NCAA Football News

2015 College Football Recruits with Famous Parents

The 2015 college football recruiting class features another talented crop of prospects. Among this year's class are several recruits who have famous parents.

A 4-star receiver is a nightmare for defenses, while his father is one of the greatest musical entertainers ever. A 4-star defensive tackle's father is a general manager of an NFL team, plus a 4-star quarterback reminds a lot of people in Texas of his dad.

Begin Slideshow

SEC Football: Biggest Remaining Questions of Spring Football

It seems like national signing day was just yesterday, but here we are in April with spring practice winding down and some spring games kicking off over the weekend. 

We went through some of the biggest spring practice battles before camps opened, and some of those questions remain unanswered. 

Which issues facing SEC teams are the biggest problems as spring winds down? The top nine are in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

What the World Looked Like When Class of 2015 Recruits Were Born

It's easy to forget just how young college football prospects actually are, as media exposure and incredible access create a more professional approach for star high school players than ever before.

Prospects who make cross-country trips to visit high-profile coaches and feature hoards of fans on social media are still teenage students, even though they're challenged to handle pressure well beyond their years.

To keep things in perspective, we took a look back to the time period when America's latest crop of recruits joined the party here on Earth. Most members of the 2015 class were born in 1996 or 1997, a fact that will undoubtedly make many of you feel old.

It's a span that featured technological advancement, unforgettable sports storylines and the return of America's greatest athletic icon. We explore the people, events and decisions that helped shape the narrative.

 

Begin Slideshow

6 Bold Predictions for 2014 College Football Spring Games

Starting this weekend, college football begins to come out of its winter hibernation. That's right: Soon we'll see official spring football games take place. 

Who's ready for quarterbacks not being hit, screwy scoring systems and new schemes debuting to the public? It's what we're anxiously waiting for here, especially since it's been months since we've seen college football on TV. 

One thing that we can usually count on coming out of spring football is that a surprise player or situation. 

So, as we enter the beginning of spring games for 2014, let's take a look at some of the more shocking things that could happen by the end of it all. 

Begin Slideshow

Johnny Manziel Looking to Secure Numerous Trademarks

Former Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel could potentially be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft come May 8. But for now, the 21-year-old superstar is focused on building his brand.

According to ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell, Manziel has filed for several trademarks in addition to the "Johnny Football" nickname, including "The House That Johnny Built."

On Wednesday, TMZ Sports reported that Manziel filed documents with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in an effort to secure the rights to multiple modifications of his name and number. Some of them include "JFF," "JMAN," "JMAN 2" and "ManzIIel."

According to TMZ, who obtained Manziel's application, the polarizing signal-caller intends to use the different monikers for athletic apparel, sleepwear and gloves, among other products. 

TMZ and Rovell both report that Manziel is currently facing opposition in his fight to claim the rights to "Johnny Football." According to Rovell, Fitch Estates Sales, a company owned by the family of Manziel's friend Nathan Fitch, was the first to apply for the trademark back in December. 

The family's attorney, Gerald Fowler, states that Fitch and Manziel were expected to pursue and capitalize on the "Johnny Football" trademark together. "My guess is that there was a lack of communication here," Fowler said, per Rovell.

Although the status is still pending, it's likely that Manziel will win out. As Rovell points out, trademarks referring to a living person typically require approval by that individual.

Regardless of whether Manziel is successful in his trademark pursuit, his latest business venture is sure to create a stir among NFL experts and analysts who have spent countless hours discussing his work ethic and dedication to football.

Even Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, who holds the No. 8 overall pick in the draft, has chimed in on the subject. 

Of course, we won't know the full effects of Manziel's off-the-field behavior and activities on his overall stock until draft day. But while it's difficult to blame Manziel for trying to cash in on his fame and success, there are some who will attempt to prove a correlation between Manziel's business savvy and his passion for football.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football RBs Who Can Score from Anywhere on the Field

The best offenses in college football are machines.

Teams like Florida State and Oregon break a defense's will in systematic rhythms: They take what they're given, pick up small chunks of yards on every play, move the chains, control the clock and eventually punch in a touchdown.

But doesn't that just seem like too much effort?

Why go through such methodical motions when a touchdown could be one play away? Why risk fumbling or having the momentum curtailed with a holding penalty when certain running backs can take a carry to the house...from anywhere?

Big plays are a keystone part of college football, more so in the passing game than the running game but not endemic to one and not the other. There are tailbacks throughout the country who have proven the ground game to be nearly as explosive.

These following eight are the shiniest examples.

Begin Slideshow

Michigan Football: Realistic Expectations for Wolverines' Spring Game

Michigan officially unofficially kicks off the 2014 season with the Mott Spring Football Game this Saturday at 2:00 p.m. ET, hoping to chase the burn of the 2013 campaign and see some much-needed improvement from its players.

This will be the public's first proper look at first-year offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who came to Ann Arbor from Alabama this offseason; and as befitting for a new, high-profile coach and a unit that struggled historically a season ago, the offense is what most fans are eager to see this weekend.

Starting with the quarterback competition—waged primarily between Devin Gardner and Shane Morris—it is reasonable to expect some good things from both sides. Gardner is ahead of schedule in rehab for the foot he broke at the end of last season, so don't expect to see him scrambling around the field, but he has worked well from the pocket all spring and is ready to display his new-found competence to the masses. He thinks this job should be his.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee disagrees:

From Morris, it is unrealistic to expect Jameis Winston from Florida State's spring game in 2013. It's not that unrealistic, though, once you really think about it. Morris is as far removed from high school as Winston was at the time, and he was just as highly regarded as a prospect. Why shouldn't he come out and light Michigan Stadium aflame?

There is almost nothing Morris can do on Saturday to make himself the front-runner for the job. That will be Gardner's role heading into fall camp. What he can do, however, if he shows more confidence and less check-down tendencies than he did against Kansas State, is pull more or less even with Gardner and make this conversation feel less media-contrived for the rest of the summer and fall.

It is reasonable to expect (or at least hope for) that to happen.

Elsewhere on the offense, it is unfair to expect a raised-from-the-dead running game. Nussmeier did a great job with running backs and offensive linemen at Alabama, but these things take time. It is fair to expect improvement—a unit that's a work in progress—but crazy to expect a group that was so bad in 2013 to lose Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield and (for the time being) Graham Glasgow, then come out in the spring game and bash skulls.

Having said that, anything other than marked improvement from running backs Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith would be disheartening. According to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, head coach Brady Hoke praised both for their form in spring camp and remarked on Green's improved fitness after a slow freshman year.

"(Green is) in shape, and just experience (has made him better)," Hoke said. "He understands the expectations a little more with clarity. And that's part of it."

The other big question on offense, of course, is at receiver. Drake Harris' injury puts a damper on what would have otherwise been a massively important day, but a first glimpse at fellow early enrollee Freddy Canteen should keep the audience compelled.

If he's as good (and as confident) as the reports coming out of camp seem to indicate, Michigan might not struggle quite so much to replace Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds. 

And boy, wouldn't that be a relief?

The defense is far more stable than the offense, so we'll spend less time speculating what things we might see on Saturday.

Greg Mattison's unit held the team together in 2013 and stands to get better this season, though watching Jake Ryan transition from outside to inside linebacker should be interesting.

(Because he is Jake Ryan, however, it is fair to expect the best.)

One more realistic expectation: There will be a palpable feeling of incompleteness in the stadium, and it won't go away for the better part of the summer—until Jabrill Peppers arrives on campus.

There will be signs and a genuine aura hanging about the crowd in anticipation of his arrival. And with good reason, too. Michigan always recruits well, but it seems like eons since it's landed someone this highly touted. Peppers is the kind of player who can change a program from the first snap of his first day of practice. Especially after Vernon Hargreaves III's freshman season at Florida, Wolverine fans can justify expecting an immediate All-American in the secondary.

You'll be able to feel Peppers' absence on Saturday, but it won't be a sad sort of feeling. Not in the slightest.

It will be one that is oozing with hope.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Returning College Football QBs Throw the Best Deep Ball?

Few things are prettier than a football caught in a well-placed downfield throw. Since there are still five months before the start of the season, all anyone can do is look back at highlights from last year. 

You know, to bide the time and all. 

Inching toward the 2014 season, it's time to examine which returning quarterbacks throw the best deep ball. Obviously, this is a matter of opinion based on what your eyes tell you. Stats and completion percentages don't tell the whole story here. In some instances, they may not even tell part of it. 

Rather, this is based on things like arm strength and accuracy. In other words, if you had to get down the field in a hurry, who would you want throwing the ball?

Which returning quarterbacks throw the best deep ball? Prepare yourself for a montage of quarterback porn. 

 

Bryce Petty, Baylor

Unquestionably, Petty threw the prettiest long ball in the Big 12—not that he had a ton of competition. Still, his arm strength is perfectly suited for Baylor's ability to stretch the field. 

Petty had help from two wide receivers who specialized in yards after the catch: Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese. Not only could both receivers pick up big yardage on short-to-intermediate routes, but they could simply run by defenders. 

All Petty had to do was put it where Goodley and Reese could catch it in stride on their way to a touchdown. And Petty did so quite often as part of 4,200 passing yards last season. And even if Petty missed the first time, head coach Art Briles had enough faith in his quarterback to try again. Petty's second-highest passer rating (235.5, per ESPN) came in second down and long situations (eight to 10 yards). 

Baylor's vertical passing game suffered a bit when Reese was sidelined for the last month of the season with a wrist injury. But even on a so-so day, Baylor's downfield passing game was better than most teams on a good day. 

 

Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Mariota is a quarterback who doesn't get to throw downfield nearly enough given his arm strength. When he does, though, it can be a thing of a beauty. With 3,665 passing yards last season, Mariota has shown he can sling it around. 

Mariota's two favorite targets, Josh Huff and Bralon Addison, were excellent deep-ball targets in 2013. How Mariota fares without Huff will be interesting to watch. Still, he was remarkably efficient on fourth down and long situations (more than 10 yards), completing all three passes for two touchdowns. 

If there's one thing Mariota needs to work on, it's his downfield accuracy. He tends to throw high or behind, and there are a few big pickups that could have been touchdowns had he hit his receivers in stride. As long as he keeps improving, though, his passing numbers should border on absurd in 2014. 

 

Braxton Miller, Ohio State

Though Miller is known for his legs, the guy has an absolute howitzer of an arm. Wisconsin—very, very sadly, mind you—will agree to this. Miller has burned the Badgers twice on late-half touchdown throws (2011, '13). 

Like Mariota, Miller isn't the most accurate vertical passer, but he can get the ball down the field in a hurry. Here's what quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. said about Miller last year via Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch

Braxton has one of the biggest arms in college football... I know people see his speed and his playmaking ability. But I am talking about, he’s got rare, rare arm talent.

If you're running a two-minute drill, Miller is probably the guy you'd want leading the offense. 

 

Jameis Winston, Florida State

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner may have the prettiest release in the game. He makes it look utterly effortless. 

Winston isn't just dangerously throwing from the pocket. One of the best parts of his game is his ball placement on downfield throws while on the run. Winston's vertical passing game still looks great even when he doesn't plant his feet. Frankly, it could be confused for sorcery. 

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Winston is absurd on down-and-distances longer than 10 yards, averaging about a 78 percent completion rate. On third down and long situations (eight to 10 yards), Winston completes about 72 percent of his passes. 

Again, this doesn't account for yards after catch, but it does provide a glimpse into scenarios that call for longer passes—and how well Winston performs. 

Coming back for another, and likely a final, season should have defensive coordinators shaking their heads in disgust. 

 

Honorable Mention: Connor Cook, Michigan State

Cook really didn't take over until the third game of the '13 season against Youngstown State. By the end of the season, though, he turned into one of the best pure passers in the Big Ten with back-to-back 300-yard games against Ohio State and Stanford. 

Cook doesn't always set his feet when throwing the long ball, but it gets there all the same. His ball placement on some of his deep throws is astounding. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of ESPN. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big 12 Football: Updating Every Team's Quarterback Situation

The Big 12 is the land of gunslingers. Bryce Petty rewrote the record books last year, Trevor Knight toasted Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and Davis Webb is poised to be the next stat-sheet stuffer at Texas Tech. 

But not every school in the league has a bona fide starter. Teams like Iowa State and West Virginia are in search of who will lead their offenses next season. 

Now that we're in the heart of spring ball, let's update each Big 12 school's quarterback situation. 

Begin Slideshow

Jameis Winston, Teammates Reportedly Investigated by Florida State

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winstonavoided criminal charges late last year stemming from a rape accusation, but the star Seminole may not be out of the woods yet.  

According to Adam Weinstein of Deadspin.com, Winston and teammates Chris Casher and Ronald Darby were investigated in the weeks following Florida State's national championship triumph over Auburn in accordance with the university's code of conduct.

Winston, Casher and Darby were part of a Title IX investigation stemming from the alleged rape. While Casher and Darby have reportedly been charged with five code-of-conduct violations, Winston has yet to be charged with anything.

Later on Thursday, Rachel Axon of USA Today reported that Florida State is now under federal investigation for how they handled the case:

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation of Florida State University into whether its handling of the Jameis Winston rape allegations violated Title IX laws, according to a letter confirming the decision that was obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

According to Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, Winston's accuser claimed he raped her on Dec. 7, 2012. The allegations put the Heisman Trophy winner in jeopardy of missing the BCS National Championship Game, but he ultimately wasn't charged.

Per Schlabach, Florida state attorney Willie Meggs didn't feel as though there was enough evidence to lead to conviction at the time:

We've carefully examined all the evidence in this case and have concluded that no charges will be filed against anyone in this case. ... We have a duty as prosecutors to determine if each case has a reasonable likelihood of conviction. After reviewing the facts in this case, we do not feel that we can reach those burdens.

Both Casher and Darby admitted they saw Winston having sex with the accuser, and Casher said that he took video of the sex act on his phone, although he eventually deleted it, according to Weinstein.

With that in mind, the university charges against Casher and Darby are as follows:

Both Casher and Darby face FSU charges of "conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for another person" and "acts that invade the privacy of another person." Casher faces an additional charge of "recording of images without consent." If found responsible in a university hearing, they could receive punishments ranging from a letter of reprimand to expulsion from the university.

While Casher and Darby came forward with their side of the story, Winston was advised by his legal counsel to refrain from answering questions, per Weinstein. That resulted in no charges being levied against him, although the door isn't shut provided new information becomes available.

According to Weinstein, the accuser's attorney, Baine Kerr, believes Winston should face repercussions if he doesn't speak up:

We're pleased that the university is finally attempting to meet its Title IX obligations, but it shouldn't be well over a year (after my client's assault). ... If Mr. Winston continues to refuse to discuss what happened that night, it's difficult to see how the university can avoid taking action.

Winston is set to enter his redshirt sophomore season at Florida State, which means he will be eligible to enter the 2015 NFL draft if he so chooses.

After a spectacular freshman campaign, Winston is the odds-on favorite to be the top prospect in the 2015 class. Should anything come of this investigation, that could affect Winston's decision to enter the draft and also affect how NFL teams view him.

Winston was able to effectively block out distractions last season and lead his team to a national title, so there is reason to believe that he can do the same this season.

Even so, it seems as though these accusations will continue to loom over Winston's head for as long as he stays at Florida State.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami Football: Week 4 Spring Practice Stock Report

The Miami Hurricanes are soon entering the final week of spring practice, but competition is heating up in the limited workouts that remain before the end of the session.

It was a slower week in Coral Gables, Fla., as an intrasquad scrimmage and a single practice were the main headlines. Miami also held pro day on April 3 while the current 'Canes prepared for a second scrimmage on April 4.

A few players stepped up during the first scrimmage, earning status as offensive or defensive team leaders. Other teammates, however, were brought back from the highest ranks and must work their way back toward a coveted orange-black jersey.

Miami has a pair of practices on April 8 and 10 before the spring game, which takes place at Sun Life Stadium on April 12.

 

News & Notes

Following the first scrimmage of the spring, sophomore defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad was seen wearing a red no-contact jersey.

Muhammad is the leading candidate to replace departed senior Shayon Green on one edge of the defensive line, bringing more intensity to the position.

Jamal Carter, who had been wearing a coveted black jersey, donned a yellow limited-contact get-up. Carter had been performing well in the absence of incumbent starter Rayshawn Jenkins before the setback.

According to Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, expect Anthony Chickillo and Ufomba Kamalu to play defensive tackle on third down while Muhammad and Tyriq McCord prowl the outside.

As reported by InsideTheU, the 'Canes are adding a tight end, but he isn't traveling a far distance.

Raphael Akpejiori, a 6'9", 241-pound forward on the Miami basketball team, has been watching practice over the past week and will join the team sometime this spring.

 

Stock Up

Dallas Crawford continues to be more impressive on a weekly basis, earning a black jersey in just his fourth week after switching to safety.

Per Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said Dallas has been physical and is "not making mental errors, doing a good job of putting his eyes on his keys and reading run-pass and showing up."

Sophomore linebacker Jermaine Grace also impressed coaches and was given a black jersey of his own.

Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald notes D'Onofrio said Grace "made a lot of plays [in Saturday's scrimmage]. Didn't have mental errors. Has a ways to go, but [he is] doing a good job."

Defensive tackle Earl Moore was certainly the biggest surprise of the past week, becoming the first D-lineman to earn a black jersey. According to Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, Golden said the junior is ahead of JUCO transfer Calvin Heurtelou and Corey King.

The timing of Moore's emergence is perfect because returning starter Olsen Pierre has been sidelined for a few weeks due to a head injury.

 

Stock Down

Tracy Howard, the No. 1 cornerback on the team, had his black jersey taken away following what was apparently mediocre performance in the scrimmage. Additionally, Alex Figueroa also lost the black, but it is not clear if the sophomore's injury was a contributing factor in that.

Per Jackson, D'Onofrio wants the pair to be more consistent because they were "not up to the standards" during the scrimmage.

As discussed earlier this week, I believe head coach Al Golden and D'Onofrio are attempting to send a message with the shakeup.

Thurston Armbrister was rewarded for his performance late last week, but the black jersey was quickly taken away from the linebacker. Armbrister is the second-most experienced linebacker on the team and may occupy a larger role than many anticipate.

 

Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Week 2 Spring Practice Stock Report

After a week off due to spring break, the Alabama Crimson Tide got back down to business and began their second full week of spring practice.

Nick Saban and his staff continue to work on developing the entire roster, with experiments along the offensive line and at linebacker headlining the newest developments this week.

 

News of the Week

The shifting of players to different positions continued on both sides of the ball this week, as detailed by Marq Burnett of The Anniston Star.

The biggest change was inserting sophomore Brandon Greene—who saw action last season at tight end—into the starting group at left tackle. Burnett reports that Leon Brown, who was taking reps with the ones at left tackle last week, worked in the same spot with the twos.

The other move that may pique the interest of Tide fans came on defense, where Reggie Ragland took snaps at outside linebacker. The junior has spent most of his first two seasons working at the two inside spots in the middle level of the Tide’s defense.

On the negative side, Andrew Gribble of AL.com reported that sophomore running back Altee Tenpenny was arrested over spring break in his home town of Little Rock, Ark., and charged with possession of a controlled substance.

"I’m aware of the situation with Altee and this is obviously not the kind of behavior we expect from our players," Saban said. "In addition to any punishment he may receive from a legal standpoint, we will have some internal discipline as well as education that he will be responsible for working through."

 

QB Competition Update

Saban has often stated that the quest to pick AJ McCarron’s successor is unlikely to end any time soon. With that caveat in mind, getting quality information on the five quarterbacks currently competing for the job is a chore.

However, perhaps the most revealing information about the spring competition came from an unlikely source—senior safety Nick Perry.

“It's going to be a good competition,” Perry told Gribble.

We have four or five good guys who are getting the reps. You have Blake Sims who is an experienced guy. Then you have Alec Morris who is a gunslinger. You have (Cooper) Bateman, who's more of a Greg McElroy type, AJ McCarron type. It's going to be a good competition so be prepared for it.

 

Saban Being Saban

It’s not exactly uncommon for Saban to express displeasure during the spring, and with one question about the perceived depth along the defensive line, the Tide’s head coach quickly tempered any budding enthusiasm about that unit’s progress.

“They’ve got a long way to go,” Saban told Marc Torrence of BamaOnline

“I’m not satisfied with the way any of them are playing, if you want to know the truth about it. They’ve got to be more aggressive, physical, play with better leverage, hold the point better, rush the passer better.”

As Travis Reier of BamaOnline points out, the lack of experienced bodies at defensive end and the recent pectoral injury that will keep nose guard Darren Lake out for the rest of spring have Saban bristling at the idea of that unit being anything except unsettled.

Alabama fans and reporters who cover the team can identify with the trouble of figuring out an accurate depth chart—and that’s because Saban himself says that the team doesn’t have one yet.

"Well we really don't have a depth chart,” Saban told Michael Casagrande of AL.com. “Really what we're trying to do is coach every guy so they can be the best player they can be and nobody should judge anybody and nobody should pout about anything. Everybody should be focused on getting better."

 

1st Scrimmage Looming

Even though Saban despises the idea of having a depth chart in spring, that doesn’t mean players can’t make a move to position themselves for playing time in the fall over the course of the next few weeks.

The best chance for that to occur is to perform well in scrimmages and the Tide are scheduled to hold their first one of the spring on Saturday.

With these practices representing the closest simulations to the type of atmosphere the team will see during the season, it represents a great opportunity for players to show the improvement they have made in the offseason.

“The first scrimmage you want to get out there and see what you know without the coaches being right there in your ear, telling you plays,” senior running back Jalston Fowler told Torrence.

“Everyone’s looking forward to that first scrimmage to get that coach out of your ear and see what they can do on their own,” he said.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: Who Will Be the New Leader of the Tide's Offensive Line?

He can laugh about it now, but Ryan Kelly’s first real hit during a University of Alabama football practice was about as memorable as it gets because he really doesn’t remember much of what happened after.

“I got destroyed by Dont’a Hightower,” he said. “My first concussion in college.

“I was out for like a week-and-a-half. When you’re a freshman, coming up, that’s kind of hard to take in. I wanted to prove myself. Things happen. It’s called football.”

Kelly doesn’t take the concussion side of it lightly, far from it, and said it’s the only one he’s had at the Capstone. But there aren’t too many players on the Crimson Tide who can tell a Hightower practice story, or of the guys who were first-round picks from 2011 NFL draft: Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones, James Carpenter and Mark Ingram.

Fifth-year senior right tackle Austin Shepherd can.

While it’s still a little weird for him not to be lining up next to his good friend Anthony Steen, who played in 51 games and made 34 starts at right guard, he’s now considered one of the old men of the Crimson Tide—a role only reinforced by his ability to win any beard-growing contest with ease.

“I've been here five years,” he said. “It's been a while, but I love it.”

It goes without saying that Cyrus Kouandjio’s departure at left tackle resulted in a huge hole on the Crimson Tide offensive line, but just as important this spring is finding players to fill the leadership void too.

While there are three starters returning, none have been so for more than a year. Alabama also lost a couple of key reserves in Kellen Williams and Chad Lindsay.

Additionally, there was working with a new line coach last season, Mario Cristobal, the recent addition of Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator and the steady arrival of prize recruits. Consequently, there’s been very little continuity at the position group that may covet it the most.

“It’s just different playing with new guys,” Kelly said. “But obviously here that’s something we’ve been pretty successful in reproducing.

“This is a big spring. A lot of guys rotating, just kind of getting the camaraderie. They had to adjust to it when I came in there too.”

As the Crimson Tide prepares for their first spring scrimmage scheduled for Saturday, most of the personnel changes on the offensive line have been minimal thus far. Senior Arie Kouandjio is still at left tackle. Senior Leon Brown, who filled in for Steen in the Sugar Bowl, is getting the first look at left tackle, with massive sophomore Alphonse Taylor (6'5", 335 pounds) likewise at right guard.

“He’s actually really athletic, can bend really well and he’s got a lot of power,” Shepherd said about Taylor. “I think this spring’s going to be really big for him.”

With there being only one center on the roster until the summer, redshirt freshman Bradley Bozeman has been snapping the ball with the second unit, while Grant Hill is working there some as well. The sophomore who played in five games last season is still primarily a tackle but could probably play anywhere on the line and continues to draw the praise of teammates.

Meanwhile, on the left side reserve Brandon Greene has moved back from tight end and early enrollee Cam Robinson (6'6", 335), the fourth-overall prospect in the nation, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, is beginning to learn the college game.

Robinson’s situation may be similar to Kouandjio’s, as he too came in highly regarded and physically imposing but needed a little time to adjust. He was coming on strong and making a serious push to start midway thought his freshman season before sustaining a knee injury.

“He’s got a lot of ability,” Shepherd said about Robinson. “Anytime you’re coming from high school to college it’s going to take a while to kind of get acclimated to it. Older guys have been helping him along the way, kind of showing him the ropes, because it can be eye-opening at times, coming from high school to college.”

All the more reason for the leadership to get established and for the veteran players to act the part even though there’s no guarantee that the starting five this week will still be so at the end of spring or during training camp.

Shepherd says he’s trying to be more vocal in the film room, while having experience at center could be crucial, especially with the Crimson Tide set to have a new starting quarterback.

“I’ve been pleased with the progress they’ve made,” Coach Nick Saban said about the line. “I’m sure that probably before the end of spring we’ll probably shuffle them a little bit like we did last spring with some guys playing different spots to see if there’s a different combination of guys that gives us a better opportunity to be successful. So we’ll at least know heading into the fall, adding some new players who will be competing as well, what guys' capabilities are and what they can do.”

Perhaps Kelly and company can also help Robinson and the rest of the Crimson Tide’s prize offensive line additions, including tackles Ross Pierschbacher (6'4", 290, Cedar Falls, Iowa) and Dominick Jackson (6'7", 304, San Mateo, Calif.), centers JC Hassenauer (6'5", 292, St. Paul, Minn.) and Joshua Casher (6'1", 297, Mobile, Ala.), and guard Montel McBride (6-4, 329, Plant City, Fla.), who will all arrive in the summer, get off to a little better start.

“You look where Donta’s at now, I can’t be too upset,” Kelly said.

 

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

College Football's 25 Most Overhyped Players, Coaches and Teams for 2014

College football is jam-packed with amazing players, coaches and teams, all of whom deserve the attention and praise they receive from fans and the media.

And then there are the ones who get all that attention despite their accomplishments.

For whatever reason, certain entities tend to garner far more hype than you'd expect, based on what they've managed to achieve to that point. It's not that these coaches, teams or players aren't good or not deserving of some praise, but do they warrant this much?

It could be because of one good season or one really great game. Or in the case of some players, just the assumption that success at the high school level will naturally carry over to the collegiate ranks.

Hype will always exist; it's just up to us to sift through the noise and figure out who's really deserving of it.

To help with that task, here's our list of the 25 most overhyped players, coaches and teams for the 2014 college football season.

Begin Slideshow

Texas A&M Football: Week 5 Spring Practice Stock Report

The Texas A&M football team continues to work its way through spring practice. The Aggies have completed their fifth week of spring practice and continue to work on improving as a team.  

The biggest news of the week comes at the quarterback position, where rising sophomore Kenny Hill has been suspended indefinitely. Hill was arrested for public intoxication and it is unclear when he will be allowed to join the team again. 

With Hill temporarily out of the picture, that means redshirt senior Matt Joeckel and true freshman Kyle Allen are splitting the snaps at quarterback. That will obviously have a negative effect on Hill's ability to win the starting quarterback job in August. 

The Aggies are not going to have a spring game in 2014 or 2015 due to construction on Kyle Field. The practices and scrimmages are the only opportunities that the players will have to impress the coaches. 

 

Impressing On Offense

Allen is receiving more snaps due to Hill's suspension and is making them count. He continues to impress teammates and coaches with his accuracy. The position does not seem too big for Allen, which is rare for a player at his age. 

Hill's suspension has probably accelerated Allen's learning curve, which is not a good thing for Hill. The final decision will not be made until August, but Hill has to be considered the prohibitive favorite to start at quarterback when the Aggies open the season against South Carolina. 

There is some irony in Hill's arrest and suspension. Johnny Manziel was arrested and briefly suspended from the team during the summer before his 2012 Heisman campaign. Whether Hill's arrest is a prelude to greatness or simply a coincidence remains to be seen. 

Tra Carson has been receiving the first-team snaps at running back. Trey Williams has been dinged up and has missed some practice time. The battle for the starter at running back will continue into August.

Redshirt freshman James White has been receiving second-team reps. That means he is ahead of junior Brandon Williams on the depth chart. 

True freshman receiver Speedy Noil is as physically gifted as any football player in the program. If he stays healthy, he will challenge some of the career receiving records at A&M during his three or four years in Aggieland. 

The coaches have been careful about not trying to rush Ricky Seals-Jones back after his knee surgery. Seals-Jones had two touchdowns catches in the "Friday Night Lights" scrimmage.

He has started to become a major factor on third downs and in the red zone. Olin Buchanan of TexAgs.com (subscription required) reported that head coach Kevin Sumlin has been pleased with his progress.

I thought he made a lot of plays Friday night -- big catches, third-down catches. So that's probably the most he has done on his knee.  We just kept him out today. We've got plenty of time with him. The good news is we got to see him become a factor on third down and in the red zone, which we need him to be.   

 

Impressing On Defense

The same name keeps popping up when you ask who has been impressive on the defensive side of the ball for the Aggies. True freshman defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson has been the star of spring practice on that side of the ball.

Isaiah Golden is expected to return to the program shortly after spring practice ends. Whether Golden starts at nose guard in 2014, it is plainly obvious that Henderson will be in the two-deep and will see meaningful minutes at both positions on the interior defensive line. 

Senior safety Howard Matthews continues to progress under the tutelage of secondary coach Terry Joseph. If he can simply be a solid safety for the Aggies in 2014, it would be a huge boost to the defense.  

Redshirt freshman Victor Davis continues to see extensive time at cornerback. The 6'0", 194-pound athlete was recruited as a safety but has impressed the coaches with his play at corner. He could add even more size to the Aggies' secondary. 

Redshirt freshman linebacker Reggie Chevis is an impact player against the run. The questions with him is whether he will be able to defend the pass. At the minimum, Aggie fans should expect to see him play on the goal-line and short-yardage defense in 2014. 

The defense still has a lot of work to do until it can be a average unit in the SEC. However, the progress of multiple members of the 2013 recruiting class is a positive sign for the 2014 season and the future of the program. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Football: RB Keith Marshall Could Redshirt in 2014

Georgia running back Keith Marshall, the latter half (along with Todd Gurley) of the Bulldogs' famous "Gurshall" rushing tandem, is no guarantee to see the field for his junior season after tearing his ACL against Tennessee on Oct. 5 last year.

Per Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraphoffensive coordinator Mike Bobo floated the idea of Marshall taking a redshirt in December of last year, and now, despite Marshall's limited but encouraging involvement in spring drills, the coaching staff is still considering that recourse.

"Right now the plan is to see how far along he is, and then do what's going to be best for him," said running backs coach Bryan McClendon. "That's going to be priority No. 1. To do what's best for him. And that way, I think everybody will be able to sleep good at night."

Marshall was a 5-star recruit and the No. 12 overall player on the 247Sports composite a couple of years ago, ranking ahead of even Gurley, who is now considered the better college player. In their true freshman seasons, Marshall saw 117 carries to Gurley's 222, but he averaged 6.49 yards per attempt (slightly more than Gurley's 6.24) and finished with 759 yards and eight touchdowns.

Redshirting Marshall this year would thin the options behind Gurley, but it wouldn't be the worst idea if Marshall isn't fit to play. It would also stagger their eligibility if Gurley, who is sure to be sought by the NFL after this season, declares early and leaves before 2015.

Even after moving J.J. Green to defensive back this offseason, UGA still has Brendan Douglas—who showed some flashes when forced into action as a freshman last season—around to serve as a competent backup to Gurley. That might not even be necessary, however, as the Bulldogs also welcomes a pair of blue-chip freshman running backs in Sony Michel and Nick Chubb this fall.

A healthy Marshall makes this team better, and Georgia would do well to keep him eligible if he's healthy enough to play. Especially with the league-wide questions at quarterback, there is a void atop the SEC that the Bulldogs aren't crazy to think they can fill. They should put their best team on the field.

But only if that best team is healthy.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages