NCAA Football News
Only three spring games—at Oregon, Oregon State and Miami (Ohio)—remain on the schedule before the first offseason practice session of the College Football Playoff era is done.
The spring games send us into the summer with an enduring look at our favorite teams and players, at who might be ready to take the next step come fall. And whether that step be from prospect to rotation player, rotation player to starter, starter to star or from star to mega-star, a step up in this sport cannot be ignored.
For that reason, we have taken a look back at the whole slate of spring games to see who—or which unit—has hinted at taking such a step next season. Some are names you know and some are names you don't. Some are names you maybe never will.
But all are names who raised their coaches' eyebrows in their final showing of spring camp, heading into the offseason with momentum to improve their standing even more once practice resumes.
Here is your All-Spring Game College Football Team for 2014.
Note: This list will be updated, if necessary, after the May 3 games.
Think back to last April. Did you know who Jameis Winston, Nick Marshall or Bryce Petty were? Maybe if you were deep in the woods of college football you did, but generally speaking, they were unknowns.
It's the beauty of college football—something or someone new surprises us each and every year. Whether it was Auburn playing for a national title just one season removed from a losing record or a redshirt freshman winning the Heisman Trophy—you never know what college football has in store.
However, one thing remains a constant, and that's that quarterback is the most scrutinized position in sports.
With Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr and countless other big names off to the NFL this season, it means a new crop must arrive.
Let's explore 10 names who have the potential to become national stars in 2014.
*All 2013 stats courtesy CFBStats.com.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Having won three national championships since 2009, University of Alabama coach Nick Saban is already on top of the college football world, but that doesn't mean he often gets his way when it comes to rule changes.
Actually, he frequently gets blamed for things even when he had nothing to do with them.
But when asked about possible changes in college football and what he would like or not like to see changed, Saban usually has a well-thought-out answer about why he feels the way he does, even if it's something he may not feel strongly about.
A good example from this spring was when the coach took a question about whether players should have the option to unionize.
"I've always been an advocate of players' rights," he said. "I've always been an advocate of players being compensated the best that we can to help them. Whatever the NCAA rule is and whatever they decide to do, I've always been an advocate of the player and the quality of life that a player has. I think that having a voice in what happens, I think, is something that the players probably ought to have.
"And I'm really not opposed to that at all. I do think that it's not what it seems. It would be interesting to know how much—everybody knows what a scholarship is worth. That's pretty easy to figure out. But to do on a per-player basis, what we invest in the player to try to help them be successful. We spent, like, $600,000 last year on personal development programs, all things that directly affect the player having a chance to be successful. I can't even tell you what our academic support budget is, trying to invest in a player and what is the value of him getting an education and graduating from school here? Not just the value of the scholarship. What's the value of him getting an education?
"How much do we actually reinvest in quality of support staff to help develop players that may have a chance to go on and play at the next level, have great college careers, have a chance to win a championship. Pretty significant budget around here that, if you look at it, it really is invested back in the players.
"I don't think that the players just receive a scholarship. I think a lot of players really realize that, understand that and appreciate that. We can't pay them but we can reinvest in trying to help them be successful in their future, which I think we do a marvelous job here at the University of Alabama. I think a lot of people do. I think that's what makes great programs. I think that's why players want to come and be a part of the program, because we do reinvest in the future and their chances of being successful, and we do care, and it's not just about football.
"So there's a lot of value that players get from the experience that they have as college student-athletes, that really benefit their chances of being successful. I know that the fact that I played football and got a scholarship, but all the things that I benefited from have helped me be very, very successful. And I can't really tell you what the value of that is, but I think it's pretty significant."
If given the choice, here are five rule changes Saban would make if given the opportunity.
The Texas Longhorns have completed their first spring under Charlie Strong and his staff, and now is the perfect time to dissect the winners and losers from spring practice.
The Longhorns had a variety of starters who were injured for at least a portion of practice, including quarterback David Ash.
Without Ash, Strong had to rely on Tyrone Swoopes and tight end-turned-quarterback Miles Onyegbule to lead the offense. It was not always pretty, but there appears to be some hope at different positions for the Longhorns.
Here's a final look at the winners and losers from the Texas Longhorns' spring practice.
LSU's depth will be put to the test next season.
The Tigers have lost 17 players with eligibility remaining to the NFL draft over the past two seasons. It has become a yearly chore for Les Miles to put together a roster.
Yet he will not receive pity from other coaches and media across the country. He has a plethora of potential playmakers, most of whom hail from his own backyard in Louisiana.
LSU does not release an official depth chart after spring ball, but here is a preview of what it could look like for the season opener against Wisconsin.
Heisman Trophy-winning Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston led his team to a national title on the field this past season, but he continues to make negative headlines off the field.
According to TomahawkNation.com, via ESPNU, Winston was caught shoplifting crab legs from a grocery store in Florida:
Per Kiki Jones of WTXL.com, the Leon County Sheriff's Department confirmed that it had "contact" with Winston, but he was reportedly not arrested.
The incident ultimately resulted in a misdemeanor citation, according to TomahawkNation.com, via TMZ.
Following the citation, Winston has been suspended from the Florida State baseball team, manager Mike Martin confirmed (via Alex Yoder of WCTV and Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat):
Football coach Jimbo Fisher also spoke about Winston (via Natalie Pierre of the Tallahassee Democrat):
The Leon County Sheriff's office held a press conference regarding the incident, confirming that Winston had not paid for products at the market (via Paul Myerberg of USA Today and Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated):
As for a punishment, Winston will be doing community service (via Staples):
This is far from Winston's first off-field issue, the most notable being an accusation of sexual assault. He was ultimately not charged back in December due to a lack of evidence.
Winston obviously should have done everything possible to lay low and present himself as a model citizen in the wake of that situation, but he can't seem to stay out of trouble for whatever reason.
Winston put himself in an ideal position from a football standpoint by turning in one of the greatest freshman seasons in college football history last season. With another strong showing in 2014, he could potentially put himself in position to be selected early in the 2015 NFL draft should he decide to declare.
With character concerns starting to mount, though, it is possible that he is already putting his draft stock in jeopardy a year ahead of time.
It is important to remember that Winston is still only 20 years old, so he is susceptible to making bad decisions at times. Rather than being outraged over Winston's transgression, college football observers have mostly resorted to making jokes at Winston's expense.
Kevin McGuire of College Football Talk didn't pass up an opportunity to execute a play on words:
The same can be said for Brian Hamilton of SI.com:
Even the usually serious Paul Finebaum of ESPN got in on the act:
For Winston, though, this is no laughing matter. Not only does he have to mature in an effort to show NFL teams that they can count on him, but he also has to do so in order to show his teammates at Florida State that he is still committed to being a winning football player.
Athletes have obviously bounced back from far worse things than this in the past, but Winston has work to do in terms of rebuilding his reputation.
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South Carolina spring football season is done, so it's time to look at the Gamecocks' winners and losers.
The Gamecocks answered some questions, especially on the defensive side of the ball, though there is still a lot of work to be done to have the team prepared for the fall.
The offense saw a lot of movement among the skills positions.
With spring being the time for players to work their way up the depth charts, South Carolina saw a few players really stand out. But, there are always a few players who slide down the chart.
Here are three winners and the three losers from the South Carolina Gamecocks' spring ball.
Tennessee lost a commitment from a crucial in-state recruit Tuesday night. Defensive end Emmit Gooden announced on Twitter he is reopening his recruitment process after a 10-week pledge to the Volunteers:
The 6'4", 263-pound Haywood High School (Brownsville, Tennessee) sophomore accepted a scholarship offer from Tennessee on Feb. 15.
At the time, Gooden called it the realization of a lifelong goal.
“I’ve always wanted to play for my state,” Gooden told Volquest.com (h/t VolNation.com). “I dream about it, playing in the state. It’s one of my dreams, playing in the state and then making it to the league.”
Rated No. 5 nationally among strong-side defensive ends in 247Sports' 2016 composite rankings, Gooden has already commanded substantial collegiate interest after two high school seasons. SEC rivals Vanderbilt, Alabama, Mississippi State and LSU are among those who could quickly enter the mix.
Penn State head coach James Franklin extended an offer to Gooden on Feb. 10, less than a month after leaving Vanderbilt. The Nittany Lions were the second team to present him with a scholarship, 15 days after Tennessee kicked off his recruitment in earnest.
It hasn't taken long for Gooden to gain a reputation in his home state. He was named Tennessee's District 15-AA Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
MaxPreps indicates that Gooden tallied 70 tackles, including 32 for loss, and nine sacks as a sophomore. He is rated the state's No. 1 2016 prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings.
His commitment to the Vols sent another strong signal that Butch Jones is turning the tide at Tennessee by keeping key in-state targets at home.
The second-year coach has enjoyed immense recruiting success during his short tenure in Knoxville. He already holds commitments from top 2016 sophomores Darel Middleton (tight end; Powell, Tennessee) and Dorian Banks (athlete; Gallatin, Tennessee).
Although the class no longer includes Gooden, Paul Fortenberry of Volquest.com suggests there's still a chance he recommits during the course of his recruitment:
Tennessee is sure to have plenty of competitors, but don't rule the Volunteers out of this race just yet.
Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted.
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There's still several months to go before the start of the 2014 college football season, but that doesn't mean we don't have a clearer picture of the quarterback situation in the Big Ten. Most teams have the starting spot locked up, which means the inevitable comparisons can begin.
The Heisman Trophy isn't handed out in May, but if it was, the Big Ten would have a few compelling candidates. Not least among them is Ohio State's Braxton Miller. Despite a disappointing end to 2013, the Buckeyes are poised for another run at the Big Ten title in 2014—and a likely berth in the College Football Playoff that comes with it.
Can Miller lead his Buckeyes to a long overdue Big Ten title? Is Miller the undisputed top quarterback in the conference? If so, where do the other starters rank behind him?
We'll answer all of those questions in our Big Ten quarterback power rankings, post-spring practice edition.
Michigan is still considered to be a national football power even though it hasn’t won a Big Ten title since 2004.
When Michigan last won a conference championship, the iPhone didn’t exist, Facebook had just moved out of Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room and the only “tweets” people knew about came from birds.
The world has changed drastically since then, and Michigan has struggled to make the transition as college football has evolved.
When most fans think about Michigan, they recall the period from 1969-2004 when the team could legitimately stake a claim as an elite program.
2004 marked the last time Michigan won or shared the Big Ten title.
The Wolverines competed for another Big Ten title in 2006 (falling to Ohio State in an epic 42-39 battle in Columbus), but since then, the program has plummeted both nationally and among teams in its conference.
And how far has Michigan slid since 2004?
Imagine you’re a 17-year-old recruit. The last time Michigan won a national championship (1997) was the year you were born and the last time the team won the Big Ten title you were in grade school.
Up until last November when Michigan lost four out of five games, Brady Hoke could make a tenuous case the program was on the rise. But because of his last two seasons (7-6, 8-5) the success of his first season (11-2) might be an aberration.
That’s why this season is absolutely critical for Hoke. His predecessor, Rich Rodriguez, was fired for finishing 7-6 in his third season. So far, Hoke has the support of athletic director David Brandon, but fans in Ann Arbor are growing restless.
Over the last ten years, football ticket prices have steadily risen, and the Michigan athletic department has instituted seat licenses for season ticket holders. Michigan Stadium has also been upgraded with private suites and premium seating areas. All this adds up to increased pressure for the team to get back to the top of the Big Ten and beyond.
Brandon has broken with Michigan tradition by taking a very active and public role in oversight of the football program. He moved methodically replacing Rodriguez after concluding the program wasn’t moving in the right direction. Another lackluster season, and he may conclude another change is in order.
The 2004 season
Michigan finished the 2004 season 9-3 (7-1 Big Ten) as Big Ten co-champions with Iowa. The team lost to Notre Dame (28-20), Ohio State (37-21) and suffered a bitter last second defeat to Texas (38-37) in the Rose Bowl.
Michigan's three losses all occurred away from Michigan Stadium. The highlight of the season was a 45-37 triple overtime win over rival Michigan State in Michigan Stadium.
Notable Players from 2004
The 2004 team featured future NFL players like quarterback Chad Henne, offensive tackle Jake Long, running back Mike Hart and wide receivers Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant and Steve Breaston.
Henne was the surprise starter as a freshman in 2004 after a preseason injury to Matt Gutierrez. Henne set numerous passing records at Michigan and was initially taken in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft by Miami.
He currently plays—along with another former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson—for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After winning numerous national awards at Michigan, Long was selected by Miami as the overall top pick of the 2008 NFL draft and currently plays for the St. Louis Rams.
Hart left Michigan as the top rusher in school history with 5,040 yards. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft by Indianapolis and retired after three seasons. He currently is the running backs coach at Western Michigan University.
Edwards had a spectacular college career at Michigan but is probably best remembered for his role in the 45-37 triple overtime victory over rival Michigan State during the 2004 season. He was selected as the third pick in the first round by Cleveland in the 2005 NFL draft. He played for five NFL teams before retiring after the 2012 season.
Avant was Michigan’s second-leading receiver in 2004 and was selected in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL draft by Philadelphia. He currently plays for the Carolina Panthers.
Breaston left Michigan as the career leader in returns (127 punt returns for 1,599 yards) and (81 kick off returns for 1,993 yards). He was drafted by Arizona in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL draft. He appeared with three NFL teams but has not played since the 2012 season.
All season statistics from mgoblue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department web site.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.
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The College Football Playoff shone a light on one of its biggest questions Tuesday night, announcing the general timetable for when its rankings would be released.
According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, the first rankings will be released Tuesday, Oct. 28—one week later than the debut of the normal BCS rankings—and will be subsequently updated every Tuesday until the end of the season.
This means there will only be seven versions of the rankings (as opposed to the usual eight), with the final version being released either late on Dec. 6, after the conference championship games have been played, or the following day on Dec. 7.
The top four teams on that ranking will advance to the CFP.
Even with the clarity gained from this announcement, however, the current meeting of the CFP selection committee has been in the news more for what it hasn't done than what it has.
Specifically, CFP executive director Bill Hancock announced that he would not force the SEC to move to a nine-game conference schedule after the league announced it would stick to its normal eight-game conference schedule—plus the addition of one mandatory game against a team from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12.
Bleacher Report's playoff guru Sam Chi thinks that's a bad idea:
On both of these matters—and on many unforeseen matters to come—it's important to remember that this is not a finished product. No matter what the CFP does to prepare this offseason, there are bound to be issues it didn't plan for. That's how things in their first year work.
For now, at least we know when we'll start seeing the CFP rankings. That gives us a fixed point in the distance to look forward to.
And that makes the playoff, finally, feel more like it's real.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Nike Football Training Camps were held last weekend in both New Jersey and the D.C. area, and Penn State was represented well at both versions.
With nine of the 12 players currently committed to the Nittany Lions hailing from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, these camps were in James Franklin's primary hunting ground and featured several Penn State commits and even more of the top targets on the coaching staff's radar.
Here's a look at the Penn State commits who shined over the weekend at the NFTCs.
These next few months are going to be long for Florida Gator fans. A wise one man once said that the offense stinks. You can only watch the spring game so many times, and highlights of past seasons get old really fast. Another thing you can do is play with the roster and put together a depth chart of what the lineup should look like if the season was going to start a week from now.
While the Florida Gators have not released an official depth chart, that doesn’t stop us from projecting what one would look like. We’ve kept tabs on the players throughout the spring and watched their progress leading up to the spring game. Now that it’s all over, it’s time to put together a depth chart.
Here’s your unofficial Florida Gators depth chart heading into fall camp.
Spring practices have come and gone on the Plains for 2014, leaving the Auburn Tigers and their fans eagerly anticipating the season-opening kickoff against Arkansas in four months.
Unlike this time last season, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and his staff have not released a full post-spring, two-deep depth chart.
Many of the starting jobs for the defending SEC champions are virtually set in stone, as many starters and key contributors from last season's title-winning squad are back for the 2014 season.
However, there are still a few spots left on the depth chart up for some debate, with a couple of high-profile position battles that will most likely continue when fall practice begins.
Starting with the Tigers' highly touted offense and continuing with their under-the-radar defense, here is a look at how Auburn's two-deep depth chart could look come August.
(Bold indicates a returning starter and italics indicate an incoming freshman who will arrive this summer.)
The Boise State football program was in a state of uncertainty not long ago. But, what a difference a spring makes.
When head coach Bryan Harsin was hired in December 2013, the Broncos had just endured the tumultuous storm that was the 2013 season. It was a season that ended with a disappointing record, the captain abandoning ship and a few players jumping overboard.
Enter Harsin and his band of brothers.
As soon as Coach Harsin took over, he began to right the ship. He started with hiring excellent assistant coaches and with encouraging a fanbase and community that desperately needed something to smile about.
As the winter turned to spring, new life bloomed in "Bronco Land." The signs of life are everywhere, and the smiles are certainly more frequent.
There is still much work to be done of course, but many who wrote off the Broncos might need to buy an industrial-sized eraser.
Let's look at the things we learned about this newly energized program this spring and what it might point to as the fall season approaches.
As with every evaluation period in college football, there's always a few players or position groups that see their stock improve. There's also some who see it drop.
James Franklin's first spring as Penn State's head coach went relatively well. While the obvious depth and injury issues reared their ugly heads, the Nittany Lions had plenty of positive performances from players on both sides of the ball.
Here are a handful of final winners and losers from Penn State's spring practice.
Like many programs across the nation, the Miami Hurricanes coaching staff released a post-spring depth chart, showing the current offseason status of the roster.
Various injuries sidelined or limited key players during the workouts, so the two-deep list is far from a finished product.
With that being said, a few 'Canes who had been reserves in 2013 emerged as contenders for starting positions or important backup roles.
And head coach Al Golden certainly recognized the lesser-known players, awarding more than a mere handful of players co-starting status.
Ohio State capped its spring practice with an offensively challenged spring game that featured just 447 total yards and 24 combined points—both of which fell short of Ohio State's offensive averages during the 2013 season.
“’I’m not trying to evaluate an offense because who cares?” Meyer said.
That's because offense hasn't been an issue for the Buckeyes under Meyer. The issue has been their defense—particularly the pass defense—which ultimately cost Ohio State a shot at the national title in 2013.
Meyer is hoping to refocus his team for another title run this season.
Some players and units stepped up and had a great spring. Others didn't. Here are the winners and losers from Ohio State's spring ball.
Spring practice is over and the season opener for Clemson is exactly four months away from Wednesday.
Now that the Tigers have their starting quarterback, it's time to start finding out who will be catching passes from Cole Stoudt. And does Clemson have a running back capable of carrying the ball 25 times per game on a weekly basis?
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris has his work cut out for him in 2014. Replacing Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, Roderick McDowell and Brandon Thomas on offense is a lot to overcome. But the Tigers do have talent—it's just young.
Head coach Dabo Swinney hasn't released a post-spring depth chart yet, so we are going to project what the Tigers' first official depth chart will look like.