NCAA Football News

Which 2016 Recruits Should Will Muschamp Target to Continue Defensive Dominance?

When the Auburn Tigers brought in Will Muschamp as their defensive coordinator, they were also bringing in a strong recruiter. 

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson was joined by College Football Analyst Michael Felder to discuss which 2016 recruits would be tailor-made for Muschamp's defense. 

How will Auburn's defense perform in 2015? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Biggest Takeaways from 247Sports' Initial Top 247 for Class of 2017 Recruiting

It’s not exactly a surprise to see rising junior phenom and 5-star linebacker Dylan Moses take the top overall spot in the newly released 247Sports Top 247 for the class of 2017.

The LSU commitment kept his grip on the No. 1 spot from the initial release of the Top 100 for 2017 last summer, according to Barton Simmons of 247Sports.

A handful of juniors have emerged at their respective spring camps, while others have been busy compiling impressive offer lists.

What are the biggest takeaways from the initial Top 247 rankings for the 2017 class? 

Let’s take a look at a few storylines that jump out at first glance.

 

3 Power States Loaded Once Again

It’s no secret that the three most fertile areas for coaches on the recruiting trail are California, Florida and Texas.

Those three states are well-represented in the class of 2017, as they have combined to produce 92 of the Top 247 overall players. 

Overall, 21 prospects from those three states are rated among the nation’s Top 50 prospects.

Florida, led by 5-star offensive tackle Calvin Ashley, has 32 prospects in the initial rankings. Texas also has 32 prospects, with 5-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson representing the nation's best prospect at his position. 

California has 28 prospects included, with 5-star running back Najee Harris emerging as the top 2017 prospect from the Golden State.

 

Georgia Deep Again

Aside from the big three talent-producing states, Georgia—which has 23 prospects who made the rankings—is the only other state to have more than 20 prospects in the list. 

The 2016 class in Georgia is special, but the rising group of juniors in the Peach State could be equally as talented. 

5-star corner DeAngelo Gibbs is a freakish talent who could play safety or wide receiver at the next level with equal effectiveness.

Additionally, Georgia has three of the top six pro-style quarterbacks in the country, led by 4-star Bailey Hockman—who put on a strong display at the Nike Atlanta Opening Regional camp last month.

 

WR Heaven

College coaches looking for help at the receiver position may want to invest some time in scouting the junior class.

Eight players are rated as 5-star prospects, headlined by Florida standout Trevon Grimes.

Also, 40 receivers found their way into the rankings, which makes it the deepest position represented in the list.

A pair of 4-star pass-catchers rated outside of the Top 100 overall who have compiled double-digit offer lists are North Carolina product J.T. Cauthen and Florida playmaker Jerry Jeudy. With talented prospects such as Cauthen and Jeudy rated outside the Top 100, it’s a signal of the strength and depth of talent at that position in the 2017 cycle.

 

OT Group Strong

Another position that is well-represented in the 2017 Top 247 rankings is offensive tackle.  In fact, three of the nation’s top five prospects overall come from that position.

Three more offensive tackles join Josh Meyers, Ashley and Foster Sarell as 5-star prospects who could transition into dominant players at the next level sooner rather than later.

In all, 26 offensive tackles made the cut.

Considering the dominant D-line classes in recent cycles, the emergence of a star-studded group at offensive tackle is a welcome development for college coaches looking for help in the trenches in the 2017 cycle.

 

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

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The Harbaugh Effect Is Making a Difference for Michigan in 2016 Recruiting Class

When Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh, Wolverine fans were extremely excited about what he could bring on the field but also what he could offer on the recruiting trail.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down Jim Harbaugh's latest recruits, as well as who he should target going forward. 

Who are the must-have recruits for Michigan? Check out the video, and let us know!

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FSU Insider Buzz: QB Battle Tightens Up; Freshman Derwin James Shines

The Florida State Seminoles competed in their spring game over the weekend, and a few storylines emerged from the contest. The battle for the starting quarterback position tightened up, while a freshman safety shined brightly. 

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson was joined by 247Sports' Recruiting Analyst Josh Newberg to discuss all the happenings surrounding the Seminoles' spring game.

Who will emerge as FSU's starting QB? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Depleted Oregon Ducks Look to Sophomores to Lead College Football Playoff Push

The Oregon Ducks saw many key players leave, including Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. But with a slew of freshmen seeing significant time last season, they are prepared to carry the torch. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder joined Stephen Nelson as they discussed Oregon's freshman class and the impact it will have in 2015. 

How will Oregon do in 2015? Check out the video and let us know! 

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Updated Jarrett Guarantano Odds: Where Will 4-Star QB Commit Wednesday?

Jarrett Guarantano is a 4-star pro-style quarterback, per 247Sports' composite rankings, who is currently uncommitted. Guarantano is more than just a pocket passer; he is also incredibly quick. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer gives his odds on where the top QB will end up when he makes his decision Wednesday

Where do you think Guarantano will play college ball? Check out the video, and let us know!

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Oklahoma Football: Who Will Be Sooners' Week 1 Starting QB?

Anyone hoping for clarity in Oklahoma's quarterback competition was still left looking for answers after the Sooners' spring game on April 11.

Yep, we have a few more months of frenzied debate.

Though redshirt junior Trevor Knight is the incumbent starter, here are the other three players he's been competing against:

  • Baker Mayfield (junior): Sat out last season to satisfy transfer rules. Started seven games as a true freshman for Texas Tech in 2013 and was named the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year.
  • Cody Thomas (redshirt sophomore): Started the final three games of the regular season with Knight out due to injury. Threw for 342 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.
  • Justice Hansen (redshirt freshman): An early enrollee in the 2014 recruiting class who did not see playing time last season.

Ideally, even if the competition is set to continue into the summer months, you'd like to get some indication about which way it's going. As Jake Trotter of ESPN.com tweeted, none of the four really stood out:

Everyone had good and bad moments. Everyone forced throws. Mayfield's two interceptions were particularly bad decisions.

Brandon Chatmon of ESPN.com expanded on Trotter's statement in his OU spring game wrap-up:

Mayfield, the Texas Tech transfer, completed 10 of 13 passes for 176 yards with one touchdown but had two interceptions. Knight, OU's starter in the 2014 season opener, didn't fair much better taking care of the ball, finishing 6-of-13 for 78 yards with one interception. Every quarterback had their good moments and good throws on Saturday. But, ultimately, the winner of the job will be the guy who focuses on taking care of the ball and always making good decisions. None of the four can say they did that on Saturday.

Still, you have to like the buzz that's been surrounding Mayfield. If we're taking a stab at predicting the Week 1 starter, it sounds like Mayfield still has a great shot.

Here's why.

With so little to work off of visually, you have to identify any clues that could tip off which direction coaches are leaning in. That's why, even after Mayfield threw two bad interceptions, this quote from first-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley was so telling:

That's not to say Riley wasn't critical of Mayfield, but it's also not something you'd necessarily expect to hear, either.

Because of Mayfield's background in the Air Raid offense from his days at Tech, he seemed like a natural fit in Riley's offense. Additionally, Mayfield was impressive in Oklahoma's spring game a year ago, and as noted by John Shinn of The Norman Transcript, he earned rave reviews as the scout team quarterback last fall.

But Riley's compliment goes beyond fit. Despite the fact that Mayfield clearly forced a few throws, Riley likes what he's seen from him. Remember, spring games are one glorified scrimmage out of 15 practices.

Look, Mayfield can play—he's certainly better than his walk-on title would indicate—but he's had ball security issues in the past. Either Riley feels the interceptions were an anomaly or he likes Mayfield's gunslinger mentality so much that he's willing to live with some negative consequences of it.

If that's the case, it's an interesting stance to take.

The Sooners aren't lacking in offensive skill players. The running back group should be the deepest, most talented unit of its kind in the Big 12. By all accounts, the receiving unit should be much improved from a year ago.

With that in mind, Oklahoma would theoretically need little more than a game manager to make things work.

If Riley, head coach Bob Stoops and Co. feel they have something more in Mayfield, though—if they feel like he moves the offense the best—then they probably also feel they can get Mayfield to dial things back a bit. Sometimes, it can be easier to get someone to do less than to do more.

Knight has had two years to show what he can do. While he's a gifted runner, he's never shown the consistent growth coaches would like to see. He's also been injured often, despite efforts from Oklahoma's coaching staff to keep him more upright in 2014.

Thomas is an interesting prospect.

He actually trotted out onto the field first last Saturday. That may mean little more than Stoops having some fun, but it could also show that he's made more progress in spring than people anticipated.

This is still a wide-open race and technically anyone's game. However, the coaching staff has been high enough on Mayfield that his one spring performance won't be the deciding factor.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football.

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Updated Odds on Next Starting QB of Alabama Crimson Tide

With Blake Sims' tenure over at Alabama, there is an opening at the quarterback position. With a slew of signal-callers on the roster, spring practices have turned into an all-out battle for the starting job. 

Bleacher Report's college football analyst Adam Kramer joined Stephen Nelson as they laid some updated odds on who will be the man to win that elusive job. 

Who will be the next QB at Alabama? Check out the video, and let us know! 

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Ohio State Football: Complete Spring Game Preview

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Entering his 14th year as a head coach, Urban Meyer knows that there's a lot he can get out of a spring game.

He's also aware of the realities.

Meyer's Ohio State squad will hold its annual exhibition this Saturday in front what's expected to be a sizable crowd on what Accuweather.com currently projects to be 71-degree day. Drawing such atmosphere on the heels of his team's national title run is what's most important to the Buckeyes head coach, not only for recruiting, but preparation purposes as well.

"The thing that spring games give you at a place like Ohio State is a crowd," Meyer said on Monday. "A lot of times you'll see a player that comes out [on the practice field] when no one's around and plays well and then he goes out in front of a crowd and locks up. And that's real."

But while Meyer's looking forward to getting a look at some of the younger players on his roster—he specifically mentioned early enrollee freshman linebacker Nick Conner—that means some of Ohio State's more experienced players will be standing on the sideline for the better part, if not all of Saturday's spring game.

That's been the case in Columbus for most of this spring, with Meyer opting to rest established players such as Taylor Decker, Nick Vannett, Pat Elflein, Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington, Joshua Perry and Tyvis Powell. The fourth-year Buckeyes head coach knows that could potentially make for an ugly afternoon, with many players getting their first game-like experience inside of Ohio Stadium.

"I can't say it's going to be pleasant all the time," Meyer admitted. "Because you're going to have some young guys who aren't quite ready to play yet."

Even with most of the eight open spots in Ohio State's starting lineup seemingly filled, the spring game could still be interesting to watch, if not for 2015, then for the future of the Buckeyes program. And while several experienced players won't be on the field, perhaps the most-talked-about player from Ohio State's national title run will be front and center on Saturday.

 

Date: Saturday, April 18

Time: 1:30 p.m. ET

Place: Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio:Ohio State Football Radio Network

 


Who to Watch for on Offense

Despite leading the Buckeyes to three consecutive postseason wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon, Cardale Jones still only has three starts to his credit in his college career. With both J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller recovering from their respective injuries, Saturday will provide another opportunity for Jones to get quality reps under his belt as he prepares for what could be an unprecedented quarterback battle this summer.

"He's had a good spring," Meyer said of Jones on Monday. "We're getting him as many reps as we can."

Saturday will be another opportunity for Jones to do just that, as he and redshirt freshman Stephen Collier will be the only scholarship signal-callers participating in the spring game. It remains just unclear how long Jones will participate in the game before the walk-ons take over, but for at least some period of time he'll be given the chance to build chemistry with the young Ohio State receivers in a game-like atmosphere.

Speaking of those young receivers, Saturday will also be a big day for them as they'll have a chance to make good on what's been hyped as a big spring for their position group. Both Meyer and wide receivers coach Zach Smith have singled out sophomore Noah Brown as having had a great offseason, and redshirt freshmen Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin have also offered plenty of promise.

"Those are a bunch of guys who are going to play for us," Meyer said. "I can't wait to see their reaction."

With star running back Ezekiel Elliott still recovering from offseason wrist surgery, there should also be plenty of carries to go around in the backfield for the likes of Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball. Both players will find themselves on a crowded running back depth chart this fall with the arrival of freshman Mike Weber and could use Saturday's game as way to gauge whether they'll look into a potential transfer.

Heading into this Saturday's game, Dunn appears to be the front-runner in that race and could ultimately serve as Elliott's primary backup with Curtis Samuel moving to H-Back.

“It’s a very great opportunity. I get lots of reps. Me and Warren Ball get lots of reps and it’s getting me better each and every day,” Dunn said. “[New running backs] Coach [Tony] Alford [is] really pushing us and I really have a great relationship with him.”

With a big showing on Saturday, that relationship may only improve.

 

Who to Watch for on Defense

Defensively, Ohio State will also be without plenty of depth, as not only will Bosa and Washington's roles be dramatically reduced in the spring game, but fellow defensive linemen Joel Hale and Tyquan Lewis are each recovering from injuries. That will mean more opportunities for fresh faces like Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes, Donovan Munger and Tracy Sprinkle, as Buckeyes defensive line coach Larry Johnson attempts to build a 10-man rotation.

“I was very disappointed a year ago with the backup group,” Meyer said of last year's defensive line. “A lot of pressure has been put on them.”

Behind the Ohio State defensive line, Perry will likely be on the sideline, and starters Darron Lee and Raekwon McMillan have already experienced their fair share of snaps inside The Horseshoe as well. That could mean plenty of reps for the likes of Dante Booker, Chris Worley and the aforementioned Conner, as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell also looks to build depth on his unit.

Perhaps the defensive unit that will receive the most attention—both from fans and coaches—is the secondary, even though three of the four starters are already established. While Eli Apple, Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell will all see limited reps, Meyer singled out Erick Smith, Cam Burrows and Gareon Conley as players he's excited to see.

A redshirt sophomore, Conley is the odds-on favorite to replace first-team All-Big Ten corner Doran Grant. After a rocky start to his college career, the Massillon, Ohio, native has been touted as one of Ohio State's most improved players this spring and will have an opportunity to prove it in what should be a pass-happy game on Saturday.

“Gareon has had a very good spring. He has put on weight, he has put on strength,” Buckeyes defensive assistant Kerry Coombs said. “He showed up at 168 pounds, now he’s 190 pounds. He is a very fast player, [and] his skill set continues to improve.”

 

What's Ahead

While there's only so much one can take away from a spring game, the Buckeyes know they have a big summer ahead.

As Ohio State embarks on its defense of its national title, the Buckeyes appear to be in good shape with 14 returning starters and a manageable schedule. But Meyer also must manage a quarterback competition that could become a distraction, with three players who all have legitimate claims to the starting job.

Meyer has insisted this spring has been all about getting Jones reps and Barrett and Miller healthy, although Barrett has been able to participate in the spring more than originally thought. Jones' performance this Saturday won't have much impact how the battle ultimately shakes out, but it would behoove him to take some positive momentum into summer workouts.

Regardless of how it plays out, Ohio State will have a roster full of championship-experienced veterans and a proven quarterback behind center—whoever it might be. This spring may have been valuable for some of the Buckeyes' younger players, but the summer ahead will be all about a return to the College Football Playoff.

 

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

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Georgia Will Get Creative with Lorenzo Carter and Versatile Linebackers

Lorenzo Carter sat back in his folding chair in Georgia's meeting room underneath Sanford Stadium during the media session on Saturday with a glimmer in his eye.

"It's going to be crazy," he said, with a slight chuckle and a grin as wide as the room.

That grin was well-earned.

His defense had just wrapped up a scintillating spring game performance that included eight team sacks (one from Carter), 14 tackles for loss and generally set up shop in the offensive backfield all afternoon.

It was the kind of spring game performance that set the tone for the entire season.

Georgia has the best outside linebackers in the country, and there isn't really a close second. Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins are two pass-rushing monsters who passed up on the NFL to come back to Athens for another run at an SEC title.

Floyd sat out the spring game recovering from shoulder surgery that kept him out of the Belk Bowl win over Louisville. In his stead, Carter stepped in and notched eight tackles for the second straight game—setting the tone for a stellar sophomore season.

"It was a confidence booster, of course," Carter said. "To get out there and finish the season on a high note and know that there's so much more I can do...I mean, there's so much more room for me to grow as a player. Once I do that, it's crazy just imagining what I can do."

Carter's emergence combined with Jenkins and Floyd's decisions to return to school created the ultimate "rich man's problem" for defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

How can he fit three outside linebackers into two spots in the lineup?

The easy answer would be to drop Jenkins—a 6'3", 252-pound senior from Hamilton, Georgia—down to defensive end in pass-rushing situations, as he did at times last season. That'd especially work well given the current landscape of Georgia's defensive line, which isn't returning a single starter from last season's squad.

That isn't the only answer, though.

"Floyd is learning multiple positions right now," Carter said. "We all learn multiple positions. We are just going to have to fit in wherever we are thrown. Coach is just going to throw us out there and say 'play this,' and we just have to play it."

How the rotation will specifically work, though, is still unknown.

"There's a lot of things we can do with the outside linebackers since we are such versatile players," Carter said. "We can move all over the place on the field."

Does that mean Carter could slide into one of the middle linebacker spots or Floyd could also put his hand in the dirt and play defensive end in Pruitt's 3-4 scheme?

It could, although the entire trio needs to get better as every-down linebackers if the prospect of all three playing at the same time is going to become a reality.

"They're really good at what they do in that regard," head coach Mark Richt said. "Those guys can come off the edge. They have a lot of ability. The big thing for them is how they're playing on first and second down. Those are the things we are trying to get better at with them."

Cross-training at different spots will certainly help and is an indication that Georgia's linebacking corps—which includes veteran Tim Kimbrough, UAB transfer Jake Ganus and versatile newcomers Chuks Amaechi and Natrez Patrick—could be one of the best and deepest linebacking corps in the entire country.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Florida Announces Offensive Tackle Rod Johnson's Career Is over Due to Injury

A life-threatening spine condition has ended the career of Florida offensive lineman Roderick Johnson, the school announced Tuesday.

Johnson, a redshirt sophomore from Delray Beach, Florida, was diagnosed by team medical staff with congenital cervical stenosis, a condition that causes narrowing of the spinal canal and can prevent fluid from protecting the spinal cord. This was discovered after Johnson suffered a "stinger" injury during a scrimmage on April 3, per Scott Carter of GatorZone.com.

Numbness in his fingers and hands prevented Johnson from participating in Florida's final week of spring practice, or in Saturday's Orange & Blue Debut spring game.

"One thing I'll tell you this about any player: I will never, ever put him out there in harm's way," Florida coach Jim McElwain said following the spring game, per Carter.

According to Carter, a similar condition ended the career of New York Giants running back David Wilson last year, and it also led to Cooper Manning (brother of Eli and Peyton Manning) to retire from football while playing at Ole Miss.

Current and former teammates took to Twitter to react to Johnson's retirement, including ex-Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, who's now at Louisiana Tech:

The 6'6", 296-pound Johnson started three games at right tackle last season for the Gators, including against Alabama and in the Birmingham Bowl against East Carolina. He played in all 12 games in 2014 and was expected to compete for a starting job this fall, but with his retirement Florida's already thin and inexperienced line becomes even more depleted.

Florida had only eight scholarship offensive linemen on the roster this spring, only three of whom had any significant experience, as four main starters from 2014 either graduated or turned pro early.

The Gators add several big bodies this summer, including 5-star tackle Martez Ivey, but for the time being protection up front remains an even bigger concern than the quarterback battle between sophomore Treon Harris and redshirt freshman Will Grier. 

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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College Football Players Who Haven't Scratched the Surface of Their Talent

For every player that makes an instant impact in college football, there are far more who only show brief flashes of what they're capable of at the outset. Injuries, playing time and other factors lead to their careers starting off with a whisper, rather than a bang, but in time they'll make their mark.

The time is now for these potential superstars, who in 2015 have the stage set for a breakout performance that will not only make them a key piece of their team's lineup but also give them an opportunity to show what they're capable of. In many cases, this will be their first real chance to live up to the hype.

This list comprises both underclassmen and veterans, and not just players who were 5-star prospects coming out of high school. Each is now in a position to excel, and while what we've seen from them so far has been promising, it's only just the beginning.

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Arkansas Sends 15 Letters to Girlfriend of 3-Star Defensive End Recruit

In any college's recruitment efforts, the end result is the most important part. Some schools will do whatever it takes to land an athlete.

For the Arkansas Razorbacks, that means extending your recruitment to the player's girlfriend.

Bailey Clary, the girlfriend of defensive end Caleb Roddy, posted this photo of 15 letters from the Razorbacks.

Recently, the couple went to visit the campus.

If Arkansas is able to nab Roddy, a 3-star recruit, according to the 247Sports Composite, this may start a whole new trend in recruiting tactics.

[Bailey Clary, h/t College Spun]

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