30 collegiate options to consider.

Kirk earned First-Team All-State honors after a dominant junior campaign. The 5'11", 197-pound playmaker provides a multidimensional presence in the offensive attack at Saguaro High School (Scottsdale).

He caught 65 passes for 1,183 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2013. Kirk also contributed mightily as rusher, gaining 832 yards and 13 scores on the ground.

He is the consensus No. 1 player in Arizona.

Kirk visited Oregon, Ohio State, USC and UCLA earlier this year. Now he'll have an opportunity to explore his options in the SEC.

Tennessee, a team that already holds a commitment from elite Georgia receiver Preston Williams, offered Kirk last April. The Volunteers have caught fire on the recruiting trail under second-year head coach Butch Jones, and a pledge from another top pass target could help convince top-ranked dual-threat quarterback Torrance Gibson to join the class.

Alabama landed 4-star receivers Daylon Charlot and Calvin Ridley in recent months. Kirk already has an established rapport with new Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

"The coaches love me and said they need me in their offense," he told AL.com reporter Matt Scalici after receiving an Alabama offer in February. "I talked to Lane Kiffin and he said him and coach (Nick) Saban sat down and watched my film. Coach Saban told him to go get me because he loves how I play."

Georgia picked up a pledge from in-state receiver Christian Owens in April. The Bulldogs would love to complement the rangy 6'5" target with the smaller, shiftier Kirk.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has already built an impressive offensive class, but the majority of incoming talent is along the front line and in the backfield. Kirk is precisely the kind of playmaker the Tigers look to find in space on quick-hit pass plays.

Fellow conference members like Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Arkansas appear to be on the outside looking in as Kirk formulates his travel plans in the Southeast.

He is projected to sign with Texas A&M by 85 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

 

Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Michigan Wolverines Quarterback Shane Morris Throws Long Pass to Himself

This time, it's real.

We recently saw Manvel High School recruit Gary Haynes post a video in which he sprints to catch a long pass he had thrown. That video was deemed to be fake—likely with another person throwing the eventually-caught football—as Haynes 'threw' his ball out of shot to the side.

Michigan rising sophomore quarterback Shane Morris decided to try his hand at the real thing. Perhaps the ball goes higher and not quite as far, but it's still impressive.

[Shane Morris, Vine]

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Former College Stars Whose 2014 NFL Draft Stocks Dropped in Their Final Seasons

We talk often about draft risers, players such as Blake Bortles and Greg Robinson who emerge seemingly from nowhere to become potential top-five draft picks.

But what about the flip side of the coin?

Just as Bortles and Robinson used a breakout 2013 season to put themselves in this position, players who began the year on NFL scouts' radars used poor 2013 seasons to play themselves out of it.

The results of this can be seen in the work of B/R's Matt Miller, who put out a first-round mock draft last June and another—his final seven-round mock of the season—last week. Some of the differences in player stocks are amazing.

For the purposes of this list, we will only count players who hurt their stock by playing poorly. Not included will be players such as Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, who dropped from No. 19 in the June mock to No. 112 in the May mock but enjoyed a fine season in 2013. His drop had more to do with the rise of other running backs and the devaluation of his position in NFL scouting circles.

Other exclusions from this list will be anyone, like Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin, who has dropped because of an injury. Instead, this list will focus on players who did not post the same game tape in 2013 as they did in the season prior—that being the reason they'll slip.

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NFL Scouts Reportedly Favor Marcus Mariota over Jameis Winston for 2015 Draft

It's the morning of the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, and yet, here we are, talking about who might go first in 2015—just as Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman warned would be the case.

According to anonymous scouts who spoke with Pete Thamel of SI.com, the consensus in the league is that Oregon junior Marcus Mariota will be the top quarterback taken in the 2015 draft, while Florida State sophomore and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston reminds some people more of noted bust Vince Young.

"I'd take him over [Johnny] Manziel," said one scout of Mariota, who could have declared for the draft in 2014 but opted for a return to school. "He's more accurate. He's bigger and I think he's faster, not as elusive, but more durable. A lot of upside there."

A lot of upside, indeed. Mariota played through a sprained MCL in the latter part of last season, and even though it took a visible toll on his performance, he still finished the year with 3,663 passing yards, 715 rushing yards, 40 total touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Winston, meanwhile, has never lost a game in his college career and has the size (6'4"), mobility and arm talent to become a high draft pick.

Off-field concerns are beginning to cripple his stock, however, as his most recent arrest for stealing crab legs from a supermarket comes on the heels of a much more serious sexual assault investigation last fall and even a few suspicious incidents before that.

"It's repeat behavior," said a NFL scout for a quarterback-hungry team, according to Thamel. "He's not learning from it. That's a problem."

That sentiment echoes what Freeman reported earlier this week, when he quoted an NFL scout saying: "We're talent whores. But we're not total whores. It's almost impossible, at this point, to trust Winston."

If he plans on declaring for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season, Winston has but 12 months left to win back that trust.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State, Ole Miss Latest to Offer Scholarship to Evander Holyfield's Son

Evander Holyfield made millions of dollars and became a global icon for his ability to dish out contact in the boxing ring. His son, Elijah Holyfield, hopes to spend his foreseeable future avoiding contact out of the offensive backfield.

The 5'11", 190-pound sophomore running back continues to see his collegiate options expand.

Ohio State and Ole Miss are the latest programs to plunge into his recruitment process, as both teams extended offers on Wednesday:

Holyfield has enjoyed a busy May, previously receiving offers from Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana. Mississippi State, Virginia, Wake Forest and Wisconsin were already in the mix.

Interest increased after his first season at Woodward Academy in Atlanta. Holyfield rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown in the 2013 season opener and remained highly effective throughout his sophomore campaign.

His freshman year featured 645 yards and 10 touchdowns at Riverside Military Academy (Gainesville, Georgia). Holyfield transferred to Woodward last year.

He isn't a burner, but excels at finding space after working his way between the tackles. His agility also suits him well off the edge, where Holyfield appears patient as rushing lanes form.

"He's going to be a big power back," Woodward assistant coach Matt Brennan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell. "I definitely think all the SEC schools are going to come take a look him. He'll be an excellent recruit for sure."

Holyfield displays an impressive set of lateral movements in the open field that allow him to evade defenders. He finishes plays moving forward, fighting for extra yards before defenders complete the tackle.

According to Carvell, Holyfield mentioned in-state Georgia and Michigan as favorites last October. Those squads haven't offered yet, but he certainly isn't lacking for opportunities at the next level after two high school seasons.

The son of the only four-time World Heavyweight champion continues to chart a course for his own success in athletics.

Count Ohio State and Ole Miss among those who hope that path leads to their campus.

 

Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

SEC Football vs. Power 5 Conference Games We'd Love to See

The headaches associated with realignment forced the SEC to go to a "bridge" schedule format over the last few seasons. But last month, one of the top annual offseason questions was answered, when the SEC announced its long-term schedule format, which starts in 2016.

That format isn't much different than the current one. The eight-game conference schedule will be in the same "6-1-1" format, where each team from a division will play all six of its other division mates, one rotating opponent from the other division and one permanent cross-division rivalry.

Also included in that format is a requirement that each SEC team play at least one out-of-conference game against team from a different "Power Five" conference—ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12—per season.

That's not much different than what currently happens. Ten of the 14 SEC teams will play at least one "Power Five" team this season, with Ole Miss having Boise State—a team that isn't from a Power Five conference but has a solid reputation—on their schedules. 

But what home-and-home series' and neutral site games can we create that will be fun for the fans? Our picks are in this slideshow.

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College Players Will Reportedly Receive Compensation for Working Camps

The NCAA has drawn up a piece of legislation that will allow college football players to be compensated for working on campus during summer football camps, according to an anonymous director of football operations who spoke with Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com.

Roussel elaborated on how the arrangement would work:

In the past, college coaching staffs have mainly relied on high school coaches and even lower-level college coaches to assist with summer camps. …

At the moment, coaches suspect that the compensation will be very similar to the way in which high school coaches are typically paid for working camps – either hourly or by the camp session.

No colleges will be allowed to advertise that a star player will be serving as an instructor during a summer camp. For example, if Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston were to serve as part of the staff for Jimbo Fisher’s football camp, the Seminoles staff is prohibited from advertising that Winston will be present and/or coaching a group of quarterbacks.

It is hard to say for sure, but this—more much than the Unlimited Pasta Act of April 2014—feels like it should be a seminal moment in the movement for labor reform in college athletics.

Even if the payment is small, the gesture is large. College football players will be paid money for doing football activities on a college campus, and the NCAA would not find it impermissible.

On principle alone, that is remarkable news. If it forges and flows down a slippery slope, it is potentially paradigm-shifting.

If college players are paid for doing something—even something as small as coaching high schoolers during a positional workout—and the world does not promptly explode, it might only be a matter of time before the NCAA is forced to pay them for more.

Of course, the rule also brings with it some questions. Roussel wonders how coaches will go about employing this provision—whether they will invite the star players to coach at camp or the players most in need of financial support.

Personally, I wonder whether the rule is just for football players. And if that is indeed the case, I wonder how long it is before high-level basketball players start lobbying for the same privilege.

 

Note: A previous version of this article stated that the rule was in its proposal phase, when in fact it was passed last year. This summer, however, will be the first when it takes effect.

The story has been changed to reflect that.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Crimson Tide Poised for Another Record-Setting Draft

Even though he will not get anything out of attending the first round of the NFL draft in New York other than being there for his former players and promoting the football program, this could be another record-setting day for Nick Saban and the University of Alabama.

As noted earlier this week in the Crimson Tide draft preview, by having 12 players invited to attend the NFL Scouting Combine, which is a pretty strong indicator for whether someone will get selected, Alabama appears to be on the cusp of at least tying the school record of 10 selections in a single draft. That dates back to 1945, when its last player went in the 32nd round.

Nowadays, the draft is just seven rounds, but Alabama had nine players taken last year and eight in 2012—the most chosen from a school that year.

But that’s just the beginning.

Through the 2013 NFL draft, 111 players Saban either coached or recruited had been selected over the years, an average of just under one per round (.933). Among them were 33 Crimson Tide players chosen between 2009-2013, whose initial contracts combined added up to more than $280 million.

During those same five years, Alabama led all teams with 14 first-round selections after not having any between 2000 (Chris Samuels and Shaun Alexander) and 2009 (Andre Smith), and no draft picks at all in 2008. 

The 11 first-round picks from 2011, 2012 and 2013 alone equaled the output of the previous six Alabama coaches and 22 years combined.

“Remarkable,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said last year about the back-to-back four first-round selections in 2011 and 2012. “It’s up there with one of the more impressive feats from a school that we’ve seen in a long time.”

With that in mind, here are six other ways Alabama and/or Saban can make history during Thursday night’s first round (Note: Draft statistics are credited to the coach from the previous regular season, so the 2014 draft counts toward the coach from 2013): 

 

1. Most first-round draft picks by an active coach

This is already a given because Mack Brown, who recently stepped down at Texas, was the active leader with 21 first-round selections, followed by Saban with 19 and Steve Spurrier with 16.

Defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney will be a top pick for South Carolina on Thursday, but the only program that appears to be a lock to have more than one first-rounder this year is Texas A&M with quarterback Johnny Manziel, tackle Jake Matthews and wide receiver Mike Evans.

 

2. Highest career average of first-round selections by any active coach

Right now, Les Miles has a better career average at 1.17, compared to Saban’s 1.12.

Since Miles took over LSU in 2005, the Tigers have had 12 first-round selections, although at least six of them were were recruited by Saban. Miles also had two first-round selections at Oklahoma State (2001-2004).

Should wide receiver Odell Beckham be a first-round pick as expected, Miles will have 15 in 14 years, for a 1.07 average.

If Saban has two first-round selections Thursday night, his career average will be 1.17.

3. Most first-round selections for an Alabama coach 

Should Alabama have only one first-round selection in this draft—and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, linebacker C.J. Mosley and offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio are all strong candidates—he’ll be Saban’s 15th first-round selection at Alabama, a program record.

Paul W. “Bear” Bryant had 14 when he was at Alabama (1958-1982), although Joe Namath was a first-round pick in both the AFL and NFL before the leagues merged.

Factor in the schools they coached previous to Alabama, and both Bryant and Saban have had 19 career first-round selections.

 

4. Longest consecutive streak of top-10 selections

If either Clinton-Dix or Mosley ends up as a top-10 pick, Alabama will set the record for longest consecutive streak of top-10 selections during the common draft era (since 1967).

It’s currently tied with Southern California (1993-1997) with five straight years, while LSU and Texas A&M both have active three-year streaks.

5. Unprecedented first-round numbers

Saban is averaging 2.33 first-round draft picks per draft at Alabama (2007-2013). No one in college football history compares.

Pete Carroll had a 1.6 average at Southern California, and Jim Tressel was 1.4 at Ohio State, but both programs ran into trouble with the NCAA.

Otherwise, only three other prominent coaches have averaged at least one first-round selection a year: Frank Leahy (1.23, mostly at Notre Dame), John McKay (1.13, USC) and Barry Switzer (1.00, Oklahoma).

 

6. Saban could move into the top five for all-time first-round selections.

Joe Paterno, who coached for 46 years at Penn State, had the most first-round players with 33, just edging Bobby Bowden’s 32 at Florida State. 

At his current pace at Alabama, Saban will catch Paterno during the 2018 draft.

 

Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Follow @CrimsonWalsh

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Former College Football Walk-Ons Who Could Be Picked in NFL Draft

College football teams can have as many as 105 players on their rosters, yet no more than 85 can be on scholarship. The rest must pay their way and are known as walk-ons.

By and large, walk-ons are former standout high school players who weren't considered good enough to earn a free ride but still possess enough value to help a team out in terms of depth and practice flexibility. When a school finds itself with some extra scholarships, sometimes a select few walk-ons will pick up an award for a season or two.

And then there are the success stories, the players who go from nobody to key contributor to star to...the NFL?

Each year, the NFL draft features a few players who began their college careers as walk-ons, completing the ultimate rags-to-riches journey. That list includes current NFL stars such as Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

We've identified eight such former walk-ons who have a shot at hearing their names called in New York City this weekend.

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Power Ranking the Scariest Defenders in Pac-12 Football

Nobody seems to care about defense in the Pac-12 anymore. It's all about the experienced quarterbacks, the up-and-coming crop of receivers and the powerful offensive lines at schools like Stanford and UCLA.

You'll see the occasional note about a pass breakup or tackle for loss during spring practice, but that's not what gets fans going anymore. Who had the most dazzling performance on offense? How much better is QB1 or RB1 than he was last season? And what's the 40-yard time of the guy returning punts?

All of those questions are hot topics, but you aren't going to win without getting stops. Believe or not, offenses still have to game-plan for opposing defenses; they don't just shred 'em without preparation.

Which defenses are the hardest to prepare for? And more specifically, which guys keep players like Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota and Nelson Agholor up at night?

That's the subject of today's piece, which takes a look at the five scariest defenders in the Pac-12. Buckle up!

 

All stats via cfbstats.com

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