NCAA Football News

Tennessee Football Recruiting: 2014 Legacy Class a Throwback to the Glory Days

The six "legacy" commitments in Tennessee's 2014 recruiting class are going to be instrumental in helping the Volunteers try to move on from this ugly half-decade and restore the program to prominence.

For Dillon Bates, Todd Kelly Jr., Evan and Elliott Berry, Vic Wharton and Neiko Creamer, that task carries an extra weight that can only benefit the Vols moving forward.

While Kelly's and Creamer's fathers roamed the field during Johnny Majors' heyday of the 1980s and early '90s, Bates' and the Berrys' dads helped shepherd UT through the rocky Bill Battles-to-Majors transition.

The Tennessee legacies provide an important thread between the Vols' rich history and a future that head coach Butch Jones wants to resemble the glory days of the past.

They also lined up at the perfect time for Jones' rebuilding efforts.

In a year where Tennessee is able sign a huge class and has a huge need for quality players at every position, the legacies provide a foundation of talent who know firsthand about experiences that made UT one of the most storied programs in the nation.

That isn't going to make them play better, but it may make them harder. At the very least, it will give them an additional burden to turn around the Vols' recent fortune than a prospect with no ties to the program.

Four-star linebacker Bates—whose father, Bill, was a UT standout and NFL All-Pro with the Dallas Cowboys—acknowledged to Govols247's Ryan Callahan (subscription) that he simply feels something different when it comes to Tennessee.

Ever since I was little, I always wanted to follow in my dad's footsteps, whether that be through high school, through college, through hopefully the NFL. I know that I'm on the right track to following in his footsteps, with him leading the way years ago, and I'm trying to do everything that he's done, and hopefully better, and (go) into the NFL after Tennessee.

All the other visits that I've ever been on, they haven't really felt like I'm at home or felt as comfortable as I have been at Tennessee. It's that little something, whenever you step out on the game field during games and you kind of get those goosebumps that you feel at Tennessee, that I didn't really feel at other places, that made me kind of realize that this was the place for me.

That was the case with all the players with ties to the program. Every legacy UT offered eventually gave their verbal commitments to Jones. They've all stayed firm, too.

It all started with Vic Wharton on Christmas Day 2012 when the 3-star athlete chose the Vols over several other SEC offers, becoming Jones' first pledge of the '14 class. Wharton's uncle Brandon was a standout basketball player for the Vols.

While Wharton isn't the highest-ranked commit in UT's class, he may be the most important. He immediately began networking with other recruits over social media and using his ties to a couple areas of the state where he'd lived (Knoxville and Nashville) to recruit.

Wharton's recruiting persistence paid off, as he helped lure 4-star safety Todd Kelly Jr., who followed his father's path by committing to UT in March. The elder Kelly was a star defender for Majors' teams that went 38-9-2 from 1989-92.

Earlier in the week Kelly committed, UT secured Neiko Creamer, a 3-star jumbo athlete whose father Andre played for Majors from 1984-87 when the Vols were 33-12-1.

Four-year runs such as the one the elder Kelly and Creamer enjoyed were made possible by Bill Bates and James Berry helping UT rebuild when Johnny came marching home from Pittsburgh. While those late 1970s and early '80s seasons weren't always pretty, they set the table for the program's surge.

It's kind of the same position these 2014 commitments are in today.

Wharton told Volquest's Brent Hubbs (subscription) this week how he'd targeted those players with Tennessee ties:

T.K. (Todd Kelly, Jr.) and I grew up with each other when I lived in Knoxville. I know with his dad going to Tennessee I knew he might go to Tennessee. I had in my heart that he would. I thought after he committed if we could get someone else and when Jalen (Hurd) committed I just felt like we could really do something with our class. Having that first five star committed and now having Josh Malone as well, we couldn't ask for a better class.

Getting Evan and Elliott Berry to commit in early November was the bow on top of a legacy class Jones wrapped up. The twins' father was a running back and a captain at UT, and their brother, Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro safety Eric Berry, starred for the Vols during the tenures of Phillip Fulmer and Lane Kiffin.

With each legacy pledge, the link between the past and future became stronger. While that may seem insignificant to outsiders, it is a major change from the previous two coaching regimes that ignored rather than magnified UT traditions.

Kiffin infamously had posters of USC stars like Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart on display in UT's Neyland-Thompson Sports Center rather than Vols stars of old. Then, Derek Dooley alienated former players as well as recruits.

Jones wants to do the opposite in Knoxville. He understands how important and significant the traditions are to the fans, and he wants to make them important to the current players.

Having players who understand the past can benefit the future. For the legacy pledges, they hope to usher in a new era that restores Tennessee to its place among the nation's elite and bring the glory days back to the present.

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Outback Bowl 2014 Iowa vs. LSU: Live Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers

The No. 14 LSU Tigers (9-3) meet the Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4) Wednesday in the Outback Bowl. It is the first meeting between the schools since the 2005 Capital One Bowl, when the Hawkeyes beat the Tigers on a last-second touchdown in Nick Saban's final game at LSU.

LSU, of course, will be without quarterback Zach Mettenberger, out with a knee injury, and freshman Anthony Jennings will make his first career start for the Tigers. 

Iowa relies on an outstanding defense and a strong running game. Sophomore Jake Rudock is under center for the Hawkeyes. 

Will today be the last game for several Tigers? Players such as Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham and Jeremy Hill are among those who will have decisions to make regarding their futures. 

You can watch the game live at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN, and make sure to stay with us here at Bleacher Report for live grades, analysis and postgame coverage. You can find today's box score at NCAA.com.

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2014 BCS Championship Game: Auburn's Blueprint for Victory over Florida State

The Auburn Tigers' most important piece of advice to digest before an impending BCS championship clash with Florida State should be "if it ain't broke, don't break it."

Indeed, the Tigers' rushing game, under the influence of Gus Malzhan, is one of the most efficient attacks in college football. Auburn has calculated a meticulous running style that's totaled the nation's largest output in rushing with 336 yards per game.

Coming off of a 545-yard rushing performance against Missouri, Auburn should in no way abandon the running game against a defense that's allowing 10.7 points per game. That little 10.7 stat stands as the best in the nation for those of you keeping track at home.

Still, Auburn's rushing attack behind the legs of Tre Mason, Keith Marshall, Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne has to be the focal point of the Tigers, especially going against a stingy Seminole defense.

If Auburn generates success running the football, like it has in most games this season, the Tigers will bring the SEC its eighth straight national championship.

But of course, nothing is as easy as it sounds in college football. While the running game will be the primary choice of attack by Malzahn and his staff, he has to intelligently set it up. That's easier for Malzahn than most.

 

Continued Unpredictability

Ask any defensive coordinator who's studied Auburn this season to reveal the secret to Auburn's offensive success and you'll likely get differing answers. Chalk that up to unpredictability.

It's nearly impossible to pick up a trend with this offense, as Malzahn calls from play-to-play, rather than series-to-series. What that illustrates is that Malzahn will always keep opposing teams guessing by altering play calls, never developing a distinct rhythm for defensive coordinators to catch.

That's why he's a brilliant play-caller, and that's why he's as good as it gets calling plays on the fly. Take a second and relive the Iron Bowl. No, not Chris Davis' unbelievable field-goal return for a touchdown, but look at the series that tied the ballgame.

It's 3rd-and-2 from the Auburn 40 with 1:42 to play. No surprise here. Auburn gives it to Mason, who broke the school record for rushing touchdowns in a single season.

Quickly back to the line of scrimmage, Marshall hands to Mason again for a minimum gain. The clock is winding down fast, and it seems Malzahn's inability to abandon the run might cost him an opportunity to tie the game. With 1:12 remaining, Mason receives the handoff again on second down, which falls short of a first down. By now, everyone has to be wondering what Malzahn could possibly be thinking.

Third down was much of the same. Marshall hands the ball to Mason, and this time Auburn gets a first down. However, only 47 seconds remain in the game with Auburn just inside Alabama's 40-yard line. The Tigers have to get a touchdown to win, remember? So why on earth did Malzahn not call a timeout and allow the clock to run down?

As we soon found out, Malzahn was setting up one particular play, as he was one step ahead of everyone. As you all remember, Marshall fakes the handoff on the next play, rolls to his left and throws to a wide-open Sammie Coates to tie the ballgame. It was the greatest series called ever by a play-caller.

Like the Iron Bowl, Malzahn has to be one step ahead of Florida State's defense in order to generate points in such a fashion only he can fabricate.

 

Get Sammie Coates Involved

Malzahn may have an obsession with running the football, but he's going to have to throw the ball around the yard a little bit in this one.

The Seminoles enter the national championship game with an impressive 117 rushing yards allowed per game statistic. What's more impressive, though, is the defense's ability to shut down passing games, limiting offenses to 152 passing yards per game. That's the best in the country.

Credit cornerback Lamarcus Joyner and safety Terrence Brooks for those gaudy stats. But even though the Seminoles possess one of the best secondaries in college football, Malzahn will have to keep Florida State from loading the box against his dynamic running game.

How can he do that? Well, Mr. Coates on the outside should garner the respect of the defense.

Coates has nearly triple the amount of yards the Tigers second leading receiver Ricardo Louis has. As often as the Tigers run it, Coates has produced a staggering 841 yards and seven touchdowns, simply because of the deep threat he is.

He's averaging 22.1 yards per catch, and if Malzahn wants to stay in front of Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, he should come up with more creative ways to get Coates the ball.

Abandoning his biggest deep threat could cost Malzahn his first championship as head coach. A betting man foresees Marshall looking Coates' way quite often.

 

Utilize the Talents of Robinson Therezie

Defensively, Auburn will have its hands full with Jameis Winston. We all know that. Heck, the homeless guy down the street could tell you that.

With dynamic receivers Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, the Auburn secondary will need tremendous help from the Tigers' athletically gifted front four. If Winston gets longer than three seconds to throw, Auburn will forfeit numerous big plays.

Luckily for the Tigers, Auburn may possess the most athletic defensive line in college football with Carl Lawson and Dee Ford developing quite a knack for getting in the quarterback's face. The two have combined for 24 quarterback hurries and 12.5 sacks this season.

Don't think Auburn fans aren't praying they can grab hold of Winston in the backfield. If the Tigers' front four dominate the line and throw Winston off his game, it will obviously bode well for Auburn, but that won't secure victory alone.

Auburn needs to be creative in the way it disrupts Winston and an offense that's produced 53 points per game, second behind Baylor in the nation (only .3 points separated the two).

There might not be a more natural player to scheme around than Robinson Therezie.

When you watch tape of Therezie, his instincts jump off the screen. He's known for his team-leading four interceptions, but he's a sure tackler and is almost always in perfect position to make tackles in run pursuit. 

He's also a fantastic blitzer coming off of the edge, and it wouldn't come as a surprise to see Auburn use him to get to Winston on various occasions.

The Auburn defense will need its best showing of the season undoubtedly, but with the great effort up front and the utilization of Therezie in multiple situations, the Tigers can force enough stops to win a championship.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Capital One Bowl 2014 Wisconsin vs. South Carolina: Live Score and Highlights

2014 Capital One Bowl

Wisconsin vs. South Carolina, 1 p.m. ET, ABC

Both the No. 8 South Carolina Gamecocks and No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers were hoping to earn a spot in the BCS this season.  While that didn't happen, these teams will face off against one another in what has annually become one of the best—and highest-paying—non-BCS bowl games: the Capital One Bowl.

The Badgers and Gamecocks have never met on the gridiron before, but both teams will find similar mentalities in one another on New Year's Day 2014.  Both teams have strong defenses and hard-nosed offenses, and with the aura of a Big Ten-SEC showdown, you can expect another thriller.

Wisconsin has lost its last three bowl games—all Rose Bowl Games—while South Carolina is looking to add to its streak of three straight wins.  Last season, South Carolina outlasted Michigan, also from the Big Ten, in the 2013 Outback Bowl.

The big question in Wednesday's game will likely turn out to be how well Jadeveon Clowney—in what is surely his final game as a Gamecock—and his defensive teammates can bottle up the powerful Wisconsin running attack.  

Will Clowney be motivated to play all four quarters?  Can South Carolina handle repeated powerful runs (where the Gamecocks have struggled) for 60 full minutes?  Can Wisconsin find enough success in the passing game to open up room for its runners?

We'll find out in the 2014 Capital One Bowl!

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Ohio State Players Who Must Step Up with Noah Spence Suspended

When Ohio State left Columbus minus star defensive end Noah Spence, speculation and intrigue followed. OSU would only say he was "dealing with a personal issue," and no more.

Ohio State finally ended the speculation Wednesday morning, announcing Spence had been suspended for three games.

His suspension was due to a "violation of Big Ten rules," without further explanation as to what B1G rule it was that he violated.

While that information is likely to come out over time, the more important thing going forward is how OSU replaces a first-team All-Big Ten defensive end and a player who recorded a team-high eight sacks.

Luckily, Ohio State has a lot of talent and depth on the defensive line and replacing Spence for three games may further build that depth for the future.

Spence will miss the Orange Bowl and two intriguing matchups in 2014, with OSU facing Navy and Virginia Tech to open the season.

It's not the cupcake city OSU opened 2013 with, so there are players who will need to step up.

Who are those players? Let's explore the players who need to step up in his absence.  

 

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Iowa vs. LSU: Last-Minute Look at Players to Watch in 2014 Outback Bowl

The Iowa Hawkeyes and the No. 16 LSU Tigers are set to meet at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1 in the 2014 Outback Bowl in a game where both will look to find redemption for underwhelming seasons.

The Hawkeyes (8-4) faced a brutal schedule, with all four losses coming to teams that ended with a combined 45-6 record. The Tigers (9-3) managed to beat the national-championship-bound Tigers of Auburn, but dropped winnable games against Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss.

In a game of such magnitude for both schools, a handful of players will rise above the rest and prove to be worthy of an observer's attention.

 

Jake Rudock, QB, Iowa

Iowa sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock had a strong year with his 2,281 passing yards and 18 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. By all accounts, he is enjoying the trip back to his home state, as detailed by the team's Twitter account:

The fun stops here for Rudock.

He is now tasked with posting enough points to defeat LSU, a team that scores an average of 37 points to rank in the Top 25. Rudock and the Hawkeyes offense has scored more than that total just three times in 2013—two of those performances came against one-win teams (Purdue and Western Michigan).

Above all, Rudock must play at a high level and keep the ball in his team's hands in order to keep the LSU offense and the next two players off the field.

 

Anthony Jennings, QB, LSU

Perhaps the biggest story surrounding the Outback Bowl is the one concerning LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings.

The freshman has a lot on his plate as the man expected to take the torch after starter Zach Mettenberger went down for the year. A daunting task for any freshman whose first career start comes in a bowl game, but coach Les Miles seems confident in his signal-caller, per the team's Twitter account:

Jennings will need plenty of poise against the nation's No. 10 defense that allows an average of 18.8 points per game and touts one of the country's best linebacker cores, as Dave Miller of the National Football Post illustrates:

With just 10 career passing attempts to his name, Jennings will need to show a big-play ability from the opening gun to overcome a vaunted defense. How he handles the pressure may very well decide the outcome of the game.

 

Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU

Above all else, Jeremy Hill is the name to watch.

Surely a hot NFL prospect if and when he declares, Hill ran for 1,185 yards and 14 touchdowns with a superb 6.8 average as a sophomore. He will now be tasked with not only helping to mask a potential weakness under center, but be productive in the face of an elite defense surely dialed in on stopping him.

But there is a silver lining—the Hawkeyes struggle in 2013 against backs of Hill's caliber. Wisconsin's James White ran for 132 yards and two scores as Iowa lost, 28-9. Ohio State's Carlos Hyde saw similar success with his 149 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-24 Iowa loss.

Hill is no stranger to such days as shown by his six games with more than 100 yards rushing—four of which came in at 143 or more.

Can Hill succeed and carry the Tigers with a defense's game plan surely focused on him? The answer is one fans should not miss.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Lorenzo Featherston to Florida State: Seminoles Land 4-Star DE Prospect

Page High School (Greensboro, N.C.) 4-star defensive end Lorenzo Featherston has reportedly committed to play for the Florida State Seminoles in 2014.

Gerry Hamilton of ESPN broke the news on Wednesday:

One day after Florida State flipped No. 20-ranked Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central), the Seminoles struck again, picking up a commitment from No. 27 Lorenzo Featherston (Greensboro, N.C./Page).

The 6-foot-7, 220-pound defensive end officially visited Florida, Florida State and Clemson before picking Jimbo Fisher's squad.

Featherston is the No. 10 weak-side DE prospect in the class of 2014, according to the composite rankings provided by 247Sports.com. The site also lists him as the No. 183 overall recruit in the country.

What stands out most about Featherston is his massive size. At 6'7" and 220 pounds, he has plenty of room still to get thicker—something he essentially must do to have success at the collegiate level.

But all the raw physical tools are there. As ESPN notes, he recorded the highest vertical leap (38.2") of all the defensive ends tested. Combine that with his height and wingspan, and it will be difficult for any quarterback to get the ball past the outstretched arms of Featherston.

Although very slender for his size, anything that Featherston lacks in that regard is made up for by his speed and quickness.

He has a lightning-quick first step that allows him to get the outside edge over most tackles, yet that can backfire at Florida State if he continues to get too far up the field and allows opposing quarterbacks to step up in the pocket.

Nevertheless, the tale of the tape shows that Featherston takes exceptional pursuit angles and is able to harness his explosive athleticism while staying disciplined on his assignments and making plays.

Featherston has great hands at the point of attack and can burst through the gap before the offensive line knows what hit them. That also makes him a threat against the run; although, again, he will have to put on more muscle for that trend to transition to college.

There is plenty of promise for Featherston to be a future star, but he may need a year or two to grow and progress before developing the game-changing impact he has the potential to produce.

If nothing else, Featherston could be a huge difference-maker as a true freshman on special teams given his skill set, particularly with regard to blocking kicks.

Another possibility is that Featherston becomes an offensive player and lines up at tight end, which is the position at which 247Sports.com lists him on that side of the ball. He would likely create matchup nightmares for linebackers thanks to his height, speed and quick-twitch agility.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Capital One Bowl 2014: Live Game Grades, Analysis for Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin (9-3) and South Carolina (10-2) play in the 2014 Capital One Bowl, widely considered to be the best of the non-BCS bowl games.

Will the wild Badger rushing attack led by Melvin Gordon find openings against the aggressive Gamecocks defensive front led by Jadeveon Clowney? The Big Ten needs it to happen for a big win.

Coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET on ABC.

For the pregame statistics and the full box score, check out NCAA.com.

Stay tuned during the game as we grade the performances of Wisconsin. Grades will be updated at halftime and at the end of the game.

 

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State DL Noah Spence Suspended 3 Games for Rule Violation

Ohio State defensive star Noah Spence was suspended for three games for violating a Big Ten Conference rule, which means he will miss the Orange Bowl and the first two games of the 2014 regular season.

Erick Smith of USA Today passed along the news:

Austin Ward of ESPN previously provided comments from Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who didn't provide any specifics about the situation, but said the lineman was dealing with personal issues:

Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer confirmed Sunday that the All-Big Ten defensive end was absent as the final preparations shifted to South Florida ahead of Friday's matchup with No. 12 Clemson, but he didn't provide any details about the sophomore's situation or offer a definitive update on his availability this week.

"[Spence] didn't fly down with us," Meyer told reporters after the team's flight landed. "He's working through some personal issues at home."

Here's the complete release from Ohio State regarding the suspension, including details about appeals by Spence's parents, courtesy of Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors:

It has been determined that Ohio State University sophomore Noah Spence has violated a Big Ten Conference rule and he has been suspended for three games, starting with the Discover Orange Bowl this Friday.

Spence's parents, who did not agree with the rule violation nor the penalty imposed, were assisted by the Ohio State Department of Athletics in exhausting the appeals process that was available to them with the Big Ten.

Spence is an Academic All-Big Ten honoree and an OSU Scholar-Athlete. He will continue course work toward his sociology degree next semester and he will be able to practice with the team this spring, but he will not be eligible to play in a game until Ohio State’s third game of the 2014 season, Sept. 13 vs. Kent State.

The Department of Athletics will have no further comment on this issue.

Spence's absence is a huge blow to a defensive line that made major strides in 2013. He finishes his sophomore campaign with 52 total tackles, 14.5 of which were for a loss, a team-leading eight sacks and a forced fumble.

After being a highly touted recruit, his freshman campaign was underwhelming with just a dozen tackles and one sack. But he stepped into a much larger role on the revitalized defense in his second season and started living up to that top billing.

He was expected to serve as a key piece of the puzzle as the Buckeyes defense attempted to slow down Tajh Boyd and the talented Clemson offense. Without him, the task for the rest of the Ohio State pass rush becomes much tougher.

Although it's a major setback for the Orange Bowl, the suspension is slated to end after the first two games of next season, so the impact beyond this season should be minimal.

Exactly what rule he violated to earn the punishment is unclear, however.

 


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Bold Predictions for 2014 Army All-American Bowl

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is back for the 14th time and will take place at 1 p.m. EST on Saturday, Jan. 4, on NBC. It's a must-watch for any football fan, as these kids could play for your favorite college team and will eventually become the superstars of the NFL. DeSean Jackson, Vince Young and Reggie Bush are just some of the names who have participated in this popular event. 

And while this is nothing more than a chance for some of the best high school players to shine one last time before packing their bags for the collegiate level, it's still a game at the end of the day. Kids want to win and are going to play hard, which opens the door for bold predictions.

In this year's matchup, the game will finally be competitive, a Baylor wide receiver will win MVP honors and there will be a few commitment surprises. 

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